Security is tighter in many areas of our post-9/11 world, even in the home-buying business. Iowa’s largest real estate brokerage has started doing background checks on all of its new agents. Jim Koolof, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Iowa Realty, says several factors went into the decision. Koolof says Iowa Realty is the first in Iowa and may be the first in the nation to have implemented background checks on new agents, which includes a criminal background check and a request for things like a valid driver’s licenses. He says the background checks will help to “step up” the image of the agency’s realtors. Iowa Realty contracts with about 200 new agents every year, all of whom will now be subject to the screening. He says in the long run, the procedure won’t be a big expense. Koolof says each background check costs $50-to-$60 each, giving the “reasonable additional assurance that some of the more troublesome items would be caught.” By conducting background checks, he says, “we add another dimension of comfort and protection for our clients and our agents.” Among the reasons for the safeguard, Koolof says recent problems in central Iowa involved non-realtors in the real estate industry who were buying and reselling homes on contract. He says many of the contracts were less than sufficient and fell through, leaving the buyers, sellers and often the lenders in a losing situation. Des Moines-based Iowa Realty has more than 1200 agents under contract in Iowa and Missouri. Its main focus areas in Iowa are in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
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