You Truly Do Get What You Pay For


Real Estate commissions are too high!  Discount brokerages beat this drum all the time, but is it true?  Is a full service brokerage charging too much for what they do?  Do discount or flat fee brokerages provide exactly the same service, and more importantly, results, as a full service brokerage?

Here is the breakdown of what our company, Coldwell Banker Community Professionals, a full service brokerage, does for every one of our seller clients as a MINIMUM STANDARD.

  • We will fully explain your representation alternatives, and how they will affect your sale
  • We will create, with you, a marketing action plan to get your property sold
  • We will provide you with a comprehensive Competitive Market Analysis (CMA)
  • We will show you various financing alternatives and how they may help facilitate the sale of your home
  • We will furnish you with an estimated net proceeds of your sale, to assist you in your future plans
  • We will help enhance your home, by developing  a plan to showcase your property and enhance its ability to attract buyers
  • We will present your property to the Coldwell Banker sales team
  • We will promote your property to other reputable, professional Brokers and Sales Representatives who service your area
  • We will place your property on the LOCAL Multiple Listing Service
  • We will create a marketing resource to promote the details of your property, including specific highlights and photos/videos of your property, and showcase it online
  • We will prepare promotional materials regarding your property and arrange for their distribution to target market areas to attract potential buyers
  • We will offer to place a Coldwell Banker Community Professionals FOR SALE sign on your property to help generate calls to our office from prospective buyers
  • We will review with you our comprehensive marketing program designed to generate buyer prospects for your property.  We will explain how our placement on multiple websites will maximize the exposure of your property to potential buyers.  We will also discuss how we track online activity and more…
  • We will provide you with regular Marketing Activity Reports on competitive market conditions, buyer activity and the actions taken to market your property
  • We will review with you the home finding process that buyers are most likely to follow including financial qualifications, property selections, financing options and closing procedures
  • We will seek financial qualifying information on all buyers submitting an offer to purchase on your property.
  • We will review all purchase offers as they are presented, and we will negotiate on your behalf to reach a purchase agreement with terms that are favourable and protective for you
  • We will monitor and inform you of the progress of the transaction including the satisfaction of all contingencies and conditions during the transaction
  • We will contact you after the closing to follow up on any remaining details or service needs
  • We will provide you with details of our relocation and referral services, which are available to you at no cost regardless of where you are moving

The above is a list of the basic services offered.  Many of our real estate professionals offer additional services, whether it be staging, or pre-inspections, for example.

Also, our sales professionals are trained in negotiation skills, ensuring you have a strong advocate for your needs at the time of an offer presentation.

These steps that our sales professionals take, ensure that sellers net more from their home sale by using a full service REALTOR®.  The increased sale price reflects the benefit having a real estate professional on your side can make.

To find out what we can do for you, call one of our Coldwell Banker Community Professionals today.

Home Buying Myths and Misunderstandings

The following article was recently published by the National Association of REALTORS®, and I thought I would share the information.

Common Myths and Misunderstandings about Shopping for Homes”

You’ve been searching for homes online, driving by interesting properties in your car, and found one that looks perfect.  What do you do next?

Contact the agent featured on the yard sign and the online listing? While that may sound like the most logical step, it’s a common home buying mistake based on several myths and misunderstandings:

Assumption:  It’s best to contact the listing agent because they’re already familiar with the property. Sure, the agent on the yard sign knows that property, but that’s because they’ve been hired by the owners to help sell it.  That’s what listing agents do. Their job is to represent sellers in property transactions, marketing properties to potential buyers and helping sellers earn as much as possible on the sale.

Does that sound like an agent who will be looking out for YOUR best interest? Buyers would be better served if they avoid the listing agent (anything you tell them may hurt your negotiating position) and select a buyer’s agent to arrange a showing – someone who will represent your interests in a transaction.

Assumption:  I’ll save money on commissions if I work with the seller’s agent.  Not true.  Commissions paid to the buyer’s and seller’s agents are predetermined and written into the listing agreement; in most cases, if the listing agent brings a buyer to the table (because the buyer contacted them directly) that brokerage will earn both sides of the commission.

