I don't save lives, teach people, heal people or develop infrastructure to improve the city. I am not a doctor, nurse, teacher, or city worker. Those are professions I hold in high regard, people I respect a lot. The heaviest thing I lift for work is an iPad, and my greatest work-related injury has been a paper cut. 22,000 other people in BC have the same license that I have and it's very easy to get, and apparently, very easy to keep. I am not special, I don't do anything really great.
Now that we've got that out of the way: I work very, very hard. This is an 'open letter' to whoever needs to kill ten minutes out of their day. What spurred this was a recent Twitter debate between myself and a writer at Postmedia that that basically slagged realtors. As a realtor, we have thick skins. You need one, or you wont last long in this business. The thick skin is necessary to survive the barrage of comments, jokes, and articles about the industry. “Glorified car salesmen,” “scum,” and “snakes” are some of the nicer terms realtors are often referred to as. I'm going to start with what my day looks like on a Monday...
6:30am: A text message comes in from a client. He works in construction, is up early, and needs me to send his bank a strata document that they've requested. Text sent.
7:00 am: I look up the new listings in my area because I know people are going to ask me, "Hey, what's the asking price of that house on Frances Street?" It is a realtor's job to be in the know and research hot listings.
8:00 am: As I brew a cup of coffee, two notaries email me. One is asking for a phone number for a mutual client, the other one can't figure out why the numbers weren't adding up on her statement of adjustments. I go through my files and discover she is missing an addendum. I send it to her.
9:00 am: I arrive in Maple Ridge (I live in Burnaby) to let a home inspector in to inspect a townhouse. I bring my aforementioned iPad (1.6 pounds) so that I can do work while the inspector does his thing. He takes two hours, in that two-hour span, I read strata documents for a buyer I have interested in a building in Langley, so I read 232 pages of strata documents from the last two years to make sure their pit bull dogs are allowed, that there aren't any upcoming assessments, confirm the listing agent screwed up on the square footage, as it is actually smaller than he advertised, etc. etc. etc.
11:00 am: The inspector is done and we do the walk thru but the deal falls apart because the plumbing in the unit was PolyButylene. I have to explain to my buyers exactly what that means; the pros, the cons, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
11:30 am: I hit a Wendy's drive-thru as I have to make it from Langley to Port Moody to show my condo listing to a realtor and their buyer. I eat my lunch in the car, on the drive back in... This is not unusual for me.
12:00 pm: realtor and buyer show up, are in and out in two minutes and say "Oh, we thought rentals were allowed here." They are not. I kindly tell them that the MLS listing I wrote clearly states no rentals are allowed... They smile and look at me like I am alien....There is a language barrier, I move on.
12:30 pm: I swing by a home to take a look for a potential new listing. I have done my homework, know the area, know the building, know the sales. The guy has his dad there with him. He's a younger Italian guy, a nice guy. His dad on the other hand is also nice, and knows everything - and if you think I am kidding, just ask him and he will tell you. I let him know that the unit upstairs recently sold for $345,000 and the dad says, "Ma, no way. Are you a crazy? This unit has the crown moldings I put them in a myself, this a one is worth $20,000 more!"
I quickly do the math in my head: $1.35 per linear foot x 150 linear feet = two hundred bucks. "Um sir, the moldings look great - I really like how many joins there are, you don't see that often, were you going for an 'unfinished' look?”
He replies, "This apartamento, she's the besht one in the building. We no gonna sell for less than $365,000. You are the Real estate, make it happen." I told him I would go back to the office, look for a magic wand, and get back to him. I leave.
1:30 pm: I am back in the office to price out a condo in East Vancouver. It is a referral from a friend. I spend 30 minutes creating this report with comparable sales, photos, pricing etc. and send it off. Chances of me getting that listing? I would say 20%. Many people want second and third opinions on what their home is worth, so I find one out of every five evaluations I do turn in to a listing. Ah well, on to the next....
2:00 pm: I meet buyers I have been working with for months at Starbucks at Brentwood Mall (my go-to spot). I order a tall London Fog and wait for them to show up. We write an offer. I have pre-read the strata documents and we chat about the building and what's happening with it. After writing the offer, they tell me that their mortgage broker told them their dad needs to be on title for them to get financing. The dad is not there, but "he's available anytime” (offers need to be in by 4pm) and “he's close by” (Blundell Road in Richmond) and surprise surprise, “he doesn't know how to use technology to digitally sign.”....Off to Richmond I go.
4:00 pm:Got the offer all signed up by all three parties, get to my home office, scan it, send it to the listing agent, and cross our fingers.
5:00 pm: I sit down to eat dinner with the girlfriend, and my wrist (Apple Watch) is going off like fireworks. I try to avoid checking the messages, but peek when she looks down to take another bite. She's going on about how she needs to bring groceries to her grandmother, do the laundry, and maybe get a manicure... Meanwhile a realtor is calling me off the hook trying to get in to one of my listings and the alarms going off. I am trying to listen to my girlfriend and quickly type back alarm code when my girlfriend says, "You're not even listening to me....I snap back, "YES I AM! You need to take your grandmother to get a manicure and put the groceries in the dryer!"....She's not amused.
6:00 pm: I head to my indoor soccer game at 8 Rinks. The listing agent for the offer we wrote tells me to "be by my phone between 6-7" when we are discussing offers in case "your offer is close, and we need to make changes." So it's on the field I go, run around for three minutes, come off and check my phone, rinse and repeat for a half hour when he calls, and I have to excuse myself from the game to take the call. Game over for me, good luck boys.
