Protecting Yourself–Realtors’ Edition
To be sure, the mortgage brokerage industry has significant stresses. When home purchases slow down, so do our revenues, and when clients come in whose applications are just barely on the edge of acceptable, we have to determine whether recommending their applications to private lenders and other institutions is wise, or if it is likely to harm our relationship with them. However, when we go to work, we sit in an office, with people coming to us. If we need to communicate about a pending deal, we can pick up the phone, and if it’s time to send documents, we can scan and email or send a fax.
Realtors, on the other hand, have a completely different experience. Almost all of the interaction that a realtor has with his or her clients takes place out in the field. The representation agreement signing might take place in the realty office, but when it’s time to show clients some prospective houses or to set up an open house, the realtor has to drive alone to a place and meet at least one stranger at a time.
There are some predators who will set up appointments with a realtor, pretending to be interested in purchasing a home. This gives those predators the perfect opportunity to rob the realtor — or even worse — out in an isolated location. So how can realtors protect themselves?
Before you go to a showing with a new client, meet at your office. Get a copy of the client’s driver’s license and put it into a file — this is a tactic that car sales professionals use before heading out for a test drive, so this is not unreasonable. For that first showing, drive your own car through the showings, and do not carpool with the clients. Once you have established a relationship with your client, then you can meet out in the field and even ride from house to house together, if you feel comfortable. For that first meeting, though, start at the office. Introduce the clients to your colleagues, if possible.
Always keep your cell phone with you and powered on, and make sure that you have the battery charged so that the phone will not run out of power while you are in the middle of a showing. This is a good practice for business, too, as you want to be able to contact the other realtor if your clients are interested in making an offer on the house. However, when it comes to personal safety, this will give you the ability to call the police if necessary. If you want to establish a “secret word” to use that you can call back to the office and indicate that you need help.
When you’re dressing for your appointments, you should look professional, but avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and don’t wear provocative clothing. When you’re packing your belongings, bring pepper spray in order to keep attackers at bay. Pepper spray pens are available; you can attach yours to a clipboard or carry it in your pocket or purse. It’s not going to arouse suspicious like a canister would, but it can make the difference if the prospective buyer turns into a real assailant.
While you are giving the showing to your new client, always make sure that you can see him. Allow them to walk in front of you. If a new couple is previewing homes with you, keep them in the same room. When you are hosting an open house, make sure that you know the number of people who are in the building at any given time.
Another area in which realtors can compromise their safety has to do with personal information. When you post a number on a sign, make sure that it is your cell number or your office number, not your home landline. When you put up a photograph of yourself, make sure that it is professional.
There are too many people in the real estate profession who are naive when it comes to the risks that go along with the profession. The vast majority of people who call realtors are legitimately looking for a home (or to sell one). However, it is important to be prepared, so that you do not end up being one of those tragic statistics.