Real estate: More than just sales

Members of the public seem to think that all I do is sell houses. While that is part of my work, the amount of time I spend selling represents just 20 per cent of my job activities.

The role of the REALTOR®, in my view, is not so much a salesperson but more of a consultant – a good Realtor consults with his or her clients, guides them, and helps them to arrive at sound decisions. This consulting role is crucial because the stakes are high – the client is buying or selling a home, one of their biggest financial investments ever.

As a consultant, a good Realtor explains all of the pros and cons of a property or process to the clients and helps them to understand the true value of a property.

When I’m not consulting, the rest of my time is devoted to many other aspects of the job that consumers may not see or understand, but which are equally important in meeting the needs of my clients. Research occupies 35 per cent of my time, while prospecting takes another 35 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent of my time is spent on administrative tasks and duties.

Whereas a retail salesman is all about unloading a product, real estate sales is a different beast. Our focus must be on striving to promote and protect our clients’ best interests. This is a crucial distinction. I have no interest in selling the wrong product to the wrong person at the wrong price.

Many people seem to believe that ours is a simple job. They think we just fill out a listing agreement, plunk a sign on the lawn, and the property sells. That is far from the whole picture. A great deal of research is involved, and although we might make it look easy, people don’t always understand what went on in the preparation stage.


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Research is essential to success in this business, and it’s the part that the public does not always see because it happens on our own time, behind the scenes. When working with a buyer, a Realtor must thoroughly investigate an area and various properties, among other things. When working with a seller, we must develop a marketing strategy and come up with a price for a given property based on our research. Wide exposure of a property through various channels is the right approach to selling a home and does the best for the sellers.

All of this research is important and time consuming, but it is time well spent since it helps us serve our clients. Information about a property, its current or future zoning, possible changes to pertinent bylaws, material facts, defects and valuation are just some examples of details that must be researched in depth and verified.

A good Realtor is straightforward and tells it like it is to the clients, even when it may not be what they want to hear. It is hard to tell a seller that their expectation about the selling price of their home is unrealistically high, but it is important to bring reality to the discussion. It can also be difficult to deal with clients who dictate to you or expect you to be at their beck and call — available at all hours of day or night. Sometimes our job is about managing expectations.

I was once showing properties to a new buyer client. He liked one place and insisted on submitting an offer that was 20 per cent less than the asking price, despite my advice to the contrary. Obviously, we lost the bid.

After that, I sat down with him and politely explained how the process works, but I did not sugar-coat my words. I advised him that it’s my role to assess whether a property is priced fairly and then to collaborate with him so he can make an informed decision about whether to bid. I told him that I would help him submit a fair offer on a property he likes.

This frank discussion improved our professional relationship. He came away with a greater respect for my effort and ability. We resumed our search, but because we were now working within a more realistic budget, he ended up purchasing a property that was outside of his initial search area. In the end, however, he was happy with what he got and had a better understanding of how to meet the challenges a buyer can face.

The right approach, in my view, is always to try to present the facts as I see them and to give the client information based on my best estimates, backed by substantial research. Doing this, and providing statistics and background evidence for those numbers, saves my time and that of my clients.

Telling clients what we think they want to hear is a mistake we may be tempted to make, but in the end it causes more damage to the process and perhaps to the industry. In fact, it may cause clients to think I am a slick salesman rather than a Realtor.

 

 

Ravi Minhas is a Caledon REALTOR® and has been a member of the Toronto Real Estate Board for eight years. She serves as a volunteer on the Marketing & Communication Committee at the Ontario Real Estate Association.

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Real estate: More than just sales

Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, 2013 Receives Royal Assent

Last spring, Minister Tracy MacCharles introduced Bill 55, Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, 2013 in the legislature. Bill 55 sought to strengthen consumer protection in the areas of door-to-door sales, debt settlement services and real estate transactions.

The original bill presented by the government proposed two changes to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA), 2002. First, the bill called for more flexible remuneration of fees and/or commissions payable to real estate brokers. Under the old Act, consumers could pay either commission or an agreed upon fee, but not both. OREA supported the government’s plan to remove this restriction.

Secondly, the bill proposed mandatory retention of all unsuccessful written offers by the selling brokerage for a period of time to be prescribed by regulation. Although the government was committed to pushing the bill forward, OREA was concerned that section 35.1(2) would create an undue administrative burden on real estate brokerages that would be responsible for collecting, retaining and managing thousands of offers annually.

OREA worked hard to make their case to Minister MacCharles, RECO and ministry senior staff. In addition to numerous meetings and submissions, OREA volunteers and staff made their final appeal to the government during the bill’s final committee phase.

We are happy to report, that during clause by clause review, the government responded to our concerns and passed an amendment to section 35.1 (2). This should provide real estate brokerages with some flexibility in complying with the requirement. Specifically, the government amendment added a provision which permits a selling brokerage to retain offers or copies of all other prescribed documents related to those offers. This should mitigate the administrative burden on brokerages by allowing them to comply with the section without having to keep copies of all offers.

The bill passed third reading in the legislature on November 27th, 2013 and received Royal Assent earlier this month.

Although we have much work to do on determining “all other prescribed documents”, this is a big win for Ontario REALTORS®. The government’s willingness to engage our members and adopt their advice is testament to the great work OREA’s Government Relations Committee members do and the strong relationship the association has built with the government and the opposition parties.

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Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, 2013 Receives Royal Assent