In the wake of the murder of Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter, many real estate professionals should be giving more thought to screening prospective buyers and sellers before meeting them alone and away from their brokerage office. I offer these suggestions to those brainstorming on how to make selling safe:
Meet your prospective clients at your office vs. in the field (at a listing)
Ask a lot of questions so that you can gather enough intelligence on a prospect that you have something to verify. Find out where they currently live and work. Go to the web and check them out. If they own a home, you can find them in the tax assessor databases, which are on line and free to search. Check Facebook, LinkedIn and other social sites to see if you have mutual friends. Search for their name followed by “arrested”. You might be surprised at what you find out.
Buyers will need to be prequalified before you can truly help a prospect so ask for the name of their mortgage loan officer. If they haven’t taken that step then direct them to a mortgage broker before you start working with them. This process will create a paper trail as credentials will have to be provided to get prequalification. If they are prequalified ask for a copy of the prequalification letter. Once you have the prequalification letter call the mortgage broker or bank officer and introduce yourself as the real estate professional working with their client. Establish a relationship and find out if this person has been in their office or not. Today so much can be done online and prequalification letters can be easily faked. You just can’t be too safe. Make sure that steps are being taken to move this client from prequalification to preapproval. Copies of driver’s license, tax returns, and payroll stubs are just a few items that someone has to submit to be preapproved for a loan so make sure that these items have been submitted.
When going on appointments make sure you let someone (associate, broker, spouse…) know where you are going and who you are meeting. Go early to your appointment and park your vehicle so others can see you get out and also so you can easily read the license plate of the vehicle meeting you. Text the license plate, make, model and color of vehicle to the person who knows you are on an appointment. Doing this provides a record of the actual time of your meeting. It is also a good idea to develop a system where an associate calls to check in on you after a certain period of time.
Partner with associates, title companies and mortgage brokerage firms in hosting Open Houses. When you operate alone be sure to check in with others. Post on Facebook while you’re at the event. Again, you are providing record of what’s taking place and there is always a friend on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Follow your instincts, if you don’t feel comfortable with someone or have any doubt about your safety, bring an associate or friend with you on the appointment. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
For property managers, it is wise to also follow these same suggestions when showing rental properties. Always enforce the rule that no prospective tenants see a home prior to completing a lease application. If someone is truly interested in leasing a property they will come to your office. Make it your policy to only show rental properties to those who have provided you the necessary information and given you time to verify it.
Finally, don’t take for granted that because you have an established relationship with someone that no harm will come your way. A study by Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Emory University reported that people are 21 times more likely to be killed by someone they know.