It’s Who You Know!

Have you ever heard the term “cooperating broker” in real estate?

Some people joke that this term is an oxymoron since there is a perception that agents don’t really work together, but forging relationships with brokers and agents outside your own company is incredibly important.

You never know when a “favor” might benefit your client…

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Lisa’s first exposure to the Toronto real estate market was not one that she’d soon remember.

She came into town from Burlington with her mother in search of a 1-bedroom condo to call home for the next year, and while she was well-prepared in a sense that she had a blue folder with piles of notes and listings, she wasn’t prepared for how hot and competitive the Toronto market is.

Lisa told me she would know what she wanted as soon as she saw it, and it eventually came in the form of a condo at “The Met” at the corner of Yonge & Carlton – home to one of the youngest demographics in the city, along with 250-270 Wellington in my estimation.

We submitted an offer to lease a condo priced at $1380/month, but we didn’t get anywhere.

The listing agent, although she put the property on MLS for cooperating agents to show and to lease, essentially told me that she was looking to lease the unit herself since she was a co-owner.

So much for “cooperation”…

Lisa went back to Burlington, rather disappointed, and told me to keep an eye out for anything I came across that perhaps might interest her, and pay specific attention to 21 & 25 Carlton Street.

About ten days later, a unit came out for $1,425/month that seemed too good to be true: a 1-bedroom plus-den, brand-new, never been lived in, and fully upgraded.

The unit was about 650 square feet, and in my estimation, it should have been listed for about $1,500/month.

The unit came onto MLS on a Friday afternoon, and on Saturday morning, Lisa came into Toronto to view the unit.  She wasn’t inside for more than five seconds before she said, “I hope you came prepared – tell me you have a blank offer with you.”

I told her I did one better, and had an offer drawn up already with all the pertinent information filled in.

She signed the offer, and I faxed it to the listing agent’s office.

The only problem was, the broker notes on MLS read: “All offers to be presented on week days only.”

This meant that even though we had a full-price, $1,425/month offer with her credit check, references, employment letter, and rental application all ready to go, we had to wait until Monday for our fate to be decided.

We ran into another agent on the way into the unit, and another agent on the way out.  I knew there would be a ton of action on this condo!

But I had one trick up my sleeve – the listing agent and I have done three deals together in the past year.  She and I aren’t friends, and we’ve actually never met, but we have a working relationship and we each know what to expect from the other.  I’ve always found her to be professional, courteous, and good at her job.

I knew that there would be competition on this condo, and I really wanted Lisa to get it since she had narrowed down an entire city to one building!

On Monday morning, I reached the listing agent’s assistant, and began to make my play.

“Felipe, it’s David Fleming, from Bosley?  Remember, we did a few deals together on King Street and the townhouse on Western Battery?”

“Oh hello, Mr. David, yes of course,” he said.  “Nice to hear from you again.  Let’s hope to make another deal!”

He told me that there were five offers on the condo, and that they would be reviewed later that afternoon.

“So how does my offer look, Felipe?  I really want to get my cousin this condo!”

He asked, “Oh, this is your cousin, Mr. David?  Well you know, it is going to come down to price.”

I knew right then and there that we had to come up to $1,450 per month.

It seems silly to quibble over $25, but this is how intricate our real estate market has become.  There were four offers competing against us, and surely somebody else had the idea to offer more than the asking price.

I had my client initial a new copy of the offer at $1,450, and I faxed it back to the listing agent’s assistant.

“My cousin is very excited,” I told Felipe.  I had actually only met Lisa two weeks ago, but I was willing to say what needed to be said in order to get the deal…

“Well your new offer looks very good,” said Felipe.  “I’ll have Melinda review the offers in a few hours and get back to you.”

I put on a little more pressure as I asked Felipe, “You’re not going to flip a coin, are you?  I know our offer is probably identical to a competing one; surely Melinda would rather see a good guy like me end up with it than some 905’er, right?”

Felipe chuckled, and diplomatically said, “Mr. David, you know we have to use due diligence, yes?”

“Felipe, I’m all about scratching backs,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t take that too literally, as there were some things I just wasn’t willing to do in order for Lisa to get this condo…

“Yes, Mr. David, you’re in good hands, don’t worry.”

I figured at this point that I had done all I could do with Felipe, so I moved on to Melinda.

She wasn’t answering her cell phone, so I left her a message basically saying, “Hi Melinda, it’s David Fleming from Bosley.  I just spoke to Felipe and he said our offer looks great and that I should start booking the elevator for my cousin!  I really appreciate all the help on this one – my cousin is new to Toronto and I want her to live in a safe building like 25 Carlton.”

I called Felipe back and asked him if his office was still at the same location, since I would be procuring a deposit cheque and I wanted to know where to send it.

I was actually beginning to hope that the offer “reviewing” was just a formality, and that they’d work with my offer since we had worked together before on several occasions, and I was undoubetly the only squeaky wheel in this case.

Sure enough, I received a call a few hours later from Melinda, the listing agent, and she congratulated me (and my cousin!) on getting what seemed to be a very popular condo.

“Well David, when you have three offers at the same price, and all the tenants look good on paper, how the hell are you supposed to choose one?  I figured since I know what to expect from you, we might as well work together on this one.  Do you have a cheque ready?”

I was so excited that I almost spilled my Tim Hortons chicken-mushroom soup as I was driving on the DVP!

I wasn’t going to be living in the unit, and it’s not that I stood to make a ton of money for doing this small deal, but I think it’s in everybody’s nature to be competitive, and when staring four competitors in the face, I won.

So too did my client.

Had it not been for my pre-existing working relationship with the listing agent and her staff, my client probably wouldn’t have got this condo, and we would still be looking.

For a guy who is a little rough around the edges, and a little confrontational, I understand how important it is to forge as many strong relationships in this business as possible.

This was an insignificant, $1,450/month rental.

But what about next time?

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