On a lovely spring morning, 27-year old Iowa Realty agent Ashley Okland arrived at work – a new home development in Des Moines. Later that day a neighbor in the development heard a commotion, went to investigate and found Ms. Okland lying on the floor with fatal gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
The police received hundreds of leads and even suspected a fellow agent of committing the murder, but today, Ashley Okland’s murder is classified as a cold case. Okland is one of over 100 agents murdered in the past five years.
As recently as yesterday, the news included horrifying headlines about other real estate agents attacked while on the job. Agents are targeted because they often work solo, it’s easy to lure them to areas where they will be alone and they have a reputation for wearing and carrying their valuables.
When the headlines cool off it’s easy to become complacent, but it’s also dangerous. Let’s take a look at some ways to protect yourself in some of the most vulnerable situations you find yourself in during the course of your work.
Although all real estate agents are at risk, crimes against them display some common themes:
In nearly every attack, the agent could have done something to prevent it, according to the Washington Real Estate Safety Council.
One of the biggest dangers to an agent’s safety lies in their efforts to become “social” online. Safety experts recommend maintaining a professional image online and caution that giving too much personal information makes agents a target for criminals.
Many agent bloggers think nothing of posting stories about their children, their neighborhoods and their schedules in their attempts to become more “real” to their prospects. This is a dangerous practice, warn the experts and they suggest saving the personal stuff for a newsletter sent to your verified contacts.
Real estate boards across the country and the National Association of Realtors offer suggestions on how to protect yourself while on the job. Some of the most common include:
Of the above tips, the last one is the most important, according to safety instructor Andrew Wooten, in an interview at Inman.com. After interviewing rape survivors, Wooten cautions: “Ninety-nine percent of all my survivors all say the same thing: ‘Andrew, I knew something wasn’t right. When I was doing the open house (I heard) that little voice. I didn’t feel good. But I ignored it,’ ”
Your safety starts with you so pay attention to your instincts. For additional tips, watch the Washington Real Estate Safety Council’s Safety Video 2010 on YouTube.