Using a buddy system for real estate agents’ security is fairly standard in the industry but a venture by a veteran B.C. sales rep takes it to the next level.
Monica Donetti-Ross, who comes from a family of B.C. Realtors, has launched Safe2Show, a service where agents who are Safe2Show members and who feel uncomfortable going to a showing alone can buddy-up with another Safe2Show agent on call. The service cuts across brokerage brand lines and focuses on agent security.
“I am trying to provide a comfortable level of security for everyone out there who is trying to do their job,” says Donetti-Ross.
Since sales reps are vulnerable to robbery and physical and sexual assaults, brokerages often have protocols in place where agents are asked meet clients for the first time in their office and get identification.
“In real life that is not what happens,” Donetti-Ross says. A client may be in town for a short time after an announced job transfer and simply want to meet at a house seen online. “We agents just go out there,” she says.
The Safe2Show system works like this: within a geographical area, agents opt into the program and pay a $25 monthly fee for the program’s administration costs. Donetti-Ross needs a minimum of 20-25 agents within the area to make it work and limit the time each member spends as a back-up buddy.
Each month, all member agents within that area will be placed on a calendar to serve as back-up buddies for other member agents showing homes. An agent who feels uneasy about a showing checks the calendar to see who is on duty and gives them a call. The back-up buddy agent waits outside in a vehicle and simply monitors the showing to ensure the other agent is safe.
The service is available up to 8 pm, but does not include open houses as this takes a larger block of time. Donetti-Ross has Safe2Show decals that can be placed on the support vehicle, the sales rep’s sign and the house to indicate to it is a house where the agent is being monitored. As the system becomes more known, Donetti-Ross hopes it will become like Neighbourhood Watch or Blockwatch signage and deter anyone with criminal intent.
Agents who commit to serving as back-up buddies must provide at least 24 to 48 hours notice if they cannot meet their calendar’s time commitment on a certain date. The calendars are divided between gender lines (men to men and women to women). Back-up buddies are not permitted to approach another agent’s client in any way. “One strike and you are out,” she says, warning she will remove the agent from the service and refund their money if that happens.
She says the service is especially useful for novice sales reps who do not have the experience to gauge what can be a harmful situation. And, even veterans like her make mistakes, says Donetti-Ross.
Her brother Carlos Donetti has also been involved in the organization of Safe2Show and points to another concern. With foreign investors moving into the market, many vacant homes where the owner has left the country can be inhabited by squatters or homeless individuals.
Donetti-Ross said this is also happening in locally owned homes that are vacant and she recently had a situation in Surrey, where she found two homeless men camped in the backyard.
Donetti-Ross says she hopes her system will grow province-wide and eventually across Canada and into the U.S. If the required number of agents is enlisted in any region outside the Fraser Valley, she will organize the calendar.
Jorda Maisey, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) said her board is aware of the program and supports it.
Maisey, who has been a Realtor for 22 years, says assaults on both male and female agents have occurred in the Fraser Valley and a female agent was assaulted two years ago in Coquitlam. She said that many Realtors pair up with informal buddy arrangements, but this is “taking it to a bigger scale.”
Donetti-Ross says her system has also been set up to provide alerts to agents. If a problem is found at a home in an area, agents can call in to a centralized number and information regarding suspicious individuals or homeless people hanging around houses in the area is broadcast.
“It will be like an Amber Alert,” she says.