By Toby Boyce
I rolled up on the house like I always do, peering at addresses to verify the location with where the GPS was placing the destination.
However, this time I missed the house. And that’s where this story took a possibly tragic detour. With four years of experience processing broker price opinions I’ve developed a safety routine that goes back to my days working as a bouncer.
But on this day – ironically the same day that the Ohio Association of REALTORS® Communications Committee of which I’m vice chair introduced a motion for a year-long safety reminder and training course – I veered from my course of action and elected to walk back to the house for the photos. As I was taking a photo of the front of the house a tenant appeared at the door and inquired as to why I was there. I responded but obviously not to his liking as he asked me to leave and displayed a hand gun.
I walked briskly away from the scene before the realty of the situation hit me. I found a comfortable parking lot and just shook for about five minutes before getting myself back together. As the hours progressed I continued to think about the situation and what happened and how I should have handled the situation – and how I’d done just about everything wrong.
I’ve defused a lot of dangerous situations with words and avoided fisticuffs on most occasions (and I’m sure I deserved to get popped more often than I didn’t) with several key techniques. The YPN model is to share and work with each other to develop better agents. So, my five key safety techniques are:
1. Have a Game Plan – What will you do if you are put into a situation where you become uncomfortable? If you can’t answer that question right now, then you need to sit down and work out a plan – this is one time where failing to plan can be more damaging than just failing it could get you robbed or worse. You can’t be prepared for every situation, but if you know how to handle that “too friendly” guest at the open house or the angry dog on a BPO then your instincts will lead you in the right direction when it is time to rely on instincts.
2. Survey the Territory – Doesn’t matter if you are doing a BPO or an open house, know the layout of the area. In an urban setting drive around the block keeping an eye out for hiding places and potential issues and make mental notes. In more rural settings get a definite layout of where the “problems” could come from.
3. Always Have an Escape Plan – This sounds too obvious, I know. But how often do you park your car in the driveway at an open house and allow another person to block your car in? You’re showing houses and don’t have a way to escape then you will more than likely put yourself into a corner and that’s never good.
4. Speak Calmly and Carry a Big Stick – After the violence associated with several Ohio REALTORS® in 2010, I considered getting my concealed carry permit. However, it kept coming back to: Would you buy a house if your REALTOR® felt he had to carry a gun to be safe? The resounding answer is no. I have gone to carrying the largest MagLight on the market – it is built like a police baton and better yet you look like a hero when the basement lights don’t work.
5. Don’t Be a Hero – This was probably the most important thing I’ve learned in safety. My “job” isn’t to take on the bad guy and secure him. If I am in a position where the odds are in my favor, sure I’ll step to the plate – but if the “other guy” has the upper hand then I’m using my escape plan to get out of the situation as fast as possible. I was doing an open house at a vacant property about two years ago and felt like the house was being cased. Did I set up defenses and bunker down? Absolutely not. I had my cell phone out and had an escape plan where I could slide out the back door and to the other side of the neighbor’s garage in a matter of about 15 yards.
No matter how many safety classes you take, it won’t help unless you keep it on the top of your mind and active in your daily life. The best part is that once you’ve done these enough, they become routine and feel natural.
We all know there are bad people in the world that it doesn’t matter what you do to protect yourself, and tragically we’ve experienced them in the REALTOR® community in the last year. However, if you keep your guard up and stay diligent hopefully we can diffuse most of these situations.
Toby Boyce, MBA, is a real estate practitioner with Keller Williams Consultants Realty in Westerville, Ohio. Visit his Web site: www.delawareohrealestate.com.