Either You “Get It,” Or You Don’t

People.  Honestly.  They’re the worst.

I’m channelling my inner-Seinfeld with that quote, but seriously folks – I was just shocked by some of the people I met two weeks ago when I had a hot listing for sale, and I couldn’t believe how they approached both the price of the property, as well as the process surrounding the sale.

I’m constantly amazed at how a person can be so intelligent, yet have so little common sense.  And during the course of this listing, “those” people were lined up in droves.

You either “get it,” or you don’t.  And try explaining to somebody who doesn’t “get it,” and you’re wasting your time…

GetItOrDon't

Remember the good old days of including a photo of your family, and a hand-written note with your offer?

Those days are almost gone, right?

Once upon a time, when prices were lower, and when the spread between the lowest and highest offers was smaller, those personal touches did have an effect.

I remember submitting an offer for a family member back in 2006, with a cute photo, and a note.  And although we weren’t the highest offer, we were in the top two – out of twelve.  And we were given a chance to improve our offer, and we won.

I’ll be the first person to suggest that no seller out there (save for the one that spawned a much-shared newspaper article a few years back) is going to take substantially less money for his or her home, because the buyers are nice.

But it certainly doesn’t hurt, and in some very unique cases, the home-owners might want to sell to you, and give you a second chance, or give your agent a push.

Whether those days have passed, or not, I don’t think a buyer should take the opposite approach, and go out of their way to be rude to everybody involved in the process.

The following story might be lost on some of you, but I see things through a different set of eyes: those of an agent.  I’m constantly amazed by buyers who are completely out of touch with market reality, whether it’s the price of real estate in 2018, or the process, and who fail to accept current market conditions for what they are.

Two weeks ago, I had a listing in North Toronto where the sellers were 90-years-old, and had been in the home for almost a half-century.

The sellers were going to be home for every showing, which ordinarily, as you know from reading this blog, I would never suggest, or allow.  But as we had expected 30+ showings in a week, and with the age of the sellers, it just wasn’t feasible for them to leave the property for an hour, several times per day, and we didn’t want to restrict showings by asking for 4-hour’s notice.

In the end, the sellers being home became an asset, as “Gramma,” as we’ll call her in this story, bonded with just about every single set of buyers that came through the door.

I’ll be honest – the interest level was far higher than expected, and although I figured builders could be all over this property due to the age, most of the buyers looked at the home as a classic gem, and planned to do a modest renovation, or even move right in after some minor repairs.

This house was charming, historical, and full of character.  I know that real estate agents say that about just about every property in Toronto, but you’ll have to take my word for it here.  And as a result, almost every buyer through was looking for the history and character that a house like this could provide, and they loved meeting the owners, and exchanging stories.

For the owners, who had been here for 49 years, this was like a Broadway play being acted out in front of them all day, every day.

They loved it.

Perhaps it’s cliche to say “old people love to chat,” but in this case, it’s an understatement.

“Gramma” got the down-low on every person that came through, and for the most part, it was a two-way street.

I think the word was out pretty quickly that there would be action on this home.

I’ll spare you the surprise – we had nine offers, and we would have had more, but one rescinded right before offer presentation, and several others just didn’t want to get involved.

Suffice it to say, I think most buyers through the house figured, with the sellers present, they should try to make that personal connection that might help them on offer night.  As a result, every time I came by the house to do a showing, or check up on the property, I found the sellers engaged in the middle of a story-exchange with the buyers.

Wow, did they talk.  Talk, talk, talk, all week long.

But these buyers were savvy!  They knew it was a small city, and you’re bound to know some of the same people.

One set of buyers came back with their parents, and their grandparents!  And the grandparents lived in the same condo that the sellers would be moving to.

Another set of buyers had a connection to the same vacation complex that the sellers frequented.

Another set of buyers knew the sellers’ friends from bridge.

Over and over, buyers paraded through, and spent an equal amount of time looking at the house, as they did chatting up the sellers.

I showed up one night and saw “Gramma” holding both hands of one young buyer, facing eachother, in a heartfelt moment.

Just about every buyer through, “got it,” and knew how to play the game.

Just about, as the story goes…

I received a cold call on the property, and I had arranged to meet the buyers there at 7:00pm one night.

