March 9th, 2016
Last time, we looked at the safety issues in meeting new clients. This week we’re going to review the safety issues with marketing real estate and protecting your personal information.
When crafting your marketing information for a listing, never advertise a home as “vacant.” That’s a green flag to squatters, burglars, looters and smart teenagers looking for a party house. And you don’t want to run into them when you take someone out to view the home.
And keep things professional looking. While flashy may get attention, some predators target real estate agents, especially females, they find through the agent’s marketing.
Marketing materials that contain photos of yourself may attract the attention of criminals. Police have found criminals circling real estate professionals' photos in newspapers and marketing materials (Read one agent's account of this.)
Women should avoid provocative photos in your marketing such as low-cut blouses, full-body photos, and looking over your shoulder in a sexy way. They can send the wrong message to criminals. Believe it or not, some people might misconstrue the message that you’re looking for a date. Some real estate agents believe it detracts from the marketing message and advise against ever using a photo for business reasons. If you insist on posting a picture of yourself in any of your real estate advertisements, make sure that your attire is professional.
Real estate agents make a living meeting complete strangers in empty houses. If someone is a bit off balance and sees your photo and if you're exactly what they're looking for -- whether that be an older or younger agent, blonde hair, blue eyes, whatever -- they know all it takes is one phone call to meet you alone in an empty house.
So watch what you wear both in pictures and when meeting clients. Only wear shoes that you can run in. Avoid short skirts, low-cut tops, and expensive jewelry. Predators don't have the same boundaries as we do.
Use a separate cell phone number and office address in your marketing so it can't be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. You may also not want to give out your personal cell phone number either. You could sign up for a Google Voice number that’s separate and will call your personal cell phone. You can also sign up for a service like Ring Central to have a toll-free number that can also act like a fax machine.
This can't be traced and prospects may appreciate the free call. You can have calls to this number automatically forwarded to any phone. Alternatively, you can block your own phone number from showing up on caller ID. Ask your telephone company if they can permanently add caller ID block to your line. (Note that they may charge a fee for this service.) Or you can dial "*67" before you dial the number. If you have caller ID blocked permanently, dial *82 to unblock for a given call.
Also, don't reveal to your client personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with. You can still build a positive relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal details. Unfortunately, we live in an age where even the smallest amount of personal information can be used for criminal purposes.
Concentrate on your professional proficiency rather than personal information in newspapers, resumes and business cards. Limit the amount of personal information you share. Don't use your full name with middle name or middle initial. If you can’t list your office address then you’re best off listing no address.
And do check your credit report regularly to ensure your personal information hasn’t be stolen.