Brokerage

Female Realtors in yet another state barraged with suspicious calls

Man asking for showings in remote areas at night

A man is persistently calling female real estate agents across Virginia asking them to show properties in remote places, at night or in areas they don’t generally cover, the Virginia Association of Realtors warned real estate agents Monday.

The warning comes shortly after a Realtor association in San Antonio, Texas, issued a similar alert, notifying members that more than 50 Realtors had received suspicious calls from a man.

It could also provide ammunition for VAR in its effort to convince lawmakers to make enticing a real estate agent into a home with intent to harm the agent a separate felony.

“This is one of the situations that Realtors face that sets off our alarm bell,” said Deborah Baisden, president of the Virginia Association of Realtors, in a statement.

“Realtors generally have their radar working and can identify a potentially threatening situation,” she added. “However, we are very concerned about our members’ safety and want to alert them to any suspicious behavior.”

The man in question has called several Realtors in southern and central Virginia multiple times within a few hours, according to VAR, which claims to represent more than 30,000 real estate professionals.

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Jody LoMenzo, director of media relations at VAR, told Inman that four or five agents have reported such calls so far.

She added that the man has made it clear to the women he’s called that he has looked at pictures of them online.

“He’s seen their pictures on Zillow or whatever,” she said.

The man contacting agents in the San Antonio area of Texas also is believed to have obtained information about the agents he calls online — in that case, from real estate brokerage websites.

In requesting agents to show him homes, the man calling agents in Virginia refuses to meet agents during the day, in a public location or in their office, agents have told VAR.

Unlike the suspicious calls that female agents in the San Antonio area have been receiving, those made to agents in Virginia show “no identifiable caller ID,” VAR said.

The caller has been very persistent, the Realtor association said.

One agent reported that the man asked her to “show me anything you can this evening,” while another was asked to show a land listing after dark. Both agents “used caution and common sense” and refused to meet with the man, according to VAR.

Local law enforcement authorities have been contacted and VAR is keeping its members informed, VAR said.

Realtors receive training to take precautions when scheduling appointments and showing homes, according to VAR.

In the wake of the kidnapping and killing of Beverly Carter, some industry leaders have called for brokers, MLSs and associations to institute stricter safety protocols for engaging prospective clients.

To help protect agents, VAR proposed legislation in January that would enact stiffer penalties for people with intent to harm agents by luring them into homes.

In its current form, the proposal would make it a distinct and separate felony to entice a real estate licensee into a home with the intent to commit offenses including murder, malicious wounding, robbery and rape.

VAR cites on its website “several high-profile cases” where Realtors “have been lured into vacant houses and assaulted, abducted … or worse” in a summary of the legislation.

Some technology companies are responding to concerns over agent safety by rolling out mobile apps designed to leverage existing networks — their brokerage, multiple listing service or association — to keep them safe in the field.