An Open Letter To The General Public About Real Estate Agent Safety

By
Real Estate Agent

the balancing act

An Absurd Suggestion

If you ask a real estate agent to show you a house, and you’ve never met that agent, I hope he or she suggests meeting over a plate of bacon. And I hope you’ll oblige.

Sounds absurd, but it’ll make sense in a minute…

During the week I wrote this, Beverly Carter, a fellow real estate agent, was kidnapped and killed after meeting a potential client whom she didn’t know. The aftershocks are still reverberating through the real estate industry -- we are sad, angry, and afraid.

It’s not the first time something like this happened. In fact, it happens more often than you think, and it can easily happen again.

Drawing A Line, Or Drawing A Gun?

Since the news broke, agents have been throwing around ideas about how to avoid this sort of tragedy in the future. Ideas like:

  • Carrying a gun. Or at least having mace or a taser on hand.

  • Installing a phone app that can alert friends, family or colleagues if you are in danger.

  • Drawing a line in the sand and demanding that every new potential client must first meet them at their office.

But the answers aren’t so black and white.

Every agent arming themselves is a bit impractical (for many reasons).

An alert from a phone app may be too little too late.

Drawing that line in the sand (to meet before the first showing) is also impractical in our fast-paced industry…

...but it’s the most practical answer we have. And it’s something you’ll probably notice more agents doing in the future.

Think about it.

If you were an agent, with random people calling for you to show them homes on the fly, wouldn’t you want the security of knowing who you’re dealing with?

Personal safety notwithstanding, an initial meeting just makes good business sense. You get a chance to determine whether they’re sincere, willing and able buyers… and they get a feel for you as well.

A Line Is Sometimes Hard To Draw

You might be wondering why this policy (of meeting at their office or at least in a public place prior to the first showing) hasn’t always been universally enforced by agents.

Here’s why: agents want to be accommodating. They value your business to a degree that causes them to overlook their own personal safety at times.

The real estate industry is competitive. If agents insist that you jump through what seems like a hoop “just to see a house”, they fear you’ll simply call another agent who won’t demand such hoop-jumping.

However, the tragic loss of one of our own is causing us to rethink our collective value system.

This is why drawing that line in the sand, impractical as it may be, will likely become the new standard with most agents. As well it should.

But who says you need to meet at an office?

That’s where bacon comes into play...

Breakin' Bacon

Originally, I started writing this article as a list. A list of solid, logical reasons why you should meet with an agent in their office before ever even looking at a house. Yawn.

Then I figured I could extol the virtues of meeting for a cup of coffee. Sounds more appealing. Not as boring as an office, nor as demanding, or seemingly pushy and self-serving. It would be something much easier for an agent to ask of you.

But meeting for coffee is cliche. And besides, not everybody’s a coffee drinker.

Enter bacon.

Everyone loves bacon (at least that’s what Facebook tells me), and breaking bread with someone—sharing food—is a gesture everyone appreciates. I don’t mean a whole meal. That’s over the top. But a plate of bacon is perfect.

Bacon is just plain appealing, inexpensive, and provides the right amount of time for everyone to get to know a bit about each other.

Breakin' bacon”. Is it an absurd notion? Yes. But it stops you in your tracks makes you scratch your head. More importantly, it serves as a good starting point for a healthy agent-client relationship.

The Price of Convenience

As an agent, I know it’s all about the house from the buyer’s viewpoint. Not so much about the desire to meet and go over important stuff with an agent. I get it. I was a consumer before I was an agent. House trumps agent.

However, all it takes is one careless, but totally understandable decision to show a house, and an agent may never return home to their loved ones.

Sounds extreme, but it happens. Too often.

But yet not often enough that true changes in habits and patterns take place.

And if “breakin' bacon” -- bizarre as it sounds -- can stick in the minds of agents, and become the easy thing to suggest to you...

Well, then sharing some bacon starts to seem less absurd.

What's Absurd Is...

What happened to Beverly Carter happened. What happened is absurd.

It’s also avoidable.

I’m only asking you to consider these words, thoughts, and feelings, and I thank you for taking the time to understand the agent perspective.

For now, it’s time to wrap this all up. It’s a late night at the office, and I just want to go home and kiss my wife and kids. Get some rest. And hope that these thoughts help someone in some way in the future.

I’m grateful I can return to my family.

Beverly can’t.

Posted by

© Joe Kerouac 2014

 

Ripping the label off real estate agents.
Gently turning the industry upside down.

 

My blogs are thoughts, opinions, and ideas.  Not advice...legal, financial, business-wise, marital or otherwise.  So, don't construe it otherwise.

