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Opinion Editorials

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

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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.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  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:
    devinwrites.com/theredhotnovels/forrealtors.html

    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!

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Opinion Editorials

6 skills humans have that AI doesn’t… yet

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about the growing power and skill of AI, but here are a few skills where we have the upper hand.

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Man drawing on a roll of butcher paper, where AI cannot express themselves yet.

AI is taking over the workforce as we know it. Burgers are already being flipped by robotic arms (and being flipped better), and it’s only a matter of time before commercial trucks and cars will be driven by robots (and, probably, be driven better).

It may feel unnerving to think about the shrinking number of job possibilities for future humans – what jobs will be around for humans when AI can do almost everything better than we can?

To our relief (exhale!), there are a few select skills that humans will (hopefully) always be better at than AI. The strengths that we have over AI fall into 3 general categories: Ability to convey emotion, management over others, and creativity.

Let’s break it down: Here are 6 skills that we as humans should be focusing on right now.

Our ability to undertake non-verbal communication

What does this mean for humans? We need to develop our ability to understand and communicate body language, knowing looks, and other non-verbal cues. Additionally, we need to refine our ability to make others feel warm and heard – if you work in the hospitality industry, mastering these abilities will give you an edge over the AI technologies that might replace you.

Our ability to show deep empathy to customers

Unlike AI, we share experiences with other humans and can therefore show empathy to customers. Never underestimate how powerful your deep understanding of being human will be when you’re pitted against a robot for a job. It might just be the thing that gives you a cutting edge.

Our ability to undertake growth management

As of this moment, humans are superior to AI when it comes to managing others. We are able to support organization members in developing their skillsets and, due to our coaching ability, we are able to help others to grow professionally. Take that, AI!

Our ability to employ mind management

What this essentially means is that we can support others. Humans have counseling skills, which means we are able to help someone in distress, whether that stems from interpersonal relationships or professional problems. Can you imagine an AI therapist?

Our ability to perform collective intelligence management

Human creativity, especially as it relates to putting individual ideas together to form an innovative new one, gives us a leg up when competing against AI. Humans are able to foster group thought, to manage and channel it, to create something bigger and better than what existed before. Like, when we created AI in the first place.

Our ability to realize new ideas in an organization

Think: Elevator pitch. Humans are masters of marketing new ideas and are completely in-tune with how to propose new concepts to an organization because, you guessed it, we too are human. If the manager remains human in the future (fingers crossed!), then we know what to say to them to best sell our point of view.

Using what we know, it’s essential for almost all of us to retrain for an AI-driven economy that is most likely just a few years away. My advice for my fellow humans? Develop the parts of you that make you human. Practice eye contact and listening. Think about big pictures and the best way to manage others. Sharpen your mind with practicing creative processes. And do stay up to date with current trends in AI tech. Sooner or later, these babies are bound to be your co-workers.

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Opinion Editorials

Questions you wished recruiters would answer

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Job searching is anxiety inducing, and not getting feedback can be tough. What can job seekers, recruiters, and HR do to make it easier?

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Two men interviewing at a table, job searching.

Job searching can be frustrating and stressful – not to mention anxiety-driven – but also sometimes filled with hope and excitement for a new opportunity on the horizon. Most people aren’t huge fans of multiple interviews, constantly selling themselves, or the uncertainty of when an exciting offer will come their way. Here are some considerations to try to put it in to a healthy perspective.

Yes, you will feel stressed and anxious. If you can, allow yourself to accept these feelings as part of your journey in life. Take note of what can you do to move forward, and hopefully it will propel your energy into time and space that is well spent.

Just know that you are not alone on a myriad of questions that no one has really answered for you. That is mostly due to the other side of the table which usually includes Human Resources and a Hiring Manager.

Question: What is the status of my application?

Answer: It really depends. Did you apply online? Is it sitting in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System = software to track job applicants and open job requisitions)? Has anyone looked at it? Have you gone through a recruiter and are waiting to hear back? Have you sent it to a friend or former colleague who works at that institution? Do we know if this position is still open?

Ideas to move forward: If there is anyone you can get in touch with about your application, do it. Send a polite email to them asking if there’s any chance if the position is still open and/or if your application has been reviewed. If there is no one to get in touch with, keep moving forward in your job searching. ATS’s are GREAT for the employer. They help track applicants and scan for keywords. The challenge is they may not be great for the job seeker and might be sitting in a black hole. Consider that 300 job searching applications are sitting there with yours.

It’s not that you are not good enough. And it’s not that you don’t have what it takes. It’s that your resume is combined with a lot of other information and may not even have been reviewed. They may have also filled the position and didn’t take the posting down.

OR, clients change their minds all the time – maybe they are going in a new direction with this role. See if you can find out the status first. And if you can’t, move on. You can learn more about ATS here from Jobscan.

Question: May I have feedback from my interview(s)?

Answer: Most likely, no. They may give you some simple answer “You didn’t quite have the experience they were looking for” or “We’ve hired an internal applicant.” Without getting into too many details and legal guidelines (that I’m not even sure I’m aware of), company representatives often cannot give too much feedback to an interview for fear of being sued. They don’t want to be sued for ageism, sexism, etc. so it’s easier to not give any feedback.

