The safety concerns for realtors and service providers who travel to homes that stand out to me are:
- Meeting an unknown person alone in a vacant property
- Being alone while showing an open-house
- Encroachment and confrontation from an occupant (homeowner, renter, squatter, etc.)
- Showing or visiting a home in an area known to have high crime rates
I was relieved to hear that some of these are not common practice, particularly meeting a new client alone in a vacant property. There are several preventative safety protocols that can be taken to mitigate risk, such as notifying your coworkers and family members about your schedule and locations, showing open houses with another person present, and meeting your clients publicly before taking them to see properties. However, I was informed that real-estate agents do not always have the luxury of having another person present at an open house, and anybody can just drop in.
A few realtors in a recent seminar expressed that at some point in their career, they had a bad feeling about someone they encountered while working or commuting to work. The most important piece of advice I have with respect to on-site jobs is listening to your instincts and intuition. If something doesn't feel right before entering a property, don’t go in. If something feels off when you’re already engaged at a property, make an exit.
Understand that attacks can be deception-based or immediate ambush based. Deception-based meaning that they attacker could be acting as potential buyers wanting to view a house with the aim of getting you into a secluded, vacant house with the intent to assault or rob you. The physical attack itself is still an ambush; an attacker could attack on first contact or when he thinks you are unaware, for example, when you have your back turned unlocking a door.
The first thing to watch is where the person directs their attention. The person you are dealing with should have their attention mostly centered on the product or the service! Your client should be focusing on exploring the environment, and not primarily fixated on you.
One thing you can do if you feel uneasy is to set up the expectation that you will not be alone. If you do end up in a situation where you are forced to meet someone alone at a vacant property, you can set up the expectation that someone else will be arriving. For example, you could say,
“Please don’t be alarmed when someone else walks in. One of my colleagues is showing this house to a couple and he’s a few minutes behind me.”
Anyone who does not have bad intentions will not think twice about this statement. It will not register with them and will not matter. However, pay close attention to any behavioral changes or responses to this statement and listen to your gut instinct. Any change in behavior should be a clear indication that something is not right. If your statement makes them uneasy, this is a huge red flag. You have stated that the two of you will not be alone for long, and a potential attacker does not want other people present.
Promptly after saying this, you should contact (by text or call) an emergency contact (partner, office worker, local authorities) to let them know that you are in a position that you feel unsafe. If you have an emergency strategy for contacting help in place ahead of time, all you are doing is implementing the plan. If you haven’t preemptively made a plan, you cannot expect others to quickly grasp that you are in need of help. Keep in mind that your safety is in YOUR hands. If you need to make an exit, do so. If you are attacked, fight!
Remember that you are the expert in your line of work. You understand what normal behavior looks like, so trust your gut when it tells you something is not “normal.” When something is not right be vigilant, and when necessary, take action to remove yourself from the situation.
Train smart & stay safe!
NOVA Self Defense
NOVA Self Defense offers self-defense and personal safety training for real estate agencies and other corporate entities in the Washington DC and the surrounding areas. To set up a training event please email: firstname.lastname@example.org