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Estate agents, how safe are you when selling property?

15 Sep 2016

It’s an unfortunate fact that working as an estate agent can sometimes be dangerous – and not just in South Africa.

Don’t show a home on your own, or at least without some system or regular check-ins with your office or someone you can rely on, and establish code words to let them know if you are in trouble.

In fact, the most recent Member Safety Report issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the US reveals that 48% of female real estate professionals feel threatened in person or worried about the safety of their personal information when they are working, says Tony Clarke, Rawson Property Group Managing Director. “And while men may not feel as bad, they are of course also at risk when meeting strangers and working and travelling alone, as all agents often do.

“So everyone in the industry needs to take care and protect themselves - as do homeowners who are selling their properties privately,” says Clarke. 

While a good agent will know how to sift out the serious and financially capable buyers from the rest, and be a big deterrent to criminals, he says "everyone still needs to remain on their guard", especially when conducting a viewing or show house on their own, and when taking prospective buyers to view vacant homes and remote properties.

Clarke gives 7 essential steps to help you stay safe:

1. Trust your instincts

If someone calls you and is cagey about providing some basic information about themselves, or suggests a strange time to view a home, you should avoid making an appointment with them and warn your colleagues or family in case the bogus “buyer” tries to contact them instead.

2. Trust your colleagues

Before you leave your office to meet someone for a viewing – or before you let a prospective buyer into your home – you should always tell someone else exactly where you are going and when, or what you are about to do, and arrange to keep both your phones turned on in case of emergency.  

If the property has a security gate, don’t leave it open as a gesture of welcome. Rather keep it locked so that you have a chance to observe visitors before you let them into the property.

3. Take a friend

Don’t ever go alone to viewings late at night or in remote and unfamiliar locations. Arrange for someone else to go with you, every time you have to go there. Safety always comes first, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for this help. 

4. Don’t be flashy

Whether you are an agent or a homeowner, there should be no valuables on display during viewings or show days. Leave them at home or make sure they are securely locked away and out of sight. Expensive jewellery, designer handbags, tablets and laptops are magnets for thieves and just make you a target for crime.

5. Stay sharp

Pay attention to your surroundings and the people in them. If you get to an empty home and see any sign of a possible break-in, call security or the police and wait for them to go in and check. Criminals also know that there will probably be more people than usual going in and out of a property that is for sale, so look out for anyone that might try to slip in while you are focused on something or someone else. 

6. Keep the buyer in sight

Always let potential buyers lead the way from room to room and especially up staircases and into garages and storerooms. Don’t carry too many items in your hands, and make sure you don’t get parked in when arriving at a remote or empty property. In fact, you should preferably park in the street with your car facing back the way you came.  

7. Make show days safe days

Don’t show a home on your own, or at least without some system or regular check-ins with your office or someone you can rely on, and establish code words to let them know if you are in trouble. It is much better to have at least one other adult keep you company – and to keep track of prospective buyers as they go through the property. And if the property has a security gate, don’t leave it open as a gesture of welcome. Rather keep it locked so that you have a chance to observe visitors before you let them into the property.

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