Sometimes, though, Realtors become victims. The 2014 murder of an Arkansas real estate agent spurred Realtors to examine their security practices. On Friday, Michael Gauger, chief deputy at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, told Jennings’ Keller Williams agents in Wellington how to stay safe.
Check ID. Always meet new clients at the office, not at a vacant home. Make a copy of new clients’ drivers licenses. To be sure a Florida license is legit, hold it at an angle and look for the circles hidden on the surface. Also make note of the client’s vehicle and tag number.
Use security cameras. “Cameras are so cheap now,” Gauger says, “and the pictures are unbelievable.” Brokers can install cameras at the office for a few hundred bucks. For agents on the move, Gauger suggests using GoPro cameras to capture video during open houses and showings. The footage can help cops catch the bad guy.
Get a buddy. Don’t hold open houses alone. And agents should tell someone at the office before meeting a client at a property. They also should have a code phrase — such as, “It’s in the red file” — that serve as a distress signal.
Ditch the high heels. Female agents should wear shoes that let them run away from bad guys.
If you have a gun, know how to use it. A gun in the possession of an untrained owner can be a disaster waiting to happen. A bad guy can snatch it, or the owner might accidentally shoot herself. For agents not experienced with firearms, Gauger recommends pepper spray.
Lose the jewelry, keep the smartphone. Don’t wear fancy jewels and lug big purses, Gauger says. But set up your phone so you can easily dial 911 if things go wrong
Be wary. When you get to an empty property, walk around the perimeter before going in. If the lockbox has been tampered with or there are signs of a break-in, call 911 before entering the house. “Awareness has kept me alive for 45 years,” Gauger says.
Of course, Gauger had a more dangerous job than agents. Realtors die on the job from violent crime about once a year, safety experts say, and there have been a handful of news reports about murdered Realtors in recent years. An Ohio agent in 2010 was strangled by two men who told her they wanted to view a property. And in 2011, an Iowa agent was murdered during an open house.
The $75 million listing isn’t in the multiple listing service, but it’s being marketed on the website of agent Cristina Condon. The 2.25-acre property just north of Sloan’s Curve includes 274 feet of ocean frontage. The Shiny Sheet’s Darrell Hofheinz has more details.
The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean was listed last year at $84.5 million, but the price has been cut twice, the second time late last week. Meanwhile, the house lost its spot as Palm Beach County’s most expensive listing when the Ziff estate in Manalapan hit the market for $195 million.
The new money extends the end date of the Hardest Hit Fund from Dec. 31, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2020, the feds said. California gets the most of any state, at $213 million, and Illinois ($118 million), Ohio ($98 million) and North Carolina ($78 million) all received more than Florida.
Not only are few Floridians helped by the Hardest Hit Fund, those that are must endure long waits. Out-of-work Florida homeowners seeking unemployment assistance through the program had to wait a median of 167 days, the inspector general said.
Florida’s acceptance rates are low because the state program doesn’t weed out applicants who might not qualify, said Cecka Green, spokeswoman for the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which runs the state’s $1 billion Hardest Hit Fund.
The HardestHit Fund, announced in February 2010 by the Obama administration, devoted $7.6 billion to 18 states and the District of Columbia. Florida received $1.06 billion, an allocation eclipsed only by California’s $2 billion. The money was meant to help unemployed homeowners pay the mortgage until the job market improved.
As Ocwen Financial sweeps out its old regime, the company announced Friday that a longtime director will leave the chairman’s post — and be replaced by a former federal regulator who was appointed to the embattled mortgage company’s board last year on the orders of New York state regulators.
Barry Wish, the chairman of West Palm Beach-based Ocwen, will step down next month. His replacement is Phyllis Caldwell, who served for two years as chief of the Homeownership Preservation Office at the U.S. Department of the Treasury during the first Obama administration.
Wish, a 74-year-old Manalapan resident, has been a director of Ocwen (NYSE: OCN) since 1988. He took over as chairman last year, when regulators pushed out former Chairman and Chief Executive William Erbey.
Wish “did not wish to stand for re-election at the Company’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2016,” the company said in a statement. Wish owned 4.15 million shares of Ocwen as of the company’s May proxy.
Caldwell is not just a former regulator but the only woman on Ocwen’s board. In the 1990s, the company was the target of a class action by employees who claimed sexual harassment. And two women who worked at Ocwen’s West Palm Beach headquarters won a $2 million sexual harassment verdict in 2005.
Ocwen shares briefly touched an all-time high of $59.98 in 2013. Shares closed Thursday at $5.69.
A regulatory crackdown punished shares of Ocwen, which has a reputation for playing hardball with subprime borrowers.
Minto Homes’ massive Westlake development is known mainly as the future site of 4,500 homes. But the project in unincorporated Palm Beach County also is slated for some 2 million square feet of commercial space.
During a speech Thursday to the Economic Forum, Minto Communities Vice President John Carter said one unnamed company is interested a 42-acre site approved for 250,000 square feet of space.
“We’re already entertaining an offer for someone to occupy all of” that site, Carter said Thursday.
Carter outlined plans that included 1 million square feet of offices, 500,000 square feet of retail and 450,000 square feet of light industrial space.