How uncooperative concierges can cost you money when selling your condo

How uncooperative concierges can cost you money when selling your condo

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?

COM0014 – Blog #1: What I Did On My Vacation

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If you think this is bad, you should see the other side! ©2016, Brad Whitehorn

My last vacation was quite unconventional to say the least, but I did spend an extended period of time out of town, went on some crazy adventures, met some great people, and didn’t have to cook, so I’m going to count it as a vacation.  It all started on a warm, sunny day in October 2016 when I went out for a ride on my motorcycle.  Something I had been doing for over 15 years, when a driver of a pickup truck ran through a stop sign, sending me on a flight through the intersection beginning my “vacation.”

It was probably the shortest flight I have ever been on, but it was definitely the roughest landing.  Thankfully I was in full protective riding gear, and surprisingly wasn’t bleeding much at all; my ankle, leg, arm, wrist, and a couple of fingers were a different story though.  From there I got to continue my sightseeing tour of the greater New Tecumseth in Southern Ontario… this time staring up at the ceiling of an ambulance while strapped to a board!  After spending some time in the local hospital, I was told that I would be going on a helicopter tour of Toronto courtesy of Ornge Air Ambulance.  While it was a nice clear night, my view was pretty much limited to the ceiling inside the helicopter.

After landing at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, things started to get a little fuzzy.  I don’t remember much of what happened over the next couple of days, so I must have had a really good time then!  I spent six days and seven nights there, while the staff was amazing, and there was free WiFi, the food was a little underwhelming; their specialty was a steamed English muffin and plain cream of wheat for breakfast every morning.  At the end of my week-long stay, I was informed that I would be taking another sightseeing tour; this time on Toronto’s Queen Street.

The tour was pretty short, maybe only ten minutes down the street to The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, but the driver and “guide” were super nice.  I have nothing but good things to say about this place; the staff were amazing, the “recreation” was challenging and engaging, the WiFi was free, and the food wasn’t half-bad either… even though they dished out pasta primavera like it was going out of style.  While there I participated in some great activities like “learning how to walk again,” “lifting a 3lbs weight with my left arm,” and I got to play with the St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog.  But after my month long stay, it was time to go home.

While I had some interesting experiences, and got to meet some truly amazing people, I don’t think I would repeat this vacation again.  It was so amazing that I still haven’t returned to full-time work yet, but hopefully I will be over it soon so I can get ready for my next trip.

COM0015 – Post #3 – Professional Networking

group of lions on a rock

I just have to admit one thing right from the start – I’m a social animal! I love networking, meeting new people, talking about business and digital media and attending educational or social events. This is especially true when there’s food involved!

I have found several in-person and online methods to get involved in networking events, including the use of some social media tools. My favourite thing about networking is when the in-person and online methods converge and strengthen relationships because of the combination.

Meetup Logo

In real life, I like to meet people through Meetup.com and wrote an article about this platform called Use the Internet to Get Off the Internet!

Eventbrite LogoI’ve also found it useful to network through Eventbrite, my local Chambers of Commerce, free social media seminars, my professional association (IABC), mutual business associates, and volunteering in the community. I’ve also done a short working stint for free at a local digital marketing agency.

I’ve found you can meet a huge number of contacts using these methods!

But there’s more to it than just meeting people, sharing a short conversation, and then exchanging business cards. I try to follow up with people after meeting them in person. I connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. I check out their websites. I join LinkedIn groups where my new contacts hang out. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending an email providing some information or a valuable tidbit regarding a conversation we had the previous day. The trick is to keep connected somehow, encouraging a fruitful relationship that can benefit both parties in future.

So my networking activity is already quite hectic. But I always think of more things I should be doing to strengthen my relationships so that one day, people I’ve met will say:

“Hey, Sheila’s into blogging and social media marketing – send her an email.”

My Networking Strategy for 2016

In 2015, I found networking to be easy and enjoyable. In 2016, what will put the “work” into networking for me? To do more in the coming months, I’d like to write some more interesting and informative articles on Pulse on LinkedIn. I’ve noticed my colleagues doing this and getting lots of comments. It keeps their names familiar to me, so I know it helps people remember their contacts. I would also like to send some simple “let’s get together” messages on LinkedIn to my connections.

Next, I’d like to get to know my professional association members better in person. If you happen to be a member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and an independent in Toronto, check out our group on LinkedIn called Professional Independent Communicators (PIC). This is a great group of people who share all kinds of information about what it’s like to be an indie in this business. Monthly meetings alternate between educational topics and social gatherings. Our next meeting is tomorrow night with a guest speaker to help boost our productivity in 2016. I’ve met some members who live nearby and we plan to get together for a coffee sometime soon, so I’m already making some headway regarding my 2016 networking strategy.

Do you take advantage of your professional association events? Local chambers of commerce? LinkedIn or event-based social media groups like Meetup and Eventbrite? Do you hold your own special events or workshops? If you haven’t already, why not try some of these groups for your own networking strategy in 2016. And please let me know if you find any new social media networking platforms like them.

COMM0015: Blog Post 2: Strong and Weak Organizations

When discussing organizations that are strong or weak in social media I always find it interesting to compare case studies for companies in the same business.  As a result, I have chosen a company that is one of my favourite ways to travel, Porter Airlines, and one of their primary competitors, Air Canada.

Both Porter Airlines and Air Canada have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.  On the surface it would appear that their social media strategies are equal in all ways.  When their customers resort to social media with a complaint both airlines follow up by asking the customer to move the discussion to a private message.  This helps reduce the number of negative comments found on either airlines Facebook pages or Twitter sites.

