REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #5: Making Safety a Year-Round Priority

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Of course we all know that safety isn’t just limited to one week a year - it must become a part of our everyday lives. In addition to the tips we’ve posted here this week, NAR offers countless resources on safety for both REALTORS and their clients. Here’s just a small sampling of what you can find any day of the year:

  • Get your own safety-related products, including a DVD version of the video and publications.
  • Further reinforce the tenets of staying safe on the job, at home, and in the car with A 3-hour online safety course.
  • Test your safety knowledge with an interactive safety quiz.
  • Expand your understanding with resources from other government institutions and police departments.

If you’ve come across any other great safety-related resources we’d love if you shared them here.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:13 am

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REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #4: Helping Your Clients Stay Safe

Education, News 1 Comment »

REALTORS® not only need to be aware and concerned with their personal safety, but also the safety of their clients. As you continually educate yourself on ways to improve your own safety, share that information with your buyers and sellers. They can face dangerous situations as they allow strangers into their homes or visit other people’s property.

Here are some basic points to start with; be sure to add your own as you become more aware through your personal experiences.

  • Remind sellers that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. Tell them to hide any valuables in a safe place, including prescription medications and alcohol, as well as personal information such as bank statements that could be used for identity theft.
  • Warn your clients that not all agents, buyers and sellers are who they say they are. Strangers who stop by a listing unannounced should be asked to make an appointment with the REALTOR®. Stress that your clients should never show a home without an agent present.
  • Inform your clients that they are responsible for their pets. If possible, animals should be removed during showings. Make clients aware that buyers and agents are sometimes attacked, and the owner will be held liable.
  • At an open house, be alert to the pattern of visitors’ arrivals, especially near the end of showing hours. In some areas, a group of thieves will show up together near the end of the open house and, while a string of supposed buyers distracts the REALTOR®, the rest of the group walks through the house, stealing valuables.
  • When you leave a property, whether after an open house or a showing, make sure that all doors and windows are locked. Thieves commonly use open houses to scout for valuables and possible points of entry, then return after the agent leaves.
  • Let your clients know that you will take all of the above safety precautions, but that when they return home, they should immediately verify that all doors are locked and all valuables accounted for.

You might also want to watch and share this short video from NAR, which highlights some of the same tips as well as some other more general safety information for homeowners.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:13 am

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REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #3: Evaluate Your Surroundings Using the 10-Second Rule

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The other day I was backing out of a parking lot and was quite surprised to notice a car parked next to mine as I made my way in reverse. It’s not that the car magically appeared without my knowing it, it’s just that I was too preoccupied to take time to evaluate my surroundings before taking action.

I’m sure everyone’s been guilty of this at some point; we’re all busy and often trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time. But one of the most common reasons that people find themselves in dangerous situations is because they weren’t paying attention. If you follow the 10-second rule, you’ll go a long way toward making sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.

Take 2 seconds when you arrive at your destination.

  • Is there any questionable activity in the area?
  • Are you parked in a well-lit, visible location?
  • Can you be blocked in the driveway by a prospect’s vehicle?

Take 2 seconds after you step out of your car.

  • Are there suspicious people around?
  • Do you know exactly where you’re going?

Take 2 seconds as you walk towards your destination.

  • Are people coming and going or is the area unusually quiet?
  • Do you observe any obstacles or hiding places in the parking lot or along the street?
  • Is anyone loitering in the area?

Take 2 seconds at the door.

  • Do you have an uneasy feeling as you’re walking in?
  • Is someone following you in?

Take 2 seconds as soon as you enter your destination.

  • Does anything seem out of place?
  • Is anyone present who shouldn’t be there or who isn’t expected?

That’s safety in just 10 seconds. It takes very little time to scope out your surroundings and spot and avoid danger. Make this “10-second scan” a habit in your everyday work as a REALTOR.® Then share it with someone else.

REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #2: Safety at Open Houses

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While we’d like to assume that all visitors to open houses are legitimate consumers researching homes for sale, these events also present an opportunity for would-be thieves to evaluate the property as a potential target. There have even been instances of agents being robbed while working at an open house or model home. Last year, an agent was robbed at gunpoint while working at a model home in Bartlett and the thief got away with several pieces of jewelry and her mobile phone.

When working at an open house or model home, take these steps to help protect yourself and the property:

  • If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
  • Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
  • Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
  • Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • Place one of your business cards, with the date and time written on the back, in a kitchen cabinet. Note on it if you were the first to arrive or if clients were waiting.
  • Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and e-mail.
  • When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
  • Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
  • Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
  • Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:53 am

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REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #1: Vacant Properties

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This week the National Association of REALTORS® and associations across the country mark the sixth annual REALTOR® Safety Week. Because of the nature of their work, REALTORS® often find themselves in situations that could potentially pose a threat to their safety. From meeting new clients to hosting an open house, real risks exist that require REALTORS® to approach their daily work with a heightened sense of caution and awareness.

