By Marty Douglas

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!

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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Marty,

    Regarding your following statement:

    “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.” Marty, if you are sincere that this change was “Well-deserved” you shouldn’t perceive a negative consequence of the kind you’ve described. Those whom you’ve suggested have stood back from volunteering, (if licensed) should still be able to volunteer, at some point. Marty, perhaps the reason for your negative concerns “unintended consequences” has more to do with your real underlying attitude on this subject, as you described the matter previous to your current article:

    “In our business, what makes matters worse is turnover of membership. We all too often rise to the bait and attempt to satisfy the impromptu needs of a latecomer [not to be confused with a newcomer, in the Marty world] to the business who may not be here when we deliver the consequence of their incessant whining. I believe the case must be made for a return to the benevolent dictatorship of the profitable agency, the voting restricted real estate board, and provincial and national associations that respect their members but heed the wishes of them that has the gold — because that’s who makes the rules.”

    I do agree however, that some Executive Officers enjoy too much power and influence, but I would attribute this more to some Association Directors still trying to control who will be successful in joining their rank.

  2. Marty, this was an excellent article as they have all been. I thank you for your comments about Alberta and its leadership in the areas of real estate education, regulation and professionalism. Our Council, committees, industry members, and staff consider the opportunity of self-regulation granted to us by the Alberta Government to be a privilege that comes with a large responsibility. We do the best we can but that means we also look to our provincial counterparts, including our friends in BC, to help us along the way. Since I started working for the Real Estate Council of Alberta, I have read your articles, enjoyed your unique sense of humour, listened to your advice, and followed your exemplary career. I thank you for all your contributions to this industry and I wish you the best in all future endeavours.

  3. REALLY!! No more marty in REM? why would I read it? its my monthly chance to laugh at myself and how seriously we take ourselves..we will miss you if its true! :( :”'(

  4. I always enjoy your articles Marty, are you serious last column is next month, October..!! I will surely miss them.

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