SAFETY! How do you stay safe with strangers?

Real Estate Agent with Jane Haas Photography
Lets say your on desk, answering incoming calls from potential buyers and someone wants to see a vacant property.  You've never worked with the person before and although they sound nice enough, the hair stands up on the back of your neck with a warning!  Whats a girl to do? 
You could ask them to come in to the office, but okay, they come to the office then what - you'll still be alone with them and people can give out bogus info.  You could grill them for info and ask for a copy of their license, although some may think you're nuts.  I actually try to get someone to go with me.  If I can't find anyone, I try to arrange the showing for a time when I can have someone else with me.  A cell phone sometimes helps, but statistics show that more women in nyc are attacked when using cell phones because they aren't paying attention - not to mention signals aren't always reliable, batterys go dead, and well, you can't call if you're knocked out. 
How about open houses?  Does anyone really consider safety issues for those?
When you have home phone numbers on listings, there are reverse phone number directories - you have to beware of that too. 
How many of you have taken self defense classes and how many office have had them?

Comments (15)

Bob Sloop, Consultant, Indianapolis, IN
RS Mortgage Consulting - Indianapolis, IN
I always talk to my wife on her cell, as she comes to meet this stranger.  She will also call me when she is done, or I will call her within a few minutes, all she has to do is say she will call right back and I know she is ok.  You can do the same, or even take your hubby or a friend of the office with you.  Just be safe is all I can stress.  And, if you do not feel comfortable, don't go.  That simple.
Mar 21, 2007 06:13 PM
Kaushik Sirkar
Call Realty, Inc. - Chandler, AZ
Always think safety before the potential $$.  The dollars mean nothing if you aren't around to enjoy them.  Even as a guy I think twice before meeting a stranger at a property (admittedly I still do it some of the time).
Mar 21, 2007 07:10 PM
Fred Ted
House People - Saint Louis, MO

Here are some ideas: 

1.  Make certain that after meeting that person in the office you have them to FOLLOW you to the property.  Tell them you have another appointment and that would be best.

2.  When they meet you at the office, ask them to make a copy of their driver's license.  If they object forgeddaboutit!

3.  Have someone to call you every 10 minutes on your cell phone.

4.  For open houses, I would go to the neighbor on either side or across the street, introduce myself and let them know that you will be working this open house.  Leave your card and ask them if it would be alright for you to call them to check in for safety purposes.

5.  The biggest thing to remember is you are a potential victim IN ANY NEIGHBORHOOD!!  The media has trained us all that criminals look a certain way and that we are safer in some areas more than others.  But the reality is 2-fold: 1) that criminals are crime smart and 2) you may be a victim of a DIFFERENT type of crime in different areas. 

Criminals don't want to get caught so they blend into the neighborhood.  So in a wealthy neighborhood, the criminal is probably NOT going to look like a crack addict but is going to look like the residents!!  

In an upscale area you may not get caught in a gang shoot out, but does it matter if a Ted Bundy type asks you for directions and forces you into his Jaguar?

We have to retrain our thinking for our own safety.


Mar 21, 2007 10:48 PM
William Collins
ERA Queen City Realty - Scotch Plains, NJ
Property and Asset Management


Thanks for the post. In all cases we seek to get verifiable information, loan officers name and company, as well as phone number, an attorney's number if they are working with one, as well as a cell number and a land line number. Just in case we need to use the reverse directories. We have a foreclosure division and there are many vacant properties. As such, we have a rule than the women must take another agent along with them to show the property. Especially, if you get a call in and the person is near or at the property. There is no appointment if a pair of agents cannot go together. We have a preference for two agents at open houses.

Mar 21, 2007 10:48 PM
Jane E. Haas
Jane Haas Photography - Davenport, FL
Those are all great responses!  You know, for a while we had a couple that went to open houses and asked to use the bathroom... they were stealing prescription drugs - it wasn't the first time i'd heard of that sort of thing either!  I remember MLS sending around info with their description, which was kind of vague and looked like almost everyone that walked through the door! lol  But that is another issue - keeping the belongings of clients safe, no matter what size the house.  Remember to ask clients to keep prescription drugs, especially painkillers - locked away in a safe place.  Even someone being shown the house by an agent could have someone who is a bit of a clepto.  All valuables should be locked away, but the prescriptions are often forgotten about. 
Also, when having virtuals tours done - be sure your clients hide anything that is quite valuable, such as paintings.  Have to remember that many tours allow you to zoom in - burglers must love that!  Preshop for merchandise!  I don't especially like the tours that offer floor plans on the tours - just seems like it's the perfect invitation for a burgler for breaking in - a good thing to put on a house are those alarm stickers, even if there is no alarm!  Ever watch that show - It Takes A Thief?  Scary how easy they get into a house - of course it's like a step by step course for criminals on breaking and entering though!
Mar 22, 2007 12:45 AM
Dana Hollish Hill
Hollish Hill Group, JPAR Stellar Living - Bethesda, MD
REALTOR * Broker * Coach

Good points! We always try to have people meet us in the office too, but there are times when that just isn't practical.

