For many real estate agents, open houses remain an integral part of day-to-day business and their overall success in this industry. But as one San Francisco agent discovered firsthand over the weekend, open houses also leave agents vulnerable to criminals who see these marketing events as opportune moments to prey on unsuspecting victims.
According to SF Gate, a 55-year-old real estate agent was hosting an open house Saturday, March 10, on the 200 block of Pelican Cove, a privately owned street in the Bayview Heights neighborhood when just before 2:30 p.m., as the agent stood in the kitchen, she heard someone enter the home and assumed it was potential buyers.
Instead, the agent was confronted by three suspects, one of whom was armed with a gun. The suspects took the agent’s cash and began rummaging through her purse until the sound of a doorbell startled them. The robbers then fled the home and drove away in a blue-silver BMW, said the report.
San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) public information officer Robert Rueca told Inman the investigation is ongoing, and the suspects have yet to be identified or arrested. Because the investigation remains open and there is information yet to be gathered, SFPD was unable to provide Inman with any further details.
Open houses and showings have proven to leave real estate agents vulnerable. In October, Inman published a story about Sherri Hinkel, an Omaha-based Realtor who was nearly sexually assaulted during a showing by a man posing as a potential buyer. Hinkel was able to put her self-defense skills to use and call 911, but there are a number of ways to mitigate the risk of being attacked in the first place.
In a recent article, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and personal security and identity theft expert Robert Siciliano offered 12 ways to make your open house experience safer, some of which include:
- Check the space thoroughly. Check all the rooms and closets ahead of time, and check the space while telling a person on the phone what you’re doing.
- Keep your phone handy. Once people begin showing up, have your cellphone in your hand at all times.
- Find a buddy. If you can’t find a partner to buddy up with, make it appear as though one is coming any minute or is already there. For example, at your check-in table, have a second chair with a sweater or jacket over it and also place a sweater or jacket over your chair, thus giving the illusion that another person is there.
- Get rid of hazards. Remove blocks of knives from kitchen counters. Perhaps the biggest deterrent to a crime is having your wits about you. But also consider additional signage at the entrance stating the open house is under surveillance and IDs are required for entry.
National Association of Realtors (NAR) communications director Sara Wiskerchen says agents should read NAR’s yearly safety report and take advantage of the association’s safety tips, presentations and training courses to help them be more prepared for any potentially dangerous situation.
“We are fully committed to our members’ personal safety and help educate Realtors about potential threats and provide them with resources to protect themselves,” said Wiskerchen, in an emailed statement to Inman. “Many local and state Realtor associations, and even brokerages and offices, make additional resources available to agents.”