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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

How do you know it’s time to become a broker?

(BROKERAGE) It sounds dreamy to open your own brokerage and be your own boss, but when is it TRULY time become a broker?

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Everyone joins the real estate workforce for a different reason. Some to flip houses, others to represent buyers, and so forth. And most are happy with their broker of choice, but for others, the itch to become a broker becomes so great that it cannot be ignored.

But how do you know when it’s time to become a broker? Maybe it’s time for a new broker because you’re unhappy, but it’s also possible that you have the skills and drive to lead your own company.

To find out, we asked three brokers with thriving businesses:

Jennifer Archambeault is the Broker/Owner of Urban Provision, REALTORS®, a growing Texas brokerage.

We asked her how to know when it’s time to create your own brokerage:

It is time to create your own brokerage when the limitations of your current brokerage restricts your personal or professional growth, hinders your ability to serve your clientele at the highest level or you are no longer able to see the value your current broker brings to the table.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to be mindful of your competency and ability to handle the responsibilities involved with running a brokerage and/or managing or mentoring agents.

Is there a tipping point?

There are often many tipping points causing an agent/broker to dream about having their own brokerage, but they often only clue in on one when they are parting ways. A lack of respect or dissatisfaction within your current company, the inability to come to terms on differences with management, not seeing eye to eye on the company’s mission or vision and not being able to serve clients to the desired standard often top the list of tipping points if the agent leaves disgruntled.

However, there are times it is purely a natural transition having nothing to do with any reason mentioned above and solely taking your career and income to the next level.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

Personally, I think it is the latter more than the former. Gaps in the market will change over time but often the desire to be independent doesn’t ebb and flow as easily. If someone’s independent streak is unavoidable they often exude qualities that allow extreme focus to continuously keeping their eyes on a prize.

There are benefits of having your own brokerage, but there are also limitations as well. Some people’s independence can be a hindrance to their business especially when they want to start their own brokerage because they simply do not like or cannot continually follow the rules.

I believe it is better to part ways to build your own brokerage or brand because it satisfies a personal or professional growth need rather than leaving your previous company disgruntled. The latter generally allows for a flawed mindset.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Do not always focus on Plan A because often you’ll end up with the most perfect fit with Plan D.

Being nimble is a must-have quality for anyone in the real estate industry, but owning a brokerage often requires stretching far beyond being nimble and reaching for superhero status. Initially, I believed every agent could be molded into a specific model or a way of doing business but quickly realized that there is a not a one size fits all brokerage regardless of someone with decades of experience said so.

The perception of a brokerage with a large number of agents on the surface implies success. However, the old saying quality over quantity rings very true in a brokerage setting. Stop worrying about what others are doing – be different because that’s how you get noticed. Do what you do well and what works with your clients, for your personality or in your marketplace.

Tyler Forte, Co-Founder & CEO of Felix Homes saw a need to marry technology and real estate.

Here is his take on starting a brokerage:

Prior to starting Felix, I was a venture capital investor and I can tell you that any successful business, whether or not it’s a brokerage, is started because the status quo does not solve the market’s distinct needs.

Speaking specifically to why we started Felix, home sellers are facing a number of challenges that the traditional brokerage model does not address. When I sold my home last year, I saw firsthand how the home selling process is broken. I knew that starting a disruptive real estate brokerage was what I needed to do in order to make the experience of selling a home better.

The challenges homeowners currently face include hiring an agent who does not have their best interest in mind, to the uncertainty of not knowing if their home will be sold and for what price. At Felix, we are looking to provide consumers with the best home-selling experience period.

As far as the challenges we faced when starting a new brokerage, there are many. For one, the real estate industry is slow to adopt new innovative models. This is because current incumbents have built moats around the data and distribution of homes all at the consumer’s expense. In addition, because real estate is governed on a state-by-state basis, educating ourselves on the laws and regulations of each state was a challenge.

Jeff Brown, Owner of BawldGuy Investing has been a broker for decades and is never ever EVER shy about telling it like it is.

How do you know when it’s time to create your own brokerage?

I’ve always contended Dad was right, as you always thought most folks didn’t know when to create their own firm. Over the years I’ve spoken with countless brokerage owners about this very question.

