I am a third generation Realtor, the son of a local legend. My father is the guy people still tell stories about 30 years later. They tell of him knocking on doors in snow storms. His competitors remember when listings were tightly guarded secrets during the first couple days of the contract, and they tell of seeing the familiar silver and black LTD following their office caravans on Monday morning, knowing Allan was scribbling down the addresses and would soon be booking appointments before they could themselves.
I have been a Realtor for 24 years. During this time I have constantly heard the words “Don’t worry what others are doing, and just focus on YOUR next sale!” Initially this came from my father, a man I shared an office with for 14 years. Next from my mother, who sold real estate and took care of my Dad and her home, all at the same time. Next from my wife, who wanted to be sure the bills were paid, after she left real estate to raise our four kids. Next from my broker, who noticed my sales had declined as my focus shifted to my family demands. Finally from concerned others, who saw my concern for the real estate industry begin to occupy more and more of my time.
Realistically, for the first 18 years of my career, these were probably good words of advice. I know they served my parents well because they are living the dream retirement life, as the rarest of Realtors who could retire solely from the earnings of a 20-year sales career.
I never kept my head down too long. I never looked at being a Realtor as a job, but always as a business. Part of the reason my parents were able to retire after less than 20 years in the business was my father was able to “keep his head down and sell, sell, sell”. Somewhere around 2002, it became increasingly obvious that my fellow professionals were under such intense pressure from outside influences that as business people, if they simply kept their heads down and sold, their business model would be attacked by outsiders. Non-Realtors, seeing all the heads in the sand looking for the next sale, saw an industry ready to be taken advantage of.
Each Realtor is a member of associations, brands and brokerages that we all assumed had leaders, who we paid (in one form or another) to represent us, by them having their heads up and looking out for us. It turns out that they too had their heads down looking for the next sale, instead of looking out for us. While initially it was only outsiders who were allowed to operate without the rules and regulations we demanded of one another, the courts were working in the background at the request of government bodies to change the rules, allowing outsiders to strategically attack our profession. Why wasn’t someone watching?
We all know what has happened to our profession in the last 10 months.
The time has come for Realtors to get our heads out of the sand long enough to demand the leaders we already pay, to begin representing us. We pay CEOs, board staffs, franchisors and broker/owners massive fees to represent us. I know that last year, I paid over $25,000 in association fees alone, directly to the organizations I pay to represent me. These are not office fees or advertising expenses but the fees paid directly for the privilege of my association with them.
I ask, how is it possible the CEO of a national association, whose members have revenues of over $3 billion annually, is allowed to continue to remain employed while NOT acting in the best interests of the majority of his members?
I ask, how is it possible the CEOs of provincial and local associations, whose members have revenues ranging in the multi-millions to $1 billion dollars annually, continue to remain employed, while NOT acting in the best interests of the majority of their shareholders?
I ask, how is it possible the CEOs and owners of the major franchise brands, with earnings in the tens of millions of dollars from agent fees, continue to remain silent, inactive and non-communicative to those operating under their brands, about how to enact change in our industry by their numbers alone?
I ask, how it is possible the CEOs of the local brokerages, some of whom are paid millions of dollars annually, continue to allow our business model to be attacked, with us not carrying a powerful voice to our local associations and boards?
I ask, how do I, a Realtor, the third generation of my family in this profession, someone who respects our profession and believes it is essential to the financial health of our nation, continue to pay these CEOs over $25,000 a year of my money to assist in the dismantling of my own business?
I can hear my Dad: “Ross, get your head out of the sand!”
Ross Kay is a 24-year veteran of the real estate industry based in Burlington, Ont. As a salesman, his team’s sales placed them at the top of the industry for four consecutive years. His customers have earned over $250 million in net worth using his guidance. He introduced over a dozen new technologies to the real estate industry. He says as an Internet consultant, his knowledge of the property portal business, protection of consumers privacy online and the ability of associations to modify their operations to legally protect all members’ business models equally is unique. www.rosskay.com.