Help vs. Hinder: A Tale Of Two Agents

Call me soppy and a little naive, but perhaps a “feel-good” story from the real estate trenches will cure what ails you on an otherwise ugly November day.

This past week, I worked on two transactions with two agents who couldn’t have possibly been more different.

One did everything he could to help me and my clients, and the other offered absolutely zero assistance, and got in his own way when it came to potentially completing a deal.

Do unto others, or something.  Right?

LittleMissHelpful

I sold a property on Wednesday night, and it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

It was a property that I’d had listed off and on since the spring; a very complicated sale, in a complicated market – for this housing type.

I had been diligently working away over the past two weeks with a cooperating agent who I’ve dealt with before, and with whom I have a mutual respect.

My clients were adamant about obtaining an unconditional offer, and his seller was adamant about knowing that he could get insurance on the property, so we ended up in a stalemate.

The offer on-paper fizzled out long ago, and we were left that a seller that essentially said, “I’ll accept those terms if and when you submit the offer without any conditions,” and a buyer who was basically telling us, “I’m not submitting the offer until I have confirmation of insurance, so you’ll just have to wait.”

And wait, we did.

This property has been listed (this time around) since the day after Labour Day, and what are the odds that on the very day that the cooperating agent calls to tell me his client was able to obtain insurance, another offer was submitted on the house?

Murphy’s Law.

We ended up taking the “other” offer, which was higher, also without conditions, and my colleague from a cooperating brokerage was left spurned.

I felt pretty salty about the whole thing.  He worked his tail off, did everything that was expected of him, and came up empty.

When I called him to deliver the bad news, he told me, “David, it was really a pleasure working with you, and that’s not hollow – that’s the truth.  You’re a consummate professional, and that’s saying something, considering who’s we’re out there trying to do deals with these days.”

It meant a lot, and I felt the exact same way.  It’s part of the reason I felt so bad about him not getting the deal.

There are all kinds of agents in this business, and if you’re a regular reader of Toronto Realty Blog, you know I’m not afraid to describe the various “types.”  I’m also not afraid to call a spade a spade, and detail bad behaviour when I see it.

This past week, I had two completely different experiences, with two different agents, one day after the next.

The first underscores all that’s wrong with our industry, and the second highlights a true “professional” who has been in the business for two decades, and hasn’t changed his approach to customer service one iota.

I showed a condo last weekend in a slightly older building last weekend, and my clients were pretty keen on it.

The price per square foot was fantastic compared to newer comparable resale units, the fees weren’t as high as you would think, for a building of that age, and the renovations needed to the unit were minimal.

One question we did have was with respect to the parking, since there were two parking spaces, but Land Registry was not clear on whether it was one space for two cars, but also about whether or not these spaces were owned, or exclusive use.

In older buildings, many times the parking is “exclusive use,” meaning is common elements by definition, and isn’t owned, per se, by the unit owner.  It’s like your balcony or terrace – this is “exclusive use, common elements,” which means only you can use it, but you don’t legally own it.

I had gone through previous listings in the building, and hadn’t received the clarity I needed on the ownership situation, so I called the property manager.  Unfortunately, the property manager wouldn’t speak with me unless I was a unit owner, so I turned to the listing agent for help.

I called the listing agent – somebody who has been in the business for a while, but who (and I know from looking him up in IMS) is far from a high-volume producer.  6-8 transactions per year, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t build villages.  And in my opinion, it’s agents like this that need to sell condos in order to put money in their pockets, and who do anything, to anybody, to close a deal.

The agent had a rough demeanour from the minute I picked up the phone, and I just had that “feeling” of how this conversation was going to go.

“I showed your unit at XXX Street on the weekend….” I told him.

“Great, where’s my offer?” he asked, interrupting me in mid-thought.

“Right,” I said.  “Well here’s my question: do you know if the two parking spaces are separate??  Because there’s only one actual spot-number painted on the column, and I’m also not sure if the parking is owned or if it’s exclusive use.”

I was just cracking the lid on my morning coffee, so I was in no way prepared for his response.

“What the f*ck do I care?” he asked me.

And then I waited for a follow-up.

“Oh…..kay,” I offered to break the silence.

“Come on, I’m just breaking your balls a bit,” he said, as I hoped he was just being funny.  “But nah, seriously man, I mean what the hell do I care about parking?  There’s two cars down in the garage, right?  A Beamer and a Land Rover to boot, right, so they fit good, and you’re buying this place from good company, because let me tell you, these guys are well off.”

While I’ll concede that mentioning two large cars fit in the spaces is value-add, telling me how rich his clients are, and insinuating that buying from “good company” is of any importance, didn’t really strike a chord with me.

“Well,” I explained, “My clients only have one car, and they want to know if they can sell one space,” I told him.  “I also think there’s something to be said for owning the spaces, versus just having exclusive use, as we’re trying to value this unit versus one in another building.”

He barely let me finish before he interjected, “Nah, nah man, you’re all wrong, right.  None of that matters.  What matters is two cars.  Two cars, man.  That’s it.”

I didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere, so I asked, “Would your seller be able to speak to property management, and allow me to speak with the manager, to get some clarification?  They won’t speak to me unless I’m an owner.”

“Why the f*ck would I do that?” he asked.

There was a long pause as I tried to process things, and he then offered, “I mean, why am I doing you a favour?  What’s in this for us?  You wanna know what’s behind the curtain; what my clients have in their closet.  Why would we offer that kind of information?”

The whole conversation made no sense, so I simply said, “Because I need to know what you’re offering for sale, so my clients can decide what to buy.”

“Nah, nah, nah.  Nope.  It’s not like that,” he said.

