Being an estate agent comes with many risks. Here are 6 ways to stay safe as a property professional.
It is not traditionally considered to be a dangerous job. But, estate agents in South Africa face the dilemma of meeting members of the public in varying locations while also ensuring their own safety. Managing Director of TPN, Michelle Dickens, affirms however, that “There are simple steps you can take to stay safe and still continue to thrive in our industry.” Understandably, with the tragic murder of ReMax agent, Hanlie Lategan, agents are extremely concerned. The decision to meet a new client means that in essence you are weighing up a potential threat between your livelihood and in the worst case scenario, your life.
To make this decision easier, Michelle shares the easy steps you can take to ensure your own safety:
6 easy ways to stay safe as a property professional
Share your electronic calendar with your office - Make sure you share your electronic calendar with your colleagues and that all the details such as a client’s full name, phone number and identity number as well as the exact location is included for each scheduled meeting.
Be cautious if a client changes the location of your meeting at the last minute - Warning signs should light up if the location of the appointment is changed at the very last minute. For no reason agree to meet at an alternative location and drive to the property together.
Verify the identity of the person you are meeting through the credit bureau - You are within your rights to verify the identity of the person you are meeting provided it is with their consent. This includes confirming that personal information such as their phone number and current employment details match up with the identity number provided. If a fraudulent identity number has been given, the credit bureau will pick it up immediately.
Don’t be swayed into helping someone who appears vulnerable - Where the vulnerability of a person is used to manipulate you into doing something you would not usually do - take it as a warning sign that something untoward may be unfolding. Do not be swayed by children or stories of personal drama of any nature. Remember that someone who is out to lure you to a potential crime scene will do or say anything to get you there.
Take someone with you - If you are meeting an owner to secure a mandate for the first time or your appointment is at an empty house, simply take someone with you. Every time.
Get a personal safety app - Set up a personal safety app on your phone which allows you to alert your network of friends, family and co-workers. Some good apps are:
- Cell 411: allows users to quickly contact groups of friends and family members. It provides GPS co-ordinates to your group to the current location, directions to the location and live streams video.
- Watch Over Me: you can alert the app when you are in a vulnerable position so it can watch over you and track your location. If you don’t tap ‘I’m Safe’ before the time runs out, your loved ones get an alert and your exact location.
- Find Me: allows you to send friends your GPS or network location and provides directions to you. It has an aerial or street view mode to help friends find you and shares your speed, altitude, longitude, and latitude.
- Be Safe: lets multiple family members and friends see where you are at a time of your choice and send alerts to them when you arrive at your destination. It will also notify your loved ones if you are running behind schedule.
TPN client and owner of Kirshner Real Estate, Sharon De Villiers went through the harrowing ordeal of being blindfolded, gagged, tied up and stabbed by a tenant. The female tenant, together with 3 armed men, locked her in the boot of her own car and drove around - stopping 3 times at what sounded like clubs. Sharon came very close to dying that day. She was rescued by the police and paramedics due to the tracking device in her car. She spent 10 days in ICU and months recovering.
Today, she is back working as an agent and has the following advice to share: “When we now do credit checks through TPN we also do the checks on previous places of rent, employment, bank and car registration details. We make sure our tenant consent form is signed to give us the necessary permission and we do all this before meeting a client. From my perspective, you cannot be too careful. We are heading in the direction in this business where we now need to do criminal checks on potential tenants. I nearly lost my life due to a tenant setting me up, as it turns out that tenant had previous criminal charges against her for fraud and high-jacking. I am lucky to be alive.”