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Inconsistent cell service. Limited visibility from the road. Vacant. No lighting. A bear running around the neighborhood.
These are just some potential safety hazards an agent may encounter at a for-sale property, but currently there’s no standard way to alert other agents about them. A committee of the National Association of Realtors is looking to change that.
“It is the sad truth that Realtors are victims of crimes on a daily basis in the United States,” said Tiffany Meyer, chair of NAR’s Realtor Safety Advisory Committee, at the trade group’s midyear conference, the Realtors Legislative Meetings, last week. She spoke at the Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee meeting on Monday.
“It is a stark reminder of the unique hazards that we face in this industry every day.”
At the meeting, she laid out a recommendation from the 2021 Realtor Safety MLS Workgroup for MLSs to adopt eight data fields: vacant; no heat; minimal or no exterior lighting; minimal or no interior lighting; remote/limited visibility from the road; electricity not on; inconsistent cell service; and other.
“The voluntary information included in the fields is intended to help agents assess the level of danger at a property,” Meyer said, adding that agents should take proper precautions before showing a property, such as using a buddy system or making sure they let people know where they are.
The workgroup is also recommending that implementation of the fields come with a fair housing statement specifying that remarks should not reference the demographics of a neighborhood, seller, potential agents or potential buyers, and a legal disclaimer crafted by NAR’s legal team that states that neither the listing agent, listing broker or MLS makes any warranty or representation about the safety of the property.
So far, five MLSs have piloted the fields:
- Cooperative Arkansas Realtors MLS, which has 5,200 members;
- Des Moines Area Association of Realtors MLS (2,500 members);
- Greater Greenville Association of Realtors MLS (3,100 members);
- Harrison District Board of Realtors (200 members); and
- Southwest Multiple Listing Services (4,300 members).
Southwest MLS began its pilot on Oct. 3, 2022. Since then, 6,828 residential listings had been entered into the MLS as of last week and 544 of those listings — about 8 percent — had used the safety fields, “which when you consider how many of them are actually dangerous is probably a pretty good number,” Richard Gibbens, director of Southwest MLS, told the committee.
He added that none of the fields are public-facing and that his MLS had reached out to the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) for feedback on the fields. RESO creates data standards for the industry such as the RESO Data Dictionary and the RESO Web API. They offer a uniform way to exchange data between systems — such as from an MLS to a broker’s website — smoothly and accurately.
“We want to get ahead of it before it starts costing everybody money,” Gibbens said.
After hearing from RESO, SWMLS took out the “Vacant” safety field because that field already exists elsewhere in the Data Dictionary and changed the “Other” field into “See Remarks,” he said.
Meyer added, “We are currently participating in a RESO Research and Development Workgroup where the Data Dictionary compliance and feedback from the pilot participants have been discussed. Our goal is for the fields to be added to the Data Dictionary with any necessary updates.”
She said the Realtor Safety Advisory Committee would continue to run its pilot program, add more participants, and collect more feedback.
“We plan to implement the feedback the second quarter of 2023, including from the RESO,” she said. After that, tentatively in the third quarter, the committee would encourage all MLSs to implement the fields.
“It is a strong belief and considered opinion of the Realtor Safety Advisory Committee that the recommended modifications to the MLS fields will increase safety, potentially saving lives and help ensure that every Realtor comes home safely each night,” Meyer said.
“We look forward to working with you as an industry partner and putting Realtor safety first.”