The security camera footage, which was first reported by an NBC affiliate in Los Angeles, captures a man pushing the agent to the ground and bending over her as she screams for help at an open house in Encino on Sunday. The agent, who is 51 and asked not to be identified, had come outside the home after suspecting the man to whom she was showing it was trying to lure her into one of the back rooms.
“You saw the house,” the agent is heard saying in the video before being pushed to the ground. “You’re done. That’s it.”
In the video, the suspect and the agent shake hands before the man is seen leaning over and grabbing her chest. The Keller Williams agent, who had initially thought the man was trying to steal her jeweled cross necklace, then gets pushed into an area with some concrete and shrubbery. The man, identified as being in his 40s, speaking Arabic and appearing cross-eyed, runs off.
The agent suffered knee bruises and abrasions and a back injury. She also feared what the man might have been trying to do, she told NBC.
She earlier had spotted him at two other open houses, once last week and once on the day of the incident, she told NBC. On the first visit, the man asked her if the washer and dryer were working properly and then lifted her up when she tried to check on it. On the second visit, he said his friend was interested in buying the house and then tried to convince her to go back inside after she moved to the door to escape.
“He tried so many times, and no way I was going inside,” the agent told NBC.
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the case as a battery and trying to find the man — some local real estate professionals have also been calling in with tips after recognizing him from coming in to other open houses.
The attack has also sent ripples of fear across the real estate industry, with some agents urging colleagues to be safe during open houses.
Fellow Realtors, please be safe while showing homes and conducting open houses. September is Realtor Safety Month. https://t.co/RLVGhOKMTo
— Greg,Memphis Realtor (@realtorgreg) September 24, 2019
As a result of the incident, Bob Siegmeth, a Keller Williams managing broker who works alongside the victim, has organized an emergency self-defense training session for all of his agents.
“You wouldn’t imagine something like this would happen in daylight, especially when a camera is recording,” Siegmeth told NBC.
In general, having to meet and interact with strangers leaves many agents feeling unsafe. According to a study done by Mid-Atlantic multiple listing service Bright MLS, one in three agents felt unsafe while doing their work at some point last year.
Open houses, particularly those in homes that are remote or have been sitting empty, present a particularly consistent risk to Realtors. Trade groups such as the National Association of Realtors, recommend not showing homes after dark, meeting clients in an office prior to showing a home, always having a phone with easy access to an alarm and letting a friend or colleague know when you’re traveling to a job alone.
“There are self-defense classes, the buddy system, verifying identity,” retired brokerage owner Jay Thompson wrote for Inman. “Lots of things can be done to improve safety, but they have to actually be done, not just talked about because this incident happened.”