 

 

Comments (190)

Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Whoa - loads of comments.  Breaking bacon is an idea we should all consider.  I don't show many homes to strangers, but I used to. I used to race out to a house to be there and show it just when someone called. I won't be doing that again anytime soon.  Words of wisdom here!

Oct 13, 2014 02:31 PM
Andrea HoffDomin
Florida Dream Homes Realty - Fort Lauderdale, FL
- in Real Estate always on your side!

Thank you for the reminder. In my office it is policy that I need to know before I go with whom I go. And on my trip I get irregular phone calls from my office that I have to answer in a certain way. If not the next call may be a call to the sheriff.

Sunny greetings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Oct 13, 2014 09:33 PM
Mike Reyman
eXp Realty - Media, PA
Delaware County Real Estate

Like you said, in today's frenzied environment of chasing every lead that appears, we forget about our safety.  I know I do.  I won't carry a gun.  I probably won't utilize a safety app.  But, I will be mindful of the situations that I put myself into and I think "Breakin' Bacon" is a great idea for clearing up some uncertainities.  Thanks for the well written post!

Oct 14, 2014 01:14 AM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Christi Farrington - Yeah, it took me a while to actually get to all of the replies.  Glad to hear you are also able to work mostly with referrals.  Nice way to roll if you can.

Jan Green - Me too.  I think every agent does end up meeting "strangers" at some point or another, especially early on.

 

Andrea HoffDomin - Wow, sounds like your office is able to pull off quite an intricate (or at least laborious) method!  Nice.  Bet it is a nice feeling to have such a tight-knit office.

Mike Reyman - Thanks for taking the point of the bacon in the proper persepctive...and the article as a whole.  It really is about just being conscientious and not putting oneself in the wrong scenario (as much as possible).

 

Oct 14, 2014 01:22 AM
Edith Raney
Raney Realty, Raney Continuing Education Online - Denton, TX

Joe, I have also lost a friend in this business.  A man made an appointment to see a vacant house with a Realtor.  She brought her husband and was sitting in the car with him when the potential "buyer" drove up.  When he saw this, he kept going.  He did find an open house that he went into and killed the agent.  Upon his arrest, it was learned that he had used this across the country to assault and rob Realtors as well as sellers, going to their doors and posing as a buyer.  

Having someone with her certainly saved one agent in my area.  Great idea.  However, I never show a buyer anything unless they are pre-approved by a verifiable lender and show that they are "ready, willing and able" to buy.  This is pretty much standard practice in my area among seasoned agents.  Why would you show a $500,000 home to someone who can only afford $300,000?  Seller's also should not have to worry about "tire-kickers" going through their homes -- only potential qualified buyers.  

It is doubtful that someone meaning you harm would go through the time consuming task of getting pre-qualified or approved.  

Great subject to post about -- as you can see, one of my personal concerns as well.  Thanks!!

 

Oct 14, 2014 01:49 AM
Diane Beaumont
Benchmark Mortgage - Woodland Park, CO
USDA,FHA,Jumbo,VA Woodland Park, CO Mortgage

Love the "breakin bacon" point you make. Excellent blog!

Oct 14, 2014 05:35 AM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Aww, I'm truly sorry to hear about your friend Edith Raney.  What's been so interesting to me in the past week is how many individual agents have reached out to me in different ways saying they had also known someone who was either assaulted, murdered, or at least found themselves in a threatening situation.
Stay safe, and my heart goes out to you...

 

Diane Beaumont - Thanks!  Glad you like it and the "breakin' bacon" angle.

Oct 14, 2014 06:13 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

As my business is in my home my first meeting with the client is often at Starbucks.  Thanks for the post.

Oct 14, 2014 08:52 AM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Gene Riemenschneider - Ditto!  I love Starbucks unwitting free rent policy for real estate agents.  


Oct 14, 2014 09:10 AM
Rita Harris
W.P. & Assoc. - Seattle, WA
Specialty: Immigrant families & vintage homes

Thank you for this post.  Most enlightening and great ideas.  This business slays me on just SO many fronts!  Shall I expand?

1.  Just WHY did we ever allow interior photos of homes to go out onto the internet for any "perp" to size up the house and know the best place to attack, or steal, or, or, or?  We USED to be "The Gatekeepers" to protect our sellers and their items.  Now we also are worried about our own safety.
2.  You must have your headshot, phone number, email, etc. available on the internet "to be found" as they say in media.  A "perp" just has to go thru enough photos to pick out someone.
3.  We are supposed to be professionals, in a professional industry.  Would your attorney or doctor see you at the drop of the hat, unless it was a lifethreatening emergency?  You'd be setting an appointment and going thru some symptoms screening (prequalification) or interview process to see if the lawyer wanted to handle your case.  We have NOT done a very good job of educating this demanding, it's-all-about-me-and-my-immediate-gratification society what our standards of conduct are and ways we are wiling to do business.

