When I first saw the news report about the murder of Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter I felt such sadness for her and her family. My sadness was followed by nausea. You know that feeling that comes over you when you realize this could have been you, or someone close to you? I felt like all the blood was draining from my body.
After I collected myself and offered up a prayer for Beverly’s family, my sadness and nausea was replaced by anger. It made me angry to think that we as an industry have not done more to protect ourselves. We simply must put safeguards in place to protect ourselves.
We Are Changing The Way We Show Properties
The man accused of her murder said that Ms. Carter was targeted because she was “a woman that worked alone.” Beverly Carter is the most recent victim, but there are many others:
- 40-year-old Sarah Anne Walker was hosting an open house at a model home in McKinney, Texas, when she was stabbed 27 times by a felon out on parole.
- 71-year-old Ann Nelson was robbed, strangled and beaten with a fireplace poker while showing a home to a man she believed was a prospective home buyer.
- An Orange County, California Realtor was raped and bludgeoned by a man masquerading as a prospective home buyer. He man had found her photo online. The Agent was able to survive by pretending to be dead.
And the list goes on and on. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of violent crimes against Realtors is rising every year.
At The Shafer Team, we are taking the safety of our team very seriously, and our members will not be allowed to show a property until/unless the prospective buyers agree first to meet at the office. There will be no exceptions to this rule. This will include showing proper identification that will stay on file in our office.
Actually, our Buyer Specialists have always been encouraged to meet prospective buyers at the office first. It is a true win for both the buyers and the Realtor. The win for the buyers:
Our Buyer Specialist sits down with her buyers and gets to know them, and vice versa. She makes a presentation to them, explaining how she works as an advocate for them, showing them only properties that she feels will be a good fit after carefully listening to them and discerning what they want and need. She makes recommendations on some of the best mortgage lenders in the area and helps to get them preapproved for a loan that meets their budget and comfort zone. She shows them how she will not only show them property but will do research on any homes of interest to help the buyer determine a reasonable offer for the home they have chosen. She walks them through the maze of paperwork, is there for them through the home inspection, and continues to represent them all the way to the closing table.
The win for the Realtor: She has positioned herself as the true professional, not just the keeper of the keys. Buyers who understand this and who are willing to come in and meet with her are serious Buyers who want to work with someone who will lead and guide them through the process and be an advocate only for them.
And for her safety, meeting Buyers at the office is no longer a recommendation. It is a hard-and-fast rule.
How We Do Open Houses Is Also Changing: No Entrance Without Proper I.D.
Today’s technology makes it possible for Buyers to know all about your home. They see it online, inside and out. Photos showcase virtually every room of your home. They see the exterior, front and back. They know what you paid for your home and when you bought it. They will know what improvements you have made, and they have checked Zillow and other sites to help them determine your home’s estimated value.
So why do Realtors still host Open Houses?
Okay, I’m Letting You In On A Secret: I Have Never Been A Fan Of Open Houses.
The Open House rarely sells houses. But it is a great tool Realtors use for meeting new prospective clients. People walking through the Open House are often in the market, either right away or some time in the near future. The Realtor is hoping the folks touring the home will need a Realtor to help them sell their home. And if the home he is hosting doesn’t meet their needs, perhaps they will also let him help them find another home. If you host enough Open Houses, you will soon build a pipeline of Buyers and Sellers.
Think about this: In what other instance would you let perfect strangers walk through your home? Anybody off the street can just come right on in and see everything you own. I have a friend who tours Open Houses as a hobby. She simply loves to see inside other people’s homes. She has no intention of buying. And she is not alone. Before the internet, when Open Houses were still popular and productive, I hosted a lot of Open Houses, and would see the same people week after week. They would laugh and admit they were just looking for the fun of looking, with no intention to buy.
That is not to say that every now and again the Open House works. And with that in mind, our Team is always willing to host them. But for the safety of our Realtors, and for the added security for the Sellers, we are posting a notice at the door of the Open House that will alert people that they will be required to register their full names and provide proper identification in order to tour the home.
It is our hope that this will deter people who may be coming through your home with criminal intent.
Our Agents will also provide the address of the Open House to her family and all team members. She will also alert the neighbors that the home will be held open.
And she will have a way to alert police in the event of an emergency with the touch of a button. She will also be thoroughly trained on how to protect herself.
Unfortunately, we now live in a world where we have to constantly be on our guard. Gone are the days when we could just smile, open the door and say, “Welcome.” Now we have to ask for identification. It makes me sad, but it is necessary in today’s world.
Through proper awareness, preparation, and education, we can continue to work in a career we Realtors love. And hopefully our clients will understand and want us to safely conduct business and go home to our families.
Beverly Carter, you will forever be remembered by this Realtor, and your death is not in vain. This has been a huge wake up call for all of us, and we will continue to do the very best job we can for our clients. We will just do our jobs with a keen eye on safety, the way it should have been done all along.