Is your colleague packing? Not filling boxes to help clients move, but “packing heat” – as in carrying a gun?
Many agents are doing just that these days to protect themselves when showing houses to complete strangers, or listing houses for sellers they aren’t familiar with, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Of the 3,000 members who responded to NAR’s latest safety poll, 14 percent said they carry a firearm on their person. Male agents were more likely than their female counterparts to carry a gun; women overwhelmingly preferred to carry pepper spray.
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.
Who Feels Safe – and Who Doesn’t
Overall, the NAR survey found that half of all agents carry some kind of self-defense weapon. But only 38 percent said they have taken a self-defense class.
Just 4 percent of the respondents had actually been the victim of a crime, but nearly half were aware of crimes committed against their fellow professionals. And that’s what has another Maryland agent concerned.
“Each report of a Realtor getting attacked makes me a little nervous, as this is one of the most dangerous professions there is,” she told me.
Still, this agent, who has a concealed weapon permit, doesn’t want anyone to know if she’s carrying or not because “it could put my life in danger.”
Another female agent has the same concern, saying she had considered carrying a gun but was “afraid it would be turned against me.”
Both of these women say they are very cautious about listing and showing houses.
“I do so much background checking on everyone I’m meeting, and make sure that people know who I’m with and where I’m going,” said one. “If I’m ever not 100 percent comfortable, I make sure to take someone with me.”
“I try to use my intuition and my New York street smarts when showing homes,” said the other agent, adding that she has had “a couple of close calls.”
One instance caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand up.
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.”
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at email@example.com.