We parted ways, and I suggested to my buyer that she call property management, and say that she was looking to buy a condo in the building, and she had a few questions.  Coming from a buyer – and an older, retired lady, nonetheless, perhaps it would be better received.

My buyer called me back shortly thereafter, and told me that the property manager still wouldn’t answer specific questions, but if she wanted to request a status certificate for the unit, she could.

The whole situation was frustrating to say the least, but even more frustrating was the call I got an hour later – from the listing agent.

Unleashing a barrage of curse-words that I haven’t used since high school, he asked, “how dare you call and try to trade on my clients’ names?”

I didn’t even know what that meant, and not much of the rest of the conversation made any sense.

Folks, I know some of you might try to see the “other side” of this, and suggest that, I don’t know, we should make an offer, conditional, and then they can show us whether there’s two parking spaces, and whether they’re owned or exclusive use?

But that doesn’t make any sense.

“Is there a locker with this unit?”

“Yes, there is.”

“Thanks.”

I don’t see how our situation is any different from that.

We ended up looking at a couple more units this past week, one of which we’re in sign-back on as we speak.

It’s too bad.  But perhaps that’s why the other unit has been on the market for 57 days…


The very next day, I was looking at two townhouses with clients who are moving from Mississauga to the downtown core, so they can be closer to work, and so their daughter can attend a speciality school here in the city.

The entire reason for this move was to make life easier, mainly by avoiding a 45-minute daily commute to-and-from work, without losing the comforts of a large house on a wide lot in a family neighbourhood.

We were looking at two townhouses – one downtown, one uptown, and we were really stuck on the parking.

My clients have a 5-car private driveway in Mississauga, and while they’re not crazy about the idea of having ONE parking space here in the central core, they could make it work.

One of my clients would store her car at the Bay/Adelaide centre, because she really only drives the car for client meetings, and on business trips, and doesn’t need the car at home.

My other client would store his car in the garage at the townhouse.

And their older kids would have to use street parking if and when they came home to visit from university.

The townhouse uptown had underground parking, and we measured the opening of the garage, which was 10′ 2″.

The garage itself was probably 16-feet wide, or what real estate agents like to call “one and a half car garage,” but overall, the 10-foot entrance would fit just about any car my clients or their kids would be driving.

The townhouse downtown had a garage, and it looked really tight.

From the first day we visited this property (and we saw it four times!), we kept coming back to the parking space.

Would her car fit?  Would his?

Last week, she tried to do an 14-point turn and manoever her car into the garage, but she wasn’t able.

I told her, “I’ll bet you your kid’s next violin lesson I can get your car in that garage,” to which, she accepted the challenge.

Maybe it was the stick-shift on this luxury automobile, or maybe it was the fact that I felt like I was driving Batman’s car, but I barely got the car out of “Park” before I gave up.

So this past week, we returned to the townhouse, with her husband’s car, to see if he could fit his car in the garage.

But guess what?

When we arrived, we saw the seller’s car in the garage!

And to complicate matters, there was an offer on the property.

We wanted to offer an unconditional offer, but we couldn’t in good conscience make an offer without knowing if a car would fit in the garage.

We measured the entrance at an even 8″ on the nose, which was 2’2″ less than the garage at the uptown-townhouse.

The husband told me, “I can fit the car, no problem,” and the wife said, “I’d have to see it, I really would.”

I can’t say I blame her, and as he hit up Google to compare the turning radius, length, and width of the Toyota Corolla that was currently in the garage, and the Mazda SUV that he owned, I called the listing agent to see what could be done.

As our bad luck would provide for, the sellers had just left for a three-week vacation, and thus they weren’t able to come and move their car.

I begged the listing agent to find a solution, and he spent the better part of an hour speaking with the sellers, their cousin, and their cleaning lady.

After 90 minutes in the property, I left to go to my next appointment, and my buyers headed back to work.

My phone rang, and it was the listing agent.

“I found a key to the car,” he said.  “I’m game to try this thing, if you are.”

I thanked him profusely, and called my clients to see if they could come back to the property.

A half-hour later, the listing agent was moving the sellers’ car, with the cleaning lady’s key, and parking it on the street so my client could test-out the garage.

We watched as he worked the stick-shift like Jacques Villeneuve, and worked the car back-and-forth, back-and-forth, until the car was safely in the garage.

“Got it!” my client exclaimed, after getting out of of the car, smiling, and pounding on the hood of the car.

“But I’ll be damned if I’m going to do this every single morning, for the rest of my life,” he said, as our hopes of making this work came crashing down.

I walked out to the street with the listing agent as he got back in the sellers’ car, and told him how much I appreciated his efforts.

“Well, it’s not like we want this family to buy a house only to find out they don’t like a major feature of it, do we?”

I was amazed.

The listing agent’s actions – helping us with our query, might have cost him an offer, but it underscored the length he would go to work on his seller’s behalf.

And in the end, he wanted to make sure the buyer was happy too.


I can’t think of a time when I’ve had two more different experiences, ironically with the same feature of a piece of real estate (parking), in such a short time period.

It was Ying & Yang.

Night and Day.

Opposite-day, in the world of Toronto real estate.

I’m sorry, folks.  But you catch more flies with honey in this business.  I’m sure you can poke holes in each of these stories if you try really hard, but trust me when I say that there’s only one way to work in this business, if you’re looking for a lengthy, successful career with satisfied clients, repeat business, and no lawsuits…

2 Comments

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  1. Marina says:

    Honestly, if you are the seller of the first condo, would you not fire your agent after 57 days?
    I wouldn’t deal with an agent like that on principle – just can’t be sure that he’s not trying to screw me over, even with my agent and a lawyer involved. Too risky.

    1. Jay says:

      To think the agent has sold 6-8 properties in the year IN SPITE of himself is amazing.

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