Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
Last week, there was horrific news of yet another real estate professional being murdered while on the job.
As is typical when a tragedy like this strikes, volumes of “thoughts and prayers” were dispensed, and some brokerages came forth with statements like, “In light of this tragedy, we’re going to be making some changes to help ensure our agents’ safety.”
What strikes me the hardest when I see statements like that is the word, “this.”
“In light of this tragedy … ” we will change.
“This horrible crime … ” will force some changes.
“Because of this incident … ” we will be training agents.
Like it’s the first time “this” has ever happened?
Why, why does it take this tragedy to spur some sort of action?
Wilson’s was hardly the first murder of a real estate professional while they were working. Hell, Realtor Orlando Martinez was found dead in his car, shot in the head while parked in front of his listing, just five weeks ago. His killer remains at large.
The same thoughts and prayers, and the same we’re-going-to-do-things-differently discussions came up after Martinez was killed.
Less discussion seemed to happen when Sid Cranston, Jr. was murdered in 2015 while looking at investment property. Maybe that’s because initially Cranston was labeled as “missing.” It took almost two years to find his decomposed body buried in the Arizona desert.
Many readers here will recall the horrific story of Beverly Carter’s kidnapping and murder in 2014. That tragedy led her amazing son to found the Beverly Carter Foundation. It does tremendous work in educating the real estate community about safety issues.
Before that there was Ashley Okland, shot twice in a model home in 2012. Sadly, six years later that case also remains unsolved.
How about Ann Nelson in 2010. She was on a showing when she was robbed, strangled and then beaten with a fireplace poker. She was still alive, barely, when her killer came back to burn the house down to destroy evidence. Surviving the beating, she died of smoke inhalation. She was 71-years old.
Lindsay Buziak, who in 2008 was stabbed more than 40 times while on a showing. Another still unsolved case.
Did the community resolve to, “do things differently” in 2008 when a former client met with Troy VanderStelt and shot him in the face at point-blank range — because he felt he paid too much for his home?
I suspect it did.
Let’s go back to 2003, when two agents, Cyndi Williams and Lori Brown, were robbed, stripped naked and shot in the head in their Atlanta-area office. Why? Their killer needed $565 to make a truck payment
Finally, in case you think it’s the degradation of society in the 2000s that’s causing this sort of violence, let’s not forget Virginia Freeman, who in 1981 was stabbed in the neck 11 times, strangled and bludgeoned in the head with a rock. Her killer was finally identified through DNA, 36 years later thanks to her clawing enough skin off her killer for modern DNA tests to make an ID.
How many more have to die?
All of the examples above were found in less than five minutes via Google. There are more. Sadly, there will be more in the future because the simple fact is: We, the real estate industry, aren’t doing enough to stop it or at least trying to prevent it.
On a regular basis, some app seems to be developed to “instantly connect you to a consumer!” All you have to do is log in and show up at a listing when a buyer in the on-demand economy requests the presence of an agent — now.
I can assure you that every day, some agent gets a call, text or email and drops everything to meet a random stranger at a listing. Happens every day.
Someone says, “I really don’t want to sign that open house registry,” and the agent responds, “No problem!”
Because how can you turn away a potential buyer?
Something has to be done
Listen, I get it. A commission-based living is hard. When my wife and I were both in sales and neither of us had a “real job,” it was tough. Generating a lot of leads from my blog, I bolted out of the seat on multiple occasions to meet complete strangers at vacant homes.
That is, to put it bluntly, stupid.
Yet we have all done it. Someone reading this has already done it this week.
Stop — today.
The day after Wilson’s murder, Alyssa Essig, the immediate past president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, penned a Facebook post explaining to agents and consumers alike why she takes the prevention actions she does. Read it below. It’s been shared almost 3,000 times. Think about what she does, and implement it.
Don’t just share it and say you’ll do something. Actually do something.
Read this recent interview of Beverly Carter’s son, Carl, about what the Beverly Carter Foundation is doing, the frustrations it’s seeing and for some great ideas on improving agent safety. Think about what Carl is saying, and take action.
Research agent safety apps. There are several.
Every time this subject comes up, there are usually multiple suggestions that the solution is to carry a weapon. That’s a highly personal decision. This isn’t the place for a Second Amendment debate, but if you’re considering that route, please do deep research on training.
There’s a reason the police and military constantly practice with firearms and situation handling —you never know how you’ll react in a crisis situation.
There are self-defense classes, the buddy system, verifying identity. Lots of things can be done to improve safety, but they have to actually be done, not just talked about because this incident happened.
Please, do something. Stop talking, and take action.
Because I don’t want to read about some medical examiner counting stab wounds in your neck or scraping your fingernails in an effort to get some DNA of the person who butchered you.
Neither do your children, spouse, family or friends.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.