In an industry that relies mainly on solo showings and interaction with strangers, safety should be at the top of every REALTORS’® mind. September is National REALTOR® Safety Month and AAR interviewed two REALTORS® who both experienced life-altering encounters. Read their stories and hopefully you will be safer for doing so.
Out of Nowhere
After showing a home, REALTOR® Kristine Vowles saw a man quickly approaching her out of the corner of her eye. What happened next changed her life completely.
“He grabbed me from behind and tried to force me into my car,” said Vowles. “I didn’t even realize he had a knife at my throat.” Vowles tells a heart-wrenching story of a young, would-be attacker who told her that he had specifically targeted her for a gang initiation and that if she didn’t comply he’d go after her family next. “I don’t know how I did it, but I just kept fighting him and I didn’t get into my car,” said Vowles. What happened next is something out of a movie. All of a sudden a man came to her rescue, he tackled her attacker and all three tumbled to the ground. Vowles heard her savior yell to her “Run! Run, and don’t look back. Go!” Vowles got in her car and sped away, she never saw either man’s face.
In the days and weeks that followed her attack, Kristine Vowles was in shock and barely spoke. During the struggle, her throat was sliced and she lost a lot of blood. She resolved to stop doing open houses alone, encouraged her mother to accompany her to showings and eventually become her partner, and she started to hear stories of other agents who were victims of attacks. One of which, was her friend Shara Terry.
A Gut Feeling
Shara Terry, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Sonoran Living, was driving home from a house showing in November of 2012. She was on the phone when her gut told her something was wrong. A Ford Explorer pulled up next to her. The driver pointed to her, got behind her and then slammed on the gas when Terry stopped for a red light. “I remember looking into my side mirror and the driver who hit me was telling me to pull over.” Terry had the same reaction that any one might have and without thinking pulled into a complex to call her insurance and speak with the other driver. Then the driver who hit her sped away.
After the police arrived, Terry told the officer what had happened. “The officer told me that this was definitely intentional,” said Terry. His words hit her like a punch in the stomach. He told her that the police had seen an increase in crimes where the driver would identify a single women in the car and then intentionally hit their car to make them pull over. These assailants were then robbing, kidnapping or attacking the victims. “The guys that hit me must have gotten spooked because I pulled into such a busy complex. I’m so glad they didn’t get out. It probably saved my life,” said Terry.
Your Secret Weapon: Being Aware
“Crimes against REALTORS® are just as high as crimes against college students,” said Vowles. The key to preventing an attack is being aware. “Agents are perfect targets,” Vowles continues. “We’re always on the phone in our car, looking up directions, at open houses alone or distracted by other things.” Here is some advice that both Vowles and Terry say will help:
- Put down your phone. “When I leave a showing at night or even if I’m leaving the grocery store, I put my phone down and turn the flashlight on my stun gun on.” This allows you to focus on your surroundings.
- Get a buddy. When it comes to showings or open houses, Vowles recommends always having a buddy. “If something goes wrong, there’s someone who can get help fast.”
- Take a self defense class or a safety training class. Vowles now devotes a majority of her time to safety training workshops and selling protection equipment. She’s currently working with the West Maricopa Board for a REALTOR® safety event on September 26 and hopes bring the same to the Scottsdale and SEVRAR boards.
- Trust your intuition. It’s always a good practice to trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it probably is. Listen to your intuition and it might save your life.
Thank you Kristine and Shara for sharing your stories.
Additional Safety Resources
- Tips for REALTORS® from the Tucson Police Department
- Field Guide to REALTOR® Safety
Safety Apps to Try
Originally geared towards college students, this app won the White House’s Apps Against Abuse challenge. It helps you stay safe by connecting you to six trusted contacts, whenever and wherever. Use the pre-programmed “come and get me” message with your GPS location, or easily call national and local emergency hotlines in critical situations. It’s a fast and discreet way to put your safety first. Available for free for iOS and Android devices.
Addendum: You don’t actually need six people if you want to double up on contacts.
Not only does a single tap or shake set off this app’s piercing alarm, but it secretly starts recording video of your attacker on your phone so they can be identified later. PanicGuard also tracks your location as soon as the alarm is activated and sends your coordinates to your preselected contacts and police, so even if you leave the scene, they can still find you.