Real Estate's 6 Most Dangerous Everyday Situations

Continued from Last Week - Situations 4 - 6

September 2, 2010

Source: National Association of REALTORSŪ, Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Open houses
THE RISK: You're inviting the public to a property, which is an invitation to anyone, from thieves to those who might want to harm you.

SAFETY TIPS
Promote security in your advertisements. When you advertise the open house, note that identification will be required at the front door and video surveillance will be in use. "The bad guys will be less likely to show up," Siciliano says.

Partner up. When would-be assailants see two people at the front door, they'll be less likely to go in. (Read one agent's story how the buddy system protected her).

Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you'll be showing the house so others know that you are there.

Watch for patterns. At an open house, note any patterns in arrivals, particularly near the end of the open house. One common scam: Thieves come near the end of the open house, working as a team. They have "buyers" distract the agent as others steal valuables in the home. (Read what happened to one sales associate.)

Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop, or wallet unattended on the counter in plain view. Keep them in the trunk of your car. However, always keep your cell phone on you so you can call for help if you need to. Also, before the open house, tell your clients to put away all of their valuables, prescription drugs, and mail.

Flashy personal marketing
THE RISK: Marketing materials that contain photos of yourself may attract the attention of criminals. Police have found criminals circling real estate professionals' photos in newspapers and marketing materials (Read one agent's account of this.)

SAFETY TIPS

Avoid provocative photos in your marketing. Low-cut blouses, full-body photos, and looking over your shoulder in a sexy pose can send the wrong message to criminals. "Why do you have to have photos anyway? What are you selling?" asks Hawkins, who advises against ever using a photo for business reasons; she uses a caricature. "You make a living meeting complete strangers in empty houses. They see your photo and if you're exactly what they're looking for - whether that be an older or younger agent, blonde hair, blue eyes, whatever - they know all it takes is one phone call to meet you in a house. A picture can be dangerous."

Watch what you wear. Only wear shoes that you can run in. Avoid short skirts, low-cut tops, and expensive jewelry. "Predators don't have the same boundaries as you do. They look at you like that and say 'She's asking for it,'" Siciliano says.

Protect your personal information. Use your cell phone number and office address in your marketing so it can't be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. Also, don't reveal to your client personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with - you can still build a relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal information, recommends the Washington Real Estate Safety Council.

Transporting strangers in your car
THE RISK: You're showing houses to potential buyers and chauffeuring them in your car from house to house. Most people don't pick up hitchhikers, yet real estate professionals put strangers in their car all of the time and don't think anything of it, Siciliano says. There's a risk of being robbed, your car being stolen, and you victimized and thrown to the side of the road.

SAFETY TIPS
Drive separately. Have the client follow you from listing to listing. If you absolutely have to take one car, then you should drive.

Watch where you park. Make sure your car won't be blocked in and that you park in a place where you'll be able to get out quickly. Park on the street or the curb, if possible, suggests the Washington Real Estate Safety Council. You'll attract more attention if you run and scream when fleeing, and it'll be easier to escape than having to back out of a driveway, experts say.

"Security is all about layers of protection. Open house signage, notation in ads, using the buddy system - everything that you do is an extra layer of security," Siciliano says. "The more you do, the more secure you'll be. Do nothing and the more vulnerable you'll be."

For more tips, read a collection of safety stories and tips submitted by your peers ('How I Stay Safe') and learn more about REALTORŪ Safety Week at REALTOR.org/safety.

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