It Could Happen To Anyone
It happened to me and was life changing.
The recent report about the broker in Snohomish County, Washington who was assaulted at an open house brought me back 20 years when I too was assaulted at an open house. Although this is difficult to share and I am sure difficult to read, I would be remiss in not sharing my experience with my readers in the hopes of bringing more awareness to the issue. I don't usually talk about the event as it still makes me anxious just thinking about it. However, for the benefit of helping even one person I am going to share my story. I have never written about this before.
I was sitting an open house for a builder who had built nine homes at the end of a private cul-de-sac. For resale purposes these homes were in the perfect location. For security purposes they were in a very dangerous location. I was all alone initially when I had first opened the homes but had planned to meet an agent there who wanted me to share some ideas with her about marketing another development she was involved in. Thank goodness she was there because if she hadn't have been I have no idea what would have happened.
That day I had parked my car in the garage of the open house because I wanted to make room for guest parking. My agent friend who came to visit had parked right in front of the home. To anyone coming to the open house it appeared that there was only one vehicle and probably only one agent.
The agent and myself were in the kitchen going over marketing ideas when I heard the door ring. This was a little strange to me because, being at the end of a cul-de-sac, I usually heard any cars pulling up allowing me the time to get ready to greet the open house guests. I assumed it must be a neighbor from down the street and was excited to have a guest.
I opened the door and as soon as I did, a man lunged at me and grabbed me by both shoulders and then threw me to the ground. I had no warning and no time to react. I was stunned, frightened, and worried for myself and my agent friend. He yelled and me and demanded to be told where the car keys were. I couldn't talk, let alone give him directions about where the car keys were because I was frozen silent with fear.
As I lay there trying to logically think through my next move while terrified by the violence and severity of the situation all the while worried for my agent friend, she came around the corner from the kitchen and screamed. That single scream saved both of us because he ran out of the house.
To this day I will never know what would have or could have happened had I been alone at that open house. My agent friend, Dianne, saved us both from what could have been a tragic outcome because she found her voice and reacted.
We later learned that the man had recently been released from a prison not far from the location of the open houses and that he was trying to steal a car. Regardless as to his motivation, his actions were life altering. After that day I did not do open houses alone. After that day I made all my agents go through safety training and after that day I became a wiser and smarter person when it came to personal safety.
I encourage every agent who does open houses or meets with clients they don't know at a quiet location to pay strong attention to security guidelines recommended by the National Association of REALTORS® or your state association. I also highly recommend that you have someone one with you if you don't feel comfortable or if the home is in a secluded area. Don't just assume that secluded homes are the only target because they aren't.
Put your safety before any sale and never be afraid to close an open house early if someone pulls up and you feel threatened. Lock the door and call a friend or family member to come and assist you. Above all else, trust your gut.
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings nearly three decades of experience in the real estate industry. With agent/broker coaching, expertise in branding, lead generation, strategic marketing, business analysis, new home project planning, product development, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things real estate. With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.