The penultimate column.
No, I’m fine thank you, health wise. In general terms, when asked, I refer to my physical condition as “old and fat” rather than attempt attribution to some new age plague or senior symptom of the month.
Besides, most people asking, “How are you?” resent an actual answer, let alone a medical précis culled from the pages of WebMD, summarizing your current physical state. At a recent doctor’s visit for a routine check-up, my doctor – I actually found one older than I am – summarized his likely diagnosis as “de-conditioned”. I kind of like that. And when, not if, I finish the regimen my wife has in mind for me, hopefully I’ll be re-conditioned – or simply old-ish.
So my health is okay. What about the industry? I’ve survived it for 45 years, observing and writing in REM for nearly half of that time. Despite government and regulators throwing curves and every now and then our own associations mixing the signals, we the players keep getting the hits and occasionally hitting one out of the park.
Let’s consider some of the changes and challenges since 1970.
By the way, I’m ignoring technological advances because they are too recent and merely transitory changes in the toolkit. For example, CB radios, colour Polaroid cameras and the financial calculator were “wow” and “got to have” additions for an eye blink. Video is now in its second coming. This time the rapture is caused by a drone-mounted GoPro. Here today – beta tomorrow.
My pick for the No. 1 change is women in real estate. In 1970 there were companies that refused to have women licensees, some leaders maintaining that the proper place for a woman was at home, warming the hearth and dinner while looking inspirational. One of those leaders put it in his book.
Real estate became a life-changing opportunity for some, able to out-earn their male colleagues and their spouses by having a license, combined with the organizational skills and work ethic women seem to possess in greater quantity than men. Personally, I think avoiding the golf course is a major advantage. From zero to greater than 50 per cent in some markets in five decades – nice work!
Salespersons with voting rights and full membership to real estate boards and associations occurred on my watch. Well-deserved but the unintended consequences are of note. First, it marked the decline in volunteerism by owners and managing brokers and the rise in power and influence, not of salespeople but of executive officers.
Second, because owner/managers were salaried, as directors and officers typically they were unpaid except for expenses and, in the president’s case, a modest honorarium. Salespeople discovered they couldn’t exist without a substantial subsidy. The two-year term of office disappeared.
Third, a sense of entitlement became more evident, to progress through the chairs in an orderly fashion – you go, then you go, then you. Idiot or not, it’s their turn.
One of my favourites – you need to disclose. At first that you were a licensee purchasing or renting for your own use and by the time we experimented with agency, how much money you would make on every transaction. In B.C., under an NDP government, the first disclosure form had to be red! Talk about your scarlet letter.
Next up, I’m acting for the seller! No, I’m acting for the buyer! No I am! Hey, over here, I’m Spartacus! And so agency was examined, dissected and tossed back to us, in various forms and terminology. We took the courses, filled out the paper work, stumbled a bit when they changed the paperwork and carried on. Agency is something every licensee claims to understand but let it get between them and a paycheque and watch the rationale fly.
For decades B.C. and Ontario took great pride in being leaders in education, regulation and professionalism. But when it comes to taking action, in my opinion, Alberta shows leadership and continues to lead the way in reform. All credit to the Alberta regulators and industry for requiring buyer service agreements. If memory serves, they also were among the first to require written consent to referrals by the client being referred. Huh? Alberta?
FINTRAC? Don’t get me started. Again, we took the course, listened dully to managers ranting and filled out the paper. More paper? Changed paper? A spread sheet to track repeat clients for five years? Sure, bring it on. I’ll be on that wall between you and terrorists. Remember Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men? “…deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall – you need me on that wall!”
Was 1970 a simpler time? I’m looking at my first sale contract. One page, including the commission agreement. Enough said. But we did have that messy carbon paper to deal with, then NCR – oh goody, more change!
Real estate is simple. You find some folks, show them some houses and give them reasons to buy. All the rest is show. There is no shortcut and there are no secrets. Except the secret handshake of course.
Make no mistake, I love this business. It’s been good to my parents and to my family. Not even the government can screw it up!
My last column is in October, next month. Speaking of October, in 2007, editor Jim Adair redacted a quote I used involving references to certain residents of the island of Lesbos, the weather and Uncle Bud. Will I manage to sneak it by his blue pencil? Check it out!