There are a lot of benefits to holding open house events. From enticing otherwise hesitant buyers to getting more eyes on a property, open houses are a vital tool in the realtor’s toolkit.
The problem is that there are safety issues inherent in open house events. Real estate agents often manage open houses alone, and that can put them in a high-risk situation. They may be meeting potential buyers they have never met, or find themselves in situations where their health is at risk.
Whatever kind of property the agent is trying to sell, health and safety management is vital to get right. Realtors need to appreciate and understand the risks.
Realtors are often alone, and an open house may not always be full of real buyers. As crowds start to drift away, stragglers may have ulterior motives. A 2019 report revealed that there is a rising number of attacks on real estate agents.
To make open houses safer, real estate agents need to understand the risks and protect their safety. Here are some management tips for prioritizing physical safety during open houses.
- Have a fully charged phone with emergency numbers on speed dial
- Don’t use personal photos on your website or include personal contact details (use your office address, not your home address)
- Lock all entry points to the house apart from the main entrance to more effectively manage clients
- Meet the neighbors
- Dress smart, but avoid expensive jewelry and accessories
- Learn some basic self-defense
- Wear company ID, or use a branded company vehicle if available
- Plan an exit strategy
- Make your whereabouts known to loved ones
Women are at higher risk of being the victim of crime during an open house event, with 25% of female realtors reporting that they have felt unsafe during open houses. For male and female realtors that are spending time alone with strangers in an empty property, being aware of your instincts is often vital. If you start to feel uncomfortable, use your planned exit strategy.
When it comes to protecting health, Covids is certainly the high-priority risk right now. Although there is a sense that the pandemic is coming to some kind of conclusion, there are still steps to take to protect yourself against it. For real estate agents, an open house can be a petri dish for Covid, with multiple strangers in an enclosed space.
The key to protecting your health against Covid is to follow the general guidelines that have been in place since the pandemic started. That means the following.
- Ask viewing parties if they have shown any symptoms and get them to self isolate if they have as bookings can always be rescheduled
- Use virtual viewings where possible
- Keep distant from property viewers as much as possible (one-metre+) through crowd control methods such as stanchions and queues, and encourage mask-wearing
- Avoid shared car journeys to the property with clients
- Have sanitizer available before and after viewing the property and encourage its use (or have soap and water available with disposable towels if sanitizer is not available)
- Have a limit on the number of people who can enter the open house at any one time
The pandemic has had a massive impact on the real estate market and continues to do so. Protecting your health and that of your clients during open house events is just as important now as it was at the start of the pandemic.
A risk assessment needs to be carried out on every property that the realtor puts on their books. The problem is that too many real estate agents consider this a one-and-done task. To be effective, risk assessments need to be conducted regularly.
While a lot of risk assessments over the last few years have been focused solely on Covid, traditional health and safety also need to be reassessed. Accidents and injuries during an open house can leave realtors open to legal claims. Open houses often draw high traffic, increasing the chances of an accident.
From a health and safety perspective, all risks need to be identified and addressed. Each will need to be looked at closer in terms of:
- The severity of the risk
- The value of the current controls of that risk
- Steps to better control the risk
All risk assessments vary, and the level of detail that goes into each assessment will depend entirely on the level of risk or the type of hazard; for example, a fire risk. In cases where a serious risk has been identified (such as poor structural integrity of a property), call in experts for more specialist advice on your best next steps.
It’s important to carry out risk assessments regularly. There are lots of reasons why a realtor might get sued, but a bodily injury during an open house is certainly going to result in a legal claim of some kind. That’s why so many real estate agents will take the time to clear debris from paths, shovel snow, and salt ice before an open house.
Health and safety management in real estate has always been essential to get right. Facing more threats than ever, and with a housing market that faces an uncertain future, realtors need to stay safer than ever. Develop a robust health and safety management routine that keeps you and your clients safer from any threat.
Know the risks, have a safety plan in place to protect against those risks, and make every decision with health and safety in mind. It could even be the key to making that next sale.