Tis the season. The start of a new year things are a little slow and agents are laying out plans to increase their business in 2017. If the previous year was less than spectacular many agents look inward to analyse their performance, where they spent money, what worked and what didn’t and formulate a plan for improvement in the new year. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the business plan can go along way in planning what the year ahead will look like. Then there is the other group of agents who blame their bad year on external forces like the market, bad luck or even their brokerage. Their knee jerk reaction is to switch things up with radical ideas like hitting a yoga retreat for a couple of weeks to get realigned or, heaven forbid, uproot their lives and change brokerages. Now I’m not saying a move isn’t a bad idea. There are other factors at play but if you are making a move it has to be for the right choices.
As a manager for nearly 10 years I have interviewed more than my fair share of agents, both new and experienced, and I can safely say there is one question no one has asked. ‘What happens when I get a RECO complaint? What is the company policy and how will you help me if I am right or wrong?’ You see, no one goes into the real estate business expecting to have someone file a complaint against you, so naturally it’s not on your radar. However, as the old expression goes…if you are going to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs. So be prepared.
The reality is that most RECO complaints that come by my desk are frivolous at best. They are either misunderstandings that could be resolved with a quick phone call or are as a result of an irate agent or member of the public who felt they were mistreated or lied to. But innocent or guilty a RECO complaint puts you on the defensive right away followed closely by a sinking feeling of shame which moves to anger and finally frustration. Now you have to deal with it. Full stop. Oh and it will drag on for years and just when you think they forgot about you, a letter comes asking for more information.
Recognizing that over the course of your career you are likely to do thousands of deals. Take it from me…you will get a complaint. It is inevitable. So it should be one of the first questions you should ask a manager at a potential brokerage office. In my experience, there is no standard for handling complaints. Here are just a few I have experienced; One company I knew had a very simple strategy… if you get a complaint, you are fired. One manager of a large company asked the complaining agent to write out the details of the complaint to him, and then he passed it to his agent with a simple message…deal with it. Still another had a lawyer on retainer and the agent simply pays a set fee to handle the complaint, while other companies, like ours, have legal counsel on staff.
As silly as it sounds, there is a belief that the new shiny new companies out there have great ideas, fancy marketing materials, and promises of real estate glory, but if they cannot support you through the inevitable RECO complaint process you may regret your decision down the road.
Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association .The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE. Currently Mark is writing this post from a yoga retreat in The Bahamas.