The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORSÂ® and Nick Dâ€™Ambrosia, NARâ€™s Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.
J. Nicholas (Nick) Dâ€™Ambrosia, Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR; Broker of Record, The Long & Foster Companies, Chantilly, Va.
Tracy Hutton, President, CENTURY 21 Scheetz Real Estate, Indianapolis, Ind.
Candace Adams, President/CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, Wallingford, Conn.
OB Jacobi, President, Windermere Real Estate, Seattle, Wash.
Nick Dâ€™Ambrosia: It was not the first time a real estate agent had been robbed or murdered while showing a home, but the recent conviction of Arron Lewis in the Arkansas murder of REALTORÂ® Beverly Carter sparked a new wave of determination nationwide to increase awareness and promote REALTORÂ® safety. In 2015, NAR expanded its REALTORÂ® Safety program, creating new resources to help its members feel more empowered, confident and safeâ€”and brokers everywhere have multiplied efforts to educate their agents about how best to protect themselves. Tracy, what are you doing in your market to help ensure the safety of your agents?
Tracy Hutton: Safety is always a top priority for us, and agent education is key. We train our agents to always be on guardâ€”not just to be alert and aware of their surroundings, but to let other people in the office know where and when they will be showing a home. We ask them to do at least a cursory check on who their clients are before they agree to meet them aloneâ€”and most recently, weâ€™ve added self-defense training to our continuing education curriculum.
Candace Adams: The events in Arkansas have heightened our sensitivity and put us on alert for the best kinds of programs to utilize. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices provides valuable safety training materials and NAR makes a great turnkey safety program available to its members. In our offices, safety tips and self-defense techniques are a part of all our networking events, and a buddy system is being used by more and more of our agents. We also let our colleagues and office personnel know where we will be and when we expect to return, and we have a company-wide safety code word in place. If an agent were to call in and use that word, we would immediately call 911.
OB Jacobi: The safety issue is very personal for us. Ten years ago, one of our own agentsâ€”a six-foot-three-inch male, and a young fatherâ€”died of multiple stab wounds in the home he was showing. His killer was not found until 2011, but Mikeâ€™s death galvanized the community. It inspired the formation of a Real Estate Safety Council and led the Seattle King County REALTORSÂ® and Washington REALTORSÂ® to start an agent safety program that paved the way toward the development of NARâ€™s national agent safety program.
NDâ€™A: That kind of horror story is hard to hear, OB, and even before it spurred the broader agenda, Iâ€™m sure it kick-started some new precautions within your own company.
OBJ: Yes, absolutelyâ€”from awareness and self-defense training to basic rules like having 911 in your phoneâ€™s contacts. Three months ago, we started a pilot program with a company called React Mobile. Itâ€™s a personal safety app that turns your smartphone into a lifeline. It has GPS tracking to show your location and a little Bluetooth panic button they call a Sidekick. You can wear it or carry it in your pocket, and all it takes is one quick click to alert your customized contact list.
CA: Iâ€™m a big believer in safety training and educationâ€”I think it has to be mandatory for every agent todayâ€”but a device like this could be a next-generation safety netâ€¦definitely worth pursuing.
NDâ€™A: The good news is there are several products and apps available, such as Guard Llama, that have real estate safety applications. Itâ€™s important to research resources that best fit your brokerageâ€™s needs. And another good resource is the REALTORÂ® Safety Program at Realtor.org/Safety. If you havenâ€™t yet discovered or utilized them, NARâ€™s safety videos, tools, and more are a valuable first line of defense. The newest NAR Safety video, â€śReal Estate, Safety and You,â€ť is a good way to start the conversation with clients about safety and what they can expect from their agent in terms of safety protocols.