Realtors are being invited to sign up to a safety pledge over client showings, open houses and public awareness, following the killing of US realtors Ashley Oakland and Beverly Carter
Hundreds of United States real estate agents and brokers have signed up to a safety pledge following the killing of two US realtors.
The Know Before You Show pledge has been drawn up following the killings of US realtors Ashley Oakland in 2011 and Beverly Carter, of Arkansas, just two months ago.
At the same time, realtors are being offered free self-defence and safety classes by regional builder, Rausch Coleman Homes, which has offices in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where Ms Carter came from. Realtors can sign up at the opening of its new project, The Trails at White Hawk, in Bixby. from 4-6pm on Thursday 13 November. Classes will be held at different times the following day and are on a first come, first served basis.
The safety pledge, drawn up by Dylan de Bruin, who trained and was a friend of Ashley Oakland, and Joe Schafbuch of Century 21 Signature Real Estate in Central Iowa, is aimed at “protecting the lives of hard working real estate agents around the nation, and to encourage responsible and safe showing practices for our clients.”
“The pledge resulted from the vast number of comments, responses and questions that arose from an open letter posted to the real estate community in October of 2014 on the heels of yet another tragic murder in the real estate community.
“The pledge is a simple first step to open a much-needed dialogue within the real estate community about the practices that real estate agents accept in the daily flow of conducting business.
“Our hope is to facilitate an open conversation about the implementation of serious reform to our standard operating procedures.”
The pledge, which has been signed to date by 650 agents, 186 brokers and 128 members of the public, calls on Realtors to promise they will:
- Under no circumstances show a home to a stranger without first meeting them at the office or asking them to submit identification
- Educate my clients that open houses are a safety concern both for the home owner and myself.
- Limit open houses as a marketing strategy and/or make prudent and safe decisions about my open house marketing efforts
- Follow my intuition, and not step into situations that I feel uneasy about
- Use the buddy system whenever I am unsure or uneasy about a showing or meeting
- Make myself available to my fellow agents as a “showing-buddy” should they ever feel the need to take someone along or feel unsafe
- Seriously consider the nature of my personal marketing, and its potential impact on my safety
In an open letter to realtors, Dylan de Bruin says:
To my fellow Brokers, Managers, and Colleagues…
In the wake of the recent abduction and subsequent murder of yet another member of our real estate community (this time in Arkansas), I feel it is incumbent upon us as leaders in our local marketplace to take action on behalf of the many agents in our respective teams who could very well be the next victim of another heinous and tragic crime.
“Some of you know that Ashley Okland (whose life was also tragically taken) was initially hired and trained by me when she first entered the real estate industry. Ashley was also a personal friend, who held my firstborn baby, babysat my kids, and attended bible study in my home. As I look back on the time that we spent with Ashley, I recognize that there is a degree of culpability that I personally (and the industry as a whole) bears, in that we willingly tolerate and allow our agents (by way of our policies and industry standards) to place themselves in what can only be described as unnecessary and blatantly dangerous positions as we allow them to show vacant homes to perfect strangers, and sit for hours in empty and unlocked open houses.
“In the months after Ashley’s death, a lot of discussion ensued about safety policies and open house practices, and there was even some discussion about working to end open houses in the marketplace. Unfortunately, for all of this well intentioned discussion, it would appear that nothing fundamental has changed in our marketplace (or anywhere else for that matter) to change our industry practices to better protect our agents. Because we all feel the need to compete in an open market for the limited pool of leads that exist, we tolerate reckless lead incubation and showing practices that we would never encourage our daughters and wives to practice. Our agents place themselves in precarious positions only because they know that if they don’t that someone else will.
“I would like to suggest that we work to make specific, collaborative, and comprehensive changes to our local industry practices regarding home showings and open houses. Our firm represents a small portion of the market share, and implementing practices of this nature within our walls alone will not create the change that we need to re-train our agents and the consumer as to acceptable practices and expectations.
“It simply is not sufficient to teach our agents how to be safe while conducting showings and hosting opens, as these strategies act only as band-aids to a much larger and foundational issue. What must change is the fact that we accept as normative the idea that any agent should even entertain the idea of meeting a client at a property without first meeting at the brokerage office or facilitating some sort of initial screening. We do this, and allow this, only because it is normal in the industry. But as all of our mothers once told us…“if everyone else is jumping off a cliff, does that mean you should?”
I am asking you as my fellow brokers and managers to consider joining together to discuss implementing changes to how we all handle the following:
I would like to suggest that we collectively commit to implement stringent showing practices in our marketplace which include the expectation that all prospective clients first meet our agents at one of our offices (when possible)—or at a local coffee shop or public place (when not). It should be nothing short of commonplace to expect prospective buyers to fill out some sort of info sheet accompanied by a copy of their license or ID. It would also be very easy in this day and age to develop an app sign-in tool which requests a snapshot of photo ID for all clients prior to initiating showings. This practice will only gain traction if it is embraced on a wide scale, because anything short of that will simply mean that the consumer will gravitate to whomever will be the most flexible. We all have some level of safety protocol of this nature in place within our offices, but we also all know how loosely this is adhered to. Perhaps it is time to collectively agree to amend our practices in addition to our “suggested” protocols.
Despite the fact that it is difficult to imagine a marketplace without the traditional open house as common practice, it is a simple and obvious reality that open houses leave our agents vulnerable and exposed. We facilitate open houses because… well, because others do, and because it has become an expectation of our sellers. It is time to reconsider this practice, and look into smarter and more responsible marketing strategies both for our sellers and for the agents that host them.
In order to effectively implement change in the industry, the consumer needs to be informed and educated as to the need for change in our practices. It is imperative that we develop a unified message to re-train the consumer to embrace more realistic and safe expectations of our agents. I would hope that we would all be willing to co-fund a market-wide consumer facing campaign to help our clients understand the need to meet at our office first. In our experience, the vast majority of home buyers are respectful and mindful of our need to remain safe, and if informed would be more than happy to comply with a revised industry standard.
The ‘elephant in the room’
I suggest that it also appropriate that we acknowledge the fact that changes to safety protocol in any format other than market-wide showing practice reform inevitably places female agents at a distinct disadvantage to their male counterparts. If female realtors are expected to have clients meet them at the office in order to ensure their safety, but male realtors do not embrace the same practices, not only do male realtors retain a strategic advantage in their business, but it is likely that clients will be inclined to retain their expectations of immediate access to listed properties, furthering this issue.
I am well aware of the impracticality of some of these suggestions. And I don’t have all the answers to how this kind of change can be implemented. But I do know that this kind of change is only possible with the collective efforts of many, who reach a critical point and agree, that although it may be difficult, and although it may cost us sales, and money…that enough is enough!
“I don’t have a daughter. But if I did, I would never want her to meet a stranger in an empty home for the commission value of any sale. If we, as leaders of this industry, do not recognize that we are allowing someone else’s daughters to step into these dangerous situations by the practices and standards that we propagate, and don’t work actively to make changes to this reality, then I believe we are complicit in the inevitable and costly result. Let’s make a change!”
By Adrian Bishop, Editor, OPP Connect