Be prepared for the unexpected. A few weeks ago at an open house in a busy downtown location, I was reminded that safety should always be at the forefront when hosting an open house. For that matter, safety should be at the forefront all the time – whether meeting a new client or showing property (rural or in the city).
Like so many of my colleagues, I like to think that the world is a safe place and people (for the most part) have good intentions. But it is important to remember that things do happen and preparation is one of the best ways to protect your safety and your sanity.
At this particular open house, two people walked in, refused to sign-in, would not show ID and refused to remove their back pack/bag. When I asked them to leave, again they refused.
Needing to exercise some quick thinking, I hurriedly sent a text to my business partner asking for advice on what to do. Meanwhile, I continued asking them to leave, while they continued to ignore me.
As per my colleague’s advice, I took their photos with my phone and kept communication lines open via text. Within ten minutes someone arrived at the open house to help remove the individuals from the property. Although the interaction was only twenty minutes long, it seemed much longer and was very alarming.
It got me thinking back to my very first open house. Back then I was so prepared with my sign-in sheet, feature sheets, my “remove shoes” note on the door and a reminder to all attendees that they should be prepared to show ID.
However, somewhere along the way, with more than 400 open houses under my belt, I let my open house routine slide. Thank goodness I still had a safety plan to fall back on, here it is:
- Always have at least two people (front office, partner, business partner, or family member) know where I am (physical address) and what time I should be done. Knowing that if they do not hear from me, someone should call or stop by.
- Ask a client, friend or family member to stop by my open house. If no one is available, I stop in to the neighbours, invite them over, and let them know the hours of my open house.
- Make sure my clients have all valuables tucked away. As much as I can control the volume of people in the house, I cannot always control their actions.
- When meeting a client for the first time out of the office, I always bring a colleague or family member to sit in the car and wait. (This can get costly if you offer dinner as a reward…)
- Make sure to secure all windows and doors and make sure that I know my way out of a property.
This past weekend, I went back to my original open house routine and I am committed to sticking to the same safe practices.
Do you have a Safety Plan? What do you do to make sure you and your clients are safe during open houses? In case you don’t have a plan, here are some safety tips from The National Association of Realtors www.Realtors.org:
1. Park where you cannot get blocked in. Take a few minutes to make sure you have a clear line of sight to your vehicle.
2. Meet the neighbors. There’s safety in numbers. Introduce yourself, point out your car, and invite the neighbors over to the open house.
3. Advise clients about valuables. Develop a list of valuables clients should put away before an open house, including mail, jewelry, prescription drugs, extra sets of keys, and financial statements, among others.
4. Be aware and work in teams. The No. 1 place where agents are attacked during an open house is the front door, partly because lockboxes take time to open. If you are alone, turn your back against a wall to avoid being attacked from behind.
5. Establish your escape routes. Walk around the house and note how to get in and out of rooms. If there is a fence in the backyard with a gate, unlock the gate for easy exit. Direct clients to the front door with signs.
6. Set up for safety. Hang decorative bells behind every outside door that you have unlocked. These will alert you whenever someone enters the house. Do not bring your laptop to an open house. Not only can it be easily stolen, but signing on to someone’s unsecured wireless network can open you up to identity theft.
7. Carry only what you need. Purses go in the trunk of your car before you leave your house, not when you arrive at the open house. Finally, when picking a room to wait in during the open house, pick the one with the most cell service and with escape routes.
7. Check out your guests as they arrive. As soon as someone comes in, jump up, introduce yourself, and direct guests to a sign-in sheet.
8. Never, ever turn your back on a prospect. Let prospects walk in front of you. If a man says, “Ladies first,” to a female agent, the agent should say something like, “You are such a gentleman, thank you. But I really want you to see this home, and if I can direct you where to go, I think you’ll gain a further appreciation for this home.”
9. Never go into certain rooms. When showing visitors around, never go into rooms with no escape routes.These include walk-in closets, bathrooms and laundry rooms, among others. Instead, direct visitors to those rooms.
10. Close up in teams. Openings and closings can be the most dangerous times during an open house. Often, there are other agents in the neighbourhood doing open houses. If you’re alone, lock up your house, go over to the other agent, and offer to walk through his or her house and close it up with him or her and then both of you can go over to your house to do the same.