By: Matt Clements
Like most of you, I remember our real estate agent, Beverly Carter, who lived and worked in Arkansas and was murdered while on the job. In 2014, reporters asked the man who killed her why she was targeted, he responded, “Because she’s a rich broker.”
The perpetrator and his wife requested a showing of a property that was pretty far out of the way. They said they were moving to the area from out of town. Carter had called her husband and left him a voicemail, stating that she was going to the showing and would then pick up something for dinner on her way home.
Though killing Carter was the couple’s original intent, they did plan to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, but somewhere along the line, things went sideways.
Since that time, we’ve honored Carter’s memory and sought to keep our industry professionals safe through awareness and safety training in an effort to make certain no real estate professional loses their life while on the job again.
September is REALTOR® Safety Month, and with that in mind, here are some of my tips to make sure you and your colleagues stay safe.
Pre-Qualify Your Potential Clients
I recommend that with each client—no matter if they come to you via referral, IG message, or friend of a friend—you take the time to pre-qualify while on the phone. No matter their insistence or pushiness, you have the leverage to control the conversation. Honest and professional communication up front is key! Prequalifying a potential client saves you time, and resources and helps you maintain your safety.
Requesting proof of preapproval or the funds needed to purchase a home is one great way to ensure you’re dealing with a serious client. We’ve all heard the line, “Oh, don’t worry! Money isn’t an issue.” Perfect. Then let’s see it.
I immediately reply with “Great! Show me the money! Please e-mail the pre-approval or cash proof to (insert your email here) immediately. I’ll wait on the phone while you open your e-mail and forward it over…”
In my 20 years in the business, I’ve never run into a pre-approved client who isn’t willing to provide proof that they’re ready to buy a home, even from their cash accounts.
Vet Potential Clients
After I’ve secured proof of preapproval or funds to purchase a home, I ask each potential client a series of questions. These questions give me more information and tell the story on who I’m working with. Here’s what I ask:
- Are you a buyer or an agent? This is always my first question, even if it means I have to steer the conversation in that direction
- How soon did you need to move in? This information provides a valuable timeline for me. If they’re not ready to move in right away, I know we have some time. If they plan to move ASAP, I can adjust accordingly.
- Are there any other decision makers other than you, that are involved? Working with one person is very different than working with a couple or investors that have additional financial decision-makers.
- Do you need to sell your home in order to buy a new home? Another important question, this one helps me figure out timelines, prepare my client for selling their home and buying another one and get myself prepped to help with both.
Prep for Showings
We all prep for showings, but there are specific things that you can do to make sure that those preparations include keeping you as safe as possible. Here’s what I recommend:
- Number (1) One is always number One (1) for a reason! Pre-Qualify First!!!
- Always have your cell phone where it is readily accessible.
- Be careful “how” you dress. You want to be professional, but not too showy if you can avoid it.
- Ask your client to meet you at the office first, then follow you in their car.
- Always take your own vehicle so that you can get out when needed.
- Implement a buddy system! Bring a junior agent or a manager with you if something doesn’t feel quite right. If you need to, reschedule until you can bring someone with you.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t follow the buyer through the home. Instead, stay at the front door, and invite them to take a look around the home. You can invite them to ask any questions at the end of their self-tour, and those questions can be brought to you at the front door.
- If you’re doing an open house, bring someone with you, especially a lender! Have a table set up at the front door or just outside the front door with a sign in sheet. You can also use Open Home Pro if you’re working digitally. Ask each guest to sign in, and if they refuse, you don’t have to give them access to the home. I once had a potential buyer who refused to sign in, and I didn’t let them in the house. They replied that it was an open house, and I said that I understood that, but that also, the owner is represented by me, and she insisted that she knew everyone who was coming inside her home. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but you are not able to see the home. Best of luck to you.” I know this likely feels like it might be a sticky situation, but it doesn’t have to. You are in control of the situation.
- Follow your intuition, always. If your gut instinct tells you something is off, listen to it.
These should eliminate the “looky-loos” and keep you forward in your career. Most importantly though, these tips also help keep you safe as you perform your work in the field.
Also, here’s a BIG TIP “If you List, you’ll last” again, “If you List, you’ll last. Focus on listings, rather than buyers. Be strict with your boundaries, but very friendly and very nice, but tough. Be honest, and use that 6th sense, intuition!
If you’re looking for more information and training on safety, check out nar.realtor/safety.
Matt Clements, CEO of the Clements Group at The Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif., is a fourth generation real estate professional—leading a legacy started by his great-grandmother. He’s the author of the YPN Playbook and was chair of the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) YPN in 2016 when the group won the YPN State Network of the Year.