It’s an undeniable truth: Real estate agents across the nation visit vacant homes, drive long distances to unpopulated areas and interact with strangers as part of their job.
Arkansas agent Beverly Carter’s kidnapping and murder in September encouraged agents to revisit ways to protect themselves, starting with poking an attacker in the eye to running background checks before meeting with clients.
Carter’s real estate brokerage, Crye-Leike Real Estate Services, is unveiling the Beverly Carter Safety Course at its colleges and online. The course, slated to roll out by the end of the month, teaches how to park a car with an escape route, survey property for suspicious activity and to always leave office staff with details about your daily schedule, among other defenses.
Crye-Leike will not divulge a detailed description of the course because they want an agent’s arsenal to be secret.
“Bad guys can read, too,” Crye-Leike Vice President Steve Brown said. “We want the courses to benefit our agents only.”
He said the course relies on a multilayered approach that was curated by Crye-Leike, the National Association of Realtors and law enforcement. He wants to encourage agents to have numerous safety nets that include wearable technology, habitual safeguards (such as sharing your schedule with a colleague) and physical training.
Crye-Leike agents are joined by others across the nation aiming to enhance their protection playbook.
St. Charles, Missouri, agents are taking self-defense classes to detect body language that reveals possibly dangerous intentions, such as shifty eyes.
More than 200 agents at the Des Moines-area Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group Realtors took safety training classes led by the group’s managing broker and retired U.S. Air Force Major John Stark.
Stark said his agents are also changing their tack by meeting new clients in a public place and asking for identification, such as a driver’s license, at their first meeting.
“Before, agents would leap over their desk to show a complete stranger a house,” Stark said. But the new precautions might not be enough, he added.
“I believe that agents are desperate for leadership,” Stark said. “Brokerages can do as much as possible, but it’s no match for a national standard or requirement to background clients before meeting them.”
Today homebuyers expect agents to meet complete strangers at their leisure, sometimes at night, and that’s not something they would dream of asking a bookseller or hairdresser to do, Stark explained.
Instead, prospective clients should reach out to make an appointment, and in the meantime, agents can run a background check and maybe even determine if they’re eligible to buy a home.
“We’re just asking the National Association of Realtors to give us the tools to treat our jobs like the business it really is,” Stark said. “Because 99 percent of people out there are good, but then there is the 1 percent that can kill you.”
Crye-Leike’s Steve Brown said the Carter course offers a wide range of options because they understand agents have their own habits and work in different environments, versus adhering to a national standard.
Furthermore, they declined to say whether the course provides training on verifying the identity of prospects before meeting them.
Although a national set of guidelines to safeguard agents is well-intentioned, he said, it’s not possible.
“Some agents are more careful, and others aren’t, operating at their own peril,” Brown added.
The National Association of Realtors shared a similar sentiment and does not have plans to impose a national set of guidelines, instead offering a menu of suggestions and options.
Last month the association posted a nine-minute video explaining legal ramifications of options like owning a firearm or running background checks on potential clients. NAR also plans to offer recommendations to agents through the new year.
“By the end of my term, Realtors will be safer than they are today,” NAR President Chris Polychron vowed at a Nov. 7 news conference.