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Dear Real Estate IndustryDear Real Estate Industry,

You know that I love you, right? But I’ve wanted to write you this letter for a very long time.  

I know you think I’m a nag because I keep going on and on about the same things, but it’s time I tell you how I’m feeling.

It’s time for change. You know it, and I know it. 

Stop Being Afraid of Data

I know you haven’t been sleeping lately, ever since the Competition Bureau ruled against the Toronto Real Estate Board in that lawsuit about sold prices. Sold prices will soon be public information in Toronto, and you’re going to have to accept it. I know you consider yourself to be the gatekeeper of the sold price data, and you’ve tried to convince me you care about the public’s right to confidentiality….but I think that what’s really going on with you is that you’re afraid of being replaced. But here’s the thing. You were always about more than the data. On your good days, you’re about helping people fulfil their dream of owning a home, and you do that through education and interpretation of the data.  You find and show homes, you value them, you negotiate contracts, you investigate scary basements and corners and ask all the right questions, so buyers don’t buy the wrong house. Your job has always been to protect Buyers, and you don’t need exclusive data to do that.  And if you’re worried about Sellers, don’t be. It was never about data for them either. They want protection too, and they’re looking for you to guide them through selling their most valuable asset. They look to you for home preparation, staging, marketing, showings, strategy, negotiations, deposit-holding, lawsuit-avoiding and yes, intepreting data to arrive at value. Be brave and welcome more transparency – it’s good for the consumer and I swear it’ll be good for you too.

Your Car Smells Bad, and So Do You

Gotcha there, didn’t I? You thought I was talking about you. I’m actually talking about Toronto’s taxi cab industry and the opportunities they missed to fix themselves before consumers fell into the hands of their mistress Uber. After years of smelly dirty cars, drivers not showing up, price gauging and let’s face it, nearly abusive conditions, consumers turned to someone who would respect them. Uber treats them the way they deserve to be treated. You have an opportunity here if you choose to accept it. Stop the liars and crooks. Do a better job of policing yourself. Set higher education requirements. Manage performance. Fire the people who make you look bad. Set higher standards. You can be better, and you know it.

You Never Seem to Listen

I know you always tune me out, but what about starting to listen to the hundreds of thousands of your consumers? What if you stopped and actually listened to what THEY wanted and found a way to deliver it? I know it’s easy to get defensive and worry about your pay cheque, but you don’t need to look far to see what happens when you don’t listen to your consumers. Consumers want convenience. They want immediacy. They want transparency. They want options. They want to be heard. They want data (I know, there’s that word again). Check out Expedia or any of the other websites that replaced travel agents if you want proof.

I Just Can’t Communicate With You

It seems like it’s been years now that I’ve been talking to you about communication. It’s still not OK to keep your cell phone number a secret, and it’s never been OK to ask me to reach you by completing an online form on your 2003 website. Stop it. Stop it right now. If I call you, I expect a call back within a reasonable amount of time. Even a text message would suffice! But just ignoring me or not following through on what you say you’re going to do is obnoxious. I’ve heard you treat my friends even worse….that you’ve listed their house for sale and then essentially disappeared. I’ve heard that they’ve reached out to you for help, and it took you three days to respond. Not. Cool.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

The brokerage model is broken. There, I said it. Over the years, brokerages have become more concerned with getting bums in seats and collecting monthly fees than servicing consumers and their agents. So many brokerages have forgotten about the importance of training, coaching and managing performance. There’s a reason that real estate teams are so popular right now: they’re filling the gap left by brokerages. I’m lucky; my brokerage gets it – but there are thousands of lost and wandering agents in Toronto right now who need guidance, education, and support. It’s scary to think that Buyers and Sellers are unknowingly entrusting their financial well-being to them and suffering the consequences of this mismanagement. Only you can change that.

It’s 2016. Please Get With the Program.

Just the other day one of your friends sent me a FAX. Seriously. The girl at my office didn’t even know where to look for it. I’m not asking you to adopt the latest trend (I’d hate to see you as a hipster), but can you please recognize that the rest of the world has moved forward while you’ve stubbornly held onto the ’80’s? There’s this thing called the internet, and I think it’s here to stay. The internet can be your friend and electronic signatures too. Also: can you please stop saying that you’ll “page the agent”? Pagers haven’t been around in a very long time, and a kitten dies every time you use that word. I’m not looking for contracts by Snapchat…but the adoption of some technology would be nice.

I’m Sorry, But I Refuse To Settle

Some of my friends think you’re OK the way you are and have told me I should just shut up. They’ve scolded me, said I shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in public and that I’m hurting us all by being honest. But I have other friends who know you can do better too, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they shared this letter too. Sometimes I wonder if we all shouldn’t just move to an island together and do our own thing. We’d call it Real Estate 2.0 or something.

Ugh. Your Friends Embarrass Me Sometimes

I see that all of your friends are on social media these days…can you please tell them to stop posting a SOLD sign as their image on Facebook? Or adding ‘REALTOR’ to their name as though they were christened at birth with the registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors? Nobody else on Facebook does this except for your friends. Nobody. While you’re at it, can you tell them that most of the public hate receiving their cold calls? And don’t even get me started on the door-knocking – even vacuums haven’t been sold door-to-door since the ’80’s.

And also: the marketing. Why would someone care that your friend won 15 awards that no one has ever heard of? And QR codes never took off so it’s embarrassing to see them on business cards. And why do all your friends put their pictures on everything? My friends see through this BS – there’s no way that many of your friends are #1.

I know this shouldn’t be about your friends, but the truth is, they make you look bad, and in turn, they make me look bad. I hate that.

…But This Isn’t Goodbye

Please don’t think of this as a break-up letter –  I’m not there yet. But things need to change. We both deserve better.

– Melanie



  1. I agree with all of your points, Mel!

    We have a “few” people in my local market whose flip phone is their most high-tech device. Try to email them a counteroffer at 6:30 pm at your peril, as they won’t be physically in receipt of it until mid-morning the following day as their phone doesn’t “do” email and they don’t have internet (or a computer, laptop or iPad) at home.

    Our industry has to do a better job at training real estate practitioners in the uses of basic, ground-level technology. We’re not all tech-nerds and many people find tech intimidating.

    This business only runs as fast as the slowest clog in the wheel, unfortunately, and when you have a significant percentage of real estate practitioners that haven’t adopted digital signatures, email/SMS on their phone or the basic principles of photography, it affects us all.

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