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Op/Ed

Real estate agents are in danger: How to avoid being a target for predators

Realtor safety is an elusive topic, as most practitioners think they’re being safe. Pile on top of that victim blaming when someone is attacked, and we have a pervasive industry problem. Let’s unravel this sticky issue.

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real estate agent and realtor safety

In a recent ABC 20/20 program, Barbara Corcoran stated “Being in the real estate business is one of the most high risk businesses in the Nation,” and agreed that “Real Estate Agents are like sitting ducks.”

There are weekly reports of incidents involving real estate agents across the country, as agents are lured to properties by predator’s intent on assault, robbery or worse. It might be helpful to know the makeup of a predator, how they operate and how not be selected as a target in the first place.

What makes a predator different from you?

Predatory criminals have a need to be in control. You probably already know someone whom you might refer to as a control freak; it’s highly likely these individuals grew up in a chaotic, violent, or addictive home. These individuals often had parents who did not act consistently and reliably, where love was uncertain, or had conditions placed on its offering.

Thus, the act of controlling others became the only certain way to predict the behavior of others. Their way of gaining some form of twisted sanity. These individuals would have started out as troubled bullies in the playground, because this is where the formative lessons are learned; how to read body language, how to instinctively form an opinion about how easy you will be to dominate and control.

Once they understand how to prey upon human nature, some (but not all) will become what we’d call a “predator.”

Predators operate by selecting weak victims

Rapists, muggers, abusers, and bullies all look for someone they can dominate and control. They look for weak, submissive, and unaware targets that won’t or can’t fight back.

You have a say in whether or not you will be an easy target for predators.

At the least, you should follow NAR’s advice and meet at the office, take copies of the prospects ID and tell the staff where you will be.

Better though to follow CAR’s (California Association of Realtors) more detailed recommendations: “Before meeting a client, conduct a background check; ask for name, phone number, email address, home address, and date of birth, and ask them to text or email you a picture of their driver’s license or government issued photographic ID.”

But even if you have verified the photo ID of a strange prospect in advance of meeting, it’s inevitable that some real estate agents will still find themselves in situations that still might prove deadly.

  1. Following these simple steps will keep you safer when showing homes to strange prospects.
  2. From the very first contact, you will direct the conversation and the decisions about where, when, and how to meet.
  3. You will not allow the prospect to take control – this is the biggest red flag.
  4. Do not meet at the property. Meet first at your office or a neutral , public location such as a Starbucks.
  5. Dress safely. You can’t escape quickly if you’re wearing 5-inch heels.
  6. Just because a male prospect is accompanied by a woman does not mean that you are safer. (Beverley Carter’s assailant was accompanied by his ex-wife) She may be present to help alleviate any fears you could have.
  7. Do not travel in the prospect’s vehicle, under any circumstances.
  8. Do not park your car on the driveway. Choose a location on the street where you cannot be blocked in.
  9. Lock your purse in the trunk of your car.
  10. Walk purposely with confidence and without distractions.
  11. Do not multi-task. Focus on the prospect and the showing.
  12. Hold only your cell phone in one hand and your keys (can be used in self-defense) in the other.
  13. Have the prospect precede you while inspecting the house.
  14. Have the prospect look at rooms while you stand in the doorway.
  15. Stand back away from closets and tight spaces, so as not to get cornered.
  16. Don’t turn your back on the prospect at any time.
  17. Never go down in the basement with a prospect.
  18. If you feel really uneasy, have the prospect inspect the home on their own, while you stand outside.
  19. If at any time your intuition tells you that you are unsafe, terminate the appointment and leave.

Recent safety findings illustrate problems

In the NAR 2015 Member Safety Report, 40% of the respondents experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety.

Of 2,804 respondents 2% reported they were the victim of robbery and 1% an assault. Extrapolated out to 1,000,000 members this would indicate that 20,000 members might have been robbed, while as many as 10,000 have been assaulted.

What the industry should do for agent safety

Despite these alarming numbers of assaults and robberies, the NAR reported that less than 50% of Brokers have standard procedures for agent safety.

Brokers already have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to supervise their agents in the course of their business. They must implement safety procedures and standards as soon as possible – they are simply not optional in today’s environment.

In this regard, I applaud Dylan De Bruin’s efforts in Iowa where the Des Moines Association of Realtors have implemented a ground breaking safety initiative which recently made national news. This along with Sam DeBord’s Open Door partnerships are definitely steps in the right direction.

