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Showing Property Is a Dangerous Job – What Real Estate Agents Do to Keep Buyers Sellers and Themselves Safe

Marlene is a California real estate broker who has been selling property since 1989. California Real Estate License number 01056418.

The real estate job can be a dangerous profession.

The real estate job can be a dangerous profession.

Being a Real Estate Agent is a Dangerous Job

Real estate agents face danger every day that we deal with the public. Robbery, rape, and murder are not unheard of in this industry. In fact, agents are constantly aware of and reminded of the fact that our fellow associates are attacked on a regular basis.

The Dangers Real Estate Agents Encounter

Real estate agents are constantly chauffeuring strangers in our car, we hold open houses which attract the public, and at the office, strangers constantly drop by throughout the day. Yes, in the real estate business, staying safe is at the foremost of our minds.

I Showed Property to an Alleged Murderer

Real estate agents sometimes meet with extremely dangerous people.

Real estate agents sometimes meet with extremely dangerous people.

My Encounter With an Alleged Murderer While Showing Property

It was a typical day in the world of real estate. I was sitting at my desk when a potential buyer walked into my office. He was from out of town and looking to purchase a home in a prestigious neighborhood. He was dressed well, had a nice car, and spoke well. Basically, he presented a good first impression.

The buyer prospect went through all the motions of being a bona fide buyer. He completed the paperwork for the loan and did everything a serious buyer would do.

I ran a property search for him and we selected four houses to view. I was aware that all of the properties we scheduled for viewing happened to be vacant. That was the first alarm that went off in my head. Vacant homes are the perfect locations for criminals.

When a "client" selects all vacant homes for their private tour, that is a red flag for the agent to take certain precautions for safety.

  1. I made two photocopies of his driver’s license and left one with a colleague.
  2. I gave a list of the properties I was showing to a colleague in the office.
  3. I gave the colleague an estimated time that I should be expected to be back at the office.
  4. I asked the prospective buyer to follow me to each property in his own vehicle.

We drove to each property in separate vehicles. One side of my brain noted that this could be a bona fide buyer. Selling a house to this buyer in this exclusive neighborhood meant a sizeable paycheck for me. The other side of my brain noted that this could be a counterfeit buyer up to no good. It turned out that this buyer was up to no good. As we toured each property, I noticed he kept trying to lure me into corners. But, I’m wiser than that. I stayed away from interior doors and walls. I allowed him to walk into the room first while I remained outside and near a door for a quick exit.

I took the necessary precautions to protect myself. Well, it was a good thing, because by the time I got back to the office one of my colleagues discovered that the man was wanted for murder in the town he lived. Apparently, he was accused of murdering his wife and the police were looking for him.

Was he planning on murdering me, too? I don’t know. But, I fear that if he had the opportunity, he might have. He did keep mentioning that his wife had died and that I looked like his wife.

Dangerous People Show Up at Open Houses

Open houses can be dangerous to your health.

Open houses can be dangerous to your health.

Almost Attacked at an Open House

My husband and I sold real estate together as a team and started doing open houses together. We listed the neighbor’s house directly across the street from our house. A general policy that we have is that the seller not be present while buyers are trekking in and out of the house. It’s less stress on the seller and it allows buyers to openly share their opinions about the house.

As my husband loaded the trunk of the car with open house signs, I went on over to the seller's house. When I arrived at the house, the seller was still there and said he would, of course, leave when the first buyer showed up. Well, almost immediately the first set of buyers showed up and the seller left. But, the seller must have had a funny feeling about the buyers because he went straight across the street to alert my husband about the buyers. He told my husband, “You’d better get over there right away!” Good thing this seller had good instincts.

Back at the seller's house, I was standing in the kitchen in front of the sliding glass door. The three men who showed up at the house quickly scattered. Man #1 walked quickly past me and into one of the bedrooms. I heard Man #2 quickly lock the front door after the seller left, and Man #3 approached aggressively toward me. In that instant, I knew these men were up to no good. Just as I backed into the sliding glass door, my husband had made his way over to the house and tried opening the door. Upon discovering the door locked, he did not hesitate to use the key the seller had given him to gain quick access to the house. As soon as my husband bolted into the house, the three men scurried out and sped away from the scene.

Since I was left unharmed, the police couldn’t take a report or do anything about the incident.

As real estate agents, we never know what we are walking into. This story is a news report about a REALTOR who was robbed at gunpoint at an open house in San Francisco, California.

Real Estate Agent Hosting Open House Robbed at Gunpoint in San Francisco.

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I have many close calls and absolute horror stories to tell, but the ones I shared here are enough to give you the gist of how dangerous it is out in the real estate field.

I'm just one agent, so you can imagine the enormous number of agents who encounter danger on the job every day. Every year on the job I encounter at least one incident that makes me re-think my involvement in the industry.

I never drive home the same way twice because one time I was followed by a stalker who would show up at every open house I had for a six-month period. He stopped appearing at open houses when I discovered he was following me home one day. I was able to lose him in traffic. But the good news is I never saw him again. That was scary!

A real estate friend was tied up and left in a closet after being robbed. Another friend was forced off the side of the road and robbed on the way to an open house.

