By Nathan Walldorf, ABR, GREEN, GRI, SFR, e-Pro
President, Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Since September is Realtor Safety Month, it's the perfect time to remind consumers why Realtors do certain things for your and their protection. Unfortunately, you do not have to go far to hear about real estate scams, such as email phishing or bogus website listings. And each of us has heard a news story about a Realtor being attacked or robbed while showing a property.
For both commercial and residential practitioners, real estate is one of the few professions in which we're asked to meet complete strangers at a property that's vacant or located in a remote area. Thus, it's imperative that Realtors take certain precautions that might seem strange to buyers or sellers. While they might seem odd on the surface, these safety measures reduce the risks not only for Realtors but their clients and customers, too.
So what can you expect when looking to sell or buy property? Here are a few things a Realtor might do and why.
Requests the first meeting take place at the office: While it might seem like waste of time to a buyer not to meet at a property of interest, Realtors would rather meet you in a professional setting. Sure, it's familiar and safe to the Realtor, but it also provides the opportunity for you to see and be seen by other agents. Plus, by meeting at the office, the buyer can get a better feel for the firm's culture. This request is much more than a matter of convenience – it's a precaution to make sure you're a real prospect instead of a predator.
Asks to make a copy of your ID, car make and model, and/or license tag number: Don't be surprised if a Realtor asks you for some or all of these documents before showing you residential or commercial property. The Realtor needs to confirm that you're who you say you are and that the name you gave over the phone matches your identification. Also, many firms require their agents to get these documents so the office also will have some identifying information should the showing not be on the up and up.
Confirms your information: If you have nothing to hide, then it shouldn't be a big deal if you overhear your Realtors confirming you're who you say you are. Sadly, some people pretend to be someone else in order to see luxury homes or get a free meal. Don't be surprised if your Realtor confirms where you work or your address. Put yourself in the shoes of the property owner: Would you want a stranger walking through your home or business and browsing through your belongings when they have intentions other than purchasing your property?
Takes time to schedule a showing appointment: Even when viewing unoccupied properties, Realtors need to confirm the showing ahead of time. And just because there's a sign in the yard next door to the property, your viewing doesn't mean the Realtor can show that one, too. This extra time allows the Realtor time to gather relevant property information for the potential purchaser and to confirm who, if anyone, to expect when you arrive at the property. Not only can you avoid potential awkwardness of competing interested parties, it enables the Realtor to act quickly should an intruder or squatter be on the premises.
Insists on putting a lockbox on your home OR accesses the lockbox even when the previous lookers remain at the property: The use of an electronic lockbox system for residential properties provides modern-day convenience compared to the days of driving to the listing firm's office to obtain keys to the property. Yet the lockboxes also provide added layers of security and risk reduction for property owners. These electronic lockboxes keep a digital record of each Realtor who accesses the property. As a seller, you might not like the idea of a lockbox being on your home. Although the keybox gives Realtors in the local MLSs the ability to access your home, they are required to follow the MLS Rules for making showing appointments and are prohibited (or face hefty fines or revocation of key privileges) from loaning out their key to anyone. Welcome the use of a lockbox on your property so you can know who was (or wasn't) in your property and when.
Requests that you stick together during the showing appointment: A Realtor wants to leave each property as they found it and to keep their clients safe during the showing. Not only does a Realtor need to keep an eye on clients who might be accident prone or have sticky fingers, the Realtor also is looking out for the buyer. Consider the possible dangers of commercial space with no electricity or construction debris. Even a parcel of land could have ditches, tree stumps, or pesticides. Respectfully adhere to the Realtor's requests during the showing so the property and the people remain in one piece.
One of my goals as GCAR president is to implement a Realtor Safety program for Chattanooga area Realtors. I'm pleased to share that our Realtor Safety Task Force is working in conjunction with the Chattanooga chapter of the Women's Council of Realtors to create a certification program for local real estate offices. As this program launches. I anticipate more and more Realtors to take these and other precautions. I urge consumers to help GCAR in this process by being willing to comply with safety requirements.