Brokers, stop hiring people with a lack of character; you of all people can tell the difference.

I read with considerable interest Michael Polzler’s opinions in the March 2010 edition of REM (Paid advertisement, page 2). Michael challenged us to make our voices heard. I identify very strongly with consumers when it comes to their relations with some so-called real estate “professionals”. Here’s why.

From age 14 I worked with my father building homes for sale on spec. My father could not stand “real estate people”; he said they didn’t give a damn about his financial situation; that they only cared about their back pockets (making a quick buck off of his hard-earned rewards). Yet, today I am a real estate sales representative.

At 22 I purchased my first parcel of real estate via a very charismatic older Realtor, who conveniently “forgot” to mention that there was a pending by-law change for the area prohibiting future septic tank installations. My plan to build on that lot the next spring was well known to my real estate “professional”. That was when I learned what a “double end” meant. I had to sell the property at quite a loss. I remembered my father’s words. Yet, today I am a real estate sales representative.

When I was 33 after many years of trades work, which had provided me with a strong but sore back to go along with my weak mind (I was then a grade 11 drop-out), I decided to become a real estate sales representative, vowing to be different, to help consumers by way of using my knowledge of the industry gained to that point as well as by applying my attitude that I would be a servant of the clients who chose to use me as their representative. I bore no illusions of going into the business in pursuit of wealth, notoriety, or as an ego-boosting exercise. I would become involved in order to help folks out with their real estate needs as best I could. What I would earn monetarily would be what I would earn, period. I did quite well early on. My attitude served my clients and me well; it all seemed very easy during those early days. My clients were happy, I was happy that they were happy. What a great way to make a living. Then, my attitude began to change; I began to get caught up in the competitive aspect of the “game”. I began to measure my success as a salesman by how many deals I could pull off as opposed to how well I could help folks. My numbers dropped off. My original, naive, honest appeal to strangers steadily waned.  I became “like all the rest” I was told.

My last deal came about when I arranged an offer on behalf of an older couple for a property that I determined was right for them. I did not think they could afford another property that the husband liked better, so I talked him into an offer on the less expensive property. The offer was hastily presented. (I had induced him by telling him that I did not think that the offer would be accepted; it was). In the interim, my client (the husband) had changed his mind; he decided that he wanted to try an offer on the other, more expensive property. When I told him that his previous offer had already been accepted, he became very upset with me, but his wife remained silent. (I believe to this day that she was always inclined toward the house that they had just purchased). However, the husband was very angry with me and my methods. What had happened? I had just sold another one! It was a very good deal for my clients financially (they paid less than what the sellers had paid for the house a few months earlier), but it was a very bad deal psychologically. For the first time I had a client who thought that I was a bad guy. It then hit me that I had become (in my haste to pull a deal together) what my father and I had so detested; I had become a money-grubbing, commissioned salesman using his powers of persuasion (and more importantly had abused the element of trust that had been placed with me) to make a sale. I quit the business the next day. Yet, today I am again a real estate sales representative.

This is not the end of the story. Prior to deciding to come back into this business, 25 years after the fact, I looked up the whereabouts of that now old couple. They were still living in that house that I had “manipulated” them into. I breathed a half-sigh of relief; it turned out that I had done the right thing from a practical financial point of view, but that I had done it for the wrong reason with the attendant wrong attitude on my part. It was the latter thought that had haunted me all those years; it still does. Therein lies the problem for commissioned real estate sales representatives: we are all subject to pressures to say/do things from time to time that we might not say/do if our circumstances/motives were different. These are the times when we do not behave as professionals. The question that then begs to be asked is…do we learn from these episodes, or do we just continue on as before, ignorant of or callous to the pain that we may have caused others?

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a profession as: “…an occupation requiring advanced education and training, as medicine, law etc. (So, just what is a professional?) The dictionary defines professional as “…engaged in, or… (key words…worthy of).

By definition, we are not professionals in the truest sense of the word; we are wannabe professionals. If we want to refer to ourselves as professionals and have members of the public treat us that way, then we should damn well act the part. Actions speak louder than words. But it seems that it is almost impossible for some in our business to even act professionally. Maybe it’s not in their nature to do so; it’s too foreign to their mind-set. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. These are the people who give our industry a bad name; it is just not in their nature to force themselves to be something they don’t care about; they’re just in it for the money.

Regarding professional/ethical behaviour: No amount of education (such as answering ethics questions correctly on an exam) will miraculously convert an unethical person into an ethical one; one is either ethical or one is not.

 Question: If this statement is not true, why are there crooked lawyers, financial advisors, priests, politicians and real estate sales representatives? They all are supposed to adhere to their industry related codes of conduct/ethics. Answer: As with all things human, it boils down to a matter of personality. Some personality types will never be fit to conform to society’s moral values or to the definition of a professional.

I think that Michael is right when he says that our members should be better educated, but the education should be inherent with the prospects before they become candidates. We need a higher underlying foundation of education going in; a true professional is already well educated before attaining certification in one’s profession. However, there is one criterion that if genuinely possessed innately within one’s personality, will tend to increase one’s chances of becoming a “behavioural” professional (one who is perceived to be a professional via observable behaviour). That is an altruistic attitude. An attitude geared toward a public service mentality can help to overcome all kinds of barriers to “success” within the real estate industry (success as measured by the quality of one’s service to one’s fellow beings, regardless of how much money is involved). The money will come over time as the result of one’s reputation becoming known for what it is. Well regarded consumer/tenured real estate careers evolve over time via reputations built on foundations of integrity.

Your reputation is made by others. Your character is made by you. There are no courses that create character. One either has it, or one does not.

Brokers, stop hiring people with a lack of character; you of all people can tell the difference. Get rid of those already employed who lack character; they are the ones who make us all look bad. Discriminate – it’s the right/smart thing to do over the long run. Consumers will benefit. Then all real estate professionals will benefit because we, the bricks and mortar making up the structure, will collectively be perceived as being of higher quality. High quality begets professionalism.

Our industry may indeed need a structural overhaul as Michael has suggested, but the best engineered product and/or service made up of defective parts and/or bad attitudes is still a lemon. Our industry also needs a mass cognitive overhaul of the cultural-centric, negative attitude toward the consumer (the hand that employs/feeds us) that seems to me to exist within the minds of many of our members.

Michael has challenged us to access his website at I also challenge you, if you disagree with my position, to access my website at and read an article that I wrote soon after I received my salesperson’s license in August 2008, entitled Real Estate Sales Representatives…Salespeople or Advocates?  Tell me if I am wrong, but tell me also why I am wrong.

Michael says we are apathetic. If I don’t see a spike on my website hit list after you have read this article, then he is right. Michael also challenges us in his article by asking, “Just who is looking out for the real estate consumer?”

Answer: Look in the mirror; he/she will always be looking at you.

Brian Martindale

Sales Representative

Century 2l United Realty Inc.

Peterborough, Ont.

Posted: 2010-03-31 08:27:39

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