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Realtor Safety: How to Have a Safe Showing

September 25 2015

This month, we're publishing content from a course on Realtor Safety. This is the ninth in a series of articles that teaches Realtors how to prevent being a victim of crime. Read the previous article here.

realtor outside 1000Even though you have taken all the steps possible to ensure that the person you are meeting with is safe, you can never be 100% sure., That's why it's best to follow a safe showing routine.

Arrival and Parking

Arrive Early

Make sure that you arrive early enough to the appointment that you can prepare the home and be ready before the prospect arrives. Expect the prospect to be running early.

Parking

Generally it is best to park in the street where possible so the prospect can park in the driveway—and so that they cannot block you in. However, if you can't park in the street, the following are some guidelines according to driveway type:

  • Straight 1- or 2-car driveway
    • Head in or back in, depending on which way places the driver side door closest to your most likely escape path
    • Park with the end of the car as close to the street as possible. It's best to have the edge of the car stick out a foot or so into the street if possible to prevent from being blocked in.
  • Circular Driveway
    • Park in the center of the driveway closest to your escape path

Regardless of where you park, it is important to remember that it's not that significant. The truth is that if you are being chased, your best bet is to run to a neighbor's house because the time it takes you to unlock the car door, open it, and get in, it is likely that the person chasing you will reach you before you have had a chance to close and lock the car door.

If You Can't Arrive Early

If you can't arrive early, call the prospect to attempt to postpone the appointment long enough to allow you to arrive early. However, if that's not possible, be sure to open the lock box and front door (and/or back door) without turning your back to the prospect.

Every home is a little different, so you may need to adjust the following procedure to meet the needs of the layout.

  1. If your Association or MLS has implemented Real Safe Agent, be sure to place your phone in Showing mode prior to getting out of the car.
  2. Always greet the prospect outside the home. Use a tour of the exterior as a way to "feel out" the prospect and unlock the front and back doors. That way, if you need an escape path once you get inside the home, the doors are unlocked.
  3. As you open the lockbox, stand so that the prospect is on one side and the lockbox is one the other. This will allow you to keep an eye on the prospect without having to turn around. If at all possible, you'll want to make sure the lockbox is mounted in a spot that does not require that you're hidden from the street in order to access it.
  4. When opening the front/rear door, stand so that you are perpendicular to the door and off to the side. If the knob is on the left, stand off to the left so that you are out of the path of the open doorway, place your left hand on the jam or wall and open the door with your right. This will make it more difficult for someone to push you into the house, while allowing the pros- pect to enter the home before you in a natural way.

Preparing the home

Assuming you have arrived early, you'll need to prepare the home for safe showing. The following are things you'll want to make sure to do.

  • Lights – Be sure to turn on all lights. Not only is it a good presentation habit, but it also makes the inside of the home more visible from the outside which makes you safer
  • Drapes – Be sure all drapes and blinds are open and there is maximum visibility into the inside of the home
  • Exterior Doors – Make sure all exterior doors are unlocked
  • Interior Doors – Make sure all interior doors are open
  • Garages – Open the garage door, if possible. If not possible, avoid entering the garage with the prospect
  • Obstructions – Be sure to clear any possible obstructions from potential escape paths
  • Dangerous Objects – Be sure to put away any items that could be used as a weapon against you (easily accessible vases, trophies, bats, knives, pans, etc.)
  • Cameras – Video cameras, whether fake or real, are great deterrents. Make sure they are very visible, perhaps even place them next to focal points in a room. You can even mention them during the conversation.

There is a school of thought that tells agents to lock the exterior doors during a showing to prevent an intruder from entering the home. While this may be a good practice with an established client, it elevates the risk with a new prospect. Someone who comes up on a home during a showing and enters through an unlocked door is committing a crime of opportunity. Crimes of opportunity are usually profit crimes (theft) committed by criminals who are typically inexperienced and therefore easily startled and scared off. They are not looking for a confrontation, they are looking for a quick easy score. The greater risk to your safety is the new prospect in the home with you.

Meeting the Prospect

Now that you have prepared the home, it's time to meet the prospect. The following are safety best practices.

Greeting the prospect

As mentioned in a previous section, always greet the prospect outside. However, in that section we were talking about greeting the prospect in the event that you were arriving after the client. This section is focusing on the scenario that you have arrived early, prepared the home, and are waiting for the client outside.

Keep in mind that the greeting sets the tone and an authoritative tone makes you less attractive to a predator with a "power motive." If at all possible, "take the high ground" and position yourself so that you are above the prospect when they come up to shake your hand or come close during the initial greeting. A front step is a great place to position yourself. Additionally, do not come off that ground to come to him/her, let him/her come to you.

I also mentioned using a tour of the outside of the home as a way of feeling out the prospect and giving you an opportunity to unlock the front and back door. During this outside tour, if there are outbuildings be sure they are unlocked prior to the tour. DO NOT ENTER outbuildings with a prospect.

  • If while touring the outside of the home, you develop an uneasy or uncomfortable feeling about the prospect
    • If you are using Real Safe Agent
      • Press and hold your screen for 3 seconds. This sends out a "drop-in" alert (I'm uncomfortable. Can someone drop in?) to all the agents in the immediate area (agents that can get there quickly).
      • Delay entering the home as long as possible or until a second agent arrives. The presence of a third person will prevent a crime, if the prospect was a threat, without endangering the sale if the prospect wasn't.
    • If you are NOT using Real Safe Agent
      • Call your office and pretend you are seeking information about the property you are showing. For instance, "I'm here at 1313 Mockingbird Lane with Mr. Johnson. Can you look up the tax information for me?" Your office should have a code word for a "drop-in" alert—make sure you include the code word.
      • Chances are that your office will not be close to where you are, so you may have to wait some time before someone arrives. Delay entering the house as long as possible to minimize the time inside without a third person. Since you'll probably have to be inside for some time until that person arrives, try and stay on the first floor and keep yourself positioned so that you are easily visible from the outside of the house.

Regardless of the circumstances, when entering the home, be sure to follow the procedures outlined earlier for safely opening a door.

Read the next article in this series now: What Is This Feeling?

Read More Articles in this Series

September is Realtor® Safety Month. Throughout the month, RE Technology will be publishing excerpts from an educational course on Realtor Safety in partnership with safety app creator Real Safe Agent. Here's the list of articles that have been published to date:

Please consider sharing this important information with your colleagues, your agents (brokers), and membership (MLSs and associations)!