A real estate agent was sexually assaulted last Friday in Hammond, Indiana at a house showing, where she was scheduled to meet two prospective clients.
Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said someone called the woman’s office and gave her false information to lure her to the house showing. Two men were waiting for her when she arrived at the property at 10 a.m.
“Upon entering the house, the Realtor victim was sexually assaulted inside the home,” Hoyda said.
Police have released a sketch of one of the suspects, who is described in his late 40s, 5-feet, 10-inches tall, 160 to 180 pounds with a slightly graying mustache. The second attacker is described in his 20s or early 30s with a muscular build, shaved head and several tattoos. Both of the suspects were identified as Hispanic.
More Cases of Sexual Assaults at House Showings
This is unfortunately not the first time we have seen a case like this. In March, an agent was attacked in Maryland during a walk-through the night before an house showing. Fortunately, she was able to fight off her attacker and escape. Others were not as lucky: an agent in Atlanta was bound with duct tape and robbed while holding her post in a model home; a 58-year-old Realtor in Nebraska was robbed and assaulted by two teenagers; and a 27-year-old agent in Des Moines, Iowa was shot and murdered while she was alone in a model home.
How to Protect Yourself at a House Showing
Considering the recent increase of attacks, it is important to protect yourself during house showings. Chicago Agent Magazine published an article about safety tips in August, and we would like to share some of these important tips again:
- Arrive at the house before the sellers leave. This way, you can ensure them that their valuables are locked up or removed, and you can inspect the home for areas where you may be vulnerable.
- Never sit in an open house alone. A study published in Inman News reports that prison inmates who have attacked agents said they specifically targeted the ones that work alone. Invite a home inspector or loan officer to sit at the open house with you.
- Park your car in an area visible from the house. While parking, make sure you have enough room to make a quick escape, if necessary. Lock your purse in the trunk of your car.
- Hang strings of bells on each door with exterior access. No one will be able to sneak up on you.
- Carry mace with you while showing a home. You can also strategically hide mace in every room in an accessible place, like a shelf, where you can grab and use it if necessary.
- Avoid walking in front of the people while showing the home. Instead, walk from behind.
- Allow the prospect to check out each room’s features while remaining in the doorway. This way, you can never be backed or forced into a corner.
- Always have your cell phone in your hand. Program 911 on speed dial and carry your phone in your hand if you’re feeling unsafe.
Download Safety Apps for Realtors
There are many Realtor-specific smartphone apps that are designed to protect you and alert others if you are not safe and need help.
SafeTREC is a free app, allowing you to press a panic button on your phone which will instantly alert others that you are in trouble. Emails and text messages will be sent to your emergency contacts, and GPS technology will inform them of your exact location. In the full-featured version for $9.95, a message will be sent to a 24/7 live help center, which will contact 911 for you if necessary. It also stores your medical information, such as allergies, blood type and your physical description and photo.
Real Alert alerts your emergency contacts or police when you feel threatened, discreetly record details about suspicious people you encounter, and utilize a one-button push to speed dial emergency contacts. The app costs $1.95.
LifeLine Response is known for its silent alarms and “Intellitouch” technology. If an agent is feeling unsafe, they activate the LifeLine Response app on their phone and choose the type of alarm that utilizes Intellitouch and place a finger on the screen. The phone will remain in stasis as long as their finger is on the screen. As soon as their finger is released, a number of actions are released to ensure the users’ safety.
In an interview with Chicago Agent Magazine, the creator of LifeLine Response, Peter Cahill said, “I believe I can stop these attacks from ever taking place.” He was right – two weeks after the app was on the market, it reportedly saved two potential victims.
These tips really can save lives. We hope you consider them and please be safe at future house showings.