The Tao Of The 2014 Buyer (Part II)


8 minute read

September 10, 2014

If you think you had a difficult time purchasing your house in 2014, you’ll stop telling people that once you read the second and third parts of this story.

My clients and I had tasted defeat for the first time in October of 2013, but our search had merely just started, and we were poised to dust ourselves off, and get back out there.

The market was in full swing, and we were presented with new options literally the day after we’d lost out on the house on Lamb Avenue.  Were we set to win out the second time around?


Any experienced Realtor will tell you they have a knack for knowing when they’ve won, and when they’ve lost, in multiple offers.

When I get that phone call from the listing agent, I know if I’ve won or lost as soon as they say “hello.”

You can almost see through the phone to tell if the agent is smiling or not, and you just know when you’ve lost.

Picture somebody saying, “Hi David,” and now try and listen to somebody with joy in their voice, versus sorrow.

Happy: “Hi David!”

Unhappy: “Hi David.”

Yes, I’m aware that it’s the same thing, but I put an exclamation mark on the first one.  My point to this is that you can’t tell on paper, and you can only tell in person, and thus you have no idea what it’s like to be on the other end of that phone call when you’re waiting to hear if your clients have bought their dream home, or not.

I know as soon as the first words come out.

An agent who is calling nine other agents to make nine bad-news phone calls always speaks in a rushed tone, and if you happen to be the fifth or sixth call, there’s no empathy whatsoever.

An agent who is calling you to tell you that you got the property will usually want to make you earn it, ie. they’ll ask “how are you?” or something that has absolutely no bearing on what’s at stake.  They’ll often say something to satisfy themselves such as, “I always love making these calls,” but by that point, you already know you got the deal.  To me, it’s just the way they say, “Hiiiiiiii, David!” that let’s me know I’ve got it.

In any event, Isabella, Andrew, and myself got back out looking at houses again shortly after our October 2013 disappointment on Lamb Avenue, and with the busy Fall 2013 market upon us, there were a slew of houses to see.

We had set the bar pretty high with Lamb Avenue, but we understood that it was above the target budget (trying to stay below $750,000, and ideally right at $700K), and that there was no real room to improve that house, given it was so perfect.

I know, I know – we were looking for excuses to make ourselves feel better! “Oh, that house was too perfect,” it sounds silly, but a lot of buyers want a house where they can spend $25,000 and increase the value by $50K, and Lamb probably wasn’t it.

About three weeks, and perhaps 10-12 houses later, we found on on Milverton Boulevard that we thought had a ton of potential.

The house was not upgraded – i’ll say that right off the bat!

But it was a huge footprint, and the sheer square footage of the house alone was enough to get our motors running hot!

It was a 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom, which was something Isabella and Andrew never really saw themselves in.  Andrew said, “What am I going to do in my fourth bathroom that I couldn’t do in my third bathroom?”

By now, I’d spent a lot of time with these guys, and it was often hard to concentrate on real estate, since we were so busy running quotes from 1980’s movies, and making fun of hipsters that we saw on The Danforth…

We decided that we were going to make an offer on Milverton, which was priced at $689,900, but we also determined that this house was not priced artificially low to solicit multiple offers like every other listing in the area, or Toronto, for that matter.

We figured that this house was worth the asking price, give or take.  You can never really peg the value of a house to the very dollar, but had this house been “priced for multiples” like so many others, it might have been as much as $100K lower.

There was no pre-home inspection completed on the property, so we did one in advance of offer night.  In an interesting twist, the home inspector and Isabella had the same last name, and we mused that perhaps they were somehow related, since their relatives both came from the same part of Sicily.  They traced their family tree, and the next day Isabella told me that her Nona confirmed a distant family relative that’s common to both of them!  Small world, er, planet!

The home inspection came back very clean, and we decided to proceed with an offer.  I registered our offer at 10:00am, and we waited.  We waited all day, and while the listing brokerage continued to say, “You’re the only offer” when I called, somehow a second offer magically materialized at about 6:45pm that night, right before offers were set to be reviewed.

I didn’t really trust the listing agent, to be honest.  He never called me personally, and always sent texts, and he didn’t have an impressive track record.

At the risk of letting the cat out of the bag here, most of the “name” brokerages spend money on a third-party software system that tracks every deal done in the Toronto Real Estate Board, and how many each agent does.  From time to time, I might ask my manager to look somebody up for me, just so I know if they’re a high producer, or a fake.

This agent had sold one house in the previous twelve months, and spun his wheels with a condo developer, and it made me question his actions.

I was very weary of this supposed “second offer,” so I called the listing brokerage to find out if there was one, which they confirmed that there was.  But I wasn’t satisfied, so I asked to speak to the brokerage’s manager, and she confirmed the presence of the second offer.

My clients and I wondered why somebody would register an offer at 6:45pm when offers were being reviewed at 7pm, and whether this meant it was a very strong offer, or weak.

The house was listed at $689,900, and we honestly expected to be the only offer, in a market where houses priced at fair market value (ie. not artificially low by 15%) typically didn’t do that well.

We decided that for the sake of getting the house, we’d offer $700,000 even.  Beyond that, and we may as well look at houses in better shape, since this one was just a large foot print but a rough house itself.

