September 2, 2010
At Garden State Real Estate Academy, we want to provide more to our guests than simply being “The best real estate school near me” when they do a Google search. Clearly, getting through real estate classes so they can earn a New Jersey real estate license is the classroom guests’ priority. But our instructors are not the type found in so many real estate schools where they teach from a textbook and have never sold a house in their life. All our instructors have decades of real-world expertise as real estate superstars. It is that experience in the field that our real estate class graduates say was so valuable in their choice of real estate licensing school.
September is National REALTOR® Safety Month. Having a real estate career is inherently rewarding and safe. But as with even the most prestigious professions, selling real estate requires each person to take sensible precautions.
Danger does exist.
While rare, there are occasions when real estate agents are attacked. Take a typical scenario: an agent lists a house and promotes it to the entire community, both through online and social media forums and with signs on the property.
Then the agent feels a thrill when a call comes in saying, “I need to buy a home, and this seems like it could be perfect. Could we see it in 30 minutes?”
Oh boy! I could end up with both sides of the deal!
That is exactly what happened to a REALTOR® in Arkansas who told her husband that she was going out to show a home to a potential buyer. Once in the house, the “buyer” attacked the mother of three, bound her with duct tape and phoned her husband demanding a ransom. Her dead body was later found in a cement mixer.
Two men were recently arrested in North Ridgeville, Ohio recently for grabbing a real estate agent when she arrived to show them her listing and tried to force her into their car. Luckily, she fought back and was able escape into her car and lock the doors, sustaining only minor injuries.
Another agent was attacked and viciously beaten during her open house in Lynchburg, Virginia. Her injuries required hospitalization.
Have a plan.
Perhaps the best place to start is to plan how you will hand potentially tricky situations. Resist the temptation to rush out to meet a person just because they call and want to see a home right away. Tell the caller that since you have a duty to the seller to only bring qualified buyers through his home, you need to first invite him into your office for a brief buyer consultation.
This is not only true; it is ethically the correct thing to do. You shouldn’t be taking someone through a $500,000 home if they are not qualified to buy it. A person with an evil intent towards the agent is not likely to show himself at her office.
Help the potential perpetrator identify the risks.
While conducting the buyer consultation in your office, say matter-of-factly, “OK then, I just need to take a copy of your driver’s license and we’ll be on our way to find you a beautiful new home.” We are asked by many types of merchant and vendor to show our government-issued ID nowadays, so if you ask for their license as if all agents ask for it from everybody, the client should not think twice about doing so.
If you have any concerns at that point, ask another agent to accompany you for the showing. Ask a coworker to shoot a picture of the buyer’s license plate while you are conducting the buyer presentation; as you go to leave the office, introduce him to somebody else in your firm such as the receptionist, your broker, or the person on floor duty. A friendly, “This is Brenda, and she’ll be the first one you speak to if we end up doing business together and you call me at the office. Brenda, this is John Smith.”
If the broker establishes policies such as these, he will be proactively demonstrating his concern for his agents and those agents will implement those security measures as a normal course of doing business.
Know the available tools.
Garden State Real Estate Academy will hold a FREE real estate class this month, specifically to provide safety tips for people who hold a New Jersey real estate license.
Life360 is a free phone app that shows your loved ones exactly where you are at all times, so long as you have your cell phone with you.
Some smartphones have a feature where you can call 911 with just the press of a button or key. Guard Llama is a smart device that you can carry in your pocket and which, if pressed twice, immediately (and silently) alerts anyone you have entered as a contact and also calls the police and notifies them of your GPS location.
Bsafe is an ingenious app for your smart phone. You set it up with the contacts you would want to notify in an emergency and your own alert phrase. Even if your phone is in your bag, if you were to say your alert phrase, such as “I don’t feel good about this!” it will either sound a loud alarm or silently call your contacts. They can immediately see your location and can even monitor what is happening through your phone.
Of course, there are also the pepper spray and personal handgun options, if you feel secure about using them and if they are legal in your state.
Know Before You Go.
Another subscription service (for $20 a month) is offered by Forewarn. It claims to be able to identify over 80% of potential buyers by giving you insight into their criminal history, current property and vehicle ownership, past bankruptcies and a full history of previous addresses and additional phone numbers.
SafeShowings is a $4.99 per month subscription app that lets you set a duration time for a showing and then asks you to take a photo of either the buyer, his driver’s license or license plate. If you do not hit “END SHOWING,” it will alert your contact list with your exact GPS location.
Value your intuition. If something doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t.
When you are showing homes, or sitting open houses, avoid wearing expensive jewelry, An open house is not the place to show off your Prada handbag and striking gold necklace.
One of the best tips I can offer if you are concerned about the buyer is to ask a coworker—preferably a male—to call you say, 15 minutes after your expected arrival time at the home. When it rings, you say something like, “Oh really! That’s great, honey. I’m showing a house right now at 34 Hawthorne Drive, but we’re almost finished. Why don’t you stop by in a couple of minutes?” Then turn to your buyer and explain, “Sorry, that was my husband. He’s a state policeman and he just got off duty early, so he’s going to take me out to lunch/dinner/the movies. What a nice surprise!
Good luck. Stay safe. And enjoy every day of your real estate career.
Garden State Real Estate Academy is New Jersey’s top-rated real estate licensing school. pre-licensing and broker licensing classes must usually be taken in live classroom settings, we have temporary permission to offer these classes via Zoom. We have both daytime and evening classes that start every two weeks. For more information, go to www.GSREacademy.com
David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 31 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 450 homes in South Jersey. He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 15 books. David can be reached at David@GSREacademy.com