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The holiday season is a time for celebration and giving gifts to family and friends, but it is also a time when safety can sometimes take a back seat due to the rush and excitement of the season. People become careless and vulnerable to theft and holiday scams.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following information to keep you, your family and your home safe and secure during the holiday season:

  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit. When you leave your home, place your inside lights on timers to make it appear occupied.
  • Make sure you always lock the front door. Also, be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.
  • When putting up decorations make sure you use a sturdy ladder or step stool. Do not stand on a chair or other furniture.
  • Outdoor holiday lights add to the season’s festivities. Use lights that are certified for outdoor use and in good condition.
  • Do not overload wall outlets and extension cords when using outdoor or indoor lights.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, cut two inches off the trunk and mount the tree on a sturdy stand. Keep the tree well-supplied with water and away from candles or a fireplace. If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is labeled as fire resistant.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle. Make sure candles are on stable surfaces.
  • If you plan on using the fireplace, make sure it is clean. The chimney and fireplace should be checked at least once a year.
  • Don’t place gifts under the Christmas tree where burglars can see them. Place a blanket over the presents, so they are not in full view of a window.
  • Poinsettias, holly berries and mistletoe spruce up your home during the holiday season, but remember these plants are toxic. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • After the holidays, do not advertise your gifts by leaving the boxes at the curb for garbage collection. Take the big boxes to the recycling center.
  • Many people are in a giving mood during the holidays and will donate money to charities. Do not become a victim of holiday charity scams. Do not give your personal information to strangers.
  • When shopping at malls, park in a well-lit area. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave packages visible in your car.
  • If you plan on traveling during the holidays, do not post your travel plans online. Stop your mail delivery, or have a friend or trusted neighbor pick up your mail daily and check on your house, as well.

Items that can keep your friends and family safe year-round make great gifts. Some holiday gift suggestions include smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, escape ladders, first aid kits, earthquake kit, automobile safety kit, flashlights and portable radios.

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REALTORSafety2011
By now, you are aware of potential dangers that face real estate agents when they are meeting clients, showing properties or hosting open houses, and in their cars. There is one more place to consider: the office where you work. You can help safeguard your business (and your personal) property, and the safety of all who work in the office, with a few procedures and precautions:

1. Know staff in other nearby businesses and be aware of their schedules.
2. Ensure that all doors other than the main entrance are secured.
3. Make certain windows are not obscured so that passersby can see in.
4. Make sure there is a clear exit route from the service desk to the door.
5. Never allow visitors to wander freely about the business. Have the person whom they want to see come to the front office area and escort the individual to the meeting area.
6. Have a visitor log book and policy on issuing visitor tags that limit access to certain areas and hours of the day.
7. If you encounter an individual while working late or alone, indicate to that person that you are not alone. Say something like, “My supervisor will be right with you and should be able to assist you.”
8. Keep personal information private. Avoid discussing where you live, after-work or vacation plans in front of customers, new coworkers or anyone in general with whom you are not comfortable.
9. Never leave valuables, purses or wallets tucked behind counters or on desks.
10. Lock away personal letterhead and business cards to avoid use by unauthorized people.
11. Mark equipment for easy identification in the event of theft or damage. Maintain an inventory of all marked items.
12. Lock up audio/visual equipment when not in use.
13. Secure spare and master keys in locked cabinets.
14. Protect client information. Most offices keep sensitive personal information on their computers and/or in paper files—names, Social Security numbers, credit card or other account data—that identifies customers or employees. If this sensitive data falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to fraud or identity theft.

(Source: Sonoma County Crime Crushers)

This article is part of the National Association of REALTORS®’ REALTOR® Safety Resources Kit. Visit NAR’s REALTOR® Safety website at http://www.REALTOR.org/Safety for more safety tips.

Last week a listing in Willow Glen was robbed of all staging furniture in the middle of the night. A few weeks ago REALTOR® Magazine reported that the Pacific West Association of REALTORS®, based in Anaheim, Calif., issued a warning to its members to be on alert after a real estate agent and a potential home buyer were robbed at gunpoint by two men during an open house.

REALTORS® are targets of crime because their work exposes them to many unfamiliar people. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, since the foreclosure crisis began in 2008, more real estate professionals have been attacked and even killed while on the job.

The 2011 Realtor Safety Report, a study conducted by AgBeat, Moby and S.A.F.E. (Safety Awareness Firearms Education), indicates the past year saw a rise in crime against REALTORS®, marked by an increase in robberies, sexual assaults and even murders. In most cases, assaults against REALTORS® took place when the victim was alone. The most common guise for getting an agent alone was requesting a tour or meeting the agent in a vacant home.

It is always good for REALTORS® to regularly visit the National Association of REALTORS® REALTOR® Safety website at www.REALTOR.org/Safety and review safety tips. Below are some safety tips to keep in mind.

Showing Properties the Safe Way
• Be sure to use the lockbox property-key procedure that has been established to improve real estate agent safety. A reliable, secure lockbox system ensures keys don’t fall into the wrong hands.

