New PlowOakville map provides real-time snow clearing updates

Thursday, December 8, 2016 – for immediate release

New PlowOakville map provides real-time snow clearing updates

Oakville’s plows are ready to hit the streets when winter weather arrives, and thanks to a new interactive map residents will be able to track snow-clearing progress in real-time.

PlowOakville, uses GPS technology to track the progress of the town’s plows as they clear roads during a snow event. When plows pass over a road, the colour of the road on the map changes to indicate a plow is operating in the area. As the clean-up continues, roads throughout town will change colour until all plowing is complete.

“Effective snow clearing is an essential service for our residents and a priority for Council,” said Mayor Rob Burton. “This new tool will help residents stay up-to-date on snow clearing progress and stay safe when road conditions are poor.”

The town is also using real-time technology to help monitor how its winter equipment is functioning. With the data provided, staff will be able to proactively identify mechanical issues so that impacts to snow clearing operations can be addressed as quickly as possible.

“We look forward to providing an improved level of communication to residents as a result of this new mapping tool,” said Enrico Scalera, director, Roads and Works Operations. “As we roll it out this winter, we also welcome any feedback in order to make it as user-friendly and helpful as possible.”

Residents are encouraged to contact ServiceOakville at 905-845-6601 during regular business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or at serviceoakville@oakville.ca in order to provide feedback on the town’s winter maintenance operations.

PlowOakville will be available on the Oakville app which can be downloaded for free on iPhone and Android devices. The town will also share snow clearing information on Twitter. Follow @townofoakville for the latest updates.

For more information about PlowOakville and the town’s snow clearing services, visit the snow clearing page.


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New PlowOakville map provides real-time snow clearing updates

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

A wake up call for meeting organizers

There are many times I have heard volunteers say after a meeting, “What a waste of time – we should have been finished an hour ago.” That should be a wake up call to all of us who organize meetings. Even comedian Milton Berle knew how painful meetings could be when he said,“A committee or board is a group of people who take minutes and waste hours.”

I’ve discovered three golden rules for volunteers:

1. give them work

2. never waste their time

3. recognize them.

For EOs and Chairpersons, we need to step up our game and respect our volunteers’ time. I could write a small book on how to improve meetings but here are some tips;

– Never call a meeting for the sake of calling a meeting

– Have a short and concise agenda and stick to it

– Don’t let one or two people dominate the discussion

– Get everyone’s opinion but reduce repetition

– Set a time for the length of the meeting and don’t go over

– If there are only a few items to discuss, try a conference call

Let’s make the volunteer experience productive and satisfying. Now is the time.

 

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A wake up call for meeting organizers

Take the time to talk about time

How many times have you heard an association president say to a potential volunteer, “Oh, this position won’t take much time.”

I’ve been surveying experienced volunteers the last few weeks and the common theme has been that they were not told how much time their volunteer commitment would really take. In every case, it took a whole lot more time!

This has led to frustration on the part of volunteers as they had to give up business or personal appointments to serve or they missed meetings. This is bad for the association and the volunteer.

How can we fix this?

The association and those recruiting need to be far more accurate estimating the time required by providing more information to the volunteer:

– A short explanation of the long term goals of the association – give them the big picture

– The mandate for the committee or task force the volunteer will serve on

– The schedule and location of meetings and the estimated time for each meeting

– Estimating time for reading and preparing for meetings

– Indicating any other events the volunteer may attend (AGM, volunteer leadership training)

 

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Take the time to talk about time

The 4 Ps

Oxford Dictionaries defines marketing as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. The focus is satisfying consumer needs. As real estate professionals, consider two questions: Do you sell products or services? What marketing mix is best?

The answer to the first question is both – you sell products (properties) and services (knowledge of the profession, putting clients’ needs first). The latter, in the form of referrals and repeat business, is the best type of marketing. In addition, you may offer value-added services, such as additional online distribution channels to promote a seller’s property. 

The answer to the second question – marketing mix – is more complex. Activities you choose to bring your product and service to consumers will depend on the brokerage you work for, local market circumstances, and competition. Whatever the combination, however, your marketing mix should include four variables, known as the four Ps – product, promotion, price, and place. This concept was introduced by American marketing management professor Edmund Jerome McCarthy in 1960. 

