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— by Hana LaRock

Should You Still Be Doing Open Houses and Showing Homes?

How To Do Your Job Without Risking Your Life

As open houses and showings have been resuming in states amid the coronavirus crisis, a pandemic is not the only thing that has put agents at risk. While a stay-at-home order has been, for the most part, a successful attempt to keep agents safe across the country, agents still have another danger to face. Unfortunately, yet another real estate agent was attacked during an open house last week, and it has many real estate agents shaken. 

Of course—and, sadly—this is not the first time this has happened, and it likely won’t be the last. With attacks on agents increasing every year, many brokerages have taken steps to ensure safety is a top priority for their agents. But, how can we ensure that safety becomes a normal part of the real estate business? Here’s a good start.

Always Vet Your Clients

Before you work with anyone in any capacity, you must vet them. It goes without saying how truly important it is to know who you’re working with and what their intentions are before working with someone. This isn’t just to ensure your clients are probably not dangerous, but also to make sure you allocate your efforts appropriately. And, it isn’t much different than checking whether or not your buyers have proof of funds before showing them any homes. Brokerages and their agents should have a system in place to properly vet the people you’ll be showing homes to before meeting them, and it should be taken as seriously as any other requirements. 

Open Houses are Not As Necessary as You’d Think

An open house may seem like the best opportunity to help your seller out, but a good agent knows that having an open house is really much more beneficial to the real estate agent and not the home seller. This is because if a listing agent is marketing someone’s home well enough, an open house is rather unnecessary in terms of efforts to sell the home. However, it’s an excellent opportunity for the listing agent to bring in more clients. 

But, another reason that open houses are not necessary is that it could put both the agent and the seller (their home) at risk. First and foremost, there are always concerns about people coming to see the home who have no intention of seeing the home, but perhaps taking something from it. Secondly, these people, if they have the wrong intentions, can present a danger to a vulnerable real estate agent, too. Just as you would spend time promoting an open house, you should have a safety plan worked into that as well.

ShowingsMaybe, Open HousesNo

So, just do away with open houses? Surely, that’s not the answer. Open houses are still important to the real estate process, and two-thirds of listing agents will have done an open house in order to more effectively market a home. But, the idea of having essential strangers come in and out of a home (even if you ask them to sign in), can present a whole array of risks. As a listing agent, an open house doesn’t need to be your priority. Leave it to the buyer’s agent to handle the showings.

And, if you are a buyer’s agent (or rental agent), conducting showings at a set, scheduled time after you’ve already met and vetted the client(s) in a public place—and after you’ve corresponded with the listing agent—is one of the safest ways to do it. By doing showings at a scheduled time or between certain hours when you know other agents and buyers are going to be there showing the home, too, you’re reducing your risk. Also, these days, virtual showings have gone a long way as we’ve seen with COVID-19, and it’s okay to utilize technology as much as you can before having to physically meet.

Showings Can Also Present Dangers

In a major city where there’s always people around in close vicinity to where you are showing a home, the risk of something happening to an agent during a showing is lower than that in a suburb or rural area, and perpetrators of these crimes know this. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—bring someone with you if you can, and at the very least, make sure someone knows where you are at all times. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. Don’t get out of your car until you can visualize the person. 

Have a Safety Plan No Matter What

Fierce competition makes it hard for agents to always properly vet people and meet them in person at your office before showing a home or having an open house. But, your safety is of the utmost importance, and losing your sense of security or even your life over your job is never worth it. Of course, what’s happening to real estate agents is no one’s fault aside from the person who wants to inflict harm. But, as long as crimes against agents exist, we need to remind ourselves to continue to maintain our safety. 

The problem is, when we hear about another attack happening, many of us resort to practicing agent safety for just a few weeks after until essentially getting lazy with it. We can’t get lazy.

The good news is that many brokerages and agents are going to great lengths to protect everyone involved. Some agents may choose to carry a concealed weapon. Others may use simple codes like “bring the red file” or some variation of the phrase. A subtle call like this lets another agent know that you feel unsafe and you need someone to come by, but without setting off an alarm.

The Bottom Line

There are many strategies out there to help agents feel and be safer in their job, and if you’re a new agent, you can ask what your brokerage does to help keep their agents safe.

All this being said, you can’t live your life in fear; you have to do your job. Most real estate agents are aware of the risks associated with this profession and use common sense tactics to stay safe. So, do what you can to keep yourself safe, and work with your brokerage if they don’t already have a solid safety plan in place for their agents. We can all work together to make sure agents are not putting themselves at risk simply by showing up to work. 

It may be a long road ahead, but we can do it.

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