Here’s a couple of scenarios to think about:
You’re a twenty-something, single woman searching for your first condo. You arrange to work with a male realtor (you saw his picture in a local magazine ad) and he suggests visiting a series of properties one night after you get out of work.
You’re a boomer couple who is looking to buy a winter home. You begin working with a realtor through emails and phone calls to determine your price point and approval status.
Do you notice anything wrong with either of these scenarios? At first glance, you might not. They sound like standard operating procedure for a lot of realtor-client relationships. It’s not uncommon to look at properties after work, nor is it odd to begin corresponding with a realtor if you live out-of-state from where you’re looking to buy. How Safe Are You?
The problem is that both of these scenarios have the POTENTIAL to be dangerous. In one case, you have a young woman meeting a man she does not know at all. She’ll be entering buildings and layouts that are unknown to her, but may be well known by the male realtor. She may have thought his picture in the ad made him trustworthy, but in reality, she knowns nothing about his past or his qualifications.
In the second case, you have an older couple who probably have some financial stability and extra income who are agreeing to work with a realtor they’ve never met and discuss intimate financial information. Not only that, but the financial information may be shared via email. In writing.
How Much Do You Really Know?
If you don’t have a lump in your throat by now, you should. Working with realtors is supposed to be one of the most exciting stages of your life – you’re ready to purchase or rent some sort of new property. While much has been made about realtor safety – as in, how to protect yourself during an open house or showings – there is very little to no information available about how safe everyday people are while working with realtors.
Should single women really be going into unknown properties with a male realtor? Should people feel obligated to share personal, financial information with a person with whom they’ve just connected? Yes, both instances are supposed to be professional encounters, but who is to say the male realtor doesn’t have a sexual harassment conviction and the other realtor hasn’t been busted for fraud or identity theft?
One of the best things you can do before agreeing to work with a real estate agent is to inquire if they’ve passed a background check. A background check is the single, most effective tool available to employers to verify a person’s identity, qualifications, criminal history and credit history.
How Can You Trust Your Realtor?
There is no federal law that mandates a realtor pass a background check before applying for, and/or obtaining a real estate license. The requirements vary by state. Florida, for example, requires FBI fingerprinting, as does Oregon, but as we’ve
mentioned before, FBI fingerprinting is far from perfect.
Realestateexpress.com writes that some states will require fingerprinting or other background check processes. In most cases, the information you provide for your background check and any information you provided in your real estate license application will be compared for discrepancies. If there are discrepancies, this might be viewed as being dishonest and a state may declare you unfit for receiving your real estate license. If you are completely honest and disclose any conviction, felony or misdemeanor, in your criminal history, you may still be considered a viable candidate to receive your real estate license.
Translation for wannabe realtors – Even if you have a criminal past, you may still be awarded your real estate license.
Translation for potential customer – Your realtor may have a criminal conviction.
How Do You Know if Your Realtor Has Been Screened?
If your realtor works for an agency, you can ask them about their hiring procedures. Do they mandate background checks for incoming realtors? Do they re-screen realtors? This will give you a good baseline to test your comfort level with the agency’s hiring procedures and employee maintenance.
If your realtor is an independent contractor, you can certainly ask them if they’ve ever background checked themselves, or if they’ve ever viewed their results from a previous gig.
Active Screening is a nationally-accredited background check firm and we would be happy to help realtors prove they have clean backgrounds. Have any other questions about realtor and screening safety for us? We’d love to find out the answers for you and post them here! Tweet us your q’s or write them below.