Risks are everywhere and in every profession. As a real estate professional, you know the risk involved with meeting new clients, hosting events in homes, and processing confidential information and high-stakes transactions. So there must be new technology that can help agents and brokers stay safe and reduce their risk of liability.
To help real estate professionals feel a bit safer, we’ve delved into the research — along with crowdsourcing insights from real estate industry leaders — to determine which apps and devices are most effective for addressing today’s top safety and security concerns.
Which Apps & Devices Help Keep Real Estate Professionals Secure?
Several helpful apps and systems offer insight into potential clients, access to emergency services, and many other features to help navigate a risk-filled industry with confidence. Some are free of charge, while others include modest fees that many agents are happy to pay for the sake of added security.
We’ve identified top apps and devices based on feedback from real estate professionals, while also incorporating user opinions on each app’s general functionality. Consider adding the following to your download list.
1. Best for Background Checks: TruthFinder
Price: Free to download, but premium plans start at $27.78 per month
Why You'll Love It: Performing a quick background check on clients can help put you at ease before you meet them in person. A variety of excellent background checking apps are available, but many real estate agents swear by TruthFinder. Basic reports on TruthFinder may be free of charge, but they don't skimp on information. As you examine details about prospective clients, you can find accurate information about:
- Current name and any aliases
- Age and date of birth
- Contact information
- Basic information about relatives
If you're like many real estate agents, you'll find these details helpful but insufficient. As such, the premium version of the app may be worth the extra investment. This upgrade grants you insight into:
- Arrest records
- Criminal convictions
- Traffic citations
- Weapon permits
- Mortgages for properties owned
2. Best for Showings & Open Houses: SafeShowings
Price: Free to download, but the Create Showing functionality is accessible with a $49.99 annual subscription
Why You'll Love It: This app came about because of alarming experiences that founder Helen Hudson faced early in her career. Sick of feeling uncomfortable on the job, she did her own research in hopes of finding a reliable method for deterring criminal activity targeting real estate agents.
Designed specifically for real estate professionals who are concerned about security, SafeShowings is easy to use: Simply capture a picture of your client's face as the showing begins. If you fail to press the ”end showing” button within a given period of time, your emergency contacts will be alerted.
By capturing an image of the client, you'll be able to streamline law enforcement activity, if necessary—and you'll enjoy access to an effective deterrent against robbery or other criminal activity that could take place after the showing.
SafeShowings also has an enterprise version designed for teams and brokerages. California real estate organizations may be familiar with the enterprise app due to a partnership with the California Association of Realtors.
3. Best for Personal Peace of Mind: AgentSafeWalk
Price: Implemented and charged at the organizational level, with plans ranging from $169 to $439 per month, depending on how many active agents are enrolled
Why You'll Love It: If you feel the need to go above and beyond with your real estate security protocol, you could be the perfect candidate for AgentSafeWalk. This solution doesn't merely rely on background checks or text alerts to keep you safe; it provides a safety partner who serves as a constant virtual companion during showings. As a result, you'll never again be truly alone during showings or open houses.
In addition to providing digital companionship, AgentSafeWalk adds an element that resembles the aforementioned SafeShowings app: the ability to upload photo IDs of all prospects. Personal contact and emergency information can also be shared. GPS coordinates provide insight into showing locations. In the event of an emergency, this system directly dials 911.
In an endorsement for this product, safety expert and former real estate professional Tracey Hawkins (also known as Tracey, the Safety Lady) explained, "In addition to a GPS component, [AgentSafeWalk] transmits live streaming video of the agents showing, which is monitored by a designated real live person in real-time. The agent only needs to tap a button and open the app."
4. Best for Uncomfortable Situations: bSafe
Price: Free version available, but the best features come with either a 24-hour, 99-cent subscription or a premium subscription costing $19.99 per year
Why You'll Love It: Featuring a variety of reliable safety and tracking features, bSafe stands out among personal security apps because its emergency features can be accessed while your phone is tucked away in a jacket pocket, purse, or bag. A voice-activated SOS alarm can swiftly turn your phone into a live-streaming device, giving close contacts your exact location and even providing them with live video and audio.
While the SOS function is certainly valuable, bSafe also sports several features that are better used in less severe situations. The Fake Call feature, in particular, is useful when trying to bring uncomfortable interactions with potential clients to a swift close.
5. Best for Keeping It Simple: Noonlight
Price: Free to download, with premium features available on plans costing $5 or $10 per month
Why You'll Love It: Perhaps you don't feel that you need any extensive security solutions or systems specifically designed for real estate agents. Still, it's important to be prepared for emergencies. At a minimum, plan to download the bare bones app Noonlight.
Simple and easy to use, Noonlight provides a valuable emergency backup if you require it. Press and hold a button inside the app, and once you make it to safety, release the button and enter your PIN. Should you require assistance, release the button and do not enter the PIN. Authorities will be contacted, and they will know your exact location.
6. Best for Preventing Identity Theft: LifeLock ID Theft Protection
Price: Free, with LifeLock memberships starting at $79.99 per year
Why You'll Love It: As a real estate agent, the nature of the business requires getting your name and face out to the public. Unfortunately, malicious individuals can use this information against you—but that's where LifeLock can come into play. Suspicious activities will prompt an alert sent directly to your phone. Meanwhile, in-app calling allows you to contact a customer representative in the event of an emergency.
