I mean, if the Realtor tied a rope to you and your partner, and escorted you through the house without allowing you to move more than eighteen inches away, would you truly feel free?
I can’t believe some of what I see going on at open houses these days, and it all culminated with a viewing I did at an east end house this past Sunday…
Oh boy. I feel that this post could go either way…
It’s one of those posts that when I sit down to write it, I know I’m going to catch some flak the next day. In this case, however, I don’t think it’s the readers that will sling mud (they hurt my feelings the most…..), but rather my industry colleagues who might not like what I have to say.
I also think, however, that there’s two sides to this coin, and you could argue either way.
What I wanted to talk about today is the invasion of privacy, boorish salesperson tactics, and complete lack of dignity that some Realtors display at open houses these days.
That’s my sentiment, but my opponents will be quick to disagree. They’ll side with the home-owner, use them as the scapegoat, and use them as a reason to justify their actions.
But a I’m talking in euphemisms here, let me start from the beginning…
Last week, I met with a new buyer client at her condo, and along with her boyfriend, the two of them told me that they’d been looking at houses off-and-on for the last year, and that they’d been to a slew of open houses.
The lady told me that she receives emails from about a dozen Realtors, on the regular, and that even as she emails back and says “please remove me from your mailing list,” the emails continue at roughly the same pace.
I asked her, “So why do you put your real name down on those open house sign-in sheets? Don’t you have a standard fake?”
I remember doing my very first open house back in 2004, and a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs came through with his parents (he was about 22-years-old and mommy and daddy were basically helping him find a dorm), and when I asked him to sign in, he wrote “John Smith.”
A friend of my sister’s used to tell me how she wrote “Anne Gables” each and every time she went into an open house, which was something she did every weekend, as her favorite past-time was “open housing.”
Right or wrong, the standard-fake name has been around a long time, and it’s not like Elaine Benes of Seinfeld invented it in the 90’s, when giving her (fake) phone number to undesirable men asking for her coveted digits.
So after I asked my new client why she felt the need to give an open-house-sitting-Realtor her true name and phone number, she said, “Because they ID me, every time.”
Hold the phone, for a moment.
They ID you? You mean, like, at the LCBO, or at a bar, or at Nexus?
“I walk inside, and the Realtor gives me smile, and asks for a driver’s license,” the lady told me.
I wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not. I mean, I knew she wasn’t kidding, because there wasn’t any point to joking around, but at the same time, I couldn’t possibly believe this was real.
Let’s drift off for a moment, and explore why agents put out an “Open House Sign-In Sheet.”
Why do you think they do this, hmmm?
Ask the agent, and they’ll tell you that it’s for safety, of course!
The seller wants to know who is coming into their home, and they have a right to! It’s their house, and to enter is a privilege, not a right. They should be able to keep track of every individual, and this means getting a name, address, phone number, AND, making sure this information is accurate by getting a piece of photo ID.
Agree? Yes? No?
I agree, in principal. But only in principal, because as you might guess, I don’t think this is the true reason why Realtors have people sign-in.
This is where I start to lose some of my industry colleagues, who will wonder why I’m not towing the company line, and instead, am giving away trade secrets.
But use your common sense, folks. If “John Doe” has a listing, and his name is on the FOR SALE sign, and “Bob Smith” is doing the open house, do you think that he is:
a) There to sell the property
b) There to meet buyers and sign up clients
What I’m seeing in 2013’s real estate market is Realtors sitting at open houses and forcing people to give a blood sample as soon as they walk in the door, not because they need to identify people coming inside the house, in case of a theft, or a scratch on the hardwood floor, but rather because they are using the “rules” to justify their hard-sell tactics of picking up clients.
I put “rules” in quotations because technically, it is a rule.
Have you been to an open house where there is a laminated white sign, with bright red lettering that says something to the effect of, “RECO rules require individuals attending open houses to provide identification”?
I’m paraphrasing here, and I searched long and hard for a photo of the sign, but it’s to no avail. Nevertheless, some Realtors sitting at open houses will produce those signs that TREB or OREA make, and sit next to them when people walk in.
When I sit at an open house, I don’t even bother putting an open house sign-in sheet on the counter.
It’s not because I’m failing to protect the interests of my sellers, because to be perfectly honest, I think those sign-ins are nothing but an attempt by the agent to solicit buyers.
Let’s be honest here: this isn’t about protecting home-owners, it’s just a rouse to produce personal information from passer-byers, and nothing more.
I’m somewhat fortunate that about 90% of my business comes from this blog, of from referrals from existing or past clients. I don’t work open houses to try and solicit buyers, but rather to try and put the best spin on the property for my sellers.
My fear, however, is that 7/10 open houses aren’t worked by the listing agent, but instead, by a rookie agent, or an aggressive agent, who is only there to meet people and attempt to secure them as a client.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; after all, we are in sales, and that is a great way to go after new business. But it’s the tactics of securing somebody’s personal information that rubs me the wrong way.
I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: I do believe that to attend an open house, as a member of the public, is, in fact, a privilege, and not a right. I don’t like the way that many people trod through a house, acting like it’s their God-given right to come and go as they please, just because the sign “OPEN HOUSE” sits out front. But at the same time, I don’t like the harassment that’s going on by many of the agents sitting at these open houses, after using RECO “rules” to produce contact information from potential buyers.
I have a client who I’ve been working with for five months, and he and his fiancee attend open houses on weekends, and provide their true, personal information, when asked.
He has gone as far as to produce one of my business cards, to physically hand to the agent working the open house, but time and time again, these agents take the email address and mailing address that my client provides, and start sending him spam and junkmail.
On Sunday afternoon, I took a client to see a property in the east end, at 3:00pm, which happened to fall during the 2-4pm open house time. While we were inside, I saw the Realtor who was sitting the open house ask somebody for his driver’s license.
No harm, right?
The gentleman provided his driver’s licence, and the Realtor wrote down his name, and address, and then surprisingly, inquired, “Is this your current address?”
Isn’t that what police officers ask when they pull somebody over for speeding?
The gentleman confirmed that it was his current address, and then she asked, “Do you have any other identification?” He sheepishly smiled, and said, “Ummm, sorry, that’s all I have with my address on it. I have a credit card with my name though.”
She declined the offer, and asked for his phone number, which he gave to her without hesitation.
What happened next, was in a word: amazing.
She got out her cell phone, and called the number that he gave her.
His cell phone started ringing, and she smiled, and said, “Okay, great, have a look through the house, and let me know if you have any questions.”
Ladies and gentleman, please, answer me this: have we gone too far?
I understand the need to protect the interests of the home-owner, look after their dwelling and its contents, and ensure that we track who is coming in and out of the house.
But at what point are we just leeches, looking to suck blood from the necks of the willing?
I was embarrassed for the Realtor that I described above, and I honestly felt like the clients I was with, who witnessed that interaction, might have looked at me slightly different afterward.
Whether you are an active Realtor, or a member of the public looking to purchase a home, surely you must agree that there is a happy medium, and middle-ground, between protecting vulnerable home-owners and exercising a salesperson’s right to try and solicit business, no?
The problem, it seems, is that I have no idea what that happy medium is.
And even if I did, I would have absolutely no idea how to implement it…