As the world begins reopening, in-person interactions in the form of showings will become more frequent. Unfortunately, not everyone who schedules an appointment is interested in purchasing a house. A few recent news stories serve as a timely reminder that agents should secure personal safety plans and make sure their market center has a plan of action as well.
To help you mitigate potential dangers while keeping up with daily tasks, Outfront spoke with David Legaz, a Keller Williams agent in Flushing, New York, and retired New York Police Department sergeant who also chairs the newly formed National Association of Realtors’ Safety Advisory Committee.
Safety starts with understanding a potential threat.
“Before we discuss how to be safe, we need to speak about the predator’s behavior,” Legaz says. “A study from The University of Texas at Austin describes the predator’s motive as power and control and their attractors as weakness, subservience, and vulnerability with their goal of isolating you. In order to be safe, we need to remove as many of those identifiers as possible.”
Stop sharing personal and identifying information.
“Too often we inform our buyers that this is a nice neighborhood because we live there and often say, ‘I live around the corner in that brick house on Main Street, my kids go to this zoned school, they go to this after-school program, and we go to this house of worship,’” Legaz says. Instead, try offering fact-based, impersonal information about the area. In the same vein, Legaz points to the current trend of removing your personal photo from your advertising to help minimize predators contacting you for the wrong reasons.
Set clear expectations from the beginning.
Legaz suggests exhibiting firm boundaries from the get-go with these easy scripts: “Thank you for inquiring on 123 Main Street. It is one of our most popular listings. This home has plenty of windows accenting the natural sunlight,” or “We will be spending no more than 15 minutes at the showing as the sellers are returning at 5:45 p.m.” The first statement implies that other agents or buyers could interrupt the showing and that people may be able to see inside, while the second script stresses that the sellers will return shortly.
Know when to bring a buddy.
“You should always bring someone when there is poor cell service at the property, the property is vacant, you haven’t closed a deal in a while – which may leave you too eager to make a deal and ignore the voice in your head that something may be wrong – or you get an uncomfortable feeling prior to the appointment,” Legaz says. When you don’t have someone with you on-site, make plans to call someone every 30 minutes or hour and have them check on you if they don’t hear from you.
Go digital with open houses.
Switching to a virtual open house and showing process can help mitigate risk while still delivering a great experience. In addition to added safety, virtual open houses are a time-tested technique for agents to serve relocating buyers, buyers with an extremely busy schedule, or those who do not feel comfortable meeting in-person due to health concerns. If you are continuing with in-person showings, simple actions like standing on a higher porch step can help you project power in the face of a perpetrator. “Psychologically, to the predator, you are not appearing weak or vulnerable if they are forced to look up to you,” Legaz says. As the showing progresses, always walk behind the prospect and avoid entering attics, basements, and small rooms like bathrooms.