Relocation, Location, Location!

Business | January 22, 2013

Ah yes!  Relocation companies! Aren’t they fun to deal with?

It’s like a hot-dog cart owner telling a master chef how to bake a cake…


I’ve only had the pleasure of dealing with a relocation company once on the selling end, and that one experience was enough for me.

A client of mine was the recipient of a corporate transfer two years ago, and since he was a very sought-after commodity, they took excellent care of him.  One of the benefits they offered was the help of a relocation company, who would help him get set up with a new home in London, and help him sell his condo here in Toronto.

I say he’s my client, but in fact, when I first got a call from a relocation company (I’ll leave their name out of this, but they’re one of the biggest out there), they wanted to refer him to me!  That’s how it works, after all.  The lady on the phone said, “We’d like to refer a client to you, his name is John Smith,” and of course I said, “Yes, I know John, I’ve known him for over ten years, and he’s a friend of mine.”

“Right,” she said.  “So anyways, we’d like to refer a client to you…”

That term “So anyways,” would be the bane of my existence.  Over the next two months, every time I spoke, and she didn’t follow, didn’t understand, or didn’t care what I was saying, she would simply pause and say, “Soooo, anyways…”

If you’re not familiar with how a relocation company works, the process is usually something like this: they give you a “guaranteed price” on your property, and then you list the property for sale for a given time period (usually 30 days with a condo).  If you don’t obtain a sale in that time period, then they purchase the property from you, take it over, and sell it themselves.  No matter what – whether you’re the owner in the first 30 days, or whether they’re the owner afterwards – they still control the whole process.

It was the process that drove me utterly insane, and made me never want to deal with a relocation company again.  They made everything ten times harder than it had to be, they refused to think outside the box, and above all, they had absolutely no idea how organized real estate worked in Toronto – which is amazing considering this is what they do for a living…

The lady at the relocation company, who I’ll call “Jennifer,” was a nice lady, no doubt.  It wasn’t her fault that she was wrapped up from head to toe in corporate red tape.

One of the first tasks I was asked to complete when I was “referred” the listing of this condo was to do a Comparative Market Analysis for the figureheads at the relocation company, and for the bank.

CMA, you say?  Well that’s pretty easy.  The identical model unit sold last month for $410,000, so there’s your comp.

Oh, I was so naive!  I had no clue what I was about to get into…

Jennifer sent me a 12-page document with specific instructions on exactly what they wanted in their CMA.  This is where things got weird.

They wanted all the comparable properties for the past 24 months, which I thought was insane, since the condo market had risen probably 12% in that timeframe, and thus the comps were stale-dated.  I rarely use comparables outside of a 6-month window, and if I do, they’re adjusted on several levels.

But even assuming that there was a purpose to these 24-month old “comparables,” it was what followed next that made me scratch my head.

For eachcomparable, they wanted a 3-page Q&A sheet filled out.

Some of the questions – for this CONDO were as follows…

“How deep is the well on the property?”

“What type of roofing was used, and how old is it?”

“How many useable feet of shoreline are on the property?”

“Is there a sump-pump in the basement?”

“How many guest houses, boat houses, or other free-standing structures are on the property?”

“How many cars can fit in the driveway?”

“How much income is derived from farming and/or related activities?”

Shall I go on?

There was a space to put “NA” next to the questions, but I wondered why they had all this in the first place!

I know you’re all reading this thinking, “David, don’t be so naive!  These are generic, boiler-plate documents that the relocation company uses for all the properties that they take over.”  That’s true, and I understand, but why not have….ummmm, maybe three different boiler-plate documents?  One for a condo, one for a house, and one for a rural property?  How about ten different boiler-plate agreements?  What if the property is a commercial building?  Do they still expect you to detail how long the dock is?

So I took it upon myself to help them with their business model, and I took this document (which was in Excel), and I deleted all the dozens of ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with a condominium, thereby shortening the document, and giving them something they could work with in the future.

I thought I was doing them a favour.

I filled out the document for about thirty properties that had sold in the past two years, and sent it to Jennifer.

Well, she freaked out.

She asked, “What the heck did you do to this document?”

“Well Jennifer,” I explained, “It seems that none of the condo units in this building had wells, nor did any of them have septic tanks.  Condos with septic tanks in downtown Toronto are soooooo rare these days!  I also didn’t see any timber while I was on ‘the property grounds,’ so I took out a few sections of this document, and stuck to the pertinent information such as number of beds, number of baths, and square footage, which is really all you need to sell a cookie-cutter condo in this building.”

Yeah, it didn’t go over well.

I’m not being a jerk, am I?  I honestly thought I was saving everybody a great deal of time.

I see it like this: if you’re going to the grocery store, and you want to make a list of what you need, you have two methods at your disposal:

1) Make a list of every single item in the store – thousands of them, and then circle the items that you intend to buy.
2) Simply list the items that you intend to buy.

That’s exactly what this situation was like.

But Jennifer didn’t back down.  She said she had to answer to “upstairs,” (I assumed she meant God…), and that she needed what she needed, when she needed it!

In the end, we compromised, and I encouraged her to bring my “new, improved” document to the people upstairs and show them how they could modernize their procedures, but who knows if she did.

