Tracey Hawkins, a.k.a. "Tracey, the Safety Lady," is founder and CEO of Safety and Security Source. She is a former real estate agent who, for more than 20 years, has been a national speaker and educator on real estate safety issues. She has created the country's only real estate safety designation, the Consumer Safety and Security Specialist (CSSS) program.
Are You Safer Working on a Team?
Conducting showings in a group or colisting homes doesn’t alone necessarily make you less of a target for criminals. Safety procedures are just as important for teams as individual agents. Here’s how to make personal security part of your team’s culture.
April 19, 2018
Most agents consider joining real estate teams for additional support in marketing their business and servicing clients well. A perhaps less-obvious reason to join a team is that working in a group can offer safety buffers, such as attending showings in pairs or co-listing a home. But simply having more bodies around doesn’t always make you safer. In fact, it can encourage you to lower your defenses, making you an easier target for criminals.
Whether your principal brokerage has established safety protocols, taking safe work practices seriously is every bit as important for teams as it is for individual agents. Here are some specific steps that teams can incorporate to keep all team members safe. For additional information, you can request a team safety checklist.
Tailor Safety Practices to the Team Concept
Agents working on teams have built-in partners. You never have to be alone in the field—but this needs to be an explicitly stated practice. “We always let each other know when and where we are going on appointments with clients,” says Rachael Inch, a member of the three-person Fern Dallas Real Estate Team at Keller Williams Legacy in San Antonio. “We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where no one knows where we are.” Single agents often let a spouse or friend know where they’re going, and that’s still a good practice for team members, she adds. But to establish accountability on a team, members have an extra duty to keep each other informed of their whereabouts.
Keeping safety a topic of conversation among teams also helps to establish team-centric protocols, Inch says. Showings at vacant properties and open houses are particularly risky scenarios, and Inch’s team has learned to set expectations as they talk about their experiences in the field. “We preview empty homes with another team member, and we also like to host open houses as a team. That way, we are never alone with strangers.”
Team Leaders Set the Safety Culture
It’s not enough to simply be surrounded by other agents. The team leadership must prioritize and emphasize safety as a regular part of doing business. Don’t fall into the trap of only recognizing the importance of safety during REALTOR® Safety Month in September. Much like brokers are weaving safety topics into routine company trainings, team leaders should find ways to make safety part of the daily fabric of the team’s business.
“In team meetings and monthly continuing education events, we discuss safety awareness and best practices,” says Suzie Taggart, supervising broker at Team Real Estate in Overland Park, Kan. “We also discuss new applications and tools to assist with identification of buyers and reporting of emergency situations.” Her team partner and husband, Martin Taggart, also insists on safety being a non-negotiable part of their team of eight full-time agents and five new agents and showing partners.
Establish Common Safety App Usage
There are tons of safety apps available, but if each member of your team is using a different one, it can be difficult to create a streamlined process for tracking and checking in with everyone. Taggart recommends that all members of her team use Life 360, which has a location feature that enables users to create a preselected “contact circle” to track the user’s location in real time. She advises her agents to include their team members in their circle, allowing everyone on the team to see each other’s locations. The app will notify contacts to call law enforcement in the event the user is in danger.
There are other apps that can work just as well for your team, but it’s important to choose one that has an established history. It’s inconvenient for any agent to choose a safety product that is relatively new on the market—and then its publisher quickly folds. But it’s doubly inconvenient for a team because multiple agents are affected. Look for safety products such as Life Alarm Smart Alert, whose parent company has been in business for more than 25 years and recently introduced a version of the app specifically for real estate.
Reinforce That Your Team Is Part of a Bigger Team
The REALTORS® Code of Ethics dictates that teams must display the name of their parent brokerage prominently in advertisements. This can improve your team’s safety, too. Most teams are part of widely recognizable real estate companies, and that not only reinforces a solid reputation with buyers and sellers but also shows criminals you have abundant resources and are less likely to work alone.
John L. Torvi, vice president of marketing and sales at Landy Insurance in Needham, Mass., and a national risk management expert, stresses compliance with state and industry marketing regulations. He advises teams to adhere to the following rules when working online:
- Use your principal firm’s firewall and antivirus protections when setting up websites and email addresses.
- Do not use personal email addresses for business purposes; only use the firm’s protected email addresses. Gmail, Yahoo, and other popular email providers often do not have strong methods for protecting against harmful viruses.
- Clear with your broker the language and instructions you use regarding client protocols for transfers of funds, escrow, and other situations.
If a team is an LLC or S Corp, it may be required to have an employee handbook on how team members will meet privacy protection regulations imposed by the state.