Foreclosed homes aren't just enticing to homebuyers. The vacant properties make easy targets – and makeshift homes – for vandals, vagrants, and lawbreakers.
Those house guests represent a real threat to realtors around the nation, murdering, robbing, and raping tens each year.
“Walking in on someone unexpectedly is scary and dangerous,” said Kris Klair, broker/owner of EXIT Realty Consultants in Turlock.
It's not just foreclosed homes which draw criminals; open houses and agents who drive clients to potential homes are frequently targeted as well.
Last year, an Atlanta, Ga. real estate broker found herself bound with duct tape and robbed at a model home. In Ohio, within a one-week span, two agents were killed in vacant homes and a third was robbed.
In 2000 alone, 21 real estate professionals were murdered on the job, per the Real Estate Safety Council. From 1982 to 2000, 206 agents died as a result of on-the-job violent assaults.
The problem isn't limited to other states. Local agents face the same threats.
Just a few months ago, EXIT Realtor Renee Ledbetter entered a foreclosed home in Modesto, front door locked and seemingly intact. But upon entering the bedroom, Ledbetter found a man sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag.
Ledbetter was able to leave the home before the man woke up, but the event made her suddenly aware of the dangers in her job.
“I thought, this is really dangerous and we really need to be aware of our surroundings,” Ledbetter said.
A potentially more dangerous scenario faced EXIT Realtor Ruby Caballero, who was attacked in a parking lot. Only a last-resort chop to the attacker's throat allowed Caballero to escape.
“It gave me enough time to get in my car and get away,” Caballero said.
The shared experiences led EXIT Realty Consultants to the concept of sponsoring a self-defense course for employees. That idea grew naturally into a self-defense course for all women in real estate, scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Jan. 21.
Turlock's Fusion Studios will play host to the class, entitled “The Scary Reality of Real Estate: A Self-Defense Class for Women in Real Estate,” and geared toward real estate professionals.
“This class is designed to help agents protect themselves and teach them to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” Klair said.
Suprena Clark, owner of Fusion Studios and holder of a second-degree black belt in Shou Shu, will teach the self-defense course. A Turlock police officer will be present too, offering information about dressing for success and safety, planning safe open houses, and using technology for safety.
The class is open to women in real estate, inspectors, and appraisers. Men won't be turned away either – though they may be used as practice dummies, Ledbetter joked.
The self-defense event cost is $5 for registrations by Jan. 13, and $10 at the door. Space is limited, and the first 60 registrants will receive a free key chain pepper spray.
For more information, call 499-3282 or 543-5858.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.