In October 2014, Beverly Carter, a well known female real estate agent in Arkansas, went to meet her customer at a home (out of her normal area).
Without even asking about identification of her male customer or possibly, not even qualifying him on the phone or even taking someone with her; was brutally killed by him.
Since 2003, this has occurred on average 73 times a year though out the U.S. and has increased since the collapse of the real estate market in 2007.
If you are not aware of what goes on in our industry, check out these links to enlighten yourselves as to the potential dangers of being a real estate agent and even a customer, and what safety precautions one must take whether female or male:
Unfortunately, in today’s environment, terrorism here and abroad, the whack jobs and mental cases that are out there stalking us to do harm, in any type of business. One must be vigilant and be aware of our surroundings and who we are meeting and dealing with.
Many are desperate for money and/or fame or just want to bring down our way of life and freedoms. I just read in our local Long Island paper that a person posing as an agent, placed an ad on Craigslist, concerning a rental cottage in Kings Point.
The customer met the agent, although, thank God, no harm was done to the customer, she did give $2,000 worth of money orders to him, later trying to move in and couldn’t.
However, he did get caught and arrested. So it isn’t always about bodily harm, but financial harm too!
So for customers, you also need to qualify your agent or anyone that will be helping you in your search, finance and legal aspects of purchasing your home or a business, and make sure you check them out; ask for a business card and for those borrowing the largest sum of money in ones life, get a referral.
You can ask for your agents pocket card and the new plastic (looks like a driver’s license) license that every licensed agent is supposed to carry with them. Verify the photo on that license that it is who he or she says they are.
You can also go on Google.com and check out any testimonials and reviews, whether negative or positive, to see what others experiences have been with a particular , will be on the net.
Never provide cash or money orders to anyone (even your social security number or credit card numbers, expiration dates or three-digit codes, unless you know who you are dealing with and have vetted them out.
You should first meet with the landlord at the time of signing of the lease; go over the lease with an attorney, if you are not experienced in doing this or at least with someone that does have experience reading one.
Signing the lease should be at the listing agent’s office or possibly at your attorney’s office. As long as there are people in business there will be scams and fraud perpetrating the consumer, especially those that are not knowledgeable or naïve in business dealings.
When doing an open house, one will never know who will be coming until they arrive.
You will not know their income, credit scores, debt/income rations, only that they might be a potential purchaser or someone casing your property for something more sinister.
How are you going to qualify those visitors, especially if you are the owner, doing your own open house.
Buyers normally will not provide personal information at an open house, especially to an owner, let alone a real estate agent. However, one should always sign each customer in on a login sheet, with their name and cell number and try to qualify them as to what they are looking for, bedrooms, bathrooms, budget, towns and whether or not they are paying for the property without financing or do they have a prequalification or better, a commitment letter from their lending institution.
Maybe in certain areas, there is less of a chance for challenging situations to occur, especially if there are two agents managing the open house, one staying on the main floor watching who is coming in and the other doing the tour.
I would also suggest that the seller, remove all jewelry, cash or any other type of valuables, that anyone could pick up and put in their pockets. Lastly, look for hazards that might cause physical damage, walkways and steps that could cause someone to trip, fall and break something. Remove all toys, articles or anything else that might create a potential problem leading to a customer falling and a lawsuit.
As I have said in previous articles, “if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail” Be careful when doing your own open houses as an owner as well if you are an agent and be well prepared for the “what ifs” and by all means always do your open house during daylight hours and not after dark.
Whether you are an agent, female or male, a purchaser or potential tenant, be safe and know who you are dealing with; be safe not sorry. If you get a bad feeling about a potential situation, use your intuition and, as they say, “If you See something, say something” to someone or check things out before you proceed.
P.S. On a different note: Now that banks are providing 3 percent down payment loans, once again, I feel this is wrong and we are slowly heading in the wrong direction once again.
Unless you have a very high income, but are going in on a shoe string, you are at greater risk of foreclosure in today’s environment; with the potential of layoffs and downsizing. Alan Greenspan, The Fed Chair, from 1986-2006 prior to the collapse of the market in 2007-08, thought that everyone should own a home, great for the markets, super for profits on Wall Street; but super bad for our country, because we all got left holding the bag and the bill!
The rest got away scot free! Historically, approximately 58- 64 percent of the population, owned a home; but down south and out west percentages went almost as high as 72 percent in 2007. See these links:
Only when variable rates and creative financing hit the market again in the early 1980s and banks allowed higher debt/income ratios, did the percentage of homeowners increase beyond the typical 64 percent.
This percentage in the period before the 2007-08 bust was over 70 percent, especially down south and southwest.
Now that we are back to a normal ownership rate, banks should watch who they are providing loans to and not provide borderline purchasers with 97 percent loans, especially if their F.I.C.O scores are less than 650.
Subprime loans and variable rates should be outlawed for those who cannot show enough income or poorer credit scores, so we don’t get left holding the bag years from now, once again.
Too Big Too Fail, should never be an option ever again! Lastly, educating the public about their true borrowing capabilities, should be a necessity (really part of some type of law or process) for banks and lending institutions, so those who are not knowledgeable, will have a greater understanding of the right path to pursue.
Enjoy a healthier, happier and hopefully more prosperous 2016!
Philip A. Raices,
Licensed Real Estate
Mobile: (516) 647-4289
Email: [email protected]