First anniversary of two lives lost
As we approach September, we are being reminded that it will be Realtor Safety month from all different kinds of avenues. Sites like AGBeat are running stories, Governors will be declaring September Real Estate Safety Month, emails will be going out from NAR, and additional continuing education classes focusing on self-defense and being safe on the job are being offered across the country. While it’s awesome to have a month devoted to safety ideas being promoted by our industry, it’s vital that we remember to implement the practices, procedures, and precautions with us every single day. If we need a reminder as to why, we only have to look back to September a year ago, when two Ohio Realtors were murdered within a week of each other while showing properties.
Last September, within less than 24 hours of each other, Vivian Martin and Andy VonStein were both killed, in unrelated instances, while showing property. Vivian was showing a rental property in Youngstown, OH when she was attacked. She was strangled, and the home was set on fire. The thugs, who murdered Vivian, were also wanted for robbery of another agent in the area, which occurred about a week before the killing. In Andy’s case, he was shot in the chest, and left in the basement of a vacant home in a crazy revenge trip from a perceived deal that had gone bad, years before. All the assailants were tracked quite swiftly, and detained.
Losing a coworker is life changing
For some, these murders may seem atypical occurrences, things that will never happen during the course of doing business. For the Realtors in my company, including myself, they are horrific crimes that hit way too close to home. Andy worked mostly out of my office, and I had known him for years, before I was even licensed. Vivian, a broker, and longtime Realtor, reminded me that we all can be extremely vulnerable in showing situations.
There is no way to prevent every single crime. However, by taking precautions, being smart in our actions, and not becoming complacent, we can limit the exposure to potential violence. We can utilize tools, such as the mobile app that AG partner Moby offers. If, as in this area, many court websites are updated instantly, we can do relatively quick checks on potential clients to see if they have been busted for anything.
One preventative step: Google
With Google or other search engines, we can look up people, phone numbers, and even companies and find out scores of information. Prior to showing a home, at the initial meeting with a client, we can first greet them at our office, during business hours. Others will know who we are with, what they look like, and we can take this opportunity to copy driver’s licenses, and write down plate numbers. On every single showing, or when we are out on the road, we txt or call someone to let them know where we are and who will be with us. We can have a friend go with us to properties. There are a variety of self-defense and safety CE classes that are available, as well as carrying mace, pepper spray, or a weapon, if things do go bad on showings.
If it saves one life…
Some of these things may seem over-reactive, or paranoid-ish. If we have to be a little paranoid, if we have to take the time to research before rushing out and showing properties to people we don’t know, then so be it. Safety is no accident. Preventing even one violent crime is worth taking a few minutes to think about what we’re doing before acting. Having been on the receiving end of a phone call saying a friend and fellow Realtor has been murdered, is one of the most horrid things to go through. It would have been much worse for me, however, if I had been the victim.