Mark Albert


Looking for Gold

14 November 2018
Mark Albert

Going for gold - ain't no sweat (?)

Let’s go back some thirty plus years.  I’m newly married (nearly 2 years) – no kids – and I have opened a Ladies’ Wear Store in Kingston, Ontario. For those in the tribe – the shmatah business, carried forward from Dad and Mom.  It was my second store and, at the time, my (then) wife taught me an early lesson about real estate.  When you walk into a property there is one person who makes the decision on what is going to transpire on that property. As an agent, you want to make sure you know who that is.  In our store in Kingston and in my home – it was my wife. She left no room for doubt and no doubt in the room.

I had taken the real estate course, while we were searching for a home in Kingston, with a very patient and professional Kingston real estate agent.  It was 1983 and retail and real estate were not at their best.  Our Bridal and upscale Ladies’ Wear store opened in the Cataraqui Towne Centre – a Cadillac Fairview Mall.  We were told that 10,000 consumers a day would be going by our door.  Wow! that was a far cry from our first store in Trenton, Ontario –  town population 11,000.  There was an exit directly from the 401, leading south to the Towne Centre. Sounds like an ideal set-up, right?  What they didn’t tell us was that these 10,000 people going by our door, would likely stay on 401 to do so.  So not the best time to start up in real estate, but not a good time to spend time in the store either.

Through a series of events, I joined Century 21 Real Estate.  I know; here I am in the fashion business and the standard dress attire for Century 21 was their prominent gaudy, “gold” jacket. In retail and real estate, signage and standing out is very important.  Well what is a more conspicuous sign than a gold jacket with the words Century 21 stitched onto the breast pocket.  O.K….so now I have joined the real estate industry; signed with a Realtor and I had my gold jacket.  I’m ready for people to call me to buy or sell their home.

Uh, hello…is anyone home? Is anyone going to sell their home?  Buy a home?  Come on, you can’t miss me; I’m wearing a GOLD jacket!

Here I was – new in town. I hardly knew anyone. I had joined a Rotary Club to do some community work and with the hopes of there also being the advantage some kind of networking. Truth be told there is something to having common interests and ideals. More on that later. I had done some work in the commercial side of things, with my father’s company, over the years; so I had some clue about real estate beforehand. I was waiting for the phone to ring. It was one of those new, stylish push-button phones and it had a “Hold” button for when I had to handle more than one call. Don’t laugh, sometimes my father and my wife would call about the same time. “Sorry,” I would say, “I have someone on hold on the other line. Can’t talk now.” And so I would sit in the office, waiting for someone to walk in the door when I was “On Duty” or just call me.

I have seen new agents now who hold the same concept: They did the work of becoming an agent and their doors are open. Come on in.

Overheard at the coffee machine station:

 Hey, this real estate thing looks easy.  I got a 92% in my real estate course. I know lots of people and everyone talks about real estate. I am sure there are people just waiting for me to get into real estate so that they can buy or sell with me.

Excuse me; what did you say?  You’re third cousin sells real estate and they are your agent?   You’re my sister/my best friend but you don’t like to do business with family/friends and can I do it for - what??  How long I have been in the business?  Many of these challenges exist past the nouveau stage.  How are you qualifying an agent?

I am not sure about the order of things but somewhere in here I was encouraged to take the “Sweathogs” course.  It was in the days when we enjoyed  the TV series “Welcome Back Kotter”.  Some may remember Travolta as Vinny, a sweathog.  The premises was 2 and 1 per month.  That’s two listings, one sale.  Now that I had put on the clothes (at least the jacket) and was wearing the metaphoric hat; I’ll tell  you about one of my first sales…next time.