A recent gunpoint robbery of a homebuyer and a Realtor at an open house in Los Angeles County, Calif., compelled the Pacific West Association of Realtors (PWAR) to issue a warning to their members to be careful at open houses.

No one was harmed in the robbery, but the prospective homebuyer, whom police report the robber likely targeted and followed to the open house, did lose some cash.

"There haven’t been any other incidents this year that I know of," said Nancy Gilmore, CEO of PWAR. "We just want to make sure people are safe when they’re showing open houses," she said.

The nature of the real estate industry, where real estate agents meet with prospective homebuyers, sometimes for the first time, at empty homes, is one where safety and awareness are important, say real estate safety experts.

In 2010, 940 real estate agents experienced an assault, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 620 in 2009 and 170 in 2008.

Common open-house tips for real estate agents include: notice when something seems off and take action; inspect the exterior before entering; show the home with someone you trust; let others know where you are; and make sure you have more than one way to exit the home.

Other tips can be found at the safety page of the National Association of Realtors website. See a safety video here.

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