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Advice for a real estate consumer

I have an Internet column with advice for the real estate consumer. You could look it up ( The following is an actual inquiry with some editing, mostly to protect me.


“Dear Marty:

“I hope you can steer us in the right direction regarding choosing a realtor to sell our house. Our home was listed previously for four months and we took it off the market & listed with a ‘for sale by owner’ company for the winter. A deal that we had in the works for the past month just died, so we want to re-list with a local agent & get more aggressive about selling. How do we go about ‘interviewing’ an agent? What is the moral & ethical way to advertise for an agent?  How do we match the right agent for our type of property? We liked our last agent but want to go in a different direction. I want to talk to different agents from different companies & pick the ‘right’ person for us & the house & not step on any toes. Your thoughts…….?”


As you may imagine I had a few thoughts, particularly about how some folks wait until they are on the brink of Niagara Falls before they recognize they may need help.  And when they are on the brink, waving to a disinterested observer may not get the assistance they need.

Before I tell you my reply, let’s parse the above request for meaning.  I had to ignore the fact the consumer incorrectly presented REALTOR®. Give them a break – at least they didn’t spell it “realator”.


However, we in the business know how critical the correct use is to the protection of our trademark so we will always present it in all caps with the little registered thingy R on the end. (Which, by the way, you can create by pressing ‘control’ + ‘alt’ and ‘r’.  You can do ‘T ‘too but we’ll save that for another column.)


Back to the cry for help.  I took great glee in the phrase, “we took it off the market & listed with a ‘for sale by owner’ company”. My thoughts exactly.  When the vast majority of residential property sales are affected by REALTORS® and have been for more than a century, you do indeed remove yourself from the market.  At least you run the risk of not achieving the highest price in the least amount of time with the minimum of inconvenience.  But it’s your time and money.


Our writer explains their strategy in the next sentence when they want to “get more aggressive about selling”.  And they do that how? By listing “with a local agent.” Before we were just pretending to sell, now we’re serious.  And we want a serious agent, and we’re nice people so rather than slag our last agent, we “want to go in a different direction.” Can you help us?  “Oh, I don’t know,” I mused to myself. “How did you pick the FSBO company?  Coin toss?  There’s only one?  You liked the catchy name?”


If you have been in the business for more than a nanosecond, you know what the real problem is, don’t you?  You noticed it the moment the owner indicated the property had been on the market for four months.  In a very active market.


Okay, you’ve been patient.  Here’s the email I sent a few days later:


“It’s the price, stupid!” Just kidding – I’m nice too.


“Sorry for the delay in replying – I was in Calgary talking to 300 REALTORS® about how many of their clients are coming to the ComoxValley. (Notice how I subtly point out our network of contacts and how buyers are flooding to our area.)  When a house doesn’t sell, there is usually a variety of reasons – location, motivation – but the predominant reason is that it was overpriced. (Too subtle?)  If your house didn’t sell last year with the exposure you received, I’m suggesting the price needs to be evaluated.  For that, you need a top agent, not because inexperienced agents can’t evaluate, but because a top agent doesn’t need your listing and they won’t take it if it is too overpriced.  Or they will take it at your price for a short time and then insist on a price reduction.  Top agents frequently do not ‘interview’ for listings – they are too busy with clients who are committed to them.


“However, if you want to talk to several agents from several companies, I suggest you call one from each, selecting them by their reputation, quality of their website presence and local advertising.  Look for signs in your neighbourhood, because a REALTOR® who is familiar with the neighborhood, who has had success there, is better than a ‘stranger’. (Here comes the meat in the sandwich.)


“Don’t be distracted by commission – they are negotiable – but the best brain surgeons make the most money for a reason. (And I’m so nice, I try to get their previous REALTOR® back in the game.)  By the way, I’d include your former agent in the process, perhaps have her suggest some of the other agents to interview.”


And, I wished them well.


In hindsight, I could have thrown them a little W.C. Fields, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it.”


Marty Douglas is a managing broker for Coast Realty Group (ComoxValley) Ltd., managing two of 15 Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of B.C.  He is a past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of B.C., the Real Estate Council of B.C., and the B.C. Real Estate Association, and is a current director of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. Email; 1-800-715-3999; Fax (250) 897-3933.