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Agent safety: is it the end of the open house?

MAIN IMAGE: Herschel Jawitz, CEO of Jawitz Properties; Keith Wakefield, Chairman of Wakefields Estate Agents

Buyers want to view a property before they buy, it’s a logical, common-sense request. Sellers want to host an open house to attract these buyers, nothing wrong with that either. However, crime is a fact of life, not just in South Africa, and hosting an open house can place agents in dangerous situations.

Keith Wakefield, Chairman of Wakefields Estate Agents shares that, ”Crime in the country doesn’t only concern estate agents but all citizens that come into contact with the public.  Crime must be stamped out- for the good of the entire country and economy”. While it is certainly true that no one seems to be immune to the criminals that plague our country, agents and candidate practitioners need to take heed of the vulnerabilities of hosting open houses where members of the public are actively encouraged to walk in, often with little to no security measures in place.

The price of doing business?

“The residential property market has always relied on show days as an integral part of the way we do business. The fact that buyers can get the opportunity to view the property, ask questions, get a feel for the home and the surrounds, contributes enormously to the effectiveness of the sale. The same applies to viewings with an individual buyer. Since Covid, there are definitely fewer show days, however there is always a risk to the agent”, shares Herschel Jawitz, CEO of Jawitz Properties.

Wakefield concurs, “As we know, show houses and in fact showing properties, is what our business is all about, very few people will buy a property without viewing it, even with the latest social media vehicles available these days. Show houses is one of the best ways to market a home to several potential clients in the shortest possible time”.

How can agents protect themselves?

“We have over time looked at ways to reduce this risk such as reducing the show day times to an hour or two which means that there may be more visitors in a shorted period, leaving the agent less exposed. Agents will also ask to have access to the owner’s armed response”,says Jawitz.

Wakefields shares that “Prior to lockdown, we had our security company involved with our agents through an app and all our show houses were recorded with them on a Friday- so that if any agent had problems on a Sunday, then they had a panic button to notify and call the security company.

During lockdown, show houses virtually stopped, but as it is such an important marketing tool, show houses are once again, becoming the norm in marketing a property. Wakefields are therefore once again engaging with our security company to re-instate the app for agents’ protection”.

He continues to advise that in addition, when agents select a property to put on show, they should also enquire as to what security system the property has and get the details of the panic facilities if available to utilise if needed.

Another tip is to encourage more than one agent to sit on show, or for the agent to get a family member to sit with them.

Importantly, Keith notes Wakefields also asks prospective clients for proof of ID, before entering the property.

A final option would be to show houses by appointment, if a potential buyer has given an agent their cellphone number and arranged a specific meeting time, it also cuts down on the risk.

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