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ZOOCASA AND COMPETITION IN THE CANADIAN REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE SYSTEM

ZOOCASA AND COMPETITION IN THE CANADIAN REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE SYSTEM

I have been involved in every facet of the real estate brokerage business for 33 years. Over those 33 years I have experienced a lot of change in our profession. Each time there is change there is also a huge fear and concern over that change. Naturally this is a purely human and natural way that we all react to change.

The concern of change is directly tied to the amount of control we have in determining the change and how we perceive the negative effect on our lives the change will bring.

Yes everyone is reading and experiencing how the latest technological tools will bring huge financial benefit to the consumer. When we turn on a radio or TV or read an online advertisement, everything is being commoditized. Newer, cheaper, over and over again, we hear that price point is the differentiating point by the buyer. In a hard consumable commodity such as toothpaste or breakfast cereal or a television or a computer, that may well be the case. Yet even within hard commodities there are premium brands that don’t compete on price point, they compete on value and benefit.

When it comes to service industries such as real estate brokerage, commoditization is much more difficult, but can be achieved if allowed to be. Our goal as REALTORS® should be to ensure consumers truly understand the benefits they receive when dealing with a full service brokerage. We are fortunate that a well articulated value proposition will be successful in earning business.

But the key is to be well prepared and rehearsed before going in and sitting around the kitchen table with the potential client. This means that you have to take full responsibility to know what you and the RE/MAX organization brings to the table. Over the years, many agents have simply used the “gate keeper of the data” concept as their only service advantage. Today that no longer exists. Consumers are more empowered than ever in selling and buying their home. They have the hard data; they require interpretation of that data. They require the counselling services the REALTOR® provides. They need the all encompassing marketing plan to maximize their home’s value to allow them to make the move they want. They need a full service agent now more than ever, given the ever increasing complexity of the home transaction.

Ultimately, each agent has to take the time to be fully versed on every tool or service that is provided. Each sales associate has to fully understand how to implement these services and to know about the various affinity relationships that can be provided to the consumer for their financial benefit.

In the last few days I have received a number of calls and emails asking us, what are we going to do to fight the Zoocasa marketing plan and the consumer benefits they are providing? Further, this kind of competition will force us as sales associates to reduce our commission rates to compete.

As I have already mentioned, there is no need to panic over this. We do provide a number of consumer direct benefits. For example, the Tranquilli-T program is such a service. Yet it is completely underutilized as a true customer benefit that no one else can provide. Another is our TD Canada Trust affiliation as a tremendous tool that can be leveraged as well; we have mortgage calculators on our web site and mobile apps. We have the Fit To Sell and Fit to Buy programs that have proven to be very popular. Our web site features “walkability scores”. Our mobile app is the only app in the entire industry that has “Live View” (being enhanced with the ability to take photos and listing information to store in the “My Listing” feature). Our web site has a space planner tool. You can easily build a virtual tour and personalized promotional items for each listing using the Design Centre. You can create a QR code for each listing that will point potential buyers to listing information. We have the only multi-lingual web site, global.remax.com for home listings to be featured on. There is so much that we as a Brand offer consumers that are part of your full service brokerage proposition.

It is no longer sufficient to simply walk into a home, complement the owner on what a wonderful job they have done on decorating the home to get that business. You MUST be able to fully explain and articulate absolutely every advantage they will gain by working with you as opposed to a discount commission company or a Zoocasa representative.

You have to be accountable for your service. All too often consumers have had the experience of a REALTOR® making all kinds of promises on what they will provide, only to have exactly the opposite occur in that after 2 months later the sign is falling down and they haven’t heard a thing. Advertisements are poorly written, a virtual tour hasn’t been created, a QR code hasn’t been utilized, showings are poorly managed and then when a change is required or an offer comes in, the REALTOR® ops to do it over the telephone or by email. If that is the kind of service experience home sellers receive; is it any wonder they look to alternative business models?

The RE/MAX organization has developed as the premium brand in Canadian real estate. We have done this over the years by attracting the best affiliates in the industry, with smart savvy marketing, with a value proposition that is the best in the real estate brokerage profession.

When Zoocasa and the Rogers empire starts up its PR campaign, understand they have an uphill battle to conquer. But they are a force to be reckoned with and one to be concerned about. We will prevail and succeed just as we have always done. But we can’t win if we become paralyzed by our fear. We have to rise above the 80 per cent of the licensed losers out there, by truly knowing our strengths and weaknesses.

