- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

CLEARFIELD, Utah (AP) - It is no coincidence Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd is organizing an effort to put together a basic firearms course for real estate agents.

The effort by Shepherd, president of the Northern Wasatch Realtors Association and owner of Remax Unlimited in Layton, comes on the heels of the murder of 49-year-old real estate agent Beverly Carter, who was killed last week in Arkansas after going to show a home. Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave on Sept. 30.

“This story has hit home with a lot of agents,” said Shepherd, who is working with officials from Get Some Guns, an indoor shooting range in Layton, to provide his colleagues with gun safety instruction.

Real estate agents taking self-defense classes is not new, but in lieu of what occurred in Arkansas, Shepherd said, he believes now is the time for agents to receive training or refresh their training when it comes to firearm safety.

“We’ve got a massive amount of people with a (Utah concealed carry permit) to carry a gun that have not fired a gun,” said Shepherd, 48, a concealed weapons permit holder who regularly visits the gun range and never shows a home unless he is armed.

Even then, there has been on occasion, Shepherd said, when he has cut a showing short because of an uneasiness about a client. He said there are also times when abandoned homes will have squatters living in them.

Walking into a dark basement of a home that has no power with a total stranger, Shepherd said, can at times also be unnerving.

With the Arkansas murder, copycat crimes could take place, Shepherd said.

He also said real estate agents may be targeted based on the assumption that they are rich, because many of them dress nicely and drive nice cars.

The man charged with the murder of Carter in Arkansas, Aaron Lewis, indicated “she was just a woman that worked alone - a rich broker,” police said.

Christy Vail, with Keller Williams Success Realty, said the Carter case hits close to home for her.

“This is so personal. It can happen. It can happen. Keep your head up. Beware of your personal surroundings,” said Vail, who has been in the real estate business since 1987.

Agents must avoid burying their head into their phones, she said.

But even though Vail takes the Arkansas case personally, she refuses to allow the incident to chase her away from a profession that she loves and she will continue to take steps necessary to keep safe.

Previously, real estate agents have attended self-defense seminars provided by local professionals, Vail said. But more training is needed, and learning how to handle a gun, something that has long been part of the Utah culture, is now necessary, said Vail, who has a concealed weapons permit.

Vail said she makes every effort to first meet potential home buyers in her office.

“I don’t meet strangers at a property.”

Prior to showing a home, Vail said, she has also made it a quick habit of taking a picture of the license plate on her potential buyer’s vehicle and sending it to a family member or colleague in the event something should occur. Those potential home buyers who are truly interested in seeing the property do not seem to mind, she said.

Danae Averett, with Ovation Homes of Utah, says when it comes to showing a home to a cold-call male stranger, she will either meet them in a public place or take along her bodyguard - her husband, Bret Averett, also a real estate agent.

“That is my safety valve,” she said.

“I just kind of make a judgment call when they call,” Averett said of potential buyers.

Averett said she has also taken self-defense training courses.

“It is necessary to protect ourselves,” Vail said.

___

Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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