Local Agent Talks Safety in Wake of Realtor Murder

"I just got a weird feeling."

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Being a realtor may not sound like a deadly career, but when you consider the chilling stories of this one or tragic cases like those of Vivian Martin, Andrew VonStein, Suzanne Parsons, and now, Beverly Carter (among many others), the dangers become more apparent.

In fact, Inman News reported a rise in real estate workplace deaths earlier this year; a 2012 statistic said the majority of deaths resulted from “violence and other injuries from persons or animals.” After speaking with local realtor Kaui Garcia, we don’t doubt it.

Carter was conducting an open house in the suburbs of Little Rock, Ark., when she disappeared. A few days later she was found buried in a shallow grave. The suspect in her kidnapping and murder is in jail now, and said he targeted her in part because she was working alone.

That factor is key, says Garcia. It doesn’t matter if the open house is in the suburbs or the city, but if you’re alone and no one knows where you are or you don’t check in with someone, anything could happen. (In this case, Carter was careful: Her husband had the time and address of the open house, which is why he went to check on her when she was a little late.)

Garcia has had a couple of uncomfortable incidents, most notably with a male client who gave her a “weird feeling.”

“He sent me a weird picture,” she said. Following her gut, Garcia opted not to meet with him alone. The man contacted one of her female friends, a fellow realtor, a week later. A week after that, she received an alert from her local association warning her and others about a “client” who’d been contacting numerous female agents.

The Arkansas Realtors Association Arkansas Matters says the Beverly Carter tragedy is a “game changer” in terms of how homes will be shown from now on. In Garcia’s office, on-site safety classes are given to help agents become more aware. Attendance is another story. Similarly, free online webinars on the National Realtor’s Association website are often overlooked.

But Garcia takes significant precautions. She makes sure to meet a client at the agency office, always notifying partners about whereabouts and check-ins. Agents can also verify a client’s identity before meeting or let a client walk into a room first when showing a home.

These are often included in realtor safety guidelines, which some think need revision. Case in point, this Beverly Carter Realtor Safety petition on Facebook that says the NAR’s current safety resources are not enough.