Kim Fox, a realtor with Re/Max, said she always tries to bring somebody else with her to open houses. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer realtors share precautions in aftermath of Calgary sex assault

“Safety is a huge issue,” says local realtor

Red Deer realtors are sharing information about self-defence and other self-preservation techniques after a Calgary real estate agent was assaulted at an open house last weekend.

”Safety is always a huge issue,” said Kim Fox, a realtor with Re/Max, who’s disturbed that a Calgary colleague was sexually assaulted while at an open house Saturday.

“You can’t be alone. Anyone can walk in.”

Fox, who’s been selling homes for 11 years, usually teams up at open houses with her mortgage broker, an administrative staffer from her agency, or another real estate agent.

Fox has even brought family members along to reduce the safety risk.

“You go out there as a team. You have to,” she said, since realtors tend to have their phone numbers and faces advertised and can therefore be targetted.

“You have to protect yourself … your image is out there…”

The few times that Fox’s “spidey sense” suggested something was off about a client, she left as quickly as possible.

“You’ve got to listen to your gut,” agreed Janice Resch, a realtor with Century 21, who has been selling homes for 25 years.

Only on two occasions did Resch feel too uncomfortable to enter a house with a client.

“I think I said, ‘I can’t right now, something’s come up.’ And I never heard from them again.”

She believes more realtors are now questioning buyers and sellers in their own offices before agreeing to meet them anywhere.

“We want to find out who they are, and what they’re looking for…”

Real estate agents are sharing safety precautions. Some have taken self-defense training and photocopied clients’ drivers licences before going out to a property.

“We’re also taught to be more aware of our surroundings,” said Resch.

Although it’s mostly females who have been attacked on the job, “men are also susceptible,” added the realtor, who said she wouldn’t agree to meet a client at a rural acreage without taking someone else long.

Central Alberta Realtors Association executive officer Larry Westergard said guidance is provided about “keeping safety top of mind.”

But realtors are self-employed entrepreneurs, so it’s up to them to follow suggestions — such as not working alone at open houses if possible.

If realtors can’t “buddy up” with somebody for showings, Lindsay Olver, an owner/broker with Coldwell Banker, said she would have a co-worker call every 10 to 15 minutes. A pre-arranged code word could be used to indicate there was trouble.

“We have a safety protocol. We’re taught to never go into a (house) ahead of the client… to always, always meet the client ahead of time…”

Although nothing can prevent every danger, she added, “We will probably go over the safety precautions again at our next meeting….”

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