by Mark Spencer
Editors Note: This article was originally published on November 10, 1997.
This four-part series focuses on the personal safety issues facing the real estate professional as illustrated by the disturbing experiences and subsequent coping responses of two Realtors who each were viciously attacked while showing homes to what they assumed were prospective buyers. One stayed in the real estate business, determined to educate other Realtors how to protect themselves from similar crimes. The other left the profession, too traumatized by her ordeal to return. Also included in Mark Spencer’s informative series are life-saving tips for how Realtors — who assume considerable risk every day — can avoid becoming the next tragic statistic. Parts 1-4 will run in installments today through Thursday this week.
Neither woman ever thought it could happen. But it did.
Both of them were attacked while showing houses to a prospective buyer. Now, both of these women want to spread the word that it can happen to any real estate agent — anytime, anywhere — and that agents who take a few preventive measures now will reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of an assault.
The changes these two Realtors made in their lives will be examined in this four-part series, and their ideas for improving safety in the profession will be offered alongside safety guidelines from professional organizations and associations. But the overriding message is simple: Realtors are vulnerable. They travel alone to vacant properties with strangers. Men are robbed; women are robbed and sometimes raped. And both sexes are murdered. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 70 real estate agents were killed on the job between 1980 and 1992, the last year for which statistics are available.
“Seven-zero?” asks Jim Massey in Decatur, Ill. He sadly remembers the 30-year-old single mother who worked in his real estate office. She was slain in 1994. The sheriff’s office told Massey they have a suspect in the case, but so far, no arrest has been made. Charlotte Fiminano will also be included in the NIOSH statistics. Fiminano was strangled and shot in the head in September 1996 in an upscale area outside Bethlehem, Pa. Police say they have determined whether Fiminano’s killer was a stranger or an acquaintance, but that information has not yet been released to the public.
In recent years, Realtors have become increasingly wary about holding open houses. It’s a valid concern, considering that 71 percent of home sales come from sources other than referrals and friends — meaning strangers.
Perhaps most alarming is that statistics aren’t available for the attacks which didn’t result in death. But efforts to collect that information would be futile, Malone says; she believes a large number of incidents are never reported because victims fear embarrassment or worse, retaliation.
“Unfortunately, we’re dumb,” Malone says. “We all end up forgetting about the things that happen … I would never have thought anything like that could happen to me. It can happen.”
Part 2 of the series, Realtor Joan Malone recounts her terrifying ordeal.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Realty Times