It Could Happen To Anyone

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The Lones Group, Inc.

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.

The Lones Group, Inc.

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Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons!

Hi Denise: Wow! What a story! This is an indication of the dangers of our profession and I am surprised that things like this don't happen more frequently! I have had an open house where I closed early simply because I didn't like the actions of some neighbors...They were mean when I parked too close to their driveway. That is a house where I will never be alone at an open house again. The other things that can happen too, are vast---We lost a very popular agent one very cold winter when she thought she had put her car in park and then went to close a gated driveway. As she walked on the icy walkway, she slipped and fell as the car, which was not in park but in reverse,  rolled back over her as she hit the ground. She was all alone and she died waiting for someone to come and help sad!

Another bad winter story is when an agent was replacing a key in a lockbox on the side of a post and away from the house. When she put the key back and turned to leave she slipped and fell, hitting her head on the post and she ended up freezing to death as she lay there unconscious! These two stories happened within months of each other and they sent this real estate community reeling as they became known. Now there is a huge effort to discourage any open houses or showings with a lone agent....most of the properties nearby these two homes were empty because they are second homes. No one puts salt down and there are no ears to hear someones cry for help. We all need to be extremely cautious!

Jun 22, 2018 01:42 PM #1
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

You were a very lucky lady and  you were lucky to have a partner with you

Jun 22, 2018 07:09 PM #2
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Denise. Your story is chilling. I was robbed at an open house. The couple and child who were responsible hit many homes and agents that day. They were eventually caught but I never did another open house after that.

Jun 23, 2018 06:53 AM #3
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
In Tune with your Real Estate Needs - Olympia WA

I have chills reading this.  I'm so sorry this happened.  Too many times we as agents are put in these situations or put ourselves in these situations because we are trying to be polite and friendly and allow everyone to come to the open houses, etc. etc.  Lessor offenses have made me leary of holding open houses by myself.  It just isn't worth it. 

Jun 23, 2018 04:53 PM #4
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Denise Lones

CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding
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