So after she and her people upstairs looked over 20-something months worth of stale listings, mulled over all the “NA’s” next to irrelevant questions, and put their heads together, they came up with about 110% of fair market value.  Great!  Another challenge!

We put the condo on the market, and away we went!

As luck would have it, this was a bad time for this building.  There was construction right outside, and the unit was a tough sell.  The unit sat on the market for 30 days, after which the relocation company took the property over, and I was forced to become Jennifer’s bitch.  We reduced the price to reflect fair market value (why didn’t we just list it there in the first place?), and within a few days we received an offer!


I called Jennifer at about 2:30pm on a Friday and said, “We have an offer!  Good news, eh?  We should probably sign it back about $5K under asking; this is a good offer, I wanna work with it!”

“That’s good,” Jennifer started, “But there’s just a couple things.”


“First of all, I need to discuss the sign-back amount with a few people before we put pen to paper.”  That seemed fair, I guess, although this really wasn’t rocket science.

“Secondly, I need until Friday.”

What?  Friday?

“Jennifer, today is Friday,” I said.

“Yes, I know,” she replied.  “But we can’t do anything with this offer until Monday at the earliest, and I need five business days to review it.”

This is where the red tape showed its ugly face yet again.

Filling out that ridiculous form – being expected to count trees in the condo, and measure the size of the septic tank – that was a waste of time, and unnecessary.  But this?  This was going to kill the deal.  Why did they need five business days to review a simple offer?  Well, because that’s how they treat ALL properties!

And this is the long-winded point that I wanted to make from the start: whether it’s a condo or a cottage, they want to use the same forms.  And whether it’s a $18,000,000 commercial plaza, or a cookie-cutter $275,000 condo, they want to have five business days to review the offer.

Oh – and they don’t work on weekends.  Right.  Because real estate sleeps on weekends…

“Jennifer, this offer is good until tonight at 11:59pm.”

“Well, if they want the condo,” Jennifer said, “They’ll give us another seven days, won’t they?”

“No!  They won’t!” I said.  “And how come you can’t work on this now?  Why can’t we sign this back tonight?”

“Well, the person in charge of signing is gone for the day, and we’re not open to conduct business on weekends,” she said.

So now my challenge was to ask this buyer’s agent to add a full WEEK to his irrevocable period on the offer, and resubmit it.

Yeah.  He walked away.

Who wouldn’t?

Would you give somebody seven days with your offer?  Who would want to wait that long?

Jennifer was actually surprised that the buyer walked away, and she was not impressed with my inability to do “my job” and get them onside.

I told my client, “I hate you for doing this, and I hope you choke on your blueberry scone over there in the UK.”  He laughed, and thanked me for sticking with it.  He’d already received his payout from the relocation company, and he was long gone.

About ten days later, we sold the property, and I figured that would be the first and last time I ever dealt with relocation company.

The truth is, I would do anything for my clients.  If it helped one of them, I’d deal with Jennifer again.

But WOW are those folks ever drowning in corporate red tape!  I bet they can’t take a lunch break without getting authorization from eighteen different people…

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  1. Ralph Cramdown

    at 12:40 pm

    Man, I’d love to read “Jennifer’s” blog or twitter feed.

  2. Kyle

    at 1:14 pm

    On the sale of my last home we had a relocation agent representing one of the potential buyers. Including her client we had 3 offers, and she was scheduled to present first, as she was offering on another property the same night, if her and her client didn’t get our property. Consequently she had an offer expiration time of 7:00 pm, when she arrived at 7:15 pm, it turned out she also happened to bring the wrong copy, where her client (who does not live in the country and therefore can not just be dialed up to provide initials) did not waive certain clauses. Her presentation was a bit of a gong show, and my wife and i felt really bad for her client, who had no clue how badly he was being represented.

  3. George

    at 10:18 am

    It’s a horrible thing to have a job where you can’t do anything without asking for permission and following protocol. If anything, this just makes me appreciate how much more efficient and responsive a relatively independent worker can be. It’s amazing that so many organizations try their hardest to avoid giving their staff any leeway to venture off the script.

  4. Floom

    at 4:02 pm

    That’s very frustrating in an industry that moves fast -“Our board needs a week to review the offer” -from a corporate perspective, I get the risk, they are ‘long’ this condo, having bought it already from the client and now are at risk of losing money (or perhaps the company who hired them to relocate the employee ultimately pays for any loss)…probably not something you want the point-of-first-contact relocation person to be making the call on -but what can you do when buyers and sellers make their decision over the course of minutes or hours?

    I don’t imagine a realtor receives a special fee for doing all this additional work? One might say “they are paid enough!” -but if you have the option of taking on a client who DOESN’T require 24 months of comps & analysis for the same fee, you’d probably go with option B.

  5. Krupo

    at 10:50 pm

    I always wondered about those relocation services – but hadn’t considered they had their own peculiar madness behind them. Wild.

  6. Nikol@villas in costa del sol

    at 2:05 pm

    I don’t think a realtor receives a special fee for doing all this additional work? One might say “they are paid enough!” -but if you have the option of taking on a client who DOESN’T require 24 months of comps & analysis for the same fee, you’d probably go with option B.

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