While NAR plans to add new checkboxes for agent safety, they’re leaving out some of the most common (and messy) hazards that agents face, writes broker Teresa Boardman.

NAR’s Realtor Safety Advisory Committee is recommending that MLSs add and use eight new data fields to aid in agent safety. Those fields would indicate if a house is vacant; unheated; has minimal or no exterior lighting; minimal or no interior lighting; remote/limited visibility from the road; electricity not on; inconsistent cell service; and others.

I have to agree there are times when I have taken a client to see a property and found some surprises. I have always carried a few flashlights because the days are short in the winter and homeowners don’t always leave the lights on. Sometimes it is so dark that we can’t even find the house.

Adding new fields to the MLS is a big deal. I have been on the MLS advisory committee for my MLS for many years and the request to add fields to the MLS comes up rather often. If you have ever entered a listing into an MLS, you might be surprised by how many fields there are already — and there will be more before you are done reading this article.

The proposed fields would only be visible to real estate agents which is fine. There are some who believe that the fields could stigmatize a property. I supposed that could happen in areas of the country that are experiencing a strong buyers’ market.

I totally agree that agents should be made aware of common hazards that can be found on a property, but I don’t think adding new fields to MLSs is the best solution. The most useful MLS fields are those that can be used in searches. We can search by property size, number of rooms, types of heating or cooling, and so much more.

We already have a place to note hazardous conditions

Hazardous conditions should be included in the showing instructions. They can easily be changed or removed if conditions on the property change. Numerous hazards can be listed in the showing instructions in greater detail. This could be implemented today. In fact, some of us have been mentioning hazards in showing instructions for years now.

It is wonderful that there is a safety advisory committee. I don’t think being a Realtor is more dangerous than other jobs, but some of the dangers are unique to the industry. Any job or job site can be made safer.

Agents who spend a lot of time driving and using mobile phones while driving may be at risk for car accidents.

Agents who send text messages and shoot videos of themselves talking while they drive are risking their own lives and the lives of others.

Working at night and meeting strangers can be dangerous, and Realtors die doing that each year. Holding open houses is dangerous and so is door-knocking and meeting strangers at vacant houses.

During my career, I have been bitten by a dog while listing a house. I once slipped on a patch of ice in the dark on a client’s property and suffered bruises and pain for a couple of weeks.

Back during the housing market crash, I toured many cold, vacant houses with no electricity. Some of them were creepy, too. We had to be ready for anything.

Listing agents should let others know about conditions on the property that could be hazardous. The lack of electricity is a great example and should be mentioned in the showing instructions.

Showing instructions should also mention that the walks might not be cleared and that a flashlight will be needed to find the front door — which is where the lockbox with the black numbers on the black background is located. Advising buyers agents that there isn’t any heat and that cell phone service is iffy can make the showing safer.

Knowing as much about the property as possible before the showing means fewer surprises during the showing. When the showing goes smoothly, there is a better chance that buyers will make an offer.

13 more hazards NAR didn’t think about

Here are a few things in addition to those listed in the eight new fields that should be put in showing instructions:

  1. Front door lock sticks. Be patient, jiggle the knob, swear at it, but don’t kick the door.
  2. Elderly homeowner may be in the house sleeping.
  3. Vicious dog next door will bark; stay away from the fence.
  4. Don’t let the cat/dog out.
  5. Let the cat out if she asks to go out.
  6. Ice may be present on walkway; owner never shovels.
  7. If you can’t find the house, please call me for help.
  8. Yard has holes in it from previous owner’s dog; take care not to trip.
  9. Yard has dog poop in it.
  10. Beware of chickens and chicken poop.
  11. Alarm is so loud that it can shatter eardrums. If you trip it, run and call for help.
  12. Basement stairway is very narrow and rickety; use caution.
  13. Poison ivy has been found on the property.

This is only a partial list and I doubt if there is any property where all of these conditions are present at the same time. There are probably hazards I have never heard of that apply to houses in other markets.

Agents should always make appropriate footwear choices when showing houses and carry a few flashlights and umbrellas in the car. It is a good idea to have a couple of towels, a blanket and a first aid kit.

Please be careful out there. List and show real estate responsibly so that no one is harmed.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

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