“Who has ever received an online or phone lead and then raced out to show a property with a client they’ve never met?”
That’s a question real estate trainer Tamara Suminski likes to pose to her peers when she teaches industry courses. Typically, every participant raises a hand when she asks. Despite being a normal practice in the business, rarely do such rushed, last-minute showings result in a sale, says Suminski, an instructor for the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation and for safety courses through the National Association of REALTORS®.
“We’re putting ourselves in these risky situations for no reason,” says Suminski, ABR®, CRS, who also co-owns Beach Real Estate Group in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “We want to please the consumer, and we get so excited, we rush out to a property with someone we’ve never met.”
REALTOR® Safety Month may have just wrapped up, but industry leaders urge practitioners to make safety a focus at all times. REBAC has revamped NAR’s safety course, “Real Estate Safety Matters: Safe Business=Smart Business.” The course now includes safety tips during showings, as well as training on what to do in an active shooter situation, how to avoid email scams, and tech tools aimed at real estate safety. The course is available to NAR members for free all year long.
REBAC also has been weaving more safety topics into its Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) Designation Course. Suminski will teach the two-day course during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco this November alongside her business partner, Chris Duff, ABR®, co-owner of the Beach Real Estate Group. Their hope is that real estate professionals will learn smarter and safer ways to conduct business with buyers.
Your Business Systems Can Save You
A third of REALTORS® say they’ve feared for their physical safety or the security of their personal information while on the job, according to NAR’s 2019 Member Safety Report. While some safety threats may be more difficult to avoid than others, many buyer’s agents could do more to minimize their risks, Suminski says. She urges agents to adopt procedures that not only raise their professionalism and help their business operate more efficiently but also reduce unnecessary risks on the job.
Safety is relevant to the ABR® course because it relates to developing your working relationships with buyers, Suminski says. The ABR® course is a two-day class that highlights how to set up your business to market to buyers, outlining everything from the initial buyer consultation to showings, contracts, and negotiations. The consultation is a critical component to safety, Suminski adds. Screening and prequalifying customers, as well as asking them to sign a buyer representation agreement, serve as deterrents to those who may want to do you harm, she says.
She urges requiring clients to set up an appointment to meet in the office or public space first. Those initial meetings allow agents an opportunity to ask a series of open-ended consultative questions that help determine what the customer is looking for and how serious they are about buying. “It’ll also help weed out the extra energy you waste on people who won’t really commit to you,” she says. “The better we get at turning leads into clients, the safer we’ll be, too.”
Suminski advises agents to inform clients during the consultation that part of their office protocol is to have a copy of customers’ driver’s licenses and letters of financing prequalification on file. Also, consultations are an opportunity to present the value you bring to a transaction and ask clients to sign a buyer representation agreement. You may also use the time to notify clients that at showings, you’ll be bringing another person along. For example, you can partner with a colleague at your office to accompany each other on showings.
“By having these systems in place, you make yourself a less attractive target,” Suminski says. “A big part of the ABR® course is learning about the value you bring to a transaction and setting up a business structure to show that. Setting up an appointment beforehand with clients shows you as a more legitimate businessperson because they had to schedule an appointment with you. The ABR® designation gives REALTORS® the confidence to start running their business like a business, to know their value, and to have a good buyer consultation about that.”
Stay Alert to Dangers
Even after an initial consultation with clients, you still need to stay alert to dangers throughout the transaction, including risks to yours and your clients’ personal data. The increase in wire fraud has made agents’ emails vulnerable to hackers. NAR and ABR® courses aim to teach buyer’s agents how they can avoid phishing and wire fraud schemes, and the discussions they should be having with their clients.
The courses also touch on safety matters during showings—another potentially vulnerable point in a transaction. “Don’t go into autopilot mode when at showings,” Suminski says. “Be aware. Showings can be a very risky time,” even if you’ve done your due diligence beforehand in vetting clients that you’re meeting. “When you have a system and professional protocol in place for your business, you make yourself less vulnerable and minimize your safety risk,” Suminski says. “The bad guys—I like to call them ‘creepers’—have a motive to cause us harm. It’s up to us to deny the opportunity.”