PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Safety First: It’s Realtor Safety Month

Dorothy Botsoe | September 2017

Wow, it’s September! I hope we are all more relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated from our summer and ready for our Fall/Winter real estate season. As we all know, not only is September “back to school” time, but it is also Realtor Safety month. As the weather changes, so does the pattern of crime and we must be careful and not let our guard down.

NAR has some great articles and basic information on Realtor safety, which I would advise us all to take a look at. NAR’s website is chock full of great safety tips that we can review I am dedicating this month’s article to the memory of Beverly Carter, a very successful Realtor in Arkansas, who was tragically killed in September 2014 when she went to show a home. Working alone as women always requires being extra careful. However, remember no one, male or female, is exempt from the possibility of being a victim of a crime.

While most of our Realtor safety habits incorporate common sense, we still can’t get too relaxed and must take into account how criminals have become much more sophisticated and technical in targeting their victims via the Internet. Many of us use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and have a prominent presence in cyberspace. We advertise our services on the web now more than we do by word of mouth. With every “click” we are tracked, and there is more potential for our private information to be stolen and misused and abused in identity theft situations. I know some of you are aware of what I am talking about. Many of us have already been victim to Internet security breaches; I certainly have and it was just awful. So, as we gather personal and financial information on our clients with online apps and basic housing/banking applications, we cannot underestimate the risk and exposure to our own businesses and our clients.

I went through the material on the NAR website as well as several others and summarized some basic tips that I believe will be helpful reminders in protecting Realtors, our clients and our businesses this season. Let’s play it safe, educate ourselves and learn what’s new out there to help keep us safe. Here are the top six tips I found extremely helpful regarding home showing:

1. Don’t go to open houses alone. Take someone with you—a co-worker, spouse, friend or lender.

2. Trust but verify the client. We are living in the age of social networking, so use social media to get to know the interested party. Use the name, phone number, e-mail address or username you have to access their full profile. Try to know with whom you are meeting. Take time to explore various posts to get a feel for the potential client from both a safety standpoint and relationship building vantage point (should this prove to be a good sales prospect, you can better seal the deal by doing some due diligence).

3. Be cyber conscious. Whatever you might think about the “Snowden” movie, know that cyber privacy breaches are real concerns. Do not wire funds to accounts that you have not verbally verified as authentic (don’t just follow directions in an e-mail or text). Protect your business presence on the web by monitoring it closely and being careful about your transactions.

4. Before you get out of your car—do a quick look around for what you should be looking for. More than 99% of all violent predators are male. Ask yourself two important questions—who is he and what is he doing here? It will activate your own intuitive warning system. Keep an eye on the person and don’t go into the house or go waist deep into your trunk searching for a yard sign until you can be sure you are safe.

5. Go into the house and turn on lights—find out where all the exits are and know where they lead. Identify any space in the home where you could be cornered or trapped. Don’t go in the basement or walk up attic. You can send a potential buyer into the basement to check it out and you certainly don’t need to go into the basement if you are in the home alone during an open house. However, really try not to show homes totally alone.

6. If you feel threatened, run away. If that is not an option, call 911. Keep your call short, simple and factual. Ensure your office has a coded distress signal set up that you can call in an emergency. Come up with a plan that informs your staff or someone that something is wrong or that you may be in a troubling position.

Whether you are the real estate agent, buyer or homeowner, it can be an uncomfortable and, frankly, a downright frightening experience if something goes wrong and your safety is compromised at a showing. We must take our safety guidelines seriously. Sadly, agents have been harmed, hurt and were even the victims of homicide. Many of us can recall some precarious home showing situations that could have proven dangerous.

Let’s be safe. Review your safety tools and tips. Always try to know with whom you are meeting in a formal “meet and greet” at your office or at a public location first. And please, don’t get tricked by social media familiarity and the ease in which it allows us to conduct our business. A Skype or Face Time meeting is not the way to go. I know, I know, you are busy and have a full plate, and you don’t want to be late for your next appointment, blah, blah blah, and meeting at the house of interest just sounds easier right? All of these things are poor excuses that could compromise your safety and your life. Trust your instincts and just slow things down enough to do your vetting.

Our privacy in this country has gone through so many changes, thanks to technology. We sometimes tweet whatever we feel like saying without even thinking twice about the consequences of our words once we hit send. We simply tend to trust and share so much of our personal and professional lives now on social media. Yes, hundreds of people who you think are potential clients, may in fact be “following you.” Please let’s make sure it’s the right kind of “follow” and not one that leaves you wishing you had not accepted that friend request, or responded to that e-mail. Be smart, be wise and be professional. It could save your life.

As always, I would love to hear from you. Please give me a call or e-mail and let’s stay connected. #wearetheworld, #realtorsafetymonth. You can reach me at 914-450-0600, on our Realtor Blog on the agent portal on our HGAR website, or by e-mail at STAY SAFE!

Dorothy Botsoe
Dorothy Botsoe is 2017 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc.