"Open houses are kind of an antiquated way to sell property, Wetz said. It’s dangerous for both the agent and consumer to open your door to the general public."
DES MOINES — A Des Moines Realtor received a strange but threatening call Thursday, spurring the realty company to cancel all open houses that day and shedding light on the dangerous reality of the job.
At about 11:30 a.m., a female Realtor got a call from a blocked number, said Brian Wetz, CEO and team leader for Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines. The man on the other line told the new agent that her business card had been drawn from a hat and she’d be the recipient of a gang initiation later that day, Wetz said.
“The caller said they intended to bring harm to the agent and that they’d be seeing her later in the day,” Wetz said. “I’ve been an agent for 20 years and this is not even close to the first time where we’ve had something like this happen. Yet, this one was very specifically concerning.”
After the call, the agent immediately notified West Des Moines police and her company leaders, who subsequently shut down all scheduled open houses that day, pulled their agents off the street and requested increased police presence at their two corporate offices.
“Agents interact with the public very frequently and safety is always a paramount concern anytime you have individual agents coming in contact with what amounts to strangers,” Wetz said.
He referenced the mysterious slaying of Ashley Okland, who was shot to death four years ago at a model townhouse.
Oakland’s death and other high-profile cases sparked conversation nationally about Realtor safety. Last year, Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter was found dead after showing a home to a stranger. Police have charged two people with her murder.
Open houses are kind of an antiquated way to sell property, Wetz said. It’s dangerous for both the agent and consumer to open your door to the general public.
The realty community has recently put a new set of safety standards into practice.
Nationally, the National Association of Realtors plans a safety webinar summit Sept. 9 and plans to announce new safety initiatives during September, which is "Realtor Safety Month." The group also will release The Little Red Book: Rules to Live by for REALTORS, which contains ways for agents to update their safety protocols, according to the NAR website.
The new safety protocol announced in July by the Des Moines Area Association of Realtors is part of a three-pronged plan to protect real estate agents who often find themselves alone in empty houses with prospective buyers they have never met.
The safety initiative includes a safety pledge for brokers and real estate companies. DMAAR officials said most of the city’s largest real estate firms have already signed.
It also includes a pledge for real estate agents that they will not show a home to a stranger until they have met the prospective buyer in a public place and asked them to submit identification.
And there’s also an optional contract for the seller. It says no real estate agent is allowed to show the home to anyone the agent has not previously met and identified.
Contributing: Joel Aschbrenner, The Des Moines Register