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Personal Safety – Complacency Can Kill

Good Morning Professionals,

With the news on the front page of the Victoria Times Colonist this morning about the murder of 24-year-old Lindsay Buziak while showing a house, I’m sure we’re all thinking about our own experiences with clients that just didn’t feel right. Remember, if in doubt, get out. That sale isn’t worth it. You might anger a legitimate client, but anyone worth dealing with would understand your need to take care of your personal safety. You might save yourself a headache from a difficult client or even worse, your life.

I never met Lindsay, but [edit for clarity: she had paged me to show one of my listings on Saturday].

Here are a few safety tips for REALTORS®:

  1. When you are introduced to new clients, meet them in your office first.
  2. Photocopy a client’s driver’s license, obtain the car make, and license number.
  3. Ask them to complete a client identification form and verify the client’s identity.
  4. Let your office know where you are, your schedule, and who you are meeting when going to a property.
  5. Limit the amount of personal information you share about yourself with a client.
  6. Be friendly with neighbours near the listed home and let them know when you will be showing the property.
  7. Program speed dial on your cell phone for 911 and use it when danger first appears.
  8. If you get a strange feeling about someone, pay attention to those gut feelings.
  9. Pre-plan escape routes from each level of a home, before you show it.
  10. Ask a friend to join you at a showing with a client that makes you somewhat uneasy.
  11. Arrive at the location in separate vehicles.
  12. Take a self-defense course.
  13. If you’re showing several properties, phone your office occasionally to check in (if you’re suspicious or fearful of someone, use these calls as a reason to return to the office immediately — BE CREATIVE).
  14. Never put yourself at risk to avoid social awkwardness. You have every right to be cautious. When in doubt—don’t.

The REALTOR® safety guide can be found here.

The real estate community in Victoria extends its deepest sympathies to Lindsay’s family.

Be careful out there.

EDIT: I’d love to hear your comments on safety. Any personal stories or suggestions? Use the comments form/link below.

Tim Ayres


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  • Dear Reader

    Hi, about the “program 911 into your speed dial”… it is a fine theory on a land line, but a cell phone doesn’t afford the same instant locator at the 911 headquarters, and your words can inspire realtors and the like to think themselves more safe than they really are that way.

    It isn’t quite a waste of time, but it will surely give some a false sense of security. You’d be better off having the cell phone of a nearby neighbor (to the house being shown) programmed in… so that he/she could dial 911 immediately.

  • What the tip is trying to get across is to make sure you can dial 9-1-1 quickly without fumbling. Many cellphones have an emergency quick-dial number programmed for specifically this reason. Rather than being able to be located instantly, the person in trouble benefits from an easy connection to emergency services.

  • Great advice Tim. Such a sad situation.

  • Thank you for this post. We’ve linked to it on the national (U.S.) Shak & Jill web site. I’ll also link to it on my personal real estate blog.

  • azharionly

    good information Tim,,i’ll share it

  • mikester420

    How about carrying a pistol? It’s so much more effective and empowering than all this fearmongering makes us feel. Be ready to protect yourself at ALL times and you’ll never find yourself huddled in a closet clutching a cell phone. 911 is just a delivery service for chalk outlines…. The Supreme Court has already found that the cops are not obligated to protect you. Google it!

  • My Suggestions

    I personally have a quick dial to 911 on my cellphone anyway but I have also created a ICE (In Case of Emergency) that has all of my contacts on it so should someone find my cellphone, they can also help rescue services contact my family members, friends, partners, etc. Beyond that, for real estate agents and showings, well one can’t just rely on his/her intuition. Self-defense courses should be mandatory and refresher courses anually, hidden cameras should be installed, if possible into every show home (ess. vacant ones) and there should be a separate monitoring system set up for that (a team of security people watching) the monitor at the real estate office or wherever. That might seem like quite an expenditure but whatever, safety first. the perimieter of these houses should be checked before, during and after each showing via the outdoor and indoor hidden cameras. This is a very sad situation. Every real estate agent should have to by law log in to computer system via text message or whatever to make note of all of the showing info,, time, potential buyer, etc. expected duration? I dunno!! It’s very important!!!!

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  • @ mikester420, I’m willing to bet you don’t live in this country. Pistol-wielding realtors are not a common feature of the Canadian landscape, nor do I think they should be. Carrying a gun makes you much more likely to be shot by one, not to mention it’s illegal to walk around packing heat.

    Tim, thank you for your post. As a former crime reporter I am very glad someone has stepped forward to set guidelines for the industry. Realtors have been targeted in the past, and with these guidelines in mind, they will be better prepared to deal with any potential dangers they may encounter.

  • me = liz

    I’m not in Real Estate but I heard a system that is used for people doing home visits for occupational therapy. If they are concerned about a visit they will ask someone in the office to call them after they get to the house. They then use a system based on the weather to indicate to the person from the office how the visit is going. For example if everything is ok the weather is sunny and if it’s a bit worrying there are storm clouds.

    Just a thought.

