The National Association of REALTORS(R) started surveying REALTORS® over a decade ago to determine what safety issues agents were facing, whether they had been victimized, if they were offered or received safety training, what tools they used while working, and more. The survey aimed to address the safety issues in a field that the U.S. Department of Labor considers a high-risk, hazardous occupation based on the job description and duties.
“Real estate agents make a living meeting strangers at empty houses. Agents make a living sitting in empty houses waiting for strangers to walk in.” When I share this statement during my safety presentations, it often elicits a giggle or looks of surprise. The goal is to remove the danger so that agents can work safely and profitably.
Let’s look at some of the highlights of NAR’s 2022 Safety Report.
- 64% of residential members use a smartphone safety app to track their whereabouts and alert colleagues in case of an emergency. The most commonly used apps listed are similar to those in 2021.
Most commonly used smartphone apps:
- Find My iPhone feature: 40%
- GPS Phone Track for Android: 9%
- SentriKey™ Real Estate App: Agent Safety Feature: 7%
- Forewarn: 8%
- HomeSnap Pro: 3%
“I use the Find My iPhone, GPS Phone Track for Android, and Forewarn,” according to Charmaine V. Byers, branch manager/REALTOR®, Coldwell Banker Apex, REALTORS®, Richardson, Texas. She says she is aware of several agents who use safety apps while working, indicating that safety apps are becoming more accepted and used in the industry.
- Residential REALTORS® were less likely to have experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or the safety of their personal information in 2022 (23%).
Lydia Hedrick, broker associate with ERA Courtyard Real Estate in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, an agent for six years, recounts a story about a time she felt fear while working.
“I got a sign call on my very first listing from a man wanting to see the house. I called my mother-in-law and asked her to stay on the phone with me until I arrived at the house and got a feel for the situation.” Despite initial concerns for her safety, the situation ended well.
- 73% of residential REALTORS® said that they have personal safety protocols in place that they follow with every client.
Hedrick states that because of that situation, she made a personal policy never to show a house the same day to an unknown buyer.
Regardless of the time on the job, agents should never meet strangers at a property. There should be procedures in place to screen potential new clients, check their backgrounds, and plan to meet in a place with witnesses. The first meeting can be at an industry partner’s office, or it should be a public place where you are known (to create witness potential), as opposed to a busy coffee shop or public place, as sometimes is advised.
- 67% of residential REALTORS® said that their offices have standard procedures for safeguarding and proper disposal of client data and client information in place.
In offices and companies with safety protocols, leadership should make the practices front and center and mandatory and offer expert-led training. They need to advise about the procedures, support agents in following them, and enforce them consistently,
Hedrick isn’t aware of any company safety policy at her company of two months. She states that she worked for two larger companies, neither of which had safety policies. “I was never aware of protocol for client data, either. We used a website for electronic paperwork, but there was never any discussion about data. I have my practices, though.”
Expert-led training on data storage, Business Email Compromise (BEC), wire fraud, and cybersecurity threat prevention is required to teach agents how to protect client data and reduce liability.
- 51% of residential members choose to carry self-defense weapons.
The most common self-defense weapons carried are:
- Pepper spray: 19%
- Firearms: 15%
- Pocket knives: 8%
- Flashlight: 7%
- Taser: 4%
- Noisemaker: 4%
- Baton or club: 3%
My number one advice for agents is to practice, practice, and practice, regardless of the weapon of choice. Agents should also check the law before deciding to carry a weapon while working. Confidence and training ensure that agents feel comfortable using the weapon if needed.
Byers states she carries pepper spray, a flashlight, a taser and a noisemaker. “It is equally important to practice using weapons of choice and play out different scenarios to avoid being paralyzed in the event of an actual threat.”
- Among those who participated in a REALTOR® safety course, 75% said they feel more prepared for unknown situations after taking a REALTOR® Safety course.
One of the highest responses in the survey is one of the most encouraging. Because so many agents found value in taking a safety class, they will speak positively about it and spread the word. My goal is that expert-led safety training will become mainstream and part of all professional training. Adding business-building practices and presenting safety training in an interactive format encourages agents to prioritize safety education.
Byers, an agent since 2015, considers herself to be safety aware. “It is critically important to real estate industry professionals and our communities to ensure that we are educated about safety.”
Hedrick also supports education and feels that new agents should be strongly encouraged to get safety training. “When I let my mom know of my plan to leave the classroom (high school history) for a career in real estate, she said it was a dangerous career. I am thankful for her warning because it made me very mindful of safety from day one. That is something many new agents lack. They are so focused on hustling and hunting for clients that safety does not cross their minds.” She makes it a point to mentor new agents with a focus on safety.
Tracey “The Safety Lady” Hawkins is the founder of Safety and Security Source. Hawkins will be speaking at two educational sessions on Saturday, Nov. 12 at NAR NXT The REALTOR® Experience annual conference. Those attending the event can see Hawkins speak at Team Safety Practices: Reduce Risk and Build Business at 1:30 pm. or Technology: Protecting Real Estate Professionals at 3 pm. Contact Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.