The kidnapping and murder of Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter has highlighted an ever-present fact for real estate agents: that meeting a prospective buyer in an empty home is potentially an extremely dangerous situation.
Carter, 49, disappeared Sept. 25 from a house she was showing just outside Little Rock. Her body was found Sept. 30 in a shallow grave.
Aaron Lewis, 33, has been arrested and charged with the crime. Authorities believe that he was a stranger to Carter.
“We’ve just gotten lax,” Karen Crowson, former president of the Arkansas Realtors Association, told CNN regarding safety measures for showing houses. Crowson, who worked with Carter, said this comes as a bleak wake-up call. “We live in the South and tend to think everybody’s a good person. We’re not, by nature, suspicious.”
Preparing for the Worst
According to Ken Parchman, president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors, real estate agents often have elaborate setups involving safety codes or buddy plans to try to ensure their safety when they’re working.
Parchman said the tragic case should be a reminder to Realtors to be even more observant. Carter’s death “will impact Realtors and the way they work with buyers on vacant properties,” he told local news outlets. “It will impact them immediately.”
He recommended that Realtors use an answering service, alerting the service that they will be calling in once an hour — and asking that workers call them if they don’t, contacting authorities if they still can’t make contact. Many women have such arrangements on a more casual basis, but it’s easier for friends and officemates to become distracted with other tasks and lose track of time.
“Every precaution is needed these days in the Real Estate industry, and I think the idea of using an answering service is a good one,” says Brian Scott, Vice President of A Better Answer, Inc. “A real estate agent would have to let us know when their appointments are at the houses with prospective buyers. They could send us a message from their phone stating a time frame and we would try to contact their cell phone after the allotted time is up. If there’s no answer, we would alert the authorities.”
Other suggestions for staying safe included checking for cell reception and battery life before entering a house, unlocking all deadbolts and planning routes in case an escape becomes necessary, and walking behind prospective buyers as opposed to leading them through a house.