The Perils of Being a Realtor

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While many of us sat and watched the Super Bowl, Lindsay Buziak, a 24-year-old BC real estate agent, was found dead in a vacant Gordon Head home. She had been lured to a home under the pretense of a potential sale, and she was murdered. The home at 1702 De Sousa Pl. is described as an outstanding executive home in a brand new upscale small four lot subdivision.

Real estate can be a hazardous profession, especially for women. According to information provided by the National Association of Realtors’ Realtor Safety Council, more than 200 U.S. real estate agents have been killed on the job from 1982-2000 as they showed homes to strangers. Buziak was among the youngest of the 1,300 real estate agents working in the region. According to the Victoria Real Estate Board; fewer than 20 real estate agents are under 25 years old.

An increase in violence against real estate professionals in recent years has prompted the NAR to create and distribute safety educational materials to all Realtors and to draw attention to the topic with an annual Realtor Safety Week which is supported and promoted by local real estate associations, managers and brokers.

In other crimes against agents, Florida’s Richard Pate was convicted on kidnapping and robbery charges against Linda Tadesco, and was implicated in robberies of Realtors in Georgia as well. According to the police report, the robbery occurred when a real estate agent Linda Tedesco received a call to show a listed property and met with Pate at the home two hours later. Once upstairs, he told her that it was a robbery, and tied her hands behind her back with flex ties, taking her valuables, purse, credit cards, and demanding her PIN number. He then told her an accomplice would be watching her from outside and that she wouldn’t be hurt as long as she cooperated. He put her in the closet and secured her to the water heater with another flex tie.

Although the agent lost jewelry valued at approximately $15,350, she was fortunately able to free herself and run to a neighbor’s home. Less fortunate was Texas real estate agent Sarah Anne Walker, she was found in a model home fatally stabbed 27 times.

While female agents are a common target for criminals, male agents do not entirely escape their reach. In my very own city of Bellevue Washington, seasoned agent Michael Emert was murdered January 5th, 2001 in a Woodinville home listed for sale. The case has never been solved.

So today, instead of offering our readers facts, figures, and opinions, I merely wish to offer my condolences to real estate agent Lindsay Buziak’s entire family. I would also like to extend those condolences to the families of all of the other agents who have lost their lives trying to pursue their dreams, provide service to their clients, and just make an honest living.

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23 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Perils of Being a Realtor | The Long List of Odysseus Medal Nominees | Realtors and real estate, mortgages, lending, investments

  2. Our own MLS posted this warning today.
    ————-
    Potential Dangerous Situation

    Feruary 6, 2008. NWMLS has recently received reports of potential dangerous situations regarding a man attempting to lure women agents to homes.

    A man named Christopher Heath (from Vermont) is trying to get female agents out to vacant properties. Most of the properties he is interested in are vacant and secluded. He has been arranging to meet with several agents in the area (Duvall, Monroe, Kent).

    Heath claims to be relocating here to work at the Fire Academy in North Bend. He claims to be a widower, retired firefighter, cash buyer searching for rural setting with room and privacy for the 2 search-and-rescue dogs he has for his job here with the Seattle Fire Department.
    He originally was looking for a house priced between $400,000 and $600,000.

    He later changed the price to a million, saying it was going to be a cash deal and that the money would be wired from Merrill Lynch. One agent was feeling uncomfortable with the situation and began a background check. The Fire Academy has never heard of him. He had called from a New York phone number so she did a reverse search — it was a doctor’s cell phone # — when she called the number the next day it had been cancelled.

    A 2nd agent called the number she had been given in Vermont and spoke to his wife (he claimed to be a widower). She said there are about 10 different female real estate agents leaving him messages and she found many Seattle area agents on his home computer. According to his wife, he was in the middle of taking out a home equity loan on his wife’s (of 4 months) home. His wife just happened to be home and saw the appraiser measuring her home – a 30-acre horse ranch in Vermont.
    Another agent arranged to meet with him today (February 6). She told him by voice mail and email that they would be meeting at her office to introduce themselves in person and to go over their tour and initial real estate paper work.

