MLS As A Hobby

Business | March 24, 2009

Some people enjoy gardening in their leisure time, while others belong to photography clubs or like bird-watching.

In my business, I’m fascinated by the people who enjoy “MLS’ing” as a hobby.

I’m also fascinated with the guy in this photo below…

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When I was a kid, my hobby was collecting sports cards and various sports memorabilia.

It was actually a bit of a male-bonding exercise between my brother, my father, and myself.  Every Sunday, we would drive to various sports-card shows across Southern Ontario with cash in hand.  Sometimes it was Kitchener; the next weekend it would be Guelph.

The hockey greats would always appear to sign autographs for a few hours, and while my brother was in the showroom searching for Von Hayes and Mike Schmidt cards from the early 80’s, I’d be shaking hands with Maurice Richard and getting him to sign my glossy 8 x 10 photo in gold paint pen.

Fast forward almost twenty years, and I’m not sure what I would define as my true “hobby” today.

My hobby is working hard for my clients and getting them the most money for their properties, or the best deals possible on their purchases!

Wow, what a salesman…

I guess playing fantasy sports would have to top my hobby list, although freely admitting that in this online forum sure isn’t going to help my social cause.

The other day, I was talking to former client of mine and she remarked that she is “hopelessly addicted to MLS.”

I was somewhat confused at first as I asked her what exactly she meant by being “addicted” to the website.

She explained that she spends hours and hours each day surfing the website and looking at pictures of houses.  It had truly become her biggest hobby, as she did this both during work hours as well as on weekends and in her leisure time at night.

Since I work in real estate, I guess I take MLS for granted and consider it a tool of the trade.  I don’t feel any sort of “buzz” when I log in, and looking at a particular photo or property doesn’t conjure up any emotions, good or bad.

But to a member of the general public, or essentially anybody who doesn’t work in the real estate industry, I suppose surfing various listings for houses or condos provides excitement and an “escape” of sorts for those that like to daydream and fantasize about something more.

This is what Leslie went on to tell me.

“My favorite area of the city is Chaplin Estates, and it’s where I hope to buy a house and raise kids one day,” she said.  “I know all the streets by name, and when I see a new listing in the area, my heart skips a beat and my fingers tremble a bit as I click through the photos of the house.  I absolutely adore this area!”

Leslie admitted that while she lives in a downtown condo, she is already thinking ahead to when she has her dream house.  She checks MLS several times a week, and is always looking for new photos to add to her collection.

“I actually save the photos into a folder on my hard-drive at work,” she said.  “I dunno, maybe it’s silly, but I have quite the collection; mostly photos of the kitchen and the exterior of the house.  I like to flip through them every once in a while, and I just love adding a new picture to the mix.”

I’m sure Leslie isn’t alone in her pursuits, as the number of visitors to www.realtor.ca increases every month.

Another client of mine, who we’ll call “Sport,” admits that although he purchased his house a year ago, he still checks MLS frequently.  The crazy part is, Sport works 80+ hours per week, and he still finds the time to cruise MLS looking for houses of interest.

Sport had grown so accustomed to browsing MLS when he was searching for a house to purchase last year, that he never let the habit die.  It became so ingrained in his daily routine that he has switched gears from house-hunting to hobbying.

While Leslie searches for photos of designer kitchens and exterior facades, Sport looks for houses that are comparable to his either in terms of area or style.  Sport works in finance and thus he is obsessed with house values and how his stacks up against the rest.

Sport recognizes that the real estate market has dropped off since he purchased last year, but he is more concerned with how his house value has changed when compared to the market as a whole.

My fourth-year Investment Analysis professor at McMaster always used to ask, “Can you beat the market?”  He surmised that if you made 15% on your portfolio last year, it’s meaningless if the market increased 18%.  You could have just thrown your money in the TSX and you would have done better!  Likewise, if the market dipped 6%, and you lost 9%, you’re behind the game.

Sport uses MLS as a tool to follow house prices on his street and gauge how his house is holding its value compared to the rest of the city.  It helps matters that we got Sport’s house for about $25,000 less than it should-have/could-have sold for, but that’s a story for another day…

Even my own mother browses MLS looking for “cute houses” in her area.  She loves small houses and is amazed at how people can carry on their lives in houses that measure only ten or twelve feet in width and stretch back only twenty-five feet on the postage-stamp-sized lot.  Of course, my mother doesn’t use MLS as much since the Toronto Real Estate Board brought in Secure-ID Authenticators that prevent Realtors from giving out their codes and allowing others to access their TorontoMLS accounts, but let’s make this our little secret…

I’ve talked to countless people that say they “love to browse MLS,” but there are others who take it a step further and consider it a full-fledged hobby like Leslie describes above.

And who’s to say that their hobby isn’t more exciting than somebody else’s?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my friends for a thrilling game of Dungeons & Dragons.  Hey, it was either that or curling

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2 Comments

  1. Alex

    at 8:42 pm

    My name is Alex and I’m an MLS-a-holic. It’s been three hours since my last MLS search.

    This isn’t a support group for those addicted to new listings and price drops?

  2. H Marshall

    at 4:41 pm

    I track the sales at a couple dozen condos that I believe are in serious financial difficulties and/or the buildings have serious mechanical or structural problems.

    I am amazed to see prices rising at condos that had no AGM in two-four years, have horrible audited financial statements, obvious visual defects and yet people continue to buy.

    How bad? How about financial statements saying there is only $49 in the Reserve Funds! That only scares away the smarter, or luckier, ones. How about auditor notes saying that there are doubts that the corporation can continue as a going concern!

    That doesn’t stop them.

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