Safety is of the Utmost Importance When Meeting New Clients

When I was an active real estate agent, safety was a constant thought on my mind. There are many things that agents do simply for the sake of being cautious.

Working With Buyers

I have had prospective buyers balk at me for asking for identification. Buyers, when you walk into an agent’s office for the first time, they don’t know you from the ax murderer. When agents ask for your identification, understand that they don’t really know who you are and they are wise to treat every new acquaintance equally. It is in their best interest to take precautionary, protective measures.

Working With Sellers

It is not only the seller’s safety that is at stake. The agent's safety is also of consideration. Sellers and agents alike have been held hostage, physically harmed, and robbed at gunpoint on many occasions.

Meeting Buyers and Sellers for the First Time

One more thing to be aware of is this: When you hire an agent and that agent asks to have someone accompany him or her to the first appointment, please be aware that it is in the agent’s best interest to be accompanied by a partner. It could be a colleague, a significant other, or a spouse. Either way, it doesn’t mean the agent is not competent on his or her own, it just means the agent is a professional who is conscientious and puts safety first.

Real Estate Guide to Safety

Real Estate Safety Guide

Safety in the real estate field is such a big deal that the National Association of Realtors has developed a guidebook which includes a checklist of things an agent should do to protect themselves. It is such a serious matter that every year, the entire month of September is dubbed “REALTOR® Safety Month”. During the month of September, an extraordinary amount of time and effort is devoted to bringing safety to the forefront of the real estate agent’s mind. The hope is that this awareness continues throughout the rest of the year, of course. REALTORS are asked to consider safety awareness for themselves and for their clients, as well.

"The Real Estate Guide to Safety", written by Andrew Wooten is a complete guide with excellent tips to help the REALTOR in just about every situation when coming in contact with the public.

Andrew's Golden Rule is this:

"You are your best weapon, your mind, voice, and body. Listen and trust your inner voice. It is the best weapon you have."

While this book was written specifically for REALTORS, it is an excellent guide for the general public, as well. If you work from home, participate in social media marketing, or deal with the public in any way, Andrew's book is an effective guide for you, even if you don't work in the real estate industry.


Andrea V. Brambila. April 30, 2017. Assaults, Murders of Real Estate Professionals on the Rise. Inman News. Last visited 10-19-2017.

National Association of REALTORS®. 2019 Member Safety Report. Last visited 02-06-2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Marlene Bertrand


Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 19, 2020:

Hello Carrie Lee Night, when I first entered the real estate career, I did not know there was a dangerous side. I learned very quickly that there are elements to this career that demand very close attention. Safety is first and foremost of one of them.

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on May 17, 2020:

Interesting and scary. I am sure glad you made it out okay :) I didnt realize the danger and how much you guys are targeted. I have a new found appreciation for all you guys do :) Thank you sharing :)

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 20, 2017:

Hello Mrs. Obvious, thank you for adding additionl and valuable tips for being cautious. I worked in the east Bay Area of Northern California. I was fortunate that I started my career with my husband at my side. For the first few years, we sold real estate together and so I always had a partner for open houses, showing property, and such. When he left the industry, it was sometimes very scary. If I were still in the industry I would be working toward getting my concealed carry license, too. Good for you for being so cautious.

Willow Mattox from Northern California on December 20, 2017:

Hi Marlene,

I am a licensed Realtor in Northern California between Sacramento and the Oregon border. While it is generally safer in my area, I take all kinds of precautions when showing property! I think I'm a little paranoid because I grew up in the Bay Area and learned at a young age to be careful and trust my instincts. My biggest things are texting my husband and mom (or letting our receptionist know) if I am going out with new buyers. I send them the address and my ETA on getting back to my office or home. I don't often take buyers in my own vehicle. I also carry pepper spray, tasers and a large hunting knife in my vehicle! I am working on getting my concealed carry license. I am very aware of not getting trapped in a house or driveway either, just like you described. Another thing I routinely do with buyers I already am familiar with and trust, is lock the front door of the home after we enter together. This way I don't have to worry about someone sneaking in and catching us off guard. It also stops looky-loos who may have seen us walk in, and want to snoop around. I have been surprised at a rural property when two men entered a house I was in alone. I was so scared, but lucky that I was able to get out of there unharmed!

Thanks for taking the time to write this article. It is a good reminder for all of us.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on April 29, 2015:

You're right, poetryman6969. Safety is of the utmost importance when opening your home to people you have never met before.

poetryman6969 on April 21, 2015:

Voted up. Thanks for staying safe!

Sellers need to be aware that if they keep their property on the market long enough and have enough would be buyers going through their home, sooner or later they will let a thief in. I don't really know a way around this. They just need to be as cautious about home security during the sale of the home as they were when they weren't planning to sell.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on March 28, 2015:

Yes, you will be doing real estate soon, catmalone. This hub is for you. As long as you are careful, you should be safe.

catmalone on March 23, 2015:

I can definitely can see how dangerous it could be showing property and meeting up with strangers. Very informative and useful information especially because I will be doing Real Estate soon.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 07, 2013:

Hello RTalloni. Thank you for your feedback and for your support by sharing this with your readers. I hope it brings awareness to anyone out and about looking at property. I feel very fortunate to have escaped any real harm, but awareness (even from people around me - like that seller) is what saved me.

