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Exploring gun ownership in the real estate industry

Gun ownership is an emotional topic in America, as is Realtor safety – let us explore the intersection between the two.

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Every time there is a new crime perpetrated on a real estate agent, there is more talk about safety standards. Many agents’ thoughts turn to taking self-defense classes and carrying a handgun, so they may defend themselves.

Interestingly, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Member Safety Report, 12 percent of agents who responded said that they already carry a gun in the field.

In this article, in a balanced way, we’ll explore the ins and outs of gun ownership, including the known associated risks and commitment needed to be proficient.

The risks of gun ownership inside your home

If you are considering purchasing a firearm, you’ll first need to recognize that statistics indicate that keeping a gun in your house is a risk.

The vast majority of homicides take place between intimates, not strangers. 

  • In 2010, nearly six times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
  • A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 5 times, if he has access to a gun.
  • It literally doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself.
  • Some studies suggest a suicide risk as high as 10 times.
  • More than 30,000 Americans injure themselves with guns every year.
  • An American is 50% more likely to shoot themselves dead than to be shot dead by a criminal.
  • For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
  • In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

You know the risks; still want to pack heat?

Now that you know the potential consequences of possessing a weapon, what’s involved in owning and carrying a firearm that you can use in the field?

You could just go to a gun show, but otherwise you must buy your gun from a federally licensed dealer in your state and submit to a background check that they will arrange, using an FBI database. Once approved, you will be required to attend mandated safety training.

In states that do not have open carry laws, you’ll need a concealed carry permit that can take several months to get approved.

In San Diego County where I live, it has been almost impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit from the Sheriff for decades (a current lawsuit may change that). So if you didn’t want to break the law, “packing” wasn’t an option. I believe there are other parts of the country with the same issues.

Now you have a gun, can you use it properly?

“How good is good enough when it comes to being able to save your life or the life of a family member?” asks Guy Minnis of Hard Target Firearms Training.

Minnis suggests that you should practice at least twice a week. Shoot at least fifty rounds at each session, and make every round count. Fire every round as if it was the only round in the gun and you need to hit your target to save your life. Do not just go through the motions.

Practice the things that you must do to put a gun into action to stop a deadly threat. Practice your draw from the holster that you carry every day and in the place you carry it every day. Practice your draw a lot and practice moving while drawing your weapon.

  • Practice dry fire skill sets 10 to 15 minutes a day, everyday.
  • Practice live fire skill sets at least twice a week and shoot no more that 50 rounds each practice session.
  • Practice with the gun you carry and where you carry it.
  • Attend training as often as you can.
  • The more structured training you receive, the better you will get.

That is quite the regimen, but remember that the most dangerous weapon is one used without proper knowledge, experience and practice.

Unless real estate agents go through the same kind of weapons training that police do — which goes far beyond the safety classes required to obtain a gun permit— they probably won’t be skilled enough at using a gun in a life-threatening situation.

What pros have to say to Realtors:

Chief Tony Holloway, of St. Petersburg Police advised Realtors not to carry a firearm. “That person’s going to take that gun away from you,” Holloway said. “That (bad) guy that’s going to make a call has got a plan, and you need to have a plan.”

Preston Taylor, a police sergeant with the Sheriff’s Department in Grand Traverse County, Mich., says criminals have often killed law enforcement officers by using the cops’ guns against them.

If a highly trained professional is vulnerable to such an attack, average citizens are doubly so, he says. Taylor, who teaches safety seminars to real estate professionals, says hesitation to use a gun in a life-threatening situation puts the gun holder’s life at risk.

With that said, in a 2012 study published by the Cato Institute, authors Clayton Cramer and David Burnett who researched and documented published news reports, concluded that large numbers of crimes; murders, assaults, robberies, are thwarted each year by ordinary persons with guns.

Bad news: Guns can make you braver

Many people who carry have a false sense of bravado just because they have a gun. There is the inevitability that you’ll start doing things that you normally wouldn’t, just because you think you’re protected.

Remember that if someone is planning something, they will probably be able to execute it before you realize what’s going on. Carrying a gun won’t stop that.