    She told him it was their company policy to meet new clients at their office, introduce them to their office manager and to make a copy of their driver’s license. She has not heard from him since. His wife believes he is now in New York heading to Washington. The situation has been reported to the police. Please be careful! If this man contacts you, contact your local authority.

    • Michael,

      I found your article, “The Perils of Being a Realtor” this week. Christopher John Heath is still doing the same thing!

      Background: My Wife and I provide architectural design and permit services from home and were contacted by a person claiming to be a millionaire. He wanted to have us draw architectural plans and manage his construction project. We spent time researching and writing a contract, which he came to sign. He never paid the substantial retainer due at the time of signing and we have not been able to get in touch with him. He also tried to lure us to a vacant lot in Chesapeake Beach. My Wife and I both got bad feelings about the guy from his strange demeanor during our two meetings with him. While we are not at a financial loss, this person came to our home and may be up to no good.

      Next: We did some research on the Internet and found that this person is basically a career criminal. He contacts agents in construction related fields to lure them to vacant properties. He has been pulling this same scam since 1998 in various states and has been arrested for it several times. He is also know to try to lure women to vacant sites as well. We found much information on the internet. He was arrested January of this year for porbation violation! We found a current mug shots of him. He and his wife, Lynn Heath, re accomplices.

      We are going to file a police report because I am sure that he is in violation of his probation and I do not want anyone to get hurt. I do know what he gets out of this and he clearly has some screws loose.

      Everyone should be diligent in checking people out if things do not feel right. Use the Internet to research people/companies to support statements and claims.

      Thanks for your post!

    • Craig Meadows

      Michael, after some research I found this article regarding and individual know as Christopher Heath.
      We recently encountered this individual in the Williamsburg/Peninsula area of Virginia.
      A 2010 Walton county Florida mugshot and arrest record confirm he is the same person mentioned in your February 11 2008 update/alert.
      Our interactions with him also reveal he is still using the same firefighter/millionaire bragging points
      He managed to walk off with a small quantity of tools in connection with a non profit home repair event that he agreed to be a team leader for.
      If you may be aware of his current probation status, I would appreciate the info so we can contact the proper authorities.

  3. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Obviously putting a great photo of yourself out there can bring business, but I do think in the wrong hands it can bring trouble.

    Female agents have it harder; I don’t think there are in crazy women out there looking through property publications glaring at male agents photo’s in hope of luring one to an empty home.

    It’s unfortunate that the lady’s in the business have to carry the burden of fear in their heart while simply trying to earn a living.

  4. Further on personal photo’s, This is really image advertising, and single individual photo are not nessassry on your web site, genernic photos of homes with solds signs is more effective, keep you photo to your business card promotion.
    Then you know who your’re dealing with, try to get to know new clients before showing property.

  5. Before I became a Realtor, my wife (who has been a realtor for years) would go out showing homes with people see had never met. It would make me crazy! We had something like this happen in Albuquerque and it really shook up the real estate community. Now I can go and show the clients we don’t know.

  6. Micki, I stand corrected; there were actually 206 agents killed between 1982 and 2000 (twenty one of which were killed in the year 2000). This information was gleaned from a report produced by the Kentucky Real Estate Commission and the Kentucky Association of Realtors®. There were many more that were physically attacked/sexually assaulted.
    You can read the report here:http://www.krec.ky.gov/safety_brochure.pdf

  7. Today the Sherriff has posted this warning on our MLS regarding a possible suspect in the murder of a Bellevue, WA. agent.

