Marketing house from 2,164 kilometres away

by Geoff McCullough

My mother passed away last September after being in complex continuing care in Hamilton for four years. 

While she was alive, we kept the family home so that she was confident she could still return to a place of her own if she ever got out of the St. Joseph’s accommodations that became her “new place.”

Until the sale, my niece stayed in my mother’s house to maintain a “lived-in” atmosphere and to help my niece get established.

Over the past year or two, Hamilton has experienced its own particular setbacks. Not only has it experienced the general “Ontario” doldrums brought on by a reliance on manufacturing in this era of “global crisis,” but it has been singled out for its own kind of recession. Two of its historic economic engines — Stelco and Dofasco steel plants — have shut down. The ripple effect has been nothing short of devastating. I’m not certain a new NHL hockey team will have any basis to call itself the Steelers or any such iron-ore-related moniker. Maybe  the team will be called the Hamilton Blackberries, or the Phoenix Coyotes now pursued by Research In Motion co-founder Jim Balsillie could be returned to their point of origin in Winnipeg.

But that’s another story.

This column is about marketing my mother’s house eight months after her passing over 2,000 kilometres away.

I don’t know how many readers have been involved as executors of estates, but the one thing you learn in dealing with the affairs of a deceased person is how complex our lives have become. The complexity includes how many credit cards we have; what companies and agencies can automatically deposit or withdraw from our personal accounts (a real convenience when we’re alive and taking care of the accounts, but a real workload for those assigned to handle our affairs when we’re gone); the number of bank accounts we may have opened at different financial institutions; the number of government agencies we have to deal with; and the exponential expanding number of IDs and passwords we have on everything from bank accounts and computers to phone message retrieval systems and even some car door entry codes. Then there’s the ever-pesky question: Can we transfer Zellers’ Club Points to another family member’s HBC card?

You can only imagine this executor’s angst at even thinking about marketing the only house my mother ever lived in — 2,164 kilometres away in a depressed market.

On a trip to Hamilton, I was referred to a REALTOR® who belonged to the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington. It turns out, Hamilton has a real estate board just like Winnipeg’s and it has the same MLS® supplier as Winnipeg. So the REALTOR® in Hamilton could list my mother’s home and keep me in the loop “real time.” Every time another agent had a buyer wanting to see the property, I got an immediate e-mail. The result of every showing was an immediate e-mail as was the case with offers.

WinnipegREALTORS® have cutting-edge technology to give their members a competitive advantage in marketing property. The technology works with the best real estate property data base ever compiled — the Multiple Listing Service® or MLS®. But the MLS® isn’t just available to 1,400 REALTORS® in Winnipeg, it’s a national system so it’s available to the 2,200 REALTORS® in Hamilton and 96,000 REALTORS® across Canada. Through the Internet, it’s available instantly to Hamilton REALTORS®, to REALTORS® across Canada with clients being transferred to Hamilton and to consumers around the world on  

I left my meeting with the Hamilton REALTOR® convinced that he had a marketing plan and a system that I could have confidence in. He had the tools, he had a team of 2,200 local REALTORS® and he had my trust!

And that trust wasn’t misplaced.

He listed by e-mail and fax with me in Winnipeg last Wednesday evening. He put the listing on the Internet on Thursday morning and within two hours I had seven notices of requests for showings through the Hamilton office. One request had the same agent showing the home twice to, as it turned out, the same buyer. My REALTOR® got an offer above list price with no conditions and a closing date 11 days later.

The for sale sign wasn’t even up yet and the house was sold!

Did I mention the market in Hamilton is slightly depressed?

I accepted and have been assured that all closing documents can be handled electronically from over 2,100 km away.

What a relief! REALTORS® and the MLS® system sure took the complexity out of the transaction. REALTORS® know the entire market. They obviously know the value of MLS®. They also know what’s available exclusively as they are instantly linked to a referral market through their 95,000 strong REALTOR® network. They know the private market and the new homes market. It’s true — REALTORS® know real estate.

The Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) is not just a Winnipeg phenomenon.

 (Geoff McCullough is the CEO of WinnipegREALTORS®.)