“Living In Perpetual Fear”

Business | February 22, 2016

Given the tagline, you might argue that I’m overstating things, or overreacting.

I mean, there’s people out there “living in perpetual fear” about their health, or their war-torn country, or the person stalking them like in some bad movie with Jennifer Lopez…

But as I explained to my wife on the weekend, and subsequently a couple of clients, the 2016 Toronto real estate market has me living in perpetual fear.  Every minute, and every day.  The worst part is – it’s rubbing off on my clients.

Let me explain what I mean…


I just had one of the worst three-day stretches of my professional career.

I lost in multiple offers three times, I had one property basically stolen out from under me, and two of my clients watched idly by as the properties on which they planned to offer sold via bully offers ahead of the scheduled “offer date.”

It’s been a grind.

But so too has all of 2016, and it’s not getting any easier.

I’ve been in this business for almost twelve years, and the first seven weeks of 2016 represent the most difficult market I have ever worked in.

The causes are evident – there’s not enough product to satisfy the demand.  Not even close.

And while people continue to predict this looming 30-50% drop, the same drop that was predicted before the market gained 80-100%, I can’t see anything changing.

Prices have caught up to Toronto.  We were undervalued for so long, and while the 18-year run-up looks maddening, I believe it’s because we had never received our due.

The new reality of the Toronto market: mania.

Or perhaps “organized chaos” is more appropriate.

But after the first seven weeks of the year, and specifically the last few days, I can honestly tell you that we real estate agents live in perpetual fear of properties selling out from under us, and every time the iPhone buzzes, we think, “Oh no, what now?”

Let’s take a step back for a moment, and think about how properties are sold in this market.

The public has long-loathed the “offer date” as it seems to insinuate that the seller is planning for, or expecting, multiple offers.

But the “offer date” is now common place.  It’s not new, and it’s certainly not unexpected.

And to be quite honest, who out there is so naive to think that a freehold, single-family residence (especially those under $1 Million), will not garner multiple offers?

In the 2016 market, with the lack of supply, and the excessive demand, a seller would be an absolute fool not to have an “offer date” and expose the property to the market for at least six or eight days before pulling the trigger on the sale.

Buyers, non-owners, and the media love to call sellers “greedy” and suggest these are “tactics,” when in reality, a seller putting his or her house on the market tomorrow, and taking the first offer that comes through the door, is making a tragic mistake.

So let’s not blame the “offer date,” since anybody who hates this “tactic” would absolutely, positively, utilize it when he or she goes to sell.

There is, believe it or not, something far worse than the “offer date,” and while I’ve made this point before many times, and probably written this exact sentence, I’ll say it again: the bully offer.

The bully offer throws our disorganized market into further disorganization, that we call “chaos.”

The bully offer makes us all live and breathe real estate, every minute of every day, and keeps us all in a constant state of awareness.

We Realtors need to be on guard, drinking coffee and red bull, up 24 hours a day, or risk being lapped by a competitor, or losing out.

Last Saturday, I showed a property to a client who said he intended to make an offer on the Tuesday when offers were being reviewed – the day after Family Day.  He was heading down to the Air Canada Centre that Saturday night for the NBA All-Star festivities, and he had a wedding to attend on Sunday.

In other words, he had a life.  Don’t we all?

I left that Saturday showing, fearful, that a bully offer would come in.  I wasn’t only fearful because I knew how busy my client was, but also because I leave every showing these days, fearful that a bully offer will come in.

And of course, in this case, one did.

At 9:15pm on a Saturday night, I was at a friend’s housewarming when my phone rang.  I saw the listing agent’s name on the display, and I just “knew.”

They had received a bully offer, it was irrevocable until 11:59pm, and the listing agent wanted to know if we were “prepared to come in.”


No.  Not even close.  Nothing about being out on a Saturday night, with the intention of making an offer on Tuesday, screams “prepared” about dropping everything to make an offer on Saturday.

I knew that was going to happen, and it did.

I left my viewing that Saturday morning, and I just waited.  I just knew.

My client didn’t have the time, wherewithal, or stomach to get involved, so he let it go.

Fast-forward to this past Wednesday, when a property came out, with offers scheduled for Tuesday, February 23rd at 7:00pm, and in the brokers remarks it said: “Absolutely No Pre-Emptive Offers To Be Entertained As Per Seller.”