Our office discussed going out in pairs to show houses, bring along adult children, a spouse, etc.  Open Houses should be held with multiple agents too.  In my area where it's a brisk buying environment, having multiple agents available to handle the flow of people and keep an eye on the seller's stuff, can be handy!

I personally prefer to work with referrals only, but even then, how do you REALLY know this isn't gonna be some kook?  

One of the strategies I suggested from a previous place of employment, was to:
  -  Meet the prospect at the office (inconvenient as it may be at time).  I too, have used McDonalds and French Fries as the lure to write many transactions.  I don't meet people at shopping malls.
  -  Introduce the person around to staff and others in the office (more eyes-on as it were)
  - Photocopy the buyer's driver's license and submit it AND your tour schedule to a staff person so they know where you intend to go.  If the prospect isn't willing to go thru these hoops, they could be hiding something or not intended for you as a client.
  -  Take your own car.  DON'T ride with them.  If you have to get away in a hurry, have your own wheels and don't be blocked in.

I think we need to re-evaluate professional standards, personal safety, and what sort of tolerance we are willing to endure to earn a living.  Chasing every prospect may not be the wisest option.

All the best from the NW!

Rita Harris in Seattle

Oct 15, 2014 04:32 AM
Kathleen Luiten
Resort and Second-Home Specialist - Princeville, HI
Kauai Luxury Ocean Home Sales

I added an additional service app on my phone. Safety first!

Oct 15, 2014 03:10 PM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Rita Harris - Hey, Rita!  Thanks for all of your thoughts!  I'll focus on only one due to some time constraints...  Beyond our personal safety, I've also felt it is our responsibility to consider the safety of our clients who have property listed.  

Really good point about how much detail we make available readily online.  I tend to lean toward putting pictures online, but I make it difficult enough to go see so that only serious buyers with a sincere interest in a particular property make the effort to go see the house.  

I don't even put up yard signs.  (And clients are not only OK with it, they love that.)

Oct 16, 2014 01:13 AM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Kathleen Luiten - Out of curiousity, you say "additional" app....

Do you use more than one for safety purposes?
Are they redundant?  
Or would you use all of them for different reasons if you were in a threatened position?

Oct 16, 2014 01:15 AM
Jeff Jensen
The Federal Savings Bank/Lending in 50 states - Greenwich, CT

It is difficult in day time not to show houses a loan.  May part of the sign up procedure should include taking a photo of the driver's license.

Oct 16, 2014 08:22 AM
Kathleen Luiten
Resort and Second-Home Specialist - Princeville, HI
Kauai Luxury Ocean Home Sales

Good question, Joe. My go-to app for safety is Real Alert. It has buttons for calling 911 or my contact person, plus other features including a sound alarm. I added another app that has the regular check-in feature, so an alert is sent to my contact person if I don't check-in again and again throughout the time period. I don't want to be distracted by that in most circumstances but will use it when I think there is greater risk. In my market that's more likely to be out in the country with no neighbors near by. I haven't been out to isolated properties since I got that app but I will use both apps whenever I think I need the check-in feature. 

Oct 16, 2014 08:31 AM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Jeff Jensen - I agree, I think it is hard to show property with someone at any tie of day.  Surely it is a good idea, but just difficult and limiting to implement.  and seems tht taking a picture of the client's driver's license is ine of the more popular changes people are adopting.

Kathleen Luiten - Thanks for responding and elaborating!

Oct 17, 2014 12:33 AM
Kathleen Luiten
Resort and Second-Home Specialist - Princeville, HI
Kauai Luxury Ocean Home Sales

I often find doing a google search on the person gives me useful info, both for safety and to help build the relationship.

Oct 17, 2014 09:42 AM
Larry Johnston
Broker, Friends & Neighbors Real Estate and Elkhart County Subdivisions, LLC - Elkhart, IN
Broker,Friends & Neighbors Real Estate, Elkhart,IN

Hi Joe Kerouac , We have started meeting clients at a Supermarket deli.  They have about 5 in the area, complete with a starbucks.  It woks out well.

Mar 15, 2015 12:47 PM
Joe Kerouac
Madison, NJ
Real estate agent and writer

Larry Johnston -- Meeting in the supermarket makes it so you can legitimately suggest meeting over bacon...

Thanks for chiming in.

Mar 15, 2015 09:53 PM
Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL
GRI, ABR, SFR, CDPE, CIAS, PA

Hi, I really enjoyed coming across your blog among the many archieves. Thanks for being apart of Active Rain.

Apr 05, 2015 01:10 PM