The house was a revolving door of action, all week.  7pm most nights, there were 3-4 groups through.

So by 7:25pm, when I sent a text message to the cold-caller to ask where he was, he responded, “In the basement.”

Unbeknownst to me, this young couple had waltzed through the front door, didn’t look for “the agent,” being me, and took it upon themselves to walk through at their convenience.

Upon meeting them, and introducing myself, I was asked, “So what can you tell me?” by the 40’ish young gentleman, with his wife in tow.

I gave him the rundown of the home, the pros and cons, and each time I finished a sentence, he responded by essentially putting words in my mouth.

“The house was built in 1936,” I said, to which he replied, “So it clearly isn’t in good shape, right?  That’s going to affect the price?”

“There’s a beautiful ravine lot in the back,” I said, to which he replied, “So a lot of buyers looking to put in a pool won’t like it, you mean?”

Over, and over, and over.  I know this “type,” and hey – whatever floats your boat.  But in this market, and for this property, the attitude made no sense to me whatsoever.

He constantly disagreed with me at every turn, and feigned a real estate expertice that just wasn’t there.

Things went a bit off the rails when I told him that we’d be reviewing offers the following Tuesday.

Offer date?” he said, with a deliberate throw-back of his head.  “You have an offer date?  Why?  This house isn’t worth even close to the asking price.”

I’ve mentioned on occasion that I don’t blow up, I don’t take bait, I don’t fight back, and I always take the high road.  I wasn’t going to argue with him, but I did engage him.

“Well,” I began, “We’ve had over 40 showings so far, I’ve had agents ask about bully offers, and if I had to guess, I’d say we’ll get our asking price, who knows – maybe more.”

“But an offer date?” he said.  “Nobody is doing offer dates anymore.  That time has passed.”

“Actually, just about every freehold house in Toronto has an offer date,” I told him.  “The market is alive and well again.”

“No, it’s not,” he said, so matter-of-factly that your average Joe would be convinced.

Not wanting to belabour the point, I simply said, “Well, I’ll know if I’m wrong, next Tuesday.”

He shrugged, and walked away, and continued to point out issues with the home.

As I said, I know the type.  He figures he can create this scenario whereby what he wants, and what he believes, could come true.

Meanwhile, there was a young lady in the kitchen with “Gramma,” laughing and sharing photos of her children.  Gramma was one minute from going upstairs to get a photo album…

I walked to the front door with Mr. 40-something and his wife as we finished our tour, and he asked about offer night.  He then added, “We don’t have an agent,” to which I said, “I know, I had asked your wife that when we spoke two days ago,” and amazingly he said, “Well…..heh….I mean, we would get one.  We know a couple of guys that will do the offer for us and just refund their commission.”

Now the reason I ask cold callers, “Are you working with an agent?” isn’t because I’m trying to pick them up as buyers, and the issue has nothing to do with commission – at least not for me.  It’s about clear and identifiable representation, and I’m not going to show somebody else’s client a home, because it puts me in a position I don’t want to be in.  It’s a clear conflict of interest.

In any event, I told Mr. 40’ish, “Your wife had told me last week that you didn’t have an agent, that’s why I’m showing you the home.  I have to ask, why didn’t you get your agent to show you the home?”

He replied, with an aggressive undertone, “Well, I obviously didn’t waste his time.”

And here’s where I really fail to this guy’s “strategy.”  He’s snuck into the house, he’s already gone through the house and criticized it, he’s made no effort to speak to the sellers, and now he’s effectively telling the listing agent, “I want to waste your time.”

I wasn’t hurt, and I wasn’t fussed about the wasted time.  I would have lived in that listing if I had to, but I just couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t see the error of his ways.

He went on to explain, “I’m a lawyer, you see, and if I make an offer, I’m going to put some pretty complex language in my offer regarding commission, so I don’t want you to be caught off guard.”

So now he was telling me I’m a moron as well.

I could have told you this guy was a lawyer from the moment I met him, and I’m not knocking lawyers – my father just retired after a 40-year career as a criminal lawyer.  My uncle is a lawyer.  My aunt is a Supreme Court justice.  But I knew this guy was a lawyer, and perhaps it explained why he was trying to create his own narrative.

