The Friday Rant: I Hate Real Estate Agents

The Friday Rant | September 27, 2019

Real Estate Agents

I met with a new client this week who asked me, “Where do you get the ideas for all these blogs?”

I told her the truth: the ideas find me.

This blog post may have been written at 10:45pm on Thursday night, but it was essentially written by me, in my head, at 5:45pm on Thursday night as I sat in traffic, driving with clients from one showing to the next.

This is my sixteenth year in the Toronto real estate industry, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a worse level of professionalism in the agent pool as I see out there today.  Forget knowledge and experience, and don’t even get me started on competence.  But just professionalism alone, I mean, well, listen to this story…

I had an appointment on Thursday night and my clients, who we’ll call Jenny and Steve, were at the property ahead of me.

Jenny called me to say that they were at the property, but added, “There’s another agent here and he says he has a showing.”

No problem.  Right?

This is common.  I mean, we’re in Toronto.  Every property gets showings, many showings, sometimes even a hundred showings.

The fact that two agents were there to show two sets of clients on the same night is about as common as the sun setting at night.

“He seems a bit odd,” Jenny told me.  “Like he’s concerned that we’re here.”

I told her I would be there in five minutes, and that was that.

Steve then replied to my text message from a half hour earlier and said, “Sorry, I was driving.  Just saw this now.  There’s another agent here now – says this is his showing time.”

Again, I didn’t think anything of it, until I arrived at the house.

A young couple were taking their baby stroller out of their car, as my clients stood with their toddler on the sidewalk.

I smiled at the young couple, and we all waked up the driveway together.

I got to the front porch, and a man in shorts and a t-shirt told me, “I want you to wait right there.”

I was stunned.  I didn’t know if I’d done something wrong, and as a reaction, I said, “Oh, sorry.”

But then common sense took over, and I asked, “Are you the seller?”

He said, “No.”  And that was all.

I followed up, “Are you the listing agent?”

He said, “No.”  And again, that was all he said.

He was incredibly disturbed for some reason, and I didn’t understand why.

“Are you…….an agent?” I asked, and he said, “Yes, I am.  I am an agent with a 4:30pm appointment, and I’m going to go inside and show my clients this house, during my time, and you and your people can stay right there.”

Let’s pause here for a moment so I can give you some background.

First of all, I believe in courtesy.  I believe in kindness.  I believe in common sense, decency, and professionalism.  Combine all of that, and you can see why I was confused by his attitude.

Secondly, any of you who have looked at houses or condos know that it’s very common for two, three, or literally a dozen groups of people to go through the property at the same time.

I avoid confrontation anywhere and everywhere I can in life, and I’d like to think I’m the king of taking the high road.

So I was calm, diplomatic, and rational, and told the agent, “We both have 4:30pm appointments, which is very common in this market.  I’m fine to go upstairs with my people while you go downstairs with yours.”

And to that, he said, “No,” and added, “You’ll stay here.”

He finally elaborated, and said, “There shouldn’t be double-bookings.  I don’t know why they do double-bookings.  It’s ridiculous.  There should be half-hour appointments, and no double-bookings!”

A third piece of background here: double bookings are not just common, but they are accepted in 99.9% of cases in Toronto.  For a property to not allow double bookings is exceptionally rare, and you would understand that, in this market, the rule would be impossible.  If you only let one agent book an appointment for, say, 5:30pm on a Wednesday, or 1:00pm on a Saturday, you’d be turning away dozens of buyers.

Having said that, it wasn’t this man’s attitude that was bothering me, but rather that he was making his own rules.

So I told him, again, rather calmly, “Sir, with all due respect, that’s not up to you.  The listing agent chooses whether or not there will be double bookings, on behalf of their seller client.  As with curfew, or notice, it’s up to the seller to decide how and when they want people in their home.”

“I don’t care,” he told me.  “Double bookings are stupid, and I’m not a fan of them.  This is nonsense.”

I don’t want to judge, so forgive me in advance, but this man looked like a part-timer.  He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, which I might do, in mid-July, on a Saturday, and call me old-fashioned here, but I wear a suit because that’s what professionals do.

“Are you from around here?” I asked him.

“I’m from Mississauga,” he told me, which did make a little sense.

“And in Mississauga, we don’t do double bookings.”

“We’re in Toronto,” I told him, “And this listing has double bookings.  Double bookings happen on every listing in Toronto.  And more to the point, there are two agents here now, with two sets of buyers, and we’ll all go in together.”

