Beverly Carter followed the typical safety protocols of many real estate offices. The day she disappeared in September, 2014, the Arkansas agent called her husband, Carl, to tell him the address of the vacant bank-owned home she was showing to a supposed buyer. It wasn’t until hours later that Carl knew something was wrong after not hearing from her, he said in media interviews. Before calling police, he went to the address his wife had given him and found her car still parked there. By then, it was far too late.
It’s standard procedure for agents to phone a colleague, friend, or loved one to let them know where they are when showing homes. But how does that person help protect you in a dire circumstance just by knowing your location? Even if they call 911 immediately, that might not help you. The average response time to 911 calls nationally is 11 minutes. So could a motivated criminal rob and kill you before authorities arrive? Of course — it happens all the time.
The first thing you need to understand is that criminals do not think like the rest of us. They are typically sociopathic or have some sort of mental disorder. They often have no empathy. They attack you because, odds are, you’ve given them an opportunity to do so. And there are few more attractive scenarios for a criminal than to meet a female real estate professional in an empty property. That is an opportunity with a bow on top.
Office protocols may help some in these situations — but they didn’t help Carter and other agents who have been unfortunate victims.
So remember this about an attacker: He planned for the attack. He knows that he is risking jail time, and he takes that risk. The only way he can reduce the risk of getting caught is to attack quickly and decisively before anyone sees. That’s why, when you’re alone with a prospective client in a home, the first thing you should tell them is that there’s another agent on the way to meet you there.
The idea of a second person — or as the attacker sees it, a second witness, especially a male — showing up may be more than enough for the attacker to bail out of his plan of attack. Just planting that seed can do the trick. He can always find another agent who doesn’t have a partner on the way. He doesn’t have to take the risk of another witness arriving at an undisclosed time.
Once you’re in a property, you are on your own against a potential attacker, and you have no idea what his intentions are. Attacks happen fast. One second you are unlocking the lock box, and the next you’re waking up from being knocked out cold. That is, if you’re lucky.
Other Safety Tips
- Let your prospective client enter the property first. You can say, “I always like for guests to enter first so they can visualize coming home after work.” Give them 30 seconds alone in the home so you can watch their level of interest. If they’re more focused on you than on the property, stay outside.
- Make sure all exits are unlocked ahead of time.
- Keep the front door open at all times. If you can, keep all exits open.
- Tell your prospect that it is company policy for you to take a photo of their license plate and instant message it back to the office. Ideally, get the prospect to stand next to the back of the car to be in the photo. Any law-abiding person will be happy to do so. For a criminal, this is a huge bailout signal.
- Do not believe for a second that a phone app or dialing 911 will save you.
This new video, published by NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Program, highlights safety protocols that all REALTORS® should implement into their daily routine and follow with every client, every day, every time. Watch the video and be sure to share it with your fellow REALTORS®.