By Tracey Hawkins
In recent months, there has been a spate of crimes against real estate agents, including murder, armed robbery, shootings and alleged racial profiling incidents. On the eve of September—Real Estate Safety Month—it's important to note that male real estate professionals were the target of these recent crimes.
Prior too these recent incidents, there were seven high-profile crimes against male agents within the past 3 years. According to the National Association of REALTORS® Member Safety Report, 15% of male agents feared for their safety in 2020 (compared to 25% of female agents). However, that is down from 21% in 2019.
Here, we'll discuss real-world examples of crimes against male agents and offer my recommendations to help prevent them from happening again:
1. Agent Robbed at Gunpoint
July 2021: In Tennessee, an agent was opening a lockbox to show a home when he was approached by a gun-wielding 18-year-old male who demanded that he run. The agent threw his car keys, fled the scene and the gunman subsequently stole his car.
The police tracked and recovered the agent's car and his iPad (which he left in the car with the location enabled).
- When approaching a property, pay attention to the neighborhood. Scan the area and the community at large to see if there is someone who may be observing you.
- Know your way out of a neighborhood if you need to escape in a hurry, either by car or by foot.
- Utilize technology. Learn about technology, such as Google Maps, to not only help you find your way to and from a property, but to help you (or your car) be located if necessary.
2. Two Agents Shot and a Home Inspector Killed
August 2021: A family dispute over a home sale led to the shooting of a home inspector and the wounding of two real estate agents in California. The agents and home inspector had met the feuding siblings to view the property.
- During the initial contact, determine who will be involved in the process and the motivation for selling. Be alert for potential conflict.
- Use virtual practices learned from the pandemic and talk to the sellers virtually for your first meeting. Get information, discuss your procedure and preview the property before the first visit if possible.
- If you are aware of a possible conflict, discuss a plan involving meeting the parties separately. Also, research private companies that provide security services for the real estate community.
3. Police Hold an Agent, Client and His Son at Gunpoint
August 2021: A Michigan agent was showing a home to his client and his 15-year old son when police officers surrounded the house with their guns drawn and pointed at them. They were all handcuffed.
A neighbor called the police because she thought the house was being burglarized. After the officer saw the agent’s real estate license, they released them with an apology. The agent, who is black, blames it on racial profiling. The police denied it and stated they followed proper procedure, regardless of race.
Female and white agents have since weighed in and shared that they have experienced the police being called on them as well. However, black agents and agents of color express a constant fear of having the police called on them while showing. Some believe that they are racially profiled, feel the need to protect themselves and are always wary of neighbors calling the police.
- Some agents advise wrapping your car or using door magnets with your company name. Others stated that they wear name tags and make it a point to introduce themselves to the neighbors.
- Communicate with the neighbors and police. Make sure the For Sale sign is visible.
4. Agent and His Wife Killed at Their Investment Property
August 2021: A tenant shot and killed a Kentucky real estate agent and his wife at their investment property. There is some speculation about whether it involved a potential eviction.
- Remember to always survey the premises before approaching a property.
- If there has been aggressive behavior, request that a police officer meet you at the property. Knowing that the end of the eviction moratorium is right around the corner and there is a hostile environment for landlords and housing providers, always follow safety protocols for property managers.
Tracey "The Safety Lady'' Hawkins is a former agent and a 26-year national safety expert/educator, keynote speaker, safety content subscription creator, writer and a pepper spray/safety product retailer. Catch her at this year's NAR annual conference speaking about safety and lessons learned. Her site is: safetyandsecuritysource.com.