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Playing It Safe in Today’s Risky Foreclosure Market

Today’s tumultuous housing market can be a dangerous place for the brokers, agents, and field inspectors who must walk into foreclosed and REO properties on a daily basis. Occupied or vacant, these properties represent unfamiliar territory often rife with unknown peril. Whether it is a dangerous occupant, happening upon weapons and/or drugs - the foreclosure market carries with it innumerable hazards to the health and well-being of industry professionals.
Rafael Dagnesses, a ""REOMAC"":http://www.reomac.com member and the REO director and broker for ""Quantum Realtors"":http://www.quantumrealtors.com/ of Southern California, offers the following advice for staying safe in today's real estate environment.
%{=text-decoration: underline; font-style: italic;}Plan Ahead.% Plan for property checks before 2 p.m., after which time criminal activity begins to increase. Before approaching a potentially dangerous property, provide an assistant or colleague with information about the location of the property and planned time of entry. Prepare for threatening situations by developing a distress code phrase to use with family and colleagues. Also, consider leaving the phone on while entering the property keeping the person on the line on standby to call 9-1-1 should an encounter occur.
%{=text-decoration: underline; font-style: italic;}Be Aware.% Prior to entering a property of concern, walk the perimeter to ensure there has not been a break-in. Another red flag to be aware of is excessive foot traffic or bicycle traffic on a residential street during working hours, which is a good indicator of lookouts for drug and/or gang activity. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the property back off and call local law enforcement for an escort.
%{=font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline;}Be Prepared.% Agents should be prepared for possible threats to their physical safety. Pepper spray is an easy-to-use defensive tool and is legal in most areas. Another strong defensive tool is a Mag-Light, which both serves as a defensive weapon and lights up dark areas. Agents should also be prepared to deal with potentially emotional people. In these cases the objective is to slowly and carefully get out - often by talking and distracting the subject.
%{=font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline;}Look Official.% Approach foreclosure properties with confidence and don’t look down. Also, be aware of the property’s surroundings and do not exhibit signs of nervousness. If confronted, stand tall and confident. Remember: criminals are often like animals - show fear and flight and the likelihood of an attack increases. Prior to entering the property, knock very hard. Announce entry with a stern voice and delay entry to give a possible trespasser the opportunity to leave the subject property. Also, wear professional clothing with comfortable shoes that can be used for running, if necessary.
%{=font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline;}Don’t be Afraid to Call the Police.% Too many agents will put themselves in a potentially life-threatening situation before ""bothering"" the police. When entering properties in very high risk areas, do not be afraid to contact the police for an escort. If there is evidence of a break-in, this is another prime example of when one should leave the immediate area and call the police from a safe location. Remember: bad things can happen even in the best of neighborhoods. Good safety procedures should be applied on every property visited.
Throughout his career, Dagnesses has done extensive work in both REO and retail residential sales with over four hundred million in sales, during which time he’s grown acutely aware of the dangers of these properties. In addition, as a former Gunnery Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps., and a 14-year veteran of law enforcement, eight of which were with the Los Angeles Police Department, he is mindful of what it takes to protect oneself from the dangers that may be lurking in REO properties in neighborhoods across the United States.

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.
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