Working on the road

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Gary Gao
Gary Gao

By Toby Welch

Real estate sales reps spend more time driving than people in almost every other profession. Well, besides couriers and truckers.

Hilary Shantz, a sales rep with Great Canadian Realty in Oakville, Ont., spends about 20 hours a week driving for work and while she does, she usually listens to CDs or the radio. Shantz doesn’t mind being behind the wheel, and says it is no worse than being behind a desk.

Gary Gao of Sutton Group West Coast Realty in Coquitlam, B.C., also doesn’t mind all the driving that goes with the job. He lives close to his office and usually doesn’t pick up or drop off clients for showings unless he absolutely has to. He reduces car time even more by getting clients to sign paperwork and return it via fax or email. He only spends eight hours a week driving for business although when he has to work in Vancouver West/Richmond, a single appointment requires a two- to three-hour car ride. Gao listens to the radio, answers client’s phone calls or thinks about his business when he is driving.

Janet Bossert of Re/Max Real Estate in Edmonton spends at least 25 hours a week driving buyers around, and five hours a week behind the wheel for sellers. To pass the time, Bossert used to call colleagues or friends but is trying to change that habit. Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador and Strathcona County, Alta., have passed laws that ban talking or texting on your cell phone while driving. Alberta, Manitoba, and B.C. are expected to follow. Hands-free devices are still allowed while driving.

Bossert now uses her drive time to listen to interviews and articles on CBC radio. Bossert adds, “Of course I talk to my clients when they are with me. I prefer driving with clients rather than meeting them at listings.”

Bossert makes a good point about all the driving. “A lot of Realtors end up gaining weight. Quite a few get diabetes. Driving is stressful but it’s not exercise. We need to offset all that sitting. Plus, we go and go and end up really hungry so we grab something, anything to eat. It’s usually quick, oily, and in a great big white slab of dough. Figure out a way to take something decent to eat or make the time for a healthy meal and set time aside to exercise.”

Terra and Christopher Suffel
Terra and Christopher Suffel

Christopher and Terra Suffel, sales reps at Re/Max Hallmark Realty in Toronto, embrace the car time. “We’re probably in our car more than we’re not. Whether it’s dropping off direct mail or inspecting and showing properties, our car – and mobility as a whole – is critical to our business,” they wrote in an email to REM.

“One of the things that sets us apart from other Realtors is how we embrace mobility from a technology perspective. We both use netbooks and a wireless all-in-one printer/fax. This mobile office gives us the ability to research properties and put together offers on-the-fly, from the road. In today’s competitive real estate market, speed often makes all the difference. Having a mobile office also minimizes a lot of back-and-forth between our home office and our clients’ locations, saving on gas and hassle. As well, since the hands-free legislation has taken effect in Ontario, being a real estate partnership enables one of us to be on the phone or email, while the other is driving. It has meant a lot less downtime, and has been great for business.”

Julie Kinnear, a sales rep with Royal LePage in Toronto, also thinks of her vehicle as a mobile office. “A lot of our work is done in our cars, especially since we end up waiting between appointments and making calls or waiting in front of a house during an offer presentation. I spend on average between three to six hours per day in my vehicle.”

Julie Kinnear
Julie Kinnear

Kinnear likes to use her car time for productivity. “I am a big believer in ‘sharpening the saw’ and improving my skills as a Realtor. I listen to CDs or my iPod. I have downloaded many inspirational speakers – it keeps me motivated and energetic. I listen to other Realtors, conferences and business books on tape. When not driving I am on my BlackBerry replying to emails, returning phone calls, and looking up properties on MLS. I bought an adapter for the lighter in the car that turns the electrical outlet into a normal plug so my laptop can work with it if necessary. I also have a Bell turbo stick to receive high-speed Internet via wireless.”

A microcassette or digital recorder is a handy tool to keep in the car. Use it to record ideas without running off the road. If you have an assistant, you can use the device to dictate memos or letters for them.

Kinnear has some thoughts for sales reps on the road: “Avoid driving at rush hour. Plan your day so you can do all appointments on one side of the city at the same time. Plan your route and get a GPS.”

Christopher and Terra Suffel suggest: “Use your time in the car to explore new areas. We try to take different routes to familiar locations so we can uncover new pockets of the city – intelligence we can then pass along to our clients or use for our own marketing campaigns. We also try to take our dog with us for inspections or agent open houses. Our dog is always a welcome diversion in our day and has become quite skilled at getting us to stop for impromptu strolls through new neighbourhoods and local parks. Getting out of the car has also helped us uncover hidden gems from a ‘locals’ perspective.”

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