Real Estate · Uncategorized

#metoo real estate agents….

In recent weeks we have all read the stories about Harvey Weinstein, since then we have heard from people in the movie, music and entertainment industries who have told stories of their own personal experiences.

It made me think about #metoo and how it resonated with me, not because I have been harassed as an employee etc but as a real estate agent I have experienced harassment and inappropriate advances from people who I have interacted with during my career. These experiences have made me a very cautious woman.

I have to admit that I have had a few scary experiences myself however as an agent in London, I was made very aware of the “Mr Kipper” story. Wikipedia reports that  Suzy Lamplugh was an estate agent reported missing on 28th July 1986 after going to an appointment with someone calling himself “Mr Kipper”, to show him a house in Fulham. Her office diary recorded the essential details of the appointment: “12.45 Mr. Kipper – 37 Shorrolds Road O/S”, with the “O/S” annotation meaning outside the property. Witnesses reported seeing Lamplugh arguing with a man in Shorrolds Road and then getting into a car.

Her white Ford Fiest (registration: B396 GAN) was found that night outside a property for sale in Stevenage Road, Fulham, about a mile and a half away. The ignition key was missing and Lamplugh’s purse was found in a door storage pocket.

Police suggested that a black, left hand drive BMW vehicle might have been involved, because of an eyewitness account of a car at the same location as Lamplugh’s in Stevenage Road. It was thought for some time after her disappearance that “Kipper” was her pronunciation of the Dutch name “Kuiper” but despite police investigations, nobody of this name was found to be connected to Lamplugh.

As a young agent in London I found this story to be truly shocking and a warning to all real estate agents in the industry. This story in particular made me very wary of who Iw as dealing with.

During my career, at one time or another, I have armed staff with personal alarms, come up with coded phone messages, developed safety strategies & precautions in order to protect my staff whilst they have been out meeting strangers in empty properties.

To be honest when you think about it, it goes against everything that you have been taught doesn’t it? Meet a stranger you say? No thanks…. Meet a stranger in an empty property you say? No way! You just would not do it and I am sure you would not encourage your children to do it, however we as agents do it every single day. When I write this down, it seems ridiculous!

There have been similar cases to Suzy Lamplugh’s i.e. in June 2006, there was a similar case involving a 48-year-old female estate agent in Wiltshire, UK who met a client called Mr. Herring. She was attacked with a sharp object, causing cuts to her arm, and was pushed to the ground, but managed to free herself. The assailant ran away. Police have said there is no connection between this case and the disappearance of Lamplugh.

In January 1992, Michael Sams kidnapped Stephanie Slater. She was an estate agent working in Birmingham, UK. Slater’s employers paid a ransom and she was released. He was later found guilty of her kidnap, and of murdering 18-year-old Leeds prostitute Julie Dart. Sentenced to life imprisonment, was still imprisoned as of 2015.

There have been numerous times where I have felt intimidated in a property. Let’s get this out in the open now, I talk a big talk,  I am feisty and I do not back down. However, I am also less than 158cm (5ft 2in in the old money) so I have managed to be lucky enough to manoeuvre myself out of worrying situations.

In order to avoid confrontation and bad situations, I always do the following:

  1. Make sure my appointment is in my calendar
  2. Make sure that the appointment has a link to an email invitation (I email the other party to confirm the appointment, location etc)
  3. Make sure I enter the name and the mobile phone number of the person I am meeting.

If I am visiting a property to do a periodic inspection I will always do the following:

  1. Knock on the door loudly
  2. Announce that “Hello Tracie from Harrintgons’ is here”, several times over and over
  3. Inspect the property quickly to check if anyone else is in the home (always leaving the front door open in case I need a quick exit)
  4. Once I am sure that no-one else is in the home, I lock the front door behind me, I do my inspection and then I leave.

If I am visiting a property to do a private inspection, I will always do the following:

  1. Open up the rear door and other doors in the property in preparation,
  2. Stand out at the front of the property and meet the person there,
  3. I will assess them and see how I feel about them and what my gut says, and
  4. If I feel safe enough then I will take them through the house,
  5. I will always try to put myself between the nearest exit and the person I am meeting.

If I am hosting an open home and I expect a few people to come through, I will always  have another staff member at the front of the property obtaining ID details of people wanting to enter the property – however many people feel that it is unjust to provide ID before you enter a property.

If there is one thing that I want prospective tenants and buyers to know is that we do this for the safety of our staff and the property more than for marketing.

Eventually I am sure that the process of viewing a property will become safer for real estate agents but until that day we will have to continue to adopt our strategies to the particular environment and situation that we are in.

-Tracie

 

Allergy

Time to Open the Office

My son was 7 months’ old on the day that I officially opened Harringtons Realty.