If you carry, are you really prepared to kill?

Having a gun doesn’t inherently make anyone better able to thwart an attack; it just means the battle has become more deadly. Many attackers are very skilled at gunplay and will often meet little resistance in turning your weapon against you unless you know what you are doing.

If you already carry or decide you wish to carry a gun, you’d better be sure you have the skill as well as the will to use your weapon, otherwise it’s more likely to be used against you.

If you’re not prepared to take a life, you shouldn’t carry a gun.

This rape victim had a gun, no chance to use it

11 a.m. Friday Nov. 28 2014 in Zanesville Ohio. Population around 25,000. A 39-year-old Realtor was just finishing her weekly inspection of a rural home in the county.

“I went to lock the door and someone pushed me back inside,” the Realtor said. “He came down on top of me and sexually assaulted me. As she was struggling face down on the floor, the victim reached for her 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun. Her attacker knocked the weapon out of her hand, causing the weapon to discharge. Each time she’d try to turn and fight back, her head was smashed against the floor.”

The victim also had this advice: “I hope Realtors get that when you go to a house and your hair stands up on your neck and you feel something’s wrong — leave.”

There are alternative strategies

If you still wish to arm yourself, nonlethal weapons can be a choice for people who aren’t psychologically prepared to use lethal force.

  • Knives: Almost 10 percent of male agents and just over 2 percent of female agents admit to carrying a knife on the job.
  • Mace or pepper spray: While some states may restrict the amount of pepper spray or mace you can carry, most don’t require a permit to carry defense spray.
  • Taser: Tasers are legal without a permit in most states, but prohibited in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, as well as in certain cities and counties.

There’s more to safety than arming yourself

You may be missing the vital step of screening out those that mean harm, before they actually look at property with you. By following proper safety procedures, you’re already reducing the chances of becoming a victim.

If you insist on verifying a Photo ID in advance, for instance, it is unlikely that perpetrators will comply, so you won’t have to meet with them in the first place.

If you meet at your office or an alternate location such as a Starbucks and your intuition tells you something is wrong, you can (and should) terminate the meeting. If you meet at the property, this is much harder to do.

Is a gun right for you?

If you are considering purchasing a gun because you fear for your safety, you now know the risks involved and the commitment to become proficient.

If you already carry a weapon, in the right hands, I’m sure it can save lives. Be honest: How long ago did you practice? Did you only take the safety course? Ask yourself if you are really competent enough to use your weapon in an emergency, when you may be in a life-threatening situation, with all your adrenaline pumping.

Revisit how your gun stored in your home – otherwise, it’s a standing invitation to family tragedy at the hands of a partner/spouse, a troubled adolescent, or a clumsy child.

Guns are an emotional subject for many Americans, as we have a Constitutional right to bear arms. But this isn’t about gun control – it’s about individual choices and personal responsibility.

#RealtorSafety

This editorial was originally published on October 04, 2015.

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

Chip & Joanna Gaines properties continue to become short term rentals

(REAL ESTATE) Chip & Joanna Gaines are beloved flippers, but recipients are no longer living in their dream homes that were aired on tv.

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Chip and Joanna Gaines: Reality TV stars, business moguls, American treasures. Millions of viewers have watched Chip and Jo flip homes into their clients’ homes of their dreams on the HGTV hit, Fixer Upper, and the ending scene of each episode showcased each family enjoying their new home among beloved family and friends.

However, according to Realtor.com, the majority of the homes meant to be enjoyed by families are now short-term rentals featured on websites such as Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO.

The most recent listing? A house purchased and renovated for the show’s Executive Producer, Michael Matsumoto, is listing his home for a bargain price — compared to other Fixer Upper listings — at only $300 a night.

The listing reads: “stay at the Producer of FIXER UPPERS home built for the finale of season 4. A 20 minute drive to Waco it’s the perfect retreat. This home is family friendly and ideal for entertaining family and friends. It has a beautiful open concept kitchen with plenty of cooking essentials, 2 full baths with a rain shower in the master, original bunk beds seen on TV, huge yard great for kids complete with play structure, basketball court and a small gym.”

