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Opinion: Licensed to sell fear

If you need more proof of the sad world we’ve surrendered to, look no further than the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s (TRREB) new ‘Making the Smart Choice’ campaign. Who would have predicted an agency, ostensibly a “sales service,” could degenerate into a profession of purveyors of fear?

Pitching “safety, security, protection, disclosure, and retribution” to your would-be clients has now become the exalted “advantages (the public) can expect” when working with a TRREB member.

Whatever happened to knowledge, experience, connections, perseverance, and good ol’ chutzpah? Who am I to suggest TRREB is just playing out the regulatory hand they were dealt?

But taking queues from big brother may have made the content of the campaign unprofessional, if not deceptive, in my opinion. TRREB formulated some bold claims to help you close those sales mandate pitches. You might want to keep the following in mind, just in case you’ve bought into regulation as a panacea for client consternation: 

1. The deposit may be “safe and secure” unless litigation creeps into the transaction. Then just wait and see what can happen.

2. The “its-time-to-fess-up” advantage of your informing of “any” relationship you’ve had or are having with the seller may be seen as less than honourable if you release some of those personal details. Who gets to define “any” anyway?

3. I’m struggling to envision how a member tops off their ‘advantages’ pitch with “and finally rest assured if I behave improperly, you can be sure that my license will get yanked.” I guess it’s all part of a healthy working relationship to empower the client with the use of threats to elicit your “proper” behaviour. And in our fluid world, I’m not even going to pretend to know what “proper” behaviour implies.

4. Insurance, yes, we “carry” insurance. But I’m not so sure we can make the unqualified representation to our would-be clients that they’re “protected” carte blanche. News flash, insurers have been known to challenge or deny claims when circumstances suit their purpose.

5. Finally, the show-stopper advantage: TRREB is (apparently) criminal-free. What are the odds of 68,000+ law-abiding citizens being members of a single organization? The LSO can’t even boost that stat. Maybe TRREB is tiptoeing around the Saul Goodman distinction of “criminal” vs. “real criminal” behaviour. The real crime, in my opinion, is how regulatory authority has hijacked our psyche, robbed us of common sense, and conflated its role to promote its self-serving agenda while failing to acknowledge its shortcomings.

Maybe only a handful of the 104,000+ blissfully comatose registrants will agree with me, proving their inculcation works. That said, let me be clear, flogging fear and promoting the use of threats is toxic and physiologically harmful. My message of survival to anyone in this stressful, demanding, and competitive biz is to simply speak the truth, be diligent and do your best to remain positive. I know it’s a lot to ask in this over-saturated, over-regulated industry, to say nothing of our post-COVID-19 hellish environment.