I submitted my offer at 7pm, and with only two offers to review, I honestly expected a call around 7:15pm!

I waited, and then waited some more.

I sat on my computer for two hours, working away, and wondered what was taking so long.

There’s a fine line between being a pest, and asking a simple question, but I decided I would wait for the listing agent to get back to me.

By midnight, five hours after offers were submitted, I called him to inquire, but of course he didn’t pick up.  So I texted him, since I know he loves texts so much, and said, “Hi Bob, any update?”

He wrote back, “We took another offer.”

I couldn’t believe it.  Was he going to tell me?

So I texted back, “Were you going to tell me?”

And he wrote back, “I just did.”

What an ass.

He probably accepted the other offer at 7:30pm, and then what – just decided I’d get the picture if I was still waiting around a week later?

I wasn’t being a sore loser, but rather I really expected some professional courtesy out of this guy.

Isabella and Andrew were really surprised, but our senses started tingling when the listing wasn’t updated on MLS the next day, or the day after.  In fact, it took a full seven days for the listing agent, and/or the brokerage, to update the listing with the sale price (it wasn’t a conditional sale, FYI, likely just sloppy paperwork), and the house ended up selling for $719,500.

We lost by almost $20K, which was more than our first loss, but this one hurt more because we really did expect to be the only offer.

The month of November flew by, and we didn’t make an offer on a single house, nor were we close.  It’s funny how the market can give you a bounty of listings one week, and nothing the next!

In the first week of December, a house came out on Hazelwood at Pape & Danforth, and we all thought, “This is the one.”

Hazelwood falls into the prestigious Frankland P.S. school district, and in the 2013 Fraser Institute Rankings, the school was ranked a 9.5/10, or 37th out of 2,714 on Ontario!

The house was a semi-detached, 2-storey, 3-bed, 2-bath, on an 18 x 110 foot lot, on the south side of the street, and literally steps to Danforth, and steps to Withrow Park.

Location was truly A+++, excuse the cliché, and while the house inside was a solid B-, Isabella and Andrew figured they could slowly upgrade some of the 10-year-old finishes, and live on one of the best streets in Riverdale, with TTC at their doorstep.

The house was listed at $649,900, but it was hysterically low.  I told them from the minute we walked into the open house, “We’re $750K plus here, guys, easy,” and our feelings were confirmed by the virtual revolving-door out front, where about 50 people came through after us.

There were nine offers on offer night, and we submitted an offer of $776,200.  It’s nuts to think we offered $125,000 over asking, but that was the market, that was the value of the house, and as it turns out – we weren’t the only ones that “nuts.”

The listing agent, who I must say handled the process in the most professional manner I’ve seen in years, told us that they were down to two offers, including ours.

Having offered $776,200, I told Isabella and Andrew that they had to increase their bid, we knew that.  But how much would be their call.

It’s very difficult to pick a winning lottery number, but that’s our job as agents.  We need to pick a price that’s high enough to get the house, but not so high that we overpay.

I told them that we needed to go up $10,000, but $12-$15K if they “really wanted it.”

They decided to go up $5,000 to $781,200, and we crossed our fingers.

The phone rang a half hour later, and the listing agent took a breath before saying, “Hi David,” so I knew that we had lost.

What I didn’t know, however, was that the winning bid was $785,100, and we lost by a margin of $3,900, or 0.5%.

I remember Andrew actually apologizing to me the next day for not listening to my $10K figure, which would have been $786,200, and got the house by a paltry $1,100.  But as I explained to him – hindsight is a bitch, and you simply cannot look back.

Isabella and Andrew were pretty shaken after that one.  To lose by that small a margin hurt, and this was now their third defeat in the Fall 2013 market.

Isabella asked me, “David, what’s your ‘record’ for most offers with one client?” And I laughed it off.  I told them not to worry, and that we’d find a place eventually.

This was December, however, and I also told them that unfortunately, I thought the market was about to shut down for the winter.

We didn’t get another chance to bid on a property in 2013, as December was an incredibly slow month, as it always is.

The calendar turned from 2013 to 2014, and despite our best efforts in January, we also didn’t see anything worth bidding on.

In fact, it would take us several months to get an offer back on paper, and although we were weary from a hard-fought Fall 2013 market, our experiences would prove to serve as an appetizer for the main course about to be served in the Spring 2014 market…


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. Amelia Haynes

    at 10:43 am

    Ouch! $1,100 … hindsight IS a b*tch. lol

    1. Kyle

      at 11:16 am

      Plus they would have had to continue paying rent for Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb… which no doubt adds up to much more than $1100.

  2. Steve

    at 6:37 pm

    The market has been expensive for so long that every seller now thinks their place is worth a king’s ransom … thus, the outrageous asking prices. Reality says markets don’t go up forever, and people are already mostly tapped out. It’s seller beware time.

    1. Kyle

      at 2:54 pm

      “Reality says markets don’t go up forever, and people are already mostly tapped out. It’s seller beware time.”

      Actually the reality is, as long as demand far outstrips supply then prices will continue to rise. And considering that the market has only gotten a lot tighter, i’d say your assessment of how tapped out people are is out of touch.

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