Briefly, the four Ps are defined as follows:

Product: Tangible products or intangible services offered to consumers

Promotion: The method of communication by which the marketer provides information about the product/service; includes various forms of advertising

Price: The price customers are willing to pay to purchase the product/service; price is dependent on demand 

Place: The market where the product/service is sold 

The four Ps can be applied to real estate if each Ps is broken down to buying (attracting clients/customers who want to sell their properties to the brokerage) and selling (promoting the listed properties). For example:

Buying
Selling

Product (& Service)
Detail the advantages of dealing with a particular brokerage, such as quality/type of service, market niches served, franchise affiliation, additional services offered (e.g., financing, appraisal)
Obtain all necessary information about the property (e.g., location, property size, room size and configuration, amenities) and ensuring information is accurate; obtain knowledge about the neighbourhood (e.g., schools, public transit)

Promotion
Outline institutional and targeted advertising, local/national promotional strategies, MLS®, direct marketing, website content, print media options
Establish a specific marketing plan for seller’s property based on brokerage and broker/salesperson marketing (e.g., advertising, open houses, signage)

Price
Establish what commission (or flat fee) will be charged to represent sellers and buyers, bundled services for the fee, fee flexibility, and special incentives
Determine listing price strategy for optimum marketability based on competing properties, sold properties, expired listings (those listed but removed unsold from the market) and overall market trends

Place
Determine methods to get the message out to target groups (e.g., direct contact by salespeople)
Identify appropriate distribution channels to attract buyers

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Consider the fourth P, place, as the tools you will use to market your services. Such tools include high-quality business cards (which you should distribute at every opportunity), email account (usually through your brokerage), website (your own website or a personalized page on your brokerage’s website), and direct mail (either addressed, non-name addressed, or unaddressed).

Finally, and most importantly, make certain your advertising complies the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, and RECO guidelines.

***

References:

McCarthy, E.J. (1960). Basic marketing, a managerial approach. Homewood, Ill: Richard D. Irwin, Inc.

Ontario Real Estate Association and Acronamic Learning Systems Inc. (2014). Real estate as a professional career. Don Mills, ON: MediaLinx Printing Group.

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The 4 Ps

Make Time for Balanced Living

Making time for balanced living is easier said than done, especially in a career such as real estate. Yet, if you are looking for a long and rewarding real estate career, you will need to live a balanced life in which real estate plays an important role but not the only role.

Following are tips about what you can do to lead a more balanced lifestyle.

Make family a priority

Regardless of what else happens, create time for your family by:

•  Setting aside a specific time frame each day to spend with your family

•  Giving your family your full attention during this time

•  Scheduling weekly family nights

•  Scheduling family days where you spend the entire day with family and do nothing related to work

You may still prospect while enjoying a day out with the family. Just ensure the family is your priority.

Make your own schedule

The advantage of being in real estate is the ability to set your own hours. Be mindful of clients’ schedules, but do not be afraid to tell clients you have a prior commitment.

Plan your day in advance

At the end of each day, prepare a ‘to do’ list for the following day, and arrange tasks in order of priority (i.e., identify and complete the urgent task first). Use the following time-saving techniques:

•  group together similar tasks, such as preparing materials for hosting several upcoming open houses, revising all website content at the same time, or updating photos to spring from winter for listings that have not yet sold

•  if you work from home, try to ensure your workspace remains yours alone

•  keep a ‘notes list’ to record items that come up that require you to take action

In addition, set timelines and stick to them. At the same time, be flexible and allow for and expect interruptions. If you are interrupted, get back to your tasks as soon as possible.

Take care of yourself

Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. When you are tired and/or not feeling well, even the smallest problem may seem like a nightmare.

Feeling good about your health will produce a new outlook on your life, and provide you with more energy to handle all types of issues that may arise.

Tune out

Turn off your cell phone and other communication devices during family time. Change your voice mail/email messages to indicate you are not available until a certain time.

Team up with colleagues

Teaming up with colleagues will ensure your calls and emergencies are covered while you are out of the office. Reciprocate this favour when a colleague is away from the office.

Give yourself a daily reminder

Remind yourself on a daily basis how valuable the time is that you spend with your spouse and family.

 

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Make Time for Balanced Living

Surviving the busy spring season

To the general public, spring means flowers in bloom, warmer temperatures and sunshine. For REALTORS®, however, spring is one of the busiest times of the year — a period that requires extra thought and energy.

Julie Kinnear, a Toronto REALTOR® with 22 years of experience, is equal to the challenge and prepares accordingly.

“Managing time is a key,” Kinnear says. “I subscribe to time blocking. I do a specific task for a certain amount of time and then I stop – and that includes appointments. Otherwise, I can get caught up in things that aren’t productive.”

Kinnear starts each day with a routine designed to make the day most productive.

“When I wake up, I don’t look at emails, texts or the phone; instead, I read something spiritually inspirational. I’m programming my brain to be in a positive place.”

