experts: real estate column Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Buying cars and welcoming new salespeople

Now I don't want to sound too smug but our real estate market for the past year has been pretty active.

By Marty Douglas

As published in REM - independent news and opinion for Canada's real estate industry.

Nothing. No idea. No kernel - or colonel - of wit erupts Vesuvius-like from my overheated cranium. It's 35 or so degrees Celsius on the Wet Coast of Canada and the natives are whimpering. The other day one of our sales team was showing property to a couple retiring from Dubai. They changed their mind about buying here faced with the heat. "But it's a dry heat," we cry, stretching prune-like winter skin skyward.

My home, the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island - it's the bump on the right hand side about half way up, appearing to give Toronto the finger - is home to 19 Wing of the CAF, aka CFB Comox. As a part of Operation Apollo, we send long range maritime patrol aircraft, the Aurora, to the Straits of Hormuz and environs. In the height of their summer, the outside temperature is 55 degrees Celsius and they do fry eggs on the wings. In Canada, they scrape sea spray off the airframe, in Saudi, egg yolk.

Now I don't want to sound too smug but our real estate market for the past year has been pretty active. And that means, rather than save for the next rainy day, we Realtors are doing what comes naturally - buying cars.

If you haven't bought a car lately, new or pre-owned as they say, and you're tired of putting money into the stock market and have all the real estate you need, then go buy a car. The level of competition for your auto business in sales and service is producing a level of customer service that would make Tom Peters stop his search for excellence. Those of us in sales - that's everyone by the way, including teachers and ministers, would do well to have a look at the car industry's example. When was the last time you had your photo taken with your car and presented with a great follow up package? Or as you step into your car for the first time, noticed a plaque on the door frame saying "Specially prepared for______."? The days of wandering onto a lot or into a showroom and going unnoticed are gone. Everyone is tasked to assist you.

The doldrums of the past five years of real estate have made us scrounge for every penny and seek savings in the worst of places - customer follow-up and recognition. A buyer is lucky to get his new house key in a used envelope - usually we recycle the envelope, the string and the tag. And our sellers, after hacking the commission to close the deal haven't been getting grass clippings, let alone a gift certificate or bouquet.

Go buy a car and pay attention to the service and compare it to your practice. Remember, car commissions are about 10% of those in real estate. Are we allowed to say that? Guess I'll find out. Speaking of finding out, I received an email from a new licensee asking advice on which broker to select and whether or not to become a licensed assistant. Here's my reply.

"Congratulations! You are entering the industry at a very strong moment, not only because of the market activity but because of the aging of the Realtor population. Over the next decade, many of us in our fifties - the average age of Realtors is 55+ - will be called to the great reward - meaning the Canada Pension Plan. We have clients who will continue to need service and new licensees like you are in the right place to inherit and even purchase these client lists. I don't know where you are located in BC, but if in the Lower mainland, Realtors are advertising for assistants. However, like a good apartment or a cheap house, by the time the ad is in the paper, the opportunity is gone. So you need to knock on some doors like any job applicant. With your eligibility for licensing, I guarantee you will receive a warm reception wherever you go but don't take the first offer. Shop around. If you know a Realtor, call them and ask. If you don't, pick a high profile Realtor in your area and ask them. As for working as an assistant, that's a two edged sword. If you are good at real estate, then an assistant's wage of $10 an hour isn't where you want to be. On the other hand, if you are good at being an assistant, then an hourly wage and an incentive part of your Realtor's earnings might be the best for you both. My suggestion, since you have to take your license out to be the best assistant, find a company who offers training and the oversight of a senior sales person and jump right in the pool. Good luck and welcome to the business - you have no idea how welcome you are!"

Marty Douglas is the sales manager for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., one of nine Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island. He is a past Chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of BC, the Real Estate Council of BC, the BC Real Estate Association and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. email mdouglas@island.net 1-800-715-3999 fax 250-897-3933




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