I sent the listing to my client, and he said, “This is perfect.  I’m away for work until Friday night, but at least now I don’t have to worry about another goddam bully offer coming in!  Let’s see it on Saturday when I’m back!”

Would you trust those words on the MLS listing about “no pre-emptive offers?”

I wouldn’t.

I didn’t.

And in the end, I had good reason not to.

I booked a showing for Saturday, even though it was only Tuesday, to get my foot in the door, and ensure I would be told if there were any developments.

Alas, I got that email, as I knew I would, on Thursday night: “Bully Offer Registered on XXX Street, Presenting Tonight At 8:00pm.”

I got that email at 7:30pm on Thursday night.

My client laughed when I told him.  He said, “That’s not exactly what I’d call ‘fair warning,’ is it, David?”

I had to be honest and say, “There’s nothing ‘fair’ about this market.”

I didn’t know the listing agent, and perhaps I was a bit salty on Thursday, so while I aim never to burn my bridges and always take the high road in this business (it’s awful, but it has a huge impact on your career), I couldn’t help but ask the listing agent, “What happened to that whole ‘no bully offer’ stuff you had in the listing?”

His answer, on the phone?

I believe the term is, “Meh.”

He Meh’d me.

He F*cking Meh’d me!

I took that to mean, “I couldn’t possibly care less about what I said I would or wouldn’t do with this listing, nor could I care less about you, your buyer who is out of town, or anybody else in this situation other than me, and maybe my seller-client.”

The house sold, and interestingly enough for less than I told my buyer it would.  So perhaps that was the one silver lining in all this – the listing agent got less for the property than he would have, could have, should have.  He screwed up, in my opinion.

But I felt bad for my client, who told me that he dreaded getting emails from me, because half the time it’s about a new listing, and half the time it’s about that new listing selling.

A similar situation happened on Friday/Saturday, although this was a listing where the words “Seller Reserves The Right To Review Pre-Emptive Offers” appeared.

I showed the property to my clients at 2:00pm on Friday.

They were, as they said, “in.”

It was an income property, and there was no emotions to play off of; just numbers.

I told them what I thought it would sell for when offers would be reviewed on Monday, and they said, “We’re in.”

One hiccup, however; they were waiting on their bank to give them that last, final, over-the-top, double, go-ahead with regards to their financing.

They know they could afford it, but as prudent investors, they weren’t going to move forward without a guarantee.

And thus, our wait began.

And of course, my fear continued to perpetuate.

It was Friday, and I had to get through to Monday at 6pm in order to make this deal happen.

72 hours is an eternity in this business, and I began my fearful wait through Friday, and into Saturday, hoping to get to Monday without this property selling.

You don’t even need me to finish this story, do you?

On Saturday afternoon, my iPhone buzzed, and I just expected bad news.  I’m not a pessimist, but I am a realist, and the reality of this market is that properties are selling left, right and centre, and the “offer dates” specified on the MLS listings are meaningless.  Every time my phone buzzes, I fear that it’s a bully offer, or a non-confirmation of a showing due to a sale.

And in this case, there was a bully offer registered on the income property; a property for which my clients had to wait until Monday at 9am to get their financing approved.

We sat back on Saturday night and waved “bye-bye” to this gorgeous income property, feeling completely helpless the whole while.

Yes, it would have been great if our financing was where it needed to be.

But it also would have been great if “Monday” meant “Monday” and not “Any Day, TBD, with an hour’s notice.”

Every time a property sells out from under me, or I lose in multiple offers, or essentially I don’t get my clients sold, I look back and say, “What could I have done differently?”

You try to blame yourself, as a Realtor (the good ones, at least), because it makes you better, and makes you more accountable.  You look for reasons why you didn’t get the job done, rather than blaming happenstance, or others.

But with our current market in the state of chaos that it currently is, it’s tough to point the finger at yourself.  Unless you’re going to sit in a padded room, covered in bubble-wrap, with a laptop, a cell phone, and enough strength to stay awake 24-hours per day, every day, then you’re going to miss out on properties.

Even in the condo market, where “offer dates” and “bully offers” don’t apply, you still live in perpetual fear.

