Ways to Stay Safe & Sell


Growing up with a father who served as a police detective, Jessica Riffle Edwards realized from an early age that he instilled in her an extra level of awareness for  her surroundings and safety.

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_JessicaEdwards“When I was 22, I got into real estate, and I understood in the beginning not to run out to see a stranger. You need to have systems in place,” says Edwards,  REALTOR® with The Carolinas Finest, Jessica Edwards & Associates with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage in Wilmington, N.C.

The majority of REALTORS® never encounter danger. However, 14 percent said they experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of  their personal information, according to the 2021 Member Safety Report from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). That number was larger—23 percent—in 2020. Seventy-two percent conveyed they have personal safety protocols in place that they follow with every client. This is higher among females (75 percent) than  males (64 percent).


Safety needs to be a priority no matter how hot the markets are these days or what city or town the agent works in. It’s all about knowledge, awareness and  empowerment—the core components of the REALTOR® Safety Program, which began a dozen years ago. It launched to explain the risks REALTORS® can face  and how to prepare themselves to avoid those situations. Also, NAR has dedicated September as REALTOR® Safety Month.

Things REALTORS® Do to Keep Safe

Cindie Burns feels lucky that nothing scary has happened to her on the job in her 27 years as an agent. But she doesn’t leave her safety to chance.

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_CindieBurnsShe carries pepper spray in her hand, but it’s inconspicuous.

“The pepper spray unit is about the same size as my inhaler, and since I have an inhaler, I hold the pepper spray unit and imply that it is my inhaler if I’m with  someone I do not know,” adds Burns, REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Advantage in Creedmoor, N.C. She also is President-Elect of the Durham Regional  Association of REALTORS®.

She routinely does certain things when she is showing a home, such as unlocking the lock box on the front door before the clients get there.

“Never have your back to them,” she says. “Give yourself multiple exits. Open up the back door and even open the garage door as an exit.”

She also understands the importance of parking her vehicle so she is never blocked in on a driveway or the street.

Burns always has her keys in her hands when she gets out of the vehicle. Keeping her back against a wall most of the time and letting clients check out the rooms in front of her lets her have a good view of what’s going on and allows for quick escapes, if needed.

She feels if someone is questioning her at that point about why she’s standing there and not going into the rooms or upstairs with them, they really aren’t that  interested in the house, and it gives her red flags.

“You must always have your eyes open. Know your surroundings and instinctively plan where you are going,” she comments. “Know how you are walking, parking  and entering a place.”

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_JimWeese“It’s all about common sense,” remarks Jim Weese, REALTOR® at Aldridge & Southerland REALTORS® in Greenville, N.C. He also is a certified real estate  instructor for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission and teaches safety classes to REALTORS®.

“I don’t personally do open houses for safety reasons, and I’ve never really sold houses that way. Plus, right now, we don’t need them to sell a house,” he adds.

A few times in his 20 years in the profession, he had a sixth sense that things didn’t feel right. In both of those situations, he had another agent call him within 15  minutes of meeting up with the person.

“Nothing happened, but I know about incidents locally against REALTORS®. They weren’t in the news. The people it happened to were embarrassed or didn’t want it to be in the news,” Weese states.

“Besides somebody doing something to you, there could be a medical emergency,” Weese adds. “If nobody knows where you are and you fall, there’s no one to help  you, and they can’t find you,” he states.

For instance, he was in Washington D.C. a few years ago to get recertified. He walked in early to class, and one of the people had a heart attack. All we had was his  name from the sign-up sheet.

“He survived, but we didn’t know how to contact family. There is a feature on Android and Apple cell phones that allows you to put in information, such as who you  are, your blood type, allergies and more,” he emphasizes.

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_HankHayesIf you go into that feature, even strangers can access your home page and hit the emergency button.

Training REALTORS® to Take Safety Seriously

Self-defense expert, Hank Hayes, and real estate sales expert, Bill Crespo, had been working together for a while. Crespo had actually taken several self-defense  classes from Hayes.

