There are guidelines for acceptable workwear in any profession, and the property preservation industry is no different. When you are out in the field, you represent your client (the mortgage company), and while you may work on your own on a day-to-day basis, you are still ultimately working for someone else.
The standard in this industry is casual dress. This often translates as cotton khakis and a long- or short-sleeve polo shirt. Avoid any branding or logos unless it is the name of your business. Any outerwear such as sweaters, jackets or coats should be professional in appearance, so choose sober colors such as beige, navy blue, or black. Be sure to choose styles and colors that are not flashy or intimidating, and avoid any obvious jewelry – a wedding band and a watch is probably all you should be wearing in the field.
Sneakers are not acceptable. You should wear work shoes or boots with a plain and professional appearance that are hard wearing enough to serve the purpose. It is a good idea to find a shoe or boot that is slip resistant with a good solid sole to protect against possible nail puncture etc. You never know what kinds of surfaces you will be walking on, and I have been on many construction sites where there is mud, nails, holes, and other hazards to contend with.
It can be difficult to keep your hair looking tidy when you are working in the elements and are in and out of your vehicle many times a day. Wherever possible, try your best to appear groomed. Keep a brush or comb in the car, and avoid wearing hats or sunglasses while working in the field. One exception to this would be to wear a warm hat when you are completing an inspection on a vacant home in winter, but you should not go up to someone’s door or make contact with mortgagors while you are wearing a hat or sunglasses. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What appearance would you be expecting from a representative of your mortgage company if they showed up at your door?
A note on expense: You will find yourself in some pretty messy situations at times: rain, mud, dirty houses. It is often possible to get the uniform you need in very good condition from second-hand shops and save yourself quite a bit of expense. I go through uniforms like crazy, and you can never predict an exploding pen in the pocket, mud stains on the bottoms of pant legs, or the occasional coffee in your lap. Constantly getting in and out of a vehicle puts a strain on clothing seams as well, so be prepared for your uniform to rip a couple of times too. Getting the clothing you need for a fraction of the cost will make it much easier to see them quickly ruined, which they surely will do in this business.
Quite often, the purpose of your visit to a property will be the result of circumstances which are not the most pleasant for the occupant. They may have defaulted on their mortgage payments, gone bankrupt, or be heading toward foreclosure. They may even be a tenant who has no idea why you are there. They may be afraid of being made homeless because their landlord has not paid the mortgage even though they have been paying their rent. Of course, you cannot give any information to a tenant, so this situation can be frustrating for them.
For most people, these situations are emotional rather than financial. Understanding their reaction and adjusting your demeanor accordingly is important. Different people will respond differently to these situations, and while I am no professional in this area, I have developed an appropriate demeanor that has worked very well for me in avoiding trouble even with very angry homeowners or occupants.
I keep my voice low, my tone steady, my posture unintimidating, and I always remain polite. It is really that simple. In all my years doing this work, I have only come across a few very difficult occupants. If your calm and respectful behavior is not enough to keep a mortgagor or occupant from becoming hostile or threatening towards you, simply thank them for their time and leave the property.
I always try to be respectful and compassionate. These people are most likely going through a tough time; try to remain humble and empathic. Put yourself in their situation. It could easily be you – how would you want to be treated?