Melissa Donnahoe, broker / owner


By Melissa Donnahoe

Safety Tips for Realtors: What I learned from my self-defense training

Safety as a Realtor

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Recently, I completed a 10-week self-defense training course with my family through C.O.B.R.A. in Coral Springs. As a Realtor and a broker, my goal was to learn effective self-defense techniques that can keep me, my team and my family safe.

I cannot overstate how empowering the experience was. It is amazing how much more confident I feel about my own safety as a Realtor and in general. I know what to do if, God forbid, something were to happen that I didn’t want. 

I wanted to share what I learned about self-defense and Realtor safety, in particular. If you’re a real estate agent, keep reading to learn about a free class!

The Basics of Safety as a Realtor

Our instructor was Tim Robertson, who is a wealth of knowledge and experience. C.O.B.R.A. is essentially a law enforcement training program designed for civilians. It was created by Chris Sutton of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa Bay, Florida in 2002. Now, it’s taught worldwide.

Tim said he’s personally trained in martial arts for 50 years. However, C.O.B.R.A. is different. It teaches self defense techniques that work in real-world scenarios. 

In action movies, we watch actors take down bad guys with elaborate martial art techniques. As women, we are taught to hold our keys between our fingers and carry pepper spray. 

Those techniques do not work in real life, I learned. Even calling 911 is not a failsafe. If you manage to make the call while you are being attacked, you still have to defend yourself for 8 to 11 minutes while law enforcement arrives. 

Tim explained that he could show us what to do if we ended up in a physical confrontation. However, 90 percent of staying safe as a Realtor is being proactive. 

While I highly recommend the full self-defense training with Tim, you can be proactive about your personal safety as a Realtor right now. 

Important Safety Tips for Realtors

1. Recognize Your Own Vulnerability 

The first thing we learned was how vulnerable real estate agents can be to an attack. Tim called us “soft targets.” 

If you are a Realtor with high visibility, your picture is everywhere. That lets criminals know what you look like. 

We also get calls to meet potential buyers at empty houses, sometimes at odd hours. We usually have a laptop inside our cars when we arrive and wear nice jewelry when we meet clients. 

We walk into potentially dangerous situations as easy, profitable targets. Our best self defense as Realtors out in the field is changing our mindset and stopping a threat before it happens. 

2. Do Not Rely on “Self-Defense Myths”

Lots of the safety measures are not as effective as we think, Tim explained. 

In fact, Tim said relying on what he called “self-defense myths” is actually very dangerous. We make ourselves even more vulnerable when we enter a situation feeling confident about a technique that will not help us during an actual attack. 

Examples of Self-Defense Myths include: 

  • Carrying pepper spray 
  • Kicking the attacker in the groin
  • Carrying a gun
  • Holding keys between your fingers 
  • Calling 911 
  • Using fighting moves as seen on TV

Tim showed us during our training why these techniques do not work. It was eye-opening, to say the least. 

3. Do Not Travel Alone

Part of our normal work as real estate agents is to meet people we have never met. The best policy to ensure your safety as a Realtor is to avoid traveling alone, especially when meeting with a stranger. Two people are not as vulnerable to an attack as one Realtor alone. 

Of course, I know from experience that meeting clients in pairs is not always realistic or practical. Even if you are lucky enough to have a travel partner on standby, real estate transactions happen quickly and often with little notice.

However, Tim explained that we should always tell strangers (or clients that just make us uneasy) that you AND a partner will be meeting them on location. If your partner does not arrive with you, assure the client that he or she will arrive any minute.

Even if it turns out to be untrue, you have created a complication for a potential attacker to contend with, which creates an extra layer of safety for you. 

4. Document the Interaction 

If you must travel alone, Tim explained that it was good policy to keep your office, your boss or a trusted partner informed of where and when you are meeting clients. Establish a Realtor safety protocol for checking in before and after you meet your clients.

Before you start property tours with a new client, ask to take their picture at the back of their own vehicle. Include the license plate in your shot, and send the photo to your office or partner right away. This lets someone you trust know where you are and provides identifiable information of who you are with.

Tell the client that your brokerage requires this step before you can show them the property. It is actually a good idea to let them know of the policy ahead of time, so they do not perceive you as a soft target.

While you are sending the photo, keep the client in sight and avoid other distractions.

5. Always Let the Client Walk in First

Real estate agents are especially vulnerable while they are fumbling with the lock box, preoccupied and with their heads down. 

To maintain safety as a Realtor, arrive before the client so you can unlock the front door before they are standing behind you. Additionally, avoid being on the phone while you unlock the door.

Insist the client walks in first. Open the door, step aside and let them through first. This is a good policy as a Realtor anyway, allowing your clients to have an unimpeded first impression of the home or property. 

However, it is also important to let them in first so that you avoid a potential attacker quickly locking the door behind you. 

6. Get Trained!

I highly recommend the full C.O.B.R.A. 20-hour self-defense training to real estate agents concerned about their safety. Realtors should not be easy targets for criminals and attackers. It is time to change that. We can do it by preparing ourselves and our teams!

If you are in the South Florida area, Royal Empire Realty is offering a free Demo for Realtor Safety on June 20 at our office in Coral Springs.

Contact me to reserve your spot, as spots are limited!

Tim Robertson will be presenting, so this is a great way to see his training for yourself. He will teach some valuable techniques that Realtors can employ in their own safety and self-defense right away.

For more information about C.O.B.R.A. self-defense training, call Tim at 954-630-5840.

The world is getting to be dangerous. Learn how to protect yourself, your team and your family!



Headshot of Melissa Donnahoe

Melissa Donnahoe is the Broker/Owner of Royal Empire Realty, powered by SELLSTATE. She was born and raised in Florida and is extremely familiar with the area and the ever-changing real estate market. She has worked in both Residential and Commercial Real Estate and has been involved in hundreds of transactions.

She is not just a Realtor, but an investor as well. She works with other investors to show them how to leverage their time and money through her knowledge, experience and amazing team of professionals.

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