I learned firsthand about the inherent dangers faced daily by real estate professionals, due to the very nature of their jobs. For several years, I was a licensed Texas real estate agent, discovered some dangerous Realtor situations, and learned from the college real estate principles and law I taught. I want to share my real estate, handgun, and concealed carry experiences, opinions, and some excellent safety ideas and tips from Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. I want to thank the National Association of Realtors for permitting me to use their 2018 Realtors Safety Study and J. Dollinger for the excellent assistance for this article.
Real Estate and Other Business Risks
The nature of the real estate business and certain other businesses put real estate folks and others at risk. Some of these risks include:
- Visiting a property in a dangerous area
- Sponsoring Open House and Model Home events
- Visiting isolated locations
- Being alone without a colleague or real estate partner
- Being involved with foreclosures
- Showing properties in distressed or abandoned rough neighborhoods
- Indirectly communicating the perception that you are overly-accommodating and overly-friendly to help sales
These risks apply to various professions and jobs. And a proper self-defense weapon should be chosen. The involved properties and work might be associated with or near high crime and drug use areas.
Criminals are increasingly using social media to track their prey, as agents and other well-intentioned workers leave internet trails on places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While attempting to promote properties and make sales, agents and others announce their Open Houses, Model Home events, and locations letting potential criminals know precisely where they are and at what times. Thieves, murderers, and stalkers can target real estate folks and workers’ activities or even rob their homes when they are away, thanks to the information acquired from social media websites.
These things contribute to safety risks and danger for real estate professionals and other workers:
- Meeting and interacting with strangers
- Meeting in isolated locations
- Meeting at odd or night hours
- Meeting at vacated, unlocked, or unsecured properties
- Meeting with others while alone
Are there Genuine On-the-Job Life-and-Death Risks for Realtors and Others?
Law enforcement, military members, logging and steel workers, construction, and other high-risk jobs have expected risks. But other professions and jobs also incur risks, and some are not usually expected. Unfortunately, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job in 2017. On average, about 14 job deaths occur every day they report.
Sadly each year, there are always at least a few homicide deaths among real estate agents. Statisticians have found that homicides among those involved in real estate are rising sharply for about 1.7 million real estate professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows about 50 real estate folks die each year in the U.S., over each of the past four years alone. ABC News emphasizes that murders of real estate professionals have been on the rise.
If you are a real estate professional, it is crucial for you to understand the risks of usual real estate activities, learn about Realtor safety, and know what you can do to protect yourself. Your broker and real estate company should have existing safety protocols, procedures, and training in place. Other work and jobs should have similar safeguards in place.
What is a “Realtor?”
A “REALTOR®” is a federally registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. They have conducted several objective studies to help Realtors with safety on the job. And I want to share some of their safety suggestions and practices.
Key Findings from the 2018 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Safety Study
A 2018 NAR Safety Study was sent to 53,681 Realtor members, and 3,049 responded; a 5.7% response rate. At the 95% Confidence Level, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 1.77%.
- According to the 2018 NAR study, only 46% of Realtors said their office brokerage had standard safety procedures for agents. 27% of Realtors in the 2018 study said they did not know if their brokerage had agent safety procedures.
- One-in-three Realtors (33% in 2018) said they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their safety or personal information.
- 41% of female real estate professionals said they experienced a personal safety situation, while 20% of males did. Robbery and assault were some of the common situations.
- Locations of personal safety situations experienced by Realtors:
- Suburban area – 35%
- Metro-Urban area – 32%
- Rural area – 33%
- Small Town area – 29%
- 45% of female and 40% of male Realtors chose to carry a personal defense weapon in 2018.
- Self-Defense weapons carried by Realtor males and females in 2018:
- Pepper Spray: 24% Female; 4% Male
- Firearm: 12% Female; 19% Male
- Pocket Knife: 6% Female; 9% Male
- Taser: 7% female; 2% Male
- Baton or Club: 2% Female; 4% Male
- Noise Maker: 4% Female; 0% Male
- The most common self-defense weapons carried by Realtors in 2018 were:
- Pepper Spray– 16%
- Firearm– 15%
- Prefer Not to Say– 8%
- Pocket Knife– 7%
- Taser– 5%
- Baton or Club– 3%
- Battery-Operated Noise Maker– 2%
Keep in mind that a cellphone or smartphone app allows you to contact the police or a designated contact when you are in danger with a location. This may provide a general sense of security. But, they will NOT quickly save you nor prevent harm to you.
Like a flashlight allows you to see your attacker and highlight yourself to the attacker, but offers you little protection. It does, however, serve a useful general purpose. Like a cellphone or app which merely reports and tracks a crime or imminent one and does not quickly solve your problem with direct action that can “save your bacon.”
Reports indicate that the average response time to an emergency police call is about 10 minutes, but this varies a lot, and in some places, it is longer. And most assaults are over quickly in 90 seconds or so. My simple math tells me that you can be killed or seriously injured a lot of times in that 8.5 minutes time spread, before law enforcement or help arrives. Consider what your other timely options against attackers are?
- 47% of Realtors studied in 2018 used a smartphone safety app to track locations and to alert colleagues in emergencies. This is up from 44% in 2017. Many Realtors listed notifying a spouse, friend, or family member of their location before showing a property.
- 56% of female Realtors used a safety app or notification procedure in 2018, compared to 35% of male Realtors.
