If we could show you the most dangerous pattern that you as a real estate professional perform during the duties of your job, what do you think it would be?

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Our interactions with those who have experienced predatorial attacks while doing their job have shown that many of these violent encounters have one thing in common. Have you ever considered what that might be? Or do you have the “it will never happen to me” approach to safety measures and protocol?

Arriving at the front door of a property listing, your excitement gets the best of you. Is this the one they will buy? Without a thought, you turn your back, you bend over to open the lockbox, and leave your prospect standing inches behind you while you unlock the door.

Do you see your pattern yet?

With the door unlocked you stand back and let your prospect walk in, but before they begin viewing the home, you quickly gain that lead position in front of them, because you need to ensure they know this room is the kitchen and that is the living room. Has it hit you yet, that everyday action you perform on your job without a thought? We are aware of too many who have been hit due to this pattern.

The showing is going well! Positive buying signs! Your prospect is asking lots of questions, the interest being shown is increasing your self-esteem and your confidence is going through the roof. You start asking the closing questions that you learned during the first six months of your new career from the senior Realtor who worked with you at that time. After all, that’s the only training that some of us received. My guy’s name was Bill.

You begin to ask the questions. “Can you see yourself living here?”, “Does the size of this home fit your needs?” Soon you find yourself at the stairs leading to the second level. You’re very aware from your prospect’s input on the main level, that they love this home. Leading the way up the stairs, you keep engaging and asking those closing questions that have become second nature to you.

As you reach the landing, you turn to welcome your prospect to the second floor. Your inviting smile is reciprocated with a smirk – and a stun gun. Your prospect is a predator! The next thing you hear is, “This is going to be the worst day of your life…”, as the kinetic energy weapon sends you into a pile of semi-unconscious mess on the floor.

What do you think – is this story fact or fiction? Do you see that pattern yet?

The story we just shared is fact. We will not go into the details of what happened after the electroshock weapon was deployed, but we will tell you this: far too many of our peers have found themselves at the hands of individuals, who, for whatever reason, have decided to target them, either for their valuables, their body or their life. Another thing you need to understand is that predators will go to unimaginable lengths to achieve their goal.

As violence prevention specialists completing training with real estate professionals, we often hear the same type of imaginative statements, telling us how they would deal with someone who tries to hurt them. Male Realtors often tell us, “Your training is for women, I know how to handle myself.” Many female Realtors believe kicking a man in the “junk” will take care of anyone who has thoughts of sexually assaulting them.

A study completed through the Washington Department of Health showed average males are actually 4,000 per cent less able to defend themselves than they think they are. And the truth is, the groin kick most often fails because that area of the male anatomy and its effectiveness as a primary target is compromised by many things. Let’s not forget your cognitive inability to overcome hesitation and our moral consciousness of believing that hurting someone is wrong. The only thing your failure has done now is increase the violence of the attack.

NOT BEING A LEADER is a concept of space management that is critical to your safety.

Our discussions with those who have been attacked shows that many, not all, but many of these attacks occur from behind, either when the real estate professional is not looking or at the time when they turn to say something to their predator. Shock and awe – guess who just lost.

If we can share one thing with you, something we know that will assist you in being safe while performing your job, it’s this. DON’T BE A LEADER during showings or during property work-ups.

Keep a minimum distance of two meters, or six feet between you and the prospect at all times, even if you think you know them. We were preaching a two-meter safety rule long before it became COVID-19 cool.

Why two meters? An attack against you can happen in 3/100ths of a second. If you’re closer than two meters your brain and body can’t identify nor react to motion that quickly. Two meters will allow you enough space and time to move, respond and possibly get out of the way, rather than becoming another statistic.

As you have just learned, the space management concept is important to our safety as real estate professionals. It needs to be part of our standard education and training. The concept needs to be applied to showings, offer presentations, property work-ups, open houses and even your own office set up. Yes, your own office is an area where violence within our industry can, and has, happened – but we’ll keep that for another article.

Next time you are out on a showing, remember these words: DON’T BE A LEADER, and TWO METERS. We know it makes a difference for your safety and will possibly save your life.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks so much for this article and all of the tips you and those who commented gave. It really got me thinking of my procedures when showing properties and one thing that came to mind is the panic button on our car key fob which activates the car alarm system. Those few seconds of distraction that the car alarm would give may allow us to flee. Not all fobs have a panic button and not all cars have alarms so test it out and see if yours works what distance your panic button covers. I think most of us keep our keys handy during showings anyway so we may have a simple but effective added security measure at our fingertips.

