September is REALTOR® Safety Month. Time and time again we have stressed to our members that it is important to meet prospective clients for the first time at their office. Many brokerages make this an office policy.
We suggest that when the prospect arrives at their office to ask for a photo I.D. to make a copy, or use a prospect ID form created by their brokerage, to keep in the office file. If the customer is hesitant, remind them that it is your office safety policy. Do not trust or accept anything other than a photo ID. A business card could easily have a fake name, address, and phone number. It’s a common practice for criminals to give false information to mislead and get you to soften your defenses.
Also, we recommend setting a coded distress signal. Be able to call the office or home with a message that appears harmless to a prospect but would serve as an alert to others that you feel uncomfortable or are in distress.
Before the Appointment
When you are making an appointment to meet a prospect at a property, if it is possible tell the prospect that you’ll be arriving with a partner. Whether it’s true or not, this statement plants the seed that there will be more than one person present—and that’s not good news for a criminal.
Arrive at the appointment early, before your prospect has arrived, and make sure to
Open the windows. If you find yourself needing to make a fast escape but you’re not near a door, a window may be your only exit.
Unlock all doors. You lose precious time if you have to fiddle with locks to get out.
Open the lockbox. The point here is to retrieve the key before your customer shows up. That way, you won’t have to turn your back to him or her to get the key out.
Wait in your car with the doors locked. The danger here is that your car confines you into a small space, but in some cases, the weather dictates that you take shelter. Waiting in the car is still much safer than waiting in the property.
Send a text to your office. Alert someone to where you are. If you need help, that person will know pertinent information to give authorities.
Keep your head up. Always be aware of your surroundings. Surprise attacks when you’re caught off guard make you more vulnerable.
When the Customer Arrives
Once your prospective client is in the space with you, pay very close attention to his or her behavior. Small details can clue you in to whether something is wrong:
Stop immediately if you pick up on something suspicious. If you notice inconsistent answers from your prospect, or any abnormal behavior, or anything that signals that something is off, stop working and trust your gut instincts.
If everything appears OK at the start, exit your car but stay well out of arm’s reach. The odds of an attack are reduced outside the property rather than inside, but keeping a distance makes it even more difficult for an assailant to jump you.
Try to take a photo of his or her license plate if you can and sent it to your office.
Because the lockbox is open and the door already unlocked, say, “I like for clients to enter the home alone as though you were coming home from work. Go ahead. You lead the way.” Give them about 10 seconds of lead time, but not so much that you lose sight of them.
Once you enter the property, keep the prospect in your “10 and 2” range of vision at all times.
Position yourself close to a quick exit as much as you can. However, if your back is to the exit, the bad guy may have a partner who surprises you. Be aware.
Remind the prospect that your partner is on the way. Again, this statement is a huge deterrent.
We don't want to think that anything bad can happen to us. However, after several high profile murders of REALTORS® in the past few years safety preparation is a must. It is not just women either, a male Albuquerque REALTOR® was murdered in 2005. Unfortunately, REALTORS® and brokers are often the targets of predators.