After shocking news that a sales agent was sexually assaulted at a Calgary open house on the weekend, taking safety precautions cannot be understated.
REP spoke to a couple of Toronto-based agents who shared some tips to avoiding unwelcome situations during listing showings and open houses.
“In most cases for open houses—and the same goes for condos—I often ask someone from the company to join,” said Lorena Magallanes, co-founder of Stomp Realty. “If there’s more than one person conducting the open house, it’s good because one person can chat with people as they come through the door and the other can keep their eye on the people as they wander through the home. Sometimes you have more force in numbers, whether it’s two females together or a male and a female.”
Listings, however, can be more perilous. Magallanes advises against meeting someone cold without doing basic research, like having a phone call.
“A lot of the time we don’t know who we might be meeting; it could be a male or a couple—we never really know when all the correspondence is done through email, so often I’ve gotten my partner to drive me there to make it seem like someone else is nearby if one of our male colleagues isn’t there with us. When I go for a showing, I prefer having a male with me, whether a colleague or my partner,” she said.
“If someone calls to see a property, I try to feel them out over the phone and see how serious they are. I ask a lot of questions—‘Are you working with a realtor?’ or ‘Have you seen other homes in the neighbourhood?’—and that’s enough to get a feel for them.”
Years ago while working for a different brokerage, Magallanes received a call from someone about whom she felt uncomfortable. She had noticed that his condo had been listed and terminated a few times, and always with a female sales agent.
“I called the last agent and she told me she had gotten a bad vibe from the client and terminated the listing,” she said. “She said it was a good thing that I called and that she wished she had done the same thing I did.”
Christine Cowern, a team lead at Sage Real Estate Ltd., says that showings are riskier than open houses and that she sometimes asks for potential visitors to send a copy of their photo ID or to first meet at her office.
“If someone is of a mindset to commit some sort of assault, you will almost completely deter them when you ask them to meet you at your office,” she said. “I say it’s office protocol with people we don’t know. If it’s someone with ill intent, that will most likely make him or her go away.”
Additionally, Cowern recommends asking a series of qualifying questions, as well. Having a 10- or 20-minute consultation is enough to decipher a potential visitor’s intentions.
Cowern also noted that there are personal safety apps available that can alert somebody nearby should an agent run into trouble. Moreover, Cowern says that agents, male and female alike, should always know the home’s layout before the client’s arrival.
“I like to show up to a property in advance and know where all the exits are. I try not to go into spaces like basements, or anywhere else that I might have trouble coming out of. If a client wants to see the basement, they can go down themselves.”