RTalloni on November 06, 2013:

I was aware of some of the safety issues realtors face, but did not have an idea of how large they are. So thankful that you were kept safe in those situations, and so glad that you've shared your experiences in a public venue so others could benefit from what you learned. Pinning to my Solve It: .../Safety/... board -- thanks!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 10, 2013:

Hello MsDora. I have to admit that prayer for safety was an everyday thing. And, the Lord has kept me safe when others have been harmed just trying to do their job. While I still have my license, I no longer go out in the field. Now, I merely counsel clients from the comfort of my home via phone and email. It's safer that way. And, when I refer the client to another agent, I pray for the safety of that client and agent just like I would for myself. Who would have thought the real estate industry could be so dangerous.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 10, 2013:

Hi PegCole17. I am extremely appreciative of that seller. The only reason the seller left was because he wanted to maintain my professional dignity. He thought I would be offended if he stayed - kind of like an over protective daddy. But, he didn't feel comfortable leaving. The only reason he left was so that he could go get my husband, and it's a good thing he did. Had he not done that, this story would have had a completely different ending.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 10, 2013:

Hello Benjamin Chege. Yes. Showing property is quite dangerous because agents are dealing with the general public, which includes all types of people, including those that are up to nothing good. Being cautious at all times is the best strategy for maintaining safety.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 10, 2013:

Thank God for His protection every hour of every day. And thank you for sharing from your experience for the good of others. Please be safe!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 10, 2013:

This one is eye-opening about the dangers that realtors face. Your story about the three men who showed up at the house across the street was frighteningly close to disaster. If it weren't for the alert reaction of your seller there might have been a different ending.

After I retired from the corporate world, I tried flipping a couple of houses. While I worked at the vacant properties alone, painting and cleaning, I often felt vulnerable when someone would knock on the door to see the house. Thank goodness you were aware of the dangers and thanks for sharing this important and valuable tip to other would-be sellers and realtors.

Benjamin Chege on October 10, 2013:

Hi Marlene B. Voted up and useful. Sorry for the ugly incidents you have encountered when showing property. Thank God you're fine. I did not know showing property to prospective buyers could be that dangerous. I have also learned a lot from the hub. Informative and nice read.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hi cclitgirl. It's quite scary, indeed. I pray that people become more aware and always on the lookout for suspicious behavior.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on October 09, 2013:

Whoa! I've sometimes wondered about real estate agents being safe, but I had no idea. Thanks for this enlightening article.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hello Crystal Tatum. Thank you for your feedback and for sharing. I was naïve when I first started selling real estate. I thank God that my husband started selling with me and was adamant about me taking severe precautions when meeting people. Later, he went back to his original career, but the things he taught me stayed with me and have helped me stay alert. I was fortunate, but so many people were not. Who would have thought real estate was such a dangerous career?

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on October 09, 2013:

I can imagine this would be a very dangerous job, going to meet people at empty houses. NOt far from where I live two real estate agents were sexually assaulted and murdered. Thank you for writing such an informative article. Voting up and sharing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hello Faith Reaper. Thank you for your comments. Yes, I hope others will benefit from my experience and do all that they can to be safe out there in real estate land.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hello LongTimeMother. I'm sorry to have frightened you. I managed to get out of the business without any real damage. It hasn't been the case with many others. Thank you for reading and for your positive feedback.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

You are welcome, Mhatter99. And, thank you very much for reading.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hi Ericdierker. Yes. I know of several real estate agents that "carry". And, I'm not talking about pepper spray. I'm fortunate that I have remained virtually unharmed throughout the years. But, a lot of that comes from being aware. If I was still active in the business today, yes I would apply for a license to carry a weapon. It's more dangerous today than ever.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hi Bill! Thank you for your very positive feedback. And, thank you for all the advice you share with your readers. I listened. Now that I'm writing for just one niche, my writing life has become a whole lot easier. I really do have you to thank for that. I have 24 years of stories in my head. Some of them are real doozies and while informational, they will be fun to share.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 09, 2013:

I had a good friend who was attacked during an open house. Scary stuff for sure. Very interesting article this morning, Marlene, and I'm so happy you decided on this niche. You certainly know what you are talking about...experience speaks and people listen.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 09, 2013:

Interesting stuff. Good suspense movie episodes. Glad you are safe and writing them. I think I read that a real estate agent was a class that had reason for a concealed weapon permit, here in Ca. Obviously with good cause.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 09, 2013:

Wow, Marlene, so glad you are safe dear friend! I have often wondered about such in this field, with the meeting of strangers in empty homes that are for sale. Thank you for writing such an important piece here.

Many will benefit from such knowledge and advice.

Up and more and sharing

God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

LongTimeMother from Australia on October 09, 2013:

Oh, what a fright you gave me. I am so pleased you remained safe. That's not the kind of job I would have associated with danger, but I can certainly see that it is now.

Voted up +++ and shared.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on October 09, 2013:

Thank you for this.

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