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Exploring gun ownership in the real estate industry

Gun ownership is an emotional topic in America, as is Realtor safety – let us explore the intersection between the two.



Every time there is a new crime perpetrated on a real estate agent, there is more talk about safety standards. Many agents’ thoughts turn to taking self-defense classes and carrying a handgun, so they may defend themselves.

Interestingly, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Member Safety Report, 12 percent of agents who responded said that they already carry a gun in the field.

In this article, in a balanced way, we’ll explore the ins and outs of gun ownership, including the known associated risks and commitment needed to be proficient.

The risks of gun ownership inside your home

If you are considering purchasing a firearm, you’ll first need to recognize that statistics indicate that keeping a gun in your house is a risk.

The vast majority of homicides take place between intimates, not strangers. 

  • In 2010, nearly six times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
  • A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 5 times, if he has access to a gun.
  • It literally doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself.
  • Some studies suggest a suicide risk as high as 10 times.
  • More than 30,000 Americans injure themselves with guns every year.
  • An American is 50% more likely to shoot themselves dead than to be shot dead by a criminal.
  • For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
  • In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

You know the risks; still want to pack heat?

Now that you know the potential consequences of possessing a weapon, what’s involved in owning and carrying a firearm that you can use in the field?

You could just go to a gun show, but otherwise you must buy your gun from a federally licensed dealer in your state and submit to a background check that they will arrange, using an FBI database. Once approved, you will be required to attend mandated safety training.

In states that do not have open carry laws, you’ll need a concealed carry permit that can take several months to get approved.

In San Diego County where I live, it has been almost impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit from the Sheriff for decades (a current lawsuit may change that). So if you didn’t want to break the law, “packing” wasn’t an option. I believe there are other parts of the country with the same issues.

Now you have a gun, can you use it properly?

“How good is good enough when it comes to being able to save your life or the life of a family member?” asks Guy Minnis of Hard Target Firearms Training.

Minnis suggests that you should practice at least twice a week. Shoot at least fifty rounds at each session, and make every round count. Fire every round as if it was the only round in the gun and you need to hit your target to save your life. Do not just go through the motions.

Practice the things that you must do to put a gun into action to stop a deadly threat. Practice your draw from the holster that you carry every day and in the place you carry it every day. Practice your draw a lot and practice moving while drawing your weapon.

  • Practice dry fire skill sets 10 to 15 minutes a day, everyday.
  • Practice live fire skill sets at least twice a week and shoot no more that 50 rounds each practice session.
  • Practice with the gun you carry and where you carry it.
  • Attend training as often as you can.
  • The more structured training you receive, the better you will get.

That is quite the regimen, but remember that the most dangerous weapon is one used without proper knowledge, experience and practice.

Unless real estate agents go through the same kind of weapons training that police do — which goes far beyond the safety classes required to obtain a gun permit— they probably won’t be skilled enough at using a gun in a life-threatening situation.

What pros have to say to Realtors:

Chief Tony Holloway, of St. Petersburg Police advised Realtors not to carry a firearm. “That person’s going to take that gun away from you,” Holloway said. “That (bad) guy that’s going to make a call has got a plan, and you need to have a plan.”

Preston Taylor, a police sergeant with the Sheriff’s Department in Grand Traverse County, Mich., says criminals have often killed law enforcement officers by using the cops’ guns against them.

If a highly trained professional is vulnerable to such an attack, average citizens are doubly so, he says. Taylor, who teaches safety seminars to real estate professionals, says hesitation to use a gun in a life-threatening situation puts the gun holder’s life at risk.

With that said, in a 2012 study published by the Cato Institute, authors Clayton Cramer and David Burnett who researched and documented published news reports, concluded that large numbers of crimes; murders, assaults, robberies, are thwarted each year by ordinary persons with guns.

Bad news: Guns can make you braver

Many people who carry have a false sense of bravado just because they have a gun. There is the inevitability that you’ll start doing things that you normally wouldn’t, just because you think you’re protected.

Remember that if someone is planning something, they will probably be able to execute it before you realize what’s going on. Carrying a gun won’t stop that.

If you carry, are you really prepared to kill?

Having a gun doesn’t inherently make anyone better able to thwart an attack; it just means the battle has become more deadly. Many attackers are very skilled at gunplay and will often meet little resistance in turning your weapon against you unless you know what you are doing.

If you already carry or decide you wish to carry a gun, you’d better be sure you have the skill as well as the will to use your weapon, otherwise it’s more likely to be used against you.

If you’re not prepared to take a life, you shouldn’t carry a gun.

