Get to Know Your Client For Saftey Reasons

“If you’re meeting with someone for the first time, like a buyer who called you after seeing one of your ads, you don’t know if the person is ‘legit’ or if he’s a criminal looking for new prey,” said Matt Lombardi, a National Association of Realtors vice president who helps manage the trade group’s National Safety Program.

“So, you need to get as much information about the person as you can before you decide to start working with him or her.”

The best bet is to gently insist that the prospect first meet in your office, where you know that you’ll be safe and the potential customer will be seen by other agents, Lombardi said. At a minimum, he added, you’ll need to get the person’s full name, contact information, and a copy of his driver’s license. That way, authorities will know who to look for if something goes wrong later.

Lombardi acknowledges that some prospects will balk at providing such personal information. “But if you explain that the info will stay only in the office, and that it’s for the protection of both you and the client, most people will understand and comply,” he said.

But what if they don’t, and walk out instead? “Well, you may have just lost out on a sale,” said’s Siciliano. “Or, you may have just avoided establishing a relationship with a criminal who’s afraid to divulge his true identity. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Agents should take additional precautions as they show the home. Start by calling the office while the client is present to let them know that you have arrived, so someone else will know where you are and who you are with.

Let the client lead the way as he explores the house to avoid the chance of being attacked from behind, or that he’ll steal small valuables while your back is turned, Wooten said. It’s OK to let the client inspect the basement or attic, but you should avoid going into such confined spaces yourself because they’re difficult to escape and tend to muffle calls for help. Also have an excuse ready if you start to feel uneasy. “Saying something like, ‘Pardon me, I have to make a call to the agent who’s on his way here’ gives you a chance to get out of the house,” Siciliano said.

Most of those tips for agents who are representing buyers also apply to those who are holding an open house on behalf of a seller. But there are additional steps they can take to help ensure their safety, experts say.

Before the open house begins, make sure you know the home’s floor plan thoroughly and its possible escape routes, Wooten advises. If one of those routes involves the property’s back door, also make sure you could escape from the backyard, too: They’re often surrounded by high fences or walls, especially if there’s a pool or big dog on the property. Unlock all of the home’s deadbolts so you don’t have to fumble with a lock and key if you must flee.  Also turn on all the lights and open the curtains, which is not only a good safety precaution but also a nice marketing tactic.

It’s obviously important to have each visitor sign in when the open house begins and, preferably, show a picture ID. If you’re wisely working the buddy system, you can tour the house with the visitor while your co-worker goes outside to jot down his car’s license plate number.

Whether you’re holding an open house or toting around a prospective buyer, keep in regular contact with your office. Also, have a nondescript code word or phrase — such as “brilliant” or “It’s in the file next to Peggy’s desk” — to alert your co-worker on the other end of the phone if you are feeling uneasy or may already be in trouble. The co-worker can then call police.

“In some communities, you can even call the local police station ahead of time and request that they send a cruiser by every hour or so when the open house is held, so the cops can look for anything suspicious,” Siciliano said.

Here are some other tips that experts say can keep you safe:

Avoid glamour shots – “A lot of predators choose their victims based on their appearance,” Siciliano said. Women should avoid using “glamour” shots on their business cards and marketing materials. Regardless of what gender you are, a business-type photo is safer and usually more effective.”

Dress for safety – Wear professional business outfits when you’re on the job, rather than loose-fitting clothes or scarves that an attacker can grab. To discourage robberies, leave your fancy jewelry or expensive watch at home or in the office.

Be careful what you disclose – Never print your home phone number or address on your business cards, or even give them to a client that you have already checked out. Avoid talking too much about your personal life and your family unless the client is a longtime friend.

Take a self-defense course – The techniques you learn can help you fend off an attacker, or come in handy if you find yourself in some other type of jam. Many realty boards and even individual offices across the nation offer such courses for free, or have struck deals with private training firms that give discounts to agents.

Follow your instincts – Above all, experts say, always follow your instincts. “If a potential client is uncooperative about providing important information or makes you uneasy, don’t work with him,” Siciliano said. “And don’t make exceptions to the safety precautions that you should normally take, like showing a home to someone who you haven’t already ‘vetted,’ or meeting someone at an empty house late at night.”

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