Sounds pretty legit, right?

Even though the four-bedroom, 2-bath Crawford ranch is beautiful and spacious, the home was originally purchased for $12,500, so charging $300 a night is quite the investment return.

Another home known as The Bardonminium recently sold for 1.2 million to a real estate investor, who now lists the home for up to $1500 a night. According to a Magnolia spokesperson, Chip and Joanna prefer their clients to live in the homes, rather than simply turning them into cash cows.


Masmuto Farm House: Source: Airbnb

In Waco, where the average price per square foot is only $99, short-term rentals for Fixer Upper homes are without a doubt a lucrative opportunity.

But watching a house renovation to see it become an Airbnb is a lot less appealing than watching it become a family’s dream home.

A 1,050 sq. foot shotgun house costing $28,000 was recently listed for $950,000.

Which brings us to the question: why wasn’t an “Airbnb clause” written into the contracts of the buyers yet? We’re honestly not sure, but it looks like that’s about to change.

Magnolia spokesperson, Brock Murphy, recently issued a statement saying, “We are going to be more strict with our contracts involving ‘Fixer Upper’ clients moving forward…we want to ensure that [short-term renting] does not get lost in this new vacation rental trend,” the statement continued. “We are going to do our best to protect that moving forward.”

It is worth considering a similar clause for fellow flippers, and with this spotlight, we anticipate the industry and HOAs will be looking more closely at this topic.

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Real Estate Brokerage

How to achieve a winning business culture

(BUSINESS) Achieve a winning business culture by checking in on four important categories that are time-tested and proven to improve your company.

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When it comes to the term “business culture,” we all have a tendency to throw it around without a precise definition that fits our respective companies specifically. It can be argued that some type of culture will form, regardless of the emphasis you put on it – that’s just human nature. But, how can we check in to make sure that the business culture we’re exuding is an effective one?

A few months back, I was told about a simple way to test your business culture, in a method developed by Franklin Covey. In order to have a winning culture, a culture must have organizational focus and execution shining from great leaders and effective individuals.

With this, there are four categories which contribute to a winning culture. These include: distinctive contribution, engaged team members, loyal customers, and sustained performance.

You may be reading this and going, “well, no duh,” but let’s think about this for a second. Even if you can explain the factors that would make up a strong culture, does that mean that your company has them?

In terms of distinctive contribution, it’s important to look past what your company does on a day-to-day basis and see what you’re doing to make a difference in the world. Does your company give back to the community? Does your team feel proud to work for a company that does good for others?

Speaking of your team members, do they seem to be engaged? So many people go into work with a lackluster attitude and that has a poor effect on their output.

Are you doing things within your culture to make your team feel engaged and productive? This can range from weekly meetings designed to brainstorm and hear everyone’s opinion, to programs that award hard work with fun incentives.

When you have team members that are engaged and hardworking, they will display this to the public and will likely help in attracting loyal customers. Customers can tell when a company and its team are being genuine, and that carries so much weight in terms of retention.

This leads to the final aspect of sustained performance. You must be present and consistent with your customers in order to give them repeated satisfactory performance time and time again.

It’s likely that our business cultures can all enhance in one or more of these categories, and, what better timing than going into a new year?

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Real Estate Brokerage

How predators trick the most intelligent agents, make them vulnerable to assault

Predators use the same sales methods as you do, both effectively luring you in through a funnel system of questions. Fascinating.

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Getting people to say “yes” is the ultimate goal for any salesperson. Many sales trainers will recommend that you ask for a little “yes,” then build on that by getting more little “yeses.”

You could begin with a simple request, perhaps completing a simple questionnaire. By getting people to make a simple decision, or perform a small action, you can fairly easily establish a new psychological “commitment.”

Implementing the “foot-in-the-door method”

Once you have that initial commitment, no matter how small, building on that foundation and making ever increasing requests get surprisingly easy. This is called the “foot-in-the-door method,” an approach based on trust and consistency, and it’s effective.