Selecting a Self-Defense Weapon for Realtors and Others
Sadly, only 45% of women and 40% of men real estate professionals chose to carry any self-defense weapon or tool, as reported by this 2018 NAR Safety Study, down from previous years. I guess that other folks from several different professions and jobs also do not carry any form of a self-defense weapon. For sure, the dangers and risks have not been reduced nowadays, and in this author’s opinion, more real estate professionals and others should carry some self-defense weapon or tool. The risks and dangers are evident, as presented above. But, there is no universal acceptance of this idea of a self-defense weapon, e.g., school districts with the option of allowing administrators or teachers to carry handguns, even to protect students and with specified restrictions.
Sadly, again, I have observed and discovered firsthand that a vast majority of real estate professionals, school administrators, and others do not carry any personal protection tool. Further, I note that many who do use a tool select their self-defense weapon or tool based almost solely on emotions, subjectivity, cost factors, and what their friends and family members believe is appropriate and what they suggest. Some have even told me they do not want to spend the money on a gun and instruction on how to use it, even though they accept the idea of the proper use of a self-defense gun. This makes me question their priorities and the decision-making process. It seems to me that the usual selection process is not objectively-based, not based on thorough and fact-based research, nor rationally and logically sound, for the most part.
Goal: Stop the Threat, Protect Life, Prevent Great Bodily Harm
For me as a trained handgun instructor and experienced military and civilian self-defense practitioner, and school administrator over many years, I immediately think of a handgun as an effective tool to stop the threat (not to kill) and to protect my life and the lives of my loved ones. Keep in mind that to use some self-defense weapons, like pepper spray, a baton or club, pocket knife, and stun gun, you must be very close to your attacker. This proximity increases your risks. Of course, a firearm is a last resort to be used only when a life is threatened and in danger or to prevent great bodily harm. It is not to necessarily be used to defend property, as the use of deadly force to defend real property is rarely justified. Use of a handgun is very situational, depends on several existing and specific factors and the law. And, of course, state laws and jurisdictions vary significantly about this, so check yours.
Use Your Weapon for Defense
One should foremostly leave or retreat from the deadly-force encounter if at all possible to do so safely as a civilian, rather than assume the role of law enforcer or a savior to right all wrongs to benefit humankind or to save the world. De-escalate rather than escalate situations. Again, the specific situation, your state and jurisdictional laws, and the existing variables significantly affect actions. Using a handgun should not be viewed as an indicator of your strength or weakness, power, or self-defense skills or abilities. It should not be brandished nor used by you to aggressively initiate actions to intimidate an attacker nor to threaten someone. It is a self-defense tool. And it is not a sign of weakness if you elect not to use it.
This is a very personal decision, and each individual must decide for themselves what is the best personal protection tool or weapon for situations. And they should be prepared and not hesitate to use whatever they choose to use, given certain circumstances.
For example, your hesitation in using your handgun in a righteous deadly-force self-defense situation could result in injury or death to yourself. Your handgun can be taken from you and used against you. So, decide if you want to carry a handgun for personal protection and further if you can use it quickly and appropriately as necessary. As the Kung Fu Master said to his student “Choose wisely Grasshopper.”
Safety Options and Considerations for Real Estate Professionals and Others
1. To stay safe, meet with clients at the office where others are around. Criminals want a soft target and don’t want witnesses. And consider initially getting a copy of the client’s driver’s license, which might help deter criminals. Also, keep someone informed about your whereabouts.
2. If agents have unsure and mixed feelings about a potential client or upcoming meeting, they should listen to their instincts and ask for a colleague to join them. Real estate and sales representatives are trained to be polite, accommodating, and to positively use sales techniques. They might dismiss or ignore signs that something is wrong and some might misinterpret their behaviors.
Caution: If a real estate or salesperson feels uncomfortable or thinks something might be wrong, it is OK to leave quickly or to contact the home office. Being safe and avoiding a potential attack is always more important than making a sale or being nice to a stranger-client.
3. Agents showing properties and meeting with clients can always record and list the start time and expected end time of activities on company logs and then actually call management when the showing ends. Then if management does not receive a call, the agent can be quickly called. This might be impractical to implement for some, but it is a consideration.
4. Plan ahead, accept that there are evil criminals, be prepared just in case, and recognize that some may want to rob and harm you. Make yourself a less-appealing target, like not wearing expensive jewelry and displaying a strong, self-confident demeanor. Carry an effective self-defense tool.
5. A commercial tracking app and service for cell phones and alert devices can be considered, as a supplemental tool. A safety alert device sends a distress signal to the police as soon as you press a button. A cell phone tracking app allows the locations of agents to be precisely identified and also will enable them to call managers with one touch of a button if they feel unsafe.
6. Seriously consider acquiring a handgun, know the legal aspects for your jurisdiction and state when carrying and using the handgun, take a concealed carry training class to understand how and when to best use your self-defense tool in various situations, and practice regularly with it. After a senior real estate agent was choked and severely beaten with a fireplace poker at a home showing, another agent carrying a concealed pistol and license said:
“I am prepared just in case. If I can’t escape and the bad guy was near me, advanced toward me swinging that fireplace weapon with evil intentions trying to kill or seriously hurt me, I would have drawn my pistol and quickly stopped the threat.” (Of course, there are many factors to consider in this situation.)
Well, I hope this information, opinions, and suggestions help you to decide for yourself what to do and how to protect yourself while during your real estate job or any job. Sadly, in today’s world, there are inherent dangers and risks involved in regular real estate activities and other jobs, so you have to be adequately prepared for your self-defense just in case and to avoid problems if possible. A battery-operated noise maker or small pocket knife may not help you. For your real estate role or any job, carrying a concealed handgun is an individual consideration and a defensive responsibility, rather than an aggressive, offensive action and a very personal decision. You must make your own decision for your self-defense.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2019 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].