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Posts from the ‘AgentThink’ Category

16
Apr

Realtors Circa 1989. Masters Of The Cut And Paste.

1989At our meeting this morning we were talking about what it was like being a realtor 25 yrs ago. It was 1989. The year I started in real estate. In a room with 20 agents only 2 had been in the business longer than 8 yrs. The changes we have seen over the years are quite staggering and since nearly 60% of the Realtors currently working today have less than 10 years experience (check out a blog post I wrote on the subject here), they really have no idea what it was like in the ‘good old days’ to list or sell a property but I suppose none of that should really matter. They operate by today’s standards and are used to smart phones and Google maps. Frankly there were a lot of blank faces when we talked about legal size offers with carbon pages, how we were sceptical of fax machines, and had to write crazy financing conditions like assuming mortgages, vendor take-backs, selling 2nd mortgages. So just for kicks I asked a bunch of long time Realtors to talk about their experiences 20+ years ago compared to today. The answers are hilarious and brought back a lot of memories.
1. MLS books we guarded with our lives. Often very thick, they were broken up by district and came out every few weeks. Properties took longer to sell but you had to get used to calling about a listing and learning that it had sold a week ago.
2. Also had daily “tear sheets”. Each 8.5 X 11 had 4 listings which were perforated. You would tear out the listings that were interesting and store them in little black binders. One agent I knew had a binder just full of funny listings with terrible spelling or grammar. (you know who you are).
3. Agents had pagers and used pay phones to return calls. Argh! Always a drag to have to break paper money to get a quarter.
4. When rates were high (15%+ sometimes) Sellers would often agree to pay money up front to buy down the interest rate. Agents were skilled at creating these clauses.
5. Agents had to get mortgage details prior to listing a home because if the mortgage was at a good rate it was often smart to transfer that mortgage to a buyer and then do a vendor take back 2nd mortgage. We would then try to sell that 2nd mortgage so the seller could get their cash out of the sale. Sometimes we blended mortgages too and had to calculate the payments. Crazy complicated but standard practice.
6. Processing listings and producing feature sheets took forever. Take pictures of the property, take the film to get developed, pick out the good ones, tape them to a piece of paper and then photocopy it for open houses. They were pretty much always in black and white. We were masters of the cut and paste.
7. Agents relied heavily on the secretaries to create feature sheets. We didn’t have marketing are graphics people.
8. If you had a good listing, you would go around and drop a bunch off at other real estate offices. I have to say that I still see that once in a while although usually for exclusive listings.
9. If you had a client out-of-town you had to snail mail everyone and wait for paperwork to come back. No one had a fax machine, although clients could find one at a business centre and go there and wait for your fax which was on thin thermal paper. The ink would eventually fade so you couldn’t really save files for any length of time.
10. Forget about lock boxes. If you were out showing houses you had to go around to offices to pick up keys and then drop them back after you were done. And yes, sometimes we would forget.
11. Obviously no computers so no CRMs. Our databases were in our day-timers. If you lost it you were screwed.
12.There was no such thing as a home stager so what you saw was what you sold.
13. Offices were packed with people in large “bullpens” and pretty much everyone smoked so there were ashtrays all over the place and plenty of whisky near by.
14. When you arrived at the office in the morning the secretary would hand you your stack of pink “while you were out” message slips. At your desk you would sort trough them and then jam them on a desk skewer.
15. We all wore suits and ties. No jeans. Ever.
16. All our paperwork was done in triplicate legal size with carbon paper between the copies. When photocopiers were used more no one could figure out how to print double-sided offers. There was always at least two pages that were upside down on one side.
17. We needed 6 copies of an offer. One for the buyer, seller, each agent and each lawyer.
18. Caravans. After every meeting we would all jump in our cars and tour the listings of the day. No one wanted to be last and sometimes if you got a listing but had trouble pricing it, you would get agents to write down a suggested price on the back of their business card so you could show the seller. What?!?!
19. We used the Perly’s Map book to get around (no gps) and had this huge book called the Bowers book which was kind of like a reverse phone book with properties listed by street.
20. No condos.
21. Training? Not so much. Sell houses or move on.
22. We all worked for the Seller. There were no BRAs.
23. There were no standard clauses stored somewhere. We would cut and paste clauses or write new ones. Webforms didn’t exist.
24. A good deposit was $10,000
25. No one ever argued about commissions. EVER!

Well, we’ve come along way in 20+ years. This isn’t just a trip down memory lane. What sticks out the most for me was that we all worked full time at the office. We were in every morning. Started our day the same way…everyday. Today we have incredible technologies that keep us connected to the business from anywhere we are. Effectively, besides actually showing property, you could be on a beach in Miami and no one would know. Still, there were no efficiencies at work back then. We had to work hard to survive and buyers and sellers saw value in our service.
Here’s something else to consider. After reviewing how we worked 25 years ago, and thinking about how you work today…..What will it be like 25 years from now?

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.

