Real-World Realtor School

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Did you know that anyone who completes four mandatory real estate courses and achieves at least a 75% grade on the examinations can become a licensed realtor in Ontario? TREB (the Toronto Real Estate Board) recently released a statement listing its membership at more than 39,000 members–that’s roughly one realtor for every 140 people in the GTA!

As with many career changes, it’s common for people to take real estate courses while working at another job to support themselves. Unfortunately, this often continues once they are licensed agents, which means they are only working part-time as realtors. This can make it a real challenge for clients to reach their agents quickly, and for other realtors to connect with a part-time agent about time-sensitive matters. When you entrust the purchase or sale of your biggest asset to a realtor, you should know whether they are generally going to be available when you need them.

In a hot market like Toronto, things move quickly. As I outlined in a previous post, one of the benefits to using a professional realtor is having early access to new listings, because it is not uncommon for properties to be sold or leased here in a single day. On a recent weekend, this was frustratingly obvious for two of my clients who were trying to lease a condo in the city.

My clients narrowed their search down to one building. We viewed three available units quite late one Friday night, and on hearing they wanted to place an offer, I called the listing agent’s office to ensure no other offers were registered. There weren’t, and I indicated we’d be submitting an offer in the morning. Once I had the necessary signed paperwork in hand, I called to register our offer…and was told the unit had already sold the day before, prior to us having seen it. The listing agent assured me he had instructed the office staff to call everyone who had booked appointments, but this either wasn’t true, or hadn’t happened.

We went to plan B, and called the listing office of the second-choice unit to register an offer. Again I was dumbfounded to hear that it had been leased the day before. The proper procedure as a listing agent is to call any other agents who may potentially have an interest in your client’s property before accepting an offer. To not do so means you have not acted in your seller’s best interest, since there is the possibility that a second offer may be stronger (quality of tenants, terms of tenancy, or even price).

Although the third unit did not have everything my clients wanted, they felt anxious about securing a place to live. When I called the office for that listing, I was almost expecting the answer I received:  the listing had been terminated the day before. Since a listing may be terminated for any number of reasons, and the owners may still be interested in reviewing an offer, I called the agent directly to discuss the situation. My message was never returned.

There is little recourse for these sorts of situations, other than trying to track down brokers (realtors’ managers) who often don’t respond well to complaints, or for serious breaches of conduct, filing a more formal complaint with RECO (the Real Estate Council of Ontario). This takes time and energy that I feel in most cases could be better spent working for my clients. I could also never be certain when my path will cross with an agent or broker I had an issue with in the past, and how that might affect an experience for my current client. Because of this, I like to choose my battles very carefully.

Debate is still raging over whether to make the realtor licensing process more rigorous, which may mean making it a college-level program. I’m all in favour of the idea, in the hopes it results in agents who are more knowledgeable and professional than those I’ve recently encountered!

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