Checking and verifying prospects photo IDs should be an industry standard. When you check into a hotel, rent a car or look at an apartment you will be required to submit your photo ID. Why should looking at homes with a real estate agent be any different? It should be our industry standard, just as it is in the travel industry, so let’s make it so.

What you as an agent can do, starting now

  1. Commit now to never meeting a strange unverified prospect at a property, ever again.
  2. Start making it your personal standard that every prospect submits their photo ID before meeting.
  3. Stay in control of when, where and how you meet strange prospects. Predators and psychopaths only have power if they control their target.

No commission will ever be worth compromising your safety. Take appropriate measures considering the circumstances, your surroundings and who you are with. Follow the list of safety measures above.

Help fulfill current NAR President Chris Polycron’s commitment to Realtor safety. Lobby your Broker, Association and MLS to create/review/publish safety manuals, procedures and systems.

#RealtorSafety

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Op/Ed

5 Things your home office may not need

(EDITORIAL) Since many of us are working entirely from home now, we are probably getting annoyed at a messy desk, let’s take a crack at minimalism!

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desk minimalism

COVID-19 is changing our behaviors. As more people stay home, they’re seeing (and having to deal with) the clutter in their home. Many people are turning to minimalism to reduce clutter and find more joy. There are many ways to define minimalism. Some people define it as the number of items you own. Others think of it as only owning items that you actually need.

I prefer to think of minimalism as intentionality of possessions. I have a couple of dishes that are not practical, nor do I use them very often. But they belonged to my grandma, and out of sentimentality, I keep them. Most minimalists probably wouldn’t.

They say a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Unfortunately, that same messy desk limits productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that cluttered spaces have negative effects on us. Keep your messy desk, but get rid of the clutter. Take a minimalistic approach to your home office. Here are five things to clean up:

  1. Old technology – When was the last time you printed something for work? Most of us don’t print much anymore. Get rid of the old printers, computer parts, and other pieces of hardware that are collecting dust.
  2. Papers and documents – Go digital, or just save the documents that absolutely matter. Of course, this may vary by industry, but take a hard look at the paper you’ve saved over the past month or so. Then ask yourself whether you will really ever look at it again.
  3. Filing cabinets – If you’re not saving paper, you don’t need filing cabinets.
  4. Trade magazines and journals – Go digital, and keep your magazines on your Kindle, or pass down the print versions to colleagues who may be interested.
  5. Anything unrelated to work – Ok, save the picture of your family and coffee mug, but clean off your desk of things that aren’t required for work. It’s easy for home and work to get mixed up when you’re working and living in one place. Keep it separate for your own peace of mind and better workflow. If space is tight and you’re sharing a dining room table with work, get a laundry basket or box. At the start of the workday, remove home items and put them in the box. Transfer work items to another box at the end of the day. It might seem like a little more work, but it will give you some boundaries.

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Op/Ed

5 Consumer behavior shifts caused by the pandemic

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of people look at and act in the new world. These are the biggest 5 changes you should be aware of consumers.

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consumers priorities

COVID-19 is affecting businesses in multiple ways, depending on the industry. One thing that affects every business, regardless of industry is customer behavior. It’s no surprise that customers are changing behavior to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Google just released information that should help your business. It’s estimated that over 4 million people are staying home around the world to slow the spread of coronavirus. Use this information to help you shift your marketing efforts.

  1. Consumers are using multiple devices more than ever before.
    With kids home trying to do school, parents who are working, and people who are furloughed, content is being consumed at record rates. According to Google, Americans are watching 12 hours of media content each day.
  2. Increases in search for critical information.
    Online grocery shopping and cooking videos are top searches these days while Americans are staying home. Telemedicine is another hot search topic. People are looking for ways to stay home and protected.
  3. Consumers want to stay connected online.
    Google announced that in April, Google Meet hosted over 3 billion minutes of video meetings. YouTube has seen an increase in “with me” videos. People are filming themselves going about their day to connect with their friends and family. Virtual events have changed how people meet up.
  4. Routines are changing to be “internet-first.”
    Telecommuting is a top search these days as consumers try to find ways to work from home. People are looking for exercise options that can be managed at home. Consumers are using the internet to find options that keep them socially-distanced but connected to their routine.
  5. Self-care is taking a higher priority.
    Meditation videos are being consumed at a higher percentage than before. People are looking for books, games and puzzles to stay occupied at home.

Consider Your Business Against Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 restrictions may be easing, but consumer behavior may not change much until there is a vaccine. Your business can use this information to change your marketing to meet consumers at their point of need.

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Op/Ed

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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