The Friday Rant: Respect

Business | April 29, 2011

There is a pandemic in the National Hockey League right now.  There has been a huge increase in violent hits, and as a result, concussions and injuries.

The players are out of control.  They don’t respect eachother, and the problem can’t be solved externally.

I see the same thing in our real estate industry right now when it comes to multiple offer situations.

Realtors need to have more respect for eachother…

If you don’t follow the National Hockey League, then perhaps you won’t fully appreciate this lead-in.

But the topic is very timely, and I think it draws comparisons to what is going on in the real estate industry.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely loathe NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman.

The man is an American lawyer, running a Canadian sport, and he has never put a pair of hockey skates on in his life.  Since his reign of terror began in the early 1990’s, we’ve seen two NHL teams leave Canada, and eight expansion franchises placed in American cities where nobody gives a crap about hockey (I’m looking at you, Atlanta!).  Gary Bettman is doing everything he can to keep these floundering NHL franchises from moving back to Canada, and as long as he’s in charge, we Canadians will always know that we’re just the cash cow that keeps the American game of hockey afloat.

However, when it comes to the latest epidemic of concussions, injuries, and players smashing eachother’s faces in, I agree with Gary Bettman.

As much as I hate the man, I agree with him on this topic.

The NHL has no idea how to fix this problem.  Every night, in almost every game, there are violent hits that we weren’t accustomed to seeing in the 1980’s, let alone the 1950’s.

Now I will will state that some of these hits are “good hockey hits” in my books, and I think that people are being far too sensitive, but many of them are not.

Case in point: David Bolland of the Chicago Blackhawks came back from a concussion in the Vancouver/Chicago series, and in the first game back, Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis put his hand on the back of Bolland’s head and drove his face into the glass.  That was a premeditated move by a dirty player who knew that another player was vulnerable.

The players have no respect for eachother anymore.

Maybe it’s because all the players under 25 have grown up playing video games where you shoot people in the face with a bazooka, while the rest of us played Mario Brothers where you try and get gold coins and mushrooms.  But I digress…

The players don’t respect eachother, and the NHL can’t intervene and change the way the game is played.  They’re trying, but nothing will change unless the players change it.

I see the same thing happening in real estate.

Realtors don’t respect eachother.

I used to say, “There are 32,000 Realtors in the GTA and only a small number of those are hard-working, honest, dilligent, experienced, and trustworthy people.”

But now everybody is gouging everybody, and I don’t know how it’s going to stop.

When it comes to multiple offer situations, I see less respect given to your fellow “colleagues” than ever before.

I’ve written about this topic before and how I don’t like the price gouging, but that was when I thought it was the sleazy agents who did it.  Now, I think it’s everybody.

I’ve gone on record saying that I don’t like “sending offers back” for more money, because I think it’s dirty, rude, and ultimately it’s almost like false advertising.  You get six offers on a property, and after all are presented, you send them back to “improve”?  Why didn’t you just take the highest one?  Didn’t see anything in there that you liked!?!?

Fine, I get it.  You’re “working for the seller,” and this will likely never change.

I’ve ranted and raved about instituting a more transparent process for dealing with multiple offers, but it will never happen.

In the interm, however, I’d like to see more respect amongst fellow Realtors.

To give you some perspective, allow me to share with you a story from last week.

My clients viewed a home priced at $669,000, and on offer night, we put down $695,000 on paper.  There were five competing offers, and I thought we had a reasonable shot of at least “being in the mix,” but I wasn’t optimistic.

While I was walking up to the listing brokerage to present that night, I overheard some loud, pompous Realtor (perhaps there is somebody louder and more arrogant than me?) talking on his cell phone to his clients, saying, “Look, if it’s not $750,000 tonight, it’ll be $755,000 tomorrow.”  I immediately knew that our offer was garbage, but I had a duty to my buyer-clients, as well as fiduciary duties to the seller, to present my offer in good faith.

I went through the offer presentation, and then left.

I went home and put my feet up.

I sat and stewed for an hour as I just KNEW what was about to take place.  I actually rehearsed what I wanted to say!

Sure enough, the listing agent called me and said, “We’re sending them all back.”

I began my sarcastic response.

“You’re sending them ALL back?”  I asked.  “Didn’t you find one in there that you liked?”

She didn’t respond.

I said, “So I guess all five offers must be neck-and-neck then, eh?  I guess we’re a few dollars shy of the leader?”

