By Neil Sharma
There’s much to be gleaned from Stan Albert’s decorated career in real estate. Lasting over five decades, he’s seen markets rise and fall, but what sets him apart is the hawk eye he’s developed for every facet of sales – from houses and neighbourhoods to the agents themselves.
So, then, what would he tell someone contemplating a career in real estate?
“Think twice,” he says emphatically. “It is not all the glamour that novices and new people see, like new cars and the nice way people dress, and big commissions. It’s difficult to get started, especially for newcomers with the way prices are escalating. I’d say for newcomers, find a broker that is well established with many listings, and especially that has ongoing training courses every month.”
Another caveat Albert has for prospective sales agents is be prepared to go stretches without income, especially at the outset.
“Be financially prepared to be without an income for up to 60 or 90 days,” he says. “They should, after they’ve passed a couple of courses, start interviewing brokers – and not just to see what commissions are paid, but how they’re currently helping new people.”
Newcomers also have to deal with the rise of real estate teams, whose members work on reduced commissions but don’t carry the same expenses team leaders do. Making matters particularly daunting, agents who don’t earn at least $1 million annually are often precluded from joining a team.
“Somebody who is really good has five to 10 listings at a time, so they get a helper who gets another helper,” says Albert. “There are some top trainers who preach like gospel the advantage of having teams.”
Born in Belleville, Ont., Albert operated a realty brokerage there before moving to Toronto in 1981 to work with Safeguard Real Estate, which ceased operations a decade later. By 1992, he moved to Re/Max Realtron Realty for four years, then to Re/Max Professionals for 10 years. Albert has been with Re/Max Premier, who retains his now-inactive license, ever since.
Over the years, Albert has been on a number of Toronto Real Estate Board and Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) committees, including Ethics, Arbitration, MLS Rules and Regulations, Education and Complaints and Discipline – but it was here at REM that he developed a niche in the form of a popular column called From My Desk As I See It. His ruminations spanned 185 articles, the last of which appeared in July 2016.
“In my column, I vented many times about OREA, RECO, the unethical practices of a lot of agents, but I also lobbied for courses to be improved,” says Albert.
In spite of Albert’s myriad provisos – and there are more – he nevertheless remains adamant that there’s simply no other job like being a real estate agent. Provided one practices with integrity, it will be the most rewarding career you could ever embark upon, he says.
“There’s no cap on the salary you can earn; there is a bevy of reasons I think it’s a great career because you make friends with your colleagues and even other colleagues who are your competition,” says Albert. “You can always, with the advancement of education now, increase your knowledge to the point that you can become a broker. That may be in the offering with RECO’s new mandate.
“It’s a marvelous career that can lead to property management, property ownership and property development.”
What will the 80-year-old miss most?
“Every day is different and every day is a challenge. The challenge is to have a reason to get up in the morning,” he says, before quipping, “I’m retired now and I have lots to do every day.”
No interview with a 56-year real estate veteran would be complete without asking him what he thinks about the so-called real estate bubble in Toronto.
“What’s happening now is everyone is looking around, saying, ‘Our bungalow is worth a million-and-a-half? Let’s cash in and move to Orillia or Cobourg where prices are cheaper.’
“It’s sustainable as long as people have money,” he says. “Even if the province puts a 10 per cent tax on foreign investors, does the province think someone who pays a million in cash will worry about another $100,000 in taxes? It boggles my mind as a Realtor, but we’re the largest, fastest growing city in Canada. Vancouver has slowed down a bit; Toronto is the benchmark. We’re building more condos than New York City.”
While Albert maintains Toronto housing prices are still lower than other international cities such as New York, London, Tokyo and most major Chinese cities, he admits there is an affordability issue.
“In Vaughan, there are another 17 or 18 condos slated to be built, and as soon as there’s a preview, most are sold out,” he says. “One at Hwy. 7 sold out before putting a shovel in the ground.
“Kids are going to have to move in with their parents. Close friends will buy together, maybe a triplex or duplex and rent out the other part to pay off the mortgage. I’ve been in the industry a long time and saw a bad downturn in ’89 that carried on to ’92 and in ’95 it rebounded to a normal market, but this is not a normal market. Would I want to be 20 or 25 going into the market today? No, I wouldn’t.”
But Albert says immigration is also driving the market, and as long as people move to the GTA in droves, the housing market shouldn’t be imperiled.
Albert is critical of rampant unethical practices in the industry for which clients suffer the ramifications.
While technology is changing the nature of the industry, Albert venerates its human touch.
“There’s nothing like an agent holding the hand of a seller who’s selling the house they’ve lived in for 50 years – that’s something artificial intelligence can’t touch.”