Preapproval Letters, A Security Measure for Realtors

January 12, 2021

It’s about 10:30 am, and the phone rings. It’s a potential buyer for a property I just listed. He says he has been waiting for a property in this neighborhood to come up on the market and is ready to put down an offer today but he needs to see the property first. As a faithful, good Realtor, I offer to meet him out at the house in 30 minutes, or 11:00 am. He says fine, he will see me there.

I pull up, formally introduce myself, open up the house and start walking him through. He tells me his wife is on her way but she is running late. We get towards the back of the house and, well, I don’t remember anything else after that.

Sad but, this type of story happens, and all too often, Realtors are victims of horrible crimes while showing homes to strangers. Unfortunately, too many of us are more concerned about doing the best for our clients that we sometimes put our own health and safety at risk. The story above is inspired by countless true stories of Realtors who have been abducted, raped, robbed or even murdered.

One of the simplest things you can do as a Realtor to mitigate your exposure and risk is to ask a buyer that you don’t know for a pre-approval letter. It may sound very simple, in fact, you were likely taught in real estate school to never show a home without a preapproval letter because, who do you know they can even afford the home you are showing them but, too many of us don’t do this, we don’t require a preapproval letter.

When a buyer calls into my office and wants to see a home, one of the very first questions I ask are, “Have you been preapproved?”. If they say no, then I inform them, before we schedule a showing through my office, we require a preapproval on file. I do this because when I get my copy of their preapproval letter, I call the lender and ask some simple questions…..

             A: Did the buyer come in, sign and submit his loan application?

             B: Did you verify identity and get a copy of an acceptable picture ID?

             C: Did you verify employment, income, debt, credit and tax records?

I hope that at this point, you understand what I am doing by asking these questions. Sure, I am verifying if the buyer can actually purchase but, I am ensuring that the buyer’s identity has been verified. If I know that the lender has done these things, I can be confident that not only is the buyer able to purchase but, we know who the buyer is in case something doesn’t go as planned.

Finally and maybe the most important piece to my personal security and that is a schedule. So many of us, almost all of us I assume, don’t keep thorough showing schedules. Again, it sounds so simple but, so few of us actually do it. Sure, we may plan out our showing route and sure, we call the appointment desk or the other agent if we are running late or early but, how many of you print a copy of your showing schedule out, with a copy of the buyer’s pre-approval letter and verified contact information, place it on your desk in a file titled, “Today’s Showings”. This additional little process gives investigators a place to look and who to look for in case something goes bad. My staff know that Jesse has his showing schedules and buyer list on his desk in his “Showing Schedule” file so, if they ever need to know where I am and when I am supposed to be there….they just go grab the file. Best of all, it has a copy of my planned route via map quest, the times I expect to be at each property and who I am meeting there. On the outside of my folder are my emergency contact numbers and other vital information about myself.

I know chances are, before the year is out, we are going to hear another story about another Realtor who has been victimized and that breaks my heart. I really hope that more and more of us would do more to take care of ourselves and remember, we can’t be a great Realtor …….. if we aren’t here to be one.

Be safe friends, be smart…..get that pre-approval letter.