Of course, I knew that somewhere in the mix was an offer for $750,000, and we weren’t even close.  I wanted to know what the listing agent was planning on doing with me, my clients, and our offer.

She said, “Well David, you know I can’t comment on that.  But if your clients are going to make a move, now would be the time to do it.”

I’m sorry – make a move?

A move?  Like a mad-dash, perhaps?  Like a mad dash out the front door of a bank, ski-mask affixed, gun-toting?  That’s the only way they could magically come up with another $55,0000 or MORE!

Once upon a time, a Realtor would have said to me, “David, thank you so much for your offer, but we’re going to work with another.”

She would send me home, and work with the two offers at $750,000 and $753,000 – and then gouge them for more money.

But Realtors don’t do that anymore.  It’s like we’ve lost all respect for eachother and the time we put into this business.

So I said to the listing agent, “If I improve my offer just a wee little bit, do I have a shot?”

She said, “David, I can’t tell you that.”

So I said, “I’m home at my condo, sick with strep throat, and my girlfriend is here feeding me soup.  If I leave her, go and find my clients – one of whom is at hockey but told me to pull him out of the game if we need to – and the other who is at home wearing a hole in the floor by pacing back and forth, and if we spend two hours getting together to improve our offer by a few thousand dollars, would you say that it’s worthwhile?  Would you think that it’s a good use of time for three people, all with their own lives, all with their own own commitments, all of whom are emotionally invested in this process?”

She paused, and there was some hesitation.

I added, “Sally, please let my clients save some dignity.  If we add a couple grand and then we lose by $60,000, they’re going to be crushed.”

She said, “Okay David, I don’t think it would be worthwhile.”

So I thanked her, wished her luck, and hung up the phone.

But I had to go through all that just to get a direction that should have been given to me in the first place!

The last time I had multiple offers on a listing of mine (listed at $399,000), the second person through the door was $40,000 lower than the first!  I took him into the hall and said, “Look, you’re way, way low.  Unless there’s some magic in your wand, I don’t think this is going to work.”

That’s not condescending, and it’s not cocky.  It’s kind.  It’s respectful.

I had another agent come to me once and say, “Let me know if you think I’m ridiculously low.  I have other clients tonight that want to view some houses so I’d love to get out of here at a reasonable time.”

As soon as he was finished presenting, I said, “Good luck with your showings tonight man.  Thanks for your offer, my clients and I are very appreciative.”

Isn’t that the respectful thing to do?

How many Realtors today, would let that guy sit and stew for two hours while all offers are being presented, and then have the audacity to send him back for more money?

I’ve given up on the idea of choosing the highest offer.  I realize now that every agent in the city is going to “send back” offers for more money.  This is a war that I will never win.

But when there are ELEVEN offers, don’t send them all back.

Take the highest couple offers – draw a line in the sand somewhere!

Let the agent and the buyers save some time, effort, energy, and most importantly – dignity.

Respect your fellow Realtors and acknowledge that if offers are being reviewed on an $899,000 house and you have an offer for $1,050,000, you can tell the guy at $910,000 to go home.

But Realtors aren’t doing that, or at least most of them, in my experience, are not.

Many of my colleagues are acting as if there’s no future in this business, and reputation and relationships don’t matter – it only matters what you sell today.

This short-term view is causing irreparable damage, and it’s frustrating buyers to no end.

Nobody likes to be embarrassed, and had my clients re-arranged their lives to improve their offer to $700,000, and then found out that the property sold for $760,000, they would have felt so incredibly small that it would have affected their property search.

There are no rules in place for dealing with multiple offers.

The Canadian Real Estate Association has not provided any one method for Realtors to follow, and as such, it’s like the Wild West.

The only way it will change is when Realtors start to realize that we are working together, not against eachother.  You’ll run into eachother again, and again, and a mutual respect is good for all parties involved.

So what will change first: the NHL players and their violent hits, or Realtors and their price-gouging and time-wasting?

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  1. Joe Q.

    at 7:40 am

    I’ve ranted and raved about instituting a more transparent process for dealing with multiple offers, but it will never happen.

    A more transparent process would be an open auction, like they do in Australia. Get all the buyer agents in a room together and have them bid publicly, just like at an antiques auction or whatever.

    I agree with you that it’ll never happen, because it’s too easy for greedy realtors and sellers to pad their wallets under the current system.

  2. dave

    at 8:48 am

    In reading this article, I’m struck by the similarities of bidding on a house to gambling as an addiction.