That’s when he yelled, “Get out!”

I said, “No.”

He said, “GET…out!”

I said, “No,” once more.

He said, “Get out!  Get out!  Get out!”

And this was in front of his clients.

“This is not your home, and this is not your listing,” I told him.  “You are a guest in somebody else’s home.”

He motioned for his clients to go inside, which they did.

And then he physically blocked me, went inside, slammed the door, and locked it from the inside.

I was stunned.

Sixteen years in this business and I have never experienced this before.

I got on the phone immediately and called the listing agent, not to complain, but rather to let her know what was happening.

And while some of you might wonder, “What’s the big deal here?” I have to backtrack once again, and point out what should be obvious: this is somebody’s home.

Real estate in Toronto works at a frenetic pace, and quite often, the sensitivities are completely removed.  But this isn’t an asset, it’s a home.  Inside this house, we see toys, we see family photos, we see the children’s beds.  This isn’t a box of jumbo Frosted Flakes for sale at Costco that you can throw in your cart, and then remove five minutes later and dump on a stack of Kirkland-brand socks; this is a family home.

I called the listing agent who was a well-known agent in this area, and told her what was going on.  Unsurprisingly, she was livid.

“This asshole needs to know that he doesn’t make the rules,” she said.  “What the hell is he doing?”

She was appalled.  She’s a veteran, I would guess of 25-30 years.

She called him and give him an earful, then called me and told me to “watch out.”

About fifteen minutes later, he exited the house with his clients, and they apologized.

“We’re really sorry,” they said.  “We’re not, like, serious buyers, we just live in the area, and this is the first house we’ve ever seen,” they said.

I then overheard the woman telling her partner, “This is so intimidating.”

The agent had that shit-eating grin on his face and handed me the key.

He said, “Why don’t I called (name of listing agent) and complain about you?”

I tried to keep calm, and I said, “You’re not worth my time,” and then he said, “We really appreciate you waiting, maybe next time you’ll show some courtesy.”

I lost it.

“Enjoy the long drive back to the 905,” I told him.  “Enjoy selling that one property per year,” I added.

I’m ashamed to admit all this.  I hold myself to a higher standard.

Part of me thinks this guy is a school teacher who sells real estate on the side, or, he’s just a total asshole.

But he got me to stoop to his level, and I apologized to my clients, and told them I was embarrassed.

It bothered me that he was insinuating that I was in the wrong; telling me that I should be the one to “show some courtesy.”

There were just so many things wrong with this situation, and while I suppose this incident could have been diffused earlier, I just refuse to turn a blind eye to this behaviour and “take the high road” by letting it slide.

This agent was talking to my clients before I got there, telling them that they weren’t allowed to be at the house.  You don’t talk to somebody else’s clients, unless you’re just being nice.

He objected to the “double bookings” when it’s not in any way, shape, or form, his decision as to how bookings are handled.

He got aggressive.

And then he went inside somebody else’s home, and locked the door.

The listing agent said she would file a RECO complaint.  But what the hell does that accomplish?  It won’t go anywhere.  RECO doesn’t have the resources.

I told my clients that I was sorry, and that I’d just had a bad week of dealing with other agents.

Last weekend, a key went missing from one of my listings.

This happens more often than I’d like to admit, but I have never had a key go missing that wasn’t returned.

Agents showing properties on a busy Saturday might put a key in their pocket and start chatting on the way out, forgetting to return it to the lockbox.

Over the last few years, when this happens, there’s one woman at my front desk who I always ask to track it down.  She’s great!  She calls all the agents to show the property that day, and talks to them in a way that just sort of works.  “The key is missing from the lockbox, and you were one of three agents that showed it today,” she’ll tell them.  “We all know how easily theses keys go missing, and we just hope that it finds its way back to the lockbox by day’s end.”

Nobody ever admits to having the key, but magically, every time I have ever had a key go missing, it ends up back in the lockbox.

Except for last weekend.

Last weekend, one of my team members had to drive to Burlington to get a copy of the key from my sellers, and rush back to the condo in time for our next viewing.

Three agents showed the property that day, and all three denied having the key.

But unlike the dozen-or-so times before when this has happened, this key never made its way back into the box.

That means that whichever agent had the key, found it later that night in his or her jeans pocket, pulled it out, looked at it, thought about the phone call from earlier that day, and then threw it in the goddam garbage.

The garbage.

Professionalism in this industry is in the garbage, just like that key.

