Everything in the real estate business has changed. Everything.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) enforces a law that says real estate agents must identify their clients and verify where their money is coming from. They must report any large cash transactions. They must also be on the lookout for suspicious financial actions and refer them to the authorities. This cannot be ducked or avoided. It is the law and woe to you if you ignore it.

The handling and reporting of real estate information is now a process that requires a challenging skill set for many, sometimes even involving legal counsel. Should any real estate sales representative or broker acting for a client do anything that is not transparent or compliant with every business protocol, they risk severe penalties and fines.

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It almost seems as though, instead of helping the general public to understand marketing, the Internet has made many believe they are experts in handling real estate transactions, enabling them to make unreasonable demands and demand unrealistic methods to sell or buy their homes.

The mechanics involved in handling a listing now go beyond simple photography and the fundamental “write up” as they were just a few years ago. Today, creative digital presentations and professional descriptive composition align with staging, brochures and presentations that go way beyond what we used to call “curb appeal”. That was so 15 years ago, before YouTube even existed.

This is not the real estate business your Mom and Dad knew. This isn’t even the real estate business your older sister knew. Are you sure you want to do this?

How we used to boast, oh how we used to brag about this business. You could get into the industry with relatively little money and without a long time investment to get your license. You still can, but now surviving is harder than ever. You are not necessarily going to get a listing today because you’re someone’s neighbour or someone’s niece or a friend of a guy you played soccer with. Today you have to show a successful track record.

You have to show professionalism in every way, from the shingle you work under to the reviews you build and will not be able to shake once your name is out there on the Internet. You have to prove that you have the best tools and know how to use them. All those tools, all that experience and all that knowledge does not come cheap and it does not come easy. You can’t pick this stuff up at the school of hard knocks anymore. This requires serious business degrees, hands-on marketing experience and technological acumen beyond the ken of the average person. If this stuff was easy, then more than  100,000 licensed real estate agents in Canada would be making a great deal of money. But they are not.

If you have what it takes, if you have a level of professionalism or even a niche where you can compete with marketing expertise, the Internet, social media presence, business contacts and all the other tools that are too many to list, then and only then can you attempt the hardest part of the whole process: selling.

The definition of “selling” has been elusive for everyone. It has been described as showing and telling and persuading of every kind. The only thing that comes close is the word “teaching”. Some great salespeople have said that you make a list and you make sure that you cover every item on that list with the client because only then will you know that you have spoken to every area that may be the trigger to make the client come to a proper decision. You have to explain and show all of it. You have to teach every aspect.

When you think of the greatest achievements in history, arguably all of them involved “selling”.

As the old saying goes: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and came to the Americas. While we know he was not the first, it still remains a great accomplishment to have sailed across the Atlantic in 1492. It took great seamanship, skilled navigation, tremendous courage and leadership. But don’t forget that before the voyage even began it took some great selling to convince the Spanish Crown to buy the idea.

Before man walked on the moon, somebody had to sell JFK on the idea that it could be done. All the tools were in place but it still needed to be sold before it was achieved.

Stan Albert

When it comes to selling, one of the first people who comes to mind for me is Stan Albert. I first met Stan in the late 1980s when he was with Safeguard Real Estate. I was trying to sell a new idea I had for real estate marketing, Real Estate T.V. Back then, and I admit right to this day, I never was the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to selling. You had to be very thoughtful and kind to think through my silly blather and realize that marketing real estate on video was the next step up from newspaper advertising. It was the forerunner of the Internet and Stan grasped that right away by becoming one of my first customers. I will never forget his foresight and I shall never forget his kindness in giving me some tips for my sales efforts along the way, now over 25 years ago.

Stan’s columns became a mainstay in REM, provoking thought and providing insight for many years in these pages. Stan is retiring from REM. I shall miss his words, his wisdom and his kindness. Happy trails Mr. Albert.


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