Strict Safety Standards in The Real Estate Industry Are Necessary to Avoid Tragedy

It’s Realtor Safety month, so tell me if this story sounds somewhat familiar. An agent is hosting an open house and is pretty much by themselves save for a few people coming in and out, maybe one or two at a time. However, one attendee seems to move slowly through the home, almost as if they are waiting for others to leave. The agent begins to feel uncomfortable with the situation.

That’s about how things were unfolding when a Tinley Park, Illinois, real estate agent came across Stanley Keller, 50, an ex-con. Keller was the only visitor at the agent’s open house, according to the National Association of Realtors.

[Keller] asked to see the upstairs bedrooms, the basement, and garage, according to a police report. The agent told police that during the home tour, she felt her body begin to vibrate, and her speech started to slur. When she turned around, Keller had his arm extended toward her with the stun gun in his hand, she said.

Unfortunately, attacks like this one aren’t new territory for real estate agents or even clients for that matter. According to the recent 2019 Realtor Safety Report from NAR, 33 percent of Realtors experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety. The typical Realtor reported feeling unsafe less than once a year (54 percent) in terms of personal safety, but unsafe in terms of personal information every few months or more often (61 percent).

In 2006, McKinney real estate agent Sarah Walker was brutally assaulted and murdered in a model home. Walker was alone at the time. In 2017, Crystal McDowell, a Houston-area real estate agent, went missing during Hurricane Harvey. She was alone when her ex-husband allegedly killed her. The list goes on, and in an industry that focuses on service above all else, safety precautions have been slow to establish.

To protect themselves while in the regular course of doing business, 44 percent of Realtors choose to carry self-defense weapons, with 35 percent of men and 49 percent of women carrying a weapon or tool to defend themselves from an attacker. 

Keeping your office in the loop on your location or whereabouts is another way Realtors try to stay safe in an industry that regularly puts them in situations where one-on-one interaction with client is the norm. Fifty-three percent of Realtors use a smartphone safety app to track their location and alert colleagues in case of emergency.

Realtors Aren’t Only Ones at Risk

But of all of the people involved in a residential real estate transaction, Realtors only make up a small fraction of the industry professionals that must visit a home during the process. Surveyors and inspectors are also at risk, especially when it comes to dealing with vacant homes that may have unrestrained pets or animals.

Unfortunately, we have a much more recent example of the dangers that home inspectors face during the course of a transaction. Brian Bassett, a home inspector with Wall-2-Wall Home Inspections, was just doing his job when he was attacked and severely mauled by a trio of pit bulls. Bassett has already undergone surgery to repair his badly damaged legs. 


It’s interesting to note that occupants of a home that is being marketed are under no specific requirements to restrain their animals to ensure the safety of agents, inspectors, and others who are involved in showing, inspecting, or preparing a home for the market. The duty is on the agent to impinge upon the occupant or seller to restrain their animals, though that is obviously not fool proof. 

Considering the dangers that real estate professionals face in the course of doing business, what standards should governing bodies take to ensure their safety?