When I was a brand new realtor, with ink still drying on my certificate,  I was excited, terrified, and at times, even somewhat confident that I could actually do this job.  A good chunk of my time was spent reading, learning, trying to absorb some wisdom from those longer in the tooth than I was.  However, in the midst of the roller coaster of emotions that accompany a mid-life career shift, I stumbled on what was, perhaps, the most jaded, negative, piece of drivel I had ever encountered.

It was written and published by some self-proclaimed expert who clearly lives in a state of near-constant skepticism, since one subheading in the article was simply labeled: “Trust no one.”  Wow.  Just wow.

The piece went on to counsel its readers to ignore the “lines” that realtors give them about how to set a list price, how to negotiate with potential buyers, and how to prepare their houses for sale.  It deteriorated into a tirade about how real estate agents don’t care about getting a fair price, only about collecting their commission, no matter the effect on their client.   According to this expert, realtors are grossly overpaid, and don’t work hard enough to earn nearly as much as they charge.   They are to be regarded as the enemy, and avoided if at all possible.

After feeling mildly discouraged that the public at large might actually feel this way about the profession I’d chosen for my own personal second act, I realized that this attitude is quite common among people who are insecure or cynical about life in general, and it can be felt in any industry.  Let me explain:

For the previous 18 years, I had split my time between running a small renovation company and working for a property management firm.  I had wonderful, loyal clients who were happy to work with me, trusted my advice, and referred me to their friends.  Every so often, though, there were people (they usually didn’t become clients) who took issue with fees and recommendations.   When quoting a household renovation, I occasionally heard someone say, “What? That much?? I could do it myself for $xx.xx!”

The only sane reply to that objection was, “Then please allow me to get out of your way.”  If they had the time and know-how to do the job themselves, it would have been wasteful and foolish to pay my company to do it for them.

Or, upon receiving solicited advice about colour schemes, paint choices, or building techniques, they suddenly remembered their store of knowledge in all things decor-or-construction-related, and decided that they would direct the workers and instruct them on how to proceed.  Sometimes the workers tolerated the micro-management, sometimes they didn’t.

As for property management fees, the bitterness often came from an investor whose cash flow on a rental property was not as high as he/she would have liked.  The grumbling usually took a similar tone to the objection above: “I could do this myself for free.”   A few midnight phone calls from tenants often sent them back looking for someone to take the stress off their shoulders.

The bottom line is that most things can be done by almost anyone who is willing.  But who has time or motivation to do EVERYTHING?  If a homeowner has the knowledge, desire, time, and tenacity to sell their own property, most realtors will gladly get out of the way and congratulate them on the sale!  Anyone who knows the hours that go into the marketing, preparing for, negotiating, legalising, and finalizing a sale, might feel that their own time is better spent elsewhere.

The accusation that is most inflammatory is that an agent will gladly sacrifice a client’s best interest in order to close a sale.  That assertion gets thrown around freely, and it is, in most cases, absurd.  The mistrust that underlies the assumption is poisonous to a working relationship and, in my opinion, any realtor who feels that a potential client truly believes it would be wise to walk away.  Without trust, there is no foundation to handle a negotiation as important as a real estate transaction.

Philosophically, it is just sad to think that there are those who are incapable of believing that it is possible to simultaneously have the best interests of another person at heart and earn an honest living.  Would you believe me if I told you your vet doesn’t actually like animals? Nah, she wants them sick.  Otherwise she wouldn’t make any money!  And don’t get me started on your doctor – they only recommend surgery when they need a new car.  Do I sound a little unbalanced? Crazy?

Before I became a realtor, my husband and I invested in real estate.  In 2001, we worked all summer on a project house that we planned to flip in the fall.  We put every penny we had into that house – we were so confident that it would turn a profit.  We were putting the finishing touches on it on September 11th.  Needless to say, while processing the sadness that the entire world was feeling as that whole situation unfolded, we were also a little concerned that we might lose everything.  Everything just ….stopped.  Except the payments we were expected to make.

An opportunistic potential buyer came in as soon as we listed the house that month with a lowball offer that literally made me cry.  I don’t even think it covered our costs to renovate the place.  Our agent chased that buyer away like a junkyard dog and advised us not to even dignify it with a counter offer.  A couple of weeks later, he got us full asking price.  There was never a question about commission.  He worked for our best interests consistently and confidently.  Any fear he had of the market crashing due to world events, or the effect it would have on his commission never showed.  He was a true professional.

There is so much more that could be said, but time is probably better spent focusing on clients who appreciate the service we offer.  It will be our pleasure to prove ourselves to be true professionals for their benefit, too!


Tanya DiNicolantonio