That following weekend, an agent called me from a brokerage I had never heard of, and said he would have an offer on Tuesday for the property.  He said, “My buyer wants to be in the presentation room though, is that okay with you?”

It was an odd request.  Sometimes buyers will accompany their agent to the brokerage, but to be in the presentation?  I’ve never see that.

I asked the agent simply, “To what end?” and he replied, “He wants to explain his offer, maybe chat with the sellers a little bit.”  Right.  I read that as, “He want’s to present his own offer.”

My spidey-sense was tingling, and I thought of Mr. 40’ish, so I asked the agent, “Is your client’s name John Smith?”

Of course it was!

This young lawyer, who’s occupation is to make arguments, wanted to come into the presentation room with the sellers, and berate them with reasons why his offer was the best, why they should sell to him, and probably why they should take less money too.

In any event, offer day came, and we had nine offers.  We were shocked by the response, as we really didn’t intend to under-price the home, but as is the problem with all of the city right now – there’s just nothing on the market.

The first agent came in to present his offer, and he had with him a letter written by the buyers, complete with a family photo.

I handed it to “Gramma” to read, and she immediately started to cry.

So then I started to read the letter, and as she gently sobbed away, and as “Grampa’s” lip began to quiver, I got emotional as well.

I eventually handed the letter to their grandson to read, which he did.  By the end of it, “Gramma” was wiping away tears.

She remembered the buyers from both of their visits to the house.  I recall she looked up at the lady at one point and said, “How come you’re so tall……..and I’m so damn short?” while sitting at the kitchen table, knitting away, with people pouring through her home.

They had a good laugh, she explained, “You know…..I used to be a lot taller,” as any old-lady would, and she got to see the whole family on the second viewing when the kids were running rampant through the home.

Their offer was certainly in the mix, but it helped that the sellers liked them.

We went through a few more offers, and eventually in walked an agent I had never heard of, from a company I had never heard of, in an Ontario suburb.

He had a letter of his own, but this one would be very, very different.

The offer, and the letter, was from Mr. 40’ish.  And it began with something to the extent of:

“I would have liked to be sitting with you in person right now to present our offer, but unfortunately, your agent advised us this wasn’t possible, so we will have to rely on our agent to present our offer instead.”

Great start.

As I’m the one reading this, and his letter is already taking a swipe at me, again, I couldn’t understand what he was thinking.

The letter went on to talk a whole lot about the buyers themselves, and less about the sellers and their home.

Then came the clincher:

“Rather get enter into a prolonged negotiation with you, we’ve instructed our agent to make an unconditional offer at your full list price.”

Do you see the problem here?

We had nine offers.

The property sold for a quarter-million over asking.

And his offer was the lowest of the nine offers.

Now at this point, I may have already lost some of you.

Some of you might think this was just a guy, trying to do what was best for his family, or that he didn’t “need” to “over-bid” for the property.

But I don’t see it that way.  I see things in black and white, and I live in the reality of our Toronto market.

This young man decided that he was smarter than everybody else, and that he was going to talk his way through the process, and win.  That’s his legal background working its way into his personal life, and the competitive world of Toronto real estate.

But honestly, folks, he made a mistake at every possible juncture.

He called the listing agent and said he didn’t have an agent, when he did.

He walked into the house when the front door was open, rather than calling the agent, or ringing the doorbell, and saw nothing wrong with doing so.

He made no effort to connect with the sellers, let alone, say hello to them.

He belittled the house.

He insulted the listing agent, on multiple occasions.

He “hired” a bum agent who was completely unprepared and unqualified to present his offer, because he thought he could save money.

He asked to present his offer in person, which is something I have never seen done before.

He wrote a “me, me, me” letter to the sellers, in which he threw the listing agent under the bus for not allowing him direct access to the sellers.

He offered the list price, and tried to use some sort of reverse psychology in saying “I don’t want to negotiate, so here’s your list price,” to try to sway them.

He did everything wrong, at every possible opportunity.

And in the end, the nice “tall lady” got the house.  Her family had the highest offer once the process was completed, and the sellers saved their personal note, along with two others that were just beautiful.

Mr. 40’ish’s letter went in the recycling.

