Showing Property Is a Dangerous Job – What Real Estate Agents Do to Keep Buyers Sellers and Themselves Safe
Being a Real Estate Agent is a Dangerous Job
Real estate agents face danger every day that we deal with the public. Robbery, rape, and murder are not unheard of in this industry. In fact, agents are constantly aware of and reminded of the fact that our fellow associates are attacked on a regular basis.
The Dangers Real Estate Agents Encounter
Real estate agents are constantly chauffeuring strangers in our car, we hold open houses which attract the public, and at the office, strangers constantly drop by throughout the day. Yes, in the real estate business, staying safe is at the foremost of our minds.
I Showed Property to an Alleged Murderer
My Encounter With an Alleged Murderer While Showing Property
It was a typical day in the world of real estate. I was sitting at my desk when a potential buyer walked into my office. He was from out of town and looking to purchase a home in a prestigious neighborhood. He was dressed well, had a nice car, and spoke well. Basically, he presented a good first impression.
The buyer prospect went through all the motions of being a bona fide buyer. He completed the paperwork for the loan and did everything a serious buyer would do.
I ran a property search for him and we selected four houses to view. I was aware that all of the properties we scheduled for viewing happened to be vacant. That was the first alarm that went off in my head. Vacant homes are the perfect locations for criminals.
When a "client" selects all vacant homes for their private tour, that is a red flag for the agent to take certain precautions for safety.
- I made two photocopies of his driver’s license and left one with a colleague.
- I gave a list of the properties I was showing to a colleague in the office.
- I gave the colleague an estimated time that I should be expected to be back at the office.
- I asked the prospective buyer to follow me to each property in his own vehicle.
We drove to each property in separate vehicles. One side of my brain noted that this could be a bona fide buyer. Selling a house to this buyer in this exclusive neighborhood meant a sizeable paycheck for me. The other side of my brain noted that this could be a counterfeit buyer up to no good. It turned out that this buyer was up to no good. As we toured each property, I noticed he kept trying to lure me into corners. But, I’m wiser than that. I stayed away from interior doors and walls. I allowed him to walk into the room first while I remained outside and near a door for a quick exit.
I took the necessary precautions to protect myself. Well, it was a good thing, because by the time I got back to the office one of my colleagues discovered that the man was wanted for murder in the town he lived. Apparently, he was accused of murdering his wife and the police were looking for him.
Was he planning on murdering me, too? I don’t know. But, I fear that if he had the opportunity, he might have. He did keep mentioning that his wife had died and that I looked like his wife.
Dangerous People Show Up at Open Houses
Almost Attacked at an Open House
My husband and I sold real estate together as a team and started doing open houses together. We listed the neighbor’s house directly across the street from our house. A general policy that we have is that the seller not be present while buyers are trekking in and out of the house. It’s less stress on the seller and it allows buyers to openly share their opinions about the house.
As my husband loaded the trunk of the car with open house signs, I went on over to the seller's house. When I arrived at the house, the seller was still there and said he would, of course, leave when the first buyer showed up. Well, almost immediately the first set of buyers showed up and the seller left. But, the seller must have had a funny feeling about the buyers because he went straight across the street to alert my husband about the buyers. He told my husband, “You’d better get over there right away!” Good thing this seller had good instincts.
Back at the seller's house, I was standing in the kitchen in front of the sliding glass door. The three men who showed up at the house quickly scattered. Man #1 walked quickly past me and into one of the bedrooms. I heard Man #2 quickly lock the front door after the seller left, and Man #3 approached aggressively toward me. In that instant, I knew these men were up to no good. Just as I backed into the sliding glass door, my husband had made his way over to the house and tried opening the door. Upon discovering the door locked, he did not hesitate to use the key the seller had given him to gain quick access to the house. As soon as my husband bolted into the house, the three men scurried out and sped away from the scene.
Since I was left unharmed, the police couldn’t take a report or do anything about the incident.
As real estate agents, we never know what we are walking into. This story is a news report about a REALTOR who was robbed and killed at an open house in an upscale neighborhood.
More Stories of Danger on the Job
I have many close calls and absolute horror stories to tell, but the ones I shared here are enough to give you the gist of how dangerous it is out in the real estate field.
I'm just one agent, so you can imagine the enormous number of agents who encounter danger on the job every day. Every year on the job I encounter at least one incident that makes me re-think my involvement in the industry.
I never drive home the same way twice because one time I was followed by a stalker who would show up at every open house I had for a six-month period. He stopped appearing at open houses when I discovered he was following me home one day. I was able to lose him in traffic. But the good news is I never saw him again. That was scary!
A real estate friend was tied up and left in a closet after being robbed. Another friend was forced off the side of the road and robbed on the way to an open house.
Safety is of the Utmost Importance When Meeting New Clients
When I was an active real estate agent, safety was a constant thought on my mind. There are many things that agents do simply for the sake of being cautious.
Working With Buyers
I have had prospective buyers balk at me for asking for identification. Buyers, when you walk into an agent’s office for the first time, they don’t know you from the ax murderer. When agents ask for your identification, understand that they don’t really know who you are and they are wise to treat every new acquaintance equally. It is in their best interest to take precautionary, protective measures.
Working With Sellers
It is not only the seller’s safety that is at stake. The agent's safety is also of consideration. Sellers and agents alike have been held hostage, physically harmed, and robbed at gunpoint on many occasions.
Meeting Buyers and Sellers for the First Time
One more thing to be aware of is this: When you hire an agent and that agent asks to have someone accompany him or her to the first appointment, please be aware that it is in the agent’s best interest to be accompanied by a partner. It could be a colleague, a significant other, or a spouse. Either way, it doesn’t mean the agent is not competent on his or her own, it just means the agent is a professional who is conscientious and puts safety first.
Real Estate Guide to Safety
Real Estate Safety Guide
Safety in the real estate field is such a big deal that the National Association of Realtors has developed a guidebook which includes a checklist of things an agent should do to protect themselves. It is such a serious matter that every year, the entire month of September is dubbed “REALTOR® Safety Month”. During the month of September, an extraordinary amount of time and effort is devoted to bringing safety to the forefront of the real estate agent’s mind. The hope is that this awareness continues throughout the rest of the year, of course. REALTORS are asked to consider safety awareness for themselves and for their clients, as well.
"The Real Estate Guide to Safety", written by Andrew Wooten is a complete guide with excellent tips to help the REALTOR in just about every situation when coming in contact with the public.
Andrew's Golden Rule is this:
"You are your best weapon, your mind, voice, and body. Listen and trust your inner voice. It is the best weapon you have."
While this book was written specifically for REALTORS, it is an excellent guide for the general public, as well. If you work from home, participate in social media marketing, or deal with the public in any way, Andrew's book is an effective guide for you, even if you don't work in the real estate industry.
Andrea V. Brambila. April 30, 2017. Assaults, Murders of Real Estate Professionals on the Rise. Inman News. Last visited 10-19-2017. https://www.inman.com/2012/04/30/assaults-murders-real-estate-professionals-rise/
Erica Christoffer. January 2012. Stop Crimes of Opportunity. REALTOR®Mag. Last visited 10-19-2017. http://realtormag.realtor.org/news-and-commentary/feature/article/2012/01/stop-crimes-opportunity-in-2012
March 2, 2015. 2015 Member Safety Report. National Association of REALTORS®. Last visited 10-19-2017. https://www.nar.realtor/reports/2015-member-safety-report
"Real estate information; clear and simple!"
Marlene Bertrand is a Broker/REALTOR®.
Calif. Bureau of Real Estate Lic. #01056418.
© 2013 Marlene Bertrand