The National Association of Realtors has funded, produced and released a new safety video called "Don't Be A Victim: Personal Safety For Realtors," but the lessons contained within should be equally important for buyers and sellers to take to heart.
"Last fall, the NAR received a call from the Washington State Association of REALTORS®," said Chris Kaucnik, spokesperson for the NAR. "They had a grave incident in the area where a male Realtor was assaulted and killed.
"All real estate agents are at a higher risk than those of us who do not go outside our offices or work with the public on a daily basis," continued Kaucnik. "We certainly agreed that we needed to get more aggressive on showing our own membership how to protect themselves better in daily public contact situations."
Last year, according to the Washington Association of Realtors, 21 agents nationwide lost their lives while showing homes, which raises the question - how safe is it for buyers and sellers to strike out on their own?
While most outings don't result in loss of life, real estate agents often deal with people they don't know, making theirs a high-risk occupation. But Realtors are also trained in information-gathering techniques which helps them determine others' motivation. They frequently have a "sixth sense" which tells them whether they are in danger.
You have a sixth sense, too, but would you know the right questions to ask if a stranger came to your door and wanted to see your home? As a buyer, would you enter an unoccupied home alone?
Even if you are represented by a Realtor, there could be situations in which you are vulnerable. For example, if a prospect came to your door with an Internet printout of your home, would you let that person in to see your home or refer him or her to your Realtor?
Don't let your enthusiasm to buy or sell a home cause you to put yourself in unsafe situations. To avoid them, use these tips that NAR shares with its Realtors:
- Be careful meeting any prospect whether you are a buyer or seller. Try not to be alone in any home with a stranger. If you are looking at homes or showing homes, try to let the other person walk ahead of you. Stay near exits, and don't turn your back.
- Park in a well-lit location. Never park in a someone else's driveway where your car can be blocked in.
- Robbery is the motive for most attacks, so don't wear expensive jewelry or carry a lot of cash to look at homes. Hide your precious belongings if you are showing your home.
- Provocative clothing and behavior could send the wrong signal.
- If you are viewing homes, keep your keys in your hand. Make use of a keychain alarm if you have need to.
- If you are confronted by someone with a knife or gun, give him or her what they ask, but take the first opportunity to scream and run.
- Keep self defense simple - stomping on a foot, twisting and running could allow you to get away safely even if you don't know any real self-defense techniques.
- Give someone else the addresses of the homes you plan to visit if you are going alone. Give an estimated time you will return. If you are showing your home to a prospect, make sure someone else knows of the appointment and when it will end. Sometimes attackers will wait for the end of an open house, when they think you are most likely to be alone.
- If you are a seller, make sure you don't let anyone in your home who doesn't have an appointment through a Realtor or who has been prequalified by a lender or someone that you know.
- Many Realtors today offer fee-for-services. If you aren't already represented by a Realtor, you can pick and choose the services you want, including being accompanied while you host or attend an open house or showing.