REALTORS have a unique role in that they’re often involved in one of the biggest purchases a person or couple will make. Yet, they’re also working with people they don’t know well in properties they aren’t familiar with and in neighborhoods that may be new to them.
Armed with knowledge and a willing attitude to help a client buy or sell, it’s important that REALTOR safety be a top priority throughout the process.
A National Association of REALTORS (NAR) member safety report in 2015 revealed 40 percent of REALTORS have experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or the safety of their personal information. On Dec. 5, 2018, a real estate sales rep died as the result of an apparent homicide at a model home in Maryland.
The Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS’s incoming 2019 president is Patti Jo Fitzpatrick. Moved by stories of REALTORS who’ve dealt with situations in which their safety was compromised, coupled with safety as a focus for NAR, Fitzpatrick intends to keep the topic in the forefront for REALTORS to be safe both on the job and in their personal lives.
“It’s important to be cognizant of the dangers that exist. We know bad things can happen so it’s key to be prepared and know what to watch for,” said Fitzpatrick, who recounted a time an agent from her office showed up to an open house to find the back door wide open. Fitzpatrick knew the home location and remained on the phone as her agent thoroughly checked each room. “We have to keep vigilant in everything we do, and not think we’re invincible.”
SPAAR created a safety plan and, in May, rolled out its program that includes weekly tips to members on safety at home, at work, online and in the community. SPAAR provided safety information to numerous neighborhoods via REALTOR members during National Night Out in August and hosted a safety discussion for members with guest presenter Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier.
Safety is, of course, a broad and varied topic, and SPAAR’s plan focuses on numerous topics such as protecting your identity, safely showing a property, taking precautions when driving, and safely weathering inclement conditions.
SPAAR began sharing safety tips in its newsletter with information from NAR as well as solicited member tips. Now, each week, SPAAR shares those tips provided by its members, including the following:
- Share your whereabouts: time, location and the names of people you’ll be with, and follow up after the appointment that you’re safe.
- Create an office code word that indicates if you’re in potential harm. If needed, your office can send back up. For example, “Hi Amy, can you text me information from the RED FILE?”
- Meet with new clients at your office location first and introduce them to co-workers.
- Drive separately to a showing. It allows you to get there first and check out the property for hazards as well as know what kind of access is available to leave quickly if needed.
- Park your car so it’s easy to access. Avoid parking in a driveway or spot where you could be blocked in.
- Show properties during daylight hours (of course, in Minnesota, this is challenging in winter). If you show a property when it’s dark outside, turn on all the inside and outside lights and open any blinds. This allows for the showing to be exposed to passersby and clients will appreciate the well-lit space.
- Limit access to personal information. Keep bills and mail out of sight. Put personal pictures away. Making a home clutter-free helps a potential buyer to more easily visualize their own items in the home.
- Allow clients to enter rooms first and remain in the doorway. This allows a quicker escape for you, if needed.
- When exiting your vehicle, especially on a busier road, open the driver’s side door with your right arm. This causes your body to turn backward to see oncoming cars or bicyclists.
- Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t stick around to find out. Be safe. You can always ask for forgiveness later. Losing the business of a potential client could save you from a dangerous situation or simply provide peace of mind knowing you’re ok.
“Learning from others in the field on a regular basis is a great way to gain realistic and informative advice,” Fitzpatrick added. “Whether showing a home or walking to your car at a mall, go with your gut. Your senses will guide you. It’s important we pay attention when something doesn’t feel right.”