The condo market is red-hot as well, and when you show your buyer a condo at 5:30pm on a Wednesday night, you know that there could be an offer in play, there might be an offer coming in within the next few hours, or you could call to register your offer tomorrow, only to be told that the property has been sold.

Perpetual fear.

That’s the life.

It’s my job to deal with it, and I do, in my own way.

But many of my buyer clients are living in fear, and walking on eggshells, and that’s not right.

It’s not right, but it’s not going to change.

Especially not in the “busy spring market” that starts in March/April.  No, in fact, I think our mania will just rise to a whole new level…

Back To Top

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


  1. Marina

    at 9:17 am

    David, is there a reason for a buyer to NOT put in a bully offer? In this market it’s very unlikely that you’d end up in a single-offer situation on offer night. So if you are ready to put down money on a house, why not do so at your timing?

    1. Mike

      at 9:29 am

      I think as he mentioned in the story the lack of supply. In the post he has a client who has booked in to see the house on Saturday on a Tuesday. Probably because his clients work and couldn’t get the time off. The argument would be that the clients need to make it a priority and see the house as soon as it’s listed but that’s difficult to take time off work all the time and flake out constantly on social commitments for a house you may or may not like. You might look at 100 houses before you find the right one so it becomes difficult to commit that much time off of work, social functions or family commitments.

      The offer date offers a false sense of security. You think you can see the house on the weekend because offers are not due for a week but then it sells before you even had a chance to look at it. I’m sure it gets really frustrating.

      1. Marina

        at 10:46 am

        I think you missed my point.
        I’m asking in the case that you do see the house, is there a reason you would not put in a bully offer? I mean that as an honest question.
        If I see a house and I like it, in what circumstances would David advise me to NOT put in a bully offer.

        1. Kyle

          at 11:14 am

          I agree with Marina. If i were searching for a house right now and found one i wanted, i’d pretty much ask my Agent to submit an offer as soon as we were done viewing it. There are only a few exceptions were i would rather wait (e.g. if i wanted to get my own home inspection done, if i needed to validate stuff like permits or pad parking with the City). I don’t see a downside to making a bully offer.

  2. Mike

    at 9:22 am

    My brother is looking for a house right now and on pretty much every listing, down near the bottom it says, “offers graciously accepted and reviewed [date & time]. Seller reserves right to review and accept pre-emptive offers”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something as senseless as those two sentences in my life but they’re there on almost every listing.

    As you said, there is a lack of listings right now, that combined with low interest rates that are artificially driving the market.

    There was a tri-plex in Moore Park a couple of weeks ago, listed on Sunday, offers on Thursday, asking price gave it a cap rate below three percent and sure enough, it sold on Thursday for more than asking.

    This is Nortel at $125 or oil at $140 a barrel.

    1. Appraiser

      at 9:52 am

      @ Mike:

      When it comes to the Toronto real estate market demand is outstripping supply – basic economics.

      As of this month, the Bank of Canada overnight rate has been at 1% or lower for SEVEN straight years.

      Define artificial.

      1. Marina

        at 10:51 am

        On top of that, the area’s population is rising and the commuting situation is deteriorating by the day. That drives demand outside the interest rate mechanics.
        Not to mention that the trend? penchant? whatever? of flipping and tear-downs has significantly deteriorated the availability of entry level properties in some areas. On my street, when a smaller house goes up for sale, there is a line around the block for open houses. But in the last five years, we have had 30 tear downs. 30. On my street alone, not the whole neighborhood.
        Nothing artificial about any of that.

        1. Appraiser

          at 1:02 pm

          @ Boris:

          “So what are the people complaining about artificially low rates talking about? Partly that they’re low by historical standards — but there are enough changes in the landscape, from deleveraging to demography, that this isn’t a convincing argument.”

          ~Paul Krugman.

          (P.S. Interest rates have been declining in Canada for 25 years).

          1. Boris

            at 4:00 pm

            You’re quoting Paul Krugman! Are you kidding me? This guy is the champion of dangerous Keynesian economics that will turn us into Greece.

            A few points:

            1) Almost everything he has said post the 08 crisis regarding stimulus and govnerment intervention into capital markets has been proved dead wrong.

            2) That comment of his – in isolation – says nothing. People aren’t complaining that low rates are low. People are complaining that the unintended consequences of QE and POMO and ZIRP are worse than the initial problem. Dislocations in asset pricing has consequences in price signalling, affecting capital allocation and incentives.