The upper-level LifeLock plans provide a variety of extra features of benefit to security-conscious real estate professionals. Fictitious identity monitoring, for example, involves regular scanning for names or addresses linked to your Social Security number. The goal: to prevent suspicious characters from creating fictitious identities with which they can commit fraud.
7. Best for Data Security: Bitdefender Mobile Security
Price: Free, with Bitdefender memberships starting at $14.99 per year
Why You'll Love It: Our phones are filled with sensitive information, not only about ourselves, but also business contacts, clients, friends, and family members. Lock down this critical data with help from the Bitdefender Mobile Security solution. Featuring web protection that prevents sites from accessing your data and a VPN for masking your location, Bitdefender protects your phone against many of today's most alarming cyberthreats.
In addition to its personal security solutions, Bitdefender offers business plans (known as GravityZone) that some real estate teams or brokerages may find desirable. Small office plans are also available; these provide phone-based protection, of course, but they also cover Windows and macOS devices.
8. Best SMS Service for Real Estate Agents: Kitestring
Available On: SMS service - no app required
Price: Free, with KiteString Plus costing $3 per month
Why You'll Love It: Kitestring isn't technically an app, but it’s so useful it simply must be included in any list involving personal security. A simple SMS text messaging service, Kitestring will check up on you after a predetermined amount of time. If everything is going well, you can simply reply to the text and be on your way. If you don't reply to the text, however, Kitestring will notify an emergency contact of your choosing.
SMS functionality, although not as visually impressive as the apps outlined above, makes Kitestring a wonderfully discreet option. While it only allows for three check-ins per month under the free version, a modest fee will grant you unlimited check-ins, so you can build this function into your showing or open house routine.
9. Best for Suspicious Activity Alerts: LogDog
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Why You'll Love It: Real estate agents who are active on social media platforms swear by LogDog. This app will notify you if suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. Support for Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter limits the likelihood that your branded pages and accounts fall victim to identity theft. This system conducts extensive dark web searches to detect dark web credentials, making it a desirable solution when standard antivirus apps fall short.
LogDog also features an Inbox Detective function, designed to sniff out emails with sensitive information like Social Security numbers. This feature will prompt you—and anybody who receives potentially compromised emails—to delete messages deemed suspicious.
10. Best for Home & Office Security: Alfred Home Security Camera
Price: Free, with in-app purchases available
Why You'll Love It: It's important to protect yourself when you're on the go, but it's also crucial to keep your business premises and home office safe from harm. Maintain a watchful eye on your important documents and sensitive information by recycling your old smartphone and turning it into a home security camera. This—and more—can be accomplished with Alfred's Home Security Camera app.
Because it acts as a portable surveillance system, Alfred's is equipped to meet the unique and ever-changing security needs of today's on-to-go real estate professionals. Alfred's software is a breeze to implement. Once it's set up, you'll receive push notifications as soon as the system detects motion. You can even deter would-be intruders by using the walkie-talkie feature to scare them off.
11. Best for SOS Alerts: Life360
Price: Free, with in-app purchases. Paid membership plans range from $4.17 to $16.67 per month
Why You'll Love It: While several of the apps highlighted above are specifically designed for real estate, many agents swear by mobile solutions meant for everyday situations that have nothing to do with real estate. Life360 falls into this category. While it's meant for keeping tabs on family members, this solution allows you to keep an eye on fellow real estate professionals who may feel like family.
The Life360 app places a 24/7 dispatch on call for covered users. Like many personal safety options, the app can send silent SOS alerts with location details. The paid plans are even more useful to real estate agents, as these solutions include identity protection, crime reporting, and location history functionality.
12. Bonus: V.ALRT Personal Alert Button
Why You'll Love It: This device may not be a standalone app, but it remains an excellent solution when you're on the go. Best defined as a wearable alert button, the discrete V.ALRT can be worn on your wrist or carried in any purse or bag. It draws on the power of Bluetooth technology and an accompanying app to initiate texts that send your GPS location to pre-approved contacts.
Although it initially seems similar to other smartphone security apps, V.ALRT excels in terms of accessibility. If you're unable to hold or use your device at all times, you can take comfort in knowing that your V.ALRT button remains readily available.
Why Are Security Apps Important for Real Estate Professionals?
Thirty-eight percent of U.S. real estate agents have "experienced a situation that has made them fear for their personal safety." This statistic caused SafeShowings founder Helen Hudson to create a tool to keep more agents safe with clients and strangers.
Risks abound not only from a security standpoint, but also in regards to personal liability. For example, agents are vulnerable to lawsuits if their clients damage the properties they're shown. Even seemingly minor disputes can lead to huge losses if agents lack sufficient insurance coverage.
While E&O plans can provide financial protection and peace of mind, it's also important to take a proactive approach to avoid being caught in a potentially dangerous situation. Hence, the value of security apps. While these cannot always be counted on to keep real estate agents safe, they provide a valuable layer of protection while also reducing the burden of stress that may accompany regular showings or open houses.
As a real estate professional, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to prioritize personal safety and security. Equipped with the apps highlighted above, you can avoid many of today's security concerns. What's more, these apps will give you much-needed peace of mind. You'll feel confident that, in the worst-case scenario, help will be quickly on the way. Discover for yourself the reassurance that today's best security apps provide.
Image courtesy of iStock.com/anyaberkut