A little while back, I was shooting a vacant home for a local property manager. About 30 minutes into the shoot, the front door gets busted open and I find myself standing there, camera in hand with 5 guns pointed at my head. Turns out there was a silent alarm that the property manager hadn't made me aware of and the owner of the property had no idea anyone was going to be photographing the property so when the police called to inquire about the alarm he simply stated that it must be a break in.
I was pushed up against the wall, told that I was being arrested for felony break and entering; cuffed, and placed in a cop car. It took about half an hour before the police, homeowner, and property manager were able to connect and confirm that in fact, I was just there doing my job and there was nothing to worry about. This was a huge learning experience for me. Thankfully, the situation ended with no major issues (other than a dirty set of drawers) but it could have very easily gone the other way. We've all seen videos of people being mistakenly shot by law enforcement and if I remember correctly, a real estate photographer in Atlanta was shot by a homeowner back in March of 2018. These are real, tangible risks in our profession, and we need to be diligent to ensure our safety.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when shooting a vacant property:
Note: If you show up to a property that is supposed to be vacant but there are people inside, DO NOT ENTER! Turn around and call the booking client.
If PFRE members have anything to add to this list, please don't hesitate to comment below.