Real estate is a high-value, high-risk business. You’re not selling trinkets; you’re selling properties worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Oftentimes the sale or purchase of a home represents your client’s nest egg. Your clients trust your agency with their personal and financial data, and your employees expect to stay safe on the job. One slip-up could cost your agency litigation fees, stolen or damaged property and intangible reputational damage that lingers for years to come.
Your reputation is your main bargaining chip. Want to build trust with clients and employees alike? Then follow these tips for staying safe in real estate.
When it comes to protecting for-sale properties, using an electronic lockbox system helps property owners boost security and keep track of who has visited their property. Since realtors have to follow MLS rules for showing appointments and using the residential keys, it helps cut down on the chance that someone unscrupulous gets access to the property. That way there are no surprises on either end; only approved parties gain access to the property.
Along with keeping properties safe, your agency must prioritize the safety of its team. Avoid showing a property alone, and always meet at the office for the first time. Once there, you can ask for a prospective client’s personal information, collect identification materials (like driver’s license, employer information and how to contact them) and introduce them around the office—a smart way to lessen the risk that they will attempt to commit a crime. It’s also important for agents to show properties in the daylight and to let at least one colleague know their schedule ahead of time.
It’s horrible to think about, but real estate agents have been injured, robbed or even kidnapped on the job. Anything that your agency can do to ramp up personal safety for your employees will help you conduct business as usual and avoid any unfortunate accidents.
Risk used to be primarily physical: Someone could break into a home, steal a key or rob a real estate agent. But now, cyber criminals are using the internet to steal valuable personal information that they can later sell or exploit. Real estate agencies should work hard to protect passwords (and change them regularly), train employees on how to avoid phishing schemes and invest in online security tools that help them protect sensitive information. Any emails—no matter how realistic looking—asking employees to wire money or send passwords to recipients are likely part of a scam. These emails often imitate familiar senders, which is why employees should always call or text the “sender” to see if they actually sent an inquiry or if it’s a malicious phisher simply assuming their identity.
As Deloitte outlines, one large real estate investment trust experienced a hack on its PII (personally identifiable information) and key company information a few years ago, resulting in a $2.8 million price tag for investigation and identity protection services.
Something as simple as an employee opening an email virus in an attachment can put your agency at risk. And oftentimes, after a cyber breach happens, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly when or how. It helps to centralize client communications with CRM for real estate so you can build relationships with clients and track their movement through the pipeline instead of trying to keep track of hundreds of email threads the old-fashioned way.
There are many ways to establish security and stay safe in real estate, each step as important as the last. Nothing is paramount to the protection of your team, clients and properties, so prioritize security in everything you do.