NAR, Meet NRA… Guns and REALTORS

Over on Agent Genius, there’s a post about some study done as a marketing tool by Moby (the “let people know where you are” app) with REALTORS in mind. Apparently, September is “REALTOR Safety Month” at NAR, and the good folks there have put together a bunch of materials for y’all.

Now, the study apparently showed (I say apparently because I’m not putting my name/email in to download the said study, thereby ending up in their CRM software) that 1 in 4 men REALTORS carried a knife or a gun with them while “on the job”, while only 7% or so of women REALTORS did so. Lani Rosales, the Editor-in-Chief of AgentGenius, writes:

The above chart outlines Canadian and American answers and although we knew a small portion of real estate professionals would indicate carrying a gun, especially those practicing in the foreclosure or short sale markets, but despite a massive disparity between men and women regarding carrying a gun or knife on the job, it is extremely intriguing that one in four male Realtors indicate they carry a knife or gun while on the job. One in four women carry some form of pepper spray while only five percent of male Realtors do.

The major differences between the behaviors between male Realtors and female Realtors is highly intriguing, but it is most interesting that such a high number of men carry either a knife or gun while they are on the job.

I’m not sure what Lani finds interesting about the difference, but what I find interesting — nay, disturbing and of great concern — is the fact that only 5% of women REALTORS carry a gun while working. If anyone should go about with a concealed firearm while working, it is the female REALTOR.

Violence Against Real Estate Agents

One of the very first posts on Notorious R.O.B., written in February of 2008, was in reaction to the horrifying story of the murder of Lindsay Buziak, a 24-year old REALTOR in British Columbia. She was stabbed to death in a vacant house she was showing to a mysterious buyer who lured her to the high-priced listing:

Rumours circulating in the real estate industry say Buziak was lured to the house, through a phone call on Saturday from a woman with a strong Spanish accent who asked to see properties in the $1-million price range. She allegedly told Buziak she intended to buy that day. Later, Buziak reportedly received a phone call from a man who said he alone would meet with her.

Buziak told friends in her Re/Max Camosun office that she was uncomfortable about the appointment.

The police have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the Buziak murder.

In 2006, Sarah Anne Walker, a real estate agent working for a home builder, was stabbed 27 times and murdered while she was at the model home doing her job. Her murderer, Kosoul Chanthakoummane, apparently targeted real estate agents specifically:

Even more disturbing, the day before Chanthakoummane’s savage attack on Sarah Walker, he had approached another onsite agent…claiming that his car had broken down and asking to use the phone. According to the agent’s statement, he became frightened of her dog and ran away in a fury. Thankfully, she was unharmed and capable of identifying Chanthakoummane from a police sketch…which directly led to his arrest and conviction for Sarah Walker’s murder. Police believe that Chanthakoummane specifically planned to target real estate agents.

Ashley Okland

In April of this year, Ashley Okland, a 27-year old  of Des Moines, Iowa was found murdered in a model home. As of August 8th, there have been no arrests and the police continue to look for clues and leads.

And here, in a post on AOL Real Estate touching on safety, are the stories of Andrew VonStein and Vivian Martin, both of Ohio, who were found murdered in homes they must have been showing.

Then there’s this 2010 story about a horrifying rape of a real estate agent in Orange County, CA. You have got to admire the unnamed victim for her courage, but feel absolute horror at what she had to endure:

She described pleading with her attacker.

“I said I had just dropped my son off at school and didn’t kiss him goodbye,” the woman said. “I didn’t care what he did to me. I just wanted to go home to see my son.”

Yates has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. He could face multiple life sentences if convicted on all charges. His attorney reserved an opening statement until after the prosecution’s case.

According to the woman, a man who identified himself as “Ron Jones” arranged to see the Silvestre Court house at 10 a.m. March 7, 2008. She identified Yates in court as the man.

After walking through the house, the man ordered the woman to the ground while pointing a pellet gun at her. He bound her wrists and ankles with tape and stole her keys, purse and phone.

The man held the gun to the back of her head while he raped her.

Afterward, he beat her on the head with the pellet gun until it shattered and said, “I’m going to kill you now.”

“I was thinking if he was going to rape me, I can deal with that,” the woman said. “I’m not going to let him kill me without fighting. I’m going to go down on my terms, not his.”

The woman started scratching, punching and biting the man while he choked her and pulled a knife, she said.

She tried to barricade herself in the bathroom but he overpowered her. She begged him to let her pray and die in peace.

She said she pretended to be dead after he stabbed her in the neck and side and then left the house.

Yeah, that’s right — the scumbag stabbed her in the neck and left her for dead. Thank God that she survived. Otherwise, she too would be yet another victim of an unsolved murder.

If that’s not enough, you can Google the terms yourself until you are satisfied. 18 real estate agents were victims of homicide in 2009.

Fact of the matter is, real estate agents are uniquely vulnerable. Their whole job revolves around meeting strangers in empty houses. Because of the nature of the business, which necessarily takes place out of the office, there’s no real way not to place one’s self at risk. Furthermore, because real estate is so driven by personal lead generation, by personal marketing, bad guys are easily able to identify victims, stalk them, and get to know all sorts of things about real estate agents that they could not with other professions. Think about it. How many lawyers or dentists put their smiling photographs on every business card? How many real estate agents do everything possible, from personal websites to FaceBook pages to other active social media, to put themselves out there on the ether to generate interest and inquiry?

Those tactics, so useful for cultivating relationships with bona fide legitimate clients, are a real point of vulnerability when it comes to criminals.

At What Price Political Correctness?

