A real estate agent in Brampton, Ont., is warning her colleagues about what she described as a "shady character acting as a buyer" who allegedly asked her for a late-night meeting and a ride in his car.
Anna Powell, a real estate agent for Re/Max Realty Services Inc. in Brampton, posted a warning on Facebook about her encounter with a man on March 11. "Need to send out ALERT to my fellow female REALTORS," she wrote in a post published on March 13.
Peel Regional Police said they received a complaint last weekend about a "suspicious person" and have "spoken to" the individual.
"It was found that there were no grounds for criminal charges," said Const. Rachel Gibbs, spokesperson for Peel police.
According to Powell, the man, who acted as a potential buyer, arrived at her office, requested that they take a drive in his car to the Caledon, Ont., area at night to look at property and followed her in his vehicle after she left the office. She managed to lose him in traffic, she said.
"Awful things have happened in our industry that you have read about," Powell told CBC.
"I'm not a rookie. I'm not in a desperate situation. My fear was for that young female agent. If someone wanted to go to a remote location, an agent might agree because she might be seeing commission stardust. At least we have each other's backs."
After Powell posted her warning, the Brampton Real Estate Board sent out an alert to all staff, warning agents about the man. The board declined to speak publicly about the alert.
Powell met with the man — whom she described as East Asian with a husky build who is either in his late 30s or early 40s — at about 8 p.m. last Friday. He had told her he could only meet as late as possible and had recently sold property in Vancouver so he had cash to buy a house in Ontario.
Powell said that the man told her he was interested in buying property in the Caledon area. After looking at listings in her office, he suggested going there at 9 p.m. at night. She ended the meeting and, as she escorted him out, he took a quick look around the brokerage office and remarked that it was empty. She told him the cleaners were still there and escorted him out the door.
"He suggested that we take a drive in his car. At 9 p.m., that is a ridiculous request," she said. "I didn't know what his motive was. I can imagine."
When she left the office, she saw him in a van and the van followed her car. She said she deliberately lost him, driving across two lanes of traffic at one point, so he would not follow her home.
"I didn't report this incident to anybody at first. I thought it just happened to me. But I heard that the following day, someone in my office had a similar incident."
Re/Max, in an inter-office alert to staff, released the man's name and urged staff to call the brokerage if he tries to make contact.
Powell's posting has been shared more than 8,000 times.
"Please ladies, be careful, no deal is worth it. Safety first," she wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, police urge real estate agents to:
- Get identification and contact information from a client, including name, address and a copy of a driver's licence.
- Bring a co-worker along when viewing property.
- Let their office and another person know where they are or where they are going to be.
- Keep a cellphone handy when showing homes.
- Be aware of a home's exits in case they have to leave quickly.
- Trust their instincts.
"If someone doesn't feel right, remove yourself from that situation," Gibbs said.