I’m deviating from the normal tone (and the normal audience) of my blog posts and writing to my fellow Realtors today. We’ve all be rocked by the news of a colleague’s brutal assault and murder “in the line of duty.” Beverly Carter lost her life doing what we all do each and every day and unfortunately, though she is the most high profile case right now, she is hardly the first Realtor to face an assault while simply doing his or her job. Ironically, too, she was killed in September, the National Association of Realtor’s “Realtor Safety Month.” It’s time to educate ourselves and our clients (and even our non-clients) about what it is that we do and what steps we should take to keep ourselves safe!
Mrs. Carter’s assailant not only confessed to her murder, but explained that he targeted her because “She was a rich broker… she was just a woman who worked alone — a rich broker.” This statement sickened me for so many reasons. There is a common misconception that Realtors and brokers are all extremely wealthy. People read trade magazines or see advertisements that tout Realtors as members of the “million dollar club.” How I wish I could explain to laymen that this DOES NOT mean we made a million dollars last year. Don't get me wrong…. I have been blessed to work in real estate for 19 years and with hard work and dedication you can make a nice living. I am thankful for each and every client I have and for the commissions that I make on each transaction. But, I think most people would be shocked if they truly understood the anatomy of a commission… if they really appreciated that a 6% commission on a $500,000 home (once split with the listing agent) comes out to $15,000. That’s not bad for a day’s work, except that number doesn’t reflect a day’s work… it reflects weeks, months and sometimes years of hard work and is then split with your real estate company and further pays expenses such as; assistants, marketing, office expenses/equipment, continuing education, board fees, etc….not to mention it also pays for our private insurance and our private retirement funds. Realtors are independent contractors and as such are responsible for all their own business expenses. So, really… commissions don’t go as far as one might expect and it certainly doesn’t necessarily make someone a “rich broker.”
“She worked alone.” This sentence – this notion – is probably even more common than the idea that we’re all “rich brokers”. Most of us meet clients without a backup team in place. We show homes, meet contractors and repairmen, collaborate with photographers, and host open houses by ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable by simply doing our job and we need to take steps to limit that exposure and liability. Here are some excellent suggestions that I hope you’ll embrace and implement in your business:
The first meeting with a new client should take place at your office where you are surrounded by co-workers. If that is simply not possible, meet a client in a public place and be sure to let your colleagues and/or family know when, where and with whom you are meeting.
New clients should be prepared to provide identification (which you should note, copy or photograph) and prequalification letters from verifiable local lenders.
Even after you’ve agreed to work with a new client, never enter an empty house alone. Many Realtors make it a point to arrive at a home early for a showing, to let themselves in and to make sure that all is in order. This makes you hugely vulnerable as empty homes are often magnets for criminals. Make sure you wait in your car until your client arrives and enter the home together.
Better yet… work in pairs or teams. This can be a tricky one… we all know that home buyers and sellers outnumber us, but you reduce the risk of danger significantly if you show a home, host an open house or meet with a new client with another real estate professional. Whether you are new to the business or have been in the business for years, this is an opportunity to mentor or be mentored by other professionals.
Consider using mobile safety apps like “Red Panic Button” or “Moby” which tracks your location, can be programmed with regular “check-ins” and has a one-touch alert button to contact family members and emergency personnel.
Speaking of your smart phone – we’re never far from this important business tool, so use it to your advantage. Follow your instincts… if you feel unsafe in ANY situation, place a quick call to your office, excuse yourself to the home’s exterior and make sure your colleagues or office staff know exactly where you are. Ask them to stay on the phone with you until you feel safe and secure.
Educate your new clients about their own safety issues (I’ll be writing an entire post about this next week) and how they can keep themselves and their properties safe while their home is on the market.
For even more tips on how to stay safe, visit http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety
Read as much as you can about Realtor safety, don’t allow yourself to become complacent and share this information with your co-workers! Stay safe!