Real Estate Safety, What You Need to Know
The real estate market is a competitive environment, only the best marketers usually stay in business. Becoming a real estate agent includes opening yourself up to perfect strangers. A lot of real estate agents will go door-to-door in their marketing process to make their names known to potential buyers and sellers. So it is not totally a surprise that real estate agents have become a target for criminals.
Getting away with Murder (Almost)
Andy VonStein was a man who really impacted his community, and one September day he was shot and killed by a man who had it out for him. Robert Grigleaitis lost his home due to a land contract deal gone wrong and it ended up costing him $80,000. Andy had nothing to do with this, but Grigleaitis blamed him anyway. Andy had never met Grigleaitis, and after scheduling an appointment to show a house under a fake name, Andy was murdered. After a long chase, Grigleaitis was captured and pled guilty.
Becky Kline, an Agent for Cutler Real Estate was very close to Andy and worked with him; “Andy’s death shocked the community” she said in an interview. Becky was the last person to talk to Andy before he left for his appointment.
Robert Siciliano, a personal security and identity theft expert, and Becky Kline both have a lot of great tips on staying safe, including the following:
- Stay on your Toes – Don’t be paranoid, just be aware. Attackers don’t always look shady; sometimes they will be well-dressed and even bring family or friends along with them. It may not be until the 3rd or 4th showing that attackers show who they really are. Becky Kline says that her biggest piece of advice is, “It can happen to you too. After Andy died, it was very close to home – this was no longer something that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen to me.”
- ID and Pre-Qualify at the Office – Meet for the first time at the office, as attackers don’t want to be ID’d and they don’t want to pre-qualify for a loan if their only intention is to do harm. They will likely turn to someone else who is not safety conscious. Becky believes in giving a copy of the ID to a coworker while the client is still in the office along with an itinerary. Make the client aware that someone is keeping tabs on you.
- Communicate with your Colleagues – Tell someone where you are and tell them you will contact them once you are done. Have them call you at a designated time and tell them to set an alarm on their phones so they don’t forget. Also, create an emergency word or phrase. You can use colors like Green for all-clear, Yellow to let them know to stay aware, or Red to indicate an emergency (e.g. “It is in the Yellow folder”). Or you can use acronyms like “Have Evan Let the Puppy outside”.
- Develop a Plan for Open Houses – Bring a friend with you, make sure your cell phone is charged, be aware of items you can use for self-defense, and lock up all jewelry and valuables. Becky also suggests that you get to the house before the clients arrive so that you can walk the house, be aware of all exits, make sure they are all unlocked and to make sure that the exits are clear of anything that could prevent you from making a quick escape.
- Use Professional Personal Marketing – Use marketing materials that either don’t have pictures of you on them, or have very professional pictures. Avoid looking provocative in any way and keep your marketing professional.
- Dress in a Way that Keeps you Safe – Make sure that you are dressed so that you can run and kick; wear anything that won’t hinder your ability to defend yourself. Also, avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
- Ride Alone – Never ride in your car with a client or go with a client in their car. A good policy would be to only ride along with friends or if you have another realtor with you.
- Learn How to Defend Yourself – Taking self-defense classes or getting a concealed carry license are both excellent ways to prepare you for the unknown. 80% of women who fight against their attackers end up getting away.
- Becky Kline has some Ideas too – “Cutler Real Estate is very serious about the safety of their agents, if you can’t get a fellow agent to come with you, you could call a corporate manager and they would meet you at a showing”. Becky has learned how to walk through a house, “Never lead a client downstairs, always let the client go downstairs before you, and keep yourself between the client and the door.” She also suggests that you “keep your distance from your clients, be cordial, but still stay at arm’s length”. She said that when she can, she will bring her husband along and have him stay in the car when she is uncomfortable. The last thing Becky said was that you must “listen to your instincts”, if something feels wrong, take extra measures to keep yourself safe.
One Final Method
Timothy Dimoff is a renowned security expert that can has experience speaking to real estate agents about techniques to increase personal safety in a unique industry where working with “strangers” is a requirement. Contact Tim call him at 330-730-3424 to schedule the Street Smarts for Real Estate Agents: Assault Prevention Through Awareness and Presence Tim’s Talk today!