    Again, thanks for the unsettling but vital article.

  2. Having experienced a horrible situation on one of my listings with a colleague, I believe you have missed a key point. SCREENING BUYERS before getting to the front door. Meeting with them in the office first, taking ID. All these steps will reduce the risk of issues before hand. REALTORS are too focused on the next dollar.

    • Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that you have experienced a difficult situation. You are absolutely correct that screening is a critical part of being safe, and we are happy to hear it is something you practice. The next dollar, or the next big paycheque is something we all focus on – however as Realtors, the job involves meeting people you don’t know, in places you’ve sometimes never been. We spend a great deal of time during our course discussing how to screen clients, and reducing risks before meeting buyers or sellers. The topic is always full of input from the room, and we have a library of best practices gathered from this input!
      Please check back for our next article, which talks about the “Transparency Effect”, and our Intuition… both of which surround screening buyers.
      Please feel free to contact us if you ever wish to talk about the situation you experienced, and we hope to meet you one day at one of our workshops!

  3. I always had this concern for the women in the trade and equally for my Gentlemen realtors. I had been talking to various quarters in the authority that we should not take anybody to the SHOWING without having them sign the Working with the Realtor(Form 810) and Buyer Representation Agreement (Form 300) or Buyer Customer Service Agreement (Form 310) with complete Photo ID’s. Now, as we are Licensed and our Brokerage can identify us, likewise I had been suggesting that, when you have a Client or a Customer, have these Forms and provide it to your Brokerage for registration and when you request for the Showing Date/Time and Lockbox Number, your brokerage can identify who you would be taking for the showing. As much as we would not allow anyone enter into our homes, likewise we have the responsibility as a Licensed Realtor to take our client/customer that are identified. BUT, most of us do not do this in the rat race and then scumble to such an event or even small object lifting incidents.

    I would rather emphasize here that Client/Customer taken for the showing be registered or documented with your Brokerage and when providing the Realtor with the appointment, their registration and id be verified. Now, this is not a big task as most of it is digitalized and its just a matter of forming this as a routine… My request to all TRREB and all other Boards, OREA, CREA to please take a note of this and help the REALTORS to regularize this practice and not be blown away in the urge of beating the competition.

    • Hasan,

      Thank you for your suggestions. One of the very first questions we ask Realtors when we arrive for training sessions is this “How many here today have had a fearful experience completing your job” We have found 55% of female and 20 to 25% of males have had a fearful experience while performing their job duties as Realtors. Out of this we have determined approximately 6% or Real Estate Professionals in Canada have lived their worst nightmare. Doesn’t sound like much 6%, do the math.

      Although our female counter parts face far more risk from social and anti-social violence than males, the reality is this. Males face an 80% higher risk of being seriously injured or killed during a violent encounter, than our female peers. It no longer becomes getting forms signed. It needs to become a mandate that all cold appointments receive photo prior to meeting. We require it anyway at the moment that an offer is drafted, so why not ask for it before we meet. This is one area we press on the Real Estate Professional is asking and obtaining photo id before meeting.

      Finding out someone’s intention is a straight forward thing to do, when we can’t see their face… When we CAN’T SEE THEIR FACE. This technique is very effective, however it requires some education and training to be successful at. We call this the “Transparency Effect” and we cover it during our training sessions.

      The next area of major concern within the Real Estate Profession is awareness

      We become so focused on our success that we become literally blinded to risk. I am aware of a T.O Realtor who received a complimentary trip to the hospital after meeting a buyer, who requested the Realtor to pick him up at a corner mall. When the Realtor arrived he not only met the individual who called, but two of his friends, who the Realtor let in the vehicle.

      Our entire Industry needs to be re-educated on the reality that faces us and how to deal with it. From Social to Anti-Social to Asocial violence. We need to change how we do business and provide expectations that continue to keep us safe.

  4. I am curious what suggestion you have to avoid: “Without a thought, you turn your back, you bend over to open the lockbox, and leave your prospect standing inches behind you while you unlock the door. Do you see your pattern yet?”. 99% of the time the lockbox is on the door handle and you have to face it and you have to protect the code from the clients eyes. How else are you going to show the property?

