When I decided to go into the real estate sales business last year, I knew that my new career would include certain risks. A big interest-rate run-up could send sales tumbling, for example, or I could get sued if I screw up a deal.
The thought that I could get killed, however, never crossed my mind–until I read about the recent murders of two different agents in separate parts of the country.
As Inman News reported earlier this month, a suspect has already been arrested in the shooting of Garland Taylor, an Albuquerque Realtor who was found dead in a luxury home where he had held an open house earlier in the day.
Just a few weeks earlier, the body of L.A.-area Realtor Julia Buchanan “Deede” Keller was found in San Diego, wrapped in a yellow blanket and stuffed inside the trunk of her car.
No one has been arrested in Keller’s murder, which suggests that her killer is still on the loose.
Certain types of professions have clearly known risks. I know several cops and firefighters, and every single one of them will admit that they don’t go to work each day without thinking–at least for a few moments–that some idiot with a gun, or a house-fire “with a mind of its own,” might claim their life in the hours ahead.
Millions of medical professionals also go to work each day, but are trained to put on masks, gloves and take other precautions to make sure they don’t get a potentially deadly disease.
Construction-workers slap helmets on their heads before they go to work, while celebrities prefer to call their personal bodyguards to keep them safe.
Realtors, however, don’t have such luxuries.
When I think about the recent murders of my Realtor colleagues, I also think about how a large part of my day is spent dealing with total strangers–whether I’m knocking on doors in the hope of getting a listing, or answering phone calls in the office for a property that my brokerage firm recently advertised.
It’s a business where success is partly based on your ability to turn “strangers” into “friends” who will trust you enough to help them sell a home or buy one. Wearing a helmet or flak jacket to the first meeting with a potential client wouldn’t be particularly conducive to that goal.
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Still, the murders of the real estate agents in Southern California and New Mexico have really scared me. I can’t help but think that if it could happen to them, it could happen to me.
Other agents are thinking the same thing. Over the past few weeks, at our office’s water cooler or at open houses, the chatter seems inevitably to drift toward the murders–and the steps each agent is taking for protection.
Some are simply making sure that their office manager or other agents know where they’re going to be at different times of the day.
Others are taking it a step farther by providing their manager or colleagues with the name and phone number of clients they’re supposed to meet outside the office.
Two female agents I know have recently started bringing an assistant or one of their kids to the open houses they hold, because police say that predators are less likely to strike when their potential victim is not alone.
And yes, some agents are buying handguns–or slipping the ones they already own into their sport coat or purse.
The National Association of Realtors recently published a checklist of measures that agents can take to safeguard themselves when they’re working at the office alone, hauling around a potential buyer or showing an open house that they have listed.
Those steps range from keeping a fully charged cell phone at all times to avoiding wearing “flashy or expensive jewelry [that] might attract the wrong kind of attention.”
All of NAR’s tips are useful. But I cannot avoid the irony that my trade group’s annual “Realtor Safety Week” begins on Sept. 12, one day after the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks that claimed more than 3,000 lives on the East Coast.
The brave police officers and firefighters who perished that fateful day certainly knew about the typical dangers of their jobs. But there was nothing they could do to protect themselves against a single-minded murderer like Osama Bin Laden.
Being a Realtor isn’t nearly as dangerous. But the point is, no matter what precautions I take on my job or you take on yours, we’re always going to be vulnerable to someone with a gun, or switchblade or even a mere box-cutter.
If Garland Taylor or Deede Keller were alive, they’d probably say the same thing.
Got tips, ideas or advice for the Rookie Realtor? Send them to Rookie@inman.com.