Making Real Estate a Safer Industry
It’s been a year and a half since real estate agent Beverly Carter went missing and was later found murdered after showing a vacant home to a prospective buyer in the rural area of Scott, Ark. Since that dark day on Sept. 25, 2014, Brenda Rhoads, Carter’s friend and managing broker at Crye-Leike, REALTORS®, in North Little Rock, Ark., has been working hard to promote safety awareness in the real estate industry.
“I don’t want Beverly’s death to be in vain,” she says. “If there’s just one person who comes out of this and realizes how important safety is, that’s the most important thing. Beverly would have wanted that.”
A husband and wife have been charged with Carter’s murder. The wife, Crystal Lowery, was sentenced to 30 years in a plea bargain, and the husband, Arron Lewis, will stand trial on charges of capital murder, kidnapping, and robbery in January.
National Association of REALTORS® President Chris Polychron has responded to Carter’s murder — which took place in his home state — by making safety a major priority during his tenure. Rhoads and Polychron participated in a safety discussion, along with broker and chairman-elect of the Texas Association of REALTORS® Leslie Rouda Smith, during NAR’s Broker Summit in Seattle in August.
During the discussion, three points were reinforced:
- Know whom you’re dealing with. Brokers are encouraged to create a policy that requires all new clients to come into the office before being shown a property. At the office, photocopies of the person’s ID should be taken and a showing itinerary shared with office personnel.
- Use a buddy system. A broker could also encourage agents to pair up for open houses or showings by offering sign-up sheets or opportunities to coordinate during sales meetings.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Agents should understand the layout of a property before showings or open houses. Counsel them to put the phone away while walking, stay alert, and look for signs of forced entry before entering a home. Crye-Leike, REALTORS®, has promoted a two-second rule: Take two seconds to look around when you arrive at your destination, after you step out of your car, as you walk toward the home or property, at the door, and as soon as you enter the property.
Carter’s murder has motivated other brokers throughout the country to make safety a part of the industry culture.
Sam DeBord, managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, says brokers have the power to minimize fears agents might have over losing a client by creating an office policy that makes it mandatory to check clients’ IDs.
“It seems like we hear almost weekly now about [another] assault against an agent,” DeBord says. “I don’t want to be the person who gets that call to say one of your agents went out to meet someone you sent to them and something happened to them.”