While many sectors of the economy have been shaky this year (and the service sector has been downright awful), the real estate market has done surprisingly well. Home sales and prices are both at highs not seen since before the Great Recession, but the red hot housing market also has some realtors concerned for their own personal safety. A new survey of the National Association of Realtors finds that nearly half of all realtors are now carrying some self-defense tool while on the job, with some 14% reporting that they regularly have a firearm on them for personal protection.
Columnist Lew Sichelman says that even among unarmed realtors, many are refusing to rule out getting a concealed carry license of their own.
One female agent in Northern California told me that while she and members of her team haven’t carried firearms yet, guns “could be in the future for us.”
Similarly, when a male agent in Maryland was asked if he carried, he responded, “Not yet.” Another man, one who’d been a police officer for 16 years before becoming a full-time agent in Massachusetts, was explicit when asked if he carried a gun: “I own firearms and practice with all the revolvers, compact pistols and semi-compact pistols I own,” he said. “I have a concealed firearms permit. I prefer my S&W .380 ‘Bodyguard’ with a red laser built-in sight. … It is a very concealable weapon I can carry in any season.”
He said his broker’s policy prohibits guns in the office. But does he carry when actually showing houses? “Why would I not?” he said.
The NAR survey found that while only 4% of respondents had been the victim of a violent crime while on the job, almost half of those surveyed said that a co-worker or a realtor they know have been victimized. Several realtors shared stories with Sichelman of running into sketchy situations while looking to make a sale, with one woman detailing a recent situation that left her shaken.
As she tells the story, a man called her out of the blue asking if she remembered him. She didn’t, but he said he wanted to sell his two-acre property. Even though she had no clue who he was, “he talked to me like I had known him for years,” she said. Against the wishes of her now-husband, she went to see the property.
Fortunately, she didn’t go to the site alone; she took along a new agent in her office. When they arrived, the “seller” took them deep into the property, where they saw a house in the early stages of construction. The only thing that was close to being finished was a fully furnished bedroom. The supposed seller kept trying to separate her from her male colleague, but she wouldn’t have it. Then he asked her to come back later, alone. She didn’t. And after the two agents left, she never spoke to him again.
Now she says of the incident: “It’s dangerous. Even male agents are being attacked. … We put ourselves in scary positions all the time.”
We actually had an incident not too far from me earlier this year when a female realtor in Roanoke, Virginia was severely injured by a stranger who attacked her with a blunt object at an open house. The woman ended up in the local hospital, while the suspect is currently awaiting trial on aggravated malicious wounding charges.
Using the buddy system and avoiding showing homes alone is a good idea, but it might not always be practical. It sounds like more realtors are deciding to bring along their firearm while they’re on the job, and I applaud them for taking their personal security seriously.