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Occupational safety and real estate rarely appear in the same sentence. After all, agents, brokers and Realtors generally receive no hazard pay for helping homebuyers, sellers and renters get what they want. Still, real estate agent safety deserves more attention than it gets.
Is Real Estate Agent a Safe Job?
Being a real estate agent is a safe job in the grand scheme of things, but it can be risky. Accompanying prospects to tour listed properties and hosting open houses are not life-threatening the way roofing in July and working in an offshore oil rig during a storm are.
However, you must consider your safety when dealing with strangers regularly and visiting old houses with hazardous substances. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 14% of Realtors have experienced a situation that made them fear for their safety or their personal information’s security. Female real estate professionals in rural areas feel this way the most.
What Are the Health and Safety Risks in Real Estate?
The health and safety risks in real estate include violence, slip and fall accidents and exposure to harmful substances — such as asbestos, radon, lead and mold. Real estate agents, brokers and Realtors can also be targets of harassment and identity theft.
11 Real Estate Agent Safety Tips
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 81 fatal injuries in real estate in 2021. Follow these pieces of advice to protect yourself while on the job.
1. Be Mindful of Oversharing
Limit the amount of personal information you publicize. Ten percent of Realtors fall victim to a crime after receiving a threatening or inappropriate call, voicemail, text or email. You can’t eliminate this risk while using your legal name. Using a pseudonym isn’t an option because going by an alias may violate local real estate laws.
Advertising your office address, email and phone number instead of your personal ones is excellent practice. Better yet, mention no physical address at all. Consider using zero photographs and excluding your middle name or initial from your full name on your business cards to help keep your identity safe.
2. Vet New Clients
Run a background check on every new client. It may seem overkill, but learning about a person’s mental history and criminal past can give you an idea of how dangerous they can be.
Moreover, requiring new clients to fill out an identification form and photocopying their driver’s license is real estate agent safety 101. Keep these records in your office to help the authorities identify and locate them if something goes wrong.
3. Meet Clients in a Safe Space
Choose a public location as a meeting place to discourage any criminal behavior. Crooks are less likely to commit a crime with more eyes on them.
Think about the time of day, too. Violent crime committed by adults peaks at 9 p.m., so meet clients during morning hours to safeguard yourself.
4. Be an Early Bird
Get to your appointments as early as possible to plot a way to get out when necessary. Arriving first during showings allows you to switch on the lights, unlock the doors, scan the surroundings, and identify exit points.
5. Maintain Spatial Awareness
Stay behind your clients instead of leading them into a house. Watch your six, so keep a safe distance of eight feet or more to ensure everyone stays within your field of view.
Give them the space to explore the property. Use directions and hand gestures to encourage them to tour the areas you want to highlight. Avoid going into the basement, attic or even upstairs to exit the house more quickly if needed.
6. Pay Attention to Red Flags
Watch out for body language indicating aggressive behavior. Observing social cues does more than enhance your negotiating prowess when making a sale. It also contributes to real estate agent safety. Be wary of fixed stares, tense muscles, clenched fists and facial flushing. They may signal anger and lead to violence when misread and mishandled.
Furthermore, lying about anything, disregarding rules, taking unnecessary risks, acting cold, and committing crimes are signs someone might have antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD act impulsively and aggressively. Keep an eye on these behavioral cues when interacting with clients.
7. Listen to Your Gut
Call off an appointment or cut it short when something feels off. Make low-stakes decisions — like picking an outfit — based on intuition to build your distress tolerance and be more comfortable with high pressure.
Do this repeatedly until you begin to trust your gut feelings. You can read threatening situations more clearly when you like how you think intuitively. Think of a convincing out in advance in case you must leave.
8. Beware of Open-House Stragglers
Ensure all guests leave the premises after an open house. A malicious individual can catch you off guard when you assume you’re alone in the property when the event is over.
9. Keep Colleagues in the Loop
Inform your coworkers about your appointments. Letting your peers know where you are at specific times of the day can alarm them when you haven’t returned when you’re supposed to. Updating a friend or a loved one works, too.
10. Consider the Buddy System
Team up with a colleague to watch each other’s back during a listing presentation, showing or open house. There’s safety in numbers, so bringing a buddy with you can give you peace of mind and make anyone with dubious intentions think twice about victimizing you.
If you can’t find a fellow employee to be with you, consider industry partners. Title and mortgage reps may be willing buddies to accompany you. The buddy system is a two-way street, so make yourself available when your companion needs you.
11. Learn Self-Defense
Acquire essential skills to neutralize an attacker. Look for local community colleges, martial arts studios and health clubs that offer self-defense programs.
Pick an art that resonates with you to enjoy the training and meaningfully internalize what you learn.
Put a Premium on Your Safety
Take real estate agent safety seriously — even if you haven’t experienced anything traumatic or don’t know anyone who has. Acknowledge the dangers that come with the gig and have a healthy fear of them to protect yourself at all times.