GOSHEN — Local real estate agents will soon begin using a cell phone app that will track their movements and provide real-time security information to their offices.

The app was created by two men in Arkansas in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Realtor Beverly Carter. Carter was lured to a vacant home by a man and his estranged wife on the premise they were interested in buying the house for cash. Instead, they abducted Carter to try and ransom her and then murdered her. The man and woman were convicted.

“Realtor safety has been a concern of ours as well as Realtors across the country for some time,” said Tom Canarecci, president of the Elkhart County Board of Realtors. “We are a unique business where we go out to vacant homes and meet people who are basically strangers. Online we put a lot of our information out there ... and then we are meeting someone we have never met before. So we are inherently putting ourselves in compromising positions.”

Canarecci and Christina Clauss, president elect of the ECBOR, spoke to the media Monday about the new app. They said they chose one created by Tim Brasuell and Justyn Horner of Real Agent Guard because it is based in the cloud, meaning that information a real estate agent sends cannot be stopped by breaking or stealing their smartphone.

“We would at least have a geo tag of your last location,” Canarecci said.

Impact on home buyers

With the increase in security for local Realtors may come a little bit of intrusion for property buyers, according to Canarecci. He said Realtors are being encouraged to take photos of the people they are showing property to, and their vehicle’s license plate and perhaps their driver’s license and post that to their security site. That way if a safety issue arises the Realtor’s office and Real Agent Guard will have that information on file for law enforcement officials.

Another feature of the app will be a timer that Realtors can set. The agent can set the length of time they expect an appointment to take and if they don’t disable the alarm at the end of their appointment, a notice will be sent to their security contact and trigger an emergency response, according to Canarecci.

“I think unfortunately we go with our gut too much, rather than keeping ourselves safe” Clauss said of Realtors when they deal with strangers. “... a lot of time we take other Realtors with us, but hopefully this new program will help us feel more safe.”

“The app is not only about our Realtors but our consumers and clients as well,” Canarecci said. “The company that we are working with says 85 percent of the alerts they get are health-related.”

Those issues often involve Realtors slipping on ice or falling or having sudden health threats, he added.

Canarecci said his wife is also a Realtor and once she was showing a house to a steady client and they came across a man in a vacant house they were looking at. The man claimed he was part of a clean-up crew and they found he was actually a thief who broke into the home to steal copper pipes. Fortunately, the man fled without incident, he said.

They will use it

Diana and Mike Slessman are both Realtors and stopped in to the ECBOR office Monday for a seminar on the safety app.

“It sounded like something we could definitely use,” Mike said.

Diana said she has had one incident that caused her concern but turned out OK.

“I showed some clients a house and there were two other guys there who weren’t supposed to be there,” Diana said.

That made her nervous but she learned they too were interested in the property and were “just nosing around.” They later became her clients as well.

“It’s just kind of scary when you show up and there are other people there,” she said.

First in state

The 309-member Elkhart County Board of Realtors is the first real estate board in Indiana to adopt a safety app. Canarecci said he hopes to get other nearby Realtor boards to sign up as well.

Follow Roger on Twitter @r.schneider_tgn

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