I want to follow up on Monday’s blog post about the TV series “Million Dollar Listing” and provide some more context, specifically as to how the show differs from reality.
And ironically, I don’t mean reality, as in “reality television,” but rather the reality that makes reality-television, unreal. Wow, that’s a mouthful…
In Monday’s blog, I looked at how the MDL franchise has impacted the Toronto real estate industry, and I alluded to a few of the traits or attitudes that young agents take from the show, and bring to the business. So now let me outline the top aspects of MDL that simply do not exist in real life…
My father was a criminal lawyer; a trial lawyer, for the entirety of his career, but I think I only watched him argue in court maybe twice when I was a kid.
We did, however, watch a LOT of “Law & Order” in the 1990’s, and this was before all the spin-offs came about, and before every single network drama show was about crime in some way.
Every Wednesday night at 9:00pm, from basically the seventh grade through the end of high school, we would watch Law & Order, or at least remember to tape it on VHS cassette to watch later…
Even though my father was an active lawyer, and we were watching a dramatization of his daily occupation, he never provided us with unsolicited commentary. I would have to ask him, “Dad, does that happen in real life?” Or “Do you think that evidence would be excluded?”
Only then would he tell me what he thought, and more often than not, it was a resounding “No.”
I learned a lot from my father, but one thing I did not learn was to let others enjoy watching the show, without pointing out the fallacies.
Fast-forward to today, and I absolutely, positively can not watch any show about real estate with my wife.
I’m coming up on three years of marriage, and I have to say, this thing is working pretty damn well.
I mean, if the media, film, novels, and supermarket magazines taught me anything growing up, it’s that marriage is impossible, so don’t bother trying.
But I learned very early on that my wife does not enjoy me talking through an entire episode of one of her real estate shows; pointing out the inconsistencies, informing her of the varying degrees of reality, or simply saying “this whole thing is ridiculous.”
In order to attempt to further and strengthen our relationship, it was decided years ago that I would not be in the room while she watched Million Dollar Listing, or House Hunters, or Property Virgins, or Holmes on Homes, or any of the fifty-seven shows about real estate that air on a weekly basis.
If I come home early enough to see her, and she’s watching one of these shows, she turns it off.
If I’m working on my laptop on a weekend and she wants to watch one of these shows, she gives me a look, and I go into the den.
She’s told me on many occasions, “I don’t care if this whole thing is fake; I want to watch it in peace.”
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the sign of a strong marriage!
So with that dynamite lead-in out of the way, let me shed some light on the top ten fallacies of the show “Million Dollar Listing,” or at least compare and contrast their “reality” on television, and what we do in reality in the Toronto market.
1) We don’t negotiate verbally.
This sure makes for great television, but not in a million years would you see every single agent, on every single transaction, negotiating verbally.
I know on the show, they often say, “We received an offer on such-and-such property,” but more often than not, they’re on the phone when they get a call from an agent, who simply shouts a price into the other end of the line.
An offer must be written, to be considered an offer. Statute of Frauds. Look it up.
And a sign-back must be written as well, as it is considered a counter offer.
Agents do negotiate verbally in our market, but I sure don’t.
Negotiating is an art form. It’s one of the things top agents do best, and it comes in many forms.
I have no problem telling an agent on the phone, “Sorry, but I don’t negotiate verbally. Put it on paper and we’ll see where we end up.”
When do you sign the offer back? What do you say on the phone, in an email, or in person? What terms and conditions do you include? How do you speak to the other side? Where do you do it? How long do you wait?
There are so many tactics you can use to your advantage when negotiating with another agent, that to just talk on the phone, like they do on MDL, and go back-and-forth from $2M to $1.6M, to $1.9M, to $1.7M, and eventually land at $1.8M is exceptionally simplistic, and I don’t believe those agents would actually negotiate like that outside of the show.
2) We don’t have arch enemies.
How come each of these shows has only three agents, and they all hate each other?
How come they always seem to run into each other?
“Oh, fancy seeing you here again,” says Agent-1 to Agent-2, before they break for lunch, head to their trailers, and wait for the second scene to be called.
It’s a goddam TV show. This doesn’t exist in real life.
There are a handful of tried-and-true, old-fashioned, “farm area experts” left in Toronto, who live in and dominate a geographic area, who might have a competitor they dislike.
But the “farm area experts” are dying out as technology allows agents to know every area of the city, every price point, every style of property.
On MDL, these agents seem to come up against each other again and again, personally and professionally.
It’s an act. Plain and simple.
3) Our clients don’t constantly threaten to fire us.
