She was a walk-in. And I happened to be first up that day. We chatted, exchanged information, and I promised to preview some properties and get back to her. She had an unusual first name and me–the curious being that I am–Googled it. The first thing that popped up? Her mug shot from a recent arrest for domestic violence and assault and battery! What might have happened if I hadn’t known?
Safety is an issue for Realtors, more so than many other professions. Of course, workplace violence can happen anywhere, but there are specific preventive measures we can take to drastically reduce the chances of it happening to us.
- Safety loves company. There really is safety in numbers. Don’t hold an open house alone. When you’re holding an open house, let the neighbors know you’re there. They will appreciate the courtesy and may be a safe haven in the event that something goes wrong. Take someone with you when you’re previewing or showing properties in remote areas. Obviously, there are exceptions to these suggestions. If you know the situation, the property, and the environment really well, you may be safe. But is it worth that chance?
- Know the password. Develop a signal password that you can use when you’re in danger and can call your office. “Do you want anchovies on your pizza?” or something equally unusual but mundane should do the trick. Make sure everyone who answers the phone in your office is clued in. If you’re really in trouble and can’t make a call, at least push the office speed dial and leave the line open. Whoever hears you talking will be able to tell you’re in trouble. (And as an aside, always make sure your cell phone is fully charged.)
- Publicize your location. Whenever you leave the office to meet a client, be sure everyone knows where you are going and what time to expect you back. Have an advance agreement about what to do if they can’t contact you. How many phone calls go unanswered before they call the police, for example?
- Stay in the driver’s seat. Never ever get into a car with a client you don’t know well. If he or she suggests driving, say you have another appointment immediately after this one and ask them to follow you to the property.
- Shed some light on it. Avoid showing properties after dark. For starters, they don’t show as well as they do in daylight. And the potential for running into intruders or getting cornered by a client who’s up to no good is much greater at night. Instead, go for active times of day when people are getting home from work, kids are coming back from school, and lots of people are around.
- Use technology. You can find out all kinds of things with just a little Internet research. For example, there are sites that will list registered sex offenders in the area. Use reverse lookup to check the validity of phone numbers. Call clients at their place of employment, just to confirm that they work there. Get a security app for your phone. There are panic alerts that will notify police without you having to make a call. Most cost less than $10 per month.
- Cultivate a low-key look. Save your expensive jewelry for the annual awards banquet. Wear a Timex on the job, not your Rolex. Avoid glamour shots on your business card, website, or Facebook page. You can look like a true professional without flaunting your looks or your money.
- Choose your weapon. There are many ways you can defend yourself if you should end up in a serious confrontation. Some Realtors get themselves trained in self-defense techniques, such as karate or tae kwon do. There are stun guns that look like flashlights. If you have a license to carry a handgun and are trained to use it, do so. And there is always pepper spray.
- Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong to you, it probably is. Even if it isn’t, it’s better to be safe and even lose a client that to end up robbed, assaulted, or worse. Make up any excuse–a migraine coming on, forgot paperwork at the office, need to check on the kids, dogs, cats, feed the hamster–whatever makes sense in the situation. Then make the quickest, most graceful exit possible.
Remember, you are in charge of your own safety. Put some precautions in place ahead of time, and you’ll feel much more confident and secure. Sometimes radiating that confidence is all it takes to prevent an unfortunate occurrence.