Sam DeBord is managing broker and vice president of strategic growth for Coldwell Banker Danforth, past president of Seattle King Country REALTORS®, vice president of government affairs for Washington REALTORS®, and NAR president's liaison for MLS and Data Management. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.
Let's All Open Doors for REALTOR® Safety
It takes a whole community to ensure safety. Here’s how lenders and title and escrow companies can get involved in the effort.
May 22, 2015
It happened again last month. A real estate agent took a call from a potential new client, went to the property for a showing, and was kidnapped at gunpoint.
Thankfully, she got away. But others aren’t so lucky.
Beverly Carter lost her life in a similar situation. So did Mike Emert, Vivian Martin, Sarah Anne Walker, Ashley Oakland, and Ann Nelson.
"The question 'How do we make our agents feel safe?' quickly became 'How do we make all agents in our market feel safe?' The answer is, 'Give them a safe place to go.' Our doors are open to any agent, from any company, anytime we are open, to meet a buyer for the first time." —AnnMarie Janni, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Go Realty in Holly Springs, N.C.
Enter: Open-Door Partners
If you’ve seen the open-door policy I proposed in REALTOR® Magazine and featured in the Chicago Tribune, you know the idea is simple. Real estate brokers should band together and let any REALTOR® from any company use their reception space to meet new clients and verify their identities.
Well, recently I’ve been thinking even bigger than just brokerage offices. Everyone in our industry should be partnering with us for safety. Title and escrow professionals, builders, and lenders—you regularly stop by our offices, and we’d like to stop by yours. You’d probably benefit from seeing real estate professionals in person more often. Let’s make that happen.
"Unfortunately, one of our agents was attacked in the field. You always think it happens to someone else until something like that smacks you into reality. It can happen to anyone. If simply opening our doors to a competing agent can avert an incident like our agent endured, then I cannot imagine not doing so. There is a time for competition, and there is a time for just plain doing the right thing. Safety first; competition second." —Rich Shearrow, Realty Ohio Real Estate in Worthington, Ohio
If every title/escrow company, lender, and brokerage across the country that agreed to let agents use their offices for safety check-ins with new clients was displayed on a web-based map, we’d have enormous coverage. Real estate professionals wouldn’t need to travel across town to meet a client in an inconvenient location. The temptation to show properties to unverified people would be greatly diminished.
“Meet Me Here First”
That’s the goal. We should feel comfortable telling every sign call, every Internet lead, every last-second showing request, “Meet me here first. It’s a new nationwide safety policy. And it’s only five minutes from the home.”
"Our firm's new open-door policy is meant to create an environment where real estate professionals can feel safe. We will encourage other firms, title companies, and banks across northwest Arkansas to adopt similar open-door policies. Our safety, and the safety of our colleagues, is simply that important." —Anthony Clark, Clark Partners Realty Group in Fayetteville, Ark.
With a single web-based map displaying all of our offices together, real estate professionals could easily find safe meeting places on the go. They would be able to verify the person’s identity in a public business setting convenient to the property location. The technology is insignificant—it’s basically already built. In fact, I already built a prototype at MeetMeHereFirst.com.
All We Need Now Are Our Open-Door Partners
Title/escrow companies, lenders, and other real estate industry vendors will benefit through this partnership. We want to advertise all of your offices as partners in safety. These offices alone would make for a massive database of locations.
"Beyond our immediate group of agents in our brokerage are many friends in other brokerages whom we work with daily to get deals to closing. We all need each other! Because of our love, respect, and adoration for these agents, and because we are one big family of REALTORS®, we want to help them to be safe by opening our doors as a safe haven meeting place." —Vicci Hall, Front Gate Realty in Ridgeland, Miss.
Scattered throughout this article are quotes from real estate brokers who understand that now is the time to work together for the safety of the whole industry. Brokers themselves might have to swallow a bit of competitive pride to join the cause, but it would benefit their agents as well as grant them recruiting opportunities. Brokers work together often for common goals. Those of you that I saw in Washington for NAR’s Legislative Meetings understand that.
Stand Up and Show Your Support for REALTORS®
I’ve already been talking with lenders and title companies who love the idea. If you know a company leader who should be involved, please introduce us. Let’s do something great for this industry that will cost us little, and bring goodwill to all our businesses.
We want you as an open-door partner. Are you ready to step up for safety?