For many agents, security is a serious matter and technology is stepping up to provide an increased level of safety.
Mobil apps are increasingly becoming a tool for agents to stay safe and the newest entry is called Forewarn, which allows an agent to enter a prospective client’s phone number ahead of a blind meeting and get an instant background check that looks a lot like a police report.
The app, which debuted Monday, can provide agents with information on 80 percent of callers, ferreting out any criminal history, plus verifying car and home ownership, mortgage liens and whether a person has filed for bankruptcy. It can also pull up address histories and other phone numbers.
Adding to the security is exclusivity. The app is offered only to licensed real estate agents, who increasingly are getting calls from clients who have found properties on open listing sites without a broker.
“An unfortunate aspect of the profession requires members to meet strangers,” said Sara Wiskerchen, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Realtors.
Forewarn, developed by data-analytics firm Cogint, estimates that agents are now scheduling 40 to 50 percent of their showings with people who have not been pre-vetted by another agent.
“After several years at Zillow, I joined Forewarn because I saw a tremendous opportunity to deliver an innovative solution that addresses a serious and growing threat within the real estate industry,” said Joshua Tilleson, VP Business Development at Forewarn. “Real estate agents have the right to know who they are doing business with and, in my view, this is an essential solution for not only individual agents but also for agencies and brokers to ensure the safety of their team.”
Too often, agents are in precarious situations. Sitting in an advertised open house, agents can feel like sitting ducks. They often drive luxury cars and wear jewelry. Their work takes them into secluded neighborhoods.
Headlines in recent years have included a number of incidents involving real estate professionals, some with tragic endings.
According to NAR’s 2017 Member Safety Report, half of the Realtors surveyed said they try to first meet their potential clients in neutral settings. A full 44 percent of women and 25 percent of male Realtors feel unsafe about 40 percent of the time when meeting prospects, whether in urban or suburban metro locations.
Nationwide, the survey found 16 percent carry a pistol, 19 percent carry pepper spray and 5 percent have Tasers. But such weapons are either restricted or forbidden outright in key markets including New York City.
Some other apps which focus on agent safety include TrustStamp, which relies on biometrics to confirm the person’s identify from their profile photo. Another service called Guard Llama relies on a handheld Bluetooth device that links to the agent’s phone and can alert police to come to the location.
About 44 percent of Realtors now use some kind of locator safety app and of those, 28 percent use iPhone’s Find My Phone feature. But as Forewarn spokeswoman Danielle Montana points out, those kick in when the agent goes missing or doesn’t check in, and may simply come too late.
Forewarn offers unlimited use of its solution to agencies and individual agents based on a monthly subscription of as little as $4 per month per agent for large agencies.