Tips on How to Handle Dangerous Situations

Services for Real Estate Pros with Hearth & Home Videos

I was thinking a lot about my "former life" as a Psychiatric Social Worker after reading the blog on How to Deal with Potentially Violent Clients.  I worked on an admission unit in a psychiatric center and the possiblity of a sudden threat arising was a reality all the staff worked with.  Some of the same things we kept in mind are also useful in any setting and may help an ActiveRain member someday. 

1.  Trust your gut!  I know this has been brought up before but it is crucial to trust your instinct.  If you're feeling something is wrong, pay attention to it.  It's better to have been wrong and feel silly afterwards than end up hurt.

2.  Don't be afraid to ask someone to come with you.  At first I'd be embarassed to ask a large male Mental Health Aide to sit in on an interview with a patient I had concerns about, but I got over it.  If you are at all concerned ask another agent to come with you and present them as your teammate or have a spouse come with you (you can always say you're going somewhere directly from the showing site). 

3. Always position yourself closest to the door.  Do not ever let the person you're concerned about get  between you and your exit.  If a client starts yelling or getting angry start working your way casually out of the room and toward the front door. 

4.  If a client starts yelling about something, AGREE WITH THEM!  If someone is angry and escalating, here's a newsflash - you cannot reason with them to see another point of view.  If a client's behavior is making you really nervous say whatever they need to hear, and get out of the house.  I don't care if they are outright delusional, agree with them so you can remove yourself from the setting.  Which reminds me,

5. Don't turn your back on someone who truly seem unstable or may be a physical threat.  Even while you're working your way towards the door, keep them in your sight - walk backwards if you need to, or keep them to one side of you.

6. Keep your car keys in a pocket, not your purse.  Most of us these days have a keyless remote which has a panic button.  If things get really bad, push the panic button - most remotes have a long enough range that if you're parked in the driveway and it's a normal size house it will work.  Not a bad idea to keep your cell phone in your other pocket - if you need it quickly you don't want to have to go hunting for it.

It's sad that we all need to be so aware of our environment and safety, but it's a reality - I view the information above as I do a fire extinguisher in the house - hopefully it will never need to be used but if it is it can be life-saving.



Posted by

Amy Hunter,  Hearth & Home Videos    Serving the Metrowest Area of MA

Comments (35)

Terri Adams-Scott
J. Rockcliff, REALTORS - Walnut Creek, CA
Realtor, Walnut Creek CA Real Estate

Thanks for your post and awareness tips.  I wear my iPhone, keys to the property and the key to my car around my neck during an open house.  Should a suspicious person walk into the home, I pretend to be talking to another person as if I'm giving them directions to my Open house...saying "you're right around the corner, see you in a few seconds".    Thanks again for sharing your tips!

Dec 26, 2009 08:36 AM
Joyce Thomas
The Thomas Group Brokered by eXp Realty - San Tan Valley, AZ
Your Home Sold Guaranteed!

Great safety tips Amy!  Every time I do an open house, I look at all my options of exit, keep my cell phone with me all the time, etc.  You can never be too careful.  Thanks again for sharing!

Dec 26, 2009 09:00 AM
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL


I always trust my gut. Every time I don't it bites me in the butt. Guts and butts, probably not a good combo :)


Dec 26, 2009 09:06 AM
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

As a guy who has been host to an open house where there was a large theft of jewelry on one occasion and attacked by a (ex) client another time, I can  appreciate that you can't be too careful. 

Go with your gut will prevent 90% of the issues. 

Dec 26, 2009 09:09 AM
Nathan Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Davenport, FL
Your Central Florida Real Estate Expert

We were blessed with instincts and we should use them. Keeping your head on a swivel should keep you safe. Pepper spray is also a great idea.

Dec 26, 2009 10:15 AM
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Amy, Very interesting.  I worked as a Battered Woman's advocate for many years prior to my real estate career and I certainly experienced many dangerous situations.  Men who beat their wives seem to think anyone who assists the victims is the enemy.  I learned to "trust my gut."  I think that is still the most valuable safety tool we have.


Dec 26, 2009 10:40 AM
Aaron Vaughn, REALTOR© 830-358-0455
eXp Realty - Canyon Lake, TX
My knowledge is your power | eXp Realty

Safety is a big key out there -- open houses or not. It's wise to heed this advice, because agents are vulnerable.

Dec 26, 2009 11:44 AM
Gregory Bain
Mezzina Real Estate & Insurance - Little Egg Harbor, NJ
For Homes on the Jersey Shore

I thought being a real estate agent was a "Psychiatric Social Worker". You mean there are unstable people out there that are not buying and selling real estate? What do they do?

