Realtors are faced with challenges that many other entrepreneurs do not encounter, safety being one of the number one matters of concern. Why are realtors more at risk? They interact with strangers on a regular basis and often in isolated locations. Many times these properties are cased and specifically chosen by the perpetrator based on the likelihood of not being interrupted or noticed. In a sense, these secluded locations can be looked at as a trap, unfortunately leading to an attack of some kind or even a fatality.
Hundreds of perpetrators were asked what they look for in a victim.
They saw a person who appeared distracted, easy to surprise and simple to overtake.
The person looked weak. Not physically weak; the attackers looked for someone whose posture was cowering forward and looked scared or jumpy.
To predators, this person will most likely be too scared to fight back and give them a “run for their money.” Women and men who stand tall and give off that vibe of confidence and emotional strength were not typical targets that an attacker would spend their time approaching.
What can a real estate agent do to prepare for a situation like this?
The best advice I could possibly give is:
Have a plan and be extremely aware!
At every single open house or property showing, a realtor should ask him or herself, “If I were to run into an attacker, what would my strategy be and what do I need to do to plan for it?”
There are many preparations that can be made to make an attack less likely as well as an escape easier.
The National Association of Realtors offers many wonderful tips to help prevent or handle an attack:
1. Always unlock all deadbolts and handles, and plan as many escape routes as possible on each property.
2. Bring up the rear. Allow your prospective client to walk in front of you, so you have eyes on them at all times. Also, let the client to show themselves a room where there is no escape route.
3. Drive in separate vehicles. Although offering to drive your client may seem like a courteous thing to do, it is much safer to take your own car. We would not let a stranger into our car in any other circumstance, so follow that same rule in this situation as well.
4. Don’t get parked in. It will seem generous of you to offer your client the closer parking spot. Allow them to pull in first and always either park in the street or back into the driveway for easy escape.
5. Have an office distress code. I know one of the local realtor groups in Phoenix has a distress code, which would inform someone at the office that there is a problem without alerting the possible attacker. This group will call the office and say, “Can you please put the RED FILE on my desk?” The key term is “red file.”
I have been educating on street-smart self-defense for over 15 years, which allows me to hear thousands of stories of individuals who were unfortunately attacked. I hear one statement more than anything else: “I wish I had trusted my gut.”
They knew something was a bit off and they did not listen to their instincts. With this in mind, if a realtor has a gut instinct that something is not right, they should always have a preplanned excuse for leaving the property. We often do not leave because of the possibility of appearing rude, but our lives are worth more than an awkward interaction.
I always recommend a realtor work through their day using the buddy system. Have one colleague with whom they connect every single time they go to show a property and have a specified time to check in. Agree in advance upon very clear guidelines to spell out when there may be a problem. For example, have a follow up plan, if they haven’t checked in by a specific time deadline.
One of my favorite phone apps for relators to have is called eMERGE 911. If a realtor were to find him or herself in a dangerous situation, they could swipe open their phone, click on the app and then press the large red 911 button. An alert is sent directly to 911 with GPS coordinates and alerts responders that a problem exists. Other specified contacts can also be preprogrammed in the app. I personally programmed my husband and two parents contact information in the app. so they will receive the same alert. The app is very inexpensive and is tax deductible for realtors, seeing that it is work related.
A bonus tip for those with young children or young grandchildren!:
We’ve all heard a child in public throwing a tantrum. What do we typically do? We walk right past them and let the parent handle the situation. If a child were being approached or attacked by a stranger or predator and they just scream, it may appear that they are just throwing a tantrum and the surrounding adults may just walk on by. The best thing a child could do is scream, “Fire, fire, he’s not my dad” or “Fire, fire, she’s not my mom.” Train your kids to shout this over and over again until someone comes to his or her rescue. Studies have shown that when someone yells the word “help,” people are much more likely to run in the other direction. The word “fire” is more prone to draw people in to the situation. When a child clearly states that the person is not their father or mother, it makes it extremely clear to the adults nearby that the youngster is in a dangerous situation.
According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly 40% of real estate agents reported having been attacked in some way. That is a very high number! I am extremely passionate about spreading awareness in order to lower that statistic and to empower realtors to develop a plan that will ensure their personal safety.
For more information and to learn actual self-defense techniques to get away from an attacker, remember to ask Equity Title how to sign up for one of my Street-Smart Self-Defense seminars.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Rorion Gracie. “Self-defense is not just a set of techniques; it’s a state of mind, and it begins with the belief that you are worth defending.”
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