Best REALTORS know the ‘best-kept-secret” is safety
by Andrew Wooten
When showing a home, whether it’s an open house or a private showing, your primary focus is on your customers and whether or not they like the house, right? Sure, but don’t let that keep you from being aware of your safety. The question is, how do you know what ‘safety’ means in an unfamiliar neighborhood?
It’s simple, you preview the property and the neighborhood. The importance of previewing any property you’re showing is, unfortunately, the best-kept secret shared by top performers in the real estate business. Let’s get the word out! Of course the first thing is don’t do an open house of meet a client for the first time alone, take a buddy! However, if you must go alone, the following are few simple steps you can follow to provide the safest experience for both you and your customer.
Make a visit. In the days before you meet the customer, visit the property. This will enable you to speak intelligently about the area and give your customers pertinent information on things like school bus stops, yoga in the park, and the location of the closest grocery store. It also provides you an opportunity to put several pieces of your safety plan in place.
Walk the surrounding neighborhood, if possible. You will learn much more about it than if you drive. If any of the neighbors are out, introduce yourself and let them know you’ll be showing the house. Identify your car for them, so they know it’s you. Knock on the doors of the houses on either side and across the street from the property you’re showing to meet the neighbors. If you’ll be putting on an open house, offer them the opportunity to tour the home half an hour before its open the public.
This has four benefits to you. First it gets qualified buyers into the house. Second, it may create future business for you. Third, these neighbors may reveal things about the neighborhood you hadn’t noticed yourself. This can give you additional selling features to highlight to your customers. Fourth, and most importantly, it familiarizes people with you and makes them aware that you’ll be there. The neighbors are all curious about the house that’s for sale, and they want you to see it. They want to know the asking price to compare it to the value of their own homes. Perhaps they have a friend who wants to move into the neighborhood…or perhaps they’ll need an agent to sell their own home someday.
While you’re in the neighborhood, visit the local police substation to let them know you’ll be there, and during what hours. If you’re hosting an open house, tell them you’ll have refreshments for any officers who stop by. Do the same at the local fire station. That way, there are two groups of emergency responders who will know you’ll be in the house, and when. What’s more, you’ve extended the invitation for them to stop buy.
Make at least three trips to preview the property. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it will also give you an excellent overview of the property and surrounding streets. Not only will you impress your customers, you’ll know just what to go if something goes wrong.
If you don’t have time to make three visits by the day before your appointment, at least make one to locate the lockbox, take a quick look around, and let someone know you’ll be there. Preset the lockbox for easy entry.
Visiting the property also allows you to develop what’s known as your “word track.” This is a technique used by people in call centers when they react to something a customer says during a call. Your word track is used to draw the client’s attention away from you when you’re most vulnerable. For example: Just as the walkway narrows for only one person and the customer suggests that you lead the way, you can remark, “Hey, take a look at that [unique feature you noted earlier].” While he’s walking over to look, that’s when you unlock the lockbox and open the front door. By the time he’s returned to you, you’ve turned to face him again and can devote your full attention to the remainder of the showing.
There are many other aspects to safely showing a home. Doing your homework by previewing the property is only the first step to ensuring your safety. So now, you’re in on the secret!
On the day of the showing or open house:
First thing in the morning…
- Locate the lockbox.
- Determine where you and your client will park.
- Find out if there are any animals of which you must be aware.
- Take a look at the sides of the house.
- Does the property have a privacy fence? If so, is there a gate? Where does it lead?
- Look at the shrubs–do they provide a hiding place for someone?
- Make a mental note of where the garage door opener is located.
- Also note any other unique features of the house.
- Find some interesting feature that’s not near the front door.
At your appointment time…
- Note what’s going on in the neighborhood at that time of day.
- Notice who’s around; are there many people? This is a great time to introduce yourself to anyone around.
- Check again for animals.
- Make note of whether you have cell phone reception.
- Is anyone else having an open house in the area? If you have to opportunity to introduce yourself to the agent in charge, do so.
At night, especially if you’ll be doing an open house…
- Note any outside lighting around the house, including street lights.
- Note any areas where landscaping may provide hiding places.
- Make any adjustments to your parking location, as dictated by the two factors above.
Andrew Wooten has been teaching safety in the real estate industry for the past 27 years. He has authored two books, “A Safety Guide for Open Houses, Listing Appointments & Vacant Properties” and “The Real Estate Guide to Safety.” He teaches nationally at associations and corporations instructing on how to live, work and play safely. You can find out more about Mr. Wooten at www.justbesafe.com.
Additionally, the Ohio Association of REALTORS has partnered with Mr. Wooten to present a year-long series of brief, instructional videos on an array of personal and professional safety topics. You can view the current video at http://www.ohiorealtors.org/?page_id=4