The menu that morning was “eggy soldiers” and I was super excited. This would be the first time that J would experience eggs and they were a favourite breakfast of my Poppy (who had sadly passed away when I was 13) and preparing them for my son was bringing back so many lovely memories.

eggy soldiers

I was in my kitchen sitting in front of J (who was in his high chair) dipping the toasted soldiers into the runny, gooey yolk. I was excitedly talking to J about our plans for the day, how the office was to officially open and all of the things we had to do. Sadly, J did finish that breakfast, after about 3 dips he was hysterically crying! I could to figure out what was happening, so I asked my husband to keep an eye on him for a second whilst I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, I noticed that where the egg yolk had been smothered on J’s face there was now a dark purple patch. I remember thinking, “now that does not look right”. It was at that stage that I decided that we needed to drive to the doctors and get it checked out.

Like a shot, I put my son into his car seat and began driving to the doctor’s office. After about 4 minutes I heard J coughing and starting to choke in the back seat. This is when the proverbial hit the fan. Any idea of this not being a serious problem went out of the window. We were a Def Con 4!

I called the emergency services and I was told to pull over to the side of the road and wait for them to meet me. In my state of mind I thought that the idea of just waiting was the worst idea I had ever heard. I needed to get J to the hospital now!

In my panic I hit the curb on the side of the road, all while trying to tell the emergency services operator that there was a doctor’s surgery just up the road and that I would stop there, the ambulance could meet me there.

As soon as I arrived at the doctor’s surgery I raced out of the car and rushed to J. He was crying, coughing and choking now. J was hysterical and he was not the only one. I carried him into the doctor’s office screaming for help (and I mean really screaming, this was full tilt panic). Thankfully a Receptionist was there getting ready to open the office (as it was still before working hours).

Unfortunately the doctor had not arrived for her shift as yet however the Receptionist could see what was happening and she immediately called the Doctor and asked for assistance. She told the Receptionist to administer antihistamine at once, which she did.

By this stage I had noticed that J was becoming enveloped in a large dark purple rash. I was pacing, holding J, consoling him all the while checking to see where the ambulance was. I have to admit that I was thrilled when I heard the sirens in the distance and seeing the paramedics arrive. Help was here!

The paramedics assessed J and we were placed on a gurney with my son in my arms still screaming and crying.  I desperately wanted was to be taken to the emergency department and to have the doctors help J. His wailing screams were piercing my heart. My poor baby was in an utter state, he had no idea of what was going on and he could not comprehend the situation that we were in.

We arrived safely at the Emergency Department and we were taken straight in. I had never been to an ED before and it was an eye opener! The staff were brilliant, they were extremely professional and they were calm as cucumbers (unlike myself).

I noted that there was an elderly man having a heart attack in one of the cubicles so we were not the most severe case and we had to wait our turn. While we waited I watched J’s dark purple rash get larger and larger, it was nearly all-encompassing his body by this stage. J was scratching wherever his little hands could reach and he was the same colour as Grimace (the fast food character), he was an itchy mess. A young nurse came and inserted a cannula into the top of  J’s tiny hand, just in case he needed any medication quickly. That only made things worse for J, he was desperately trying to take the cannula out.

When time allowed a doctor came and saw us, he told us that it looked like J was severely allergic to eggs and that he should be assessed by an allergy specialist. Then on his instructions another nurse administered more antihistamine and we took off all of J’s clothes, my heart sank, this rash was everywhere.

The doctor wanted to observe J for a while to make sure that he did not need an injection of epinephrine so after 4 hours or so, we were discharged. That was the start of our anaphylaxis journey and the story of the first day I opened the doors to Harringtons Realty. I will never forget it.

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Being a sick child, J spent a lot of time with me at my office. I had a small crèche that was had set up in the corner, being the boss made this an easy decision to make – and a necessary one.

I loved having J there but let’s face it, this was not ideal. Just owning a business is stressful let alone adding a baby into the mix, but I was already all in, I had financial commitments and there was nothing I could do but make the best of it.

I managed some how to get through it, with support of my husband and family (who helped out with babysitting and who also did a lot of cleaning for us). I had a successful business!

Between doctors visits, inspections, meetings, feedings, specialists, sleeping, medicine, creams and crying I made it work.

Having a high care baby means that there was a lot of time working from home and not being able to physically make it into the office. I have had to reschedule countless meetings or bring my son with me to appointments. As most working mums know you do what you have to do – “no ifs buts or maybes”.

I am blessed though, I have been very fortunate to have some of the best clients in the world. I have never had one client say that they felt it was inappropraite that my son was with me during our meeting, in fact many enjoyed the time spent with him. I remember having to call a client (and holding back tears) because a “poonami” had erupted in the car on the way to meet them at a new property they had just purcahsed – they were very understanding.

My clients have cuddled J, they have bounced him on their laps and they have watched him grow over the years. I think that this is what being a working mum is all about – acceptance, patience and flexibility.

– Tracie

P.S. I later found out that I had popped the tyre on my car and a very kind mechanic who worked at the petrol station across the road from the doctors fixed it for me that day free of chargeeggy soldiers. People are kind.