            3) Your (PS) – So? Fiat currencies, central banking, Keynesianism has been around longer than that. Only in the past decade or so have Western governments gone full retard on monetary interventionism. Japan went through this a couple decades ago. And still havent recovered. And we ignore that case.

            4) His comment smacks of: “low? no they arent low, they are low by historic standards only!” Rates are zero, have been for some time, and negative in many European countries.

            I STRONGLY suggest you read up on your Milton Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises.

            Rates are artificially low, because my definition, the market does not set the short end of the curve with central banking taking over that role. The long end used to be sacred, but QE and TLRO and POMO changed all that.


          2. Chris

            at 12:45 pm

            @ Appraiser: Your Krugman quote defending low rates is of course referencing American low rates from 2014 – instigated after their real estate bubble had famously already burst, and as he notes “deleveraging” had been going on for some time. It is not an “artificial” happenstance to have near-zero rates on top of that kind of economic experience. This is the opposite of what’s happening in Canada, where we have similarly low rates though house prices have not declined. While low rates are designed to stimulate the economy in general – for housing in Canada this is “the medicine before the illness” – which one could say is “artificial”.

            Krugman goes on to defend low rates further in the article you quoted by saying this: “And one more thing: where is the wild exuberance that we associate with dangerous bubbles? I don’t see popular TV shows about house-flipping…” You do see lots of wild exuberance in Canada – in fact just read David’s blog above, which does a pretty good job of depicting, as he puts it, the “mania”. Your ratehub chart depicts 25 years of generally falling rates as you note, but also includes a few upswings you seem to have ignored – the one in 1990 did some nasty things to Toronto’s real estate market (as you know – since you’re such a fan of history)….

          3. jeff316

            at 12:34 pm

            I think the shot at Krugmann is fair game, but not when a post goes on to suggest reading Friedman or Hayek!

      2. Kyle

        at 3:22 pm

        In the context of interest rates, ‘artificial’ is a construct used by delusional people, who don’t want to accept reality. The argument is basically saying “in the absence of X, then interest rates would be Y, so therefore it is artificial”. Which actually turns out to be a really great argument whenever reality gets to be a bummer…It’s like saying in the absence of gravity we could all fly, so therefore we are artificial land creatures.

    2. johnnychase

      at 10:06 am

      Moore Park is practically a zreo cap rate. Rents are not as high as you are estimating.

      1. Boris

        at 12:06 pm

        David, are you going to approve my other two posts?

        Am I blackballed? Whats the deal?

        (you can delete this one)

  3. Clifford

    at 9:43 am

    The way I se it, anyone who has owned a house for 5+ years in the trendier areas (Riverdale, Leslieville, Cabbagetown, etc) given a) the increase in home prices b) double land transfer c)lack of product, why would you move? If you love your area, sit tight, use the equity built up in your house and renovate.

    I see no need to sell a house in order to buy another one unless you’re moving to a different city or something. And I think a lot of homeowners feel the same way. Unless you want to cash out and sit on your money or are downsizing, why in the world would you sell your house and jump into this madness?

    1. Natrx

      at 11:24 am

      Exactly that. I use the extreme example of let’s say house prices go to $10 mil. average, but incomes have only gone up 5% during that time. The realtor and tax costs would be let’s say 15x one’s after-tax income vs 2x today. Might as well take out a loan in that value and renovate.

      1. O

        at 1:06 pm

        That is what we did. I have been an owner for almost 20 years so have lots of equity…every time I want to cash out, my (smarter) wife points out that we could borrow the amount that it would cost us to move and use that for renos/life. Both of us get sick thinking of that vile double land transfer tax.

        I can say with almost 100% certainty that the only way my house is ever coming on the market is a major job loss/collapse of my industry/health issue….but even then, between family/friends helping out, and the ability to rent it out, doubt even that would cause me to sell.

  4. ParkhurstBessborough

    at 3:21 pm

    I can’t imagine living the life of a real estate agent, especially in this market. Your blog really portrayed the emotional toll it can take.

