When an ex-con kills a 71 year old REALTOR® in Wisconsin just because her innocent question made him mad, it's no wonder St. Paul real estate agents are taking more safety precautions. Read the story here.
Safety tips used by agents are becoming more common:
- Do not show vacant properties alone unless you know your customers. This applies to both men and women as men can be overpowered as well. A male California real estate agent was kidnapped at gunpoint to get his electronic key to open listed houses with the electronic lock boxes. When I meet a customer for the first time at a home, I bring a trusted colleague or my husband to stay in the car in case I don't return.
- Record the names, number, description and license number of a customer you are meeting at a home for the first time. I call these details into my broker's voicemail. If someone accosts me, there is at least a modicum of information for the police to use to get the perpetrator back!
- Carry my cell phone into the house with me and have 911 programmed at the touch of a button.
- Never have an open house alone. The decrease in new buyer clients obtained through open houses and the increase in crime associated with opens is the basis for many St. Paul agents discontinuing the practice.
- Let customers precede you into a house and the rooms in the house. Personally, I'd never be able to outrun a perpetrator. If my gut suspects something, I'm not going in! I would rather be alive and wrong while I lose a future client than dead because I didn't want to lose that commission!
- Carry some form of pepper spray or mace in my pocket. Good idea, but my pockets are already full of electronic key, car keys, MLS listing sheets, my cheat sheet of combinations for the tour, business cards, phone, daily planner, and sometimes a huge flashlight. I don't think there's room for that pepper spray. I think I'll whack the perpetrator with the flashlight!
- One of the REALTOR® safety tips is to pay attention to exits. Personally, I generalize that to PAY ATTENTION PERIOD!
- Don't assume women customers are safer than men. Frankly, I think women fight meaner and dirtier than men and wouldn't care to be the victim of either! Besides, there may be a partner waiting by the scheduled house.
- There always a struggle between leaving the front door unlocked during a showing (easy exit when escaping or easy entrance for bad guys) or not. Because of discrimination laws, an agent cannot lock the front door while showing a house in one neighborhood and leave it open in another. That can be perceived as discriminatory or giving a message about the neighborhood to the client. Some agents choose to leave the key in the front door so they don't forget and lock it in the house. Others choose to lock the door. There are pros and cons to each system.
- Leaving a proposed schedule and the contact info for who you are meeting with a family member or colleague is wise. Checking in after the showings are finished is a good policy. When there is no check-in your trusted person knows when to call the police.
The last point on my proposed safety procedures list has a funny story attached to it. Early in my career cell phones were not common (I know I'm older than dirt!) but my broker's policy was that ALL of his agents would check in by phone after their open houses. My open house was in a vacant HUD home where I spent the afternoon killing mice with a broom. My pre-occupation with getting some shopping done on the way home distracted me from making the prescribed check-in call. When I finally remembered to stop at a pay phone, my husband informed me I had been given 15 more minutes and the two of them were going to call the cops! That was the last time I "forgot" to check in when done with my St. Paul real estate business! I can't imagine my embarrassment if I had been pulled over by the cops as a "missing person"!