The agent that tosses that key out is basically saying, “I don’t give a shit about any one, or anything in this business,” and fully acknowledging that he or she is screwing over the sellers and the agent.

Now that’s garbage.

A few nights ago, one of my clients was in her condo, in her bathroom, when she walked out into the living room to find two men.

In her living room.

At 8:45pm.

She screamed.  Literally screamed.

And one of the men told her to relax, and held up a business card.

He was a real estate agent, you see.

And even though his appointment was from 6:30pm – 7:30pm, he wanted to her to know that all was well, nothing to worry about, and that he was just here to show the condo.

My client was scared, and she was pissed.  Rightfully so.

She called me and gave me an earful, and I listened, then apologized.

Truth be told, there’s nothing I can do to stop an agent from showing up well after his or her appointment window, except hope and pray for professionalism and decency.

If your appointment is from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, that means you were aiming to be there for 6:30pm.  Nobody who is looking to show a property at 7:15pm books for 6:30pm.  That’s just not how it works.  So this agent wasn’t just 1H 15M late, he was actually 2H 15M late.

That’s a joke.  That’s what it is.

It’s absolute garbage.

“Calm down, we’re just here to take a quick look,” he told my client.

Her space had been completely invaded, and she felt violated.  She felt like she couldn’t say “no.”

I don’t even want to draw parallels here, I just feel sick

Do you know what you’re supposed to do when you’re running late?

This:

Oh, what I wouldn’t do to trade this decent, professional agent showing one of my vacant listings for that jerk from the other night.

And I’ll admit, this is a new agent.

So I’m not going to blame newbie agents for all the problems that exist in the business, because that wouldn’t be fair.

In fact, I think the reason why this agent thought to message me when she was running late, in addition to paging me through the office, is because she’s new.

I think many of the salty, jaded agents out there who have lost the love for the business are the ones cutting corners and creating problems.

I still don’t think I’ve cooled off from my run-in with t-shirt-McGee earlier tonight, but I can’t help it.  I feel so bad for his clients who used that as their measuring-stick for the Toronto real estate market, and some of that is on me.  I helped contribute to that poor experience.  I feel bad for the sellers, even though they don’t know that somebody played “King of the Castle” with their home tonight, turning away potential buyers as though he was in charge.

And I feel crappy for losing my temper.

But I’m just so tired of real estate agents.

I hate them all so damn much right now…

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22 Comments

  1. Kyle

    at 6:23 am

    I get RECO might not do anything even with formal complaints lodged, but doesn’t the Broker of Record have any interest in protecting the reputation of their office?

  2. Max

    at 9:00 am

    Ugh.. I’ve had a viewing where another agent wouldn’t let us in as well.. and I had an agent that dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants to take me to a showing where even the seller seemed to have rolled his eyes after he handed out his business card. I agree with you wholeheartedly on this article.

  3. Ed

    at 9:01 am

    Hey David,
    it’s not just real estate agents that are acting ‘jerkier’, it’s people in general.
    Time to get the hell out of Toronto.

  4. Robert

    at 11:07 am

    Hey David
    Just a question: if the other agent instead of being rude and aggressive, POLITELY asked you to take turns, would you agree to wait?
    Robert

    1. David Fleming

      at 11:12 am

      @ Robert

      I think I have only been asked this, maybe once before? So the request, on its own, is odd.

      But yes, if somebody asked politely, I would have absolutely no problem waiting!

      1. Robert

        at 11:40 am

        Ok that’s great. Personally I prefer to view homes privately, so that I can have conversations with my wife about the house without feeling awkward that someone else hears those conversations.
        But anyhow, just hope that this city continues to maintain some level of mutual respect/politeness and does not turn into some arrogant city with self-created norms about double bookings, bidding wars, pricing strategies etc and any outsider does not get kind of attitude “hey it’s Toronto and that’s how we do it here, didn’t you know this”. Toronto real estate market is crazy now and real estate agents kind of partially at fault for creating this crazy environment. I know I’m switching to different topic (but it’s related), but I personally refused to underprice my unit and do bidding war while agent was pushing me to do this when selling my apartment. I knew I would not get most of money this way, but it’s my belief that underpricing / bidding war practices is what put this market into this “chaos”. And I don’t take any excuse that there was need for it. There is no need for it except pure “greed” to sell for more and agents were going around telling “let me show how to do it”.

        1. Max

          at 5:03 pm

          Even if you can sell for$20000? Even$5000 more? That’s a car or a pretty cool vacation.

