The Chicago Association of REALTORS®, the “Voice for Real Estate” in Chicago since 1883, represents over 17,000 members from all real estate specialties including commercial sales, development, property management, appraisal, auctions and residential sales.
Open houses are one of the best ways to bring new clients in and sell homes quickly. New faces are often exciting and come with opportunity, but REALTORS® should always be on guard for possible dangers. Hosting a safe open house is easy with preparation and the right tools.
Get to know the area the home is in and prepare for any emergencies that could arise. Check the home from across the street and notice the lighting and if your car could possibly get blocked in. While you are there, notify neighbors about the open house and invite them to attend. This is not only a friendly gesture but means neighbors will be more alert and aware of strangers in the area and anything out of the ordinary.
After you’ve familiarized yourself with the neighborhood, your next stop should be the home itself. Make yourself aware of the exits and if any should be locked or unlocked during the open house. Take note of conversation pieces in every room in case you need to prolong conversation. Also notice cell signal strength in different areas of the home and if you may need extra precaution in those areas.
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself is to make others aware of your whereabouts. Start by letting friends and family know about the open house and its location. Pre-program those contacts’ numbers into your speed dial in case of emergency.
The Homesnap Pro app has a Safety Timer feature for safe showings. You choose the location of your showing, how long the showing should last and then enter your emergency contacts to be notified should the timer run out. We all know showings can run long so the timer is adjustable based on your needs. You can also send a text to your emergency contacts with a quick tap of a button.
Another great option is a new tool, the Guard Llama. The Guard Llama is a small handheld device that connects to your phone to track your location, retrieve any medical information you provide and offer a photo. Guard Llama is ideal for REALTORS® to keep on hand at open houses in case of an emergency because a simple push of a button will alert an emergency dispatch center and your emergency contacts — no fumbling to unlock or dial your phone. Two clicks on the button will alert police three times faster than your phone would allow and is also discreet.
Start by reminding the sellers to put valuables in a safe and secure place, and ask them to remind neighbors about the open house. Be sure to reaffirm the security code with the sellers and arrive early to survey and double check the entrances. If possible, park in an area where your car will not get blocked in.
Create a sign-in sheet for visitors, whether electronic or on paper, to not only contact them later but also to be aware of who is in the house at all times. Greeting visitors will help you get to know possible buyers and be aware if anyone suspicious stops by.
When showing visitors the home, walk behind them and direct them as they go. If possible, avoid smaller spaces like attics and basements where you could become trapped. This way, the potential buyers not only get to explore more on their own, but you get to keep your eyes on the situation at hand at all times.
Scheduling friends or co-workers to stop by can be another way to ensure safety at your open house. If they can’t make it, communicate frequently with technology by giving them a call during the showing or schedule them to call you. This lets visitors know that others are aware of your whereabouts and could sway them from doing any harm.
During the open house, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. If something or someone feels off, take extra precautions. Answering visitors’ questions with follow up questions is a simple way to learn more about them. For example, if they ask “Is this property vacant?” You can follow with, “Are you ready to move in?” or “Are you preapproved?” This allows you to better understand their intentions and where they are in the buying process.
Double check that the property is vacant before closing up the house. A simple trick can be to pretend like you aren’t closing alone, saying aloud something like, “Mike, go check the other bedroom.” Not only can this ease your fears, but this could also deter any unwanted danger.
Start closing in the back of the house and work your way forward so you can leave through the front door. When you are finally closed up, take a few extra glances around to notice any strange cars or people that could be lurking in the area.
Having a safe open house is easy with a few extra precautions! Take the time to get to know the home and neighborhood, program emergency contacts to your phone and let them know of your whereabouts and take advantage of new safety technologies for an added layer of protection.