That means buyers don’t necessarily save anything by going directly to the listing agent.  More importantly, when a buyer approaches the listing agent, they’ve potentially lost a vital opportunity to receive loyalty, confidentiality and other fiduciary duties that buyer’s agents owe their clients.

Assumption:  All real estate agents are basically the same, so I might as well contact this one.  Again, not true.  As in all professions, some real estate agents deliver a higher standard of service than others.  One way to make sure you’re working with a professional who’s already received special training in representing buyers is to find an agent who’s earned their Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation – an official designation certified by the National Association of REALTORS®.

As I mentioned at the top, this article is care of the National Association of REALTORS®.  The information is equally applicable in our Canadian market, and there are local REALTORS® who have taken the time to complete the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation, and are able to provide that higher level of service to buyers. If you are planning to buy a home, be sure to call Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate and ask for one of our ABR® accredited sales representatives. Exceptional service does not cost any more than average service does…

Exactly What is Our Company Product?

Product clipart copy
What does a real estate company really sell?

I am sure most people would say we sell houses/businesses
and the like. That may be the way of the past, but I don’t think that is true any more.

The true product of today’s full service real estate company (which we are) is the ability to interpret the information available to maximize the return on your investment. (i.e., the commission you pay a REALTOR® for that ability).

With the availability of information regarding asking and sale prices, along with the advent of fee for service companies, truly anyone can put their home on the market.  I believe the difference a full service company brings to you is the ability to know what the market in your particular area is doing.  Are prices increasing? Are there competing offers happening in the area? Is there a development (good or bad) in the area that may affect price? What are the trends in the market? Is there a current shortage of supply? What is happening with mortgage interest rates? Are there any government policy changes that may affect the saleability of a home, or the ability of a buyer to qualify for financing?

If you add to that the specific knowledge and training that REALTORS® have regarding marketing/promoting properties, I believe REALTORS® supply a very important product in their knowledge, interpretation, and implementation of information.

When you are looking to buy or sell what may be your largest financial asset, would you not hire a professional?  If you were thinking of investing $100,000 would you check the internet and make a decision, or would you check with someone who specializes in investing large sums of money, whether for the potential growth it might provide, or to ensure the security of the investment?  Many real estate sales today involve far more than this amount.

Keep in mind that fees are always negotiable.  Be sure to purchase the right real estate product for you – and I’m not talking about the four walls and a roof.

Be sure to call one of our real estate professionals and discuss the product they offer… you may find it’s more valuable than you anticipated.

Ultimate Service® – Just a Guarantee?

A list of services, big deal… But that is not what makes our sales people the professionals they are. Ultimate Service® just starts with our written guarantee.

I believe that in order to provide service that stands our in the marketplace, you need to be able to meet the needs of your client, every time, and actually provide additional service that they didn’t even realize they needed. Real Estate companies that provide ‘full service’ as opposed to having the client select from a menu of available services, can all appear to have been cut from the same cloth. The difference is in how the service is provided and the consistency in when it is provided.

At Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate, our Ultimate Service® sales professionals are available to their clients at all times. In addition, they are in touch with their clients on a predetermined basis, as set by the client. There are no long periods of time when the client begins to wonder what, if anything, is being done to further their real estate needs.

Also, our reps have made available to them, training specific to the needs of our client base, such as becoming Accredited Buyer’s Representatives, enabling them to maximize their abilities to assist buyers in finding the right house, in a timely fashion, and in addition being trained to be effective negotiators. Another training area is the Senior Real Estate Specialist, a course which assists sales reps in becoming aware of the many options available to home owners as they age, whether they wish to move to Adult Communities, or update their current residence to meet their changing needs.

I could continue to list any number of areas of expertise our sales professionals are trained in, but I think you likely get my drift.

At Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate, Ultimate Service® is not just a guarantee, it is an indication of professionalism, with service provided to our clients by highly qualified individuals, who consider Real Estate their career, not just a job.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, please call one of our professionals, and find out for yourself the difference working with a Coldwell Banker Pinnacle representative makes.


Ann and I have been talking about the Coldwell Banker Ultimate Service many times in the last 18 months and we often refer to the 22 Point Service Guarantee. Well today I thought I would touch on a few of these points to give you a better idea of what it is all about.