    1. condodweller

      at 2:40 pm

      I can. My compensation would help with the emotional roller coaster ride. David has good articles however his immaturity occasionally shines through in a few such as this one. I mean does he really expect us to feel sorry for him when his income could very well be in the seven figures yet he has to deal with a few after hours phone calls where the deal may not go his way and he might have to show yet another house to a client before making the sale? Or the Buy?

      Spare a thought for the guy, or girl, who works all day and gets support calls all hours of the night for less than a $100k a year. Or for the one who works his/her tail off and doesn’t have a hope of ever making more than $50k a year.

      Now back to our regular programming….

      1. Kyle

        at 1:35 pm

        Being a bit presumptuous there, no? I certainly didn’t read the post as David asking for sympathy for all the extra work he has to do from not closing the deal. The emotions he is talking about are empathy for his clients and frustration for them, not for himself. In a good buyer-Agent relationship you develop a team mentality. Were both buyer and Agent want to see each other succeed. So seeing his clients come so close and then having to deliver the crushing news to them would be difficult for anybody. Nothing immature about that.

        As well, the compensation that you seem to think Realtors make, doesn’t make any sense. I’m guessing that most Agents make less than 2% per end after their costs. So an Agent would have to participate in $50M dollars worth of ends to earn 7-figures. There are probably Agents out there who do this kind of volume, but they would be the exception not the norm. And frankly to presume that if you were an Agent, that you would fall into this category actually shows immaturity/naivety on your part.

        1. condodweller

          at 6:57 pm

          What is presumptuous is you defending David without him asking you to. He doesn’t strike me the kind of guy who would ask you to defend him even if you did know him.

          You are missing my point again. What he makes is irrelevant. If you read my post again you might see that my point is valid even if he “only” made $200,000.

          I’m not even going to address your interpretation of his story as that would be totally pointless.

          WRT what it takes to do $50 million, that’s about 4 average houses per month in Toronto. The fact he lost in three multiple offer situations in three days in one of the slowest months of the year should give you an idea of the volumes he does.

          On your last point, I have no idea what you were smoking there! All I said was that I could imagine living the life of a real estate agent with the “hardships” David described in the article. In this case implying that it’s David’s life. How you interpreted that to mean that if I was an agent I would make 7 figures I have no idea.

          1. Kyle

            at 8:33 pm

            GIVE IT UP ALREADY!!!…Just admit that your comment was utterly ridiculous and that you just felt like sounding off and having a “but think of the children!!!” moment.

            It’s not that i missed your point, it’s that you never had one to begin with. At no point did he ever claim that this market was a personal “hardship” for him. And if what he makes is irrelevant than why the hell did you bring it up (other than to telegraph your envy and bitterness)?

            David didn’t ask me to defend him and no we don’t know each other outside of this blog. The reason i am speaking up is because if you even had an ounce of brains you’d realize this blog is an extension of his brand and business, so he has to maintain professionalism and that’s why he cann’t engage idiots like you who take inane pot shots at him.

          2. Kyle

            at 8:36 pm

            “I can. My compensation would help with the emotional roller coaster ride.”

            Your exact words, not mine.

          3. condodweller

            at 11:32 pm

            Ok Kyle, you are obviously having a bad day so I’m going to spell it out for you.

            “I can.” as in I can “imagine living the life of a real estate agent, especially in this market.” as ParkhurstBessborough put it. See, I was responding to that comment. “My compensation would help with the emotional roller coaster ride.” meaning if I was a real estate agent, note the “if”, my compensation WOULD help with the emotional roller coaster ride. All I was saying is that if it was me, I would just deal with it because it is what it is which I can’t control and I would be well compensated for my efforts.

            The second paragraph was simply meant to put things into perspective, i.e. there are people out there dealing with a lot more for a lot less. I don’t think anyone around here is going to dispute that real estate agents are well compensated. No envy or bitterness. Those are negative emotions that have no place in my life.

            The only thing I can be accused of is calling David immature, which he does come across as with comments like that, therefore, I stand by my opinion.

            Your abusive and belligerent post was uncalled for.

          4. ScottyP

            at 11:48 am

            Condodweller can sort of dish it (emphasis on “sort of”), but boy can he/she ever not take it….