To prove the point, a group of researchers back in the 1960s, called on a group of housewives, asking if they could answer a couple of simple questions about household products. Then, a couple of days later calling again, asking if they could send five employees to survey the contents of their kitchen cupboards. The research revealed that that twice as many answered “yes” if they had answered those simple questions in the first call.

We also find it much easier to say yes to those we have good feelings about and seem similar to us. In other words, we like them! This is why refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative is almost impossible!

Guess what? Predators use these same tactics

Predators and sexual offenders in particular, work very hard to be likable and use the very same “foot in the door” techniques to troll for their next victim.

Just like sales professionals, the predator seek those little yeses, but this time for testing and probing, seeking clues as to your willingness to be directed and controlled.

“The man in the underground parking lot who approaches a woman as she puts groceries in the trunk of her car and offers assistance, may be a gentleman or he may be conducting an interview,” suggests Gavin De Becker, in his book The Gift of Fear. “The woman whose shoulders tense slightly, who looks intimidated and shyly says, ‘No, thanks, I think I’ve got it’ may be his victim.”

De Becker then suggests, “Conversely, the woman who turns toward him, raises her hands to The Stop position, and says directly, ‘I don’t want your help,’ is less likely to be his victim.”

You may not be able to spot their deception

Offenders are also professional liars, truly skillful at what they do because they have had plenty of practice over the years. They’ve lied to themselves and everyone else in their lives. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often very convincing.

“Even the guilty liar probably won’t avert his gaze much, since liars know that everyone expects to be able to detect deception in this way,” observed Paul Ekman, an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions. “Amazingly, people continue to be misled by liars skillful enough to not avert their gaze.”

“’Declining to hear no’ is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions; never, ever relent on the issue of no, because it sets the stage for more efforts to control,” said De Becker “If you let someone talk you out of the word no, you might as well wear a sign that reads: You are in charge.”

Using this be aware of potential problems:

Predators meaning you harm will seek to control the narrative. They will make some positive statements and seek small yeses to gain what they eventually want – to get you to a place where they feel safe enough to assault or rob you.

Obviously not every conversation is going to occur just like this following example, but that said, let’s look at this scenario:

Potential predator calls you from a cell phone and the conversation goes something like this:

  • From the street I like the house at 123 Main Street. Are you familiar with the neighborhood?
  • Are you available to show me this home?
  • I’m preapproved with XYZ bank. Will you bring the paperwork, as I might want to make an offer.
  • Then, the final question: I’m actually here in the neighborhood. Can we meet right now?

If you got this far and found yourself answering with a string of small yeses, you’d better be ready to redirect and assume control or the outcome may not be pretty.

The agent responds in kind:

  • Sure, I’d love to show you the home, but I need to swing by my office first to grab the keys, OK?
  • Would you please bring your pre-approval letter along?
  • I’d like to meet at the office first so we can review your pre-approval, OK?
  • Then, the final question: Before we can meet, please send me a copy of your photo ID – management likes to know just who we are with and where we will be, for the safety of everyone involved, should there be a problem.

A prospect’s reaction to this request is important. If the final question is met with lots of bluster and indignation, this could be a big red flag.

Take measures to protect yourself in the field

The “foot in the door” is a well known and effective sales tool, unless it’s misdirected by someone who means you harm. Never ever allow a strange prospect to take control. Be mindful that most predators are accomplished and very convincing liars.

Always take precautions. Don’t meet strange prospects at the property. Always meet at your office or a neutral location such as Starbucks.

Always ask for and verify the photo ID of strange prospects, preferably before you meet – that way you have a chance to review pertinent information.

You should bear in mind that several of those arrested and charged this year for assaulting real estate agents were convicted sex offenders who managed to insert themselves into the lives of real estate agents.

All the measures we have discussed here are preventative, so take appropriate precautions when you actually meet with strange prospects. Here are some suggestions.

Does your Broker have a safety policy for its agents? If not, why not? Visit the NAR site for more information on safety courses and keeping safe.

Disclosure: the author is founder of Verify Photo ID, an app that verifies prospects ID’s and checks against a national sex offender database.

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