I've been spending my weekends hosting open houses for other agents in my company. I enjoy doing them. It gives me a chance to learn about the different areas of Tucson and see the different architectural styles of homes.
One thing I always...ALWAYS...keep in mind is my safety. You just never know who is going to walk through that front door. At yesterday's open house, I encountered "Creepy Scary Guy".
I had a lovely family walking through the home at the time. Mom, Dad and 3 kids. We were in the kitchen when I heard the front door open. I excused myself as they went to take a look at the backyard. I greeted the man, handed him a print out of the home and introduced myself. He peeked over my shoulder, looked up the staircase and asked, "So, you doing this all by yourself?" I felt my stomach jump and knew that something just wasn't right. I always listen to my instinct.
I smiled and said no. I told him to have a look around and I'd be back to answer any questions. I made sure to let him know that I had clients in the backyard - I needed to check in with them. I turned around and walked as calmly as I could to the family who had returned to the kitchen. The Dad picked up on my mood immediately and asked if everything was ok. I didn't hesitate to tell them about Creepy Guy. "Well, I think we'll just hang out for a bit" Dad told me.
Pretty soon, Creepy Guy made his way downstairs and into the kitchen. Upon seeing Dad - did I mention Dad was a big guy? - he thanked me and made a beeline for the door. Yes, I breathed a little sigh of relief. After waiting a few more minutes, the family left as well, reminding me to keep my phone close in case I needed help.
I was lucky, I think. I don't know if Creepy Guy had other intentions or if he was just that, a standard Creepy Guy but as REALTORS® we have got to be careful when we host open houses. We host these alone more times than not and without taking precautions, we are just setting ourself up for disaster. Yesterday, not only did I have that family, but I had a group of guys in the backyard next door who had volunteered their services if I needed anything.
Here's what I do:
First, I make sure to get to the location early and drive around the neighborhood if I haven't been there before. I take note of how the streets are laid out and look for police cars in driveways.
Next, when I get to the house and after the homeowners have left, I introduce myself to the neighbors. I hand them a card and tell them that I'm hosting the house next door. I ask if they are going to be home for the next couple of hours and that, if something comes up that makes me uneasy or uncomfortable, may I come over. I have never had a neighbor say no. One of the first opens I did, I had the neighbor come by and check on me a few times.
Once that is taken care of, I explore the house and note where the exits are for the house and the backyard. I check the garage to see if it there's an automatic opener near the door. I look for an alarm system as well. Usually, they have a panic button on the panel.
I never follow people around, especially if it's a two story home. I usually tell them to take a look around and if they have any questions, I'm in the kitchen (near the backdoor). If I am called to look at something with them, I let them enter the room first and make sure I'm the closest to the door.
I have my cell phone with me at all times and always have my bluetooth in and on.
I have someone to check in with at least every hour. If they don't get a text, then they contact me. If I don't answer that text, then something is wrong.
Here's my request for REALTORS®, homeowners and neighbors in general:
REALTORS® - listen to your gut instinct!
Homeowners - if someone other than your listing agent is hosting an open house for your home (and it happens a lot), take a moment and show them the alarm system if you have one. Leave a contact number as well. Let us know if there is a place where we can stow our purses or laptop cases.
Neighbors - if you see an open house happening in your neighborhood, take a few moments and stop by. Let the agent know where you live and if you'll be home in case something happens.
There's nothing in this world that should make you risk your own safety. Take the time to put precautions into place. I'm sure your family will thank you.