Above: Photo courtesy of Fox 17 Nashville.
In the first part of a two-part feature, Erika Kurre shared how her first career as an Emmy-winning TV news anchor in Nashville helped prepare her for success as a REALTOR®. She offered insights for real estate professionals on everything from body language clues, the art of silence and counseling clients to repudiating misconceptions about the profession. In part 2 here, Kurre explains how to ensure the security of open houses and the safety of the mostly women agents who must often interact closely with people they don’t know well.
The open house theorem goes something like this: From the outside, it’s all upside, but from the inside there’s downside. Got it?
Most home shoppers enjoy going to open houses—they’re free, and it’s fun for them to tour homes as they dream of their next move. The work you’ve done to create perfectly decorated rooms is a pleasure to behold, and you’ve added all the right welcoming and homey touches, including light refreshments like soft cookies and mulled cider.
And while an open house is all leisure and pleasure from the outsider’s point of view, from the agent’s perspective, it’s strictly business…and can be a perilous one at that. There are mostly strangers at an open house, with motives no one can discern for sure.
There are few REALTORS® more aware of on-the-job security and personal safety than Erika Kurre, agent/affiliate broker with Benchmark Realty in Williamson County, Tennessee. Her experiences from a previous career often covering crime stories as a reporter and TV news anchor wizened her to always be aware of everything and everyone, even within the usually upbeat and upscale realm of residential real estate.
“I grew incredibly security-conscious after being in the public eye,” she admits. “I’ve had frightening personal security issues—including a stalker threatening to blow up my house because he wasn’t getting his ‘fix’ of me after I was no longer on TV.
“We had about five law enforcement agencies assisting us with security during that time. Several years ago, another stalker was watching my then-three-year-old daughter after seeing pictures of her on social media.”
As a broadcast journalist for 15 years, Kurre did a lot of reporting before being elevated to news anchor at Fox 17 in Nashville. Her segments were often crime-related, and sometimes within the real estate sales profession.
“There were investigative stories I covered, including ones about REALTORS® who had been abducted or were harmed while conducting their daily duties,” she explains. “I was featured on a national TV crime show after covering the high-profile murder of a young woman here in Nashville.
“So getting into real estate, I have taken precautions from the very beginning to be aware of my surroundings, know my escapes, and try to surround myself with people and clients I know and am comfortable with. Sometimes it means losing business, but that’s okay.”
Kurre will never host an open house solo, and advises women agents not to either. And when there are people at an open house who seem out of place, and she’s experienced enough to sense it, selling becomes secondary.
“My husband plays a huge role, not just for my safety, but for the security of the home as well,” she says. “I have him accompany me when I know I’ll be with people I haven’t vetted. We hosted an open house for a luxury listing last year and there were two men who appeared to be scouting the house. They seemed more interested in the possessions than the home itself. My husband and I were stationed in separate sections. I was by the front door and he was by the back door. We were able to make our presence known and keep our eyes on them, as well as see if they tried to leave with anything. I engaged in conversation with them, but their responses and comments were not in line with a typical buyer. They didn’t stay long. They were in and out in a matter of minutes.”
Kurre anticipates potential theft at open houses by being proactive with sellers.
“As part of my pre-listing and staging consulting, I go through the house with the homeowners and recommend certain items be moved, removed, locked or hidden in the home,” she notes. “Along with valuables, I also have sellers remove weapons, or at least have them locked away. Every seller client I’ve had has been very appreciative and followed my advice.”
Even with media experiences helping her understand the importance of being careful and alert to those around her, Kurre was guided on safety specifics from real estate colleagues and classes when she changed careers.
“I learned certain precautions from my first broker, and agents who had bad experiences, and from taking classes on safety,” she says. “In one class a couple of years ago, a colleague told a story about a group of men in an open house who waited for everyone to leave, then cornered her in the kitchen.
“A man who had just left must have sensed something, and returned inside the home after putting his wife in their car. He appeared to reach for a weapon, told the men to leave, and they did. The agent said the man walked through the house with her as she closed everything down early, and she was so grateful.
“Since then, she has been trained in self-defense and always keeps the front and back doors open and unlocked when she’s with people she doesn’t know.”
Kurre will not work with potential clients until she gets their ID on file and meets them in a public place first for a consultation. For open houses, she has a sign-in sheet and communicates with prospective buyers as they tour the home.
“It’s a safety point, but it can help grow your business by attracting new clients,” she adds.
Many homeowners have outdoor and in-home cameras, which Kurre points out to clients and people at open houses as a subtle but effective security measure.
“But they can’t be considered substitutes for having human presence,” she stresses. “Safety and home security continue to be a concern, but having experienced REALTORS® who follow safety guidelines and protocols will not only streamline the process of selling a home, but make sure it’s the best experience for everyone.”