By Susan E. Campbell
A group of four Capital District real estate agents is offering personal safety awareness instruction specifically designed for real estate agents—but with a kick.
The idea for Personal Safety Services started to take root about two years ago when Bruce McClellan, a recently retired Realtor and founder of Pinnacle Realty Saratoga LLC, had a minor health setback that “caused him to pull away a bit” from his busy real estate practice, according to the group’s operations director and instructor, Genevieve Suguitan of Signature One Group Malta.
“His idea was to offer a personal safety seminar program for Realtors through the area’s major associations, which reach more than 5,000 real estate professionals,” said Suguitan. “This is one way he felt he could give back to his profession.”
But first McClellan outlined his curriculum and took it to the National Association of Realtors. That was over a year ago. Suguitan said the seminar was approved for two course credits toward Realtors’ annual continuing education requirements.
“They also told Bruce that his program was the best realty safety course they had ever seen,” she said.
Personal Safety Services may be the only program where attendees can gain some simple self-defense skills from a seventh degree black belt. McClellan and Suguitan have had a working relationship for many years, and he called on her organizational skills and real estate background to help implement the program.
“Bruce was stuck not quite knowing how to get the seminars started,” she said. “As a mother of four kids in sports, I knew how to do an event.”
Personal Safety Services was up and running in a few months. The first seminar drew 12 real estate agents through word of mouth. Meanwhile, McClellan was approaching the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors and, thanks to GCAR’s marketing power, the next seminar in Malta in January sold out within a week, said Suguitan.
Real estate agents who attend the group’s two-hour seminars can acquire an increased awareness of the kinds of safety issues they face and learn about protecting themselves on the job. Suguitan teams with Kathleen Hauser of Roohan Realty, based in Saratoga Springs, preparing and presenting the first hour of the program.
The content of the second hour makes this program unlike most others, as Shihan Patrick Hussey, chief instructor and founder of the Tenkara Dojo at Saratoga Karate, conducts a hands-on session teaching a few simple self-defense moves.
A former real estate agent, Hussey is in a strong position to teach practical tips so that agents, many of whom are women and often show listings alone, are prepared to ward off danger. Attendees are encouraged to practice the techniques learned at the seminar with their colleagues to stay fresh and alert.
“We also cover some practical tips such as: do not turn your back on people and how to choose a safer place to park your car,” said Hussey. “We are custom fit to what the needs are for agents.”
“Truth is, we do not want to be exposed to danger,” said Suguitan. “The one time it happens can be lethal.”
Suguitan said she was once put in a precarious situation after responding to an online lead. Somehow she sensed her safety may be at risk and cancelled her showing with the “prospective buyer.”
“Even after cancelling this man was persistent,” she said. “Later I learned he was a predator who had been arrested for domestic violence.”
Part of the objective of these seminars, she said, is about “trusting your gut” and “learning ways the community of real estate agents can support one another. Our goal is to be the go-to organization supporting best safety practices on the job.”
GCAR will sponsor another seminar this coming fall in Albany. McClellan has also approached Southern Adirondack Association of Realtors, which will be inviting its associates to a spring seminar set for May 15 at the Holiday Inn Express in Queensbury. The price to attend is $25.
“We are not doing this to make a profit but to share with our colleagues the importance of personal safety,“ said Suguitan. “For me personally, it has completely changed the way I do my business.”
By Susan E. Campbell