10
Apr

What Does It Cost To Farm A Neighbourhood?

farming So you want to be a Realtor? Well most books you read out there will tell you that you need to farm a neighbourhood. Hey, I’m not saying that rule is written in stone because in this day and age you can prospect from your social groups or by targeting a particular age or demographic through tools like Facebook. But there are advantages to working one neighbourhood…especially one that you live in. Obviously you are familiar with it. People see you out and about (maybe with your dog) so there maybe some recognition. You go to the local stores and of course you tour properties in the vicinity to gain expert knowledge. Your geographic farm is only as big as you determine, but the realities are that the bigger the area, the more expensive it is to farm it and promote it. I like to tell new agents that you should target one or two buildings or about 500 homes before taking on more. So, last week we did a little noodling in our office about just how expensive farming can be. We outlined the action and the cost associated with it. Here’s what we came up with;

farm 2

farm 1

As you can see there is a healthy mix of the good old tried and true techniques that I believe should not be disqualified. They still work and provide the public with name recognition. They include newsletters, flyers, local paper ads, door knocking, cold calling. Add into the mix some ideas, like joining local BIA’s and neighbourhood committees, holding buyer or seller seminars and sponsoring kids teams and you have the making of a fairly substantial marketing program. On top of those more traditional approaches, social media has given the savvy realtor even more tools. Agents are creating neighbourhood channels, websites and Facebook groups, to speak with authority about what’s happening in the area. They are using video to promote local attractions and businesses and are tweeting out the latest gossip. They aren’t mentioning that they are Realtors right away though. It’s a round-about marketing technique that aims at gaining trust before asking for the business. It’s about proving to buyers and sellers that you are more dialed in to the nuances of the neighbourhood than the next guy.
You do all these things are for the sole purpose of networking (prospecting in real estate parlance). For the most part the things that you do take more time than money, but when you are starting off, you’ve got nothing but time.
Add it up and you have an idea on what it’s all going to cost you. About $20,000 per year. That falls in line with our company’s belief in spending about 10% of your earnings on marketing. The cost associated with the actions we came up with were based on actual costs that agents in my office spent and we tried to limit the size of the farm area to 1000 doors. Obviously there are some economies of scale in farming. For example, the cost to produce a video isn’t going to change depending on the size of your farm but the cost of gifts, newsletters and flyers will. There is one other factor to consider and that is location. A billboard in Rosedale (one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods) is going to cost a lot more than one in Kingston Ontario. Don’t let these numbers scare you. In a perfect world you would accomplish all this and more. For now though it’s important to recognize that some of the best things you can do is get out there and shake some hands. That’s the most cost-effective farming you can do!
Is there any downside to geographic farming? Sure. a Client you’ve taken out a bunch of times decides to look across town and thinking that you don’t know anything about it hires another agent. The best defense is a good offence so while you are out, let the clients know that you are familiar with all the neighbourhoods of the city.

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.

31
Mar

Client or Customer? If It Quacks Like A Duck…

duckWe all know it. In real estate there are differences between clients and customers. We learn these differences very early in our education and training. We talk about fiduciary duties, accounting, fair and honest service etcetera, but the reality is that often those lines get blurred and that puts us into a difficult situation. Case in point. An agent, lets call him Terry, gets a call on one of his listings. The couple want to look at it at 5pm on a Thursday. Terry is not available to show the property so he gives the lead to Fran, an agent in his office who often acts as a buyer agent for him. Fran meets the couple at the condo and shows them around. They spend a long time there and ask Fran a bunch of questions about the property such as, what closing are the sellers looking for, what is included and excluded, and what facilities are in the building. Fran is happy to answer their questions. After a few minutes, it is clear that this couple is very interested in the condo. They start asking more questions about past sales, additional parking costs, maintenance fees and reserve funds. Fran knows the building and answers their questions. Finally the couple tell Fran that they are prepared to make an offer. They want to know why the seller is selling, what the Seller is likely to accept, closing date, and how much commission the seller will be paying and what clauses they should include in their offer. Fran is no dummy. She advises the couple that the property is inline with past sales and is well priced but gives no details into motivation or details into the listing contract.
The couple tell Fran that their lawyer has advised them not to sign a BRA and that they should only enter into a customer agreement. They also feel that it is only fair that since they contacted the Selling agent directly they should only pay 1/2 the commission however they still want Fran to prepare the offer. So here is the crux of the situation. Fran, has treated them, for the most part, like clients. She has provided information and offered advice on the property before establishing what kind of relationship the couple wished to assume. This creates a problem for Fran. If something were to go wrong during the transaction the couple could hold Fran responsible. She has after all put herself into an implied client/buyer relationship. If she knew that the couple wanted only to be customers, her answers on most of the questions would have been much simpler…”Please have your lawyer direct his questions to the Sellers or the Sellers agent”. By doing so, she exonerates herself from any potential question of representation.
As to the comments about commission, the answer again is simple. “My firm has been retained by the sellers to market their property for sale. The details of that contract are confidential and do not impact the sale price”.
It is only human nature to want to help and that desire becomes stronger when there are dollar signs on the other side, but the pitfalls of taking too many assumptions can be equally devastating. The example above highlights the importance of that critical first interaction with a potential buyer who you meet through a direct call or even at an open house. The realities of the Toronto market are that buyers are looking for a price advantage, just don’t let your eagerness to make a deal cloud your judgement.

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.

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