Connect with us

Opinion Editorials

Minding Realtor safety may seem paranoid, but losing friends is worse



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.

Katie Cosner, occasionally known as Kathleen, or KT, is a Realtor® with Cutler Real Estate and is active in her local Board of Realtors® on the Equal Opportunity & Professional Development Committee. She has been floating around online for a number of years, and is on facebook as well as twitter. While Katie has a few hardcore beliefs, three in the Real Estate World to live and die by are; education, ethics, and the law - insert random quote from “A Few Good Men” here. Katie is also an avid Cleveland Indians fan, which really explains quite a bit of her… quirks.

Continue Reading


  1. "Tracey, the Safety Lady"

    September 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Katie, thank you for the important reminder! I am a former agent and now I teach agent safety. This is my passion. It is sad to read about crimes against agents. I agree with you, education is the key to helping prevent these types of crimes. I am often surprised that all companies/boards/associations don't value and schedule safety training. It should be mandatory!

    Agents have to change their way of thinking. Yes, it is inconvenient to take the extra step to have the client come into the office first. Yes, it is hard to find an agent to go with you to show a property when you feel uncomfortable. Yes, open houses are good for business, but dangerous… You can take the danger out of the job, with some education and hard work.

    • Kathleen Cosner

      September 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm

      Tracey, here, usually twice a year our local BOR does offer a great safety class that includes some self-defense and education. More would be nice though, as (I think) people tend to become complacent when these issues aren't talked about, and some of the free education can be outdated.

      And I agree with you!!!

  2. "Tracey, the Safety Lady"

    September 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I applaud you and BOR! You are really the exception. Most don't have one program, let alone two! I know, I speak to them and they tell me they are not interested, they would rather schedule programs to increase sales. They tell me there is no budget for safety training… Really? Katie, you are insightful and hit the nail on the head, agents become complacent after the stories about these crimes fade away. I firmly belive in being proactive. Let's not wait for a crime to happen or only focus on safety during Safety Month. I host an agent safety group on Linked In. The numbers have increased since the murder in Iowa this past spring. I share stories about these crimes, I give tips and advice and I ask agents to share their stories and safety tips. Is it possible to share the link here?

    • Kathleen Cosner

      September 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      That's sad that BOR's don't want to be involved. There should always be $$ for CE. From what I understand the one here gets a good turnout.

  3. Liz Benitez

    September 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    A little over a year ago maybe a few month, I had decided I was going to be more careful. I stopped meeting first time clients at homes, even if they were just down the street or on my way home. I make them meet me at the office, I sit down get their contact information (even if they already gave it to me on the phone), and make a copy of their license. I actually had another realtor give me a hard time because I would not show her property to a call in that refused to meet me at the office. She said I was being paranoid. Then we heard about the Ohio murders and I was very glad I held out.

    • Kathleen Cosner

      September 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Liz, you are so correct in doing what you're doing, and awesome for holding your ground with the other agent!

  4. Devin O'Branagan

    September 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Katie, so thrilled you wrote this post!

    I am a real estate agent and a novelist. One of my bestselling novels, RED HOT PROPERTY, is a seriocomic tale about a group of rookie Realtors. It explores the highs, lows, and dangers of the profession.

    Tragically, in an unexpected plot twist, one of the rookies in RED HOT PROPERTY is murdered while showing property. The National Association of Realtors was so taken by the safety message of the book that they featured it and an interview with me during Safety Week the year the book was released (2008). Rick DeLuca endorsed the book. I've been asked to appear at real estate conventions to promote it, and I've been invited to speak at many real estate office sales meetings. Real estate schools throughout the country recommend it to their students. Owner/Brokers buy the book to give to their agents. I hope some of your readers will check it out as well.

    Here is a link to a page on my website that I devote to Realtors and their reactions to this book. It also has a link to the NAR interview with me that REALTOR Magazine ran:

    Because the book is a novel, and on the surface a very funny novel, the tragedy it reveals is powerful. It has an emotional impact that a dry list of safety tips lack.

    If you would like a copy of it for review, please contact me.

    Please help me spread the word.I believe this is a book all real estate professionals should read. Thanks so much!

  5. James Shaw

    September 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I'll be contacting your Editor directly too, but I wanted to say here that it is my company's new mission to give a free pepper spray to every woman in America.. I started with students at local colleges in Austin and now I want to approach local Realtors. Hopefully very shortly I can be handing out free pepper sprays here and quickly expand the giveaways elsewhere.

    You can read more about our mission on our website. Thanks for a great article Katie!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion Editorials

Mantras to help you cope with COVID-19 anxieties

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has cause a lot of wierd changes to everyday life, and with unexpected changes can come serious anxiety. Here’s a couple ways to deal with it.



COVID-19 anxiety

COVID-19 is stressful. Yeah, okay, that’s stating (and probably understating) the obvious, but it’s worth talking about the anxiety that this new normal has brought with it. Whether you have anxiety disorder or you’re just generally anxious because of all the sudden changes that COVID-19 has brought with it, it’s worth talking about ways you can cope, beyond the usual advice of “exercise, eat healthy, get sleep.”

I mean, yes. Try to do that too. But we’ve got some mental techniques that might help. Mantras, if you will, that could be helpful when coping with the stress of this situation seems to be too tough.

“I made it through something before.”

It can be really easy to get swept up in the powerless feeling that comes along with something this big and out of our control. As an individual, you might not be able to turn the tides of the virus or the affects it’s having on daily life, but you do have control over yourself. And human beings are tough. Even if we don’t feel like it.

