Yep, we’re dipping our toes into the gun debate.
How can we not? It’s tough to deny that real estate is a dangerous field. Real estate agents meet up with strangers in unfamiliar, confined locations on a regular basis. A self-defense strategy is an essential part of any real estate agent’s toolbox.
But is a gun really the best way to protect yourself as a real estate agent? Let’s look at five factors agents should consider when deciding whether to carry a weapon.
Factor 1: Is real estate really that dangerous?
The real estate, rental and leasing industry averaged 77 work-related deaths per year from 2008 to 2011. Of the 60 fatal injuries reported in the real estate industry in 2011, half of those deaths were homicides. Take a look at a few of those deaths:
- Ashley Okland, a 27-year-old real estate agent, was killed inside a West Des Moines, Iowa model home in 2011
- Ann Nelson, a 71-year-old real estate agent, was killed while showing a Wisconsin home in 2008.
- Andrew VonStein, a 51-year-old real estate agent, was shot dead by a disgruntled client in a “for sale” home.
In each of these situations, a real estate agent was meeting a client in an empty home. It’s what real estate agents do nearly every day.
And it’s the perfect setting for an attack: An empty home, isolated from onlookers. Yes, real estate really is that dangerous.
Factor 2: Does a weapon enhance real estate agent safety?
Those working in a dangerous field must prioritize safety. But do weapons actually make a person safer?
- A weapon could be an agent’s best line of defense. It’s lethal force, all right. Nearly 15 percent of male agents and 5 percent of female agents choose to carry guns on the job.
- Weapons make agents feel safer. A majority of Americans (51 percent) believe having a gun in the house makes it a safer place to be. Not a huge stretch to imagine those folks also believe carrying a weapon imputes safety.
- There is a risk of accidental gun injury. The large majority of accidental shooting deaths in the home are from guns kept in the home, says the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
- Guns don’t deter crime. One study of programs that train citizens to use guns found that guns did not reduce crime.
- Guns may not be the best tool for self-defense. Yet another study finds that having a gun does not necessarily reduce the risk of being a victim of crime.
Factor 3: What do other folks in the industry say?
The gun debate is a hot one, and several real estate insiders aren’t afraid to voice opinions on the matter. Let’s take a look at a few of those:
- “…supposing that a Realtor doesn’t have the time to devote herself to becoming a martial arts expert, in between showings, marketing, family, having a social life, and so on… why wouldn’t you advise her to get a gun?” –Rob Hahn, founder of real estate consulting firm 7DS Associates
- “As time goes by, I meet more and more real estate agents who have also gone the extra steps of getting their concealed handgun licenses (CHL), and taking responsibility for their own self-protection.” Linda Walker, Ohio real estate agent
- “Recently I was asked to do an open house at a foreclosed property. I didn’t like the look of the property when I arrived. I unlocked the door, peered inside, and then relocked the door and left. Would I have stayed if I’d had a gun? No. No matter how you feel about guns, they should not be used in lieu of common sense.” – Yvonne Aileen, Principal Broker, Portland, Ore.
Factor 4: What weapons are available?
Concealed weapons are available to permit-holders in 49 states. Illinois, the last hold-out, has recently passed a concealed-carry bill through legislature, but at this writing, the bill hasn’t been signed into law by the Illinois governor.
But maybe you’re not quite ready to pack heat. And that’s okay. Consider these other options:
- Mace or pepper spray: Some states restrict the amount of pepper spray/Mace a person can carry, but most don’t require a permit to carry defense spray.
- Taser: Tasers can be legally carried without a permit in 43 states, but are prohibited in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, as well as in certain cities and counties.
- Knife: Nearly 10 percent of male agents and 2.2 percent of female agents say they carry a knife on the job.
Remember that the most dangerous weapon is one used without proper knowledge. Should you decide to carry a weapon, take a safety training course and always practice safe handling methods.
Factor 5: What are your other options?
Carrying a weapon doesn’t make you invincible. Whether you carry a weapon or not, make sure to also follow these safety tips:
- Let at least one person in your office know where you are and when you’ll be back.
- Don’t agree to a private showing unless you’ve already met a client in your office.
- Bring a co-worker along whenever possible.
- Take a self-defense class.
- Read these additional safety tips.
The bottom line is that in real estate, we all need to prioritize our own safety. No one else is going to do it for us. Choose a safety protocol that fits you, and be vigilant.
Safety first, and safety last.
How do you protect yourself?
Let us know in the comment section!