What does a realtor actually do for all that money?

A lot of people (including some of my friends) think that realtors make a lot of money, that we don’t earn our commissions and that our commissions are way too high. Before I became a realtor, I probably thought that way too.

Now that I am one, I see the world a whole lot differently.

I have been working to get a listing ready in Ottawa: it should be on the market tomorrow. It’s a three bedroom condo townhouse in a great little neighbourhood but it was in a sad way when I first saw it.

I persuaded the estate to invest some money in new carpeting; paint the kitchen cupboards, replace the appliances and lighting,  update a bathroom, and let me work my magic. My fees for all of that? Zero.

I didn’t charge a penny for negotiating with the trades, lining up the contractors, picking out the paint colours, tiles, fixtures, etc. The benefit to the estate now that we’re almost done (pics tomorrow) will be in the range of 20-25K for a very modest investment.

Part of that investment involved staging. To save the estate money, I decided to do the staging myself. I found a company that would rent me furniture. I ran around to HomeSense, to Canadian Tire, to furniture stores like Mikaza, and I grabbed accessories from my own home. I paid for most of these items out of my own pocket. And because it’s an estate that can issue cheques but has no credit card, where things needed to be paid for in companies that would only take credit cards, I paid for them and submitted the receipts for reimbursement later.

The staging looks stunning! My charge for all my time? Well, nothing, because that’s what realtors often do: we stage homes to look their best and to get them ready for sale.

I was at that property from 10 AM yesterday (waiting for furniture delivery) until 6 PM when I finished most of the staging and met with the client to do up the paperwork. She was gobsmacked at how pretty the unit was: I have to say, if you’d seen it before, it is jaw-dropping to see what it looks like now. It is absolutely beautiful.

And now I will actually start to work on the activities that typically earn my 2.5% commission (less brokerage fees and expenses) — measuring the rooms; taking photographs;  inputting the listing onto MLX (our back-end system for MLS); verifying tax and condo information; putting up a lockbox and my “for sale” sign; advertising an Agent Open House and being there to welcome agents; advertising public Open Houses.

(We pay for those ads you see in the Ottawa Citizen, by the way. Those tiny little ads on the back page of the Homes Section run around $ 120.)

I will also post an ad on Kijiji and make sure I chat the home up on social media.

I will monitor viewings; answer any and all questions; entertain offers; enter into negotiations with other realtors; report to my client regularly on progress, prospecting activity and number of viewings.

If we get an  offer, I will negotiate until we have a deal or we don’t. If we do, I will do the paperwork up; send it to the lawyers; prepare  our internal paperwork; change the listing information on MLX to show that the property is conditionally sold;  make sure everything that needs to be done is done re. removal of conditions; change the listing information to show sold; do our internal paperwork; arrange for the property to be emptied out before closing and that keys are provided to the lawyers, and bring my stuff home.

Those advertising fees will be deducted from my commission, by the way. So will the cost of colour feature sheets (they’re .65 each). I often have to replace lightbulbs, toilet paper, garbage bags, etc: I never charge for these. A portion of my commission automatically goes to the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation because I’m a supporter. What’s left after all of that is mine.

When I look at the amount of the cheque I’ll bring home at the end of this process, I have to say, I don’t think I’ve charged too much. And you know what? Neither will my clients.

Update: Jerry Schindelheim tweeting as @whyRENTinottawa tweeted in response to this post  that I had neglected to mention figuring out sales prices (doing comparative market analyses) and hanging around home inspections. The latter involves about 3 hours — we meet our clients and the home inspector on the day of the inspection and we’re there from beginning to end. Thanks, Jerry!

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