BY KATHY BEVAN
Somewhat like the great Phoenix of legend, Re/Max Real Estate Centre in south Edmonton is rising from the ashes of a disastrous office fire, and looking forward to getting its 42 Realtors back home soon.
The Re/Max office was completely destroyed by fire earlier this year, along with all the businesses inhabiting a small strip mall. The fire, which may have been deliberately set, broke out at one end of the mall and moved through the roof space too quickly for firefighters to contain. Broker/owner Gary Krutzfeldt and partner Caren Mitchell could only stand by and watch in the wee hours of the morning, as flames roared through the building, leaving only a gutted frame.
“We pretty well lost everything. Three or four Realtors, along with our administrator, were able to retrieve some files a couple of days later, but everything else was gone, including most of the personal possessions people had at the office,” says Krutzfeldt. “We did, however, have backup tapes of some of our records and accounting files, which were stored off‑site. But most of our Realtors, other than our home office people, kept their files at the office and didn’t have backup information.”
An insurance policy covered office equipment, including the computers that melted from the fire’s heat. Not covered, however, were a half dozen computers owned by Realtors, which had been left at their desks.
The first few days after the fire, Re/Max Real Estate Centre’s Realtors camped out at Caren Mitchell’s home. Then a good neighbour stepped in and offered some nearby office space.
“The Riverbend Athletic Club allowed us to use their large meeting room for 10 days, complete with phones and computers, until we could get set up in another real estate office, and then wouldn’t let us pay them for the time we were there,” says Krutzfeldt. “They were just so generous in their support in a very difficult time.”
The ruins of the old office have been torn down to make way for a new strip mall, which should be ready for tenants, including the real estate office, by Christmas.
Re‑establishing an office for everyone to work out of has been difficult; re‑creating referral networks for many of the Realtors may be impossible.
Office staff worked overtime with co‑operating brokers to recreate files of past and ongoing deals involving other offices. On double‑enders, they contacted the homeowners and buyers involved to recreate the necessary documentation. However, years of priceless client referral files are gone forever.
“We have a couple of Realtors who have been in the business for 25 years — that’s a lot of contact names that have disappeared,” says Krutzfeldt, who opened the Re/Max Real Estate Centre office as manager in 1989.
On lessons learned after this office disaster, Krutzfeldt has some advice for other brokers and Realtors: “Most of us don’t pay enough attention to the contents we are insuring, or do a full inventory, because we think that at worst, we’ll only need a portion of that coverage at any one time. You never dream your entire office will burn down.”
He says: “My biggest lesson from all of this: when insuring your business, you have to plan for total destruction. Review your insurance policy at least every two years to make certain it has replacement coverage that is realistic. Keep backup files of everything important off‑site. And buy some fireproof filing cabinets for your paper files.”