  • One thing I haven’t seen mentioned which I think is critical: acknowledge the danger. Know right down to your bones that, however unlikely, there is and always will be the possibility that someone will choose to attack you — not some abstract and conceptual “citizen”, you.

    This isn’t paranoia; paranoia is letting that knowledge paralyze you. Rather, it’s empowering: if you realize that someone might attack you, and someone does, you can shift smoothly into dealing with the attack (however you choose and/or are legally permitted to do so) rather than spinning your mental wheels in a “I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening” loop.

    After that, I strongly recommend Jeff Cooper’s book “Principles of Personal Defense”. The cover photo is of a man with a handgun, but the principles apply regardless of plumbing or equipment.

  • As a rule a woman usually carries a gun and or pepper spray in her purse which is the first thing that she loses in a fight…Here in Georgia on News Year Day Meredith Emerson, who had a black belt in martial arts and was supposed to be able to throw a 250 pound man, was overpowered by a 60 yr old man on a hiking trail in the north Georgia mountains and held captive for several days before being killed…

    Just last week I read in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution that Meredith’s killer choose her because, except for her dog she was alone, and that he had considered attacking another woman before he saw Meredith but decided not to because she wasn’t alone…

    My advice to a woman real estate agent is to give up your feminine Arrogance and false macho bravado and never show a home alone unless your showing it to a family (mom, Dad and kids)…

  • Sad indeed. I suggest carrying a gun.

  • Christy

    Linds was an old friend of mine so this is a little close to home, but I really hope her death is not in vain and that we all learn from it. I am not a realtor but I also face a lot of the same occupational hazards that realtors do and have gone through extensive training on how to protect myself.

    My advice (on top of what Tim said, which is excellent):

    Do NOT carry a weapon, unless you are an absolute expert on how to use it it will more than likely end up being used against you.

    Get training. Especially in a Fear and Adrenal response based system, traditional self defense training will do precious little for you when faced with a real situation. I recommend FAST (you can find info at fastdefense.com).

    Listen to your intuition. A great source of info on this is a book by Gavin De Becker called The Gift of Fear. The points he makes can change the way you look at things and show you how important it is to listen to your intuition.

    Some of the other advice (ie. check in calls with the office, having a neighbors #) are also great. But they probably won’t save your life, maybe just make your body be found sooner. The average attack is over in less than 30 seconds unless the goal is rape or torture. That’s less time than it will take for the neighbor to call 911.

  • When I was working as a realtor, I made a habit of letting my office know who, when and where I was meeting a client (company policy with Prudential). On first meetings, I usually asked clients to meet me at my office (sets a professional tone) and often we took seperate vehicles to a home. I probably took more risk than some. I was working in Alabama and some of my clients may have seemed “risky”…I can think of two clients off the top of my head that purchased homes through me who I had some reservations about initially. So you never know.

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  • You’re right, you’ve convinced me, the best thing to do is just stand there and yell for help. Thanks for showing me the light… Because it really worked for the people at Virginia Tech!!! (which admittedly was not a real estate scenario, but does prove that groups of unarmed people are no more safe than individuals).

  • Mikester, the goal here isn’t to make you feel better about carrying a gun. The goal is to improve safety for realtors. And the fatal shooting statistics clearly indicate that carrying a gun vastly increases your chances of dying by it; not to mention that it’s illegal in Canada. Where gun deaths are less than 10% of the per-capita rate in the United States, where carrying a handgun is allowed.

  • I naturally assumed that if you are legally carrying a gun, it’s because you have training. Stupid me!

  • [Edited Comment follows]

    Cori writes about her company’s product called Personal Safety Companion, which is a GPS-enabled system for tracking people who work alone, such as REALTORS®. More information can be found at her company’s website: http://www.idsoftware.us.

    Thanks Cori for your input – Tim.

  • Statistics have nothing to do with it. Banning things doesn’t make them go away, and calling 911 doesn’t stop an attacker. That’s all I’m telling you. It’s not my fault if you’d rather be a sitting duck, go ahead and be one. But quit your fearmongering with your stupid post trying to get us all to buy into a system where we have to show a state-issued ID to a corporate agent just to conduct business because we’re not interested in being microchipped just to keep you safe. Get a freaking gun or a can of mace or whatever the hell you think you need but quit cramming your fear and your control mechanisms down our throats because you’re enabling the police state. Who would like a fresh steamy pile of globalism for dinner, mmmmm!!!!!!! I didn’t need my rights anyway did you? Give them away to the boogey man…………….

  • Plus, the statistics aren’t clear, at all, or nobody would argue about them. But there are numbers that both sides can show that are convincing. I don’t even bother quoting my side, or debunking the other, because they’re meaningless. Much like global warming, and fractional reserve banking, you can make them show whatever you want. At the bottom of the debate is the philosophy of liberty….. You aren’t free if somebody else has power over you. When the government has guns, but you don’t, that means they have the power and you don’t. Bad move! You feel safe getting incorporate into the North American Union under the American Empire that tases people dead on the streets, without a weapon in your home? I don’t….. The people of Iraq have done well defending themselves and we have the right to do the same.

