Smoke & Mirrors

Smoke & Mirrors: an obscuring or embellishment of the truth with misleading or irrelevant information.”

- Oxford English Dictionary

Homeowners thinking about selling face one of the most difficult and impactful decisions of their lives. To start with, there are usually lots of feelings involved; memories (good and bad), life events and milestones, hope for the future, excitement for, or perhaps fear of, change. They all get combined into one big emotionally-charged situation. Add to that the significant financial implications and it’s easy to see how the whole thing can turn into a disaster quickly.

More often than not homeowners see the value of having an unbiased, impartial third party help them through the process. Unfortunately though this in itself causes more difficulty. With 66,809 realtors registered with the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) at the end of January, finding an agent isn’t hard. The tricky part is finding a good one.

It’s not intended to knock any agents; it’s just a logical and rational interpretation of the numbers. According to a well known third party industry data aggregator, 22,257 of the registered agents - about a third of them - actually did no transactions themselves during 2021. Another 37,512 of the agents averaged less than 1 transaction per month. That leaves only 7,040 agents who handled at least one transaction per month on average. Given that real estate is filled with complex legal concepts and a myriad of regulatory and other considerations, even doing one deal a month makes it difficult to develop a level of proficiency that a seller should reasonably expect.

To make things more difficult, the industry muddies the water further by paying attention to the wrong things. The quasi-government agency who is supposed to be protecting consumers, should be confirming realtors are actually competent and therefore worthy of consumers’ trust. However far too often it seems like they prefer to focus on policing minor administrative things, like account names on brokerage’s bank statements.

Keep in mind that TRREB reported a record 121,712 MLS sales in 2021 but that translates to an average of well under 2 sales per agent all year. So with such intense competition for a relatively small amount of business, realtors have no choice but turn their attention to differentiating themselves. This has given rise to a multitude of coaches and gurus who’s curriculum generally focuses on strategies, tips, and tricks to help a realtor position themselves ahead of the pack. In fact, to quote one these trainers being interviewed on a local real estate podcast: “I get them to change their focus from being a Real Estate Agent to being a marketer and self-promoter.”

Unfortunately this need to stand out forces agents to spend most of their time and attention on marketing which leaves little room in the schedule or the budget for improving their proficiency. And regardless of whether an agent is a newly-registered rookie chasing their first deal or a seasoned veteran with hundreds of deals behind them, there is always plenty of important information to be learned.

Would-be sellers need to recognize that first and foremost they are being targeted by, in many cases, some very well-oiled marketing machines. That absolutely does not mean the agent is not good at their job because many top agents are also great marketers. However simply being a good marketer doesn’t automatically make them a good realtor, any more than having 100’s of deals of experience automatically makes them a good realtor.

And this is why it’s so hard for sellers to figure out whom they should hire.

Luckily there are many really good, really competent agents out there who are genuinely concerned with, and capable of, securing the most favourable outcome for their clients. The key for sellers is to look past the glitz and glitter, do fact finding, and see if the marketing tells the real story or is simply just...

...smoke and mirrors.