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Real Estate Agent Safety: 10 Tips for Protecting Yourself

Posted by: Gary Caddell, J.Y. Monk Instructor
Updated: December 29, 2017 

Many agents live by the motto “strike while the iron is hot.” You get a call from a prospective buyer who tells you they are standing in front of one of your listings, and they would like to see it. Sticking to this philosophy, you tell the person to wait there. You drop what you’re doing and dash over to the listing to show the property. After all, you don’t want to give them time to find another property and change their mind.

Unfortunately, this scenario has led to brokers being robbed, sexually assaulted or even killed. Criminals use this tactic to lure brokers to unoccupied houses for the sole purpose of committing criminal acts. Other environments, like open houses, frequently put brokers alone and in vulnerable positions as well.

Because of concerns over agent safety, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC) has taken steps to help brokers avoid potentially unsafe situations. Several years ago, the NCREC published a brochure called North Carolina Real Estate Agent Safety Guide. This brochure gives recommendations on steps brokers can take to protect themselves. The NCREC also recently published an article discussing agent safety in their newsletter, The Real Estate Bulletin.

The NCREC is now scheduled to revisit a decision, made many years ago, regarding agent safety as a topic for real estate elective continuing education. The NCREC’s rule on topics for elective continuing education subject matter states that the topic must “help assure that real estate licensees possess the knowledge, skills and competence necessary to function in the real estate business in a manner that protects and serves the public interest.” This rule further states the topic must “enable licensees to better serve real estate consumers, and the subject matter must be directly related to real estate practice.” Originally, the NCREC decided that agent safety did not meet the criteria for an elective topic, but they are now reconsidering that prior decision and may allow agent safety as a topic for elective CE credit in the future.

Whether it becomes an approved CE topic or not, agent safety is something ALL real estate brokers should think about. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, how big you are, or how well you can defend yourself. Anyone can become a victim. The best way to combat this is to take precautions. Here are some of the most common and effective recommendations:

  1. When you are meeting someone for the first time, have the meeting in your office or some other public place. You do not want to meet someone for the first time in a secluded location when you are by yourself.

  2. Check out the person you are planning to meet. Search for their name on social networking websites and search engines. Get a copy of their driver’s license before you go out with them so they know they can be identified if anything happens.

  3. If at all possible, do not sit at an open house alone. If you can’t have someone with you, make sure someone regularly checks on you.

  4. Tell people where you are going and when you plan to return. If you do not return by the scheduled time, someone should call and check on you.

  5. Have an emergency code word or phrase to let colleagues know that you are in trouble and need help. It should be a phrase that would not arouse the suspicion of anyone who is with you, such as, “I can’t meet with you today.”

  6. Avoid putting yourself in spaces where you are trapped, like bathrooms and closets. Stay in the hallways and keep the person in front of you. Always try to leave yourself an escape route.

  7. Be assertive and confident if you feel uncomfortable or threatened. If a person says or does something inappropriate, tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they need to stop.

  8. Make sure your cell phone is charged and readily available. There are safety mobile apps available for smart phones that can be used to instantly alert others when you need help. Others will send out your GPS coordinates. There are even safety apps designed specifically for real estate brokers.

  9. Do not wear expensive jewelry that might make you an inviting target.

  10. Trust your instincts. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Making safety your top priority and avoiding dangerous situations are the best ways to protect yourself and avoid becoming a crime statistic.

Gary Caddell is a J.Y. Monk Real Estate School instructor in our Raleigh classroom. He is also the owner of GR Caddell, LLC, where he assists North Carolina real estate brokers with maintaining their trust and escrow accounts in compliance with the North Carolina Real Estate License Law and North Carolina Real Estate Commission rules. Gary also provides bookkeeping services, assists licensees who are the subjects of complaints, and assists the parties in real estate related litigation.