Most real estate agents have an open house kit stocked with business cards, flyer holders, sign-in sheets and a dozen other things that help them hold a productive open house. As attacks against agents in the office and in the field have increased over the past decade, brokers are placing additional emphasis on agent safety and are urging their agents to increase their awareness of danger when conducting an open house. Here are a few suggestions for safety items for every agent’s open house kit.
Just about every real estate office now has a safety manual or written safety procedure that addresses how to stay safe at showings and open houses. A copy of the safety checklist from that document should be included in the open house kit and reviewed prior to each open house. Augment the checklist with additional safety precautions and tools that you utilize.
Property Safety Diagram
Using the same floor plan you included in the MLS listing, identify all entry/exit points such as doors, windows and pet access portals (doggie doors). If working the open house with additional staff, identify emergency escape routes and “rally points” (places adjacent to the property where everyone will meet if required to evacuate).
Using the safety diagram, identify entry points that can’t be watched and need to be secured. Have a set of three or four different sized padlocks and locking cables to secure unlocked entry points. Bring spare deadbolts and doorknobs that require a key to open from both sides to place temporarily on doors that don’t already have these types of locks on them and need to be secured (check with the owner first and make sure not to cause any damage). Another helpful device is the “Door Jammer” (pictured) that can be placed under just about any interior or exterior door to deny entry from one direction.
If a rear or side door can’t be locked to prevent undetected entry, bring portable motion detectors or doorknob alarms. If holding the open house alone, place a motion detector alarm at the front entrance and turn it on whenever you go to another part of the home. There are also front door mats that trigger gentle alarms, similar to what you find in many small shops.
Portable video systems have come a long way, with some systems under $1,000 that provide several cameras connected wirelessly to a recorder or Internet interface. There are also affordable “nanny cams” and individual surveillance cameras that may be strategically placed. Video surveillance often deters bad guys, so placing signs letting everyone know that the cameras are rolling can be helpful (in some areas it might also be a required legal disclosure).
Cell Phone Emergency Apps
There are more iPhone and Android apps available than I can get into here, but having an app running that sends an emergency text to a pre-selected list of people, including 911, is a no-brainer. The key, however, is to keep the phone in your hand at all times. “Within reach” isn’t close enough.
Personal Self-Defense Items
Personal defense is a very… personal issue. When safety planning, locks, alarms and the buddy system fail (attacks against more than one agent working an open house are on the rise), we have to consider what else we can do to protect ourselves against immediate danger. The key to self-defense is training, whether you intend to defend yourself with pepper spray, stun gun, keychain spike, firearm, your fists or a few carefully selected and loudly stated expletives. Whatever you choose – get properly trained and make sure the device you use is legal.
I hope you found this information helpful and will leave comments with any additional safety procedures, tools or tips you have. As Sergeant Esterhaus used to say before sending his cops onto the street in TV’s Hill Street Blues,
“Let’s be careful out there.”
Some helpful links:
The Home Security Superstore: portable alarms and home security devices
Damsel In Defense: personal defense items
Santa Clara Kenpo Academy: martial arts training in Silicon Valley
National Association of REALTORS® Safety: agent safety information from NAR
Wireless doormat alarm: great example of a portable doormat alarm
Amazon.com floor alarm: floor mat security alarm