The name’s Shallow … Scott Shallow.
This James Bond of Toronto real estate has reportedly sold more than 1,000 properties in his 15 years of selling homes for Brad J. Lamb Realty Inc. With that comes one of the most knowledgeable guys in the business. In our interview, he talks about his role of convincing the buyers’ agent that their clients should purchase and the weight that referrals have in this business.
He shares his wisdom with Toronto Storeys below, as well as weekly on his blog The Skinny.
What initially attracted you to real estate?
It’s something I’d always been interested in. I’d been buying it for years, I’d been investing in it, I found myself a student of it. I was always looking at listings, owning property, following new areas of where the city was growing to. At one point, Brad Lamb and I were talking because I’d been working with him and he said, “You’re really good at this. Why don’t you come work with me?” That was 15 years ago.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions people have when working with a realtor to buy or sell their home?
For the seller, the most common misconception is that the agent they are hiring is actually going to sell their home. Most of the time, that’s not the case. Ninety-seven per cent of the time the agent never meets the buyer, so a good listing agent must understand that property better than anyone else because they will have to deal with not the buyer, but the buyer’s agent. The buyer’s agent is going to come at you as a listing agent with the worst case scenario: this is why the property is not worth what you’re asking, this is what this one sold for, so you have to have really good knowledge of all of the cons that they’re going to bring to you. I can tell, when I am listing a property, exactly what the buyer’s agent is going to use against me and I know what I am going to use for me and my client.
I have to be able to refute their points with a really strong and intelligent argument. I have to know what the floor plans are, or the type of house, or the lot because they don’t know. Most agents sell one house a year and they’ve created this argument with their client as to why the house isn’t worth the asking price, so I have to say, “Let me tell you why.” I always do it in writing because it never gets conveyed the way it should. The strength of the listing agent is not always selling the house, it’s having enough knowledge to sell the buyer’s agent, so they can sell the house. This is why it’s not very strong to sell a house in an area you don’t know well because the other agent will beat you down. This business is about knowledge when it comes down to it.
What issues and innovations are you seeing that will profoundly affect the industry going forward?
We, like most industries right now, are constantly competing against online presence. This is a reality for the finance industry, this is a reality for the real estate industry and for a lot of other industries. Things are different now. People shop online and humans are becoming less and less important in this world. We’ll be losing 5 million jobs to artificial intelligence, supposedly, by 2025. There’s going to be more technology, better systems online and better ways of negotiating deals moving forward. Technology is always going to be advancing.
One thing I think won’t change is agents will have to be involved to some degree. It’s a very hard thing to get buyers and sellers to agree. The buyer gives the worst case scenario, the seller gives the best case scenario and somewhere in the middle is probably where the deal is going to happen. But without having intermediaries, the buyer and seller will tear each other’s eyeballs out. Ego kills deals and that’s the one thing I try to tell other agents, “Don’t get personal and don’t bring ego into the deal.”
What does it take to be a top producer in this industry?
Referrals. It takes a big network to start with, you need to know a lot of people (and) need to build your business off of customer service and referrals — that’s how you build a good business.
If you weren’t a real estate agent, what other profession would you like to try?
That’s a great question. Professional motorcycle racer. I grew up racing Supercross as a kid all over the United States and Canada. I ride in Europe every year. I have a Ducati SportClassic here and I ride adventure bikes through the alps in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the smell of dirt bikes running.
Wow, you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, eh?
Yeah, but I’m 51 years old and I don’t have the guts I did when I was a kid or maybe I have more common sense, I don’t know which it is.
What are your impressions of Toronto as a real estate market with all its distinctive neighbourhoods?
Well, I can say this city has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. We didn’t have Roncy, we didn’t have Ossington, we didn’t have Dundas West, we did not even really have West Queen West or Parkdale. These were neighbourhoods that were left behind. Young people didn’t want to go there. There was really no life and the people living in those neighbourhoods had raised their kids and were past the stage in their life when they go out. There wasn’t a lot of places to go and what has made the city great and brought it attention on the world stage is the fact we have so many great neighbourhoods. It’s because young people are moving into these neighbourhoods and spending money. They’re more affluent than the people that were there before.
The challenge with it is, it’s driving real estate prices through the roof, which is not a good thing. The pace they’re going up, along with rents, is not good for the city. None of us want to live in the city full of boring rich people. Keeping a city vibrant means having young people in it with artists and events. If you price everyone out, the city just stays boring and rich.
What is your greatest contribution to your community? I read somewhere that you made a $10,000 donation to the food bank?
I’m on the board of the Fort York Food Bank. I joined it five years ago because they needed money. This is an independent operation at Palmerston and Dundas. I joined the board and started this event called The Lucky Ball, which we do every year around St. Patrick’s Day and we raise $30,000 a year. We run that food bank off of a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, so this event totals about 15 per cent of the annual operating budget.
When people are young they should build a future and look after themselves to make sure they’re on a good footing moving forward financially. Focus on work and make sure you’ve got enough, but once you get there, give back. It makes the city great. Governments can only do so much.
What advice do you have for people looking to buy a home in a competitive market like Toronto?
My biggest piece of advice is don’t get emotional. You have to keep your business head on. It’s very easy for people to get emotional and for agents to push them into doing things they shouldn’t do. They dig themselves too deep. They went in not wanting to spend too much and they end up spending too much in the heat of the moment. I go out with people sometimes and they say, “We love this house, we want to put an offer on this house,” but there’s five more we’ve got to show and over the next couple days, we go look at houses and I hear one member of the couple going, “I don’t like this as much as our house.” I say stop calling it your house, by calling it your house, you’re going to get too emotionally attached to it and if you get emotionally attached when we go into the offer process, you’re going to act with emotion and you’re going to do things without thinking. You’re not going to act with your business hat on. Sometimes you have to let it go. Until you buy it, don’t get emotional about it.