While we may not like to discuss it, the fact of the matter is that there are risks involved in being a real estate agent. Agents are often called upon to show vacant homes to strangers, conduct listing presentations at a stranger’s house, or host open houses alone. Recent events involving Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter who was kidnapped and killed showing a vacant, bank-owned home to a stranger and a California real estate agent who was assaulted while securing the lockbox on a new listing have put safety at the top of everyone’s mind.
In this article, I’d like to show you a couple of tools available on your phone that you can incorporate into your safety strategy. As a disclaimer, the apps and tips in this article will not keep you safe. As Inman contributor Theresa Boardman points out, mobile apps are not the solution to safety. These are merely tools that you should consider adding into your overall safety plan. I encourage you to first follow the safety guidelines and requirements provided by your office along with your association, whether it be at the local, state or national level. If you’re office or association doesn’t have safety guidelines in place, then take the steps to develop your own safety plan. Your safety is ultimately your responsibility. Before delving into some of the tools available on your phone, here are a few articles and resources that can help you to develop a more comprehensive safety plan.
- Safety for REALTORS® (compiled by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®)
- Realtor Safety: Helpful tips for keeping safe on the job (compiled by Louisiana REALTORS®)
- Safety Awareness for the Real Estate Professional (compiled by the Georgia Real Estate Commission)
Both Android and iOS devices have location sharing capabilities that allow you to share your location with specific people. Sharing your location could be one way to have people check-in on your whereabouts in addition to the occasional text message or phone call. You may even find some uses for the location sharing outside of business, such as trips to a shopping mall or crowded amusement part.
While there are many apps and services that will allow you to share your location, I am going to stick to two methods provided by Apple and Google. Since these companies control the operating system of the phone, it’s a way of limiting the number of companies who can access my location. So yes, I am a little paranoid about privacy.
Messages in iOS 8
If both you and the person (or people) you want to share your location with have iPhones with iOS 8 installed, you can share your location using Messages. Simply select the conversation with the person (or group) that you want to share your location with, press ‘Details’ in the upper right corner, and on the next screen select ‘Share My Location’. You will then be asked if you want to share your location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely. You can disable the location sharing whenever you like.
For a more in-depth description with pictures, see this article courtesy of the site WonderHowTo: How to Send & Share Your iPhone’s Current Location in iOS 8.
For a solution that works across platforms, you may want to try Google+. Google+ is that “other” social network that hasn’t really caught on, but there are some useful things you can do with it. One is the ability to share your location with a set group, or a circle in Google+ terms. Of course, anyone you want to share your location with in this fashion has to have a Google+ profile setup for this to work.
Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you can follow these instructions which Google has put together: Share you location with Google+.
Here’s the video they created that shows some of the other uses for location sharing:
As with location sharing apps and services, there are quite a few apps that cater towards personal safety. I am going to highlight the Guardly app here, since they’re business is built around security and safety. However, if you aren’t comfortable or don’t like Guardly, there are a number of other apps, along with wearable technology solutions, mentioned in the Inman article: Real estate agents using apps, wearable tech to stay safe.
Guardly is an app designed specifically with security in mind. Its safety features are easy to engage. When you open the app, it immediately start a countdown timer, at the end of which an emergency alert is sent to your family and friends contact list that you setup when you download the app. Cancelling the alert takes you to the preferences screen where you can access Guardly’s other features, or you can manually send an alert to any contact list you’ve setup.
In addition to alerting friends and family in case of emergency, the app can also automatically connect with emergency services, provide real-time location tracking, and allow you to activate an emergency beacon in the form of a loud whistling sound. Some of these features are part of Guardly’s paid service, which costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. You can get more details as well as watch a promotional video at their site by clicking here.
This article is not meant to heighten paranoia nor should it induce fear. I decided to write this because I’ve met a lot of outstanding real estate professionals over the last ten years who I care about, many who have become close friends. By providing a few tips and suggestions, I’d like to encourage them to incorporate the tools available to them through their mobile phone. However, and most of all, I’d like to strongly recommend they take their safety seriously and make it a priority to create or adopt a safety strategy if they don’t already have one in place, regardless of whether it involves the use of technology or not.