Sam DeBord's office has always had an open-door policy, where any agent from any company can stop in, use meeting space for client consultations, and make a photocopy of a client’s ID. As managing broker and vice president of strategic growth for the Seattle Homes Group at Coldwell Banker Danforth, agent safety is DeBord’s utmost concern, and he’d rather have agents meet new clients in a secure location than in an empty home.
The threats real estate professionals face on the job—assaults, robberies, cyber hacking, identity theft, and wire fraud—are too severe not to be taken seriously, DeBord says. But when he learned of the brutal rape of an agent in a vacant home in South Bend, Ind., earlier this year, he decided to take safety awareness to the next level. DeBord and Dave Danforth, president at Coldwell Banker Danforth, are hosting a free safety class on Thursday, Oct. 26, for all real estate professionals in their market.
The company is renting out the 268-seat theater at Seattle’s Museum of Flight for the event and has hired Amit Baruch, senior loan officer at Guild Mortgage Company and an experienced safety and awareness instructor, to teach the class.
The course, which Danforth and DeBord intend to be a show of support for the greater real estate community, will go over how to set up logistical methods for staying safe—escape plans, secret distress words, emergency contacts, and open house protocols—as well as meeting clients safely and establishing systems for keeping information and data safe. “It’s about setting up your business to be safe,” DeBord says. As the 2017 president of the Seattle King County REALTORS®, DeBord also has gotten the class approved for three continuing education credits.
The class is an opportunity for brokerages to develop safety procedures, DeBord notes. An example might be requiring new internet leads to provide a photo ID, which, in turn, can make agents feel more comfortable asking for it, knowing that their broker has their back. Plus, this type of event can be replicated in any market throughout the nation. “If you’re putting on classes for your office, all it takes is a little extra work,” DeBord says. “Most brokers know how to get a venue and instructor.”
Some of DeBord’s own agents have had safety scares. A few years ago, one of his agents was holding a high-end open house, and as she entered the front door, a car pulled up with two men—one drinking a beer. “She hadn't been able to even unlock the back door as an escape route yet,” DeBord says. After they followed her into the home, the agent said she needed to text her son. But instead, she texted the sellers, asking them to contact neighbors and have them come over to the open house immediately. They did, and eventually, the men left. “The neighbors said they recognized the men driving around on other occasions, and they seemed to be casing the neighborhood,” DeBord says. “It was a situation where our agent knew immediately that something was off, and she trusted her instincts.”