Most of us brokers are now seeing 40-50% of our inquiries coming in from online leads, and every day we are taking risks with these unknown prospects.
A Realtor’s Recipe for Disaster:
1. An online lead just contacted you because they saw something that just came on market and they want to get in to see it right away before it’s gone.
2. You’re in a hot market, and the likelihood of that happening is pretty high. You book the appointment for that same day, and voila!
3. You just put yourself in an extremely vulnerable situation that not only could bring great harm to you, but even could cost you your life.
Stranger — Danger!
Taking a complete stranger into a confined space, alone, is never a good idea. We get so caught up in this fast-paced business that oftentimes we skip the security measures we should have in place to verify who we are actually meeting with OR we are willing to take the risk because they “seem legit.” Both are big no-nos, so what are we to do? Most of us try to meet with them in the office first or at least in a public setting prior to a private showing. However, even that is not efficient, given our time constraints. In our industry, criminal and financial verification efforts have not been widely used mainly because of the time it took and the costs involved. We do not have the luxury to wait for days to find out results of background checks. Plus, they get pricey.
A Solution for Your Safety
We have the right to verify the person we are doing business with, and now there is an app that will do that for us — and it does it in seconds! Download the Forewarn app and know who you are engaging with. It’s been a total game changer for me, because now I can go into my showings with a higher level of confidence for my safety knowing who I am meeting. Individual plans are $20/month, and some associations are now offering it for free as a member’s perk, so see if yours does.
How it Works
When a prospect calls you, you reverse the incoming call, and instantly the app will search for criminal history, past and current bankruptcies, and current assets, including vehicle and property ownership. Forewarn claims that they are able to identify 90% of the prospects with a phone number. But if they aren’t able to find someone, this doesn’t necessarily mean this prospect isn’t legit. You can also verify by using additional information, i.e., email addresses, full names, etc., and with that, they claim they can identify up to 98% of people. If you search missed calls that may have come in from telemarketers, it will show up as “Record Not Found,” as the number needs to be owned by an individual.
Forewarn is also very strict about limiting these searches for professional uses only. They retain the right to conduct random audits of their subscribers’ usage, and if it’s discovered that it’s being abused, the subscription will be canceled. I’m OK with that; it helps protect one’s privacy. There have also been complaints about getting accounts activated, but it’s mainly because they need to also verify you to make sure you are a licensed agent, as this app is designed for our industry. I also had trouble getting my account set up. However, with a phone call to customer service, it was taken care of. So, stick with it, because it is worth the effort.
No More Excuses!
So, now there is no reason not to take this extra step to verify who these strangers are prior to meeting them and potentially putting our lives at risk. There is no one solution that can keep us 100% safe. At least now with Forewarn, we have a tool that can provide an extra layer of protection. It is cost-effective, is quick and will assist us in making more-informed decisions regarding who we are meeting — and ultimately keep us safer. That is what it’s all about!
Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at anne.luxhomechicago.com.