Roughly a third of ‘em actually thought they knew the right time. Me? I did it WAY to soon, though in my defense, I had my dad’s infinite brokerage experience IN the office daily to back my rookie play, stop mistakes BEFORE I made ‘em, and generally mentor the crud outa me.

Most brokers told me they knew when decisions made by their broker bosses just were not what they would’ve done. They usually came a tipping point, where the decision made itself. But again, that was just a third of those with whom I talked. The rest just did what I did, rush in willy nilly. The huge advantage I had was a decades experienced brokerage owner mentoring me daily, in real time, and who, you know, actually gave a damn about me.

So what is that tipping point?

The most often heard tipping point was the feeling of being constrained by their boss’s operating policies. For example, and a gigantic tipping point, was a friend of mine who wanted to run his own office using the Broker-Centric model, not the Agent-Centric model run by the broker for whom he worked.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

The latter is merely personality. Sometimes it works to breakaway, and sometimes it’s been catastrophic. Being independent has nothing whatsoever to do with knowing what you’re doing as the person in charge.

The whole ‘gap in the market’ thing has always puzzled me as a reason to open a brokerage. The exception clearly would be that the policies of operation under which you’d run your own office would substantially improve your chances of taking advantage of whatever market gap you perceived. I find that to be uncommon, at least in my experience.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Without even a hint of maybe having a doubt, I wish I’d understood the good news/bad news joke that says: “Well, Jeff, the good news is you’re now the Go-To Guy. The bad news? See the good news.” 🙂

The difference between signing the backs of checks and the front of those checks cannot be overstated. Every single buck stops at your desk, period, end of sentence, over ’n out. Some folks find that to be too daunting.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why women don’t self-promote at work as often as men

(CAREER) Being visible and owning good work done well continues to be a conundrum for women in the workplace. So stand up and be heard!

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Ladies, if you recently met with your broker (or corporate) for an end-of-the-year review and you failed to share all of your successes and the ways you shined over the last year, you aren’t alone.

A recent study revealed that regardless of the situation, women do not promote themselves in the workplace as much as their male colleagues.

What is clear from the information gathered – women need to realize they are badasses in the workplace and be unwavering in their belief in themselves. And, be ready to share this information with their supervisors or clients if they wish to earn more.

The study, conducted by Christine Exley, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and Judd Kessler, an associate professor at Wharton, found there is a broad (no pun intended) gender gap when it comes to self-promotion in the workplace.

As many raises and promotions to higher level roles are dependent upon an employee’s self-evaluation, women are more at risk of missing out on getting hired or higher earning opportunities. In real estate, this quality limits earning potential and can have rippling long-term effects.

The pair considered multiple hypotheses from whether women were less confident and men more, to whether it was a matter of taking advantage of systems where self-promotion leads to incentives, to whether a boss would eventually find out the truth about a worker’s ability.

“In every setting we explored, we observed a substantial gender gap in self-promotion: Women systematically provided less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men. And our various study versions revealed that this gender gap was not driven by confidence or by strategic incentives, and that it was robust both in the face of ambiguity and under increased transparency,” the pair stated.

What could be at play? If women are punished for excessive self-promotion in the workplace more than men, they are more likely to keep their successes to themselves, the researchers speculate. Prior research into self-promotion in the workplace found that excessive self-promotion suggested gender differences in backlash.

As if we were still living in the 1950s, women often face backlash for being too vocal about their abilities, and risk losing out on promotions because being visible and self-promotional goes against the idea of how a woman should behave. So, while being visible and taking ownership is the way to get ahead in the workplace, for many women the risk of backlash means they sit and remain quiet, being passed over because they fear being labeled “a bitch,” as the study found.

What Exley and Judd determined is there is the need for more research into they “why” of this conundrum.

Meanwhile, the pair’s message is this: Employers (and brokers), don’t overlook women on your team; they may not be as vocal about how good they are, but that doesn’t mean their performance is inferior. And to women out their busting ass and closing deals – take note of your accomplishments and promote your worth when in the field and in the office!

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why real estate brokerages are NOT startups

(REAL ESTATE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, and also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.

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Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does. And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

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