Real estate agents tackle safety issues



NORTH FULTON, Ga. – For real estate agents, homes can pose a unique danger when they are empty.

That danger came to a head in September after a realtor in Arkansas was found dead in a home she was showing. The alleged murderer had posed as a client and met the agent at the home with the intent to kill, because the realtor was a woman who would be working alone.

This is a danger real estate agents face every day, said Rhonda Duffy, of Duffy Real Estate in Alpharetta.

“Agents need safety measures,” Duffy said. “Every day, we are entering properties – vacant or occupied – with people we don’t know anything about.”

A 2011 report by the AGBeat on realtor safety in the nation showed that the vast majority of victims were women who were attacked by a single person. Most attacks came in the afternoon, and more than half involved a gun. In most of the incidents described, robbery was the common intent of crime.

Duffy said she wants agents and the industry at large to take safety more seriously and to know with whom they are working.

“You can’t test drive car without showing a license,” she said. “You can’t see apartments without showing a license. And here we are showing people’s homes without knowing who people are?”

Agents are encouraged to take safety precautions whenever they meet someone new, said Allison Kloster, of Harry Norman Realtors. For starters, they should first meet in a public place or the agent’s office, where they can record the buyer’s information.

Safety is paramount, Kloster said, and many agents are aware of it.

“A lot of times, a buyer will call up and want to meet at a location,” Kloster said. “The answer is always no. We must meet them first before we show them the property.”

This gives the agent some safety while also protecting the seller’s home. A stranger gaining entry to a home can be dangerous.

For Duffy, she tells her agents when they meet someone at a home to pull up behind the client and use their smartphone to snap a picture of the license plate and the client’s driver’s license, and then send all the information to the brokerage. She calls it “Pledge Snap.”

“That way, we have a system protecting the seller and agent, and it sends a message to the community we are accountable,” Duffy said.

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