New program intended to offer greater sense of security for agents and homeowners.
On July 16, the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS® (DMAAR) introduced a Safety Initiative that may well be the first of its kind in the United States. The three-part program is designed to give agents and sellers a greater sense of safety during the process of selling a home.
“What makes this unique is its focus,” says Dylan De Bruin, DMAAR Safety Committee Chairman. “It takes a proactive approach. Rather than having our brokers trying to get out of a dangerous situation, we want to help them avoid the danger in the first place.”
Though incidents rarely make headlines, real estate agents around the country know that meeting a stranger to show a property can be risky for both men and women. Because of that, many agents have begun working in teams and taking other precautionary steps to avoid putting themselves in danger during open houses.
In 2011 the murder of Ashley Okland, an Iowa Realty agent, stunned agents across the state and created a greater sense of urgency for many.
“She was our one too many,” DMAAR President Robin Polder says. “This initiative wasn’t directly written as a result of her loss, but it certainly became more of a mission after that. Iowa is safe and Des Moines is safe. However, this is a need that our industry has recognized for some time.”
Described as a Multilevel Safety Initiative, the DMAAR program includes three parts:
- A Broker Safety Pledge, which states that brokers and companies are committed to ensuring the safety of their agents and homeowners and that brokers will encourage agents and sellers not to show a property to unidentified parties.
- A REALTOR® Safety Pledge, which promises that the agent will not show a home without first meeting the potential buyer in a public place and asking for identification.
- A Listing Safety Form, in which the seller requests that his or her property only be shown to properly identified parties. This part, a contract between the seller and the listing broker, requires that all agents showing the home abide by its guidelines.
A key element in the Safety Initiative is the official identification of any prospective buyer. As stated on the REALTOR® Safety Pledge, “We should request identification from all prospective buyers, and provide copies of identification to our offices in accordance with our respective office policies.” Official identification was defined as a government-issued photo ID.
Though each level of the Safety Initiative is optional for brokers, agents, and homeowners, DMAAR stated that “early indications are that every broker/real estate company within DMAAR will likely sign it.”
The Safety Initiative was announced at a press conference at the DMAAR offices on July 16 attended by more than 50 active area professionals and media representatives. It began officially the following day, when all DMAAR REALTORS® and agents were asked to sign the Safety Pledge. Beginning July 20, the third part, the Listing Safety Form, was made available.
In addition to the safety pledges, DMAAR offered specific recommendations for handling showings and open houses with the new initiative in mind.
“The ID process will evolve over time,” De Bruin says, “and each broker and agent is free to handle that in the way that works for them.”
Polder adds, “I had the opportunity to test-run many of these recommendations during the review process, and clients have been extremely supportive.”
“Our number one goal remains to offer great service,” De Bruin emphasizes. “That being said, this new safety initiative exists to ensure that we can do that while still protecting the safety of our agents as well as our sellers.”
The DMAAR Safety Committee, which was formed early in 2015, will continue to promote the Safety Initiative and educate REALTORS® and sellers on the benefits of the program.
“This process will continue to evolve,” De Bruin says. “As technology develops and it becomes even easier to vet viewers and verify identification, brokers and agents will be able to implement these practices easily. This initiative is just the first step. The committee doesn’t cease to exist tomorrow.”