Caveat

September 14th, 2006

Caveat Venditor! We don’t often hear that one, but it is Latin for “Seller Beware”! Yes, even Sellers can be taken advantage of, in the Real Estate Market.

Constantly revising and reviewing adherence to regulations, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is responsible for regulating the trading of Real Estate and sustaining public trust in the marketplace. RECO works with the government, consumers and registered Real Estate practitioners to create a solid foundation for the industry.

One of the key words, today, is DISCLOSURE. The regulations regarding disclosure are stringent! Among other things, Real Estate professionals are required (by law) to disclose their role to all parties of the transaction. This must take place at the earliest opportunity and be done in writing. Real Estate professionals also have to disclose how they will benefit from the transaction- essentially: who is paying them and why.

Sellers must disclose any known defects of the property, even though it is the Buyer or the Buyer’s Agent’s responsibility to be diligent in discovering defects in the property. Deliberate avoidance of providing pertinent information may be considered fraud and could result in prosecution.

Being a Seller is difficult. Usually there is some personal reason that prompts the sale of a home. Perhaps there has been a transfer through employment, children have grown up and moved on, the family is growing, a lottery was won, a job has been lost… there are too many reasons to list… trust me, there is usually some kind of emotional, personal link.

I ask Sellers to try to disconnect their emotional attachment and try to think of it as selling a marketable item of great value… to think of it as more of a house, than their home. In this way, they can step back and evaluate it from a more objective perspective.
The Ontario Real Estate Association provides Realtors with a “Seller Property Information Statement”, a form that assists Sellers to be sure that Buyers are given accurate information about their property. While this provides a super outline, it is not a warranty and it is still up to the Buyers to make their own inquiries.

Real Estate “listing forms” contain a lot of information about disclosures. A good Realtor will go over every clause in the listing agreement and the Seller signs it, below the pre-printed phrase “THIS AGREEMENT HAS BEEN READ AND FULLY UNDERSTOOD BY ME….”

There are forms titled “Confirmation of Co-Operation and Representation” that put in writing, the nature of the roles of the parties in a transaction and provides an opportunity for any further disclosures. Here, a Realtor may disclose their own interest or relationship to the parties or any knowledge that they may have and wish to disclose.

Three key words have often been attributed to real estate: “location, location, location” and now we can add “disclose, disclose, disclose”.

Not too far fetched

September 14th, 2006

As I’ve said before, a good Realtor gets to know their client… extremely well. In many cases, it is the only way to help them make a well-informed decision. Realtors spend a great deal of time with their clients, especially with Buyers.

Here, in cottage country, we explore hundreds of kilometers of landscape and lakes, together. Often, the children and family pets are along for the ride. Realtors and Clients build close relationships and ties, during the intense process of locating the right property and there is every good intention of continuing the connection…

It’s just that the next bunch of clients comes along and then, time is eaten up with exploring hundreds of kilometers and getting acquainted… then, spare time is taken up with bookkeeping, paperwork, advertising, conferring with Seller clients and many other administrative functions… and, hopefully, hobbies and family time… maybe even a little housework. In my experience, Realtors often have untidy, unkempt homes. I suppose it is a case of the shoemaker’s children going barefoot!

I recently came across an article that made me giggle- although it is a little over the top (as most humour can be), it reminded me of how badly I feel that I do not have the time to put into the newly developed friendships and nurture the closeness I have felt with past clients. Anyway, I wrote to the author to ask if I could include it on GetReal… he was delighted. So, with a big thank-you to DAN ST. YVES, here it is:

Realtor Withdrawal Syndrome
By Dan St. Yves

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Jones ,

It was indeed a pleasure to hear from you both again yesterday. I am thrilled that you are settling into your new home, and that your relocation went so smoothly.

I also appreciate hearing how you have acquainted yourself with the local mall, restaurants, and various other amenities located so close to your new home. I appreciate that my advice regarding those latent features of your new neighborhood has been helpful.

