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Are We or Are We Not Like Borg?

original image courtesy of Kunar


US vs. Canada

At first blush the journey to discover similarities and differences between you as an American Realtor and me as a Canadian Realtor might seem a simple task. Initial thoughts of “of course we’re different, we have to be, we live in different countries so we must be” rang loudly. A reality check soon delivered a verdict.

Our Paper Is Different

Oh sure, there are obvious mechanical things that are different in American real estate like escrow, short sales, seller contingencies, and repair. One thing that does stand out is the amount of paper work necessary to process a transaction. By itself, this seems to be the most notable American difference as my informers tell me there is a form to cover every possible circumstance. Comparatively, the Canadian paper load is much lighter. I can’t say our buyers and sellers expect any less of us as Realtors in a transaction. Nor can I say that we have more tree huggers who don’t want to waste paper. I do think however, that as a society, we tend to be less likely to litigate over problems that can be resolved through a discussion and a handshake.

Our Toys Are Different

We also have MLS systems like you. We don’t have as many and ours may not be as diverse in service levels as yours. I will acknowledge that while we all cut our hair differently there are some toys on your systems that would be nice to have in ours. One noteworthy difference is that we provide only one consumer portal to MLS information. We keep it centralized somewhere in Ottawa and simply call it Realtor.ca. Another is that our MLS dominates the resale housing market in Canada. We don’t have the Trulia’s and Zillows out there competing. This one aspect makes it a lot easier for us to use on a daily basis and centralizes the deliverance of information to the consumer.

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Ground Shaking Conclusions

Usually I’m not big on consensus but this post called out saying you better be careful not to step on toes. So being the clever boy I am I thought a nice spammy email to a bunch of American and Canadian realtors would garner some consensus on the differences and similarities we possess. The response was less than stellar in two ways. First, few responded so next time I’ll include free chocolate bars. Second, those who did return a message responded with strikingly similar answers. To my surprise no one offered a response that was absolutely earth shaking. The question then is, are Canadian and American Realtors more similar than different or are we equal?

You need to know it’s tough to travel through 50 states, 10 provinces and various territories in a week and talk to millions of Realtors in order to come up with a definitive answer. I’m good, but not that good. Furthermore, since I travel light, I concluded that flip flops just wouldn’t work in the muskeg near Tuktyuktuk. Considering this is my first time on the payroll at Genius I didn’t want you thinking I was a slouch. Also I didn’t want to slough off my work to your shoulders by leaving you with a question but I’m going to anyway.

Now that you know I’m not lying down on the job, here’s a thought that might start a fire about things that differentiate or make us similar.

Are We Borg?

As humans we have inherited genes granting us unique characteristics. While we are part of a collective called humanity, each of us is different. Accordingly, within our two countries we as REALTORS are part of a collective called the real estate industry. We are somewhat similar to the Borg of Star Trek fame. Like Borg we are interconnected and bring our assimilated knowledge forward for the common good. Yet we are not Borg. We refuse complete assimilation and will not surrender our divergent character.

Why?

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Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Vicki Moore

    July 16, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I knew there were some differences when a client told me about buying a house there v here. But when you asked about property taxes…all we pay are taxes. Great first work, Larry. Again, so glad you’re here.

  2. Rocky

    July 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Interesting a Star Trek analogy. No, I am not a Borg… There are some tried and true methods out there for selling real estate, and I do not discount them. I am in to trail blazing and bringing my own style to real estate. I don’t put my ugly mug on my card, I wear Chuck Taylors, drive a 92 Dodge Spirit, work out of my home, sell REO’s exclusively, spell realy badley and do my very bestest to remember that it is not about me, but my client.

    By the way, how is the igloo market? I hear most Canadian Realtors drive around in a DSUV, Dog Sled Utility Vehicle. Ok, bad joke. Happy blogging.

  3. Benn Rosales

    July 16, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Someone pointed out to me once a question that always brought the same reply from agents- just ask a few of them seperately “what makes you different in the eyes of your clients from other agents?” The answer 10 out of 10 times I tried it was damn near identical. Try it and see what you learn, I promise, you’ll be rethinking your rethinking…

  4. Benjamin Bach

    July 17, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Rocky, the market here is GREAT – well, I guess depending on what part of Canada you’re talking about.

    Parts of Western Canada are softening now after a *very nice* run up in prices, but our little Waterloo Region (the tech centre of Canada, where Blackberry’s are made) is going strong.

    Be Great
    BenjaminBach.com

  5. Bill Lublin

    July 17, 2008 at 5:04 am

    Larry – Really interesting question – Me, I think the similarities would be about the need to rpovide information that is interpeted through the filters of our experiences. The dissimilarities – probably more technical revolving around forms of ownership, transfer, lending etc.

