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January 7, 2013

Top Ten RealtyLab Stories of 2012

by mark mclean

resolutionsWell, I’m back in the office after an all too brief Christmas staycation, and things are humming along nicely at our office. It’s almost like someone flipped a switch and all the agents just showed up. I love the start of the year because I believe in making resolutions. The reality is that you can choose to make a resolution anytime, but for me, January 1st, is a sensible date to try new things, set new goals, or simply shake off the bad karma. Don’t listen to those people who said “I made a resolution in 1995 never to make a resolution”! They are just bitter because they can’t keep promises to themselves.

January 1st is also the time to reflect on the past year. I’m pretty sure no one ever said on June 17th “wow, this has been a pretty crazy year”. Life Magazine doesn’t do the top pictures of 2012 in May and your local rock channel doesn’t count down the top 100 hits of the year in September. NO, they do it in January, or in the days leading up to it.  Whether we like it or not, January 1st is THE day, so get over it. Personally I love those best of’s. If I somehow missed something, the “best of”, catches me up perfectly.

So last year I set a bunch of goals on where I wanted to be. I think I’m running at about an 80% success rate. I can live with that. One of my biggest successes was right here on this blog as I tripled the number of visitors who came to my sight. Just over 40,000 views in 2012. Amazing. Hopefully in 2013 I will find ways to get that even higher. So, incase you missed it, here is RealtyLab’s top posts of 2012.

10. In March I posed a simple question to the agents in out office. What makes you successful   I then proceeded to write everything down on the board and then rearrange the list according to whether the thing that made you successful was something that was inherent in you or if you made it happen. This was a great exercise that got us all thinking.

9. Back in May of 2012 I ran an office meeting where I asked agents to shout out the things that they have reasonable knowledge about. The post was called  In Real estate Jack of All Trades is Actually a Good Thing   This was a great meeting and we came out with about 70 things. I’m sure we could have come up with more if we really tried. The whole exercise demonstrated that you get what you pay for. Our commissions are well-earned. Will a mere posting company help you find a mold inspector or offer you advice on who to talk to about minor home renovations? No, I didn’t think so.

8. The next post, written nearly a year ago called A tale of Two Listings  talked about what was making the biggest news in Toronto’s super hot real estate market; listing homes really low in hopes of getting an insane bidding war. An agent, who shall go nameless boldly fanned the flames on this unnerving practice by having a pool in his office with bets on how many offers he would receive. As Gordon Geko would say “Greed is good”. Naw, I don’t think so.

7. Well I’m happy to say that my video blog post on why I wanted to be a Director at The Toronto Real Estate Board   helped me win a seat as a Director at Large. I was up against 8 other very worthy contenders but this video was enough to put me over the top. Working with other members of the board has been a complete eye opener for me, a chance to get a peek at the “man behind the curtain”. I have to say, it is a lot of work. Don’t take any of this for granted, and if you don’t like the direction being taken, then make yourself be heard and GET INVOLVED. I am currently the Chair of the Condominium Committee.

6. This next post started with what I thought was nothing more than junk mail I received back in March. I almost erased it but my curiosity got the best of me. In I Need My House Sold a person outlines her strategy for trying to sell her house herself. First of all, I’m all in favour of trying to sell your own house, but this person needs some serious ad writing tips. Nothing says desperation like “I need my house sold!” The reality is that everything will sell if it is priced right.

5. Back in April of this year one of my agents was pulling out his hair because he lost about 10 offers in a row. I said he should look for a FSBO as another agent had told me about an awesome house that should have sold for considerably more but didn’t….because the sellers opted to sell it themselves. Ah, the classic story isn’t it? Seller thinks he can do it better. It is a fun read. Buy a FSBO and Avoid Multiple Offers  When I posted this article on Twitter I got a few, less than complimentary comments from FSBO companies.

4. Back in mid-June I wrote a post on Marketing Fees that created a fair bit of chatter on Twitter and Facebook. There was a lot of agent bashing on the practice of adding a marketing fee onto the commission. I’m sure you have seen them before…Commission is 2.5% less $500 marketing fee. Pretty much every agent called this practice repugnant. About a month after I wrote the post I was reviewing some trade record sheets when I noticed a co-operating broker had included a $50 fee. So, I picked up the phone and called the agent to ask what this fee covered. Can you guess what happened? She never returned my call. Big surprise.

3. In Open Houses aren’t for suckers Anymore  I outlined 10 things agents can do to really rock out that open house. I did a fair amount of research on this topic and talked to some of the agents in our company who are amazing “open housers”. When I attended the NAR conference in November I heard an amazing bit of information that I never really considered. People who come to your open house are actually interviewing YOU.  Our office has an in-depth policy on doing open houses for other agents. In it, we insist that you have more than the basic knowledge of the property. Simple, I know, but you would be surprised how many agents do open houses cold.

2. In March we had an interesting story where the Seller signed back the offer for more than the list price.  In the real estate conditions of Toronto  last spring it was clear that some people had some pretty crazy ideas on what their homes were worth. The media had been constantly drilling into our heads stories of homes selling wildly over asking. It got to the point where sellers were EXPECTING it so when it didn’t happen they just thought they could sign back for more. The post clearly outlined the need for agents to provide their clients with a better understanding of the process and the possibilities.

1. The Top post of 2012 was Agent Statistics at The Toronto Real Estate Board Hey what can I say, I’m a numbers guy. With our ever-increasing membership at TREB, now over 36,000, I was interested in knowing what kind of money agents were making out there. The research proved fascinating. Now, when I’m interviewing agents I give them the stats and ask one simple question. What are you going to do to make yourself better than the other 30,000 agents already licensed? This post spurred the most chatter on LinkedIn and Twitter. It begs the question, do we really need this many agents? I have my own opinions.

What I learned over the year is that RealtyLab has found it’s groove. Agents love to discuss best practices and they want more tips on building their brand and their business. Well that’s good news for me. I’m happy to share content for my meetings because I know that is a good thing if we are all better agents.

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