The standard safety advice for real estate agents is to always meet prospective clients in a neutral place, such as their brokerage office, or to bring someone with them to appointments.
Those are both nice ideas, but they’re unrealistic, according to real estate safety and technology firm Real Safe Agent.
The firm is rolling out a free agent safety course that’s chock-full of real-world tips to help agents stay safe during the normal course of their jobs.
Real Safe Agent is also launching a year-long study interviewing agents who have been victimized and the criminals who have targeted them.
Company founder and CEO Lee Goldstein decided to create the course after evaluating the usual advice and tools recommended for agent safety and finding them wanting.
“Every course I saw was sophomoric. It wasn’t going to do anything to keep people safe because it didn’t take into account how agents actually work,” Goldstein said.
“They’re not going to meet all clients in a neutral place because they’re afraid of losing a client.”
Reaction vs. prevention
Real Safe Agent’s student guide details preventative steps agents can take before meeting with a prospective client, including:
- How to create marketing photos of yourself that convey professionalism, not vulnerability.
- Social media dos and don’ts.
- Questions to ask a prospect that will either inform you of their legitimate needs and wants or uncover red flags and inconsistencies.
- How to familiarize yourself with a property and neighborhood from a safety perspective.
- How to behave with a prospect and how to read a prospect’s behavior.
- When you should absolutely bring someone with you to an appointment. (Hint: If the area you’re in has no cell signal, always bring someone with you.)
The company’s hope is that associations and brokers will use the student guide, instructor guide (coming this week) and a to-be-produced series of two- to five-minute videos, exercises and discussion guides to teach their own classes; use brief excerpts as “ice breakers” in sales meetings or non-safety classes; and possibly even make them part of the orientation process at associations and MLSs, Goldstein said.
He wrote the student guide based on several academic sources covering criminology and predator profiling as well as his own experience working as a counselor with sexual and non-sexual offenders before joining the real estate industry.
Many of the real estate safety apps currently available to agents are meant to be deployed when a crime is occurring, not preventing it, Goldstein said.
Real Safe Agent’s own app helps agents vet unknown clients and allows agents to leverage their own community to share information and help agents out if they feel unsafe — without jeopardizing a sale.
Real Safe Agent hopes to inculcate a “paradigm shift” in the industry from “reaction” to “prevention” when it comes to safety, the company said.
“Staying safe means preventing the attack, not reacting to it. People have to evaluate what’s out there with a critical mind,” Goldstein said.
Looking for patterns
Real Safe Agent has hired real estate consulting firm WAV Group to conduct a comprehensive, year-long research study into agent safety.
“We now have the opportunity to uncover new information that could help save someone’s life; I can’t imagine any more meaningful or important work,” said Marilyn Wilson, founding partner of WAV Group, in a statement.
The study will involve interviewing agents who have been victims of crimes and convicted felons who have committed crimes against real estate agents, Real Safe Agent said. The company hopes to interview at least 100 of both.
“If we can identify specific circumstances, behaviors and patterns that predators use to target and lure real estate agents, then we can prevent the crime from occurring,” Goldstein said in a statement.
“If we can identify specific circumstances, behaviors and patterns that predators use to target and lure real estate agents, then we can prevent the crime from occurring.” – Lee Goldstein, founder, Real Safe Agent.
In order to find individuals to interview, Real Safe Agent and WAV Group will use Freedom of Information Act requests to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for original data on crimes against agents as well as Goldstein’s connections in the penal and probation system.
They will also ask victims to identify their attackers, if known, and do a comparative analysis between the victim and attacker interviews.
Getting attackers to talk will be “no problem,” Goldstein said.
“If an offender is making an honest effort to reform, talking about how they did what the did is an important part of recovery (for lack of a better word),” he said.
“If they are not interested in reforming, telling how they did what they did is almost like bragging; it feeds the ego.”
By interviewing perpetrators, Real Safe Agent hopes to get the most detailed information possible about their motives, how they chose their victims, what they said to lure the victims, why they chose particular properties, if there there were unsuccessful attempts with other potential victims and why those attempts were unsuccessful, Goldstein said.
Similarly, the study will interview agents who have been victimized in order to identify patterns in the circumstances, observations and intuitions (gut feelings) of the victims, he said.
“For example, in an interview, a participant may say ‘I felt like something wasn’t right,'” Goldstein said.
“We would want to find out when in the process — from initial contact to the actual attack — that feeling first arose and then ask more probing questions to try and identify what triggered that feeling. The hope is that maybe we can identify key words, phrases, inconsistencies, etc. that are common to many attacks.”
The first phase of the study, already underway, is a survey that will be sent out to MLSs and associations. The survey will ask respondents if they have been a victim and if they are willing to be interviewed.
The survey asks questions such as how often agents meet with new prospects, how often they are alone when showing a home to a new prospect, how often they ask someone else to accompany them, why they don’t have someone accompany them, how often they feel unsafe and how often they ask for ID when meeting a new prospect.
Those who wish to participate in the survey can access it here.