  • It looks like Cori could use her product to identify your dead body if it was found. Very effective! Hey, couldn’t anybody else who wanted to track you do the same thing? Hmmmm, they’ll never point that out to you will they? Imagine wanting to be tracked like an animal, rather than empowered to keep yourself safe?

  • Kirbang

    I am in the real estate industry in Georgia. My daughter is a Student in the University System. Both bring me in contact with individuals who are often alone and may or may not be vulnerable. GPS and a panic alert capability seems a good tool. My experience in the Atlanta area with the 911 system is not good. I look favorably on any usable private sector solution to enhance my daughters safety.

  • Doesn’t the GPS panic alert just call 911? Come on people quit kidding yourselves. THE POLICE AREN’T THERE TO PROTECT YOU THEY ARE THERE TO CONTROL YOU. It’s so nice that you can have an automated chalk outline delivery service…… But it’s not the same thing as self-defense! It doesn’t even have to be a pistol but common sense tells you, armed is safer than unarmed.

  • Darlene

    Thank you for taking the time to publish this safety guide – it is at least a starting point for discussion.

  • PV

    This whole blog is full of suggestions that are only partly useful — some– of the time.
    The police say the killing of Lindsay had nothing to do with Real Estate. From this we can learn (assuming the police are correct) a few things. First, if the killer(s) didn’t get her that day, they would have gotten her at another convenient time and place.
    If she had brought a friend, perhaps there would be two dead people instead of one.
    Just because she was a REALTOR, does not mean she did not have an enemy . If one has an enemy that hates you to the degree of wanting you dead, and goes to the trouble of getting you alone, let’s face it, guns, karate, cameras, 911 on speed dial is not going to help you – period. Take a moment and think of anyone you may have jilted, whose toes you may have stepped on, or anyone you may have really hurt, then seek that one out in a public place, apologize, and try to right the wrong. Hopefully, this mitigation will salve the wound and create a new beginning.
    I much enjoyed the video Ron Neal has been circulating of Randy Pausch on the Oprah Winfrey show. http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=ithct48cqw

    The principles within that, if applied would surely benefit anyone who for whatever reason, garnered an enemy.

    I hope Lindsay’s killer(s) is/are found, but the rhetoric that followed in the Real Estate industry papers is not helpful if someone wants to cause someone harm.

  • Kirbang

    Sounds like Mikester has a past history with the police. or an ideologue. I have found the police to be the opposite of controlling, I have found them mostly indifferent. To his point regarding gps, I have investigated the solution described above and 911 is only part of their solution. The critical advantage is they are a private sector solution provider (always better than the Govt, right Mike) who know who you are, have a complete bio, call list etc. With the sos button push a trained operator (not a bureaucrat) is assigned to help. They have direct links to 911 PSAPs as well a plan devised by me. As to a gun, their effectiveness is overrated. Police miss their targets about 75% of the time.

  • I think a self defense course is good. Carrying mace and programing the speed dial of phone to police can help. I think updating the staff your at a home is good and update when leave is essential. I still think that it can be a dangerous thing for anyone man or woman. There are creepy disturbed people out there.

  • Being in the real estate profession is a rewarding but very scary profession. Part of what you do is meet with people, who are usually strangers, and take them to places where there may or may not be other people around and where you can be totally out of touch with help. You definitely need to keep safety tips in mind when meeting people and if you get that ‘gut feeling’ that the meeting isn’t right, listen to you gut feelings. No sale is worth your life. Many times we get placid in what we do and tend to ignore the ‘safety’ tips we should be following.

    Good post and very informative. Thanks for the information.

    Beth

    PS would you consider being a guest writer for my site? I would love some good, informative realtor safety tips that I could include for my realtor friends. In video would be great!!! Thank you for considering.

  • kirbang

    While little can stop a bullet, an abduction is another matter. Law enforcement states that if 24 hours pass without notification of a missing person, the odds of a successful recovery are marginal. Because of this I have purchased a specialty GPS beacon which when the SOS button is pushed a message with my daughters identification and location are forwarded to a 24 hour monitoring station and well as myself. At least we will know something is wrong and can start now rather than later. Even if destroyed, the device will send a signal and something can be done.

  • Lots of good comments and information. The first thing you need to know is that in almost all cases YOU will be the first responder. Knowing this, you must be mentally prepared for almost any situation. You must play over different scenarios in your mind and have a plan for each. In this way, you will not freeze up and will react quickly.
    Using good common sense, by notifying your office of where and who you will be with, taking prospective buyers vehicle license and drivers license info and giving it to your office manager is helpful.
    Have a personal protection product like a pepper spray, a taser, or a stun gun. A pepper pen is really a good idea because you can have it at the ready and a “buyer” will not be aware of it. Just be sure you know how to use any of these products. There is also a pepper pager and a stun gun that looks like a cell phone.
    Never allow yourself to be cornered in a house. Always have the “buyer” go ahead of you.
    There are a lot of other things you can do to protect yourself, but the main one is to have the element of surprise on your side, not the “perps”.
    Be prepared for anything and be safe, not sorry.

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