By Toby Welch
You are taught a lot in real estate school – how to close a transaction, industry practices and how to value a property, among other things. But sometimes the most valuable real estate lessons are learned outside of school.
“One very important lesson I’ve learned outside of school is unlike selling widgets, no two transactions are alike,” says Mark Dalton, broker of Bow Valley Realty in Banff, Alta. “Stay focused on the clients’ best interest by always performing duties and responsibilities professionally in order to help them achieve their goals and expectations.”
In most cases, schools know nothing about real estate, says Larry Matthews, president and broker of Hants Realty in Stewiacke, N.S. “At the core of every real estate transaction is the customers/clients buying and selling real estate. To me that is the most important part of the equation. I care about what is best for them and always have,” he says. “Real estate is owned by people. Quite often people who need to sell their property or buy another property are not in the best of circumstances. There can be personal problems, financial problems, a death or any one of those knuckleballs life continually throws at us all. Real estate is about people in all kinds of different circumstances. No two circumstances are ever the same, just as the personalities are never the same. We are swamped with rules and regulations, forms and disclosures, courses and training.”
Matthews adds, “In 42 years, I do not once remember a course on caring and helping people solve their problems. So that’s my most important lesson. Real estate is about helping people solve their problems. All the rest is bullshit.”
Peter Fourlas, an agent with Royal LePage Realty in Regina, is a believer in constantly learning. “Continual education is paramount in an industry that is so dynamic. I am not talking about the stuff that our regulators make us take to keep our licences active and current. I am talking about keeping your finger on the pulse of the market in North America through periodicals such as REM and Inman. There is a lot of opportunity here for (everyone from) top producers to new agents to pick up tips on how to improve and adapt their systems.”
Fourlas continues, “That aside, there are thousands of sales books out there aimed at building and sustaining business. Over the years, I have picked up on little nuggets here and there that have helped me improve my business. Lastly, always listen to your trusted peers. I know I don’t know everything and when I have an opportunity, I love asking questions about how other top- producing agents continue to build and maintain their businesses.”
Kathy Amess, the broker of record and owner of Peak Professionals Realty in London, Ont. says you need to be in this business for the long haul, not just to win an award. “Some Realtors think that being No. 1 for a month or winning some award defines your career as successful and that couldn’t be further from the truth. A real estate career takes time and effort to build and even more work to sustain. Consistency in everything you do is the key.”
Scott Hanton, a broker with the Weir Team at Keller Williams Advantage Realty in Toronto says, “For long-term success, truly understanding your clients’ needs and putting them first is paramount. Clients should never have to ask questions because you’ve already prepared them for what to expect.”
Lynne Faucon, broker/manager at Coldwell Banker First Ottawa Realty in Ottawa, has had her license for almost 40 years. “The most important lessons I have learned outside of real estate school are to be creative, have a sense of humour and the importance of integrity. They may not naturally go hand-in-hand but in real estate, they are the perfect fit for a long and rewarding career.”
Cowboyd de La Boursodiere, owner of Les Immeubles Cowboyd Realties in Montreal and a member of The National Association of Realtors in the U.S., suggests avoiding school completely. “And stay away from meetings where agents tell you all about the market or start belly-aching and complaining. There will never be anybody there who you can sell anything to. Go out a lot, always carry business cards with you, talk to everybody and make yourself known. Whatever you do, set an example for other agents to follow, not one where you have to follow them. Make it your business to represent your vendors – they are the ones paying the commission, not the buyers. Like my late mother taught me, never forget who’s paying your commission. Buyers are like buses, there’s one every 20 minutes.”
Gord Leeson, an agent with Royal LePage Wildrose Real Estate in Olds, Alta. has found success by remembering to do two things: “Number one is to ask and the second is follow up. Neither works by itself, but if you do the two together, you’ll have a very successful career in real estate.”
Josée Legault, a broker at Via Capitale Innovation Real Estate Agency in Mont-Tremblant, Que., finds that she is still learning even after 22 years in real estate. She lists the following lessons that she has learned:
“Every transaction is different and dealing with different individuals can make things turn different ways.
“The non-verbal understanding and psychological importance in a transaction is something that is a constant learning process.
“The Wow factor: do the extra mile, do more than what is expected, think outside the box and you create fidelity from a client.”
And finally, “When a client is in awe with a property, let them dream. Wait for when they come back both feet on the earth and ask you your opinion. Emotions can make the buyer act surprisingly and sometimes it’s better to wait and respect his dream period.”