Being a real estate agent is a risky job, as these professionals often meet in empty houses with prospective clients whom they have never met before. They regularly drive strangers in their cars and hold open houses that attract people off the street.
The National Association of Realtors revealed that more than 300,000 Realtors – or about 73% of its members – across the U.S. reported fearing for their safety during the past year, according to the trade group's Safety Residential Report.
According to the study, 75,000 Realtors reported being a victim of a crime in 2023, with 7% of criminal activity occurring at an open house or showing. Thirty percent of Realtors who were victims of a crime said that the incident occurred after receiving threatening emails, text messages or phone calls.
More than half, 55% of Realtors surveyed, said they carry self-defense weapons, and 67% of Realtors use a safety app to track their whereabouts and alert colleagues in case of an emergency.
Safety in the real estate industry is such a big deal that the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors has joined the National Association of Realtors in recognizing September as Realtor Safety Month to promote safety awareness.
"We want everyone to be safe," Jim Hamilton, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors said. "A common reason people find themselves in dangerous situations is because they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Knowledge of important safety tips can build awareness of potential dangers and save lives."
Geoff Fahringer, a Realtor, safety instructor and former law enforcement officer, shared tips on the importance of being aware of one's surroundings with the National Association's 1.3 million members this month during a safety webinar.
"Situational awareness," he explained, does not mean being in a state of paranoia.
"It just helps you become aware of your surroundings and be prepared with a plan so in case something horrible happens, you know what to do or how to get out," Fahringer said.
Fahringer suggested ways agents can enhance their situational awareness, as well as effective safety techniques to help them identify possible threats and manage risky circumstances. These situational awareness techniques can be applied by anyone, including real estate agents, co-workers or family members.
•Don't Set Yourself Up. Watch how you carry yourself. Walk with confidence. Keep your head up, your eyes and ears open and your hands free.
• Prepare a plan for different threatening situations. Safe words can protect you against scammers or other danger. Select a secret word that will signal a danger and alert your family or colleagues to walk away or call for help without alerting the threat. Fahringer warned that new artificial intelligence advancements are now being used by scammers to clone people's voices. A safe word can make sure the person calling you really is that person.
• Do a mental rehearsal. Visualize what you would do if you found yourself in different threatening situations at different locations. What would you do if someone entered your home or accosted you at your car? Fahringer said there have been cases of victims being so scared they forget how to dial 911.
• Take control. Never fear you are overreacting or embarrassing someone. Your safety is of major concern. When faced with a situation, take control, Fahringer said. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in a situation, leave.
• Be alert and notice who and what is around you. Spot potential hazards when returning to your car, when you are in a parking lot or parking garage, or when you're stopping for gas. Check the nearest exit when in a restaurant or a mall. Being oblivious to your surroundings, texting or talking on the phone while walking can make you easy prey to a predator. Fahringer stressed that wearing headphones while walking or running takes one of your biggest assets away – that of hearing what's around you.
• Use the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) Loop approach. Developed by John Boyd, a military strategist and colonel in the U.S. Air Force, the four-step OODA Loop approach explains how agility can overpower raw power in dealing with human opponents. Here are the steps:
Observe – You recognize a threat.
Orient – Move away from the threat.
Decide – Grab someone’s attention or call out to someone as if you know them.
Act – Make noise. Whistles or small air horns are perfect noisemakers.
• Educate yourself. Find more personal protection resources and more safety tips here.
Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR) is a professional trade organization representing 5,000 Realtors and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.
The term Realtor is a registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and who subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.
There's more ...
Looking for more real estate stories? Read Embarcadero Media's latest Real Estate headlines.