Hosting an open house has always been known as a great way to bring in potential buyers, but it can also put out the welcome mat for criminals.
“You are kind of a sitting duck,” said Molly Fowler, a local real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway. Practicing real estate in the valley for a few years now, she has hosted several of these kinds of events alone. “You’re always just on edge because you don’t know what to expect with people,” Fowler said.
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Fowler says she carries both a knife and pepper spray in her purse to protect herself from the unknown, and she is not to only realtor to do so.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Safety Report, 33% of realtors said they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their safety within the past year. 44% said they carry a weapon to defend themselves while on the job. Pepper spray was the most popular choice for women and guns topped the list for men.
Despite these numbers, Capt. Reggie Rader with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says weapons do not need to be the first line of defense for realtors. “If you take the time and you put the preparation work in beforehand you can avoid a lot of problems down the road,” Capt. Rader said.
The LVMPD Captain says the buddy system is a very effective way to thwart off any potential attack. The homeowner is another key to a real estate agent’s safety. Rader says it’s important to make the home less inviting for would-be criminals before hosting an open house or scheduling a showing.
“Make sure you’re not leaving valuables out. We’ve had instances where they’ve left firearms out before, they’ve left jewelry just out in the open on top of a countertop,” Capt. Rader said.
Another place to check is the medicine cabinet. Rader says a homeowner’s prescription drugs are a desirable find for criminals. This is something Tom Blanchard, president of Las Vegas Realtors, echoes.
“Make sure those things are put away and not easily accessible so that in case someone comes in here with bad intentions,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard has been practicing real estate in the Las Vegas valley for decades. He says taking steps like the ones Capt. Rader laid out could have prevented a recent burglary in Summerlin.
Metro police say a realtor was hosting an open house near Hualapai and Sunset when a group of teenagers walked through the door. Two distracted the agent while the other reportedly took several items from the master bedroom. No arrests have been made and no one was hurt. LVMPD is calling this an “isolated incident”, but the it has put many in the industry on edge.
“If we are not prepared, it can be a very unfortunate situation,” said Celeste Harvey, a mortgage loan office with the Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation.
Harvey sits in on several open houses with local realtors. She says it can be scary meeting unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar place. That is why she has organized a self-defense class just for people in the real estate industry.
“I just want people to realize that no matter how big or how small you are, if you’re a female or male, you can find yourself in a situation where you need to use basic self-defense skills,” Harvey said.
The classes take place at Smash Iron Fitness on Rainbow Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. The realtors are taught several different self-defense moves by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion, Talia Vaughan.
“We see on the news what happens to people and we don’t know those people, we think ‘oh, that would never happen to someone that I love or that I know,’ but we don’t know that,” Vaughan said.
Just like Capt. Rader, Vaughan believes that prevention is the most important part of defending oneself. Vaughan says simple things like keeping the house locked when you or setting up the open house, bringing a friend and staying alert and off your phone as you walk to your car can save your life.
“My goal is to actually have women not use these defense moves. It happens sometimes and it’s good to know them, but the best thing you can do is just prevent them from happening by thinking about things you can do to prevent it,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan says the main thing she wants people to learn from her class is to always be aware of your surroundings – a good lesson even if you don’t sell houses.
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