Earlier this year, an agent in California narrowly escaped from the clutches of a convicted sex offender who handcuffed her at a show home where she was working.
That scare has once again renewed calls for agents to be diligent and cautious when working open houses or showings.
We spoke with Constable Gordon Reid of crime prevention and community relations for 14 division with the Toronto Police Service about what you can do to be safe while buying and selling.
1 – Trust your instincts
Reid says your instincts are usually spot-on. If something is making you uncomfortable, there’s reason for that.
“If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” he tells REP. “If you can get out of there, you should.”
2 – Initial contact at the office
Most agents already do this, but Reid says your initial contact with a client should be at the office. Outside of the safety considerations, this habit can be great for business.
“While there, take down personal information and photocopy their driver’s license and take down the make, model and colour of their vehicle,” he says. “You’re creating a client database and a safety net for yourself so people at the office can follow up if necessary.”
3 – Be aware of your surroundings
You should already be familiar with the area in which you’re selling, but Reid suggests looking at the neighbourhood with a different set of glasses.
“Do a drive-through of the neighbourhood beforehand,” he says. “See if there are any safety concerns. If they think there may be one, invoke the buddy system and go there with a partner.”
Some things to look out for:
- The type of neighbourhood: is it more run down than other neighbourhoods?
- If the showing is at night, how good is the lighting?
- Get to know the layout of the house; find the exits and ensure they are left unlocked to give you a means of escape
4 – Ladies: leave your purse in the trunk
Reid suggests that agents who carry a purse or bag leave cumbersome belongings locked out of sight in the trunk of the car.
“Have on you at least one piece of ID, your keys, and a cell phone in your hand,” he says.
5 – Stay back This is another tip that most agents already do, but Reid recommends for agents to walk behind their clients when showing a property.
“If you’re showing it to a potential client, let them walk in front of you, so you have your eyes on them at all times,” he says. “If the room has a door that closes, don’t enter it. Let the client go in and you stay at the door.”
6 – What you wear
Agents are quite particular about their image – it’s that is undoubtedly important – but Reid suggests leaving the ultra-expensive wardrobe pieces at home.
“The jewellery that you’re wearing, try not to wear expensive items,” he says. “And wear comfortable shoes, so if you need to leave in an emergency or need to run, you can. It’s harder to do that in high heels.”
7 – Be vigilant
Keep your office in the loop, Reid suggests. Let them know your schedule for the day so, in the case of an emergency, they know where you are.
“Let the office know what your schedule is for the day: who you’re meeting, where you’re meeting them,” Reid says. “Let the office know what time you’ll call them when you’re finished, and let the person you’re meeting know that you told your office.”
8 – The information on your business cards
Agents are on-call 24/7, but Reid says you still should think twice about the information you share on your business cards.
“With business cards, only have your office phone number and office address on there,” he says, “especially if you operate out of your home.”
9 – Hang up your chauffeur’s cap
In the interest of avoiding situations in which an agent may find him or herself trapped, Reid says agents should consider erasing “taxi driver” from their resumes.
“If you are taking a client to a listing, let them take their own vehicle and you can remain in your vehicle,” he says.
10 – Log visitors
Finally, be sure to keep a detailed record of who enters any open house you’re working.
“At an open house, have a good log,” Reid says. “Take down [visitors’] personal information and take note of the vehicle they’re driving