From conducting evictions to hosting open houses, real estate agents encounter a wide range of people in a variety of different settings. While the majority of agents have not been victims of a crime while on the job, many have felt uneasy from time to time. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe and feel safe in the field:
Forty percent of Realtors have feared for their safety or the safety of their personal information while on the job, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Member Safety Report. The most common settings in which an agent felt unsafe or fearful were at open houses, at vacant homes, at properties that were unsecured, and at properties in remote locations. For REO agents, working with vacant properties may be a daily occurrence.
RealtyTrac reported 1.4 million residential properties sat vacant as of the second quarter of this year, up 2.7 percent from the first quarter. The states with the most “zombie” foreclosures—vacant homes in the process of foreclosure—are New Jersey (4,003), New York (3,352), Florida (2,467), Illinois (1,074), and Ohio (1,064).
What are agents doing to stay safe on the job?
Carry pepper spray.
About 17 percent of agents say they carry pepper spray with them. FORCE member, Tina Carter at Century 21 Adventure/Redwood in Fredericksburg, Virginia, says some of the agents at her office carry mace with them.
Track with an app.
About 13 percent of survey respondents told NAR they use smart phone apps to track their location and alert someone if they are in danger.
Start on neutral ground.
Carter and FORCE member Dru Ellender at Coldwell Banker Gallerie Realty in Lake Charles, Louisiana, recommend agents meet new clients at the office or a neutral location before going off alone with them to show them a property. However, according to NAR, the typical agent only meets about 50 percent of prospective buyers they do not know in an office or neutral location first.
Don’t go alone.
Carter also tells agents to bring someone along if they are going to a property that is vacant, remote, or far from the road.
Don’t press the issue.
When approaching an REO property, Carter says, “We don’t have agents press the issue.” If no one responds, she says, “Just ring the doorbell once, and then go away.”
Have a Safety Plan in Place: The Red Folder Rule
Not quite half of agents reported their brokerage having a safety procedure, according to NAR. Carter’s office uses the Red Folder Rule to help keep agents safe. If an agent is out in the field and needs to call for help discreetly, he or she can call the office and ask for the “Red Folder” on the property. “Can you get me the red folder on 123 Main Street?” When the person at the office hears this code, he or she knows the agent is uncomfortable or in danger and will call the police and ask them to go to the address where the agent is.
The good news is 96 percent of real estate agents say they have not been the victim of a crime while working as a real estate professional, according to NAR.
Top 10 Safest States in America according to WalletHub
3. New Hampshire
4. Rhode Island
WalletHub took into consideration 25 different metrics, including number of assaults per capita, number of murders, number of thefts, pedestrian and pedacyclist fatality rate, and more.