On the surface, the real estate industry is all about wheeling and dealing, and million dollar deals. Financial risk is a given, but physical risk can be part of the job as well. Not many people think of real estate as being a dangerous profession, but in reality, agents are put face to face with strangers on a daily basis. Hosting open houses, or showing homes to clients can put agents at risk for being robbed, carjacked, and assaulted.
Robbery is the most common risk that agents face. Agents typically dress in nice clothing, wear jewelry, and carry high tech devices such as PDA's. The house itself is also at risk because the homeowner is not usually present at the time of showing. Real estate agents should be cautious with what they carry on their person. Leave expensive jewelry at home, and don't carry more cash than is absolutely necessary. As for the house, have the homeowners remove anything that could be a potential target for theft.
Sexual assaults can occur when an agent is alone either in their office, or in a house with a client. The best defense is prevention. Avoid being alone at open houses as much as possible. Try to have a co-worker or friend accompany you. If that isn't feasible, call the office every hour to let them know that everything is okay. Set up a policy that if the office hasn't heard from you in one or two hours, they should call you immediately on your cell phone.
If you are alone at the office, keep windows and doors locked. Consider playing music to give the impression that multiple people are present. Some experts suggest that you should close curtains and blinds so that people can't see if you're alone, while others argue that by leaving curtains drawn, the public can have a clear view of anything that happens, thereby keeping you safe by exposure.
Having a safe word for your office is a very good idea, particularly for house viewings. This is a word or phrase that you can say on the phone to let your office know that something is wrong, without alerting the predator. You can have one general safe word, or have a few codes for varying degrees of danger.
Being alone at an open house is very risky. There are rooms that the predator can hide in, or drag you into. Let the client enter rooms first. This prevents you from being taken from behind, and also keeps you close to the exits. Don't go into isolated areas like basements and attics. Allow them to view those areas on their own.
Other precautions that you can take include having a new client meet you at the office, before going to a property. Photocopy their driver's license, or write down their license plate number. Introduce the person to a couple of co-workers. You not only want the office to have this information in the event of an emergency, but also, it decreases the chances that the client will try anything criminal. He knows that others have seen his face and have his information.
Give the office your itinerary for the day, including the addresses of all houses being shown and a time line for activities. The more information that you provide your co-workers or family with, the safer you will be. Although these actions cannot guarantee your wellbeing, you will have increased the chances of being rescued quickly, and returned to safety.
Open houses are where agents are most vulnerable. Often, they work alone, and spend the day opening the door to strangers. People with malicious intentions can easily put on the guise of being a potential buyer, and can gain the trust of an unsuspecting agent. Keep in mind is that both men and women can be victimized, and that both sexes can be predators, so do not let your guard down. Take a few simple precautions, listen to your instincts, and take care on the job.