So it’s a great thing that NAR is trying to raise awareness about safety with the REALTOR Safety Month. However… I’m just absolutely befuddled and amazed by the near-religious refusal in any of the materials to discuss the single best option for self-defense: firearms. Here are just a few of the guides by NAR produced for the REALTOR Safety Month:

Pick any of them. Read through it. All of these are short, so you can quickly absorb it. See if you can find any reference whatsoever to getting yourself a gun.

I am not a gun owner (yet), but is it really that difficult for even the most leftist-minded person to admit that for a small woman of maybe 110 lbs, there is absolutely nothing better than a gun to defend herself? Guide to choosing a self-defense course is great, and if a REALTOR has black belt in jiujitsu after a dozen years of intensive training, I’m sure she’d have little to fear from the 6’2″ 260-lb guy who’s trying to stab her to death… but supposing that a REALTOR doesn’t have the time to devote herself to becoming a martial arts expert, in between showings, marketing, family, having a social life, and so on… WHY WOULDN’T YOU ADVISE HER TO GET A GUN?

A Canadian commenter on AgentGenius mouthed off about the horrible gun culture of the Americans. You know, I’m sure Lindsay Buziak and her family and friends, all good Canadians I’m sure, all wish that she had been armed the day she was stabbed to death. Gun beats knife, every time.

Some of the “safety measures” being advocated by NAR are borderline ridiculous in their uselessness. For example, from “Safety at Property Showings”, we get

“When you have a new client, ask him/her to stop by your office and complete a Prospect Identification Form (an example of this form is online at, preferably in the presence of an associate. Get the client’s car make and license number.”

Right. We work in an industry where agents don’t want to ask potential clients to register on a website before providing them listing information, for fear that the prospect would find someone else who doesn’t have the “forced registration” thing going. But the advice is to have Mr. Buyer stop by the office and complete an ID form, with a witness present, as if you already suspect that he’s going to rape and murder you? Oh, and ask him for his driver’s license number? That’ll work great for qualifying leads.

How about this one:

“Try and call the office once an hour to let people know where you are.”

Great advice, since most rapes take at least three hours to complete, and stabbing someone a dozen times or so would surely take time.

Or this one from “Safety at Open Houses”:

“Place one of your business cards, with the date and time written on the back, in a kitchen cabinet. Note on it if you were the first to arrive or if clients were waiting.”

When you’re on your knees begging your attacker to let you live so you can go see your son that you had just dropped off at school, as the unnamed rape victim in California had, that business card in the back of a kitchen cabinet will really come in handy.

And then, my favorite advice of all:

“Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.”

Defend myself, if necessary, with what??? The business card in the back of the kitchen cabinet? The iPhone with which I’ve been calling the office once an hour, on the hour? Guess what — there ain’t no app for that!

In fact, quite a few of these “safety tips” read more like “tips to help the police solve your gruesome murder after the fact” than actual safety tips.

This is, plainly put, political correctness gone wild. Most of the safety tips are sound, solid advice… but there has to be at least some concession made to reality that when worse goes to worst, and you’re really in a dangerous situation, a gun will be a girl’s best friend. NAR should add at least some sort of tip admitting that yes, as regrettable as it may be, the single most effective form of self-defense for a woman ever invented is in fact a firearm. A gun is the great equalizer, and how big he is, how much stronger, how much faster don’t matter if the petite little blonde is armed.

This sort of PC madness isn’t just some typical real estate internal politics BS, or some big brouhaha about RPR or some such. People have already died, at least in part because of this industry, because they are real estate agents. NAR recognizes it by the fact that it is having REALTOR Safety Month. Well, can we get over whatever personal hangups we might have about guns, and recommend the best course of action for people? Someone’s life may very well depend on it.

Which then leads us to…

The Notorious Safety Tips in Honor of REALTOR Safety Month

Get a gun.

Get properly licensed and trained. Learn how to use it.

Carry it with you when you’re working. If you are fortunate enough to work outside of Illinois, then you have the Constitutional right to concealed carry. But check the local firearms laws.

Unlike the fevered imagination of some, carrying a gun while working does not mean you show up to greet your new buyer brandishing an AK-47. People need never know that you’re packing, unless there’s a reason for them to know. Especially if you’re a woman, and you have a purse with you.

Brokers, Associations, other groups — you oughta think about getting in touch with your local NRA chapter and arranging for a seminar on the proper use of firearms for self-defense. Moby might be a useful tool to let people know where you are, but Moby can’t dissuade a wannabe rapist-killer to leave you the hell alone quite the way Smith & Wesson can. Or if need for actual force does arise, Moby ain’t gonna stop that murderin’ bastard from stabbing you 27 times. At best, it’ll help the cops locate your body.

I’ve been fortunate enough in this industry to have made a number of friends who are real estate agents. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. I beg you, please, please go get yourself a gun, get trained, and start carrying it. I know you might not like guns, I know you might think you’ll shoot yourself or a loved one. Get proper training, be careful with them, but have one.

Pepper spray is good; glad to see that many women REALTORS carry that while working. But there’s a reason why police officers carry both pepper spray/mace and a firearm: it doesn’t work on some people. Often, those are the very people you want it to work on. Read the reports of the police officers themselves, and realize that even when pepper spray did work, it took five, ten minutes for the chemicals to kick in….

And while both men and women can become crime victims, women are at far greater risk for obvious reasons. But even non-obvious things make you more vulnerable: advice like fleeing the attacker and escaping is difficult to follow if you’re in a skirt and high heels.

This got long. And the topic is none too pleasant. Yet, this topic goes beyond your typical industry analysis, my typical happy doomsayer stuff about the world, and fun posts on 80’s new wave music. This goes to my friends, those I’ve met and those I have yet to meet, being safe.

Because when seconds count, the police are mere minutes away.

Be safe, you guys.



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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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