The real estate career path is often described as competitive, rewarding and challenging. One adjective that does not come up enough is: dangerous.
We are working directly with the public, taking them in and out of vacant properties, and in doing so, putting ourselves in the direct line of potentially hazardous situations.
33% of Realtors have experienced a situation that made them fear for their safety or safety of their personal information. – National Association of Realtors 2019 Member Safety Report
The danger does not discriminate, and it’s no longer an issue that just affects women. If you are at a property alone, and no one knows where you are, it’s a significant safety issue for any member in the industry.
1. Go analog old school, and use codeword: ‘the red file’
This one is an oldie but a goodie, but it requires teamwork. In my former office, we had a safety plan in place that agents could enable if they were feeling uncomfortable on a home tour or at an open house.
The agent would simply call the office and request a “red file” to be delivered to the address because they had forgotten it. This code word was a signal that they needed assistance and the closest person would pop in as needed.
This worked great for situations where you were on the fence about whether or not you should call for assistance.
2. Use common sense, and think before you show
Showings should occur in daylight if at all possible. Why? Some aspects of showing a property require visual inspection, and this will be difficult in the dark.
For those of us who work in rural areas, where you are far away from cell signal, you will need to be especially cautious showing property. If I could take a partner or friend along for rural showings even during the day, I would.
Have you checked to make sure the utilities are turned on before you show? Sometimes investors winterize distressed properties, and you will need a flashlight even in the daylight to show the home.
What is the most important common-sense step you can take before your show? Take the time to verify the client. Make sure he or she is a serious buyer. If they are unwilling to provide necessary contact information or sign in at an open house, it could be a red flag that they are a potential danger.
3. Have an emergency kit
Assembling a few supplies to have in your trunk will also help ensure safety at your showings.
- A first aid kit
- Jumper cables (if you or your client’s car dies)
- Basic cleaning supplies (paper towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, scrub brush, trash bags, carpet cleaner, Windex and Lysol wipes)
- A change of clothes
- A rain jacket
- A pair of rubber boots
- Disposable shoe covers
- Room measurer
- Tape measure
- A pair of work gloves
- Essential tools to install/repair a listing sign
These items will help keep things moving along in mini emergencies. One time, I was showing new construction, and my clients’ kids ran into the laundry room and turned on the water! Let’s just say clean up supplies were very handy that day.
Why did I have so much with me? This was my kit for showing rural and “distressed” property. Make your kit appropriate for the types of properties you show most.
4. Download safety apps
Homesnap offers a safety timer feature among all of its other tools for agents. This is a great way to not only practice safety but to also track how much time you are spending showing homes to clients.
To use the feature, agents simply set a timer for a specific length of time when they arrive at a showing. If an agent doesn’t stop the timer before it runs out, then their pre-set emergency contacts will get an alert from Homesnap showing where the agent is and stating that the agent needs assistance.
“In the past three years, over 20,000 agents have utilized Homesnap’s Safety Timer feature allowing them to stay safe while on the job,” said Abby Sanders, Homesnap Public Relations Manager.
There is also a “Distress Alert” button that agents can tap at any time to immediately alert their emergency contacts that they are in distress and share their location.
Homesnap offers so many tools for agents to use onsite while at a showing, it should become common practice to have it open. Set the timer, walk the property lines, check out additional listing details, message the listing agent. Seriously, this app is the Swiss army knife of agent support apps.
Another app that I recommend is Life360. This app continues to grow and evolve since its launch in 2008. You can create a circle for your family and other agents in your office to track your showing route.
Life360 is incredibly easy to use and now has many driving assistant features as well to help you become a better driver. Real estate agents are notorious for multitasking while driving.
Instead of it being a funny meme that you send your co-worker, it’s time for those in our industry to take accountability and practice safer driving practices. Life360 will track how many times you pick up or use your phone while the vehicle is in motion.
“Using a cell phone while driving creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. In 2017 alone, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.” – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition to sharing your location, Life360 can now help monitor driving, view local crime reports, turn on crash detection and receive roadside assistance. You can create a circle for your kids, your immediate family, co-workers at a conference — there are many uses. Basic features on the app are free; premium features are offered at $7.99 a month.
Safety is something that needs to be top-of-mind for every interaction with the public. You should never sit in an open house alone, regardless of how safe you think you are in the neighborhood.
Many agents (44 percent, according to the 2019 NAR member safety report) now carry a weapon, and it gives them a false sense of assurance that everything is going to be okay. When NAR issued the 2019 safety survey, and only 2,652 members out of the 46,177 took the time to answer the questions.
Take a moment to get dialed in. Use safety apps. Take tactical defense classes. Think smart. It is not just for safety month, it’s about having a safe career.
By day, Rachael Hite helps agents develop their business. By night, she’s tweeting and blogging. Feel free to tweet her @rachaelhite