It's amazing how daylight savings time can change my caution level. When it's light out I do a lot more showings after work. As it gets darker, I am much more hesitant when someone I don't know  "has to" see it after work.


Mar 31, 2007 02:10 PM
Gary Smith
Agent Marketing Today - Commerce Township, MI
Last year a Realtor in my area was beaten and held for ransom when he met people at a vacant home. Office policy is now first meeting in the office. Also, have a phrase that can be used if you are in trouble.
Apr 02, 2007 02:07 PM
Michael Ross
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Beverly, MA
North Shore of Boston

Jane we have a had a very strange buyer in our market that has scared the day light out of several female agents in four of our local offices. One agent made a broadcast message about  this creep it and it was like America's Most Wanted hot line!  We got over a dozen reports of similiar bizarre behavior from the same individual that we contacted  our legal department who then contacted the Stae Police from what I have been told.

I suggest a code word be established between any two people, Let's say the word is Montana and it means that when stated in a conversation you are uncomfortable and you need someone to show up ASAP! Make the call.

Very professionally excuse yourself from the inside of the property to "get some more information" and wait for your contact person to show up. Your safe!!!

Apr 02, 2007 03:04 PM
Charles Palmadesso
Gloria Nilson GMAC - Middletown, NJ
An agent in my office received a floor call to show a vacant property.  She did everything right, Had him come to the office interviewed him but felt uneasy about going alone with him to show the property.  She asked me to tag along.  Safety in numbers.  When we got to the house the man got very irate.  He was extremely insulted because we did not trust him.  We tried to explain and he just started ranting about agents in the area and how he would never buy from one of us.  Obviously this guy was up to no good!!  When we left the agent thanked me for going with her and we both realized always go with you instinct.  If it doesn't feel right, don't go!!  It's just not worth it.
Apr 04, 2007 01:00 AM
Jane E. Haas
Jane Haas Photography - Davenport, FL
I did have an alleged buyer i was working with that wanted to see properties - he started calling me late at night asking me to meet him to go over listings.  Obviously, I knew something was wacky and always told him no, i was not available and getting ready for bed!  It was 11 PM!  He actually suggested coming to my house to go over them! lol  I never told him where I lived, but a little while later, he called me and said he was parked at the marina at the end of my street and wanted to know if he could come here.  I FREAKED.  I called a friend of mine who is a cop to go to the marina to shoo him away! lol  I don't know what was said to him, but thankfully, I never heard from him again! lol
You know, people should not be offended that we take our security seriously!  It's a smart thing to do!  Another thing that drives me nuts is the combo boxes!  I've called some agencies who never even verified my info and some never asked who I was - just said show it, here's the combo number.  What is THAT! A little common sense goes a long way - combo boxes really should not be allowed anymore - they really are not safe, IMO!  Do you feel that way?
Apr 05, 2007 04:52 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I have seen some agents put the combination in mls.It is scary.

i usually ask a girlfriend who is retired come with me to an open house or if I am going to meet starngers or call the office and have them call me during my appointment.I do not give out my home number, till I know them well.My home number is not on my card.

May 17, 2007 06:06 AM
Jane E. Haas
Jane Haas Photography - Davenport, FL
Oh my God!  That's really not good!  I hate the combo boxes anyway!
As for the home number - I use a toll-free number that forwards to any number I want it too! ;)
May 17, 2007 06:38 AM
Selling Homes in Western New York, Licensed Real Estate Broker, Terri Kern
Turning Key Realty - East Amherst, NY
Terri Kern, Broker, Turning Key Realty
We have a code that we can call the office with.  We ask for JT, which is the Dog.  It doesn't do you much good if nobody answers the phone though.  I usually talk to my husband right as I am getting to the property and he always has the address of where I am going.  I then tell him to phone me in 10 minutes.  If I tell him I will all him right back he knows everything is ok and I do call him after the showing.  I think it is important to pay attention to your inner self.  That little voice that says something is not right, is usually right.  Listen to it!  I have often thought of getting a hand held siren of some sorts that I could sound off, but haven't found one yet.  Let me know if you hear of any.
Apr 19, 2008 03:05 PM
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

The husband of one of my co-workers won't allow his wife to show an REO property --- ever. We never know the situation with an REO. There are disgruntled homeowners who still hang around the house, or homeless people who break in.

I have previewed, from the street, some REOs, and have seen folks going in and out of homes that are supposed to be vacant.

Safety should alwasy be foremost. No sale is worth your life.

Dec 20, 2008 05:48 PM
Leslie Prest
Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ - Payson, AZ
Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson,

I copy driver's license, and make sure my husband knows which property I'm showing. And I watch where I am in relation to where the people are when I'm showing- try to stay nearer the door. That may not be enough, I like the idea of the calls on the cell phone.
I had a client supposed to come up yesterday from Phoenix to see houses. He called that he was on his way- wanted to know that I was available. I mentioned that "my husband or I" would be available, and he never showed. Probably for some other reason, but it made me wonder if mentioning my husband changed something.

Dec 21, 2008 05:07 AM