I’m not faulting Mr. 40’ish for not wanting to bid higher; that’s not what this is about.  I’ve re-read this post twice now, trying to see it from the perspective of your typical Toronto buyer, to see how the view might differ from that of an agent, and the one thing perhaps you might see, that I didn’t, is that I’m somehow blaming a buyer for not having a crystal ball, or not wanting to spend past their budget.

But this wasn’t about the sale price.

This was about the buyer, who just didn’t “get it.”

From start to finish, there was no common sense.  And while I don’t want to turn this into an advertisement for hiring buyer-agents, certainly if this guy had a buyer agent who had two wits about him, the agent would have told him to be a little more courteous, and perhaps that the list price up against eight competing offers, wasn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

There are a lot of buyers in this market who just don’t “get it.”

Buyers who want to create their own narrative, and who hope, pray, wish, and dream about and for market conditions that don’t at all reflect reality.

We can all dream, but most of us snap out of it, and get back to our lives.

Many buyers don’t.  And they’re left in the false reality they’ve created, forever.

I have other stories from this listing, and from the last couple of weeks, that underscore this idea of “getting it,” or failing to live in market reality.  Perhaps I’ll come back to it on Thursday…

34 Comments

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  1. paul says:

    LOVEEE THE STORY. Even if he was the highest offer, i would have advised the client to be weary

  2. Sardonic Lizard says:

    > The property sold for a quarter-million over asking.

    A quarter-million over asking? Woohoo! 2016 is back, baby! Realtors everywhere rejoice! Mortgage brokers rejoice! Audi dealerships rejoice!

    Real estate bears everywhere are trembling in their shoes, and rightly so – because EVERYONE KNOWS THAT REAL ESTATE ONLY GOES UP, UP, UP!!!

  3. IanC says:

    Creepy – it’s not an open house. Did they sneak in through an unlocked door? Or 2nd floor window? Or just follow someone else entering or leaving? They really could have also startled the home owners. An owner would expect at least an announcment or a “Hello” even though last minute appointments were welcomed.

    I had some questions, David.

    If someone cold calls and says they have an agent, but the agent was unble to take them to tour the house for some reason or scheduling conflict, what’s the typical protocol? Would the potential buyers need to ask someone from the same brokerage as their agent to show them the house? Or miss touring the house if the selling agent is uncomfortable… Or very busy? Are there situations where homeowners selling on MLS give their own tours when agents are not present? – sounds like a bad idea but wonder if it happens.

    And if the individual in your story truly did not have an agent, what happens after you give them the tour? From previous stories, I figure you would ask someone from your brokerage to work on their behalf for the offer. Do the buyer’s know that before the tour? Either way, the buyers know who is paying your commision and would be wise not to share too much information about their recent inheritance or lotto win.

    1. @ IanC

      This happens a lot. A cold-caller says, “My agent is unavailable,” which often means, “My agent is my uncle in Niagara Falls, and he’s not going to drive in to show me the place.” Or even, “He told me to reach out directly to the listing agent because he doesn’t want to waste his time.”

      I tell the buyer, “Your agent works for a brokerage, and there are other agents at the brokerage that your uncle can ask to assist you.”

      This isn’t laziness on my part, nor is it about commission. It’s about representation, plain and simple. Of course, it’s ALSO about laziness, and entitlement, on the buyer agent’s part.

      If an agent can’t find somebody else at his or her brokerage to cover for an hour, then that should concern the buyer. I could ask one of about twenty agents in my brokerage to cover for me, and that represents who I am, the people I work with, and where I work.

      As for the second part of your question, you are correct: somebody else in my brokearge could represent the buyer.

  4. fred says:

    What a beautiful fairy tale….oh I get it LOL

  5. lui says:

    I worked as a waiter in college and I could tell instantly if the diner was going to be a troublesome customer or a friendly one by their first sentence.In life you got people like this that thinks they are smarter than everyone else or look down at someone because of their profession.Hope the house went to the people the client liked the most and not because of who offered the most.

  6. Tommy says:

    How often are buyers like him successful in actually buying a home that they want?

    1. @ Tommy.

      Never.

      This will be covered in Thursday’s blog.

  7. steve says:

    Thanks for a good read David. Being courteous and respectful is never a bad idea. Neither is taking a wider view and considering other perspectives. Still, I wonder about our market, of how it will be impacted by the higher cost of money, and with increasing government meddling.

