By Marty Douglas

“It all started in a 5,000-watt radio station in Fresno, California. With just a $50-a-week pay cheque and a dream.” – Ted Baxter.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .”

Glad you asked. My REM writing experience began in December 1994 with an opinion piece entitled The West Coast Real Estate Fishery – in Peril? Apparently I thought the analogy of the dearth of migrating salmon to the Adams River would ring a nationwide bell as we experienced yet another downturn, not only in buyers but in applicants for a real estate license. We had experienced a doubling of our average price over the prior five years and a corresponding increase in real estate licensees. Then the feed ran out.



Marty’s 1994 column photo.
Marty’s 1994 column photo.

REM was looking for a west coast flavour and suggested a regular column. Jim Adair and Heino Molls have been putting up with me ever since. Those were the technological dark ages. My first columns were submitted by that new gadget, the fax machine, which was, of course, long distance to Toronto. I remember complaining to Jim about the cost, suggesting meekly that since my column was gratis, would they entertain some reimbursement for the long distance charges. Jim asked if I had heard of email and so I was dragged, without expense, into the 21st century.

REM surprised Marty with a cake to celebrate his 100th column in 2003.
REM surprised Marty with a cake to celebrate his 100th column in 2003.

It’s been a blast. REM has been full of surprises along the way, the best being a cake delivered to my west coast office door, decorated to mark my 100th column. My coffee gets cold in a REM mug, one of a case lot our office won in photo contest, and on my dresser is a REM engraved watch. Not a Rolex but still, the thought . . . and so we arrive at column #250. And they said it wouldn’t last.

The most frequent question I’m asked about writing for REM is the source of the monthly columns. And the answer is always easy – the business itself. My involvement in the industry at the board and provincial levels, in a regulatory role on the B.C. Real Estate Council and on the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Insurance Corporation, left me with anecdotes and opinions, some even my own. As my monthly deadline approached, notes from the REM file would coalesce into about 900 words – or not. I was always aware of my surroundings and respected confidences. I avoided dancing to tunes directed by others. At industry meetings I smiled as the chair inevitably asked if there were any members of the press present. I usually sat up front with my notebook but garnered more material from the cocktail and luncheon chatter than the dull business of the annual meeting.

A frequent community theatre actor, Marty is seen here in his role as Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone.
A frequent community theatre actor, Marty is seen here in his role as Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone.

I received a lot of emails. The archives suggest Gary Robinson was my most prolific critic. Now, more frequently, online commentary follows my columns. The online commentary, unlike personal email, is read by any who go to www.remonline.com and inevitably the postings turn into a debate between responders, frequently leaving my column gasping for air on the river bank, as opinionated barbs from regular readers ricochet around the Internet. Heated exchanges were originally between me and one or two letter writers. Now, usually I’m the innocent bystander, albeit the one who lit the fuse.

My August column prompted this request from a 30-plus-year veteran: “Marty, can you speak to why more people don’t just work on their own, under their own banner? Can it be as simple as they feel the need for engaging in the group office atmosphere?”

It’s not that simple because we are dealing with people. Have you ever participated in personality profiling? The program I first took was DISC, which revealed I was a “High I”. A later, more fun analysis was called True Colors (I think I was ‘Blue’). Most high rolling, type A personalities were ‘D’s or ‘Orange’, while accounting types were ‘C’s or ‘Green’. My groups were the huggers, the social crowd who were always afraid if there was no one in the office, it was because there was a party to which we hadn’t been invited.

Marty appeared as one of Cinderella’s step-sisters in a Rogers & Hammerstein review called A Grand Night for Singing. “Here’s what happens when you get old in musical theatre – you either play a bad guy or they put you in drag,” he says. “Not sure which this is!” (Photo by Ross Robinson)
Marty appeared as one of Cinderella’s step-sisters in a Rogers & Hammerstein review called A Grand Night for Singing. “Here’s what happens when you get old in musical theatre – you either play a bad guy or they put you in drag,” he says. “Not sure which this is!” (Photo by Ross Robinson)

Real estate, while containing readily recognizable “personalities” is made up of all types; yes, even accountants and teachers have succeeded in our business! Not everyone can work from home or a small office. Whether they lack the incentive or self-discipline or whether they need to absorb the “noise”, the kinetic energy of a bull pen, the activity of others demands comparison in yourself.

Franchises, in addition to usually having an office environment, bring the value of the brand, meaning you don’t have to invent your personal banner. Self-branding, whether inside a franchise or as an independent, is one of the goods too many Realtors have been sold as essential to success. Poppycock. (Never used that in a column before!)

October finds us in a federal election. In every past federal election I have urged REM readers to vote. Consistently voter turnout has declined. Coincidence? I think so. But the excuses remain the same. You get the government you deserve. Think about that as you curse Prime Minister Mulcair/Trudeau/Harper later after Oct. 19. If you don’t vote, then have a cup of “shut the hell up!”

And since most advice has been given in the past, hence the study of history, here are 10 tidbits pertaining to real estate from real life – you know, TV and Hollywood.

  1. Police Story TV series, 1973-1978 – “I’ve been in this business for a lot of years looking for short cuts. I’ll be the first to let you know if I find one. In the meantime, hit the streets and turn over stones.”
  2. United Airlines TV commercial, 1980s – “When you become satisfied with your performance as a team, that’s when you’re finished as a team.”
  3. Thelma and Louise movie, 1991 – “You get what you settle for.” – Louise
  4. Jerry Maguire movie, 1996 – “If this (gestures to heart) is empty then this (gestures to head) doesn’t matter.” And, “Success consists of simply getting up one more time than you fall.”
  5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back movie, 1980 – “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
  6. Fellowship of the Ring movie, 2001 – “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” – Gandalf the Grey
  7. Any Given Sunday movie, 1999 – “You find out that life is just a game of inches . . . the inches we need are everywhere around us.” – Al Pacino
  8. Michael Caine, academy award winning actor – “Actors don’t get paid for the minute or two they spend in front of the camera. They get paid for the preparation and waiting around.”
  9. Will Smith, on training for the movie Ali, 2001 – “I desire perfection. I desire being the best that I can be. I don’t wanna take time to eat, I don’t wanna take time to sleep. I wanna let the other guy be eatin’ and sleepin’ while I’m working and while I’m trying to achieve my best earthly perfection.”
  10. Howard Brinton, not an actor but a favourite real estate trainer and showman – “You have to practise and memorize your presentation – the reason a magician can pull a rabbit out of the hat is that he put it there before the show began!”

“Th-Th-Th-That’s all folks!”– Porky Pig.

Marty Douglas, irregular REM columnist, is a past chair of the Real Estate Council of B.C. He currently sits as a director of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, serves as an advisor to the Real Estate Council of B.C. and is on CREA’s Realtor Code Task Force. He is an associate broker with Re/Max Mid-Island Realty on Vancouver Island, B.C.

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