Further to the consumer benefits, we have one other thing no one else can boast about; the customizable, full E-learning modules on My RU. Utilizing this tool will enable you to be even better prepared and educated than any other competitor out there.

The consumer is looking for a better way. And the good news is that we are that better way as we have always been. Our long history of building a positive reputation sets us apart. By being prepared, well rehearsed and articulate you will overcome any challenge that comes your way.

Really, in the end, it isn’t the change we are fearful of… what we are fearful of is how are we going to control the change and be prepared for it.

Set to work now to know what your true value is. Improve your presentation skills. Hone those basic salesmanship skills. Be prepared and rehearsed. Use and promote every service and tool we have. Walk into that appointment knowing all this, confident in your own ability to win that business.

If you do that, your personal long term success will be assured!

Elton Ash ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President

 

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NEWS HEADLINES

NEWS HEADLINES

Crash, Boom, Feast, Famine; headlines are designed to get your attention. The discerning consumer will take the time to read further. The intrigued consumer will take the time to read further and look beyond what is being stated; unfortunately both classes of readers are in the minority. The majority simply sees the headline, maybe read the first two sentences, then move on.

We can’t allow ourselves to do the same thing. When a sensationalistic headline concerning real estate sales activity or house pricing comes to our attention, our role as REALTORS® is to properly interpret that information then communicate the real meaning or story behind that news article to our customers and clients.

For example, in this morning’s online Financial Post there is a headline “Economic shock could knock Canadian housing prices down 44%, Moody’s warns”. The headline in itself immediately causes great concern with anyone who reads it. However, as you read the story, it actually refers to the pressure being put on all rating’s agencies to accurately predict what is going to happen to specific market segments in the economy. Further down in the story, “Ratings agencies came under harsh criticism in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 for what was perceived as a failure to predict the U.S. housing market meltdown that precipitated it. Since then, there has been an attempt to strike a balance of thorough analysis with timely analysis, according to Grant Connor, an associate in equity research at National Bank Financial who previously worked on structured finance at Moody’s.”

Further it states, “At the simplest level, a stress case scenario should represent a realistic worst case scenario,” Mr. Connor said.” and “Moody’s Investors Service is in no way predicting the extent nor the causes of a large scale house price depreciation in Canada,” spokesperson Thomas Lemmon said in an emailed statement. “Along with many other factors, the home price component of our analysis provides that in order to achieve our highest rating, a mortgage pool would have to be able to withstand a 44% downturn.” Moody’s is the second ratings agency in as many weeks to seek input on a proposal to change the methodology used to analyze securities linked to mortgages.”

Then, at the very bottom of the news article, “In addition, Moody’s does not seem overly concerned about an over-supply of housing with the possible exception of the condominium market.”

You can see in the story itself, Moody’s isn’t predicting a house price crash of 44%. They are asking for input on developing a stress test to better able predict what a worst case scenario could be if specific predicted factors were to fall into place that would therefore affect the market.

In other words, politicians, regulators and business leaders are looking for ways to shift the blame or point the finger at anyone else if another financial crisis were to happen.

The fact of the matter is that all markets are cyclical. That will never change. We know that prices go up and prices go down. Over the world’s history, everything trends up in response to population growth and the resultant consumer demand.

We have lived through the greatest economic boom the world has ever experienced with the baby boomer demographic. It is purely natural and painful that following such a long run of growth, there will be a long run of economic instability. Up and down cycles are directly related to each other.

The thing is we have to see beyond the headlines of the particular cycle we are in. Back in the last up cycle, 1998 through to 2008 the headlines were all positive, nothing could go wrong. Now since 2008 the headlines are exactly the opposite. In our own situation as real estate brokers we have to appreciate two main philosophies when it comes to how we conduct business and control our own business lives.

1. We are in control of our own destinies, no one else. So ignore whatever the headlines are, be they good or bad. Stay focused on your own business track, providing the best service you can.

2. In regards to real estate investing, counsel your clients and customers to buy or sell their real estate investment, principle residence or other property, based on their own personal circumstances, not on the media perception of the day that they will make a quick buck or lose a buck.

If we stay with these basic fundamentals, we, and our clients, will ultimately succeed and enjoy a positive lifestyle.