  8. Appraiser says:

    “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

    Desiderata.

  9. clifford says:

    250K over asking? Media told me these days were over. 🙁

    1. Alexander says:

      Do not be surprised if property was priced low for multiple bidding

  10. m m says:

    Yes, that neighbourhood got lucky. Some other neighbourhood, not so much.

  11. Max says:

    That’s one less ass for that neighbourhood.

  12. downtown says:

    Seems to me like you’ve written a textbook example of someone with narcissistic personality disorder. They may be whip-smart, but the inability to empathize (i.e. consider other people’s point of view) leaves them with a gob-smacking deficiency in inter-personal relations.

  13. Natrx says:

    Possible to provide the listing or address? I’m curious as to what type of house had generated such interest!

  14. Moonbeam! says:

    Pretty obvious to me that the elderly owners were quite sentimental about their house and would want to like the new owners… if they had any choice and control. Therefore, knowing that there was great interest and there would be multiple offers, the owners would indeed have great input in this sale. Any interested buyer must smarten up and put their best foot forward, or they are wasting their time. Snarly attitude might work in a courtroom or a civil lawsuit, but not with this kind of house sale.

    1. Ralph Cramdown says:

      The great interest was a function of the listing price. If I reach 90, I’ll likely not be game for the type of adventure that involves 100 slushy strangers and distant acquaintances traipsing through my living room, with me in it, at the height of a particularly bad flu season.

  15. Ralph Cramdown says:

    Well, price it for a rodeo and you’re gonna get a rodeo. Too bad the lawyer didn’t realize he was playing the clown.

    To digress, I’m fascinated thinking about the seller’s strategy. This is the second ravine property that David has priced for action/clowns in early February. Normally, the best time to sell a ravine lot is any month with more than 29 days in it IMHO, and if you can catch budding in spring, so much the better. I’m guessing (i.e. I think greater than 50% chance) that in both cases, the owners were in a position to wait a few months for a better price, and weren’t trying to time the market as move-up buyers. Interesting to ponder.

    1. Kyle says:

      If you think about how long it takes to close, get plans, permits/approvals, getting into your Contractor’s calendar and the length of the building season, February is actually great time to sell a house that could use some work. That said, the true best time to sell a ravine property is when there aren’t any other ravine properties on the market.

    2. Taylor says:

      What was the first one???

    3. Geoff says:

      There could be other reasons to list than maximizing price in February – simply that at an elderly age, months can mean the same as years to those of us in our 40s in terms of time left on the planet.

  16. Geoff says:

    I used to work in sales (very high -end products) and developed a belief that the worst clients were lawyers and teachers and rich-by-inheritance folks. The best? Entrepreneurs and self-made people.

  17. Kyle says:

    Congratulations to you, “Gramma” and “Grandpa”on the sale. It put a smile on my face to hear the happy ending. It was a very lovely house, that only a damn fool would think could be had for asking.

    1. A says:

      Agreed.

      No doubt Mr 40 was influenced by the negativity that sells newspapers.

  18. Boris says:

    lawyers gonna lawyer. Scummers gonna scum.

  19. ed says:

    So at the end of the day Mr. Lawyer did in fact end up wasting his buddy/agent’s time.

  20. Daniel says:

    I’m not at all surprised by this type of behaviour? But my question would be whether you see more of this today than 3-4 years ago or less?

  21. Paully says:

    Funny. As I was reading the first paragraph about Mr. 40’ish, in my mind an alarm bell was ringing: “Self-absorbed, Egotistical, Smartest-person-in-the-room, Lawyer Alert!” And then you wrote that he was a lawyer. I was not at all surprised.

    1. A says:

      What is the point of you taking a swipe at lawyers? Is this a bad lawyer joke?

      1. Geoff says:

        Close – lawyer is a bad joke.

  22. DougWilsonsSlapper says:

    It’s not just real estate, it’s restaurants, travel, etc. People get it or they don’t.

    In any event, can you kindly link to the listing? Let’s see it!

    1. A says:

      I venture to guess it was the FH listing, based on David’s listing history and his blog from a couple of weeks ago.

      1. DougWilsonsSlapper says:

        Tx. Was thinking “North Toronto”.

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