To Each, Their Own…

Where do you draw the line between personal and professional?

What am I supposed to do when I hear of a friend-of-a-friend who is making a tragic mistake in their real estate purchase?

Perhaps it’s not my place to speak up, but sometimes I just can’t keep my opinions to myself…

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Who among us is not guilty of Facebook creeping?

This is a favorite past-time for some, and an occasional guilty pleasure for others.

But wasn’t Facebook created simply for people to anonymously spy on eachother?

The other day, I experienced how small this city truly is, by drawing on some of my mischievous creepings

I was showing condos to my clients, Alex & Kayla, and we walked in to a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit at 12 Yonge Street where the residents happened to be home.  A girl answered the door and told us to come inside and look around.  She apologized that she and her roommate were home, even though they were well within their right to be there.  It wasFriday at 8PM, after all…

Alex & Kayla looked around the condo while I starred awkwardly at the girl sitting on the couch and tried to figure out where I knew her from.

I absolutely never forget a name or a face, and I’m sure if I crossed paths with a kid that I went to Camp Kawabi with in 1986, I would recognize him today.

It occurred to me that I had seen a photo of this girl on Facebook since she attended my buddy’s wedding, so I brought this to her attention.

“Hey, this may seem waaay out of left field,” I cautiously began, “But do you know Sara Jones?” I asked.

She said, “Yeah, actually she’s, like, my best friend.”

“Yeah I figured as much,” I replied.  “I never forget a face; I think I recognized you from the wedding pictures or something?”

For all you cynics, the “or something” is open to interpretation…

I told her how I had helped Sara and her husband, Pete, buy their first house and how Pete and I had become gym-buddies.  She said she had heard of me in passing.

She explained to me that she and her roommate were moving out because her roommate is moving to Montreal, while she, who we’ll call “Jane,” was in the process of buying her first condo.

I sarcastically asked her, “But didn’t Sara & Pete tell you all about their fantastic real estate agent, and recommend him?”

Jane then motioned towards her two friends in the room and said, “Um, actually, I’m buying through my friends.”

I smiled at the guy & girl seated at the table and said, “Oh you guys are Realtors?  Who do you work with?”

They told me they work with (blank), and I quickly swallowed some vomit which had come up with no notice.  They worked out of Thornhill, and I wondered if they got lost and ended up in downtown Toronto…

One of the Realtors – the guy with the blazer over the pink t-shirt and white dress shoes, told me that they were actually offering on a property for Jane right then and there.  He had a stack of papers in front of him.

I inquired as to which property they would be buying and he said, (blank).  (I’m sorry – I’ve been told I can’t continue to disparage properties at will, so let’s just assume this is a condo in the concrete jungle in downtown Toronto that I have written about so many times).

So here is my predicament: Jane is a friend of my clients, and my friends, and she is being given terrible advice and is about to purchase a condo in one of the worst buildings and worst areas in Toronto.

She is not my client, so I can’t say anything.  Can I?

Can I interfere with Mr. Pink-Shirt and his client?  I don’t think I can.

So instead, I told Sara that I ran into her friend Jane, and that I felt she was making an awful decision.  Of course, Sara asked me why.

I explained that in the first day of Grade 12 Economics, I was taught about “supply & demand.”  Jane would be buying a typical 1-bedroom condo in one tower in a condominium complex of three towers, in a neighborhood with six complexes, containing thousands and thousands of the exact same condo, all pretty much identical.

I went on in great detail, as Sara probably began to regret asking why, and told her how I really felt about her friend’s impending purchase.

I assumed, with no offence to Jane, that her out-of-area “experts” from Thornhill had simply taken her to see 10-20 units and simply advised her to “pick one” that she liked the best.

Any monkey can do this job.  Where does a Realtor’s expertise come into play?

I think Jane likely chose this condo for all the wrong reasons, and she has no idea how bad an investment her condo is going to end up being, nor does she know how many fantastic neighborhoods there are in the downtown core that aren’t next to the Gardiner and clustered in the middle of 15 other buildings.