But after REALTOR® Soren Arn-Oelschlegel, 41, was gunned down by an unhappy 84-year-old client in a Virginia Beach murder-suicide last year, they ramped up a workshop called “The Prepared Agent.” They first opened up the class to any local real estate agent in Virginia that wanted to learn more about self-defense.

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_BillCrespo“But they can go anywhere that people want them to,” says Crespo, a REALTOR® and owner of Path2Pro Coaching.

Hayes admits that “this is not your standard self-defense program in any way, shape or form.”

“A lot of people take shortcuts to safety. When they leave our class, they can’t leave the same as they were,” says Hayes, founder of Intuitive Self-Protection, a  nationwide training organization catering to both personal and corporate environments. “Everything we do is based on self-preservation. We show a very graphic  video of a good person being violated by a bad person. That sets a tone.”

The pair also wrote a booklet, “The Top 10 Essential Strategies to Be a Prepared Agent.” The basis was to give the top 10 skills, tactics and mindset for optimal  personal security.

InsightAugust2022_WaystoStaySafeandSell_BookHere are a few of things to remember when doing your job:

  • You must flip the switch – Switch on the fact that bad things happen to good people.
  • The house you are selling is a kill box – This is a bad guy’s dream: you and him alone in an empty house. The nature of this work will often have you multitasking and distracted.
  • Defensive skills begin with strong situational awareness – See what your eyes are seeing. Look around for things that stand out and don’t seem right. Use your voice to distract, defuse and deescalate—only if you can.
  • Don’t take the appointment if you feel uncomfortable – At times, the story the suspect is giving doesn’t make sense or is suspicious.
  • Get as many documents to identify the prospect – Get a copy of his/her driver’s license and a lender-approval letter, plus search the person on social media.

“I came from the Bronx,” Crespo says. “I don’t trust anyone. All we want REALTORS® to do is get out of a bad situation and go home safe. But people discount this  and say ‘I’ll be OK.’”


Resources for Personal Protection

A variety of tools can add to your personal safety protocol.

  • A taser that looks like a cell phone – “This item offers an inconspicuous yet powerful way to ward off an attacker,” says Hayes. It has a quick access button for  the stun gun plus some have loud alarms, too, that can scare the attacker away.
  • Pepper spray and other devices – According to NAR, some of the most commonly carried self-defense weapons by agents are pepper spray, pocket knives, noisemakers and firearms.
  • Apps – Your phone can offer all types of apps, such as FOREWARN and People Smart, to do background checks on a prospect’s identity and potential risks  prior to a face-to-face engagement. NC REALTORS® have access to the SafeShowings App through the REALTOR® Partners Program. The app captures  facial images of prospects as well as geolocation, then automatically sends that data to emergency contacts when needed. Learn more at

Biggest Tips to Stay Safe as a REALTOR®

  • Stay behind them – Don’t lead your client into a home, building or room, according to the NAR REALTOR® Safety Program. Direct them from a position behind  them. Signal them to go ahead of you by explaining certain rooms are to the left or straight back.
  • Limit amount of personal information – Sometimes just a personal photograph can trigger a predator. Consider removing your photo from marketing materials, and don’t use your full name with middle name or initial. Stay away from listing your home address or home phone. Instead, use your office address or no  address at all, states the NAR REALTOR® Safety Program.
  • Trust your instincts – “You know when the hair on the back of your neck stands up, or it’s just a feeling. Don’t ignore it. Get out of the situation and get safe,” Burns says. You can refer them to someone else or bring someone with you. Your client will have to deal with it.
  • Do your due diligence – “Never show a random house to someone that just called you up. So much communication needs to happen before anything actually  happens,” says Edwards. “There’s a lot of conversation and prepping before you ever show them a property.”
  • Don’t give specifics on social media – “In my own personal life, I take travel groups out of the country,” Weese adds. “I never post anything when I’m gone. The same thing should be true about being careful of what we put out there.” Don’t give specifics like, “I’m going to be at the open house for two hours.”
  • Keep your distance – “Don’t let the person get closer than eight feet from you, and don’t let the person out of your 180-degree field of view,” Hayes emphasizes.  “Also, you can dress professionally, but wear shoes that you can run in.”

Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes,, and REALTOR® Magazine.  She also writes a bi-monthly blog on

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