In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 25 real estate professionals were the victims of homicide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a 2015 National Association of Realtors study, 40 percent of Realtors said they have experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or personal information. And, in 2016 alone, 34,500 real estate agents were attacked while on the job.
The majority of real estate transactions follow a normal flow without risk of danger. But when you are contacted by a new client, host an open house or show a property that has been vacant, the risks multiply. A new client could be a criminal searching for an easy victim, an open house invites in anyone off the street into a situation where they expect to find a Realtor alone and vacant buildings could be used as crash pads for homeless or party venues for derelicts.
Most Realtors are well-aware of the potential dangers of the job. Many carry self-defense devices or have taken self-defense training courses, but it is easy to get rusty and fall into a rut if nothing happens to put you on edge. This is why it is best for Realtors to follow certain safety protocols during all parts of the selling and buying process.
For starters, they should create a checklist to identify any potential threats a new client who is not a referral or personal acquaintance might pose. Doing a simple internet search can be a first step to finding any potential red flags on a new client.
Asking for a client to show identification or to meet in a neutral location first like a coffee shop is also a good way to verify intentions and ensure that a person is who he or she is claiming to be.
When hosting an open house, consider installing door-open alerts on entrances so you can easily hear whenever anyone enters or exits. Set up portable security cameras in the area of the home where you will be sitting and post a notice at the entry to alert visitors that video surveillance is in use. Lock all your valuables out of sight in your car and do not wear any flashy, expensive-looking jewelry. Keep your cellphone on your person at all times and set a fire extinguisher within easy reach of your workstation in the home. Visitors will not think twice about it, but in a pinch, you can use it to defend yourself against an attacker.
When showing a home that has been vacant for a while, walk around the exterior and check windows and doors for forced openings before entering the property. If the property has boarded windows or doors and it is difficult to determine if someone might be squatting inside, walk in prepared.
When you enter, leave the front door open. Bring a large, high-power flashlight. Call out loudly and make a lot of racket as you enter. Finally, consider carrying a device that you can wear on your belt or carry in a pocket that you can press for immediate help if attacked.
Chris Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac. As the CEO, he is responsible for leading the company’s vision of developing, marketing, and selling a suite of mobile health and safety solutions that bring families closer together and improve employee safety through state-of-the-art location-based services and mobile health technology.
Interested in submitting a column or idea to Boston Agent magazine? Contact editor Kelly McCabe at email@example.com.