“Get out as fast as you can,” are your thoughts as panic washes over you. You hear the eerie sounds of a door shuffling on its hinges. You look back to see only shadows but no movement.
You frantically fumble through your pockets in search for your keys. You pace and breathe quickly. You are spooked from being at this house — but no, it’s not Halloween or a laughing matter.
Sadly, more often than not, we agents, homesellers and real estate buyers have been in precarious home showing situations that could spell danger.
Here are five simple tips to showing a home safely in honor of Realtor safety month (September) and in memorium of Beverly Carter (the Realtor who was attacked and murdered at a home showing):
1. Make sure your squad is in the know
Let this be our primary #squadgoals! Use apps such as StaySafe, bSafe (I love that it can make fake calls so that you can excuse yourself) and Bugle (in case you are loaded down with a tablet or laptop and your phone is out of sight and out of mind) to keep your family, friends and brokerage in the know of your whereabouts.
These apps can help you outsmart any would-be creep or criminal.
2. Have a public meet-and-greet
If you just got a call or social media message out of the blue from someone interested in viewing your home listing, be sure to vet the person.
As a real estate agent, your first time meeting the prospect in person should not be at the home of interest. I know, I know — you are busy and have a full day, the house is on the way, you don’t want to be late for your next appointment, yadda yadda yadda. All of those are poor excuses in comparison to your safety.
We all — not just children — have to be alert to “stranger danger.” Take the time, and meet the person first at your brokerage firm or a nearby busy public space like a local coffee shop.
Check the Realtor Safe Harbor app if the real estate property is in an unfamiliar area for you to locate a safe meeting spot.
You get bonus points for taking the interested person somewhere that has a surveillance camera that you both can be seen on and can be tracked on the safety app mentioned above.
3. Trust but verify
We are in the age of social networking, so use social media to get to know the interested party. Use the name, phone number, email address or social media username you have to access their full profile.
Take time to explore various posts to get a feel for the potential client from both a safety standpoint and relationship building vantage point (should this prove to be a good sales prospect, you can better seal the deal).
Homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents should ask for business cards from the prospects no matter if they identify themselves as buyer, seller or real estate agent as there have been instances of impostors for each.
It is not invasive to politely ask for a business card so get over feeling awkward about it. Go the extra mile and have a sign-in sheet or app that clearly states that photo IDs must be shown because the business cards could be fake too.
Be sure to snap a picture of the ID directly into your calendar app for the time of the appointment. Should anything happen, your calendar app can easily be referenced.
4. Be cyber conscious
Whatever you might think about the Snowden movie, know that cyber privacy breeches are real concerns. Do not wire funds to accounts that you have not verbally verified as authentic (don’t just follow directions in an email or text).
Be guarded with your account and identification numbers (social security number, etc.).
A property seller, a home stager or mover should not flippantly move your unlocked box with all of your vital documents in it. Nor should a potential homebuyer be able to walk into the owners’ home office with unlocked cabinets and drawers that have information on their business and personal accounts.
And unsecured emails shouldn’t contain confidential information no matter who the sender or receiver is. Slow down and think about what is at stake beyond just the moment.
5. Report it
It is definitely better to err on the side of caution and immediately report anything strange or risky that you encounter, be it verbal, online or in person.
Think safety first instead of taking the wait-and-see approach when it comes to reporting threats to the onsite security team or your local law enforcement. The more others know, the better.