This is a staple of MDL.
The agent always gets crap from their seller, there’s a bit of drama, words are exchanged, and in the end, the always end up doing the deal and happy music plays while they shake hands.
But in the interim, the seller gets aggressive, makes threats, and undermines the agent.
“Bob, you told me you were the best; you told me you would get me $4.8 Million! Don’t call me back until you have that price!”
“Johnny, if you can’t get this deal done, then I’ll find somebody who will!”
That’s my favourite. It’s how you know that this show is written and not experienced, since one writer must simply love going back to the well, over and over.
The seller always threatens his or her agent, and tells the agent that they’ll “find somebody who can get the job done.”
Maybe I’m just lucky to not fight with 78% of my clientele…
4) We don’t go to lunch to discuss everything.
The amount of face-to-face discussion on MDL almost makes me feel like it’s a television show with characters, and not actually real people selling real estate…
Who has this kind of time on their hands?
Is there no traffic in their cities?
Do they all work within 2-minutes of each other?
Are they on some sort of magical 38-hour clock?
How is it that “my client is interested in your property” necessitates a full lunch?
Is there no text messaging or emailing where they’re from?
It’s almost as though it’s 1876, and there’s no way of communicating without riding a horse into town to talk shop.
Even the folks on “Game of Thrones” had ravens…
5) We don’t negotiate deals at at events.
How come the agents always seem to meet at a cigar bar to negotiate a sale?
Why is it that when two agents are working on a deal, they’re standing down on a pier by the ocean, instead of sitting at their desks at the office?
I’ve never had an agent say, “David, I’m bringing you an offer on King Street. Meet me at Spin – the ping-pong bar.”
Can you imagine me and a Royal LePage agent hammering backhands cross-court in that dark, underground labyrinth while trying to work on a deal?
“My buyer would like to make an offer on your condo listing. Let’s go axe-throwing and discuss.”
6) We don’t crash each other’s “broker’s open’s.”
Every agent on these shows seems to have a vindictive side.
There’s always some dispute over a client, a property, or a deal, that always culminates with Agent-1 going to some swanky party that Agent-2 is throwing, and even though there’s no invite list, Agent-1 seems to be uninvited.
And speaking of throwing – how come Agent-1 always throws a drinks in Agent-2’s face?
My interactions are so much more cordial.
I don’t go to a lot of open houses, but when I do, I’m able to control myself so I don’t beat anybody up, break anything, or get flustered and rip off my shirt.
7) We don’t throw wicked-cool parties for every listing.
As for these “broker’s open’s,” they don’t really exist the way they do on the show.
I know, I know – these are $5 Million properties.
But these are also TV shows, and they’re scripted.
We host “agent open houses” and they’re usually between 11am and 1pm, on weekdays.
Very few, if any, real estate agents in Toronto will hold a rave at client’s property.
Can you imagine?
How do you explain to your client that you and a hundred agents will be partying until 2am in their condo?
MDL plays it off like it’s so matter-of-fact. Close-up on Johnny as he calmly says, “I hired this great string quartet to play at my broker’s open, as they float on an ice sculpture, and swans bathe at their feet. I really think this will help showcase the property in the light in which it deserves to be seen.”
I tried something like this exactly once.
I had a “Million Dollar Listing” that was one of the nicest condos in Toronto, and I figured I needed to be creative. So I thew a party (no string quartet, but I did have wine-and-cheese), and I printed about 1,800 invitations – individually addressed to the agents, and hand-delivered them to all the downtown brokerages – about thirty in total.
From 6pm to 8pm on a Thursday, guess how many Realtors attended my “broker’s open?”
Not a soul.
Like I said – it’s a TV show…
8) We don’t drive Lamborghini’s.
It might be true that real estate agents drive better-than-average cars, but we’re talking Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, and Audi. Those are the four staples of real-life Realtors.
I have never, not once, ever, seen a real estate agent in a Ferrari, a Lambo, or a Rolls Royce.
I know, I know – you’ll tell me that these are luxury homes, and those cars are true luxury.
But as I said above, and at the risk of sounding repetitive – it’s a goddam TV show.
And who has a personal driver?
Not every list has to be a top-ten list, right?
The truth is, I don’t watch Million Dollar Listing.
I’ve heard a fair amount of it playing in the background as I work and my wife watches in the other room, and years ago, I may have tried to watch with her as I held my hand over my mouth, but I don’t know that much about the show.
So top-eight. Maybe that’s a new trend?
Or maybe I’m just leaving room for you guys to fill out the list in the comment section below… 🙂