AgentBrokerage

Open Door Partners and Realtor Safe Harbor databases promise agent safety

Efforts aim to help agents vet unknown clients at local broker, title and mortgage lender offices

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Takeaways:

  • Open Door Partners and Realtor Safe Harbor are out to build a national database of real estate offices open to any agent who wants to vet a client.
  • Both are looking to NAR to help guide.
  • Violent on-the-job deaths for brokers and agents have dropped over the last four years through 2013.

Last September, real estate agent Beverly Carter disappeared after showing a deserted property on the banks of the Arkansas River to an unknown client.

Several days later, authorities unearthed her body from a shallow grave 30 miles away. Two people have been charged with capital murder.

The grisly event — the latest in a string of high-profile real estate agent murders — reignited concern for agents who put themselves in danger when they meet a client they don’t know for the first time at a home.

If Carter had met the prospective client at a place where she could verify his identification, maybe she wouldn’t have met a tragic end.

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Brokers Sam DeBord and Doyle Yates want to decrease the chances that another agent will be murdered by a client. The two are building a national database of brokers, lenders and title companies who agree to open their doors to any agent who wants to meet and vet a client they don’t know.

Both DeBord’s Open Door Partners and the site Yates helped spearhead with the Arkansas Realtors Association, Realtor Safe Harbor, are now live.

Although Starbucks is an easy public meeting place, Yates said that a local real estate office can help verify a client’s information and keep a record so there’s accountability if anything goes awry.

Safe-Harbor

The Realtor Safe Harbor platform has a free mobile app that helps agents find offices participating in the program.

The two platforms are separate, but may join forces soon. They have both appealed to the National Association of Realtors to take the reins, unite the efforts, and get state and local Realtor associations on board.

NAR is aware of the projects but has yet to officially jump on board, according to Sara Wiskerchen, a spokeswoman with the trade association. The group rolled out a free safety course for members this year.

Open Door Partners and Realtor Safe Harbor join a host of other efforts industry leaders and technologists have developed in the wake of Carter’s death.

Hundreds of brokers and agents have taken a safety pledge created by the broker-owners of Century 21 Signature Real Estate in central Iowa last year.

Mobile apps such as instant-showings app Curb Call and Verify Photo ID (which checks contacts against sex offender databases) are among those that have jumped on the agent-safety bandwagon.

Despite the clear danger of meeting unknown people in isolated areas, however, the risk agents face may be overblown.

Unfounded fear?

While Carter’s grisly death may have inspired renewed vigilance for agent safety, broker and agent violent deaths are on a downward trajectory, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

Of the total 24 violent deaths real estate professionals met while on the job in 2013, brokers and agents accounted for just one.

The BLS defines a violent death as one that occurs at the hands of another person, oneself or an animal. BLS statistics for 2014 aren’t available yet.

Real estate broker and agent on-the-job deaths

Year No. of deaths No. of violent deaths
2013 4 1
2012 9 3
2011 10 4
2010 13 7*

Source: BLS *Defined as assaults and violent deaths

Lessors — those who rent or lease properties to others — accounted for the highest number of violent deaths among real estate pros in 2013, 16, followed by property managers, who had six.

Building support

DeBord sent an email to over 1,200 state and local Realtor association execs like Amanda Woods, an association exec at the Northwest Mississippi Association of Realtors.

Woods said she’ll advertise the program to her 900 members, who run approximately 175 offices, on Facebook, in emails and during the association’s upcoming Realtor safety week.

Lenders, who are always eager to form relationships with agents and consumers, have been most receptive to his pitch, DeBord said.

Yates, the president of Northwest Arkansas Association of Realtors, has focused first on generating buy-in for Realtor Safe Harbor in his home market.

Roughly a third of the 190 broker, lender and title offices in his association have signed up, he said.

Email Paul Hagey.