  5. lui

    at 3:44 pm

    On the other side I seen properties that be sitting on MLS for months with out price change or even updated photos from barely viewable to semi terrible.The unit is empty,the investor losing money every month and they don’t change tactics and let it rot.I just came back from Vancouver and the housing situation is lot worst.Salaries aren’t that great in Vancouver but housing is blazing hot for any sort of homes in a decent area.This of courses causes lots of resentment when foreign buyers out bids everyone and the locals are left with no chance of affording a home.

  6. moonbeam!

    at 4:24 pm

    Well I would say ‘perpetual dread’…….
    thanx for the inside look at 2016’s real estate business.
    Anyone want a 4-bedroom, 4 bathroom house in Birchcliff Heights, Scarborough? bully offers accepted!

  7. GinaTO

    at 12:28 pm

    The importance of choosing a career that fits your personality: I would die of anxiety if I had David’s job.
    My husband keeps saying we could sell our house for $300K more than we paid 3 years ago (which is true), but as others have said and I keep telling him: to go where? Anything we’ll want will end up going for some crazy amount of money in a stressful bidding war. No thanks.
    I also noticed that the inventory is super-low in the areas I browse MLS for – Junction Triangle, Junction, Roncys, BWV. Maybe more people are thinking the same way and postpone moving up.

    1. Chroscklh

      at 1:51 pm

      Genie Toe – I wonder this thing true you say? Wonder if stat sometime show new lists actually slow down in some area when market hot, hot, IF next level house get more expense quicker and structural costs to move prohibit (obviously not normal case – normally listings increase in hot market). Just like people say – stay and renovate not pay $500k more to go from 3-bed row house to 4-bed semi. So if listings slow, suggest price likely to be increase even more. Unless all buyer collectively say “nope. we no participate” – unlikely. Well, can’t say that – back home my country people stop buy new home whenever war, coup, 6-mths long forest fire etc

    2. condodweller

      at 2:16 pm

      @GinaTO You can’t really play the market with your home except for downsizing perhaps, and investing the difference elsewhere. The interesting play is with RE investments. If you have one or more investment properties you could consider selling one to take some money off the table taking advantage of record high prices. Some, the greedy, will say you’d be crazy selling now because just look at the appreciation over the last 20 years. It will continue and you will lose out. That may be true, however, if you have doubled or tripled your money the time to act is when prices are on the way up. It also doesn’t hurt to look at what you need to retire on. You may be able to lock in your gains and live happily ever after and not worry about market fluctuations. When the market starts to roll over it’s too late.

  8. Duncan Bray

    at 5:46 pm

    David: Your article only confirms my belief that the next logical step for buyers is to deal only through a listing agent. Soon ads and signs will promote upcoming listings and more buyers will be attracted to the neighbourhood’s star lister for info on upcoming listings. The listing agent knows what the Seller wants vis a vis price and closing date, and gets to look at all other offers. How many times is your frustrated buyer going to lose out on a purchase before he realizes that going through the listing agent gets him way more info than working with a buyer broker.? In the old days we used to door knock or flyer neighbourhood’s we had buyers for. Real Estate is undergoing a revolution and there is no going back.

    1. Dan Duran

      at 1:09 am

      Seems like a good idea and in fact it’s what I did when I bought my house. But as a seller (when time comes), knowing that the listing agent probably favored my (bully) offer I’d be a little suspicious and I’d ask a few tough questions to make sure the listing agent still works for me and not for a double commission. I have seen successful bully offers that came in under my estimated market value for houses in my neighborhood.

  9. Steve

    at 8:38 am

    Great article. Thinking of becoming an agent but have a number of reservations including this kind of thing where you have to ‘respond in 30 minutes’ after getting a text while at some family function, while in the bathtub, or in the middle of the movie theatre. It would be a supreme test of my patience, but it’s an understandable outcome of the super-heated market we have in TO. I drive around, there are no signs out. Practically zero listings. I thank God our family got our house 8 years ago, but even back then the transaction was fevered. Must be insane now. And we’re not even in a super hot area. But the whole city is super hot for detached everywhere now.

    I sought some guidance on this potential career move from the great agent who helped us get this place, and she told me (among many other things) that unlike 20 years ago when she started, people are moving much less frequently. It’s easy to see why. As I say to my wife, ‘We’re going outta here feet first from this place.’

    Maybe an agent should focus more on rental listings? Far less commission, but if you can close them rapidly….

    Any thoughts welcome on this.

Back To Comments