Many of you may have watched with horror and unbelief the story about Real Estate Agent Beverly Carter that aired on NBC’s Dateline recently. Beverly, 49, was murdered in September 2014, after being unknowingly lured to a fake real estate showing in Arkansas. Her murderer is in jail serving a life sentence, but questions remain what could have been done to prevent such a senseless crime.
Real Estate Agents don’t just market homes, they market themselves as competent and trustworthy professionals. In the highly competitive industry, agents spend thoughts of dollars in self-promotion with the goal of being the first one contacted with an opportunity to be of service. Beverly’s murder was a painful reminder of how exposed real estate agents are to strangers. It is a double edged sword .. which made me question what agents might do to balance the need for self-promotion with self-protection?
Considering the question I did some reading to find some business friendly tips that allow real estate agents to maximize the services they provide while keeping themselves personally safe. Some of the recommendations are no brainers, things I do as a matter of course. Others I would not have thought of and seem to be good advice. Below are some of the more frequent tips I read:
- Always walk behind a client through a home
- Make sure loved ones or business associates know your whereabouts
- Keep a fully charged cell phone with emergency numbers on speed dial
- Establish an office distress code that alerts co-workers that you’re in trouble
- Bring along a friend or colleague to vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties
- When scheduling a showing for a stranger, request a copy of their driver’s license. You need to provide it to test drive a car .. so a legitimate client should have a problem providing it to see a home.
- Keep your personal information private (marital status, children and where you live)
- Consider leaving the glamour shot off of your business card and advertising
At the end of the day Beverly could have done all of the things listed above without any change in outcome, but her story is a stark reminder of the need to be vigilant. Above all, trust that sixth sense and if it doesn’t feel right get yourself out of the situation. Clients that don’t mean you harm will understand and if they don’t, they don’t deserve you are their agent.