Please excuse the gross oversimplification here, but also think about the company. They may be trying to recruit new employees for 100s of positions. If they interview even 3-5 people per position, they just don’t have the time to give detailed feedback to every interview. Try to think back to a time that maybe you had a crush on someone and or were dating and it just didn’t fit or feel right. Did you want to have to give a detailed explanation or did you just hope you (and they) could move on? Move on if it’s not a right fit. NEXT.

Question: If not a fit for this role, am I fit for other roles within the organization?

Answer: You can certainly ask this if you are given a rejection (and not ghosted). The truth is, the team (or people) you were interviewing with are most likely not concerned with too many other roles in the organization. They may not have been briefed on what others are looking for nor care – going back to the time thing, they just don’t have a lot of it.

However, it could be worth asking on the off-chance that Jim from another department did mention to them he was looking for someone like you. However, if you don’t hear back on that, definitely do not take it personally. They likely have no clue and it may take you applying to another position or another person in your network helping you to identify this other role during the job searching process.

Question: Why did the recruiter ghost me?

Answer: Honestly, I’m sorry that they did. It’s crappy and doesn’t feel good. It’s disrespectful and really doesn’t leave a good impression. I don’t have an excuse for them other than to say that they’re busy working to fill roles. It’s unlikely that they are on a 100% commission basis but if they are, think about how they need to move on to the next thing to keep food on their table. And even though most get paid a decent base salary, each role does lead to commission for them. It is part of their job responsibilities to find and hire the right talent. Recruiters have a lot of metrics they need to hit and they only have so much time in the day like everyone else. They may not have the luxury of time to follow up with every person that is not the right fit.

I still believe they should let you know, but chalk it up as something out of control, do your best to move on.

Request to HR/Recruiters

If there is any way at all that you can make sure you keep in touch with your job searching candidates (even if it’s to say you don’t have new updates), you will really help their anxiety and help them balance timelines and possibly other interviews and offers.

As this article from Evil HR lady shares, if you are unable to give them feedback regarding their rejection for a position, consider offering a couple things you feel they could approve upon. Your advice may not even be job specific but here are some ideas to consider that may be helpful to the job seeker:

  • Make sure you answer the phone with enthusiasm and not sound like I interrupted you or you just woke up.
  • Be sure to do company and role research for every single interview.
  • Dress to impress – even if it’s a virtual interview (and don’t forget to test your camera and audio before).
  • Turn off your phone and IM notifications when interviewing to minimize distractions.
  • Thank you emails or snail mail are still more than welcome and a nice gesture.
  • Google yourself and do a quick look at what a recruiter might see if they Google you – are impressive and professional details coming up? If not, you may want to work on pushing out some thoughtful content.
  • Tread lightly with insincere LinkedIn connection requests.

You cannot control the process so you must hold onto your hope and continue to make efforts. Hopefully this help shares some insights and helps to normalize this process.

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Opinion Editorials

Woman fired for premarital sex, raises questions of company culture

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) This unfortunate circumstance for a former David Ramsey employee has raised the age-old conversation of how to enforce a company culture.

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Company culture being established around a meeting table with dark colored drinks and notebooks.

America, the land of the free, and the opinionated. And in company culture, this is no different.

Over the years the US has grown and changed. A nation that over the centuries formed from the amalgamation of beliefs and cultures. Now let us be frank, there is a majority in certain beliefs and practices. Those groups can also sometimes come with rather large mouth pieces as well, but that isn’t always a bad thing. People’s moral and cultural compasses influence the world around us. Ultimately, we can create cults or communities. We can be harmful or helpful with how we choose to influence those around us.

When you combine that with economics, though, that’s when things can get tricky. The difficulties of mixing the cooperate world with morals and beliefs can get expensive. There are numerous instances of companies being sued for wrongful termination. Currently, Dave Ramsey’s company has recently come into the spotlight due to a lawsuit being filed against them by a disgruntled employee. The company culture has strict rules against certain extracurricular activities. Now usually people would think they would mean recreational drugs, but not in this case. As of March 8th, Ramsey Solutions has reportedly fired 8 employees over the last 5 years for engaging in premarital sex.

Caitlin O’Connor is the latest employee to deal with this situation. Now, while some of us may have seen this company culture and decided to just keep life and work separate, there’s another difficulty here. Ms. O’Connor has recently become pregnant, which leaves no doubt about her outside of work activities. Now there is a number of different emotions that happen here. A woman who is now pregnant is losing her job. This may be a person who has no desire to get married and now she’s thrust into unemployment for doing nothing but enjoying a part of life. It is a frustrating situation to say the least on her side.

In that frustration on the part of Ms. O’Connor, however, there are also similar issues on the part of the company. While they have set up this company culture and laid down rules for all their employees, they now have to uphold and find a replacement for this resource completely unexpectedly. It was not only clearly laid out in their company guidelines that they do not condone this behavior, nor its implications, but Ms. O’Connor openly admitted that she was aware of the implications of her actions as well. This company has built a community with expectations and is willing to uphold them. That is their right.

I remember growing up there was a cake shop in Colorado that refused to create a cake for a gay couple based upon their religious beliefs. It was back in 2012. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the shop had the right to refuse service based on their beliefs, which to be honest was my expectation. However, in the process of this that particular his business has not flourished. Ultimately one has to decide whether they want to follow their beliefs in the face of economic hardship. It’s a true show of faith of course but also, is it practical.

Living your life, your way, is the point of this country. We have to remember to share that space with those who believe differently. Bringing no harm to others is one thing, but can we truly be a common people if we refuse to go outside of our own beliefs and morals?

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