    With most drugs (from cocaine to coffee), the user consumes the substance and then receives the hit – guaranteed.

    But with gambling, there is a randomness to whether or not the user receives the hit, and when the hit is “snatched away” at the last moment, this can produce some highly irrational behaviour by the gambler.

    I think the same thing takes place with shopping. You spend the money, and you get a little endorphin rush. But with buying a house, a big purchase which will have a big effect on your life, sometimes you make the decision to buy, but at the last moment that purchase is snatched away by a selling agent who tells you that you must spend more.

  3. Darren

    at 8:57 pm

    Joe Q.: Within the last several months I read an article about how the system they have in Australia leads to insane prices. People get caught up in the moment and throw caution to the wind. Many, many homes selling for amounts far in excess of a reasonable price. The system needs a revamp but I don’t think that the Aussie one is the solution.

  4. Suzanne

    at 7:55 pm

    Darren and Joe Q,
    On two occassions, I have used an indepedent appraisal prior to offer night to mitigate the emotional over pay. It has worked in both instances, and in the last one, the actual bank appraisal came in 12k higher. This last piece of information gives the buyer a great sense of confidence in their offer price and draws the line in their own sand. I will implement this on a regular basis.

  5. Toronto Resident

    at 8:13 pm

    I don’t really see the connection to hockey hits, but I do agree that the whole home-buying process has become undesirable.

    A few related examples:

    – Listing low (trying to get a bidding war going), getting no offers, then de-listing and coming back with a HIGHER price.

    – Listing low for a bidding war, getting 1 or 2 offers, sending them both back, and then re-listing at a higher price.

    – Listing insanely HIGH (trying to snag a buyer who didn’t do their homework), getting a solid offer of say 98-99%, and turning it down.

    – Listing a high-end property (say $1M+), getting no offers, de-listing, and then re-listing with a minimal change (say $5k lower: $1M becomes $995,000). If someone was willing to pay 99.5%, wouldn’t they have offered that on the first listing?

  6. Richard

    at 7:12 am

    David, good rant, but where did you get the word “eachother” from? There is no such word! At first, I thought it was a typo, but you use this word everywhere.

  7. Hockey Fan

    at 2:16 pm

    I definitely see the comparison to the NHL. The basic premise is that people in the same industry need to work together for the good of the industry. Hockey players are taking out their inner demons on each other and the product of hockey is suffering. Real estate agents are all playing by their own set of rules, and the industry is in trouble.

    Canucks in a sweep?

  8. So Succexxy

    at 2:18 pm

    Great post! You should run for TREB president. You have my vote! 🙂

  9. Clifford

    at 7:51 pm

    Off topic but what do you think of the Chara hit on Pacioretty?

    1. David Fleming

      at 11:28 pm

      @ Clifford

      I thought it was dirty, but it’s happened a thousand times in the NHL before. Don Cherry used to put those hits on Rock em Sock em.

      I think the Bell Centre was exposed for having less padding on the stanshion than any other arena in the NHL.

      It was a two-minute penalty for interference, since Max didn’t have the puck when Chara hit him.

      Chara could have been given a game misconduct for unsportsmanlike, but I’m tired of people slowing the hit down into 1/100th of a second to examine it, when the whole thing went down in a fraction of a second anyways.

      I thought Hamhuis trying to grind Bolland’s face into the glass was worse, since it was premeditated, and he went after a vulnerable player.

      Who ever said that football and hockey were quiet, easy, gentlemanly sports anyways?

  10. Clifford

    at 9:22 am

    Fair enough.

    I think there should have been better padding on the stantion for sure. Also, stantion hits should be outlawed. Too many guys have gotten seriously hurt from them. I also think Chara should have gotten a couple of games. There was history between him and Pacioretty.

    The NHL has to get their sh-t together. I have no idea what is a suspendable infraction and what isn’t. making a gesture towards another player (Wisniewsky to Avery) is 2 games, but flipping off fans is a $2500 suspension. The Torres hit on Seabrook should have been a suspension too.

  11. Dale

    at 2:09 pm

    No you’re not the only one sick of this crap, but there are a few of us that don’t play these games.

    I haven’t run into the bidding war thing often when listing, but have never sent ALL the offers back, and always give a heads up to the agent with a low offer that chances are its not going to go anywhere.

    I understand how you feel though. It’s really depressing to see the numbers of lousy agents out there continually get business because they’ll undercut the professionals, and then see people complain about them and paint ALL Realtors with the same bad brush.

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