This rape victim had a gun, no chance to use it

11 a.m. Friday Nov. 28 2014 in Zanesville Ohio. Population around 25,000. A 39-year-old Realtor was just finishing her weekly inspection of a rural home in the county.

“I went to lock the door and someone pushed me back inside,” the Realtor said. “He came down on top of me and sexually assaulted me. As she was struggling face down on the floor, the victim reached for her 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun. Her attacker knocked the weapon out of her hand, causing the weapon to discharge. Each time she’d try to turn and fight back, her head was smashed against the floor.”

The victim also had this advice: “I hope Realtors get that when you go to a house and your hair stands up on your neck and you feel something’s wrong — leave.”

There are alternative strategies

If you still wish to arm yourself, nonlethal weapons can be a choice for people who aren’t psychologically prepared to use lethal force.

  • Knives: Almost 10 percent of male agents and just over 2 percent of female agents admit to carrying a knife on the job.
  • Mace or pepper spray: While some states may restrict the amount of pepper spray or mace you can carry, most don’t require a permit to carry defense spray.
  • Taser: Tasers are legal without a permit in most states, but prohibited in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, as well as in certain cities and counties.

There’s more to safety than arming yourself

You may be missing the vital step of screening out those that mean harm, before they actually look at property with you. By following proper safety procedures, you’re already reducing the chances of becoming a victim.

If you insist on verifying a Photo ID in advance, for instance, it is unlikely that perpetrators will comply, so you won’t have to meet with them in the first place.

If you meet at your office or an alternate location such as a Starbucks and your intuition tells you something is wrong, you can (and should) terminate the meeting. If you meet at the property, this is much harder to do.

Is a gun right for you?

If you are considering purchasing a gun because you fear for your safety, you now know the risks involved and the commitment to become proficient.

If you already carry a weapon, in the right hands, I’m sure it can save lives. Be honest: How long ago did you practice? Did you only take the safety course? Ask yourself if you are really competent enough to use your weapon in an emergency, when you may be in a life-threatening situation, with all your adrenaline pumping.

Revisit how your gun stored in your home – otherwise, it’s a standing invitation to family tragedy at the hands of a partner/spouse, a troubled adolescent, or a clumsy child.

Guns are an emotional subject for many Americans, as we have a Constitutional right to bear arms. But this isn’t about gun control – it’s about individual choices and personal responsibility.

We’ll be tackling this topic from various angles in coming weeks, so let us know your thoughts in the comments…


Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

Why real estate brokerages are not startups

(REAL ESTATE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, and also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.



real estate startup

Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does. And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why you must suddenly improve your behavior during showings

(TECHNOLOGY) No longer just for secret lair owners, doorbell cams are on the rise. Make sure you’re on your best behavior when showing a property or your clients will know.



ring doorbell showings

Everyone is watching you all the time, and no, this isn’t paranoia speaking. Many homes now have security measures in place beyond a basic alarm.

As a real estate agent or broker, when you’re showing a property, keep in mind the age old adage: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.

More homeowners are installing security cameras, which can broadcast audio and video directly to their smartphones. So even if your client is at work, they can see and hear everything you’re doing if they want to tune in to their camera stream.

Although most listing clients get feedback from tours, they could theoretically check the quality of salesmanship before you even enter the front door during showings., for example, offers real time info with video doorbells, floodlight cams, and security cameras. All their products broadcast HD video directly to an app available for Android and Apple customers.

Users are alerted any time someone comes in range of the security camera or approaches the door. With two-way audio, homeowners can answer the door remotely through the app.

Amazon recently purchased Ring for a cool billion dollars, so expect to see ownership on the rise. Thanks to some heavy investing on Amazon’s part back in December 2017, Ring products are already integrated as an Alexa skill, so users can interact with Ring security products through their Echo devices.

Google-owned Nest cams pick up motion as well, and even simple indoor motion cams will alert owners of someone’s presence. With the power of wifi and a security camera, homeowners can track your activity on showings.

Avoid the classic theater nightmare scenario where an actor gets caught trash talking backstage because oops, their microphone was on an the entire audience heard everything.

You don’t want to put yourself or company in a compromising situation because something that should have been said in confidence got captured on a doorbell cam outside, or a security cam inside.

Of course, you are already on your most professional behavior when you’re showing a home, cameras or not, but keep in mind that it’s now even easier for clients to monitor their home’s interior and exterior activities.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s how

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but absolutely should.



internal communication strategy

It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh personally and professionally. Help your organization start fresh by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re headingm or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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