“When I wake up,” says Kinnear, “I don’t look at emails, texts or the phone; instead, I read something spiritually inspirational. I’m programming my brain to be in a positive place.”

After breakfast, Kinnear writes in her journal for 15 minutes before taking her dog for a walk. “These activities are all meant to help with sanity,” Kinnear says. “If you don’t have kids, a pet is great, because they are routine-oriented and our business is not. They need your attention and help keep you grounded.”

Once she has had this time to herself, Kinnear is ready to face the day. Although she prefers to get difficult tasks out of the way first, “what happens is that I end up working on the urgent things. Having administrative help really improves the quality of the client experience because it allows for consistency, and it increases your business, because a lot of administrative things get done.”

Although it can be frustrating to be tied to the office during the lovely weather, Kinnear makes a point of looking at her annual calendar each January. She then schedules holidays for periods throughout the remainder of the year, booking them and notifying her colleagues in advance. That way she ensures that she takes vacation and can look forward to those times, since everyone is informed in advance. Otherwise, she says those holidays may not happen.

“It can be hard during the spring since your days aren’t balanced, but vacation counterbalances the spring because one is all work and the other is all play,” Kinnear says. She also believes strongly in exercising and getting outdoors, because “you need to be able to handle the hours, the pace and the stress of running around. Think of these activities as part of your job, rather than as leisure per se.”

Work hard, but don’t fret

Malcolm Clark, a Thunder Bay REALTOR® has a less structured approach to the spring selling season, saying that “it’s just hard work.” A REALTOR® with 24 years in the business under his belt, Clark begins preparing in January and February by establishing his advertising priorities for the year. Proximity to the United States border means that he can also target markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“You can’t have a set daily routine, because you have to deal with what comes along, but I manage to streamline what I do.  I try to set out the priorities that work best for me and I tend to focus first on my most loyal clients.”

Each day, he starts his day from his home office at Two Island Lake, 30 minutes’ north of Thunder Bay, and makes a list of the day’s priorities. “You can’t have a set daily routine, because you have to deal with what comes along, but I manage to streamline what I do,” Clark says. “It changes daily. I try to set out the priorities that work best for me and I tend to focus first on my most loyal clients. For example, I don’t like to show properties at night, because they don’t show to their best advantage, so planning is required. You also need a good support system. I rely on our office manager for administration.”

When it comes to leisure, Clark considers himself lucky, because he lives on a lake. “For personal time, I have a pontoon boat, so I take my cellphone with me and do business on the boat,” he says. “I’m a pretty busy guy, but it’s all about time management.”

Communication and building strong relationships with clients are other ways to manage the spring season, busy or not, says Clark. “You should be confident in your abilities to negotiate a deal and must make sure the client understands you are representing their best interests,” he says. “They need to know you are thorough and will do everything you could possibly do for them.”

Organization is key

Marc Leroux, a Timmins-based REALTOR® with eight years of experience, says he relies on his cloud-based calendar to get him through the busy spring season.

“This way no matter where I am, I will always see what is happening and know that I am not double-booked,” Leroux says.

His strategy is simple: “My main strategy is to take care of the little things first to get them out of the way,” Leroux says. “Also, it is important to try to plan your agenda ahead of time so there are no surprises day to day.

“I like to be a five-minute manager. Whatever takes five minutes or less, do it right away and get it over with, because as your day goes on and things get busier, those little five-minute things that were left for later will end up being forgotten and will leave you with more tasks the next day. This can snowball pretty quickly.”

Leroux turns to technology to keep track of his clients’ needs, a task that takes time. “I use a program called Evernote®,” he says. “With this program I keep all existing buyers, listings, leads, sold properties and more in separate folders. This keeps me organized and on top of things.”

Leroux makes time for his wife and five children by booking time with them for dinner each day, much as he would any other appointment. “I simply book the time as though it was an appointment with a client; this makes scheduling my day much easier, as my agenda is set,” Leroux says.

As these REALTORS® demonstrate, the spring season may be busy, but it can be managed.

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Surviving the busy spring season

The Sound of Silence

 The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. ~ Dr. Ralph Nichols

In “The Sound of Silence,” singer-songwriter Paul Simon laments the lack of true and honest communication among people. Especially effective and appropriate to this topic is the line, “people hearing without listening.”

Hearing and listening are not the same thing. In real estate, differentiating between the two can be difference between career success and career failure.

Hearing is the way we perceive sound. Listening, particularly active listening, is something you choose to do. It requires a conscious effort to not only hear the words, but to listen for the complete message the speaker is sending. It is not automatic. It requires discipline and it takes practice.

