The real estate market in Toronto is already tough to navigate and you want to protect every dollar. You’ve staged, you’ve got great photos, you have an amazing agent who is going to get you the best price possible for your move. And THEN… you come up against your concierge desk.
This is a topic that has been driving me INSANE for several years, and I’ve hesitated making waves because… well… making waves doesn’t make friends.
But today, I’ve decided that enough is enough. I am a professional who works hard and wants to do the best job I can for my clients. So why does it seem like condo buildings all over the city are trying their hardest to screw their own owners when they are trying to sell? The first rule in real estate is “Location Location Location”. The second rule is “if people can’t see it, they won’t buy it!”
With condo and management fees constantly on the rise, and ownership in Toronto becoming more and more expensive, you’d think your service would be constantly improving, but that fact is that it’s often the complete opposite. Condo management companies and their policies seem, instead, to be doing everything they can to complicate and frustrate listings and not for any particular reason that I can see. The end result is that YOU, the owners, are losing money when you sell.
Here’s how your condo is buggering up your listing and costing you BIG bucks.
To put it plainly, they are totally turning buyers off from your building. Think that it’s a hot market and you don’t have to worry? Whether it’s $1000 or $100,000, money is money. And you could have gotten more if your concierge desk wasn’t so committed to being difficult, and that’s the plain truth. Think it doesn’t matter? Take $100 out of your wallet right now, light it on fire, and throw it into the street. No? Because that’s crazy? That’s a measly hundred bucks and we’re talking about hundreds of thousands here.
Buyers go out on their home search excited, happy and hopeful. They are literally ASKING for the right place to come up so that they can throw their money at it. Talk about the fish jumping right into your boat and hitting themselves over the head. The faster you get an offer, the more money you will get for your home.
And then they come to your building and everything turns sour.
More showings equals more possibilities for a good solid sale, not to mention multiple offers in this city. If you restrict showings, you will get less traffic and therefor less offers, which results in less money. It’s kind of elementary. And making buyers and their agents feel welcome makes buyers feel like they are “home” and we all know that emotional attachment and a feeling of belonging is key when deciding where to live. There’s no faster way to tell a buyer to get stuffed than to have the concierge desk show you how much they don’t care if you live there.
1) The parking struggle: Time and again I see buyers and their agents getting frustrated when they can’t easily find access to some parking for their visit to the building. Showings in condos are usually quick. Each unit will get about 10 minutes of the buyer’s time, and they typically schedule several in the same location all at once, as long as they are similar in price point and size. I myself have just given up and driven away from properties because we just couldn’t manage to get in the parking lot! Most of the time I find that I drive away from properties that offer no parking at all for guests/realtors or there’s just no one managing that little damned buzzer and we have been idling at the underground door like morons for 10 minutes before we give up and move on. REALITY CHECK : This immediately tells buyers that they will have difficulty having guests. You want to make someone NOT want to live in your building? Tell them they won’t be having anyone over… EVER, because the concierge desk won’t let them in to park.
2) Deliveries are not welcome : With the rise of the mother-of-all delivery companies, Amazon, and other popular home delivery options like grocery and laundry service, the concierge is often expected to accept packages and deliveries on the behalf of the residents. More and more I am seeing concierge desks informing people that they will no longer be accepting packages for owners. It’s not that their reasoning isn’t sound. The boxes are big and bulky. They pile up. The concierge isn’t there to be a mail man. I get it. BUT… It’s a reality of our time that many of us, and more every day, are looking to convenience services to help make hectic urban lifestyles a little easier, and we NEED to be able to get deliveries to our homes! Full stop. I need to be able to order a pizza and have it be decently hot when it comes to me. I need to be able to get my urgently needed phone cords because my dog chewed up my last one and now my cell is dead. I want to be able to send a gift to my sister for my niece’s birthday because we live too far away to get together.
REALITY CHECK : When concierge desks refuse packages, or make a policy against receiving them for residents, you are negating a lot of the convenience that is the main impetus for buying a condo in the first place! With a purchase price of $600,000, I could live a worry free lifestyle in a condo and take advantage of all the convenient opportunities available in Toronto, OR I could buy myself a house in the burbs. Ok, so I might have to commute to work, but to be honest, going 5km in the city by car is like going 35km in the suburbs. Either way, you’re spending an hour behind the wheel or on the streetcar. If you can’t simplify the rest, then you might as well get a place with a yard, a grocery store around the corner, a pharmacy in the plaza by your drycleaner, and be able to get your goddamned Amazon packages without getting any shit about it from some snarky desk clerk who acts like your mail is an inconvenience in your own home. When I encounter buildings that are difficult with packages, I automatically know that it will be a completely unsuitable place for anyone under the age of 50, which is the largest buyer demographic in Toronto. Congratulations, you’ve just given a kiss off to 70% of the people who would consider buying your home.
