Roughly one in seven agents has found themselves in a situation where they fear for their safety.* Before you schedule your next showing or follow up on a new lead, take a moment to check your blind spots.
It’s true that potentially threatening situations* are most common among female agents and slightly more prevalent in rural and suburban areas. But using several strategies to heighten awareness can help all realtors better screen clients and minimize physical risk.
Real estate agent safety tips: 7 street-smart lead-screening strategies
Today, almost all agents have an online presence, with social media being ranked behind referrals as the second most popular way to gain new leads. You need to put yourself out there so leads can find you. You also need to use airtight cyber-screening tactics to make sure the prospective clients you meet are legit and safe.
We asked real agents (and real estate agent safety experts) what they had to say about staying smart when following up with new leads:
1. Check them out on Facebook.
One of the strongest ways to screen a lead is to type their phone number into the search bar on Facebook. You may be shocked to see what information can pop up about a person, including posts they’ve made under different accounts, items they’ve sold, or groups they belong to.
2. Cultivate a healthy paranoia.
A little paranoia (or alertness) can go a long way. Keeping your eyes open during the lead-screening process could protect you from entering a potentially vulnerable situation. While anyone can drive a nice car, dress well, and hand out business cards saying they’re a doctor or a lawyer, it’s still important to thoroughly vet every lead before scheduling an in-person meeting.
3. Do a reverse phone number search.
Beyond the social media sleuthing, it’s also a good idea to plug a potential lead’s number into Zabasearch.com or another reverse search engine. Here, you may find a lead’s family members or other people associated with them who have public profiles. Many of these profiles will have posts connected to your original lead, verifying their identity.
4. Inform leads about your screening process.
Setting clear expectations from the get-go sets a higher standard for real estate agent safety. You can do this by informing a client that someone else will follow up with them. Clients who know another person is involved in the process may be less likely to cause an incident. If you’re using a quality referral service, it should also screen clients out, not just pass along every unidentified lead.
5. Look for prequalified buyers.
Getting buyers prequalified early on makes the house-hunt easier. Once prequalified, your clients will know exactly how much they can afford to buy. It can also make your professional relationship safer. It’s to your benefit to require identification and lender prequalification at your first meeting. A buyer who’s gone to the trouble of getting prequalified by a lender is less likely to be predatory.
Your clients can use our free LoanFly app to prequalify from anywhere.
6. Question everyone (especially sellers).
Along with a healthy paranoia, real estate agent safety also requires greater attention to detail. When screening new buyers, ask yourself questions like: Does the client have a mortgage prequalification to buy? If no, why not? Is the client reluctant to provide identification information to others than yourself?
Agents agree that the number of leads who call about a property they don’t actually own can be surprising. When screening potential sellers in particular, make sure to Google a property and look up its sales history before agreeing to a meeting. If the property is registered to someone else, ask the client why. This has the bonus effect of ensuring you’re dealing with the person authorized to sell.
7. Watch what you say on Facebook Live.
If you’ve already mastered Facebook (or Instagram) Live for promoting listings, take the next step and screen your use of these handy marketing tools for safety. When chatting up a property, make sure you aren’t providing too many details of your daily routine. For example, avoid sharing publicly — and in real-time — that you’re about to drop by to prep for an open house.
Real estate agent safety tips: 7 essential physical precautions to take
You’ve done your homework by screening potential leads before a first meeting, but don’t let down your guard yet.
Stay on your toes with these face-to-face safety measures tested by fellow agents:
1. Ask for ID.
While this no-brainer tip is easy to overlook — especially for a prospective client who’s been vetted and appears trustworthy — aim to make an ID check an automatic reflex. Try taking the direct approach by asking leads to forward a copy of their identification before a meeting. You can also double-check by requesting ID in person. If they refuse, this will help weed them out, so it’s a win-win.
2. Blame your boss.
To get ample personal info without making a client feel overwhelmed, point the finger at the higher-ups. Tell a new client that your brokerage has a strict real estate agent safety policy when asking to snap a picture of their license and/or license plate. Clients who object to such basic precautions throw up a red flag, cluing you in that it’s time to head back to your car and leave.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Setting boundaries in such a personal business can be tough. It’s also individual to the agent. Still, some universal standards of unacceptable behavior include harassment in any form, ranging from verbal to physical to sexual. A client who says, “That’s a beautiful dress,” for instance, can mean many different things, depending on the delivery and context. If your gut’s telling you to go, simply walk out.
4. Don’t get too comfy.
Successful realtors are known for their exceptional personalities. But try not to let your friendliness overtake your intuition. Just because you may have shown a client multiple properties in the past doesn’t mean they won’t have ill intentions in the future.
Train yourself to look out for subtle clues, like clothing, even among familiar clients. A man wearing a bulky or long coat on a hot day could be concealing a weapon and should be automatically considered suspect. Whether it’s a new or repeat client, trust your gut and get out of a situation that feels uncomfortable right away.
5. Keep communication digital, whenever possible.
Particularly in this post-COVID era, more agents are leaning on technology to cut down on actual face-time. When you can, send an email so clients can sign on the dotted line without leaving their house. No need to drop off paperwork when you can use one of the many doc-signing programs to make it easy for your clients to e-sign a listing agreement or documents to start their closing process.
6. Park on the street.
Small as this step may seem, it’s important to park with your exit strategy in mind. When parking in a driveway, someone could intentionally block your car in and prevent you from leaving. A well-lit parking lot or street is a safer bet, especially in the times you find yourself waiting for a client who’s running behind. Wait for tardy clients inside your locked car, instead of inside a property.
7. Seek out support.
There’s safety in numbers, even more so for realtors. Consider using the buddy system and decide ahead of time that you and a team member will help out at each other’s events. Likewise, it’s important to work with a brokerage that will back you when ending a potentially threatening client relationship. If your brokerage hasn’t supported you or other agents in risky situations, it may be time to move on.
We work better together
Safety is but one critical part of what it takes to run a successful real estate business. While you’re screening leads, we’ll be working hard for you behind the scenes. Click here to learn all about the big benefits of becoming a Cornerstone Realtor Partner, with powerful perks like cobranded marketing, prequalified buyer referrals, in-model kiosks, and super-speedy closings.
For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.