 

 

Elton Ash, ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President
RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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SUMMER MUSINGS

SUMMER MUSINGS

It has been a while since my last blog. A very busy spring has kept me away from the blogging keyboard. However, now that summer appears to have finally arrived, it seems like a good time to share some thoughts.

Media reports on market conditions across the country have been generally positive with many reporters asking about a bubble burst in the Vancouver market. My response has been that all indications are pointing to a slightly slowing market with balanced conditions. This will mean no bubble burst, just a leveling of activity.

The federal government’s move to reducing overall amortization rates and strengthening equity ratios on refinancing is good news for our industry. Canada has escaped the economic meltdown the rest of the world has experienced; certainly due to our more conservative nature and strong lending policies. I believe more importantly though, as Canadians we can be very proud of our work ethic, overall productivity and social responsibility. I believe that these factors are the foundation that has really stood us well during these trying times.

We have experienced strong Regional growth this year. Our net sales associate growth has remained very good with new franchise sales to match. At our Regional Strategic Planning session earlier this year we set our goal to reach 40% market share region wide in 2016. We shared this goal with the broker owners and office managers at the annual Broker Owner and Manager’s Retreat in early June.

In order to reach that goal we will be working with all our offices to continue to provide an exceptional sales associate experience; recruiting and retention has to be at the forefront of our thinking. We will also be targeting specific markets for additional franchises where we feel we have room for growth.

Over the years, we have witnessed how our growth, which produces more signs, more advertising, more Brand promotion results in greater income levels for all sales associates. Ultimately our goal is to continue to ensure our sales associates are the most productive and successful agents in the business.

To this end our mobile technology, incorporating “Live View”, Augmented Reality, is leading the entire real estate industry in providing the consumer with a unique search experience that will bring them back time and time again. Make sure you are promoting this tool to your clients, Link.

Finally, now that the hot weather is here in Western Canada, take time and enjoy some well deserved family vacation time. I know a busy fall season is headed our way.

 

 

 

 

Elton Ash ABR CRES

Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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CREA AND TECHNOLOGY

CREA AND TECHNOLOGY

I just returned from a Franchisors meeting with the Senior CREA Leadership Team in Toronto. We had very good discussions about the Futures Project, the Data Distribution Facility (DDF), Federal Affairs, MLS® Home Price Index, the CREA Stats Boutique and the REALTORs® Care Foundation.

Generally the discussion was cordial with a fair amount of agreement on the topics, except for one thing, the future of realtor.ca! From my perspective, there is no question that realtor.ca and the precursor, mls.ca, served a critical role in our technological development in the Canadian real estate industry. Today it may be a different situation; it seems to me one of the biggest issues the Competition Bureau has with organized real estate is realtor.ca and the closed environment around it.

In response to the rapidly changing brokerage environment, CREA initiated the Futures Project. This is a tremendous initiative that CREA should receive full accolades for. There has been a tremendous amount of work, effort and time go into this at all levels of membership. Certainly the upcoming AGM in Ottawa will be ground breaking as the entire project is discussed and decisions are made on our Industry’s future.

One of the ideas to be discussed will be for CREA to look at developing a business model around spinning off realtor.ca to a third party to manage. The reasoning being to provide better management and control over the product and develop a better customer/consumer experience. It could even be developed to accept FSBOs and become the ultimate web site for consumer search for real estate.

This was the one idea all the Franchisors had an issue with; never ever even contemplate such a move. If this is a way to please the Competition Bureau, then shut realtor.ca down completely. Never allow FSBOs any opportunity to advertise their own home on a REALTOR® site. Further, why have an Industry site that is really competing with our own consumer listing search sites?

From our RE/MAX perspective we have worked very hard with a tremendous investment to develop a listing site that has become very successful. We will continue to develop remax.ca and Leadstreet to be the best tool for both consumers and sales associates. Many would agree that today, realtor.ca only exists to level the playing field and take away the competitive advantage we have. And today, I would believe that.

I believe the Data Distribution Facility will be a great resource and tool for all REALTORS® to use and take advantage of to display listing information on an individual licensee basis, on a brokerage site, on regional or national Franchisor sites. I no longer believe that Canadian organized real estate needs a consumer oriented web site to search for property. Through IDX data sharing agreements and Broker Reciprocity any single entity or organization has the ability today to display all the mls home listings available in those particular markets. This then leaves it up to the Franchise organization, the brokerage or the individual to develop and compete for their share of the market. And most importantly, allow each of us to truly compete and win in attracting the greatest amount of business.

