Setting The Bar LOW…


5 minute read

March 10, 2009

I sure hope this post doesn’t come back to haunt me!

Some readers like when I post about a specific condominium or a house in a trendy neighborhood, and some readers enjoy when I throw some dirt on a shoddy “colleague” of mine.

Today, I’ll be doing the latter in a perfect example of smoke & mirrors in our industry…


I should have known just by the way he was dressed…

But before I get into that, let me first toot my horn a little for being selected to serve on the Condominium Task Force at the Toronto Real Estate Board.  Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a “focus group” before the actual formation of the Task Force, which really served as a “try-out” of sorts for the Task Force itself.

I entered the large board room at the Toronto Real Estate Board headquarters on Don Mills Road, and there was a massive oval table with about thirty plush leather chairs and microphones on the table in front of each one.

Just being in that room was an honor in itself.

Realtors from all over the GTA filed into the room one at a time and took their seats with name-cards reminiscent of 4th year International Business in university.

We all took turns briefly introducing ourselves, as there were Realtors from Toronto, Mississauga, Scarborough, Markham; and from Bosley Real Estate, Re/Max, Johnston & Daniel, Royal Lepage, Homelife, Century 21, and the like.  Right At Home Realty was mysteriously absent.  I can’t imagine why…

We were to discuss five main issues on the agenda, and everybody in the room would be given an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter.  The topics ranged from Green Condominiums to an open forum on “biggest pet peeve,” but the most interesting debate came when we discussed the MLS data fields themselves and what should or shouldn’t be included.

I’ve always maintained that certain fields should be mandatory.

For example, in the case of a condominium unit, how can the field for “square footage” be left blank?  This has always bothered me, and as I explained to my thirty colleagues at TREB that afternoon, leaving the square footage field blank on a condominium listing is like not disclosing how many bedrooms and bathrooms are in a house!

During the 2-3 minutes I was allotted to speak my mind, I argued that making fields mandatory would serve two purposes:
1) It would help to give more detailed information for all MLS listings.
2) It would hold Realtors accountable and eliminate the laziness that plagues our industry.

I argued that to give ranges for square footage, as is currently done, is a cop-out.  To claim that a condo is “500-699” square feet really doesn’t help.  The difference in price between a 520 sqft and a 680 sqft condo is probably upwards of $100,000 in many cases.

I argued that we should not only make the square footage field mandatory, but we should also allow for an exact number to be inputted rather than a range.

The more detailed information is really what I’m after, but at the same time, I’m just so sick and tired of Realtors who are lazy and sloppy and who don’t include any pertinent information on the MLS listing.  I’m tired of seeing ‘Photo Not Available’ on a new listing.

I asked a room full of my colleagues, “What the hell are their clients paying them for?”

By the nodding of heads and murmurs in the room, I could tell that most people felt the same way.  One lady spoke up, “I totally agree; I wish to God that all these sloppy agents who sign up listings with no info would be held accountable in some way, shape or form.  It’s time to clean this up and we have to start from the inside.”

And that’s when he spoke up.

He was an agent of about 27-28 years old who walked into the room wearing a thick winter coat with a fur hood; it was the kind of gangsta coat that a 16-year-old kid on my baseball team would wear as he smokes pot outside Pizza Pizza at noon on a Tuesday (guess who’s getting cut at Spring  Training?).

Underneath his gangsta coat, he wore a full suit with no tie.  As soon as he took off his coat and iPod, he blended in with the rest of the room.

I never took notice of him until he spoke up on the issue I had raised, but I haven’t got him out of my head since then.

I’m paraphrasing, but this is essentially what he said:

I completely disagree with the sentiments from around the table.  Why should we aim to set the bar so high?  What is it about us as Realtors that makes us worth hiring?  You’re asking listing agents to get square footage, age of buildings, and condo amenities – these are things that I do for my clients!  These are things that I do, above and beyond, and what makes me good at what I do!”

Hold on a second.

Is he really, seriously against “raising the bar?”  Does he really want to keep the bar artificially low so that he can step over it?

He went on to say, “Personally I love when MLS listings are lacking information because it gives me a chance to prove my worth to my clients.  I find out what the square footage is, and I report that back to them.  I do research on the building, I obtain photos, and I wow my clients.”

I guess I was right the first time.

This young agent was arguing that by keeping the status-quo, it would enable him to do simple tasks to “work” for his clients.

He was adamantly against improving the minimum level of standards we as Realtors hold ourselves to, just so that he could differentiate himself from the pack.

He wanted to set the bar low, and keep it there.

I could tell from the jaw-drops around the room that I wasn’t the only person who was embarrassed for this young man.  I could have stripped down all my clothes and sat completely naked in my chair, and the focus still would have been on him.

If you improve the system, you improve the people who use it.

If you hold people accountable for their actions and their level of service, then that level of service improves.

Aren’t we looking out for the greater good of the real estate industry?

Aren’t we trying to improve the product and the service we provide to the general public?

Suffice it to say, this young Realtor didn’t make the final cut for the Condo Task Force.

But it wasn’t until after I had left the meeting that I realized who this young man was.

He is new to the industry and has “taken it by storm” by spending tens of thousands of dollars advertising on bus shelters in Forest Hill and Deer Park.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out who is going to list their $3,500,000 house with a 27-year-old with only a couple of years experience under his belt, but I digress…

Smoke and friggin’ mirrors, man.

But what else is new?

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

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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1 Comment

  1. Krupo

    at 10:31 pm


    I saw his ad last week going down Yonge – it just screamed “I’M SO SMARMY!”

    It literally sickened me.

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