Luxury Connect
Meet the Luxury Leaders | October 19-20 | Beverly Hills

In the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter, more than 350 agents and brokers have signed a “Realtor Safety Pledge” promising to limit certain behaviors that could potentially put them in harm’s way.

The pledge was created by Dylan de Bruin and Joe Schafbuch, the broker-owners of 90-agent firm Century 21 Signature Real Estate in central Iowa. De Bruin was a former employer and personal friend of Ashley Okland, a 27-year-old agent shot and killed while holding an open house in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2011.

Despite discussion about safety policies and open house practices after Okland’s death, “it would appear that nothing fundamental has changed in our marketplace (or anywhere else for that matter) to change our industry practices to better protect our agents,” de Bruin wrote in an open letter to the real estate community earlier this month.

“Because we all feel the need to compete in an open market for the limited pool of leads that exist, we tolerate reckless lead incubation and showing practices that we would never encourage our daughters and wives to practice. Our agents place themselves in precarious positions only because they know that if they don’t … someone else will.”

Training one’s own agents how to be safe while conducting showings and open houses are only “Band-Aids” to a larger, industrywide issue, de Bruin said: “What must change is the fact that we accept as normative the idea that any agent should even entertain the idea of meeting a client at a property without first meeting at the brokerage office or facilitating some sort of initial screening.”

Those who sign the Realtor Safety Pledge — which is open to agents, brokers and members of the public — pledge to:

  • Under no circumstances show a home to a stranger without first meeting them at the office or asking them to submit identification.
  • Educate my clients that open houses are a safety concern both for the homeowner and myself.
  • Limit open houses as a marketing strategy and/or make prudent and safe decisions about my open house marketing efforts.
  • Follow my intuition, and not step into situations that I feel uneasy about.
  • Use the buddy system whenever I am unsure or uneasy about a showing or meeting.
  • Make myself available to my fellow agents as a “showing buddy” should they ever feel the need to take someone along or feel unsafe.
  • Seriously consider the nature of my personal marketing and its potential impact on my safety.

De Bruin does not want to stop there. In his letter, he proposed every broker and manager implementing stringent showing practices; reconsider open houses; and co-fund a marketwide campaign to retrain consumers to have more realistic and safe expectations of agents.

Real estate broker-owner J. Philip Faranda espoused a similar idea in an Inman News column in August, and this month launched an Agent Safety Project (agentsafetyproject.org).

Faranda called on all brokerages to institute safety policies, and for Realtor associations to make safety training mandatory. He also envisions a role for industry partners like Zillow, Trulia and Move to educate consumers about the need for agents to identify and prequalify them before meeting them for the first time at a listing.

Others have called for multiple listing services and associations to institute “rules of engagement” for dealing with prospective clients.

De Bruin addressed what he called “the elephant in the room” — that anything other than marketwide change places female agents at a disadvantage to male agents.

“If female Realtors are expected to have clients meet them at the office in order to ensure their safety, but male Realtors do not embrace the same practices, not only do male Realtors retain a strategic advantage in their business, but it is likely that clients will be inclined to retain their expectations of immediate access to listed properties, furthering this issue,” he said.