In recent years, a series of horrific headlines shined a light on the serious issue of safety for real estate agents. Like most things in life, as time passed after each tragedy, we seem to go back to our regular routines without investing the time and money into better solutions.
This is understandable because real estate agents have so many balls in the air at any given time. It becomes tough to give up any part of the energy you spend on your clients’ best interests and start devoting time to protecting your own safety.
Safety options for agents
Some mobile apps that provide safety options for agents have hit the market. However, the apps that have come out focus primarily on alerting a friend or colleague in the event of an emergency when you are meeting a prospect for the first time.
These apps are a step in the right direction, but there is one safety issue that gets no attention — safety in the brokerage office. Most brokerage offices operate the same way.
Typically, an office is staffed by a manager and admin(s) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Each sales associate gets a physical key to the office and can come and go as they please.
Sales associates operate insane hours, and it is not uncommon for agents to come into the office late at night to handle paperwork, make copies or any number of administrative tasks. I would say that this is probably a daily occurrence in most offices. This opens the door for many realistic safety concerns that can have life-threatening consequences.
Being all alone in a large office with multiple rooms can leave a person helpless if an intruder or someone disguised as a customer enters.
What about if you are in the office with another agent that you do not know well? Another concern is if a medical emergency happens when you are all alone.
My biggest fear when managing real estate offices always revolved around the physical keys handed out to each sales agent.
Turnover rate can be high among agents, and even if a manager successfully collects a key from an agent who is terminated or recruited by another company, nothing could have stopped that departing agent from making a copy.
No company is going to change the locks every time an agent leaves the firm, so it’s probably fair to assume that every real estate company with physical keys has at least one disgruntled ex-agent or employee who still possesses a key to the office.
But, what about your clients’ information?
Beyond the physical safety issues, there is also a huge concern for the safety of your confidential information. More and more companies are moving to shared workspaces, and it’s not uncommon for agents not to have private areas with locks guarding their client lists, pipelines, business plans and all of their property stored at the office.
When an agent or employee can enter the office at any time they want without any way of tracking who is coming or going, there is a constant fear that someone is looking at things (or taking things) that don’t belong to them and that could have serious consequences on your financial livelihood.
I subscribe to the premise that most people are inherently good, but agent count in offices continues to grow, and all it takes is one bad apple in your company for you to lose everything.
Even though this issue gets almost no attention, the good news is that solutions do exist today. With the shrinking profitability in real estate companies (see my previous article), it’s understandable that investment into agent security takes a back seat. However, when executed correctly, the solution can not only save lives but also save brokers’ and owners’ money.
There are several safety options, including my own company’s, Kastle Systems, as well as V.Alert, a small wearable device the size of a quarter that works with a smartphone to sound an alarm and send out urgent calls or text messages with a press of a button, and bSafe, the gaurdian alert button immediately notifies your contacts, lets them know where you are using GPS and what is happening via video.
In addition, here are five tips to help you stay safe in your brokerage.
5 tips to securing yourself and your stuff at your broker’s office
1. Never work after-hours alone
Make sure that another person you know is with you.
2. Don’t save your passwords on shared devices
When using a shared office computer, always opt out of the browser feature to save login and password information.
Do you know how many times I have accessed Chrome on an office computer only to see that it was already signed into another agent’s Gmail or LinkedIn?
3. Set up secure meetings
Ask new clients to meet you at the office, during normal business hours and bring ID. You are helping people with the largest financial decision of their life. Asking someone for ID should not be taboo.
4. Keep confidential information locked up
If you don’t have a cabinet with a lock in the office, keep confidential documents at home. It’s sad that your confidential information isn’t safe at your place of work, but with new agents joining and leaving real estate firms all of the time, you can never be too safe with something this important.
5. Trust your gut
If something doesn’t feel right while you are in the office alone, then you should lock up and leave. Even if your gut was wrong and you lose a lead, I believe it’s a fair trade-off to the alternative.
We are constantly hearing about the smart homes, but the opportunities for a smart building provide much bigger opportunities, and agents need to practice safety always.
My next article will focus on the IOT and the impact of the smart building.