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Real Estate Agent Safety Month: An Interview with Carl Carter

In the real estate community, September is well-known for being Safety Month, a time to bring real estate agent safety issues to the forefront while emphasizing the necessity to be vigilant all year. We sat down with Carl Carter, Founder of the Beverly Carter Foundation, who lost his mother, a real estate agent, at a showing in September 2014. Below is the transcript from our conversation.

Q: Hi Carl. Thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to speak with us and our readers. I’m sure agent safety month has been keeping you busy.

A: Honored to speak with you about agent safety, I’ve seen a lot of momentum picking up in the agent safety space over the past few years, and this year has certainly been no exception. We’ve been incredibly busy and it’s incredible to see the industry embracing safety.

Q: That’s great to hear. So, for those who are reading that may not be familiar with you and what you do, can you tell us about the Foundation and how it came to be?

A: Absolutely. The foundation came to be as a result of losing my precious mom, Beverly Carter, 5 years ago this month. My mom was a successful broker in the Little Rock Arkansas Area, and she was deceived by a husband and wife that pretended to be clients who were interested in purchasing a property. And when they got her to show a property, they kidnapped her. Their plan was to kidnap this rich professional and hold her for ransom. And when their plan didn’t go as they thought it would, they ended my sweet mom’s life. And in the aftermath of losing my precious mom, I began speaking out. I realized, although she did so many things right, there are things we can learn from this story to keep it from happening again.  What I have found from traveling the country and speaking to agents is that my mom’s story, while tragic, it really wasn’t an anomaly. There are people who are victimized every single day. And so, we founded this non-profit to assist those that have been victimized and prevent the victimization from occurring at all.

Q: You were obviously one of the first people we reached out to when we were creating FOREWARN and you’re a huge advocate for agent safety. You’ve been a great supporter of FOREWARN and a big proponent of safety technology in general. In terms of safety, how important do you view the screening and verifying of the identity of a new client for a Real Estate professional?

A: As much as I hate to admit this, selfishly I do what I like to call my “Mom Test” when I am looking at new technologies or solutions to keep people safe. And what I mean by that is I apply that technology to my mother’s scenario and I think ‘would this, or could this have saved my mother’s life?’ And without a doubt, had my mom known that these people were using fictitious or spoofed telephone numbers and that the names they were giving her were not accurate, or had my mom even known ahead of time that the husband of this duo that kidnapped her was a 7 time felon, she certainly would have made different decisions. So really the screening process, taking those extra steps to verify as best we can the identity of the people that we seek to serve, is absolutely a fundamental part of agent safety.

Q: It’s becoming more of a common practice for Real Estate Agents to request a photo ID and verify someone’s identity at open houses. Do you think it’s worth the potentially perceived intrusion of privacy?

A: Personally, I feel that it is. It’s a requirement that should be consistently applied in an agent’s business.  However, I think that the information that we obtain through the screening process, whether that’s through an ID or related to their background, I think it’s important for agents to remember that the purpose that we obtained that information was solely to verify the identity. It’s not to use that information for the purpose of follow up, sales or lead generation. The purpose is strictly to verify the identity and to keep all parties as safe as possible.

Q: In a previous interview, you said that real estate agent safety is often a hard message to deliver. Why is that?

A: You know, I think it’s best explained in a quick scenario. The scenario goes, I’m either on a plane, or getting to know an Uber driver, and they are asking me questions, trying to be nice or just getting to know me better. I always dread that if they continue down their line of questioning, knowing that if they keep drilling deep enough, that it will come up that my mother was murdered and all we are trying to do with The Beverly Carter Foundation. That conversation is heavy and uncomfortable, and we hear the word, whether it’s murder, or rape, or harassment and all of those words trigger such discomfort that there’s almost this flight mechanism where people want instantly out of the conversation because it makes them feel uncomfortable.  Within this industry, there’s so much to know and so much to be mindful of as a real estate agent and safety is just another one of those things. I often hear from brokers across the country that there are so many training opportunities and whenever it comes to safety, which a lot of people think is a basic concept, that they don’t see the value in coming to those types of classes. And that’s the challenge we have before us with our non-profit, showing the value of safety classes and making it engaging and worth the time of the agents that come in.

Q: This is what you do, you speak on safety all year all around the country. You’re an expert on real estate safety. What are the changes you would like to see in the industry? What are the things you think need to happen for tragedies like your mother’s to be prevented?

A: My wish list related to agent safety would be for all levels of leadership, whether that be brokerage, board association, state association, to have more skin in the game. By that I mean responsibility in putting forth meaningful training and resources to help people stay safe. Those resources extend not just to classes and technology, but safety committees constantly assessing and reporting any crimes that were to happen. An issue that we have within the industry, due to the independent contractor status of agents, is there’s no employer that is responsible, as in other industries, for keeping up with reporting accidents and incidents of victimization. So, it’s hard to quantify the true dangers that exist for agents because of this lack of information. I would also like to see, beyond added responsibility from a leadership standpoint, I’d also love to see an implementation across the board  for every seller to have the right, at the time of listing the property, to be able to within the contract to identify that it is their  request, that it is their demand, that an agent not show that property until they have gone through steps to ensure that that person is who they say they are. That they have gone through steps to verify the identity of that client. I think that it just makes good sense. We shouldn’t be allowing complete strangers to walk through these people’s homes, that contain their personal property. That’s definitely top of the list. Then, from an individual perspective, we talk a lot in this industry about upping our professionalism, and I believe whole-heartedly that safety is part of being a professional. And to put that in action means proper screening, initial client consultations in a public place, and no being what is known as a “pop-tart” agent, which is a lead comes in and you jump in the car and go without knowing who’s on the other side of that phone.

Carl Carter dedicates his time to speaking and promoting safety for all real estate agents. If you would like to learn more about the Beverly Carter Foundation, make a donation, or book Carl for a speaking engagement, please visit https://beverlycarterfoundation.org/.