    SUSPICIOUS PERSON / POSSIBLE FRAUDULENT ACTIVITY
    On 02-07-2008, the King County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit (Det. Jon Holland) was notified about
    a suspicious person using the name of Christopher Heath. Heath had been contacting agents as a potential
    client. The contacts were somewhat similar to the contacts made in the unsolved Mike Emert homicide
    investigation.
    Subject: Heath, Christopher J
    DOB: 09/02/1971
    POB: Florida
    SSN: 590-01-6888
    Occupation: Was possibly a licensed EMT at one time in Florida. (The Fire Academy has no record of
    him being a potential employee)
    Current whereabouts: Heath is currently a transient. He is more than likely staying in the area of the New
    York University Medical Center. Heath used the number of 212-263-7000 to contact
    agents. This number belongs to Dr. James Wittig of the NYU Medical Center.
    Marital status: The phone number of 802-223-1648 belongs to Pam Cameron in Vermont. Cameron was
    married to Heath for a short period of time. Cameron is the primary source of information
    on Heath. She states that Heath is a con artist and a transient type drifter with no
    legitimate sources of income. She states that Heath has more than likely been to the
    Seattle area. Detectives will attempt to determine if he was in our area at the time of
    Emert’s death.
    Criminal History: Heath has five arrests in the state of Florida from 1998 – 2007. All of the arrests are fraud
    related.
    Please contact KCSO Det. Jon Holland (206) 205-7807 if you have any questions
    Det. Jon C. Holland
    King County Sheriff’s Office
    Major Crimes Unit

  8. Pingback: The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open | BloodhoundBlog: Real estate marketing and technology blog | Realtors and real estate, mortgages, lending, investments

  9. Thomas Johnson on

    Are Canadians even allowed to pack heat? In the USA we have a God given right, affirmed by the 2nd amendment of our constitution. If just one agent were to rehabilitate an assailant on the spot, these stories would become less frequent.

  10. A WHOLE NEW TYPE OF THREAT HAS SURFACED:

    It was not the kind of Valentine’s Day message anybody expects.

    In fact, a death threat e-mailed to several Lancaster County real estate agents on Thursday was described by one person as “just hateful.”

    Manheim Township Police said they received several reports from agents whose e-mail addresses are posted on business Web sites, indicating the recipient would be killed unless the writer was paid between $5,000 and $30,000.

    It’s “a pity that this is how your life is going to end,” the e-mail threatens, unless, of course, the recipient responds and pays off the threatening e-mailer.

    And, if the recipient calls police, the threatening e-mail continues, family members will die, too.

    “It’s scary. Very scary,” Sgt. Tom Rudzinski, spokesman for Manheim Township Police, said this morning.

    “It’s disconcerting and deserves an in-depth investigation, but it’s another version of the same-old, same-old scheme to get money. This takes it to an extreme. It’s an awful prank,” Rudzinski said.

    Anne Lusk, of Prudential Lancaster Real Estate, said one of her agents brought the e-mail to her attention Thursday morning.

    “He was white as a ghost and said, ‘I’ve never received anything like this in my life.”‘

    Lusk said she told him not to worry and to contact the police, who assured recipients it was just a prank and urged them not to reply.

    “Just the same,” Lusk said, “it’s really awful.”

    Terry Wiley, of Weichert Realtors- Engle & Hambright Inc., said about 10 employees in his office also received the threatening e-mail on Thursday.

    “It’s just hateful,” he said.

    One of his female agents was alone in the office Thursday evening when she noticed the e-mail, with the subject “Be More Careful (which was misspelled),” and called him at home, Wiley said.

    “She was sitting here by herself and didn’t know what to do,” Wiley said. “She was scared. It was just hateful.”

    Among the disconcerting phrases in the e-mail, Wiley said, was the added threat “do not come out after 7 p.m.,” until the money had been exchanged.

    “Well, 7 o’clock is when we close the doors,” Wiley said, “and that spooked us a little bit … it was a little weird.”

    “It’s just a little creepy. As Realtors, we’re in a vulnerable situation,” Wiley said, meeting strangers and going into sometimes vacant properties with them.

    The broken-English e-mail told the recipients that the person who “want you dead,” has already paid the e-mailer and provided a picture and “other necessary information” about their personal lives.

    The problem, Rudzinski said, is when people are vulnerable or frightened enough to fall victim to this type of scam.

    One of the clues that it’s a scam, Rudzinski explained, is that it’s written “in broken English. Someone has a poor grasp of the English language so they may not even be in this country. It’s like someone in another country would speak or write.”

    “We’re going to track this down,” Rudzinski said. “However, it has all the appearance of taking us out of the country.”

    “Somebody actually might be scared enough by this e-mail to give up $5,000 without thinking,” Rudzinski said. “If you’re parting with your money, you need to think twice about what you’re doing.”

