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Real Estate Agents Reviewing Safety Precautions in Wake of Ohio Crimes

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By Ellen Kolman

RISMEDIA, December 28, 2010—(MCT)—In response to the recent crimes against real-estate agents in the Youngstown and Kent, Ohio, areas, local real-estate brokers are reviewing safety precautions for their agents. These incidents remind all agents nationwide to review safety procedures when showing vacant homes.

Asa Cox, owner of Asa Cox Homes, in Madison, has sent out a memo to all of her agents, asking them not to make “cold calls.”

“We must get background information before showing a house,” she said. “If a person is willing to be preapproved by a loan officer, they are probably serious about buying a house.”

Steve Box, owner of Box Real Estate Brokers in Ashtabula, agrees.

“Safety guidelines have been in place for many years through the Ohio Association of Realtors,” Box said. “We need to be cautious, and I think one of the best things we can do when talking to a prospective buyer is asking them to be preapproved by a loan officer. This way we are not wasting our time but, at the very least, get some background information,” he said.

Two real-estate agents recently were killed in vacant homes for sale, and another was robbed, all within a week, according to the Associated Press.

Vivian Martin, 67, was found dead Sept. 20 on the kitchen floor of a burning home in Youngstown, according to police. An autopsy showed she had been strangled before the home burned down. The fire was ruled an arson.

Martin’s death might be related to the Sept. 15 robbery of a real-estate agent who showed an apartment to a pair of brothers in nearby Boardman Township, said Boardman Police Capt. Donald Hawkins. He said the two cases are similar but declined to elaborate.

About 40 miles west, in a lakefront community near Kent State University, the body of 51-year-old Andrew VonStein, who had been shot once, was found Sept. 21 in a vacant ranch-style house he was trying to sell, the AP reported.

The Ashtabula County Board of Realtors’ 2010 president, Paul Bryant, said the National Association of Realtors always has had safety tips and he teaches the safety classes to all new real-estate agents.

“The National Association provides a list of safety tips, and since this happened, we have sent an e-mail to every real-estate agency in our county to remind them that when they are showing a vacant home, to let someone know where they are going, and go with a partner if they do not know the prospective buyer,” Bryant said. “The best safety tip is ask the people to come into the office first and obtain background information.”

Kathy Holmes, a broker for All Points Reality, said the events in the Youngstown/ Kent areas have prompted her to step up the professionalism in her agency.

“I am going to encourage my agents to meet prospective buyers in a public place first and get some background information or a copy of their driver’s license,” she said. “Plus, we need to make sure someone else knows where we are going and who we are going to meet.”

For more information on real-estate-agent safety, check online (www.realtor.org/safety).

Copyright (c) 2010, Star Beacon, Ashtabula, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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