Use Your Sixth Sense

There’s a lot you can do to avoid potential dangers on the job. REALTOR® Safety Month is a good time for some reminders.

September 1, 2011

September is REALTOR® Safety Month, and I want to reintroduce you to the real estate professional’s best friend, the natural gift that helps keep you safe from harm while you go about your daily routine—your instincts.

One of the greatest mistakes I’ve seen and heard from practitioners—in more than two decades of helping people prevent violent crime—is their tendency to put their faith, trust, and sense of security in places. I have never heard of brick or mortar attacking anyone. I’ve also never heard of pavement rising up to lure a would-be victim. People, not places, commit crimes. It is not where you are but who you are around (or who is around you) that matters.

The risks are real. Most real estate agents have little if any security training and ­regularly are meeting with strangers at various times of day in vacant homes. This year alone Iowa has reported two separate attacks on real estate professionals on the job, one of them fatal. In San Diego, several practitioners have reported being assaulted by squatters while they ­inspected foreclosed properties.

Although some attacks against real estate pros are seemingly random acts of violence, premeditated attacks are more common. These are typically the more dangerous scenarios because the attackers have put thought into their approach. Commonly, these strangers are individuals who upon first glance would not seem to pose any threat. They may be well-dressed, educated, articulate, personable individuals who often weave a great story that will garner your interest as a potential prospect.

Yet, often there is something that just seems a bit out of place. For instance, maybe someone spoke of bringing his or her wonderful spouse or significant other when setting up the appointment, yet this other person does not appear at the appointment, leaving you and the prospect alone.

Or maybe the prospect insists you come take a closer look at that closet space deep inside the house or the garage with a question about possible damage. And what was it about those very personal questions he or she was asking that seemed just a bit out of place during a business meeting?

If those scenarios sound suspicious to you (or even familiar), it’s because your instincts are already engaged in the possibility of such a moment being both real and potentially dangerous. Many real estate professionals in any of these situations would probably not give it a second thought, focusing instead on the promise of potential business. But my point is that you know more than you think you know.

Take a moment to engage that second thought, to be in tune with your instincts. They can do the kind of advanced math in a millisecond that your cognitive brain may take minutes to calculate.

I’m not talking about being afraid. I’m talking about being aware and cautious so that you can avoid being lured into a dangerous situation.

Jeff McKissack, a crime prevention expert based in Dallas, is the founder of Defense by Design, which offers personal safety consulting to businesses and individuals. Find out more at