PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Who is Covering your Six?

Crystal Hawkins Syska | March 15, 2021

Crystal Hawkins Syska, HGAR President 2021

The best edge-of-your-seat thrillers have that moment when the main character walks into a situation that, as the observer, you clearly see they are stepping into danger. If you are like me, I am yelling at the screen, “You nut job, you are about to get killed! Can’t you see that!” You know what I am talking about, right? But, if we were all to pause, if our life was filmed during our day-to-day experiences as Realtors, what would it reveal? Would someone be yelling at us through the screen? The COVID-19 pandemic has molded our focus on protecting the health of ourselves, our clients, our customers and the public at large. This is our primary focus of the moment. This makes the always-present danger of personal safety fall by the wayside, if we even think about it at all.

During the 2021 Virtual NYSAR Mid-Year Business Meetings held last month, there was a Realtor Safety Forum conducted by our current NYSAR President David Legaz. The content of that forum really moved me to analyze what safety precautions I am taking when practicing real estate. Here is some of the statistical information shared during that education session:

• 23% of Realtors experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information.

• 31% of Realtors felt unsafe during an open house.

• 5% of Realtors said they had been a victim of a crime while working as a real estate professional.

• 38% of Realtors have participated in a self-defense class.

• 49% of members choose to carry self-defense weapons.

• 46% of men and 50% of women carry a self-defense weapon or tool.

• 58% of members use a smartphone safety app to track whereabouts and alert colleagues in case of an emergency.

Do you fit into any of the categories above? I can tell you I do. I will share with you a story I told at the forum. A few years ago, I was going to list a property with a repeat client. It definitely needed some work to be marketable. There were also tons of stuff that needed to be removed from the finished basement, plus repairs and painting overall. I had to make a lot of trips to keep the project on time to meet our go-live date.

On the last walk through before pictures, I met my client to go through the punch list, making sure everything was done. When I went with my client to the lower level, he told me there was one more thing that he forgot…then he grabbed me, pushed me against the wall and started groping and kissing me. The panic hit me. I knew that the chance of someone hearing me scream was zero with the sheetrocked cinder block walls. And my client, what in the world! He was an older gentleman and I deemed him “harmless.” I fought him off and actually didn’t use my full strength because I was afraid of this headline, “Black Realtor Kills Homeowner in Chappaqua!” Now the story would go on to say I was attacked, but who would really care with a headline like that. Yeah, those were my thoughts. As absurd as they were. My client said to me, “I thought you liked me.” How do you say ‘crazy’?! Right there and then this street-smart girl from the Bronx really did something totally un-smart. I didn’t see it coming. My client also had my trust. And we do it all day, everyday. I never filed charges, but I did tell my office.

No one really knew my schedule that day. So, who was looking out for me? I wasn’t looking out for myself, and I had no support set up. That is why I wanted to write on this topic, especially because it is one of the pillars of focus from President Legaz. Just last week, an agent I am working with told me of being held captive in a listing she was getting measurements for with her buyer client. One of the sellers came home and blocked them in the driveway because they didn’t understand what “on or about” meant in the contract regarding the closing date. The police were nearly called and it was a tense and scary moment for all.

You can’t make this stuff up. What is also distressing is the lives of Realtors that have been lost in hosting open houses and meeting potential buyers at a home. Sadly, in 2020 we lost Realtor Monique Baugh of Minneapolis. In 2008, the lives of Troy Vanderstelt, Lindsay Buziak and Ann Nelson were lost. They are not the only ones, but those are the ones I remember and they were also shared in the forum. I don’t want any of us to end up harmed in performing our duties as real estate agents. Neither does NYSAR Leadership or NAR. To those ends, we have some safety options to use:

Safety Applications for Smartphones—FOREWARN

FOREWARN (https://www.forewarn.com/our-solutions/) allows agents to work safer and smarter by instantly verifying a prospect’s identity and potential risks prior to a face-to-face engagement.

In seconds, with as little information as a phone number or name, agents can verify a prospect’s identity, criminal records, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, address history and property records all in one place, leading to safer and more productive interactions. FOREWARN customers can log in and access the service via the FOREWARN mobile app or from a web browser.

Price: $20/month with an annual agreement for individual agents. Discounts are available for brokerages and associations purchasing licenses in volume.

Homesnap Pro

Agents using Homesnap Pro https://www.homesnap.com/pro can now set a Safety Timer when they go to a showing with an unfamiliar client.

Prior to a showing, set a timer for how long you expect to be at the location and select your emergency contacts. If the timer expires, a text message will be sent to your emergency contacts that you are in distress. You can also send an instant distress alert to your emergency contacts with just one tap.

Price: Free for Realtors.

Broker/Owners and Managers, I urge you to give thought to developing protocols that protect your agents if you haven’t done so already. To assist all of us, take a look at the list of Resources for Personal Safety on the NAR website: https://www.nar.realtor/safety/resources-for-personal-protection. Before the month of March comes to a close, I would like us to know who is “Covering your Six” because we need to keep ourselves safe, not only from the coronavirus, but also from danger to our physical person. Be careful out there, I’ve got your back!

Crystal Hawkins Syska
is the 2021 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc