Realtor safety is a big deal these days. Agents like Beverly Carter have been lured to empty homes with the promise of doing business and, instead, have been robbed, raped, or murdered. A recent article in Inman News recounted the story of a male agent who found a collection of his fellow female agents’ photographs posted on the side of a shed at a property he showed. Apparently, that’s not a legal problem, but inside I'm screaming like this:
In this Weinstein era of #metoo, we have to ask where we draw the line between hunting business and self-preservation. When the person with the power in a sales transaction is always the client with money, where do we set expectations of respect? How long do we stay on the line with a fishy caller when our job is to protect the public’s access to fair housing? What protections can we comfortably and confidently put in place while not alienating our authentic clients?
We also have to recognize the need to prepare unsuspecting new agents for what's likely to come, and help them draw lines in social media and public exposure. Here are just a few instances I’ve experienced, and can learn from:
The alarm sounds and I grumble, roll over, and smear my hand across the screen, hoping to make it stop. Eventually my brain comes online, I find my glasses on the nightstand and check my phone for overnight messages. A Facebook message from Clifton Lee to my personal account: “You have beautiful eyes and a nice smile.”
That would make anyone’s day, except I have no idea who Clifton Lee is. I can only assume because my Realtor headshot is plastered all over the internet and I often pop up in HGTV reruns, he’s been sitting alone in the dark in front of a flickering screen and somehow found me. Not only found me, but decided to get.. in touch. Pun intended.
The Cheater’s Clues
A middle of the night phone call.
"Is this Alison Wisnom?"
"This is Dana Smith. I’m calling about James Smith."
(I'm racking my half asleep brain to figure out who she’s talking about.….Nothing is bubbling to the surface….) "I’m sorry, but I was asleep. I’m not sure who that is. What is this is about?"
"James Smith is my husband and he’s been cheating on me. Your name is in his phone and I want to know why."
"Uhhhhh..... I’m a Realtor in Hawaii. That’s how most people know me or have my phone number. Do you live in Hawaii?......"
Turns out James Smith wasn’t even in my database, but had remembered me from somewhere. His wife said my name was in his military notebook with a heart next to it. He may be the same guy who called me anonymously a few times. He told me he met me at an open house with his family and I reminded him of his high school English teacher….Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.
It's "Happy" Hour Somewhere
One Friday evening pau hana my husband and I were sitting on the beach watching our kids finish canoe paddling practice when my phone rings. It’s a “No Caller ID, Philadelphia” number. It's pretty late in Philly, but I assume it’s business and answer professionally. The guy on the other end hesitates a bit.
“Yeah, um, so you sell houses?”
“Yes, I’m a Realtor. Are you looking for a home in Hawaii?”
“Yeah, so, I’d like to find a place…”
“Ok, can you tell me a bit about what you’re looking for?
“Well, I think I want to be where all the action is. Where there are a lot of single people.”
“OK, well, that would probably be Waikiki. It’s an urban area, lots of entertainment.”
“Umm...so...do you want to have phone sex?”
I hand the phone to my husband. “It’s for you.”
People, I am 43 years old. If I’m getting these phone calls regularly, younger agents must be inundated. And having been a 25 year old salesperson, I know how undermining it is to wonder if your short skirt is more useful than your talent. We can say “making that sale isn’t worth your life” in every sales meeting from here to eternity (though I’ve never heard that from any broker I’ve worked with), but if talented, wealthy, badass superstars like Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan couldn’t find a way to castrate Harvey Weinstein in the past 30 years, how does a Realtor who actually needs the paycheck navigate this business?
Tune in to tomorrow's blog to find out!