Broker beware: From robbery to assault, realty agents face big risksBy Alison Brown Contact Reporter
November 29, 2017, 12:37 PM
Sonia Figueroa was spooked. So she decided to get a gun.
The Century 21-affiliated real estate broker has been working in Chicago for more than a decade. She knows the basics of staying safe, tactics many in the field said they follow: Let someone know where you are, don’t post too many personal details online.
But this year, three unsettling incidents made Figueroa think twice about protecting herself. In February, while conducting a Facebook Live video from a vacant lot, Figueroa said she was attacked by a pit bull. Her screams were broadcast.
Then, in April, her Portage Park office was robbed. Three teenagers issued threats and took her purse, she said.
The next month, in May, while showing a client a vacant property in Avondale, Figueroa heard footsteps and conversation on the second floor. She believes it was a drug deal. All she knows for sure is that a man began running down the stairs toward where she was standing.
“I told the client, ‘Oh my God, we’ve gotta run for it,’” she said.
She and her client weren’t harmed, but Figueroa was fed up.
So she enrolled in a concealed carry course.
After 13 years in the industry, “I never would have thought I would be here right now, talking about guns,” she said.
But staying safe in a field that involves visiting vacant homes and being present at publicly advertised events is something many in the real estate business said they often consider.
A National Association of Realtors survey on members’ safety released in August found many reported feeling fear while hosting open houses or otherwise showing vacant or model homes.
In the 2017 Realtors report, 25 percent of men and 44 percent of women said they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or the safety of their personal information. About half (52 percent of men, 57 percent of women) said they carry weapons; the most common were pepper spray, carried by 19 percent of agents, followed by guns, which 16 percent carried. Others toted pocket knives and stun guns.