Agent Safety

Beverly CarterThe horrific death of Beverly Carter has opened up a nationwide discussion amongst the Realtor community in regards to what can be done to enhance safety for agents going forward.

I have been reviewing these discussions and I find that most of them come up short.

The reason is simple.  They don’t take into account the real-world aspects of what we do and they don’t take into account the creativity and determination of an evil individual who is trying to “get at” the object of his obsession.  (Yes, I did use the masculine form of that pronoun for a reason)

Let’s start with the “just require everyone to fax over a copy of their driver’s license” idea.  First of all, let’s just recognize the fact that a LOT of people are NOT going to jump through that hoop.  Not weirdos either.  Normal people.  You as an agent will make that request and then they’ll ho and humm and not set up the appointment.  Then they’ll call their “cousin” who is an agent and get the showing set up through them.

Now we can all say, “SEE! It WORKS.  The cousin who is the agent KNOW the buyer so the safety thing has been covered!”  Well…

We All Know What Happens in the REAL World At That Point, Right?

We find that the sting of the Beverly Carter tragedy fades from view and agents get frustrated that buyers who call in are not setting up showings everyone KNOWS they would have done so had the request for a driver’s license not been put out there.  So they discontinue the practice.  That’s how it plays out.

Furthermore, dedicated evil people would just go get a fake ID done up and fax that over.  Teenagers have been getting fake IDs to buy alcohol for ages…do you think that an obsessed criminal doesn’t have the same level of determination to get what HE wants as a teenager does?

A Better Solution

I’m tempted to just go ahead and tell everyone that the best solution is to get a gun, learn how to use it, and then carry it daily.

I’m not going to say that though.

The reason is the same.  It wouldn’t be effective.  A large portion of the population will NOT buy a gun and carry it.  Some CAN’T do so because of local regulations or because they made a mistake in their past which precludes them from carrying in the future.  So while this is the BEST solution which can pretty much level any playing field…we have to settle for a BETTER solution to the problem.

There’s an App for That

verify-identity-cell-phoneI’ve heard people talk about phone aps that are currently available, but techie people tend to get caught up in features and fail to focus on the effectiveness of a process.  Smart phone apps need to be part of a PROCESS in order to be effective.  The process has to be designed from the ground up and then a streamlined and effective smartphone app can be fitted to the process after the fact.

I was reading in one of the Trulia Q&A section some ideas people have about addressing the safety issue and the words of Danielle Nicholl jumped out at me.  She said that she takes a picture of the license plate and then texts it to someone when meeting someone for the first time.  She went on to say that if anyone objected to it, she would end the meeting right then and there.  This is a good idea.

Here’s How We Make It Better

Remember what I said about how the “process” is more important that the technology itself?  Well let’s start there.

When a call comes in from an unknown buyer, the agent answers any questions and makes nice.  When the buyer prospect requests an appointment to see the home the agents replies in their kindest voice,

“I would LOVE to show you that home!  When would you like to see it?  Tomorrow at 2pm?  I can move some things around on my calendar and make that happen for you.  As soon as we hang up I’ll call, get it scheduled up, and then I’ll call you back once we have confirmation from the sellers, does that make sense?  Great!  Now the number I see here on my caller ID, is that the best number to contact you at?”

(Here’s the key part…)

“Now, for safety reasons, our Realtor association requires us to do two quick things when we meet for the first time.  First I have to take your picture and a picture of your vehicle’s license plate.  That will be uploaded to the office’s Agent Shield database.  That’s not going to be an issue is it?”

Do You See Why This Would Prove Effective?

1) The buyer is being put on notice that their picture is going to be taken – for safety purposes.

2) It will become “the new normal” if everyone does it.  Buyers only have to her this line once or twice in their life to realize that this is a non-optional part of the homebuying process.  After a few short years, pretty much everyone will know to expect this and it won’t be looked on as being in bad taste.

3) It WILL Discourage Would-Be Perpertrators.  They will be put on notice that they are going to be photographed and the location of their wearabouts at the time the photograph taken and WHO they are meeting will all be part of and established record.  The vast majority of evil people with evil plans would abandon them at this point.

Closing Thoughts

This type of approach should really be easy to implement.  Big showing coordination software companies like Showing Time/Showing Desk could easily create an add-on to their current offereings which had such functionality built in.

Agents are more likely to use the process over the long haul becuase it has a much smaller chance of turning off the prospect by requring THEM to jump through a bunch of hoops just to set up the appointment.  Presenting the “your picture is going to be taken” idea to the prospect AFTER getting them to commit to an appointment lessens the chance of the meeting being called off due to inconvenience even further as people do not like to abandon appoitntments once they’ve been established.

Finally, establishing such a process and making it universal will eventually make it seem normal to homebuyers and the wolves posing as homebuyers in short order.  It may even encourage buyers to stick with one agent instead of having 10 agents showing them homes all at the same time with no regard for their time.

Read More