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realtor_safety(1)Suspect in Custody in Missing Arkansas Agent Case

As REALTOR® Safety Month 2014 comes to a close, real estate agents nationwide are urged to continue taking caution in light of recent events surrounding missing Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter. Authorities now have a suspect in custody, reported Lt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office Monday, however, it has not been revealed how police linked the suspect, Arron M. Lewis, 33, to Carter’s disappearance. Carter still remains missing as of Monday morning.

Despite busy showing schedules and time-crunched work weeks, safety is a crucial aspect of the business that should be top of mind to every industry practitioner. Here are a few reminders of how you can remain safe when in the field:

When possible, ask a coworker to join you for a showing or open house. If you’re meeting a brand new client or hosting an open house event, it’s always a good idea to find a trusted coworker or other real estate agent to join you. This becomes even more important for private showings in cases when you have never met the new or prospective client before. There is safety in numbers!

“In situations like this, whenever possible take a partner with you,” says Tim Powell, a detective with the Greenwich, Conn. Police Department. “Always know who you’re dealing with. If you can meet in a public place and go to that showing together from there, that’s also a good idea.”

If someone can’t tag along, tell someone…or more than one person…where you are going. In a perfect world, tag-teaming showings and open houses would be possible every time. Due to busy time-constraints, this may not always be plausible. If you happen to go to a private showing alone, make sure your office knows where you are going, or at least tell a couple people your anticipated location and return time. This could be a vital mistake to make. Help people help you just in case something goes awry.

“Record anything you can if you have a digital recorder or a cell phone. Get a license plate recorded somehow,” says Powell. “Even be on your phone in your car when the other party shows up. You can tell the other party the type of vehicle and the license plate. Get the message out in advance. If he sees you on your phone talking to somebody, he’s not sure what you said, and whether that information has been conveyed to somebody. Now the cat’s out of the bag for him to do something nefarious.”

Always have your phone in hand. Keeping your phone turned on and ready to make an emergency call is also a must. You never know when you’ll have to act fast and connect to someone for help.

Walk behind clients, not in front of them. By keeping clients in front of you, your eyes can be on them at all times and the chances of being caught off guard lessen. It also helps them feel what it would be like to own the home in question. Let them feel comfortable, and by extension, put yourself at ease as well.

Trust your gut. If something feels off and you don’t feel safe, get yourself out of the situation. Your safety is more important than upsetting a possible future client.

Agents can also mitigate risks by scoping out the location beforehand, urging homeowners to secure their valuables, and checking all rooms and the backyard prior to locking up.

“The best succinct advice: Go with a partner or have someone with you. If that’s not possible, just know who you’re dealing with in advance. Get a name and phone number recorded somewhere safely where he can’t get to it and destroy it,” recommends Powell.

Last week’s events in Arkansas serve as a dire reminder that safety is still an important facet of the real estate business that agents need to be cognizant of.

To watch a video on REALTOR® Safety from the National Association of REALTORS, click here.