Realtor Safety: It’s All On You!
Realtor safety can be greatly enhanced by institutional and procedural measures. Offices can leverage technology and best practices to greatly reduce risks to their realtors. Federal and State laws and professional regulations could help a bit in some cases.
However, the safety of each individual is ultimately each individual’s responsibility. Regardless of procedures and regulations in place, you can’t depend on the care and competence of others when it comes to your and your family’s safety. You must realize that no one will come to save you in time, and no one will offer you a personal invitation to make changes that need to be made in your life. This, of course, is true for all people, not just realtors.
Statistically, the greatest threats to your safety are:
1) Poor physical health
2) Poor mental health
3) Traffic accidents
4) Violent crime
Here are some things you (and only you) can do to reduce risk and improve your own safety:
1) Physical Health
The science at this point is conclusive that an individual’s risk of falling victim to the leading causes of death in the U.S. can be greatly reduced by
a) maintaining a healthy weight and body composition,
b) consistently getting sufficient sleep,
c) eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, drug addiction and excessive alcohol consumption, and
d) moderately exercising the body.
Body weight and composition are determined mostly by diet and hormone balance (which can be affected by sleep, stress and other factors). While many different theories persist about exactly what constitutes a “healthy diet,” and different bodies may respond differently to various foods and chemicals, current general consensus is that one should:
a) minimize consumption of refined sugars (by any name, such as corn syrup and anything “dext,” such as dextrose or maltodextrin), simple carbohydrates and highly processed foods,
b) maximize consumption of fresh vegetables,
c) maximize hydration
d) avoid overeating.
If significant body fat loss is needed, more extreme measures may be necessary. Of course, consult your physician before implementing any radical dietary changes.
Sufficient high quality sleep is critical to overall health, and most of us don’t get it consistently. While some people may seem to require more or less sleep than others, structuring your schedule to provide the opportunity for 7-8 hours of high quality sleep per night is advisable. Insufficient or low quality sleep can affect hormone balance (which can affect body composition and other physical and mental factors), mood and general efficacy, and can increase the risk of accident and injury. If you consistently get sufficient hours of sleep but still feel tired during the day, you should consult your physician about possible sleep disorders such as sleep apnea that could be negatively impacting the quality of your sleep.
If you are addicted to recreational drugs (including tobacco products and alcohol), it is difficult or impossible to maintain reasonable physical and mental health. There are many resources and programs available to help you break these addictions. The most effective generally include some form of long term accountability. Making other healthy adjustments in your life can make it easier to break these addictions. Consult your physician for direction and advice.
Physical exercise, while less critical to body composition than diet and hormone balance, is nonetheless essential for maintaining reasonable physical health. Extreme levels of strength, endurance and flexibility are not necessary to minimize prevalent physical health risks (in fact, training for them could introduce other risks, such as injury), but frequent and consistent movement of the whole body throughout its normal range of motion is needed to maintain healthy function. Moderate cardiovascular (e.g. walking or jogging), resistance (e.g. weights or bodyweight exercises) and mobility (e.g. stretching) training should be included. Practices such as Yoga, Pilates, swimming, martial arts and most sports typically integrate what’s needed for long term physical health. Of course, consult your physician before implementing any radical physical activity changes.
A busy realtor’s lifestyle, including irregular schedules, travel and events where menu choices and timetables may be outside of the realtor’s control, may not be conducive to easily implementing healthy habits. Planning and preparation may be required to ensure daily access to healthy food and avoidance of circumstances that might lead to unhealthy practices. Disciplined time management can usually liberate sufficient daily opportunity for moderate exercise, sufficient sleep and other boons to physical health.
2) Mental Health
Mental health (including stress management) is often neglected compared to physical health. However, considering suicide is one of the top 3 causes of death for Americans ages 15-54, it certainly warrants consideration! Your mental health, including how you experience stress, can affect all other areas of your life and wellbeing. If you consistently feel depression or anger, or your decisions consistently negatively impact your life or the lives of those around you, don’t hesitate to seek help. Likewise, if your doctor, a significant other, friends or coworkers suggest seeking help, don’t ignore their suggestions. A realtor needs to be able to navigate stressful situations gracefully, and spread and attract positivity to and from others. The challenges and uncertainties of the job can make this difficult, especially if other life circumstances introduce additional stressors. Seeking help is not acknowledgement of defeat or weakness, it is judiciously using all tools at your disposal to be as effective and successful as possible.
