Common Sense Safety Tips
Property Manager 1 - 'Shortly after arriving at and entering the newly painted and carpeted house prior to showing it to a prospective tenant, I heard the back door close..."
Property Manager 2 - "As I showed a prospective tenant the house it became clear that he was more interested in me than the house..."
Property Manager 3 - "I didn't think anything about it when my client parked behind my car in the driveway - until I noticed that he had a gun holstered on his belt.."
An old saying is worth repeating, 'It is better to be safe, than sorry'. Though in the above three situations nothing tragic happened to the property managers, each incident was a wake-up call. We all need to give more intentional thought to how we can lower risks to our safety as we pursue our work as property managers and realtors.
Here are a few common sense safety tips:
Prior to your appointment
- Client Information - Who are you meeting? Have you pre-screened them?
- Office Notification - Have you let someone else know where you are going, who you are meeting with, and when you plan to be back? Have you set up a distress code that you can speed-dial if need be? Have you agreed to call someone once each hour?
- Time - set up meetings during the day, not after dusk.
- Resources - Make sure you cell phone is fully charged and your car is fully fueled.
- Face-to-Face - Whenever possible, meet with your prospective tenant and/or client in a public place. This could be at your office where other co-workers also meet him or her, or at a coffee shop where you can obtain more precise information about this person. Ask to see their drivers license to make sure that they are the person they say they are. Jot down their vehicle license number as well as the type and color of car they drive. Be sure to notice if they arrive at a later appointment in the same vehicle or not.
- Property Visit - Before you meet with a prospective tenant to show the property be sure that you are personally familiar with the location and the unit. If you are going to examine a property that an owner would like you to manage, arrive early and drive around the neighborhood. Look around the outside of the unit/house before your meeting. Ask a neighbor about the community and if they know the owner of the house. Are there bars on the lower windows, 'beware of dog' signs, other people hanging around, any hazardous steps or loose railings, do you have phone reception at that location, what is the best route to leave the property if you need to escape quickly, etc. If you are showing a house that is vacant, walk around the outside first to check if there are any signs of a break in. Preferably, don't enter a vacant property alone. Take a co-worker.
Meeting the Prospective Tenant and/or Property Owner
- Be Alert - Stop, look, and listen. What is going on around you? Don't rush. Don't be distracted by social media notifications on your cell phone, texting friends, or have one ear bud in to listen to music. Keep all clients together so that one does not distract you from what another may be doing.
- Escape Routes - If you feel unsafe or are threatened, do you know how to escape? If you are showing the house, have you left the deadbolts in the unlocked position on all exit doors? If you had to leave via a back door would you be trapped by a fenced in area? Have you parked your vehicle where you can easily drive away? Have you turned on all the lights and opened up the curtains/blinds so that people can see into the house? Have you - in appropriate weather - opened at least one window so that you could be heard outside if you tried to call for help?
- Travel - It is safer to meet your client at the property rather than to drive together to the location.
- In Front or Behind - When showing a property, it is best to lead from behind. Point your client in the right direction and follow them through the house, making sure that you aren't trapped with no way of escape. Remain by the door to each room. Don't go up into the attic or down into basements. If possible, remain on the ground floor and permit your client to see the rest of the home.
- Valuables - Leave your purse, wallet, laptop, and/or tablet out of sight, preferably in your vehicle's trunk.
- Phone - Keep your phone on and with you are all times.
- Dress of Safety - This is a touchy subject with some folks, but for safety purposes dress appropriately. If you ever need to run, heels won't be the best shoes to be wearing. Don't wear expensive, flashy jewelry or revealing clothing. In other words, don't make yourself into a target for those who are looking for an excuse.
- Personal Information - Only share business information with clients. They don't need you home phone number or your home address. Keep details about your personal life to yourself. Build a business relationship, not a personal friendship.
After the Appointment
- Lock up - Make sure that all windows and doors are locked and keys are returned to the lock-box.
- Lights - Makes sure that all lights, as well as fans and faucets are turned off. If the thermostat has been adjusted for the appointment, reset it. Leave the house safe for the next time youenter.
- Call In - Let your contact person know when you are leaving the house and when and where you plan to be next.
These are many of the basics necessary to lower your risks.
Much as been written about this subject and it is well worth the effort to check out some of the other sources on crime prevention in the real estate business. One recommended site is: www.justbesafe.com