So why is Porter Airlines’ social media primarily filled with positive comments, discussions and feedback while Air Canada’s has fewer positive comments, fewer discussions and more negative feedback? I believe it is because a good social media presence is not just about your social media strategy – it’s about consistent, positive customer service no matter how your customer is interacting with your company.

Porter Airlines

When Porter Airlines launched in 2006 with their slogan ‘flying refined’ they set the tone and consumers’ expectations for years to come.  A customer of Porter Airlines expects fast, pleasant customer service, amenities no longer found on other airlines and, in general, more than they had expected from a Canadian airline in a long time.  So when Porter Airlines launched their social media presence on Facebook and Twitter they had a lot to live up to.  As a Porter customer, I expected the same interaction on Facebook and Twitter as I was accustomed to receiving in person.  And I got it.

Key elements that make Porter’s social media strategy work:

Porter Airlines Twitter Feed

  • Most importantly: they work hard to ensure that their customers have a positive customer experience from beginning to end, no matter how they are interacting with the airline
  • They actively seek out customers online and begin providing a positive customer experience before they have even purchased a ticket
  • They engage their customers in conversation and build online relationships with them by posting questions, asking them what they want to see, as well as responding to questions quickly and effectively.  In addition, as they expand their service across Canada and the US, they seek feedback from their customers and engage them in their plans.  For example: Porter has built a strong online campaign to encourage their customers to discuss, sign petitions, and support their application to expand Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.
  • Their bio section provides customers with their 1-800 customer service line if they have any complaints or challenges when interacting with the airline.
  • They offer rewards to their followers through discount codes and first access to Porter news and promotions.

Air Canada

Although Spafax was recently nominated for the Facebook Games/Contests category in the new PR News Social Media Icon Awards I would argue that a four week contest and high number of followers does not always equal a well-developed social media strategy.  In particular, I believe Air Canada needs a social media strategy that focuses on developing conversations and relationship with their customers rather than simply pushing out content.  Based on the successful model developed by Porter Airlines, Air Canada could improve in several areas:

Air Canada Twitter Feed

  • In all interactions with customers, demonstrate a commitment to a consistent positive customer experience and then use social media to share those experiences with other customers.  As a result of many customers previous negative experiences Air Canada has a long road to improve public perception.  Sharing these positive experiences may begin to improve their overall company image.
  • Rather than just pushing out content, engage current and future customers in conversations through social media.
  • Include their customer service line and contact information in the ‘about’ section of their social media sites.  This seems like a small thing but it makes the company appear open and available for customer feedback.

References

Cowan-Dewar, Jules.  Social Media Execution: Porter Airlines & Twitter, http://catalyst.ca/social-media-execution-porter-airlines-twitter/

Faber, Les. Canadian Companies Using Social Media: Porter Airlines http://www.webfuel.ca/canada-social-media-porter-airlines/

Girard, Raymond. Spafax nominated for prestigious social media award for Air Canada Facebook game that attracted over 350,000 entries in four weeks. http://www.spafax.com/spafax-nominated-for-prestigious-social-media-award-for-air-canada-facebook-game-that-attracted-over-350000-entries-in-four-weeks/

Adams, Jessy. Sprinklr Signs Agreement with Air Canada for Social@Scale ™ Platform. http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1204473/sprinklr-signs-agreement-with-air-canada-for-social-scale-tm-platform

MacArthur, Amber. Five Social Media Lessons for Air Canada. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/digital-culture/amber-mac/5-social-media-lessons-for-air-canada/article1376119/

Social Media sites:

https://www.facebook.com/porterairlines

https://twitter.com/porterairlines

https://www.facebook.com/aircanada

https://twitter.com/AirCanada

COM0015 – Blog Post#1: Tool & Sources

Is-Making-A-Smart-Phone-App-A-good-Investment

I personally have a lot on the go for the most part. I find that I don’t have enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done. Between work and school, friends and family, things can get a bit hectic. I am the type of person who is seen to be using their phone all the time because I find that it is a huge time saver! Being able to do just about anything on my smart phone gives me the ability to save time with applications that continue to update/improve. From emailing, social networking, news/weather and sports apps, I can stay in tune with all my interests.

Facebook is one of the many online social networks used across the world and the most popular among my friends and family. Facebook is one of my favourite social media tools because it gives me constant updates as to what everyone who is important in my life is up to, reminders of birthdays and social events. Coming from a huge family this is very important so I can keep in touch with all my family all over the world. Everything is done for me, I don’t have to input any information like I would in a calendar. For me this tool is quite easy to navigate and make changes to. The layout is simple and appealing to the eye which makes it enjoyable to use.

Instagram is another social Media tool that I enjoy using from my smartphone. Being able to follow friends and family like Facebook, gives me insight as to what goes on during their day. Especially with the newly added video option that captures 15 seconds worth of footage, so you can share priceless moments as if you were there for yourself. Big organizations use Instagram as well to promote release dates for shoes or clothes, so I follow the brands I like so I don’t miss out on any sales event. I can basically follow all the things I have interest in such as cars, different food dishes, and celebrities. Just one picture can paint 1000 words, that being said, this tool is so amazing because it keeps everything short and sweet.

Cp24 is a great application I use to be up to date with daily news. Where ever I am located, Toronto or Ottawa it will give me notifications on breaking stories so I don’t have to constantly check to see if something has happened. Weather changes so often you never know what to expect. Cp24 gives me updates of the weather on the go!

Everyone has their own definition of news now a days. News to each individual might be much more than stories that are happening around them or in different countries. It can be anything that they have interest in and haven’t heard about yet and for me, it is both. Sports to me is also news! I use the SCORE application on my phone so I can keep tabs on all my favourite sports teams when I don’t quite have time to watch a game. This also gives me notifications on signings, trades, game details, clips of game highlights and schedules.