REALTOR® Safety Month
Best Practices for REALTOR® Safety
Terry Rogers, Keller Williams Realty
Written by Heather Pluard
Let’s face it: Being a real estate agent can be dangerous. According to the latest National Association of REALTORS® safety report from 2018, 9 percent of agents have been assaulted or threatened while working. But there are ways to lower the risk. Keller Williams REALTOR® Terry Rogers, who has 15 years of prior experience in law enforcement and security, shares his top tips on staying safe.
The number-one rule is to trust your instincts, even if that means upsetting a client. “Your life is more important than anything, and if you’re uneasy, there is probably a good reason,” Terry says. “Always let clients lead the way through a property, and don’t get trapped in a small room. Also, make sure you announce yourself when going into a property, even if you have an appointment. There may still be someone there, and people feel threatened if you surprise them.”
AT UNOCCUPIED PROPERTIES:
You’re responsible for your safety and actions, and you must protect both yourself and your clients. “Walk around any unoccupied property before going to the front door, especially if you know there hasn’t been a showing recently,” Terry says. “Look for open windows or unsecured back doors. If you see signs of a break-in and you are the listing agent, call the seller before dialing 911 because it may have already been reported to law enforcement. If you are the buyer’s agent, talk to the listing agent first. Either way, do not enter the property. If someone is in the home who shouldn’t be, like a squatter, immediately call the police.
DURING OPEN HOUSES:
Have a buddy system in place so that you are not alone. “It could be another agent, a friend, or a partner,” says Terry. “For example, I’ve brought my charming wife to several open homes, and she helps keep an eye on things. If you must be there alone, have someone check in on you every 30 minutes. They should call you, and you should have an agreed-upon distress code, like, ‘I’ll pick up the tabasco sauce on the way home.’ If you’re in a situation making you uncomfortable, use the code so that your buddy knows to call the local police and ask them to check in on you.”
Before the open house starts, establish an escape route in case the front door is blocked. “It’s also a good idea to do a sweep of the home to ensure all valuables are secure and no weapons or prescription drugs are accessible,” explains Terry. “I once found a gun leaning behind a door! If that happens to you, don’t touch it. Instead, just shut the door and don’t allow access to the room.”
IN THE OFFICE:
At a minimum, know where the emergency exits and fire extinguishers are located. “It’s easy to run right by them in a crisis,” Terry explains. “After hours, try to park in a well-lit area and make sure you lock the doors behind you. If someone aggressive comes into the office, you have four options. Flight is always best. Next is passive resistance, where you seem to cooperate with the person while putting distance between the two of you. Then there is verbal assertiveness. Loudly yelling ‘stop’ will draw attention to yourself and let the attacker know you are willing to fight back. Most criminals look for easy targets, and this might be enough to dissuade them. Fighting is always a last resort. Just be aware that you cannot use deadly force, including strikes above the shoulders, unless you fear serious bodily injury or death. In that case, use whatever weapon you can and strike hard.”
ALL THE TIME:
Consider carrying personal safety equipment, much of which can be found online for less than $10. “Pepper spray comes in single-use containers that are only 4 inches long and easily kept in a pocket or on a key chain,” says Terry. “Small noisemakers on your keychain will draw attention to yourself when needed. A Kubaton with a pointed tip can be used as both a defensive weapon and glass break device if you are trapped inside your vehicle due to an accident. Every REALTOR® should also have a flashlight in their car, but stay away from the small stuff. Instead, get a metal flashlight, which is also a great defensive weapon. It could save your life someday.”
“Do not carry a firearm unless you are proficient and practice shooting often,” Terry says. “Guns should only be used when deadly force is allowed. Never use one to threaten someone because an attacker can take them away easily. If you must use a firearm in self-defense, be able to articulate to the police, District Attorney, and a judge or jury as to why deadly force was necessary. You could be at risk of criminal and civil liability.”
Hopefully, Terry’s tips help REALTORS® make it home safely every night of the year. “Unfortunately, bad things do happen in our business,” he says. “To protect ourselves, we need to develop a situational awareness mindset. Be aware of your surroundings, analyze threat situations that could arise, and determine how you will respond ahead of time. No one is invincible, but an ounce of prevention goes a long way to staying safe.”
To help agents learn how to protect themselves, Terry offers a thought-provoking, three-hour discussion class called “Let’s Be Careful Out There.” For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-560-9630.