David Abbasi. Sidney Cranston Jr. Ryan Vega. Beverly Carter.
You probably recognize only Carter’s name. News of the Arkansas real estate agent’s murder in September 2014 made national headlines and reverberated throughout the industry. Abbasi, Cranston, and Vega, three male real estate professionals, were also victims of recent attacks similar to Carter’s. Abbasi and Cranston were shot to death in the course of daily business, while Vega, fortunately, survived a stabbing during a showing. Why didn’t their cases get as much attention? Because they’re men?
Perhaps lopsided news coverage helps give the impression that women in real estate are more at risk than men. But the truth is men face the same dangers. Twenty-two percent of male real estate professionals reported experiencing a situation in the field in the last year that made them fear for their safety, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Member Safety Report. That compares with 46 percent of females.
Men have distinct behaviors and characteristics that can make them vulnerable to being victimized on the job. In a high-risk occupation such as real estate, knowing what these traits are and how they are dangerous can help male agents work in a safer manner. Here are four to watch out for. (You can also request a handout on my website containing safety tips that pertain particularly to male agents.)
Machismo, or an Invincible Mindset
Why don’t some men take safety more seriously? “Because we’re stupid,” jokes Ronnie Thompson, GRI, SFR, broker-owner of Thompson Realty in Valdese, N.C. “We know it all and have no thoughts about our safety. We believe that no one is going to bother us.”
From an early age, women are taught to fear for their safety. Men, however, are taught to stand up to danger — often on behalf of a woman. It’s not hard to see why some male agents might think nothing will ever happen to them because they’ve been socialized as the stronger sex. “Men have to fight that macho feeling that they can overcome anything,” says Neil Schwartz, CRS, SFR, broker-salesperson at Coldwell Banker Premier in Las Vegas. “The male agents’ mindset is to stand their ground and fight.”
This way of thinking may make men more vulnerable to robbery in particular. Seeing themselves as less of a target, men may be less likely to think about leaving jewelry and expensive electronics at home — which makes them prime game for robbers.
Refusing to Listen to Their Guts
As a safety instructor, the number one tip I teach is to trust your intuition. It’s hardly ever wrong, and listening to it can save your life. But think about the phrase “women’s intuition.” It’s been used to suggest that women overthink things and examine situations in unnecessarily excruciating detail. In matters of safety, that’s a great thing. But some men may dismiss their intuition, vowing not to “overthink.” When your safety is at risk, not listening to your gut won’t serve you well.
Thompson says that if he gets a bad feeling about prospective clients — maybe they refuse to answer key questions about themselves or the transaction — he is willing to walk away. “I believe that the gut reaction is the proper reaction,” he says. “If it doesn’t feel right, I have told clients that I am not the agent for them. I can always get more money, but I only have one life.”
Thinking Safety Training Is for Women
Typically, 30 percent of the attendees at my safety classes are men, and I’m noticing that figure growing. But in talking with real estate professionals around the country, I find that men more often than women neglect basic safety protocol, such as meeting prospects for the first time in the office or a public place, allowing clients to lead through a showing, or watching what information they expose about themselves online. That’s because fewer men are coming to the classes where they can learn safe work practices. They’re robbing themselves of the opportunity to learn the latest in safety techniques.
Hopefully, this will change: Only 19 percent of REALTORS® have participated in a REALTOR® Safety course, and of those, 13 percent were men, according to NAR’s 2016 Member Safety Report.
Ignorance About Crimes Against Their Peers
Though a spate of attacks on male agents have made headlines recently, they don’t get as much attention and are not reported as often. Therefore, men are far more likely to be unaware of incidents involving their peers than women.
James Richman, a sales associate with ReeceNichols Real Estate in Kansas City, Mo., says it was the case of Beverly Carter that prompted him to get a concealed carry weapons permit. But he admits to being unaware of more recent crimes against male agents. “The way to get more guys to go to safety training is to share these stories about the male agents [being victimized],” he says. “That makes it more real.”
Men are also less likely to report being attacked to anyone, whether they be law enforcement or loved ones, whereas women are more likely to report crimes against them. If male agents do not report cases of attacks, patterns cannot be identified and warnings cannot be issued. “Safety training must come from the top down,” Richman says. “Leaders [in the real estate industry] have to make it a priority.”
My expert opinion is that safety education must be treated as a consistent, ongoing effort and not as a one-time event to fulfill education credits.