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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.

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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

Iowa police hope new website helps solve Realtor Ashley Okland’s murder

(REAL ESTATE) A tragic end to a young Realtor’s life brought Realtor Safety to the forefront for so many practitioners. While still an unsolved case, police hope a new website will generate interest, tips, and hopefully the missing puzzle pieces.

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Eight years ago this week, Iowa Realtor, Ashley Okland was brutally gunned down in a model townhome while she worked. She was only 27 years old. Open houses in the city were immediately shut down, as it was thought it could be a serial killer targeting agents in the field. That theory has since been put to bed.

But the case continues to plague the officers that have spent nearly a decade investigating, and despite hundreds of leads and interviews, it remains an open case.

Local police say they are still getting tips trickling in, but “It’s like a puzzle that you’re trying to put together and you’re wanting to find those last few pieces to complete it,” West Des Moines Police Department’s (WDMPD) Lt. Anthony Giampolo, told KCCI.

In hopes of finding those final pieces, WDMPD has set up a website called Answers For Ashley where people can submit relevant tips anonymously online.

The site appears to be a work in progress, as only the “submit a tip” feature works, but the wish is that offering an additional outlet for tips could solve this murder.

Okland’s murder inspired the industry to revisit (and establish) safety plans, and several Realtor safety apps were born. Her situation was one that was so relatable, it generated a lot of conversation and idea sharing, making a long-lasting impact on the real estate industry.

Okland is not the first or last Realtor to be murdered – beloved Jacksonville Realtor, Derrick Hartley was gunned down in a road rage incident this month, leaving behind five children. Asheville Realtor, Tina Kessinger was savagely stabbed to death with a screwdriver and tossed into a dumpster. And we’ve lost others – an El Paso Realtor recently died in an ATV accident, a Kentucky Realtor died in a hit and run auto accident, and a Florida Realtor died in a freak accident, falling from a boat. An unnamed Chicago Realtor was recently attacked with a stun gun in what would have been a sexual assault had she not gotten away to call police. The list is far longer, but these recent incidents have scarred the industry.

Okland’s case has always been on the industry’s mind is because it is thought to have happened in conjunction with her career, while she was at work. Potentially similarly to another high-profile case, Beverly Carter’s 2014 murder.

Realtors are often in a vulnerable position, spending time alone in the field, and while Okland’s murder very well could have had nothing to do with her profession and being alone in a model, it is worth considering how your team is educated on the topic of Realtor safety.

The National Association of Realtors offers ample Realtor safety resources and recently launched an alert system, akin to Amber Alerts (read about the Realtor Safety Network and know how to file an incident report).

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Real Estate Brokerage

The game doesn’t matter until you keep score

(BROKERAGE) How you collect feedback can determine whether your service actually improves or not. #science

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Every significant endeavor utilizes measurements and scorekeeping to record activities and progress. The most trivial of human pursuits often involves record keeping and statistical analysis.

While the sales and production side of real estate services are measured in-depth, the service side of the business enjoys less measurement, scorekeeping, and analysis than one might find associated with the performance of a neighborhood Little League team.

What does this truly say then about the importance many brokers, owners or managers place on service delivery, customer satisfaction, consistency and service performance?

It’s true that a few organizations do attempt to measure service performance by means of a customer satisfaction survey. Most of these programs are produced and administered internally. The surveys are sent under the company banner and the company tabulates the results.

First, when a customer is asked directly by the professional or the company for performance/satisfaction feedback, that feedback is always more positive than what is obtained by an independent, third-party asking the same questions.

This is known as the halo effect. Consumers are more diplomatic in their response to the person or company that provided the service.

Second, internal service/satisfaction assessment programs typically develop standards and objectives to validate the belief that good service is already being delivered. Thus this positively biased feedback data suits the objectives of the internal program just fine.

It’s just that measurement of those areas of service performance that sellers and buyers feel are important is not taking place.

For those more serious about customer service satisfaction and service performance assessment, there is recognition that the halo effect lessens the value of the data for internal use, and that keeping score of one’s own results has less credibility externally.

Instead, they seek the objectivity and credibility that third party validation of service assessment can provide.

Ironically, even without expert resources and objectivity the attention that measurement brings to the organization will effect positive results and performance improvement. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect.

The effect was first noticed in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. Production increased not as a consequence of actual changes in working conditions introduced by the plant’s management, but because management demonstrated interest in such improvements.

Unfortunately, this phase of initial improvement is not sustainable. Sustaining improvement requires more than measurement and leadership interest. Action steps that result in the actual improvement of the situation must follow collection of data.

Measuring service results and satisfaction in the real estate organization is an important first step. It will certainly gain the attention of the organization and send a serious signal.

Sustaining organizational interest and performance improvement requires more.

It requires systematic and timely feedback, objectivity, systems and service delivery processes, coaching and recognition/awards. But it really all does start by keeping score.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Google’s secret formula for the perfect team (that you should emulate)

(BROKERAGE NEWS) Google is famous for building high quality teams that change how technology works, so let’s talk about what they do well so you can emulate them.

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Google is infamous for having highly functional work teams, and for being a great company to work for. What accounts for the success of Google’s teams?

It’s relatively easy to discern the effectiveness of an individual employee. It’s a bit more challenging to figure out how to study what makes a group thrive or fail – but Google has done it.

A few years back, they released the results of an internal two-year study of their own teams.

Google conducted 200 interviews, and analyzed 180 of its teams using a list of 250 attributes in order to see what characteristics are most important in making teams successful.

The results show that the attributes of individuals on the team are less important than how they work together. The single most important factor in determining a group’s success turned out to be something called “psychological safety.”

In teams with a high degree of psychological safety, members are unafraid to take risks, and are unembarrassed to ask questions and make mistakes.

In other words, people can be vulnerable with one another without fearing negative reactions.

Said Google, “Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

Other factors that made a big difference were dependability (team members can rely on one another), structure and clarity (the goals, roles, and plans of the group are clear), meaning (the goals are important to the individuals on the team), and impact (the team members believe that what they are doing is important).

Factors like how much the team members have in common and their experience and education levels were much less important than one might think.

In a nutshell, great teams aren’t as much about great people as they are about great teamwork.

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