  5. Verbal Kint

    at 11:07 am

    Are you sure you’re in the right career?

    Plenty of agents have happy, productive careers into their sixties and seventies, and a few are still enjoying work in their eighties! But they tend to be more sanguine and less choleric in their personalities. Can you salt away enough to be comfortable before the stress gets to you? Other agents won’t be getting any better as you age, nor will their MLS listings and pricing strategies; you can count on that.

  6. Not Harold

    at 11:12 am

    The answer to two men being in your house hours after they’re supposed to be there: call 911, on speaker, tell them that two men broke into your house and are refusing to leave. You don’t know but one of them might have a gun.

    What they did was criminal and they deserve to answer for it. Your client SHOULD STILL CALL THE POLICE and report the agent for burglary. File a police report, get them charged, then file a RECO complaint. Go after the broker as well – are they running a gang? Organized breaking into people’s houses?

    1. Laurie

      at 2:57 pm

      This.

      I don’t care if they had an appointment 2 minutes earlier, to just come in like that unexpected and have the nerve to say ‘Calm down’? Oh, heck no.

      Also, do sellers have the code to the dropbox? Because I’d be pulling my key out of that dropbox outside of appointments so no one could do this.

  7. Mary Kapches

    at 12:13 pm

    FYI – I recently found a case at RECO where a realtor was charged $4500 for showing a property 2 hours before his scheduled time. The tenant was home. He violated Section 39 of the Code of Ethics. “unprofessional conduct”- would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable , unprofessional or unbecoming of a registrant”. I completely agree with you about realtors these days.

  8. Marie

    at 12:31 pm

    After years of buying and selling homes, I don’t trust agents anymore. If there is no showing scheduled, I remove the key from the lockbox.

    As for the part-time moron, if I were his client, I’d drop him like acid.

  9. Libertarian

    at 2:07 pm

    Good for you David for calling out this behaviour!

    We as a society have gone too far with the idea that criticizing is bullying. There’s nothing wrong with telling people that they’ve acted inappropriately. Everybody wants to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Life doesn’t work that way. One person is not more important than society at large. So I agree with Not Harold that your client should have called the cops.

    More importantly, good on you for calling out your industry!

    It’s like Kramer said in Seinfeld, without rules we have chaos.

  10. Sandra Jackson

    at 2:26 pm

    “You show upstairs and I’ll show downstairs. Yell down when you’re ready to switch.” is how it’s been done for years. As far as buyers wanting privacy while viewing, guaranteed there are recording devices in almost all homes while they’re for sale. Stay silent, talk in the car.

  11. Newbie

    at 3:12 pm

    Sorry you had this bad experience David but please don’t blame “part-timers.” The problem here seems to be a lack of character and common sense rather then experience. I am a part-time agent and I go out of my way to be polite and courteous and even deferential to the “old-time” agents because I think they are owed that respect. Though I have to roll my eyes at the way some of them operate. A short story. I was calling an established agent from a tony agency to book an appointment for a showing. He couldn’t have been more rude. He starts railing at me right off the bat, asking whether this is a “legitimate” showing with an “actual buyer” because the last agent arrived half-an-hour late with NO buyer to preview the property. (not sure what was wrong with that). Anyway, I had to reassure him I had a real buyer who was genuinely interested in the property. This mind you was for a property that had been sitting on the market for 19 MONTHS! After speaking with this agent, I totally understood why.

  12. John Johnson

    at 11:09 pm

    Hahahaha….3 years in the industry, coming from a customer service, sales, financial services, background, and very focused on results and the customer experience, and I can tell you from the front line that this industry is full, and I mean full of people that shouldn’t be representing people in transactions of this size and importance. Realtors are not all the same, so tread lightly and do your research! Do I need to repeat? Take heed to this advice….

  13. A.Price

    at 4:23 pm

    Haha, wow. It’s been just over two years since David helped my wife and I find our home and a while since I visited the blog. This article certainly brings back memories of more than one bizarre and infuriating experience on the path to home ownership.

    If it’s any consolation (beside the commission :), we, and I assume many other clients, appreciate the help navigating the weird world of real estate.

  14. Nat

    at 12:15 pm

    As if you made front of some one for living in the “905” … you’re no better than he is. If not you’re worse since that has nothing to do with what was happening

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  16. Markus

    at 12:11 pm

    RECO is a complete waste of time. They should be all thrown in jail. Agents cheat, steal and take advantage of buyers, and RECO does nothing. I don’t know how they are still in existence!!!

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