7:30 pm: I receive a text from said realtor, "Sorry (he wasn't) we decided to go with a stronger (more money) offer." I call my buyers... Some tears are shed (I won't say if it was by them or me) when I give them the bad news. They are now 0/6 on offers.
8-9:00 pm: I print out all of the expired listings I need to call tomorrow to see if I can get an appointment with them to prove that I can sell their recently-expired listing that another agent couldn't sell. I then create mail out cards on my computer so that I can send them to the printer the next day.
9:30 pm: I get in to bed and watch Orange Is The New Black with the girlfriend until my phone rings at 10:45pm. It's a realtor asking me if they can see one of my listings tomorrow at 10:00am. Yes, 11 hour notice... I shake my head.
That's my day on Monday. Tuesday to Friday looks similar. I made 0 dollars, and 0 cents.
A colleague of mine has worked with the same buyer for six months-ish, and they have gone 0/12 on making offers. In this market, that's not an abnormality. That's approximately:
3,000 pages of strata documents to read
120 homes viewed
24 weekends booked off
8 tanks of gas
3 pre-offer inspections
80 hours of work
10 disappointing phone calls
and 0 dollars made.
The buyer got frustrated and decided to just rent. That's it, all done... Just rent... Thanks for the memories.
I am not a victim. This is the profession I chose, and to be honest, it's a job I love. My phone rings from 6:00am to 11:00pm, I can't go away on weekends, I eat lunch in my car and I drive 40,000 km per year. I receive 50 emails per day, 200 texts and 30 phone calls. I miss family dinners, soccer games, am late to birthdays, and haven't had a weekend off since the last changing of the pope.
My friend calls me and says, “It's 35 degrees, lets go to the beach!”
Me: “Nah, I would rather put on suit in this heat, set up metal signs all over the city and drive around to five cities in four hours showing apartments....I'm good thanks, but you guys have fun!” and most days I do not get paid. In fact, the average realtor completed 3.8 deals in 2015. That means the average real estate agent got paid less than four times last year, yet the above is what their days look like.
Some will argue, “Well you just have to turn your phone off!” Hold it right there - do not pass go, do not collect $200, and go turn your Real Estate license in. realtors that aren't accessible will be looking for a new job soon enough.
Remember, there are 21,999 other agents in BC who will be happy to answer their phones and take that client's business. Most people do not realize that almost 50% of realtors that get licensed will hang up their license within one year... Yep, you heard me correct: 12 months, in and out, see ya.
For an industry where the media says all realtors are making tons of money, it's weird that 50 percent of people that try this line of work out say “F#$% this, I'm outta here!” within one year. Perhaps it's not all rainbows and unicorns? But that would make for a boring story in the media.
When we get paid, we get paid well. you can make 5k-6k for selling a condo in the Tri-Cities. What some people forget is that we pay our offices every month or give them a sizeable percentage of our commissions (the percentage depends on brokerage). Then we pay the Real Estate Board, the Real Estate Council, gas, mail outs, signs, advertising in print and online, insurance, website, closing gifts, pay for strata documents, pay for cleaners sometimes, pay for stagers etc. etc. etc. Oh, and of course, the client wants a "kick-back" or else there are 21,999 other agents that would give him one that he could have used. That's a lot of money going out when you are selling 3.8 places a year.
This writer I mentioned earlier blamed us realtors for not "doing anything" about the the terrible agents that have been in the news lately. What I don't understand is, does this guy think realtors LIKE hearing about this stuff in the news? I refuse to work at a company like that, and lets face it....most of these unethical realtors are with companies that are not reputable, that have not been around a long time. My office doesn't even allow our agents to purchase their own listings....case closed. It's that easy. Every realtor that I know, my colleagues, are all embarrassed and outraged with the rest of the public about this stuff. White-out on contracts, managers telling agents to convince clients to take low offers, shadow flipping, all of it - good realtors HATE it.
I wish there were less realtors, I really do. I have received phone calls from agents saying they have stumbled across my blog posts and have asked me to take them down because it 'makes realtors look bad'. I respectfully disagreed. I have no problem sharing stories about the industry with everyone, I know my colleagues/realtor friends and I do enough to separate us from those other agents. This is why when a realtor friend of mine (regardless of what company they work for) completes a deal, I am legitimately happy for them. I know how hard they work, and THOSE are the agents that should be getting the listings.
I can tell you the difference between torch-on roof vs asphalt shingles, copper plumbing vs pex, the value of the home around the corner, the difference between a healthy strata building versus one that's financially unhealthy, current mortgage rates, and pretty much anything real estate-related. I get paid to market properly, to negotiate, and to write legally enforceable contracts that will hold up in court. I get paid to be accessible and show properties.
I care about my clients as friends, literally all of them. When their offer doesn't get accepted, it takes me days to shake it. I care about my job, my profession and the integrity of it. Every industry has bad apples, if only 1% of realtors in BC are bad, it means that's over 200 bad agents lurking around. It's not hard to get weekly stories from these 200 agents, but it's a small small fraction. I am friends with so many realtors that work tirelessly, and are top class agents. Are there not 1% of bad plumbers? 1% of bad accountants? The top 1% in this business make great money, and the bottom 1% are bad apples, but the rest of us in the 98% in between work tirelessly for our clients. We put their time ahead of ours.
Should it be harder to get a Real Estate License? YES
Should it be harder to keep a Real Estate License? YES
Are there shady realtors? YES
Should the Council come down hard on them? ABSOLUTELY
We aren't all like that. Some of us care about our clients. Some of us are passionate about what we do, passionate enough to spend an hour to write an open letter and blog about it.