But, to each their own, right?

It’s Jane’s decision, is it not?

She’s not even my client, but still I feel an obligation to explain to her how I feel about this condo and many others, just because she is the best friend of one of my favorite clients and my new gym-buddy.

But I can’t interfere with another Realtor’s client.

A colleague of mine always tells me, “David, don’t get in the boat with them.”  He means to say that as a Realtor, I can’t let my own opinions and preferences get in the way of my clients’ decisions.

But I think to some extent, this is what my value truly is.

I know every single condo in the downtown core, inside and out.  I know which condos have seen the biggest appreciations in value, and likewise, which ones are the worst investments.  My “opinions” are often based on fact, and this is why I spare no feelings and am brutally honest in my day-to-day dealings.

But as for Jane, if she isn’t my client, I don’t think it’s my place to tell her how I feel, or how things really are.

I can’t tell her that the condo she is buying is a cookie-cutter piece of crap in an awful location, miserable, building, and that the resale value on her unit if/when the market turned would be among the worst in the city.

Jane is a big girl, and she has to make her own decision, with or without the advice of her friends or her “expert” Realtors.

At  the end of the day, if somebody really, truly falls in love with a house or condo in an area or building that I have reservations about, then who am I to tell them not to buy it?

I wear many other hats in my line of work, such as negotiating or pricing properties, and showing condos or houses to my buyers is the simplest responsibility of my job.

Ideally I would be responsible for picking the actual properties, but if my buyer has a set of houses or condos that he or she wants to see, then its my job to follow suit.

Everybody’s different, and there are people who love living in buildings that I dislike.

But when all is said and done and the papers are signed, that old saying comes to mind: “You’ve made your bed, now you’ve gotta sleep in it”…

7 Comments

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  1. george says:

    Sandy – to add to Patrick’s info … ETFs don’t line the brokers pockets with trailer fees that continue for up to 5 years, at which time it’s very likely your broker will ‘recommend’ you buy another fund family so the trailer fees accumulate in his/her pockets again; and you have another 5 years of deferred loads.

  2. dave says:

    What are those condos near the skydome in that picture above??

    That looks like a great community!! Maybe she should buy one of those instead?

  3. Mindy says:

    Wow – Patrick’s comment really burned Sandy’s!

    Damn, that Patrick sounds smart and sexy!

  4. Patrick says:

    Sandy – I also work in the investment industry and generally agree with your point about client objectives. However I have to ask why would anyone in the right mind buy mutual funds when they could buy ETFs which track the same index (which mutual fund managers fail to beat over time), are more tax efficient, and have a fraction of the management fees? Crazy thought.

  5. Krupo says:

    Dude, I was biking through Leaside last weekend and saw a BUNCH of your colleagues’ signs and ads. Knowing they’re associated with you, I thought better of them by association – I think it’s called the halo effect? You create it for your team.

    Just something you might want to mention if anyone ever gives you a hassle over your honesty – keep it up. 🙂

    @Sandy – most people would appreciate being told their purchase is unlikely to be a strong investment, regardless of any other factors, though!

  6. Sandy says:

    I work in the investment industry and whenever a client asks me what mutual fund they should buy, I can only make recommendations based on their investment objectives.

    Realtors, like all professionals, should first determine the goals & objectives of the client and THEN find them the best house based on that. For all we know Mr. Pink Shirt did and she is buying her perfect condo. No, it’s not 230 King St. but maybe she doesn’t mind. Has it ever occurred to you that even you live in a building somebody dislikes? Crazy thought.

    The things you have issues with could be non issues or better yet, a benefit to her (ex. proximity to the Gardiner if she commutes). Evidently it’s not a purchase you would have done for yourself. We get that. The point is that without knowing Jane’s objectives you can’t really say whether or not it was a bad decision for her.

  7. Ardelle says:

    You know that most agents would just sell somebody a property and never think twice right? Your views are refreshing, congrats on being one of probably ten realtors in the city that aren’t slimeballs.

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