3) Road Safety
Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death, particularly for Americans age 15-44. While up to 93% of Americans consider themselves “above average” drivers, the fact is the roads are plagued by potentially lethal distractions and carelessness. Considering how much time realtors spend driving, road safety warrants special consideration. While it may be unrealistic to advise that realtors conduct no business while driving, every possible step should be taken to minimize potential distractions. Hands-free and eyes-free cell phone operation is critical. While communication from the road may be necessary, be sure to set aside non-driving time to look at listings, review social media, etc. Keep your vehicle in good shape and always use it, rather than getting into a client’s car and trusting an unknown driver. Drive defensively and deferentially, as you never know how anyone else on the road may react to a perceived slight. Leave more than enough time to reach any destination, including traffic delays, so that you don’t end up rushed and distracted. Keep paper maps (which you know how to use) and emergency equipment and supplies in your vehicle at all times. Plan routes ahead of time, even if you use a GPS. If you are very tired or otherwise impaired, stay off the road, for your own safety as well as that of others. Anticipate any situation that could cause distraction while driving, and plan ahead to obviate it. A defensive driving course and more advanced driving courses are usually good investments, and may be fun as well!
4) Personal Protection
While the reported violent crime rate in the United States has declined over the last three decades, lifetime likelihood of violent victimization is estimated to be well over 50%. (It was 83% in 1987 according to a landmark Bureau of Justice Statistics study.) While being a realtor may not be as risky as being a police officer or armored car security guard, realtors must daily put themselves in situations that most people would just as soon avoid. A realtor’s professional information and image is advertised to the public. Meeting relatively unknown and unvetted people and spending a lot of “alone time” with them in a variety of locations is a basic element of the career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 75 realtors were murdered per year between 2003 and 2009. In some cases, serial killers specifically targeted realtors, circling their photos in advertisements and easily arranging to isolate them. According to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Member Safety Report, nearly 40% of realtors “experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information.”
Rigorous safety practices in realtor offices can help reduce this risk. These include avoiding having realtors operate alone, thorough vetting of prospects, requiring initial client contact and documentation at the office rather than in the field, etc. However, each individual bears primary responsibility for his/her personal protection. It behooves each of us to seek training to protect ourselves and our loved ones against violence.
Unfortunately, not all training is created equal. Many martial arts and self-defense classes, while touting their effectiveness in advertising, may not provide the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with actual and threatened violence in the context of an average citizen and realtor. Exercise, competition and aesthetic efficacy does not necessarily equate to training the necessary mindset, awareness, subconscious reaction, strategy and tactics to help you avoid, deter and counter violent attacks.
Fortunately, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation recently approved Course Number 0020315, Personal Protection for Realtors (good for three continuing education credits). This mental and physical personal protection course teaches general self-defense mindset, awareness and tactics, and how these apply to the specific situations and risks inherent in the real estate profession. Students learn how to forge good habits to better assure safety while allowing focus to remain on the sale, and how to counter and escape an imminent threat. The course involves moderate physical activity, which students can approach at their own pace, regardless of fitness level. Check with your local real estate board to see when they can offer this course at a location convenient to you.
Many people (including a disproportionately large number of realtors) purchase a personal protection tool, such as a handgun, Taser or pepper spray, and assume that the purchase alone fulfills their need for personal protection. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. It is true that a reliable tool in properly trained hands can greatly increase the effectiveness of that individual’s personal protection. However, basic training is still essential, both to reduce the likelihood of ever needing the tool, and to enable the individual to bring the tool into play effectively if and when appropriate. The Personal Protection for Realtors course broadly addresses use of personal protection tools and recommended paths for tool-specific training.
Sources used in this article: