I'm proud to live and sell in the Chicago market, and I've been fortunate to be in the top 1% of brokers across the nation, but let me tell you it's not all Mercedes and lunches at RL!
Of all the lessons I have learned in my 15 years as "Melinda Jakovich - Agent to the Stars!" (LOL) one of the most important is to realize that a broker is in a very vulnerable position, and it never hurts to think of safety on the job just like medical workers, construction workers, and anyone else who has risk in their occupation.
Once an agent I know was listing a beautiful home in a top neighborhood of Chicago. She received a call from a prospective buyer who said all of the right things - that he was a serious buyer, that he was financially well off and able to buy an expensive home, that they had mutual friends, the whole nine yards.
He said he wanted to meet her at the home and go through the home for a showing. She was convinced that he was a legitimate prospect, as any of us would have, because he did such a great job of presenting himself, so she agreed to meet him at the home.
Unfortunately, while she was taking him through the house, he robbed her of some valuables, took her cell phone, and threatened her in a very frightening way to make her stay there and give him time to make his escape.
Thankfully, she had a spare phone in her purse, and once she was sure he had gone she was quickly able to call for help.
My assistant and I rushed to the home to assist in any way we could. The police were there and they were doing a fantastic job, the developer came as well, and other friends were there to support her. Thankfully she was going to be ok. Still, it was absolutely horrific to think of how terrible she must have felt during such an event.
The police were very understanding, and made the point that no matter how legitimate someone might seem to be, it is important for brokers to step back and realize the nature of their business - namely that we are usually alone, often in the evening since many of our prospects can only come to a showing after work, and that no matter how presentable a person might be there is always the risk that they could be up to no good.
This is true of showings and also true of Broker open houses, where a broker is there by themselves and might only have one person walking through the open house and no one else around.
This event was a wake up call for me and I hope it will help anyone reading this to renew their focus on safety. I am not the expert, but here are a few tips I have taken to heart:
Don't feel sheepish about having a prospect come by your office to meet you first with other people around
Politely seek references from the prospect, even to the point of asking for a driver's license - legitimate people will not view this as an inconvenience, they should welcome the opportunity to help you feel comfortable
Make sure someone else knows your schedule and what you are doing
It's a good idea to have some backup form of communication
If there is anything that seems out of the ordinary, such as being told there will be a man and wife and only the man shows up, then do what must be done out in the open to make sure things are okay before going into the property with them
Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes in our focus on marketing a property and doing a good job for our client we might not remember to stop and keep our guard up. If this helps any of my fellow brokers to renew their focus on safety I will be thrilled to have helped!