For any job that involves interacting with the public—like selling real estate—there is risk. In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) found that nearly half of their REALTORS® have experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information. These instances included showing open or vacant homes and model homes and unlocked or unsecured properties in remote areas.

Risky business

This fear is not without reason. Earlier this year, an agent in Atlanta was attacked after opening a home for viewing for a would-be homebuyer. Also this year, two real estate agents in St. Petersburg, Fla. were held hostage and robbed by a man posing as a potential buyer. These attacks were separate, but happened within an hour of each other.

Just last month, a Des Moines Realtor received a threatening phone call where the caller referenced the murder of Ashley Okland, who was shot to death four years earlier at a model townhouse. In response to the call, all open houses were canceled that day. And perhaps the most notorious recent case was from late last year, when Beverly Carter was murdered during the showing of a vacant, foreclosed property. When questioned, her attacker said, “She was just a woman that worked alone—a rich broker.”

These are only a handful of cases, but serve as sobering reminders of the dangers that real estate professionals face.

Safer steps

In recognition of Realtor Safety Month, and as we go through the home buying process, there are many things that we can do to help our friends in the real estate industry stay safe. Below are just a few examples.

  1. Agree to meet your agent at their office for the first meeting.

  2. Give plenty of notice when you want to see a listing in case they want to find another agent to come with them, or need additional time to check the house.

  3. Be aware of empty houses on the market in your neighborhood and watch for and report any suspicious activity.

  4. If you cannot meet with the agent for the first time before you go to see a listing, offer to send them a copy of your identification.

For additional tips that can help Realtors stay safe, NAR offers a multitude of resources, including a new safety course launched this month that instructs agents on how to assess potential risks and develop safety protocols.