Usually, I write columns to inform the public about matters pertaining to real estate and/or property management. However, this time I thought I’d write to Realtors directly about ways to remain safe. Many of these safety tips can be amended for anyone who meets with clients they do not know.
Realtors often work with new clients—people they’ve never met and know nothing about. While most Realtors work in the industry for decades and never feel threatened; occasionally, a situation arises that makes the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end. I’m unaware of any recent problems in Mendocino County, but a recent news story in Phoenix reminded me of the dangers Realtors can face (www.12news.com/news/local/valley/after-brutal-murders-self-defense-training-still-not-required-for-realtors/412356141).
When you think about it, Realtors make obvious targets. They are in a business where both the Realtors themselves and members of the public fully expect them, as lone individuals, to show a complete stranger to a vacant house, sometimes in a remote location. While this happens all the time with absolutely no problems, it could be a recipe for disaster. Both men and women are at risk, because a bullet will go through either, so here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
First, ask prospective clients to meet you at your office before going anywhere with them. This provides an opportunity for you to evaluate them and perhaps eliminate the exposure to danger altogether by declining to go. It also means others in your office have seen and can identify the person, and potentially their vehicle.
If your instincts tell you not to go, pay attention. Ask anyone in law enforcement, and they’ll tell you to listen to that little voice in your head telling you something’s wrong. Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey says if the situation feels off, make up an excuse if you must, but don’t go.
If the prospective client seems okay, it’s still better to be safe than sorry: make sure someone in your office knows whom you’re with, what properties you plan to visit, and when you expect to return. Turn on your cell phone’s GPS tracker and be sure to put an emergency contact on speed dial. Also, you should be the one to drive, even if the prospective client offers to. This gives you a little more control over the situation—you determine where to go, when to leave, and you can lock yourself in the car if it comes to that.
If you’ve indicated to your office that you’ll be back by a certain time, be sure to let them know if that time changes. If you do this in front of the client, he or she will know there are people waiting for you and it may deter bad behavior.
Consider taking a self-defense class. It will teach you physical defensive techniques as well as heighten your awareness of your surroundings, like being sure you have unfettered access to the only exit to a room or property. This helps you to expect the unexpected.
On the property management side of the business, we insist that anyone who wants to view a vacant property must allow us to take a photocopy of their driver’s license. In the event that something happens, this makes it easier to identify the individual; more importantly, the individual knows he can be identified.
If you’re the For-Sale-By-Owner type, consider asking a friend or family member to wait at your house with you when a prospective buyer comes to view it. Collect the interested party’s contact information up front and verify that it’s accurate (when you call back at the phone number they provided, do you reach the same person?). If you’d like to avoid this risk altogether, allow me to make a shameless plug for hiring a Realtor.
If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.