3) No Open Houses – Seriously? Come on. The entire purpose of the concierge desk is to sign in all guests. Whether they are at the building for an open house from 2-4 on a Sunday or visiting Mom for Sunday dinner, is it really that hard or that much of an inconvenience to sign them in? Or ask them to leave their ID with you at the desk until they return? Obviously we take security seriously, but in my 13 years as a realtor I’ve never had ANYTHING go missing at an open house, nor any kind of security issue. Not only does the concierge sign people in, but agents also do so within the unit. It would be easy enough for the concierge desk to request that realtors keep a list of their visitors from open house and turn over a copy when the event is over for their files. Anything goes missing or gets set on fire? Easy. You look at the lists, and find that one dude that checked in to the desk, but didn’t register at the open house. That’s your guy. A little bit of common sense please. Still feel like it’s not enough? Ask sellers and their realtors to have a second person on hand for open houses to greet visitors in the lobby and escort them to the unit personally. I highly doubt that lady with the baby strapped to the front of her is going to ninja kick you and run screaming down the hall to use the indoor pool instead of poking her head in to the open house she came to see.
REALITY CHECK : Open Houses bring traffic. They not only help that listing, but the other listings in the building. It’s not often that a buyer walks into an open house, declares it PERFECT and throws cash in the realtor’s face right away, but it DOES mean that they are interested in the building and the price point and again… more showings = more offers = more money. This is literally the simplest mathematical equation since 2 + 4 = 4.
AND THIS IS THE BIG ONE
4) They refuse to allow lockboxes or to handle keys for showings. This is almost completely common place right now and there’s really no better way to throw a buyer the middle finger than to refuse to even provide assistance when they are looking at a unit as a potential home.
Ideally, concierges holding keys and keeping a log of who picks it up and when they put it back is the most efficient, safest and most pleasant way to show a condo. I love it when I go to a building and there is a friendly concierge behind the counter. I provide them with my business card, licence and ID and the suite numbers I am scheduled to see, and they have me sign for said keys. I show units, and then return said keys to the desk. I can show 10 units in an hour like this, and keeps stress to a minimum. These showings are inevitably the most successful ones and leave the best impressions with buyers. Alternately, a great arrangement is to allow lockboxes to be placed in the stairwell closest to the unit where a key can easily be accessed by the agent and efficiently returned before moving on to their next showing.
Hell, I’ll also take a nice little lockbox room where there are rows of lockboxes, preferably arranged numerically, and with suite numbers on the back. (I’ve only seen one building do this in all my years in the industry. I wanted to write them love letters and sing them songs) But a building like that is like a freaking unicorn in Toronto right now. Instead, we find ourselves lurking around behind a building in the dark and the snow trying to find some lockbox on a railing somewhere that’s inevitably frozen shut because it’s too damned cold in the city in the winter. And here’s the thing. We’re seeing several units IN A CONDO so I assure you both myself and my buyer are wearing comfortable, easy to remove shoes, and are not prepared in any way to scale snow mountains or wade through 2 feet of slush and salt. Now we all just have two soakers and we’re in a bad mood before we even walk in the door. Once, I stepped up onto a snowbank to reach a lockbox and one of my legs sunk right through to the top of my thigh. Just one, mind you. The other was out of the snow with no way of giving me any leverage at all. It took my client and both his young sons to literally haul me out of the hole by my arms. Don’t worry though. I DID eventually manage to get that shoe back.
I also hate being directed to a lockbox room by a surly concierge that’s conveniently located right next to the garbage room so that I can enjoy the stench of refuse while I hold my breath and desperately try to find the right lockbox in the jumble before I black out.
And my personal favourite… I call this the “Underground Lockbox Adventure”, where the building will only allow lockboxes to be affixed to a rail or a fence deep in the bowels of the underground parking garage, as far as possible away from any sort of civilization or decent lighting. Here is where we can find literally HUNDREDS of lockboxes. Random. Unlabelled. Indistinguishable from the others and then proceed to spend upwards of AN HOUR just finding one box that works for the code you have. I wish I were exaggerating.
The one I hate the WORST is a complex at Yonge & Eglinton that shares 3 buildings in one underground parking garage. There is literally no organization to this mess at all. The last time I showed a unit in this building, my clients killed one phone battery and half of another holding the light for me while I tried codes, in the unheated garage on the 3rd level for over an hour, where hundreds of lockboxes are attached to a fence in no order at all. Bonus points because when we finally found the key we were looking for and went back to the door from whence we had come, we found it locked tight behind us! And of course, there’s no cell service when you’re 18 feet x 3 floors underground. Alas, there was also no button to buzz the concierge to beg admittance, and we were forced to walk the length of the parking garage to the other end, where we then jumped up and down in front of the electric door in an attempt to activate the sensor for 10 minutes or so before a resident opened it from the outside on their way home, and we bolted like scared rabbits out on to the street a block away and then hauled ass back to the main entrance in the rain for our showing. My buyers were appalled. They were grossed out. They were adamant that they couldn’t possibly invest their money in a building that made selling so deliberately difficult. That was a year an a half ago and I have patently refused to show units in that complex ever since and made sure to let my buyers know what a complete clusterf*&k that place is. Without fail, I’ve shown this picture and every one of them has been in immediate agreement that this wasn’t the place for them.
Combine this with often snarky, self-important or outright rude attendants and elitist behaviour from the person that greets you, and you have a perfect recipe for a lower sale price. They might as well just put up a big sign that says “We don’t want you, so go pound sand”
Your concierge desk is the face of your building. Your first line of defence. Your first impression. If your condo corp doesn’t care if the impression they are making is a good one, you might be living in the wrong place. And if they are too important and busy to do something as simple as get people to sign-in, well then they clearly aren’t up to the job of managing your condo building at all, are they?