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Touring homes with new clients can be fun and gratifying. But showings have the potential to turn dangerous, especially if you are unprepared.
Bill Jordan, MetroTex Association of REALTORS® 2021 president, teaches the course Real Estate Safety Matters: Safe Business = Smart Business. The Longhorn Real Estate broker offers the following tips for situational awareness during real estate appointments.
Think it through. Before the meeting, ask yourself what you would do if someone tries to harm you. What’s the layout of the house? How would you escape? How would you defend yourself? If someone moves into your blind spot, how would you get them out of there? Thinking ahead yields better results that you can implement quickly.
Call the office. Before the meeting, ask clients for a picture of their photo ID, or take a picture of the ID yourself and send it to your brokerage. Before you enter the house, call the office or leave a voice message—within earshot of the clients—and state the time, address, and people present with photos on file. It lets your clients know you are thinking about safety. “It is so easy to just say, I won’t do that to these people to not make them uncomfortable. But don’t make any exceptions. Take precautions with everybody, even the people you might know.”
Protect your six o’clock. Don’t let anyone get behind you. “You’ve got to keep all of your clients and visitors in front of you or in your peripheral vision,” Jordan says. “You can’t let them get outside of that. If that means you move, you need to move.” It can happen as quickly as someone holding a door open for you.
Don’t get separated. Another common example is touring a home with one person while a second person waits in the car. That could be potentially dangerous because you cannot keep track of both people. Assess the situation. Walk to the car and visit with the second person. Jordan recommends inviting the second person to tour the property with you to give a second opinion. Make sure their car is not blocking yours. If it is, change the parking situation.
Put your phone away. Phones are distracting, and someone who wants to harm you wants to catch you distracted. Don’t answer calls or texts during the showing.
Don’t count on a firearm. “If you’ve never been in one of those simulations where somebody attacks you from about 15 paces away, you don’t realize that you can’t get your weapon out and do anything with it in the time before they have closed the gap between you. At best, a gun becomes something you can throw at them. Don’t let that be your only plan of safety.” Jordan says pepper spray may be a better option in these situations. It can be accessed and used quickly and gives you a chance to run away.
Be ready to run. Make sure the door is unlocked and you can get to it first. It’s OK to stand by the door and tell clients to explore the home on their own. If you feel threatened, get out of the house as fast as you can and try to get someone’s attention. “Don’t try to fight back. Get some distance.”
Trust your gut. Part of situational awareness is accepting the possibility that your client may not be trustworthy and preparing for it. Jordan says it’s hard for some people to observe behavior and figure out if a person is up to no good. But your gut knows if you feel uncomfortable in a situation.
“If you watch people, generally your perception is correct. If they’re not seriously looking at a house, start backing up toward the door because something’s not right. If they’re just kind of watching you and acting suspicious, keep yourself close to the door.”