    I really like the borg analogy (first because I can spell it) because we are all linked where our experiences overlap – and my guess is that most of those will be human overlaps rather then technical.

    Great post, eh!

  6. Rocky

    July 17, 2008 at 5:48 am

    I love Waterloo, I actually lived there for a short spell in 1993.

  7. Glenn fm Naples

    July 17, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Larry – you pointed out differences and similarities – however, are there closing practices and costs which will vary from province to province as it does here in the states? Closing costs can actually vary on a county by county basis? Specific costs are the Owners Title Insurance Premium.

    Thanks.

  8. Ginger Wilcox

    July 17, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Laughing at Benn’s comment. How are you different from other agents? “Well, I provide excellent customer service.” Well- that is a first- no one has ever claimed that before!
    I think most sales (and service) positions are basically the same- you may be in a different country, maybe in a different industry even, but there are a lot of similarities in the basics. It is the technical parts that may be different- laws, rules and regs, etc.. If I left real estate and went into financial service sales, don’t you think a good portion of what I have learned would carry over? Serving people and maintaining relationships is the same no matter where you live.

  9. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 17, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Ultimately, its all pretty similar IMO. People want to sell a home. People want to buy a home. And you need to make it happen. The rest is just details. Local customs can be vastly different from area to area (like the term “closing escrow” is fairly common out west, but where I’m at people would look at you like you have 3 heads if you used the term). But its still doing a transaction, marketing/advertising, handling paperwork, dealing with people and getting deals done.

  10. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 17, 2008 at 9:05 am

    @Vicki – Thanks for the hug. Re: taxes, sure we pay them as well otherwise the infrastructure of our cities just don’t happen. I’m sure there are watch-dogs everywhere who want make sure we get value for money spent. I’m waiting to hear the back on my street over the sidewalks as well. But first it’s a new sewer trunk line. Choices 🙂

    @Rocky – We have reached an affordability issue in many parts of Canada. Provincially we have seen a drop in sales volume in the 30% range. Locally it’s over 40%. Ironically, the prices are up 4%. Go figure. Example: 33′ X 122′ lots in my neighborhood run at $1million. There is little chance that young families can buy in. My guess is the fat lady is tuning up.

    @ Benn – I think your question is one worthy of discussion. I suspect it results from a lot of old school training. The tasks we perform as realtors are fairly straightforward. It’s the nuance of our individually that sets the performance apart.

    @ Benjamin – thanks for the local update on the Waterloo region. topic for you: Do Blackberries make a difference in your real estate

    @Bill – your comment reflects what Benn is referring to. From my perspective I think you might have the “same and different” positions reversed. I recognise from the outset that the “paper and rules” will be different. There is another post just for that which we could work on. What I am seeking is your perspective of why we in real estate are precluded from being the same. My warped mind looks to a more powerful force that I think is in front of us each day.

    @ Glenn – your points are valid and thanks for adding them. I concur that there is a miriad of colors that differentiate individual processes (with attached costs) we perform. While they may seem to have been ignored my broom simply accepted those in the broad stroke.

  11. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Vicki: that should read – waiting hear the bark

    Benn: that should read – nuance of our individuality

    @ Ginger: “I provide excellent customer service” – Exactly!

    Dare I admit that I’m just as guilty. We often say thing these things without reflection. But, what does that statement mean? I often wonder.

    To Benn’s point: Individually as a realtor what recognizable trait sets you apart from me. What makes a client think, act and say “unless Ginger is my Realtor I’m going into the corner and I’m going to pout. Without her I’m not buying or selling. So there!”
    With respect as this is not meant to single you out – what really, really, really makes you special and sets you apart from the rest of the Borg.

    @ Jennifer – Shall I cast your ballot in the Borg box? 🙂

  12. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 17, 2008 at 10:10 am

    @ Jennifer – Shall I cast your ballot in the Borg box? 🙂

    Yes, please do. 🙂

  13. ines

    July 17, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Ooooh! and “informer” that’s cool! next time you ask, make sure it’s not during a National Holiday – the big difference between Canadian and US Realtors is that we celebrate different holidays – there! I said it.

  14. ines

    July 17, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    I forgot! Welcome again! it’s so great to have you here.

  15. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 17, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Ines,

    so bad. so good. and so right on the holiday but here’s the teaser. Who has more holidays? 🙂

    and again thank you

  16. Paula Henry

    July 19, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Larry – Welcome again! Not a trekkie here, but I’ll answer. I guess I don’t look for differences as much as similarities where we can learn and grow through our collective experience and knowledge.

    Regardless of the MLS, paperwork, tax issues and licensing, we all bring the personal element to the industry in our individual style. Humanity makes us more alike than different – I’m not sure there is a need to converge.

  17. Glenn fm Naples

    July 19, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Larry – I do tend to use a very narrow broom – like the details, so that I can better serve potential clients. 🙂

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