Brokerage

Bad things can happen to good people even if they are armed with a gun or an app

Broker Notebook

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The death of a real estate agent who was murdered on the job led to a raft of articles and emails about apps designed to keep real estate agents safe. Using an app to let friends know where you are may help them find your body, but when they do, you won’t be any less dead.

Apps are handy, but they have some serious limitations. I can control my thermostat and my television from my phone, but I can’t let the dog out or get a snack from the fridge with an app. I can check my bank balances and make a deposit, but I cannot get three $20 bills unless I go someplace where they have actual money, which isn’t at my house.

The apps on our phones and tablets are tools. They cannot replace human judgment, and there isn’t an app that will fix stupid or crazy, so that children won’t be gunned down at school.

I’ve read all sorts of advice to agents about being alert while on the job and paying attention to what is going on around us at open houses and in other job situations. I think that’s great advice, except for the fact in that most situations, agents will be more focused on their phone than on what is going on around them.

As a real estate agent who works directly with buyers and sellers, I occasionally get into situations that don’t feel safe. I have been bitten by a dog while on a listing appointment. I’ve fallen on the ice at a client’s home.

My greatest risk of injury on the job here in Minnesota is slipping on the ice in the dark while showing houses.

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I have met some creepy people and even some crazy people. Some of them had real estate licenses, or homes to sell.

I have met some creepy people and even some crazy people. Some of them had real estate licenses, or homes to sell."

I work alone, and I plan to continue working alone. I don’t think I deserve to die because I won’t work in a group. I notice that plumbers, electricians, mail carriers, police officers, bus drivers and many others all work alone.

I am fortunate in that showing vacant houses to strangers isn’t something I ever need to do to be successful as a real estate agent.

There are some who believe real estate agents will be safer if they carry firearms. I don’t agree.

Last summer a police officer was killed just a couple of miles from my home. He had a gun and knew how to use it. He’d been a police officer for more than 20 years. He died making a routine traffic stop in the middle of the day on a fairly busy street.

If an armed police officer can be killed on the job, there isn’t any app or firearm that is going to protect me from a similar fate. It would have been even easier for the murderer to shoot the mail carrier walking down the street, or a real estate agent inside of a vacant house.

The police officer wasn’t a wealthy person. But he was in a position of power.

Deranged killers can always find a reason for killing someone. Sometimes it’s because they are a blonde woman who makes an above-average income, and other times it is because they are paunchy, middle-aged, male authority figures.

Bad things happen to good people even if they are armed with a gun and a smartphone with a safety app. There’s no real harm in buying one of the many apps that are now being marketed to real estate agents as a way to be safe. But I wouldn’t rely on them, or make them the cornerstone of a personal safety program, and I hope they don’t give anyone a false sense of security.

I really hate the idea of real estate agents being armed. The general public already has a healthy distrust of real estate agents. We are not going to win them over with firearms.

There isn’t any reason to be paranoid. Being a real estate agent doesn’t make the list of the top 10 most deadly jobs. Being a farmer at No. 9 is more deadly.

We need to be careful out there on the job and off. Our eyes need to be off of our phones especially when we are walking or driving and while we are at open houses. We need to stop doing things that are stupid or dangerous.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.