One of the first items to be discussed is Agency Alternatives. This is when we explain the different types of representation that are available to you as a Buyer or Seller and what your options are.

For our Buyer clients we will explain the entire home buying process to you in advance and guide you through the entire process. We will also assist in obtaining a mortgage pre-approval with a lender to establish your range of affordability.

We will show our Buyer clients properties that meet their criteria. We also provide a property evaluation and discuss features that may affect the property value and its resale.

Having a strong negotiation strategy is very important for both the Seller and Buyer client and we will negotiate on your behalf to reach a purchase agreement with price and terms that are favourable for the client.

For our Seller clients we provide a Competitive Price Analysis to assist the Seller in determining the most effective list price for the property. We also provide our Sellers with a plan to enhance their property’s ability to attract Buyers.

These are just a few of the points included in the Buyer and Seller Guarantees. If you would like more information on how you would benefit from the Coldwell Banker Ultimate Service Program please call Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate at 905-522-1110 or 905-388-1110 and ask to speak to one of our real estate professionals.

Your Real Estate Service Choices

There has been a lot of talk about ‘mere postings’, a la carte, do it yourself, full service, and more, but what are these choices really?

The publicity surrounding the Competition Bureau challenge to the real estate industry has brought to the forefront of our real estate profession, the variety of choices available to the consumer. These choices have always been there, but not everyone was aware of it. I would like to outline how each works.

Mere Postings

This is a term that has been used to describe a situation where a home owner has decided to sell their home themselves, but wish to use the website to advertise their property. To do this, they must list their home with a REALTOR®, but decline any service offering the REALTOR® might normally provide. REALTORS® are not required to provide this service, and many do not. REALTORS® who do provide this service do so at various prices. One thing to be aware of is that the property listing will show on the real estate board where the REALTOR® is a member, not necessarily where the property is located. For example, if you use the services of a Toronto REALTOR® to list the property and the property is in Hamilton, it will appear on the Toronto Real Estate Board, not Hamilton. The fees charged are generally paid up front and are non-refundable.

A La Carte

This model describes a system whereby a homeowner can select from a menu the services they wish to use a REALTOR® for. A fee is generally assigned to each service. For example, a homeowner could select placing their property on the MLS®, having a market evaluation done, negotiation of offers or any other combination of services outlined. Depending on the number of services requested, the price can vary greatly. The fees are generally paid up front, and no refund is provided if a sale is not completed. Also the homeowner is responsible for any marketing or advertising costs they might incur.

Do it Yourself

Much as the name indicates, the homeowner takes 100% responsibility for the sale of their property. This method does not involve the help of a REALTOR® and does not provide for advertising through the website. The cost of sale is paid 100% by the homeowner.

Full Service

This describes the situation where the homeowner enters into a contract with a REALTOR® to sell their home. The fee for this service is set by the particular REALTOR® who is hired. The services provided should be outlined for the homeowner at the outset, and the homeowner should be fully aware of what to expect from their REALTOR®. Studies in the United States have shown that using the services of a REALTOR® to sell a home will result in a higher dollar received by the homeowner. By this I mean that after all the fees are paid, the homeowner has more money in hand to buy another property or whatever else they intend to use the proceeds for.
The fees charged for this model are paid only upon negotiating an acceptable sale, and are paid once the homeowner has received their money from the buyer.

I hope these brief descriptions have shown the difference in these service models. If you are considering selling your home, perhaps they will have helped you better decide which is the right way for you. If you wish more information about what services a Coldwell Banker Pinnacle REALTOR® provides, please give one of our representatives a call. They will be glad to meet with you to discuss this fully, and you are under to obligation to use their services, unless it is the right choice for you.

Ultimate Service® – how do you apply it?

This week I have asked one of our newer sales representatives, Nikola Bucalo, to tell us what Ultimate Service® means to him and his clients.

‘You’re in the public relations business’ was one of the key phrases my dad, a veteran REALTOR®, would often say. The brilliance was hard to grasp when I first started, because I thought of PR as just the people we see and read about representing big companies in the news. The depth of it is balancing the delicate relations between clients, their influences (family, friends), the agent and brokerage involved on the other side of the transaction, their clients, and about nine other people (bank, inspector, lawyer, etc.) during the process, plus yourself. This fine art truly takes a lot of practice to master, and Coldwell Banker’s Ultimate Service® system lays the perfect groundwork.

