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Op/Ed

It’s time for a new National Realtor Safety Policy (and here’s the blueprint)

The basic Realtor Safety Guidelines fall short in today’s environment, and we believe that must change. This is the beginning of the process; let’s make it so.

realtor safety

I have been a licensed Realtor for the past 18 years. As early as I can remember, the advice from NAR was to meet at the office, make a copy of the prospect’s ID, and leave it with your office receptionist along with a schedule of your showing appointments.

This policy is basically still in place. So I ask myself:

Agents: Why are you still meeting strange prospects at the property and making yourself vulnerable to assault, robbery or worse?

Brokers: Why are you still allowing your agents to meet strange prospects, without systems in place to verify who they are meeting?

Having a National Safety Policy is nothing new – it’s just that I believe has been mostly ignored as an inconvenience. Almost every agent that got into trouble with a strange prospect this year ignored this recommendation. The reality is that if every agent was following this simple standard, there would be almost no incidents.

However, life is sometimes hard for real estate professionals. In many markets, around 50 percent of subscribers have not closed a home in the past 12 months – so if they get a call like this: “Hey, I saw the outside of the home at 123 Main Street and I’m very interested. Can you come over and show me the inside, I’m seriously thinking of making an offer?”

I suspect that many of these “starving” agents would immediately cast caution to the wind, drop everything and make the appointment.

But this is exactly how predators operate

Predators target the weak and vulnerable, those with the least resistance to their request by making an offer that’s difficult to refuse.

In every instance of an attack or an assault on a real estate agent this year, the perpetrator has been caught almost straight away, or the very next day. That’s good right? Well not really.

The predator shouldn’t have had the opportunity in the first place.

I seriously doubt that any of these perpetrators would have submitted their photo ID prior to meeting, or even when meeting at the office or a neutral location such as Starbucks.

Virginia has just passed a law where it is now a felony to lure a real estate agent to a property, in order to commit a crime. Although a move in the right direction, I suspect that all this will do is add time to the perpetrator’s sentence, not stop them in the first place.

It’s time for a new industry standard

Time for a new real estate industry safety standard – one that everyone can adopt.

We don’t think twice about standards that are already in place. Take the travel industry – submitting your photo ID is an industry standard. If you check into a hotel, rent a car or arrive at the airport, the first thing you are doing is reaching for your wallet to show your ID.

In our own industry, if you arrive at an apartment complex and wish to go on a tour of the complex and look at apartments, the first thing the rep will do is ask you for your photo ID. Rental applicants are already primed for this and expect to be asked. This is the standard in the multi-family rental industry and it wasn’t mandated by Government or State.

Submitting your photo ID before meeting with a real estate agent should be part of OUR standard, the standard for the real estate industry – just as it already is for the apartment rental industry – they made it so and so can we.

Resistance to new concepts is a natural human reaction and maintaining the status quo is the easy option. Change is hard. But change we must, or these assaults and attacks on real estate agents will continue.

Let us make it so.

Overcoming consumer objections

“But my prospects won’t want to submit their photo ID,” some agents will say. Until the consumer understands that this is indeed a National Standard – to be expected by anyone wishing to tour a home with a real estate agent, there is bound to be some resistance.

In the meantime, if you fudge the request, or timidly ask for their permission, you’re sure to get push back or a flat out “no.” But is the risk of offending a potential client worth your safety?

Here is one simple scenario:

  • “Mr Prospect, I’d love to meet you and show you that home, to get started my Broker requires that your first verify your ID.”
  • “Mrs Agent, not sure I want to do that. Isn’t that an invasion of my privacy?”
  • “Mr Prospect, I hear your hesitation. Our company policy is to keep everyone safe from harm and for our mutual protection. In the rare event that something happens to any of us while on tour, my company has both our information and can take appropriate action”

The National Realtor Safety Policy blueprint

So what would a new or revised National safety policy actually look like?

CAR’s (California Association of Realtors) recommendations in a recent video are a good starting point:

  • Before meeting a client, conduct a background check;
  • Ask for name, phone number,
  • Ask for an email address, home address, and date of birth,
  • Ask them to text or email you a picture of their driver’s license or government issued photographic ID.

Then, I would add these points:

  1. Never ever meet a strange unverified prospect at the property.
  2. Meet strange prospects at your office, a neutral location such as Starbucks, or at a growing list of agent friendly office locations listed at MeetMeHereFirst.com.
  3. Make sure that your office, your business partners and your significant other know who you are meeting, along with when and where.
  4. Make use of smartphone technology. Use a safety monitor app when actually showing properties to prospects.
  5. Follow a list of do’s and don’ts when actually showing a home.
  6. Listen to your intuition. These signals are there for a reason, so if you feel uneasy take extra precautions or simply terminate the appointment.
  7. Never ever conduct an open house alone. Consider installing temporary video surveillance.

A National Realtor Safety Policy of improved safety measures should be adopted by all so that potential assailants cannot just move on to the next potential target. Several recent predators have targeted more than one agent on the same day.

Please lobby your Broker, your MLS and your local Association by sending them a link to this story. Find out who your local NAR representative and lobby them too by sending them a link to this story.

Let’s all commit to make this happen and make it so.

Disclosure: Peter Toner is the founder of Verify Photo ID.

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

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