The upcoming AGM in Ottawa, March 24th and 25th, will be one of the most important ever. Take the time to review the entire Futures Project. It really is a well executed document with some very valuable insights as to where our industry needs to go. Make sure your Real Estate Board of Directors is aware of your thoughts and concerns before they head to Ottawa to express them for you.

I look forward to hearing from you on this topic.

Elton Ash ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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IS CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SALESMANSHIP A VANISHING ART?

IS CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SALESMANSHIP A VANISHING ART?

I have had a couple of personal experiences in selling and buying real estate this past year; one where I was personally involved in selling and buying a home, the other with a personal acquaintance.

In both instances I was surprised with the manner the REALTORS® conducted themselves. There was no question they were well prepared and knew the market very well.  Each instance however, had situations that surprised me, especially since I heavily promote our overall membership’s sales skills and professionalism.

In summary in both my experiences, sales associates are relying heavily on technology and using social media as a crutch to replace face to face relationship building and negotiation skills.

There is no question social media is great for prospecting and staying in touch with past clients. It is also critical that technological tools are used to create efficiencies and improve overall customer service. A successful sales career is all about relationship and salesmanship skills. Nothing will ever replace face to face meeting and consultation services. Yes the initial contact is great with social media or email, but the ultimate customer service experience can only be achieved by face to face, belly to belly meetings; answering questions, providing feedback and giving advice one on one. This is the only way to develop the rapport needed to build a long lasting relationship based on trust and confidence.

This is even more critical when dealing with an offer. All too often we hear from unhappy consumers and from my own personal experience, where sales associates call with the offer, then email it to the client to review and respond. This is completely unacceptable and certainly flies in the face of good negotiating skills. Further to this, the consumer really questions the value they are receiving for the commission being paid.

It has become all too common to use technology as an excuse to not meet face to face. Ultimately your success ratio on closing sales will be determined by your ability to read body language, listen and watch between the lines and help the client make the right decision with the all the information. There is no way this can be accomplished effectively over the phone or by email. Naturally, there are times when there is no other way; I believe presenting offers over the phone or by email is only a choice of last resort.

If you are looking for a way to sharpen your overall sales skills, the best program widely available is the Dale Carnegie sales course. I took it many years ago and still find it as the best method to really sharpen your negotiating skills.

I look forward to reading your comments and hearing about your own experiences on this topic.

Elton Ash ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President

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ARE CONFERENCES RELEVANT IN TODAY’S SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD?

ARE CONFERENCES RELEVANT IN TODAY’S SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD?

I just returned from the Summer Conference held in Los Angeles. There was a good turnout of nearly 800 broker owners and managers. The sessions were very good with a great exchange of information on office management procedures, recruiting and new technological trends that will affect our business.

Beyond the sessions it was obvious that many of the delegates were networking and sharing ideas on office management issues and concerns. Similar to all RE/MAX conferences the true benefit in attending a conference is in the face to face networking and sharing of ideas. However, is that still the case? Has social media replaced the need for people to personally gather to achieve the same results? Over the years we have witnessed a steady decline of membership participation to all conferences.  By the way, this trend isn’t unique to our organization, as all industries are having the same experience.

As a conference organizer we then have ask the question of relevancy. In the past, our tried and true convention attendees responded loudly and clearly that we must continue, yet, numbers continue to slip. The upcoming Canadian Conference in Quebec City is a prime example. As of my writing this blog today, we are seriously below attendance expectations. So much so that we are questioning the overall viability of the event and will have to make a business decision.

What are your thoughts? Has social media replaced the need for conferences? Are people no longer interested in such events? Is it communication and awareness; is the membership even aware of the conference?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment.

Elton Ash ABR CRE
Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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“WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH?”– REM 1994

“WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH?”– REM 1994

Hello, is there anyone out there?

On a weekly basis we wrestle on how we can effectively communicate to our membership. This is nothing new as we have been doing this for the past 17 years that I have been with the region. However, there is increasing importance to this question as all of us are bombarded daily with more and more information.