Following are a few tips on how to improve your listening skills.

Tip 1: Listen to what is being said

Take the words at face value. Don’t read between the lines, yet.

Tip 2: Listen for the meaning

Now read between the lines. Listen beyond the words themselves to the emotional meaning of what is being said. Are they consistent? If not, ask for clarification after the sender has finished speaking.

Tip 3: Be aware of nonverbal communication

Observe the speaker’s body language, eye movements, and hand gestures. Are they consistent with what is being said, and the messages as you understand them? If not, ask for clarification.

Tip 4: Beware of the message you’re sending

Consider your own body language, eye movements, and hand gestures. Are you sending a message to the speaker that may influence the message they are sending you?

Tip 5: Do not interrupt the speaker

Let the speaker finish his/her thought before you start speaking. Interrupting is disrespectful and may cause the speaker not to listen to you when you speak.

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Do you have any additional tips on how to improve listening skills? Let us know.

More information:

Mentoring Kit for New Salespeople: Training for Success – http://bit.ly/1CvaJrh

 

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The Sound of Silence

The Art of Negotiation

Negotiation is not an exact science; it’s an art that requires practise, tuning, and fine-tuning. It requires strong communication skills, especially the ability to listen. It requires a shift in thinking from the “I win, you lose” mentality to “we all win” mentality.

As a real estate professional, negotiation is something you will be doing on behalf of clients. What will make you a good negotiator is your ability to close an agreement of purchase and sale with all parties feeling good about the negotiation. This is a “win-win” negotiation whereby all parties feel a sense of accomplishment, and are confident that the agreement will be honoured.

Keep the following tips in mind the next time you are involved in a negotiation.

Tip 1: Take your time 

People need time to think things over. You may only encourage a seller client to act quickly so as not to lose a good sale.

Tip 2: Don’t employ high-pressure tactics 

Do not force clients to make decisions they are not ready to make. It is unprofessional and will likely cause problems somewhere down the road.

Tip 3: Be positive 

Focus on the positive aspects of the negotiation, reminding the seller or buyer of how close they are to getting what they want. Do not focus on the negative.

Tip 4: Constantly clarify

Make certain you have and understand all relevant information. Ask for clarification. Misunderstandings derail negotiations.

Tip 5: Strive for agreement 

Agreement builds momentum. Look for points of agreement even in areas of disagreement.

Tip 6: Keep people talking

Keep the lines of communication open and active. Nothing will get accomplished if one party isn’t talking to the other in hopes that the other side will fold.

Stay Tuned 

Next week’s blog will feature the four stages of a negotiation.

More information: 

Mentoring Kit for New Salespeople: Training for Success http://bit.ly/1CvaJrh

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The Art of Negotiation

How well do you communicate?

What I am about to reveal borders on the mundane – real estate is a people profession, and one of the most important skills a salesperson must have are people skills. This means the ability to establish rapport with different types of people, resolve difficulties and offer practical solutions during challenging negotiations, and asking the right questions of buyer clients to help them determine their purchasing needs.

How well do you communicate? Consider the 20 statements that follow, adapted from a self-assessment questionnaire. How to score the questionnaire has been omitted deliberately because the point is not how high you scored – it’s about raising your awareness on how well you communicate.

Communication Skills Self-Assessment

1
I am open minded and am willing to change my viewpoint based on the valid opinion of others

2
I prepare for all communication and think things through before I speak

3
I always tailor my message to suit the person(s) to whom I am speaking

4
I find it easy to listen to what other people have to say without interrupting

5
I am good at making eye contact with people when I am speaking to them

6
I am not intimidated by situations where I must communicate with difficult people

7
I am confident when I talk to people and speak clearly without mumbling

8
I am good at getting my point across in a clear, concise manner without rambling

9
I find it easy to concentrate on what others are saying and don’t lose my focus

10
I don’t start planning my response while the other person is talking

11
I don’t think that my opinion is the most important in the room

12
I only speak up if I have something valuable to contribute to the conversation and I avoid talking just for the sake of it

13
I make a conscious effort to match my body language to the message I want to convey

14
I am good at reading the body language of others

15
I can keep my cool when talking to other people even if I feel angry about what they say

16
When other people in the group are quiet, I encourage them to contribute

17
I don’t shout and point at people when we have a heated conversation

18
When group discussions get heated, I am good at keeping everyone calm and on the point

19
I feel comfortable holding meetings

20
I am good at summarizing the key points of conversations that I have with people

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Reference: HTC Consulting (N.D.). Communication Skills Self-Assessment Inventory.

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How well do you communicate?