• Show properties before dark. If you are going to be working after hours, advise your associate or first-line supervisor of your schedule. If you must show a property after dark, turn on all lights as you go through, and don’t lower any shades or draw curtains or blinds.

• Try and call the office once an hour to let people know where you are.

• If you think it may be some time before a property sells (and you may, therefore, be showing it often), get acquainted with a few of the immediate neighbors. You will feel better knowing they know your vehicle, and they will feel better about the stranger (you) who frequently visits their neighborhood.

• Prepare a scenario so that you can leave, or encourage someone who makes you uncomfortable to leave. Examples: Your cell phone or beeper went off and you have to call your office; you left some important information in your car; or another agent with buyers is on his way.

• When showing a property, always leave the front door unlocked for a quick exit while you and the client are inside. As you enter each room, stand near the door.

• Lock your purse in the car trunk before you arrive. Carry only non-valuable business items (except for your cell phone), and do not wear expensive jewelry or watches, or appear to be carrying large sums of money.

• Park at the curb in front of the property rather than in the driveway. You will attract much more attention running and screaming to the curb area. It is much easier to escape in your vehicle if you don’t have to back out of a driveway. Also, if you are parked in a driveway, another vehicle could purposefully or accidentally trap you.

(Sources: Louisiana REALTORS® Association; Washington Real Estate Safety Council; City of Albuquerque, NM; Nevada County Association of REALTORS®; City of Mesa, AZ)

 

The business of real estate puts REALTORS® in potentially hazardous situations because a significant part of their work involves meeting with strangers. Every year, real estate agents around the country are threatened, robbed, physically or sexually assaulted while fulfilling the everyday requirements of their jobs. Some even lose their lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the real estate, rental and leasing occupation has seen an average of 75 deaths a year from 2003 to 2009. There don’t appear to be solid statistics on the number of agents who were victims of specific crimes like sexual assault, non-fatal shootings, beatings, stabbings, robbery and carjacking. The latest highly publicized tragic incidents happened in February 2011. According to news reports, a real estate agent in Ottumwa, Iowa, was assaulted and tied up when she arrived at a home for a scheduled showing appointment. Her attackers then robbed the home. Two months later, in West Des Moines, a 27-year-old agent was fatally shot while working at a model home.

REALTORS® can make adjustments to the way they do business and avoid violent crimes by practicing these general REALTOR® Safety Tips from the National Association of REALTORS® and other sources, so you can avoid being a victim:

  1. Always meet a client for the first time in the office. Introduce him or her to coworkers and make it clear that they know you are taking him out of the office. Try to take separate cars but if that is not possible you will have slightly more control if you drive. Also, do not meet a client at the property, particularly if he is calling on a yard sign. He will already have had a chance to note if the property is vacant. Don’t identify a property as vacant to a caller, on an ad or sign.
  2. Get a license plate number and leave it at the front desk. Just explain that it is office policy; a customer who means no harm won’t mind. Leave an itinerary for your house tour with someone in your office.
  3. Agents are vulnerable when they are walking back to and from their car before or after an open house. Park where you cannot get blocked in. Take a few minutes to make sure you have a clear line of sight to your vehicle. Can you see the front door? Are there trees or shrubbery within 10 feet that can serve as a hiding place? When getting out of the car, keep looking around. When you get to the front door, turn around and walk back — are there places where someone could surprise you?
  4. The No. 1 place where agents are attacked during an open house is the front door, partly because lockboxes take time to open. If you are alone, turn your back against a wall to avoid being attacked from behind. If you can, work in teams. Sign up your affiliates, such as a home inspector or title officer, to sit the open house with you.
  5. Never go into certain rooms. When showing visitors around, never go into rooms with no escape routes. These include walk-in closets, bathrooms and laundry rooms, among others. Instead, direct visitors to those rooms.
  6. Establish your escape routes. Walk around the house and notice how to get in and out of rooms. If there is a fence in the backyard with a gate, unlock the gate for easy exit. As another escape route, open the garage door but lock the door leading to the inside from the garage. Direct clients to the front door with signs.
  7. Set up for safety. Hang decorative bells behind every outside door that you have unlocked. These will alert you whenever someone enters the house. Carry only what you need — purses go in the trunk of your car before you leave your house, not when you arrive at the open house. Do not bring your laptop to an open house. Not only can it be easily stolen, but signing on to someone’s unsecured wireless network can open you up to identity theft.
  8. Always carry a cell phone where it is easily accessible (not in the purse you left in the car). Make sure emergency numbers are programmed into the speed dial.
  9. When showing property to strangers, follow rather than lead them through the house. Don’t let them get between you and the door. Never, ever turn your back on a prospect. If a man says, “Ladies first,” to a female agent, the agent should say something like, “You are such a gentleman, thank you. But I really want you to see this home, and if I can direct you where to go, I think you’ll gain a further appreciation for this home.”
  10. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, if anything raises the hair on the back of your neck, escape the situation immediately. Until you really know a customer, remain vigilant regardless of the gender, appearance, dress, or charm.

For more safety tips, visit NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Web site at www.REALTOR.org/Safety.

August 2018
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