I recently received an email regarding an update on the investigation of the murder of 27 year old Ashley Okland. Ashley was showing townhouses in 2011 when her body was found in a model unit in Iowa. Police recently announced that they believe the suspect may have been another real estate agent. This incident is a tragic reminder that violence against real estate agents is increasing. On October 21, 2013 the NAR Realtor Magazine featured a story entitled “Alert: New String of Attacks Against Agents“. The article noted the surge in violence against agents and, in particular, reported about two incidents. One involved two masked men who robbed an agent in a model home and stole her jewelry. The other incident involved an agent who let two men into his office who claimed they were interested in a rental. One of the assailants pulled a gun and the other tied the agent to his chair and robbed the victim.
Unfortunately, the nature of being a real estate agent creates an unavoidable danger that has resulted in many attacks against licensees. In a significant number of instances these attacks occur in the process of conducting open houses or showing available listings to prospective clients. Part 1 of this Article will focus upon the dangers of conducting and open house and some safety tips.
1. If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
2. Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
3. Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
4. Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
5. Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for their driver’s license, full name, address, phone number and email.
6. When showing a house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
7. Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
8. Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
9. Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
10. Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.