David Fleming is a sales rep with Bosley Real Estate Brokerage in Toronto. In 2007, he founded the Toronto Realty Blog, which he continues to update several times a week with observations and opinions on the state of the real estate industry.
How did you get involved in real estate?
I went to business school at McMaster University, and primarily focused on marketing and finance. In the early 2000s when the stock market hit a wall, I was very interested in market dynamics, but the financial markets were pretty boring and very static, whereas real estate offers a more dynamic product. So instead of getting into finance, I got into real estate.
Where were you when you finished university? Did you think you’d be where you are now?
I’d like to say that I thought I’d be where I am now. But after 10 years in the business and being in the top one per cent of Realtors in Toronto and being number two in my brokerage at the age of 33, I did not expect to be where I am now, but I’m very pleased that I am.
Why did you personally choose to focus on Toronto?
I’m Toronto born and raised, so part of it is having a little bit of background. But realistically I think that, what people don’t understand, is it’s the knowledge that makes you good at what you do. You need to know every street, every building, every park. That can’t be learned overnight so I’ve built that knowledge over ten years. But I did have a little of that knowledge having come from Toronto.
What makes you different?
After three years in the business of seeing the same thing – the same agents, the same websites, the same glad-handing and optimism. I decided that I hated what a lot of organized real estate was about so I decided to just be myself. I started Toronto Realty Blog in 2007 with the aim of being the most honest and outspoken real estate agent in the industry and that’s what makes me different. Most agents see themselves as sales people. I am a consumer advocate first. I put my clients’ needs first, not my pocketbook. What goes around comes around, so I probably do more business in the end by being brutally honest and putting my clients first than I would if I was just a pure salesman, out there selling anything to anyone.
What role does social media and/or your online presence play in your business?
My business is almost entirely comprised of consumers who read what I have to say on Toronto Realty Blog. They either come to me because they read my blog or by referrals from people who read my blog. I think in today’s technologically advanced society, whether you’re reading your kindle on the treadmill or an article on your phone while you wait for the bus, there’s got to be stuff for people to read. I publish four articles a week, all new content. I do my Pick 5 video every week. And I probably do 30 updates or tidbits on Twitter and Facebook a week.
What tips would you give to first-time home buyers?
I guess number one is don’t bite off more than you can chew. Rates are at historical lows, you only need five per cent for a down payment. So forecast what it would be in six or seven years if rates double, or if you or your partner loses a job, or for maintenance and repairs, or if maintenance fees increase and property taxes increase. The advice we get from our parents is based on their transactions 30-years-ago, and much of that has no bearing on today's market, but it's good to hear about what the market was like when rates were at 19 per cent.
The second would be, when choosing Realtor, agents are a dime a dozen, as there are 40,000 licensed Realtors now working in the GTA. So pick your realtor carefully. Don’t be afraid to interview them and ask them how many transactions they do, how many clients they have, what they’ve sold this year. . . There are a lot of very unqualified agents in this business.
What is some of the criticism you’ve received?
Me personally, I’ve received criticism when I write things on my blog that people don’t want to read. For example, earlier this year, I broke news that a condo at 201 Carlaw had major financial issues. And everyone in that building took issue with what I wrote, even though it was the true. I think that goes back to what makes me unique. No other agent would put out an article like that. But I also received a lot of praise for saving people from financial downfall.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Every day is different and every day is unique and I don’t think there’s another occupation like that. You never know who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to sell. The best part of the job is a happy client. Putting a first-time buyer into their first house, or going back after renovations, getting top dollar for a seller and having their expectations blown away.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
One hundred and ten per cent a night person. My wife goes to bed at 9:30 and I promise that I’ll relax, but then I go on the computer for three or four hours and finish stuff that would have taken five or six hours during the day.
What is your most memorable client encounter?
To be honest, it’s the ones that don’t become clients. You get a lot of crazies, a lot of wacky people who have wild expectations. They want to sell their 300-square-foot condo for $450,000. And you leave smiling and shaking your head but it leaves you with a story to tell. I’ve had the crazy cat lady, the hoarder; I had one guy who had maybe 10,000 porno magazines, all itemized and stacked neatly in a house that was being foreclosed on. And he had a family of about 15 racoons living in the dining room. That was the most interesting, though he didn’t end up becoming a client.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Other agents and their poor workmanship, lack of professionalism. Lack of detail and outright lying on a listing – I saw a listing that was 800-899 square feet, but it was actually 744 square feet. Why is that not criminal? It’s blatant misrepresentation in the business. I wish I could say that it’s a few bad apples, but there are a lot [of bad agents]. It just means that the rest of us have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
What are you most proud of?
I guess the brand that I’ve built – Toronto Realty Blog and what it stands for. A few people out there might say, ‘This guys a jerk and he’s too outspoken’. But at the end of the day, I think people respect the honesty. There’s so much news out there for other industries, but real estate is this guarded community. I’m in my eighth year of Toronto Realty Blog and I have about 1,500 articles, each of them averaging around 1,600 words, so content isn’t fluff. I’m most proud of the end result – Toronto Realty Blog is not just me, it’s a community of active readers. These people comment and interact and discuss real estate. It’s become a community and I’m proud of that.
What is the last book you read?
It was called The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System, by James Rickards. It was about the author’s opinion that the international monetary system is about to fail and how you can protect your money. One of his suggestions was putting your money in assets, like real estate and gold. It was a scary book because a lot of people believe it. And if that’s the case [if the monetary system does fail], a lot of people are going to get rich and a lot of people are going to get poor.