Six days ago, a Realtor in the Little Rock, Arkansas area went to show a property to a prospective buyer. She had told her husband she was excited about this showing, as the person was claiming to be a cash buyer – no mortgage process involved, which we Realtors love. It takes what can be a messy process (getting a mortgage) out of the equation. The showing was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday, and when 8:00 rolled around on that day, her husband felt something wasn’t right. He went to the property, and there was her vehicle with her purse inside. He went into the house to look for her, and there was no sign of her. She had disappeared.
A suspect in her kidnapping was identified (taken into custody a few days later), searches were being performed by hundreds, everyone held hope that she would be found alive, prayers were uttered by many, including thousands of other Realtors across the country. Sadly, the Tuesday morning following her disappearance, Beverly Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave about 30 minutes away from the property she was hoping to sell to a cash buyer. When the suspect was asked by a reporter “Why Beverly?” his answer was “Because she was a woman who worked alone, a rich broker.” This is simply heartbreaking and sickening.
Acts of violence have been perpetrated against Realtors from time to time for as long as I can remember – I have been a Realtor for the past 24 years. We have heard the safety instructions, not necessarily followed to the letter. All of us, at some point, have made the decision to go meet a stranger at a house because we thought the prospect of the sale sounded pretty good based on a conversation over the phone (or, God forbid, an email). One good thing about being in the business for a long time is that I can work largely through referrals instead of chasing flimsy leads that involve people I don’t know or who haven’t been referred to me by someone I know. Not all trying to earn a living doing this have that luxury.
My message to the consumer who wants to look at property is this:
1) Expect to provide information about yourself and to have to make an appointment ahead of time. Do not be annoyed when the Realtor you call will not drop whatever they are doing instantaneously to go show you a property. The request that the appointment be made ahead of time so ALL parties (including sellers) can be adequately prepared is a sign of a trained professional. This can involve looking into YOU and your background.
2) Expect to have proof through a third party that you are financially qualified with someone the Realtor can verify this with. Do not be annoyed when the Realtor you call will not show property to a prospect who has not been financially qualified through a local loan officer, and if you are a cash buyer, to have your funds verified through a local bank that the Realtor is familiar with. A person who refuses to have their finances verified is a red flag – a Realtor should NEVER show property to a stranger refusing to get pre qualified (including having a credit report pulled) with a local lender.
3) If the policy of the Realtor’s office is that you must come to their office and present a valid photo ID that the office makes a copy of before one of their agents will show you a property, respect that their safety is an important matter to them. If that was a member of your family, would you want precautions to be taken on their behalf?
4) If the Realtor is meeting you at a property and has not met you before, they may take a picture of your license plate and send it to their office or their spouse, they may be on the phone with a person they check in with and instruct that person to call them back in 5 or 10 minutes, or simply keep the phone on while showing you the property, they may (especially if the property is vacant) get the door open for you and ask you to go in and look around on your own, and will see you when you come back out. In no instance should a Realtor ever enter a room or house before the unfamiliar prospect does – this is a basic safety rule. They may keep pepper spray in their hand or have a firearm on them, particularly if the property is in a rural area. They may bring someone else with them (although there have been cases of two persons being assaulted, robbed, raped, killed by an assailant during a property showing). The Realtor who is keen about their safety will have parked their car in such a way that they cannot be blocked in by another vehicle. Please understand that no matter how nice a person you are, the Realtor does not know you and has every right to put their personal safety ahead of all else.
5) If you are coming from out of town, make arrangements ahead of time by having a Realtor you know where you live, do some research and find a Realtor suitable for you in the area you are going to. They can contact this Realtor, putting the parties together in a professional and safe way. This way, the new Realtor you work with has been doing research on properties suitable for you, has gotten you in touch with a mortgage lender (and you have gotten prequalified), has made arrangements for property viewings, and has a familiarity with you that makes things far easier than if you were to just show up and call them out of the clear blue sky.
Realtors love working with people, but there is no possible commission that is worth us putting ourselves at risk, and possibly losing our lives. While we want to inherently trust people, we also have to have a healthy awareness of what can be a dangerous situation. Your patience and understanding in this matter is greatly appreciated. I know Beverly’s family wish that safety precautions had been taken last Thursday, but she did exactly what so many of us do without a lot of thought. Perhaps more of us will be cautious now, and hopefully, house hunting consumers will understand and tolerate the measures that we must take if we hope to not become crime victims.