Realtor safety under microscope

September 14, 2009 4:15:28 AM PDT
Safety is in the spotlight for the real estate industry.The idea is to keep potentially threatening people away from the people who show homes.

Security concerns are heightened after a realtor was raped a week ago in a Cary home.

Authorities arrested and charged Michael Sleeman with the crime, but realtors are trying to avoid the possibility of another assault.

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"I do business over there, quite a bit," Real estate agent Michelle Williams said. "I'm very familiar with that neighborhood. I've always thought it was a very safe neighborhood. So it was shocking to me, to think something like that could have happened there."

What happened last week makes the idea of personal safety even more important to real estate agents.

"Someone [should] always know where you are at all times," Williams said. "They have your cell phone number. It's very important to keep your cell phone with you, check in periodically with you, and make sure you're okay wherever you are."

Some real estate companies require their agents to use cell phones. Others tell agents to follow prospective buyers through a home instead of leading them - and stand in doorways so they aren't trapped in a room.

Investigators said Sleeman pretended to be a prospective buyer and told the victim he had raped before. That's why Williams said she will be extra careful.

"But we just need to know who we're working with and there needs to be some level of trust there," she said.

Authorities said a card filled out by potential buyers helped detectives locate Sleeman - a registered sex offender - just hours after the rape.

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