One way to remind yourself of this power is to remember a time you overcame another obstacle. Whether it’s something big, like unemployment or the death of a loved one, or a smaller challenge, like getting a bad grade or losing something you treasured, visualize not just the problem, but how you got through it. Remember the strength and patience you had in overcoming the challenge.

Then take another deep breath and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that you’ve done hard things before. You can do them again.

“I couldn’t have planned for this.”

If you’re like me, it can be easy to get stressed out about unplanned occurrences. I prefer to plan in advance for things – especially big changes – and as someone who moved to a brand new city right before this pandemic blew up, well, all my plans went out the window. Sure, you might not be trying to make it in an entirely new environment during this upheaval, but chances are, some of your plans have gotten waylaid as well.

Which is why it’s important to remind yourself that you couldn’t really have planned for this. Think about it, a year ago, would this ever have entered into your five year plan? Absolutely not! You planned for a pandemic-free future, which was perfectly reasonable. If your anxiety is stemming from the feeling that you “could have, should have” done something differently, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s not your fault.

Then take another deep breath, and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that something of this scale changing your plans does not reflect your skill or value as an individual.

“This, too, will pass.”

It can be really hard to visualize this thing being over. I mean, have you heard the joke that March seemed to last a whole year? In all seriousness, though, with so much changing so quickly and no definite answer of when shut-downs will end, it can feel overwhelming, but as cliche as it might sound, this trouble will end too. So it’s worth taking a deep breath in the face of this uncertainty to remember that it will be over one day.

Then take another deep breath and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that while it’s challenging now, in the moment, it won’t always be this way.

Anxiety often leaves us trapped in our uncertainty and fear. If these phrases don’t work to ease your worry, it’s worth keeping an eye out for something that will. Because we can all benefit from taking a moment to take some deep breaths and remind ourselves that even though it’s a scary time right now, we’re going to make it through.

Continue Reading

Opinion Editorials

How Gen X is nailing the COVID-19 social distancing order

(EDITORIAL) Of course, someone found a way to bring up generational stereotyping during COVID-19 and claim who is best, but are they onto something?



Demographics and categorizing people helps us to process groups. A huge part of demographics and how we market ourselves in a job search, for example, is sharing our level of experiences and skill sets related to our profession – thus alluding to our age. Millennials (b. 1981-1996) received a lot of generational shame for being elitist and growing up in a time where they all received participation trophies – therefore being judged for not always winning a fair competition.

Gen X (roughly b. 1961-1981) has often commented that they feel like the forgotten generation which so much attention being play to the Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) who seemed to be born in to a great time of prosperity for “The American Dream” and then the Millennials who overtook Gen X and some of their jobs while they weren’t enough Gen Xers to fill them.

In this article “It Took a Global Pandemic, But Generation X is Finally Getting Love”, it is discussed how great Gen X is at this social distancing thing and maybe this will be helpful to anyone who feels like they are losing their mind. This is by no means an intent to shame any generation nor claim no one else knows how to handle it but this article does a great job about why Gen X might be primed to be handling the global pandemic well with the times they were raised in.

Right now, it’s a waiting game for many people who’s professions and lives have changed in what seemed like overnight. The patience required. The uncertainty of it all. The global pandemic forced (without any forgiveness), a swift move to new ways of life. The busy-ness of our days came to a crashing halt when we were no longer allowed to be out and about in places with large groups and possibly sent home to work remotely.

Many non-essential businesses were forced to close which meant people could not only not work at the office, but also had to cease their extra-curricular activities like working out at the gym, shopping, eating brunch with friends or taking their kids to their sporting events, a playground and/or coordinating a play date or sleepover. The directive from our local and federal government was for “social distancing” before the shelter in place orders came.

Gen X may agree that there were some pretty great things about their childhood – the types of things you do with your time because you don’t have a smartphone or tablet addiction and the fact that there was no way for your work to get a hold of you 24/7. Gen X did have TV and video games and sure, Mom and Dad didn’t really want you spending all of your time behind a screen but it also seemed that there wasn’t as much of a guilt trip if you did spend some of your “summer vacation” from school playing Nintendo or Sega with your neighborhood friends.

It seems like the article alludes to the idea that COVID might be helping people to get back to some of those basics before smartphones became as important to us as one of our limbs.

Gen X has had no problem adapting to technology and in their careers, they have had to adapt to many new ways of doing things (remember when caller ID came out and it was no longer a surprise who was calling?! Whaaaat?! And you can’t prank call anyone any more with your teenage friends at a sleepover! Gasp! You also wouldn’t dare TP an ex-boyfriend’s house right now).

Regardless of the need to learn new hard skills and technologies, everyone has been forced to adjust their soft skills like how technology and still being a human can play well together (since it is really nice to be able to FaceTime with loved ones far away). It seems those slightly unquantifiable adaptable and flexible skills are even more required now. It also seems that as you grow in your career, Emotional Intelligence might be your best skill in these uncertain times.

And not that we are recommending eating like crap or too many unhealthy items, Gen X has been known to be content surviving on Pop Tarts, Spaghetti O’s, Ding-dongs and macaroni and cheese which are all pretty shelf stable items right now. Whatever way is possible for you, it might be a good time to find the balance again in work, technology, home, rest, relaxation and education if at all possible.

Continue Reading

Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.



strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms. 
Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.
The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.
And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.
We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.
That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!