Rookie Mistake?


6 minute read

March 2, 2011

Here’s a story I’ve never told on my blog before!

After hearing that a newbie Realtor locked her keys in her car while out on a showing, she was mocked and ridiculed for a week and still has to dodge sarcasm with every step she takes.

As funny as it is, and as much as I laughed, I should probably admit the following: the exact same thing happened to ME!

When I think about my first year in real estate, a few things come to mind.

First of all, I was really poorly dressed!

For some reason, I really liked the “shirt and tie with no jacket” look, even though it made me look like I was 19.  There weren’t nearly as many young Realtors back in 2004 as there are now, and I constantly had to dodge questions about my age.  I also refused to spend more than $80 on a pair of shoes, and my two-tone brown lace-ups didn’t score me any points.

But one of the most memorable experiences in my first year as a Realtor was selling a house for $1,200,000 – and the memory had NOTHING to do with the allure of the deal itself.

A client of mine was looking for a fixer-upper in the Lawrence Park area, and while he didn’t want to tear down a house and start over, he did want to put a few-hundred-thousand into the home and thus he needed something “old.”

Ideally, the house itself would be old, but so too would be the person selling it!  You know you can just tell when an old person lives in a house, by the furniture, the decor, the smell of moth balls, and by the stair-glide on the side of the wall?

This house was perfect.

They had set an offer date, and I was well prepared.

I presented my offer in person on what was a cold, wet, miserable November night, and of course I neglected to bring a jacket.

I parked my old Toyota Corolla up the street, fixed my tie, tried not to trip over my own massive shoes, and walked up the driveway to the home.

The listing agent never did anything to make me like her.  I called her “Big Bird” on account of her height and the likelihood that she could slam dunk a basketball.  I was warned about her by my colleagues, and when she called my own client behind my back after we completed the deal, all of the warnings were justified.

I can’t recall exactly what the listing agent said as I walked into the room, but she gave me some sort of backhanded compliment or took a dig at me in front of her clients.  She was attempting to make me look small as I presented my offer, and I’ll be honest – she succeeded!

She took control of the table right away and basically presented my offer for me.

There were three offers on the property that night, and I felt that our offer was really strong.

But even as agents continue to do today in 2011, she sent back all three offers that rainy night in 2004, and I left the house to go meet with my buyer and see if he wanted to improve his offer.

It was now pouring rain outside and I immediately regretted parking my car so far from the house!  Even though I ran like Carl Lewis up the block to my car, I still got soaking wet.  I frantically reached into my pocket for my keys so I could seek some shelter, but all that was in my pocket was lint and about fifty cents in change from my Tim Horton’s tea, since I wasn’t yet a coffee drinker at the time…

I dropped my leather padfolio in a puddle and reached into all four pockets but my keys were nowhere to be found.

I sighed, and put my head against the glass window to rest for a moment, and that’s when I saw my “David” keychain that I’d had since I was 14 years old – sitting on the front seat of my car.

It was now about 8:00PM on a very windy, cold, rainy night, and I was soaked to the bone with rain.  I was standing outside my car with the keys locked inside, and I had to get back to my client to improve our offer.

I had no clue what to do.

I called my sister who I lived with at the time to see if she could find a spare key, but nothing turned up.

Then my phone rang, and it was Big Bird asking me if we were going to improve our offer.  I told her that we needed some time to discuss, and she told me in return that her elderly client needed to take her medication and go to bed so I’d better hurry up!

If this were today, I’d probably fire back with, “Well it’s too bad her freakishly tall real estate agent scheduled offers at 7:30 at night instead of 3PM after apple sauce is served,” but I just said, “Okay,” and went back to my issue with the car keys.

I sought some shelter under a giant tree next door to where my car was parked, and although I was soaked right through, it was nice to not feel the rain continue to pour down on me.

So then I did what any young man would do when he found himself cold, alone, and in trouble: I called my mommy.

I knew that my mom had a spare key to my car, but she lived up at Birchmount & St. Clair.  Ever the incredible mother, super-mom immediately got in her car and began the 20-minute (35 mins in mom-time) down to Avenue Road to rescue me.

I dodged about three or four calls from Big Bird, and luckily I didn’t hear from my client since he was waiting on my call.

I was okay standing there under that giant tree for about ten minutes, and just when it looked like things were going my way, I heard a voice about two feet away: “HEY!  What the hell are you doing?!?!”

It was the owner of the house whose tree I was standing under, and whose driveway I had snuck up and trespassed on.

I turned around and faced him, standing there like a moron in a soaking wet shirt and tie, but no words came out of my mouth!

I think I said, “Uhh…..uhhhh” and then maybe added the obvious: “It’s raining.”

He yelled again and told me to get the hell off his property.

I was lucky this wasn’t in America or I likely would have got a shotgun to the chest.  “Whuat?  Some stran-ger was snuckun up on yer house?  Hells yeah, shoot that sucker and don’t take no chances!  Ya dun did the right thing!”

Fifteen minutes later, my mother pulled up in her car and it was a welcome sight.  She not only brought me the car key, but also a change of clothes!

I got in my car and drove to see my buyer, who added about $20,000 to his offer price, and then I drove back to the house with the listing agent breathing down my neck.

Big Bird had likely called me about eight times, and I think I only answered once.  I had to come up with some excuse, so I pretended I was lost!  She told me which streets to turn down, even though I was actually in my car changing my shirt, and then she told me that perhaps I was in the wrong business if I couldn’t even navigate the streets of North Toronto…

I knocked on the door to the house, with my hair and my new shirt fresh with rain, and Big Bird greeted me with a scowl.

I sat back down at the table and presented my improved offer, and the most incredible thing happened: when Big Bird asked her sellers if they had any questions for me, the old lady said, “Young man, are you wearing a different shirt?”

She was the only one out of three people – including Big Bird herself, who noticed that I had changed my shirt.

I felt like telling Big Bird, “If you lack attention to detail so much so that you can’t tell when somebody wears a different shirt, perhaps you’re in the wrong business.”

We got the deal, and I got one of those little “hide a key” magnet boxes which I kept under the wheel-well of the car.  I figured the rewards outweighed the risks, since not a lot of people went around stealing 1996 Toyota Corollas.

Not a lot of first-year, 24-year-old Realtors sell $1,200,000 properties, and I was pretty proud of myself.

But I never told anybody other than my mother about locking my keys in my car, getting soaked in the rain, and getting booted off a stranger’s property…

…until now…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. JG

    at 10:38 am


    Now that you’ve been in the business for some time, do you find yourself as hard on rookies as Big Bird was on you?

    I’m sure you’ve went toe-to-toe with some newbies in your time.

  2. moonbeam!

    at 9:25 am

    What would we do without mothers!!

  3. Realtor

    at 4:38 pm

    I’d LOVE to know who you’re referrin to as Big Bird. Email me the name!!!!

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