Quiz Time! Testing Your Safety ''Smarts''


 Debbi Conrad  |    September 07, 2017
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September is REALTOR¬ģ safety month. Safety is a serious issue for real estate practitioners, but it often seems that the messages go in one ear and out the other. The attitude seems to be that bad things do not happen here, they only happen to other people in other places. All the well-meaning safety messages are fine, but we have enough common sense to take care of ourselves.

The challenge today is to test your safety knowledge and instincts. Select whichever answer or answers are correct!

1. The listing agent in northern Wisconsin received a call from a broker in the Milwaukee area. The broker wanted to meet at the listed property at 2:00 p.m. the next day for a showing. The agent took down the broker’s name. The next day, the agent drove to the property, unlocked the door and welcomed the broker in when he arrived. Did the agent act in a safe manner?

A. Yes, because the agent is a male and he can handle himself.
B. Yes, because the showing was during the daytime and not at night.
C. No, because the agent did nothing to confirm who the broker was; the agent did not look him up online and did not ask for identification such as a driver’s license or a picture ID.
D. No, because the agent parked his car in the driveway and thus was parked in.

The answer is C or D. It is always best to confirm a person’s identification to see if they are who they say they are. Meet new clients at the office, get a copy of their driver's licenses and make sure everyone knows the itinerary. Parking on the road is always best so the vehicle is not blocked in and a fast exit can be made if needed. Men are not immune from being assaulted, and attacks can occur just as easily during the day as at night.

2. Not everyone agrees about the value of open houses, but clearly many practitioners still host open houses. Which of the following is a bad idea as far as the safety of the host?

A. In the open house advertising, mention that there will be video surveillance. This should deter shady characters from showing up as well as stifle inappropriate commentary.
B. Leave your cell phone and other valuables locked in the car.
C. Follow the buddy system: Have someone with you or a well-trained German shepherd or other canine companion sitting nearby.
D. Be suspicious of someone who’s needy and commandeering your attention; there might be an accomplice stealing drugs or valuables. If this is discovered to be true, leave and call the police; don’t approach a thief.

The answer here is B because you should always have your cell phone with you. Keeping your phone turned on and ready to make an emergency call, record a conversation or snap a photo is a good precaution.

3. Being with strangers alone in a house is an inherently risky situation for anyone, and that, of course, includes people who meet strangers in homes for a living: real estate agents. Which of the following does not apply to showing property?

A. Inspect foreclosures and new construction before showing them. Don’t just inspect for signs of drug-user hideouts but also for animals nesting. Call the police if you see someone suspicious.
B. Let the prospective buyers enter the property first so they can visualize coming home after work. Walk behind, not in front of them. By keeping prospects in front of you, your eyes can be on them at all times and the chances of being caught off guard lessen. Never close the door after you enter the property.
C. If you feel creeped out, take a deep breath and remind yourself to act professionally. After all, you are there to show the property to the prospects.
D. Don’t go inside small spaces such as a walk-in closet or wine cellar. Let the client tour the basement and attic without you. Avoid going into basements and confined areas. Always position yourself between the potential buyer and the exit.

The answer is C. Real estate licensees should trust their gut. If something feels off and they don’t feel safe, they should immediately get out of the situation. Safety is more important than not offending a possible future buyer.

4. The nightmare is happening. The agent finds himself or herself alone in a property with a person who was supposed to be a buyer prospect but has turned out to be someone who may be more interested in taking money or doing harm. Which response is the most effective?

A. Escape! Make a run for it! This assumes that you have a clear escape route and can create a diversion. For example, the agent can say he or she needs to step outside to make a phone call and then doesn’t come back inside.
B. Respond physically to any force or threat of force and use your mace spray, knife, gun or other weapon.
C. If someone is coming toward the agent, he or she should hold out his or her hands in front of them and yell ‚ÄúStop!‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúStay back!‚ÄĚ Criminals have been known to leave a victim alone if he or she yelled or showed that he or she was not afraid to fight back.
D. Not resisting might be the proper choice. An attacker with a gun or a knife may put you in a situation where you think it is safer to do what he or she says. If someone tries to rob you, give up your property, not your life.

One might tend to say A is the best answer although any of the answers might be effective depending upon the situation. Trying to get away is generally the best, but whether an agent can depends on many things, including shoes and clothing, physical stamina, the terrain and proximity to the attacker. The primary goal in any incident is to escape from the danger and call for help. Responding with a weapon, on the other hand, may be the most risky. Personal safety is the priority. Property can be replaced but the same cannot be said of a person’s life and health.

5. Harassment occurs when a person engages in repeated acts that harass or intimidate another person and that serve no legitimate, valid purpose. It may include a telephonic or written threat to inflict physical injury or damage to property. Stalking is when a person knowingly alarms another person or a member of that person’s family or household by repeatedly doing things such as appearing at the home or workplace; constant phone calls; photographing, videotaping, audiotaping, or otherwise electronically monitoring or recording; sending unwanted gifts; or contacting friends, family or co-workers. How does a real estate professional best avoid becoming the target of such unwanted behavior?

A. Marketing materials should be polished and professional and not include any alluring or provocative photography.
B. Personal information should be limited. Consider advertising without a photograph, home phone number and home address. Don‚Äôt use a middle name or initial. Use your office address ‚ÄĒ or list no address at all.
C. Agents should use only their first initial and last name on ‚Äúfor sale‚ÄĚ signs to conceal gender and prevent anyone other than a personal acquaintance or current client from asking for an agent by name.
D. All of the above. Giving out too much of the wrong information can make an agent an easy target.

The answer is D. Harassment or stalking can reach alarmingly dangerous and ugly levels, and it is best to not present any information or photos that might attract the attention of someone with bad intentions or make it too easy for them to intrude into an agent’s personal life.

6. Automated teller machines or ATMs are a reliable convenience or a lifesaver depending upon the circumstances prompting the need for cash. Some ATMs are of the drive-up variety while others are on the street or in a building lobby. Which of the following is not a good suggestion to follow when withdrawing money from an ATM?

A. Withdraw your funds during the day at an ATM in a busy public place.
B. Pause to carefully double-check your math to make sure there are no errors made when determining your transaction amount and verify that the receipt is accurate.
C. Watch out for suspicious-looking people waiting around an ATM ‚ÄĒ they may not really be customers. If they offer to let you go ahead of them, decline politely and leave. If you have not finished your transaction and a suspicious person approaches you, press CANCEL, retrieve your card and leave quickly.
D. When you make a withdrawal, quickly put the money away and leave. At a drive-through ATM, keep your doors locked and be prepared to drive away quickly.

The answer is B. Any person at an ATM is vulnerable and is a potential target for criminals. Do not linger for any reason. Any computations and checking of receipts may be done later and brought to the attention of the bank at a later date if that is necessary. When at an ATM, it is always best to act quickly and move on as soon as the transaction is done.

Resources

See the other REALTOR¬ģ safety program materials and safety information at www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety.

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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