Assaults against real estate agents, such as those in St. Petersburg, Fla., have served as a reminder of the importance of agent safety.
In one Florida incident, a person posing as a client tied up a female agent and called her husband for ransom. In a second incident, the same suspect robbed another female agent who was showing a home. Now that these incidents have been in mainstream news, realty organizations are taking steps to help keep agents safe. For example, the National Association of REALTORS® offers a course and dedicates an entire section of its website to agent safety.
Keeping agents safe
In addition, companies offer apps designed to promote safety for real estate agents and others. Peter Toner, a third-generation real estate agent in San Diego, is also founder/developer of VerifyPhotoID.com, an app that verifies, with just a prospect’s phone number, the identity of prospects in three simple steps before they meet with an agent. First, the agent sends the prospect a link by text. The prospect then uses his mobile device to capture images of a photo ID to send to the agent. The agent then reviews the prospect’s information to determine whether to meet.
Another example of a safety app is Bmonitored! With this app, an agent enters a meeting start time and safety alert times. Bmonitored! then asks for confirmation that an agent is safe at the selected interval. Once the agent responds with a one-digit personal PIN, the system clock resets until the next safety alert interval. If the agent does not respond, it notifies emergency contacts and the authorities with the agent’s last GPS coordinates.
Trust your gut
Bmonitored! President Harry Waltz said the app was specifically created in response to today’s increase in Internet interactions and the need to meet strangers for various reasons. But Waltz agrees it doesn’t take the place of overall awareness.
“I think the most important thing is to heighten your situational awareness and use the app as a backup in case a problem occurs,” he said. “It is an additional layer of protection.”
Toner agreed. “Smarter agents are changing their behavior,” he said. “Agents need to regain the lost art of listening to their intuition. By learning to pay attention when the hair on the back of your neck stands up, it will help to keep you safe.”
Other tips agents can use include always being aware of surroundings, leaving a photo of the property they are showing in a place where colleagues or family can find it and even taking someone with them to a showing. For more tips, see Your Safety Comes First: 22 Tips for Real Estate Agents.
“It’s a lot of common sense and basic stuff. Things like parking in the street and not the driveway to avoid getting parked in, and making sure the phone is fully charged when out in the field,” Toner said. “[Also] meet somewhere other than the property first and confirm ID. Intuition is your best guide.”