Whenever there’s news of a crime against an agent, the real estate industry becomes inundated by “safety experts.” Suddenly, many speakers pop up on the scene, presenting themselves as real estate safety trainers. But can you rely on the quality of their content?
The U.S. Department of Labor considers real estate sales and leasing a hazardous occupation. For mainstream businesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets the standard for workplace safety. The real estate industry does not currently have such an oversight and enforcement organization.
The National Association of REALTORS® has recently mandated that state and local associations offer a safety activity or program to members. However, there are no set criteria, so associations and boards must determine what constitutes effective, professional, quality programs and training.
What’s more, recent crimes against agents have sparked an interest in safety training among brokerage owners. They’re realizing that even though real estate agents are independent contractors, it serves them to set safe work practices for their office.
Maranda DeSanto, RCE, CEO of Lake Superior Area REALTORS® in Minnesota, advocates for broker-owners to develop formal office safety policies. “[Brokers] decrease liability by having solid policies in place and increase loyalty from salespeople and employees when you show them you care about their well-being,” she says.
But a key concern is the quality of safety programming. Carl Carter, founder of the Beverly Carter Foundation and son of Beverly Carter, a real estate agent who was murdered in September 2014, says there is a lack of standardization among the various safety programs being taught. “This lack of standardization and lack of enforcement of safety protocols has left a vacuum in the industry leading to inaction, confusion, or mediocre training,” he adds.
Brokerages must understand the difference between a trainer, speaker, and educator. A speaker can talk about any topic. A trainer can teach techniques based on the information provided. An educator brings experience, has researched the topic, and uses first-hand knowledge to teach techniques. An educator has the ability to create programs.
A qualified educator should represent a broker’s interests well. The background of the person imparting lifesaving information must be exemplary. It would not serve you well to have someone who’s not qualified in the field of safety training. Agents—especially those who have fallen victim to a crime—and their families may question whether a real estate company has provided a safe work environment. Even independent contractors deserve a sense of security and should be provided tools and knowledge to stay safe on the job. At the very minimum, educators should have past experience in real estate.
In a commission-driven industry, agents are prone to doing whatever they have to in order to generate a payday, which adds to the dangers in this occupation. So, telling agents to never host open houses because of their risks is not practical advice for those who use them as a business tool. Instead, educate agents on how to hold open houses in a safe manner.
A prospective educator should be someone who has immersed themselves in the topic and the field. Subject matter experts know their topic inside out. Your ideal safety educator truly has to have spent time researching real estate safety outside of the classroom. There is value in the educator who can discuss past crimes against agents, one who knows the stories and can use them for teaching lessons. In this critical field, real-life examples help agents relate to the importance of safe work practices.
Hands-on self-defense instruction does not take the place of education on safe work practices. There is a difference, and those responsible for providing training need to know what that is. The goal of safe work practice training is to learn techniques to work in a safe manner—to avoid and get out of dangerous situations. Self-defense training could be a supportive part of a comprehensive safety training program.
Lastly, as you seek an effective educator, you should find someone who can create relevant and up-to-date programs for your company or team. Program content needs to be changed when necessary in order to stay timely. And the educator needs to be well-versed in the criteria to so the program meets the requirements of the state real estate commission.
To assist you in this endeavor, I have created a checklist of key criteria that should be used when vetting an educator. Visit my website to learn more.