August 20, 2013 in Investing In Real Estate
10 Safety Tips for Real Estate Investors
It’s pretty easy for folks in real estate to get complacent when it comes to safety. Our natural inclination is to trust people. But I believe that real estate investors are actually at much more risk than the average Realtor.
Realtors Have an Edge
If you are a real estate agent, you can have clients meet you at your office. By meeting these folks in advance, you can “pre-screen” them before you ever begin the process of showing them property. Some of the steps you can take would be to copy their driver’s license, have them fill out some basic customer/client information and introduce them to a co-worker. Realtors are able to verity their client’s identity to some extent
The vast majority of real estate investors don’t have an outside office, so this is much tougher to do.
More often than not real estate investors will be meeting someone at a property, and they have no way of pre-screening this person ahead of time except on the phone. Women are especially at risk in this business, so it pays to take some simple precautions.
So How Can You Stay Safe? Here are 10 Safety Tips for You
Just by being more aware and taking a few precautions you can help ensure your safety.
1. Tell Someone
Always tell someone where you will be.
My daughter is my “go to person” for this. I tell her where I will be going and who I will be meeting. She also knows the time I will arrive, and the approximate time I will be finished. I make it a policy to call her when I am leaving the property. If I forget to do this, she always remembers to call me within 45 minutes to an hour just to check in. For added protection, I also leave a copy of the filled out “Property Information Sheet” on my desk in my office. That sheet contains the information about the person I am meeting as well as all of the property information.
2. Take Someone with you
Never meet someone in a questionable area alone.
Let me start out by saying, I don’t buy houses in bad areas. But every now and then I get “cornered” into looking at a property I really don’t want to look at. Maybe it is at the request of a seller I have worked with before or it is a referral from a friend or colleague.
When this happens, I call one particular friend and I take him with me to look at a property in a less desirable location.
Never go alone to a bad area, and be sure the person you take is someone that can provide protection if you need it.
3, Dress Appropriately
This comment is for women. I always wear something conservative and very casual (typically nice jeans), and I like to have pockets to hold my essentials. Unless it is really, really hot I will almost always wear a jacket for the extra pockets.
Leave the jewelry at home, and wear flat shoes. This is no time to get all dressed up in high heels and fancy attire. Expensive jewelry can make you a target. And like your mom always said, be sure to dress for the weather. If your car breaks down or you need to get out of a dangerous situation on foot, be prepared by being dressed correctly.
4. Leave Other Valuables at Home
I can put this bag across my body leaving my hands free. It will hold a flat wallet for my essentials (driver’s license, insurance card etc.) and a few dollars. I can also get my camera, a flashlight and other things that I may need in this bag.
I try not to carry any credit cards, but if I do I only carry one. If anything were to happen, I could cancel one card quickly and easily.
5. Keep Your Phone and Your Car Keys in Your Pocket
I never keep these in my bag. They are always in my pocket.
If something were to happen, you want to have these on you at all times. If you have a garage door opener I would even go so far as to say to leave your house keys off your key ring when you show property.
6. Put a Lock Box on the Property
Lock boxes can save you trips to the property.
If I am wholesaling a vacant house, one thing that is always in my contract is that I have permission to put a lock box on the house.
Here is a disclaimer though; I only give the combination to the lock box to other investors I know. A lot of older homes even if they are in bad shape still have copper plumbing in the house or other things that could be stolen.
7. If You Must Meet Someone You Don’t Know…
Open the door and let them go in and look around.
Many times I will wait outside. If it’s cold, I might even wait in my car especially if I have any “funny feelings”. This is a good time to write down the make and model of their car and get the license number if you can. Trust your gut on this one.
At other times I will follow them in and wait at the front door especially if it is a family looking at the property. Never go into a basement, the 2nd floor or other area where you could be cornered. No exceptions. If you decide to walk through the house with the person(s) you are meeting, don’t be the first one into any room or confined spaces. Always have a way out.
I still think the best rule best rule to follow is to wait outside or just step inside the front door. Safety first!
8. Car Safety
- Follow common sense rules.
- Keep your doors locked when you are out and about.
- Make sure your car in good running condition
- Always park in well-lit areas
- Don’t pull into driveways first; you don’t want to get blocked in. It’s better to park on the street
- Take note of your surroundings before getting out of your car
When I first look at a property, I always arrive at the house a little bit early drive around the neighborhood. Notice whether you feel safe. Does anything look odd or out of place? Is this a neighborhood where other people will want to live?
One time I arrived at the property and it was at the end of a dead end street. The house a couple of doors down from this one had a lot of junk and trash in the yard. There were a lot of people “mulling around” the house across the street in the middle of the day. This group probably included about 8 or 10 men.
I never got out of my car. I knew there was no way I would be able to easily sell this house to another investor.
9. Guard Your Personal Information
Follow 3 simple rules when designing your marketing materials.
- Keep them professional and don’t share too much personal information. I feel the same way when it comes to photographs. Leave the kids pictures off of your marketing materials.
And this one is for the ladies; don’t use those sexy “glamour” shots you so often see women putting on business cards and marketing materials. You want to be known for your expertise and your professionalism. Prevent yourself from being singled out by someone because of the way you portray yourself in photographs.
- Never tell people you don’t know where you live, and only put your business number or your cell phone number on your business cards and other marketing materials.
10. Don’t Get Too Comfortable
This can be dangerous.
Like a lot of other investors, I have noticed over time I have gotten more comfortable with showing property to strangers, and this is not necessarily a good thing. You need to always keep your guard up when putting yourself in this situation.
It’s not always easy to identify danger, so trust your gut feelings. If you have any apprehension or feel uncomfortable for any reason these are signs and signals that something isn’t right.
Do you have any safety tips to share? I would love to hear from you.
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