Dec 26, 2009 11:58 AM
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

That is something that I always try to be cognizant of.  I also try to make sure that when there is more than one person in the home with me I know where everyone might be... 

Dec 26, 2009 01:37 PM
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

Amy - These are great tips!  I actually keep my car key in my hand when I show property and I always make sure my husband knows where I'm going and who I'm with. 

Dec 26, 2009 01:46 PM
Mary Jo Quay
EXP Realty - Minneapolis, MN
I Move You Home

A few years back I was on floor duty when a man walked in and wanted to see lakeshore properties. What was surprising was that he wanted to look at new construction and upper bracket for his fiance.  We pulled up a list of homes, and made some appointments for the next day.  He said that he was a drummer for Elton John, but had an injury and wasn't working right now.  It would be a cash purchase, the money was being transferred from London.

I was accustomed to celebrity, never heard of him, and couldn't find evidence of him being with the band on album covers.   He pulled up in a new car with a navigation system, and suggested the we try it out.  As I was leaving, I turned to the receptionist and asked her to call me in 1/2 an hour on my cell phone.  We saw a couple homes, and went back to the office.   He didn't answer his phone after that, but I had a call from the mother of the fiance, she wanted information.  He borrowed the fiance's savings saying he would pay it back when his money was transferred.  The engagement ring he gave her was returned, the car was reposessed, police were looking for him on other charges.   He had taken the fiance and her mom to a house under construction that I showed him, told the contractors that it was his house,  and made himself at home which didn't sit well when the actual owner showed up.  

At least I walked behind him at all times.

Dec 26, 2009 02:34 PM
Andy Chaudoir
Professional Inspection Services - Georgetown, Texas - Georgetown, TX
Your Home Inspection Connection in Central Texas

Hello Amy - What a great post.  I hope everyone stays safe out there.  Thanks for the great tips.

Dec 26, 2009 04:10 PM
Chuck brawn
Westminster, CO

Need to be aware during inspections as well. Buyer-seller disputes !

Dec 26, 2009 04:38 PM
Diane Williams
Pell City, AL

As an agent I have always gone with my gut.  I have had someone walk into the office and I would not put them in my car.  Never could quite put my finger on why not. When in doubt, don't do it.

Dec 26, 2009 04:46 PM
Amy Hunter
Hearth & Home Videos - Sudbury, MA

Terri - I love your idea of pretending to talk to someone who is right around the corner!

Joyce - awareness of all exits is excellent. Make sure to not count on a slider door from the kitchen or back of the house - if they have a board in the track you will not be able to open them quickly.

Always following a client into a room or the basement so they're not behind you is a good habit.

Kudos to all of you who do trust your instincts.  Diane, it talkes a lot of faith in yourself to not take someone out because something feels "off" about them.  Good for you!

Mary Jo - thank goodness he was just a financial schemer and not a physical threat.  Volunteering an unusual amount of info upfront about their social status or importance often sets off a bell with me.  Most people just tell you what you need to know, and most of the hugely wealthy or well known people I've come into contact with actually downplay it until they know you better.

Dec 26, 2009 10:50 PM
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

Amy, great tips for everyone. As a former criminologist, I would elaborate a little bit on the notion of not turning your back on someone. The reason is twofold: 1) you want to be able to see what they are doing at all times; and 2) turning your back can be taken by someone who is already "hot" as an insult or disrespect, thereby increasing their anger and potential for violence.  Great job, Amy. -- Tanya in Montreal

Dec 27, 2009 01:36 AM
Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv
REISA - 317-663-4173 - Indianapolis, IN

When in the car business I was kidnapped. While remaining calm I learned that my adbuctors were just as nervous as I was. I stayed calm. Did not try to be a hero and I'm here today to blog about it


Dec 27, 2009 02:09 AM
Andrew Monaghan
The Monaghan Group - Glendale, AZ
CRS, GRI, EPro Associate Broker

Great post, we have to remember that safety is our top priority.

There is no good reason to put ourselves in harms way.

Dec 27, 2009 02:50 AM
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector


That is great insight. As a gruff old home inspector I do not see much in the way of I have a rock hammer. But some of the lady agents sure are vulnerable.

Dec 27, 2009 04:35 AM
Tamara Inzunza
Realty One Group Capital - Alexandria, VA
Close-In Alexandria and Arlington Living

Excellent reminders indeed.  We should always remain alert and aware of our surroundings.

Dec 27, 2009 04:56 AM