SCAM ALERT – January 8, 2016:  Sellers Opening Their Homes to Strangers

We tend to think horrible events only happen to other people, in other places. This past March, right here in Arizona, a Gilbert REALTOR® was attacked by a man at an open house.

Last June, former REALTOR® Sidney Cranston, Jr. met a potential buyer in Kingman and then disappeared. In 1990, a 26-year-old male REALTOR® met a new client at a vacant office in Tucson and was killed.

Horrible things can and have happened here. Our industry has accepted high risk as a norm. No longer. We…you, me, coworkers, our association staffs, clients, affiliate partners and communities at large…WE can change this.

AAR CEO Michelle Lind said during the National Association of REALTORS® Leadership Summit last August, “We want to do more than share safety warnings on social media.” And so we did.

We kicked off REALTOR® Safety Month with our Agent Safety Alert Program — sort of an Amber Alert for REALTORS®. (Take a moment now to click this link and confirm that your cell phone number is up-to-date.)

Arizona REALTORS® is dedicated to helping you stay safe, but there are many things that you can do too.

Professional = Profitable
There is a lot of talk about “Raising the Bar.” If we want the bar raised, we must raise it ourselves. To be treated as professionals we must act like professionals. On top of saving yourself from a potential attack, meeting prospective clients in your office will enable you to serve them better, help them faster and get you more clients.

Alert = Alive
Between cell phones, radios and the noise in our heads, it can be easy for us to be unaware of our surroundings. Instead, actively assess your environment. Phone down, eyes up. What do you see, hear and sense? Understand what a threat looks and sounds like…a stranger asking, “Can you show me this vacant house?” is a threat. Honor your instincts. You have permission to walk away from ANY thing at ANY time which does not feel right to you — without explanation or apology.

Systematized = Safe
What is your Standard of Practice? Standards such as these help keep you safe and organized:

  • Intake form – Allows you to focus on the person in front of you (and see if they seem shady)
  • Hours of Operation – Decide what time you are done showing homes and let your clients know
  • Phone Charged – This is your lifeline, keep it charged and have a backup battery
  • Drive Separately – A car is a very confined private space, one which should not be entered with a stranger

Man or Woman: You’re Equally At-Risk
Crimes against REALTORS® involve men and women. Police suspect foul play in the disappearance of Sidney Cranston, Jr. At 5-foot-9 and 162 pounds, this 40 year-old man (as well as the 26 year-old male victim in Tucson) may have seemed like unlikely prey, but meeting strangers in private spaces offers opportunities for criminals.

Basic Safety Tips for REALTORS®

  1. Never meet a stranger alone in a private space…make your first meeting at your office or other public space
  2. Take the time to perform a gut check and then…honor your instincts
  3. If you hold an open house, never do it alone…deter criminals with a sign that reads:
    These premises are being recorded and live-streamed for safety & training purposes.

Check out our REALTOR® Safety video series for more tips and remember: You are important! You are important to your families, friends, colleagues and to all of us at the Arizona Association of REALTORS®.

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy 2016!

Paula Monthofer, GRI, e-PRO® is 2016 AAR President-Elect and Safety Workgroup Chair

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