However, I believe the time has come to discuss something that I feel you, like many of my past clients, have become an unknowing victim of. In the real estate business, we call it Realtor Withdrawal Syndrome…

Now, please do not take offense to this comment! It is not unusual to develop strong bonds with someone, especially when you’ve spent the last three months looking at homes, day and night, night and day. I enjoyed every minute, as did both of you, and wish that we could spend more time together now that you have moved into the home we were successful in offering on. However, I have more friends that need my attention, as did you when we were out looking for this beautiful home that you now own.

Don’t get me wrong. We won’t be going cold turkey here - I will be in contact regularly. I have a terrific monthly newsletter and time permitting, I promise to stop by for a visit at least during the holiday season. I have a lovely poinsettia that I bring around to all my valued friends, and family.

Who knows? We may be getting together sooner than either of us expect. Should there be any problems at all with your new home, do not hesitate to give my assistants or myself a call, and I will immediately clear my plate, to be at your assistance. We certainly hope that this will not be the case, however I thought you should now that while we may not continue speaking every day from here on out, I am still just a call away. For emergencies…

As I feel that we should implement this withdrawal as soon as possible, I will need to cancel our golf tee-off time for Thursday, the potluck BBQ on Friday, and please consider this my notice to be replaced on the Monday night bowling team…

Folks, I hope that I have explained this to your satisfaction. You aren’t the first clients to fall victim to Realtor Withdrawal Syndrome, and you likely won’t be the last. I hope you’ll find that as time passes, and you become better acquainted with your neighbors, you’ll be just fine without me constantly underfoot.

But if you ever think about selling…!

I is for Internet

September 14th, 2006

Back in 1995, I became a huge fan of the Internet. That is when I arranged for my first Real Estate Website. I just knew that the web would become a major part of the industry.
Many of my local colleagues thought I was crazy- most of them did not own a computer.

In 1996, Bancroft Real Estate Board was the first Board in Ontario to go with a web-based system. We are a relatively small board and often “cutting-edge”. The success of the system soon brought other Boards to the table and within a short time; the Canadian Real Estate Association (owners of the MLS trademark) began working on a countrywide site.

Website providers have flocked to provide razzle-dazzle to Realtors for their websites. I found that a lot of the bells and whistles made the website sluggish and distracting. With the help of a fabulous web-designer (and a wonderful brother), Matthew Didier, we have developed the GetRealinOntario site, with the market in mind.

A recent edition of “REM” (a publication about Real Estate Marketing, News, Mortgages, Technology & Opinions- provided to Realtors) had an article titled “Internet is overvalued, says Re/Max founder”. I was shocked. The article goes on to quote “… the internet has taken hold. But its impacts on the industry have not been as dramatic as one might expect….” And “The Internet has not affected Re/Max growth, profitability, share or whatever.” And almost remorsefully, “Gone are the days of real estate… warm friendly faces, shaking hands and a dog running around the yard.”

Oddly enough the article also quotes Re/Max International Founder and chairman David Liniger as saying “the Internet is still an important tool to reach consumers” and that “Re/Max plans to promote its website to consumers through extensive advertising”.

TILT

I believe the Internet is undervalued by many Real Estate professionals, I believe that the Internet has affected my personal growth; I believe that Internet can convey the warmth and sincerity I possess.

I am a research-aholic. A google-holic. I check out all kinds of websites; EVERY DAY.
I know that not everything on the Internet is accurate and true, some is opinion based, but I also find the Internet is the most quick, convenient, cost-effective and comprehensive source of information available to me. The Internet is my friend. The Internet provides solutions. The Internet keeps me connected to the pulse of the Industry, to friends, family and news.

Having a website makes sense to me. I don’t believe that a Real Estate website has anything to do with increasing market share- for GetRealinOntario it is about sharing knowledge and good information with Buyers and Sellers.

my way

September 14th, 2006

I think most of us have heard the quote “Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching”. It really does resonate similarities to my own personal mantra.