    • Maybe this: prepare by having the discussion ahead of time: Mr. Buyer, Mrs. Buyer, there are certain systems of protocol that I must follow; although I am representing you, I am obligated to what is called a “duty of care” all round.

      I need to review the system we are instructed to follow when showing a property… our own listing or that of another brokerage.

      Many properties have installed boxes for ease of access. Years ago we had to go to several offices, collect subject property keys at designated appointment times, show properties and drive across town to return keys. Lock boxes can be handy but no one ever promised they would be a hundred percent safe. Some agents have been known not to close them properly or re-access the property without booking a follow up appointment, or even giving the codes to buyers to access without an agent in attendance. Those agents are looking for big trouble.

      So as agents we are obligated operating under the seller’s trust to guard their home as well as respect it by taking special care regarding the lockbox (or alarmed or keyless entry code).

      I will ask you to step back several feet to allow me to open the lockbox to permit us to enter the property or while I disarm the alarm system or open keyless lock. When I actually open the door we can then proceed to enter the property.

      Likewise in reverse when we leave. This process takes no extra time and you can know that your own home on the market should be treated with equal respect. It’s no big deal, but in fact it is a very big deal, and no one ever should be offended by the system protocol.

      Just my thoughts…

      Carolyne L 🍁

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for your response to the REM article. The question you asked is a great question. Often times we find the Real Estate Professionals own need for politeness exposes them to difficulty and problems. The aspect of Space Management includes controlling your space and those within your space, although not difficult, it does present some “politeness” concerns with the Real Estate Professional. In dealing with your very question, Beth and I use the following example: Have you ever arrived at a restaurant for dinner, had the young man or girl walk you to your table and sit, look at you and say “Is this Ok”? You, I and 90% of the population will smile and say “yes” thank you. Be the young girl or young man… “Would you mind just waiting here at the sidewalk while I unlock the lock box and open the front door.” Try and position yourself at a 90 degree angle to the Prospect. We are hunters, we have optic vision so we can determine the slightest movement. With a 90 degree angle, your peripheral vision will detect movement being made. Again, thanks for the question, please don’t ever hesitate o reach out to us.

  5. A small hint: Always back your car into the subject driveway so if you need to leave in a hurry your vehicle is in forward position to exit pronto. If you are successful in getting into your car, lock the doors all at once immediately.

    Many drivers are not well-skilled in backing up. If clients are driving their own vehicle and they park in the subject property driveway, park behind them or on the street. Never let them block you in.

    Carolyne L 🍁

  6. Most communities have self defense/marshal arts instruction available. As well, our industry has in the past provided courses for recognizing situations harmful to realtors. Both of these classes should continue to be taught in an effort to avoid or defend (when necessary) our safety. I have heard, and know of first hand, situations in which someone was in danger. A suggestion would be to mandate a safety course as part of the licensing process. Sanjay’s above response is a good one. As he says, stay safe.

  7. Good article. But the author lost me at “…average males are actually 4,000 per cent less able to defend themselves than they think they are”. I mean, how do you even measure what men might think, let alone reduce it’s accuracy by 4,000%? About that, I think I’m at least 2,225 per cent sure!

  8. Thank you Rob and Beth for an excellent well written article and highlighting a subject we are often so shy of discussing. I couldn’t agree more about what you say about striking a man in the groin and getting it right. Agreed, the fail rate is high. As a black belt in Shotokan Karate at a competitive level during my younger days, I know how hard it is to execute certain actions. It takes time, practice, experience and skill, especially when you’re up against a much bigger and stronger person. We can safely assume that such a person has attacked someone before and is well experienced in doing this. I say this coming from a country where violent crime was a common occurrence. Personally, the key to being safe is being aware of your surroundings and reading the body language of a people around you. Every house I enter, I scan it visually to make sure it’s safe to go in … and more importantly out. I’ll make mental note of all exit points – doors, windows.
    I’ll add that it’s important to also position ourselves in such a way that we are able to make a quick exit from the house or any place without the attacker being in our way and blocking us. As for me that will also include making sure that my vehicle can also make a safe and quick exit. And even as a person trained in fighting, avoiding and escaping will remain my preferred options and not physical altercation. That will remain my last option. Folks, stay safe.

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