MLS & Associations

MLSs, Realtor associations have critical role to play in safeguarding members

Industry needs 'rules of engagement' for meeting with prospects

The disappearance of Realtor Beverly Carter in Little Rock has heightened my concerns about Realtor safety.

My wife, Kayelin, is in her 11th year of real estate sales. We have a precious 2-year-old son, Houston Travis Wright. If anything ever happened to Kayelin, it would be unbearable for Houston and me.

Those of us who work in real estate know these tragedies occur periodically, and then fade into memory. Perhaps now is the time to create an industry initiative to attack the problem head on.

From time to time, the National Association of Realtors will publish reminders or tips for agent safety. Inman News and others have reported on various technologies and apps aimed at personal safety. There are wearable cameras, panic buttons and GPS location-based alerts that can be sent to designated contacts.

My sense is that adoption of these gadgets among Realtors is low. I am more likely to hear about female agents “packing heat” than any tech device. But then I live in Texas.

Technology can only be part of the solution. At least three systemic changes need to come about to enhance Realtor safety so that we can prevent future tragedies:

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Broker, Realtor association and MLS responsibility  

With the proper outreach, the public will learn that agents are not going to jump at a moment’s notice and chase a commission without knowing who they are dealing with."

Although agents usually work as independent contractors, brokers should step up and, like real employers, play an active role in workplace safety.

Agents are brokers’ most important assets. Having a safe facility with video cameras and panic buttons is a good first step — how many brokers have that, even?

But the real need is to protect the agent in the field, where they are meeting with clients and prospects. How do we bring a safe office environment into the field?

Realtor associations and multiple listing services efficiently organize the real estate marketplace and “invite” the public to enter and interact with its agent-members. While MLSs have rules of conduct that pertain to brokers and agents, there are no “rules” for the public on how they must conduct themselves in the marketplace.

MLSs and Realtor associations should work closely with broker members to create a set of agent-consumer “rules of engagement” for their marketplace. Those rules could include standardized protocols for the identification and registration of all parties interested in property listings — before they go see homes with an agent.

Public awareness  

With the proper outreach, the public will learn and accept the new rules of engagement. Buyers and sellers will come to see the need for transparency between all parties in the marketplace, and understand that agents are not going to jump at a moment’s notice and chase a commission without knowing who they are dealing with.

This outreach will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders in the real estate transaction food chain, and they will have to practice what they preach when it comes to the marketplace rules of engagement.

Agent mindset and resolve

It’s a cliche to say that no deal is worth an agent’s safety or their life. But agents put themselves at risk every day. In addition to changing the public’s awareness and acceptance of the new rules of engagement, the agent community must collectively embrace best practices for everyone’s welfare.

Travis Wright is the principal of Wright Strategy Advisors, which advises real estate companies on technology standards, regulatory constraints, transaction transparency and consumer demands.