Early on there is a choice. Tell them what they want to hear, (it’s not lying if they don’t ask) and get the sale, or be proactive and risk losing the sale/client. You can guess what the Ultimate Service® answer was, but they don’t tell you how tough it is with the nature of commission-only careers, especially at the start!

The solid support of a global brand like Coldwell Banker and the Ultimate Service® program has encouraged me to stay on the path to sustainability. It has allowed me to launch and maintain a system that provides quality, consistent, reliable help to my clients. I have learned that those you lose because you won’t tell them what they want to hear, are not going to respect honest work wherever they go and are not loyal clients anyway. There is no ‘short cut’, though there is a big difference between working hard and working smart. 

These are the 5 ways I apply the Ultimate Service® program:

1. Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it.

2. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Proactively research neighbourhoods, typical issues and any possible changes to the transactional process, and keep clients informed every step.

3. Become a master negotiator. This skill has become invaluable in saving and getting my clients real money.

4. Challenge clients to think about what is most important, what is behind the decision to buy or sell a home. It takes guts to ask questions that the vast majority will not risk asking because it can get very personal. My toughest hurdle, but most rewarding.

5. Clients must feel informed and comfortable asking ANY question at any time. I can’t tell you if this is the right house, the right buyer, or what it is worth to you, but I can make sure you have all the information necessary to make a confident decision.

I would like to thank Nik for sharing his insights to Coldwell Banker’s Ultimate Service®. It is quite obvious there are two winners, Nik’s clients as they reap the benefits of Nik’s hard work and Nik himself, as his success in real estate continues to grow.



So what’s the big deal about Ultimate Service?

Gary and I have blogged many times about Ultimate Service®, outlining what it is all about, and also highlighting some of our sales representatives that have been recognized as being exceptional service providers.  Maybe some of you are wondering why we make such a big thing about this.  Well, even if you don’t wonder, I am going to try to explain why I think Ultimate Service® makes Coldwell Banker and our sales force that much better than the rest.

We work in a profession where the average satisfaction rating is about 74%.  Our survey results over more than 15 years confirm that Coldwell Banker has a 98% customer satisfaction rating.  I think this is significant for a number of reasons. First, on every transaction that is completed by a rep from our company, we ask the consumer to tell us how that sales representative performed.  When we receive feedback that is not all positive, Gary or I make a phone call to find out what went wrong.  Consumers are always surprised that we actually read what they write, and care enough to follow up.  Only by finding out what went wrong, can we improve our service. Also, by having a written guarantee that accompanies a list of 22 performance guidelines, the consumer knows what to expect as a minimum level of service.  Our sales representatives are trained to provide more than just the basic 22 points, and our clients are appreciative of the level of service they receive.

Our real estate market offers a variety of levels of service, all at different price points.  Consumers sometimes ask ‘Why would I pay you __% commission when I can do it myself?”.  Buying and selling homes can at times look like it takes no effort or expertise.  Sometimes, that’s just because you are working with a professional, highly trained sales representative who knows exactly what they need to do to get the job done.  Our clients have told us many times that they did not know all that our sales rep was going to do to get their home sold.  Our Ultimate Service® guarantee helps our reps better explain why they can often help facilitate a sale that takes place quicker, nets the home owner more money in their pocket, and eliminates the everyday hassles of selling a home.

On the home buying side, Ultimate Service® ensures that the buyer will be made aware of all properties that meet their specific needs and wants.  Our reps search out properties that are not necessarily on our MLS® system to help buyers find that perfect property.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg, our reps are trained to be highly effective negotiators, assisting their clients in making the best possible purchase.  These are just examples of a couple skills our reps bring to the buying process.

These are just a few of the things that I believe make us better than the other service providers out there.  If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, take the time to talk to one of our reps. There is no obligation attached to hearing how we can help you make the right buying or selling decision

Do It Yourself or Hire A REALTOR® – It’s Your Choice

One question I get asked quite often by homeowners is “Why shouldn’t I sell my house myself?”