In an effort to increase the overall effectiveness of our communication strategy we introduced the “Update Blog” back in June to replace the PDF style newsletter. We were very excited about the new format and felt we would be able to provide more timely news without being so intrusive with constant emails to you. However, we quite frankly aren’t sure if we accomplished this. We aren’t sure because we haven’t received a lot of feedback on the new format and when we analyze the readership through our analytics very few affiliates actually click on the Region Blog to read it.

This is a concern. When we visit offices and speak with sales associates very few are fully aware of many of the tools and services we offer, with many saying they never heard of a particular service. There is no question our industry is becoming ever more competitive with various business models out there for the consumer to choose. Understanding this we have developed new services and programs to provide a competitive edge, yet we aren’t sure they are being used and are even less sure if you are aware of them.

So… we need your help. What can we do to help ensure you know about the new tools and services as they are developed and released? How can we increase the overall effectiveness of our communication?

And I throw out a challenge for you to respond to; as your Franchisor, what is the most important thing we can do for you? Now the challenge here is you can’t say reduce fees, that is simply too easy an answer. Beyond reducing fees what do you believe we as your Franchisor can do to increase your business or provide you with something that would give you a better operational business?

I look forward to reading and learning from your comments.

Elton Ash ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

Growing up, I enjoyed watching Wayne and Schuster on CBC TV. They were true Canadian Icons who truly understood our national identity and delivered a reflection of ourselves, in true Canadian comedic style. One of my favourite skits was their rendition as Julius Caesar and Brutus in a skit called, “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.”

The RE/MAX videos portraying a RE/MAX sales associate and an independent Realtor® remind me of those early Wayne and Shuster skits. These videos are very much tongue in cheek renditions of what separates RE/MAX associates from the rest of the crowd.

Many of us, having been with RE/MAX on average for 12 years, take the tools and services for granted. We have forgotten what it is really like to work in an office that has a revolving door of licensees coming and going, many part timers and those that are just generally unsuccessful.

We grew as an organization of full time Realtors® who excelled by working together, sharing ideas and working toward earning Premier Market Presence. Those of us who were involved in those early years all recall when the big question was what is a Remac…? But despite those kinds of comments we persevered and together built the most successful organization of broker owners and sales associates ever achieved.

Here are links to have a look at some of the videos; they are a light hearted way to appreciate our advantages.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hfG7DsmWM&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdi2ZipvLvY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGGmdcvmlKg&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppxqQLKQ3g&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwsL94bjH78&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrJXWhU85Fs&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9gdiJv8gOU&feature=relmfu

Elton Ash ABR CRES
Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

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CO-WORKER AND FRIEND: TREVOR GETZ OCT 23, 1950 – June 21, 2011

CO-WORKER AND FRIEND: TREVOR GETZ OCT 23, 1950 – June 21, 2011

Trevor Getz, October 23, 1950 – June 21, 2011: Co-Worker and Friend

 

As many of you know, this past week was an emotional one. We lost a true and trusted friend and co-worker. Trevor came to the Region in 1994. He brought with him a wealth of experience from the travel and event planning world. Our events and conferences enjoyed an immediate upgrade in quality at that time. He laid the groundwork to the success we have today in all our special events.

He learned the real estate franchise business and applied a tremendous dedication and desire to be the best he could be in the support of our offices and membership. In doing so Trevor gained everyone’s respect and admiration.

He truly excelled as a conference Master of Ceremonies. Trevor had a natural ability to get up on stage and effortlessly put everyone at ease, keeping the audience engaged with humour and poise. He had a knack at taking what could be an awkward or negative situation and turn it around to be a positive moment.

I can also tell you that he was absolutely fanatical about quality and timing. Our speakers had to be the best available and we as regional staff had to keep within our allotted presentation times or face his wrath. He truly taught us the importance of timing.

Beyond work, his passion was his family, friends and sports. He doted on his 3 daughters and was a devoted grandfather. And of course GOLF. Golf for most is a challenge and a passion. For Trevor golf was beyond that; he truly appreciated the game and loved every nuance it brought to him.

It was a true privilege and an honour to have had the opportunity to work with Trevor. He will be best remembered at work for his passion, his creativity and his skill; by his friends for his loyalty and humour; and by his family for his love and devotion.

Trevor, you will be remembered forever and are already being deeply missed.

 

  

Elton Ash ABR CRES

Regional Executive Vice President

RE/MAX of Western Canada (1998), LLC

250.860.3628

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