Each day this week MAAR will post various safety tips and resources to inform and remind members about the risks they face throughout the year.

Vacants and Vagrants – Be On the Lookout and Stay Safe

When approaching a vacant property, don’t risk being surprised by uninvited inhabitants who may be up to no good.  Many times vagrants, drug addicts or dealers, or other suspicious and unpredictable characters break into vacant properties and use them for their own purposes.  Heed this advice of Commander A.J. Gwyn, chief instructor of the Southern Crime Prevention Task Force, and stay safe:

  • Before entering a vacant property, always walk the perimeter.
  • Look for signs that someone may have entered the property uninvited (i.e. trash, broken glass or a window or door ajar).
  • If it looks safe, check the door.  If it is closed, but unlocked, DO NOT ENTER!
  • If you suspect someone is in the property, or may have recently been in the property but is no longer there – go back to your car, call the police and do not enter!  Do not enter even if you think the suspects are gone – they may be back soon, or may be waiting for you to go inside where you can easily be victimized.
  • Do not wait for the police at the property – this jeopardizes your safety.  Instead, meet them at the nearest public space (i.e. gas station, coffee shop, grocery store, etc.)

A police officer will be happy to check the property for you, so never hesitate to call if you suspect someone is on the premises.  When possible, bring a fellow team member with you when checking on a vacant property – there is safety in numbers.  By following these basic tips and being prepared, you will increase your chances of avoiding a potentially unsafe situation at a vacant property.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:00 am

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An Overview of Short Sales in Plain English

Education, Market Statistics/Performance, Mortgage Lending 2 Comments »

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® has posted on its VAR Buzz blog an excellent article on short sales that offers someone new to this type of transaction a good overview of the topic. While no article can replace experience, especially when it comes to short sales (where each transaction is likely to be nothing like the next one), this article provides a great foundation or review for any practitioner.

And if you’re looking for more instruction on short sales, register for the August 8 class at MAAR.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 7:42 am

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Short Sales and Foreclosures: Still a Hot Topic

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With all the news (or is it hype?) about foreclosures and short sales, it’s not surprising the topic generated a lot of interest from MAAR members with more than 100 attending a panel discussion today in the MAAR Education Center. The panel - made up some local experts on both topics includeing Jeff Burress of Crye-Leike, Bonnie Garrison of Magna Bank, Kim Hairrell of Crye-Leike, and Joe Kirsch of the Law Office of Shapiro & Kirsch - spent more than an hour and a half discussing issues and answering questions related to short sales and foreclosures.

While foreclosure statistics seem to be a hot topic of debate, according to MAARdata numbers there were 2,198 foreclosure sales recorded in Shelby County during the first four months of 2008, a 12.1% increase from the same period in 2007.

The panelists covered a lot of material; here are some of the highlights:

  • When working with a seller who might be in a short sale situation, find out as early as possible in the process. The seller’s lender must agree to a short sale and that process takes time.
  • When a lender has a agreed to a short sale, the listing agent should consider any MLS rules that might apply and consider getting the seller’s permission to disclose the potential short sale in the REALTOR® remarks section of the MLS listing.
  • It’s often more difficult to complete a short sale on a home with a second mortgage. In those cases not only one but two lenders have to agree to take less than what they’re owed.
  • When working as a buyer’s agent on a short sale or foreclosure, it can take longer to get an offer accepted as it requires the bank’s approval. Bank personnel are often working with hundreds of cases at once so don’t assume yours is their first priority.
  • In cases where mortgage insurance is involved, a deal can fall through even when the lender agrees because the mortgage insurer won’t accept the terms of the sale.
  • Banks are not like other sellers - they’re not likely to negotiate on offers that are much below the dollar amount that they must net in the sale.
  • Cash buyers are not necessarily more attractive to a bank in a short sale or foreclosure situation - don’t assume they can offer much less just because they’re paying cash. The banks don’t care where the money is coming from.
  • Working with foreclosures requires a big investment of the listing agent’s time and money - they act as property managers and any maintenance expenses come out of their pocket up front.
  • In a foreclosure auction, the opening bid is always from the bank or investor who owns the property.

And these points are just the tip of the iceberg. The National Association of REALTORS® offers several resources for members online, and a good starting point is the Field Guide to Short Sales and Field Guide to Foreclosures. MAAR is also offering a class specifically on short sales on Friday, August 8, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 3:47 pm

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