    “These people were smart enough to do nothing and report it to police which is exactly what you should do,” Rudzinski said.

  11. Hows this for interesting:

    The NWMLS has received information (Thurston County area) concerning a male individual who looked at homes with an agent — all of the information he provided about himself and his employment was false. He claims to be a buyer’s consultant with the Federal Government, a PhD in Physics, his wife a professor at the University of Washington and they live in Medina, WA. None of the information he provided, except his name, is correct.

    The individual is in fact a currently registered, Level 3 Sex Offender, male, about 54, white, 5’11″, about 220 pounds, gray/red hair, tattoos on each arm and may have a beard.

    Other than providing false information during the preview of two homes, the individual did not demonstrate inappropriate behavior. Showing agent did not allow herself to be placed in a perilous situation. Individual has previously been a home inspector and appears to be familiar with the real estate industry.

    Please be careful! If this man contacts you, contact your local authority.

  12. There is a safety handbook put out by the Realtors association that no one usually reads, and there is no formal “training” given as part of the licensing process. Most MLS Associations do put out warnings and alert agents to people that are behaving oddly, or suspected of being thieves (which is the more common issue).

    It’s really just a hazard we have no choice but to live with, one can’t be afraid to meet people or only show homes with “back-up”. It’s not uncommon to get a call to show a home in a rural area on short notice. It’s certainly the ladies that are more vulnerable, but sometimes the men run into trouble.

    As I mentioned earlier, anyone can pick-up a Homes & Land magazine, flip through it seeing dozens of attractive photo’s of women, call one of them, and ask them to meet them at a house that’s vacant.

    Often they have to quickly decide if they wish to risk losing the sale and insist the client come into the office, meet the broker, and scan his ID. They may request that, and the potential client may just call another agent and buy the home that day. One never knows.

  13. Valuables Stolen from Agents

    Please remember to always keep your valuables on your person at all times when showing houses. In a recent report to NWMLS, a woman — posing as a home buyer — has stolen agent’s valuables (a wallet out of the agent’s purse and/or car).

    An agent took her on a tour of a few houses near the Beacon Hill area. She claimed she needed to purchase a house quickly due to family moving from London. The woman acted as though she was interested in one of the houses and needed to call her husband.

    The woman either purposely left her phone where the agent left her purse — or — she positioned herself where the agent left her purse. She then requested a few moments of privacy to call her husband. That is when it is believed the valuables are being stolen.

    She is Filipina, 5-foot tall, heavy set, approximately. 150 – 160 lbs and has long straight black hair. She drove a small, dark red truck with canopy. According to Police, the woman uses many different names; most recently Glenda. She addresses agents as “Miss _______,” using the agent’s first name frequently.

    Because credit cards have been stolen and used, police reports have been filed in Renton and Seattle.

    Renton Police Report number: 081796 and 081797
    Seattle Police Report number: 2008069675

  14. I found this webpage after some disconcerting events in my line of work.

    I received, a few weeks ago, a request from a gentleman named Christopher Heath (whose wife’s name is Lynn Heath) from a phone number out of The Burrough, NY area.

    He was requesting a quote on Heavy Timber Trusses for a “new construction project” near Richmond, VA, and essentially harrassed my team until he received it.

    After signing a set of plans and agreeing for a large down payment on the trusses, he’s disappeared and his phone number has been cancelled.

    So, in the event that this is the same individual referred to multiple times on this page, WATCH OUT, he’s still at it!

    • Craig Meadows

      Aaron,
      I’m positive that we’ve recently encountered this same individual in connection with a non profit and volunteer based home repair event.
      He managed to make off with a small amount of power tools that he was entrusted with to complete his assignment.
      During the planning stages of the events he’s been boastful of assets and has repeatedly flaunted a set of plans for a large timber framed home that supposedly he’s building in Surry County va. It’s my understanding that a well know plumbing and appliance supplier encountered the same Nightmarish dealing with him such as you’ve described.
      I have a 2010 mugshot of this individual from arrest on fraud charges in Walton County Florida.
      I would be interesting in sharing this photo with you so as to positively determine if in fact we are all dealing with the same individual.

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