Well, the fact of the matter is, a REALTOR® can likely put more money in your pocket, even after paying their commission, than selling it yourself. What many homeowners lose sight of is the amount of money they end up with after their house is sold, because they are concentrating on the amount of commission they are paying.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2011 Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, the private sale transactions account for approximately 10% of all sales. The law of supply and demand plays a big part in the value of your home. Everyone knows that the more buyers that are interested in a property the more value it may have. Therefore if your home is only exposed to 10% of the buying market as opposed to 100% of the buying market, there is a greater chance of you not getting top value for your home.

One thing Sellers need to realize is, if buyers pass on all the homes listed on MLS® and all the free services and assistance a Buyer Representative provides, and buy a private for sale home, they do so, because they think they can purchase the house for less money since the seller is not paying a commission. So, as a home seller, you will always be paying a commission. If you sell privately you pay it to the buyer in the form of a reduced price, or to your REALTOR® if you choose to sell it through the MLS®.

What amazes me is that some home owners are willing to risk what is probably their largest investment, and rely on the expertise of someone that has possibly never sold a home before, themselves. Yet they will spend their hard earned dollars to make sure their car is being serviced by an expert auto mechanic.

Statistics show that 7 out of 10 For Sale By Owners end up listing and selling through a REALTOR® or they don’t move forward with their plans. Many home owners add additional expense to their home selling process by attempting to sell on their own first. For example, there are classified advertising costs, printing costs for feature sheets, maybe they buy a do-it-yourself home selling kit from a For Sale By Owner marketing company. These costs can be anywhere from $200 to $2,000.

For all you home owners out there thinking of selling privately, talk to a professional REALTOR® and ask them to show you what your net proceeds will be after all the selling expenses. This is the amount of money you will have available to you to move forward with your plans. When you really think about it, isn’t this one of the first steps you should be doing when selling your home?

Good luck to all the home sellers out there and I hope all your housing dreams come true!

Real Estate Designations: What the heck do these mean, and why should you or I care?

ABR, SRES, ASA, MVA, FRI, CRES, E-PRO… the list is endless.

All the time you see REALTORS®, and others for that matter, that need lines of type to include all the letters after their name for the designations they have earned. While a lot of time and study can go into these designations, not all of them truly affect how your REALTOR® will help you with your real estate needs.

When you are ready to buy or sell, take the time to interview 2 or 3 REALTORS® before you make your final decision. You should consider these interviews to be job applications. Many times, I think buyers and sellers take more time deciding what colour to paint the front door than they take to decide who will best represent them, and negotiate the best possible terms for them.

When you interview a REALTOR® you should ask them questions about their track record.
• How long have they been in the business?
• What did they do before they became a REALTOR®?
• What is their list to sell ratio? (how many of the listing they take actually sell)
• What is the average number of days they require to sell a home?
• What are they going to do that is different from everyone else?
• What special qualifications do they have that will help you? (this is where the initials after the name may mean something)
• Why should you hire them? If they don’t have a good answer to this question, what is their answer when a buyer asks “Why should I buy this house?” or you ask “is this a good house for me to buy?”

The answers to these questions are not rocket science, nor is there the right answer to every question. Consider the first question, ‘How long have they been in the business?’ A REALTOR® who has just completed the courses may be the best choice you can make. They are up to date on the legal matters regarding a real estate transaction, they are eager and will work very hard for your success. Also, consider their background. That’s where the second question comes into play. A strong sales or marketing background can make up for lack of time in the real estate profession.

If a REALTOR® cannot answer questions about their production, such as list to sell ratio, or average days on market, be wary. This individual does not look at buying and selling homes as a business. They are looking at real estate as one sale at a time. That may be a good way to focus, but it does not always lead to long term success.

I hope when you are thinking about your next real estate move you will call one of our Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate professionals. Yes, we have many that have initials after their names… ask them why they decided to earn the designation. Maybe they are uniquely qualified to help you. If you chose to hire one of our sales representatives, always remember, you receive the Ultimate Service® Guarantee.

By the way, our sale representatives will gladly answer the questions I have outlined above. You be the judge of the answers.