Once I had a little Real Estate experience under my belt, I began yearning for an, at least internally, “non-competitive” office place. This is a very difficult beast to locate, because usually the sort of “driven” personality that can handle a competitive industry isn’t easily able to shut-off the “compete” button. Big egos and big personalities can clash and cause the sort of environment that creates the “vulture” or “snake pit” feeling that Buyers and Sellers shun… some of us Realtors do, too.

With much virtue in mind, I set about writing a “Mission Statement” and once I had the opportunity to manage my own office, I set about finding people who could relate to my optimistic vision. There have been times that I have felt undermined and misunderstood and at those times, I always revisit my mission statement… it reads:

“To focus on offering our talents, energy and knowledge to serve others. To operate with authentic intention, honesty and integrity. To empower others to live extraordinary inspired lives.”

I have never changed the original draft of my Mission Statement, because it reminds me that I can find my way, through any landmines in the Real Estate world, by holding on to the very essence of providing “service” and giving it my all, while preserving my individual identity.

I have always tried to be authentic. Authentically me, of course, which means that I may not necessarily take the popular stance. It’s interesting to note that among the various descriptions for the definition of the adjective “authentic” is: “conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance and belief.”

I make my way in life, decisively- with good intentions and I can always defend my own position and yet, I am always interested in hearing the “other guy’s” viewpoint, doing more research and I have been known to change my mind… but not the “Mission Statement”. For those of us connected with “GetRealinOntario” the Mission Statement is the glue.

My first blog

September 14th, 2006

Any decent Realtor keeps informed and will read anything they can get their hands on, with regard to politics, market trends, strategies, marketing etc etc… and I have a particular interest in the “business” aspects of Real Estate.

A recent “Harris Poll” (2006) surveyed American adults and asked them to rate the level of trust that they place in the advice and guidance of certain professionals from a variety of business areas. The survey included 11 distinctly different professions. Real Estate agents placed tenth.

Information like this is not big news, really. Unfortunately, not all Real Estate reps are created alike. When I started in this business, I thought that I was well prepared for the competitive environment… and I was, when it came to being informed, educated, energetic and well-connected in complimentary industries… however, after a few short months, I began to recognize some attributes in my colleagues that bent my perspective as they nagged at my own personal morality.

I was immediately comforted that I had chosen to be a part of “organized Real Estate” and soon made it my own personal strategy; to be up-to-date on the rules & regulations, laws & legislations, policies and procedures applicable to being a Realtor. I have volunteered a lot of time to the organization of various Boards within Canadian Real Estate and I have studied much about the history of Real Estate, as well.

I suppose it is what I do, in order to maintain a sense of pride about my work. It isn’t always easy working in a small town, having your photo in the paper every week and trying to please all of the people, all of the time… and I AM my own worst critic. On the other hand, the ridiculously high expectation that I place on myself, ensure that I am (at the very least) a little more informed than the industry standard. I am always pleased when I am consulted for my opinion on matters of ethics and interpretation and I am even more excited when I have an opportunity to learn something new.

Often, I find that I am well ahead of the pack, with insight into coming pitfalls and/or changes in the business. Other Realtors, who know me, soon learn that I write pretty good offer clauses and I have a good handle on the rules and local by-laws….

I would never, however, by any means wish to imply that I am an expert, especially when there is no real criteria to objectively define an expert. I’m just pretty confident that I know how to make sure that I when I don’t know something, I’ll consult someone who knows. If that makes any sense…. Besides which, the Real Estate Council of Ontario, Code of Ethics, principle #21-5 says (among other verbiage). “A member should not use a term, title, or designation, implying that the Member is a specialist or expert in the profession, or a term, title or designation restricted by the Council, unless the Member satisfies the criteria established by the Council for its use.”

I don’t have an Expert license, I just have the duty to perform within my own areas of expertise… and with any luck at all, the areas of my own expertise will keep on growing!