Entries from October 2014 ↓


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Karan called me late Saturday night during my religious dog-walking time. “I need help,” he said. I growled. Email me.

He did. “First, I want to apologize for calling you at that time,” he said. “But, truly speaking, I am so confused and do not have any expert to get advice from. I came across your blog and hope you can help me.” After reading the rest of his story and corresponding with him, I agreed. It’s a cautionary tale destined to make you think a little less of organized real estate.

K’s a moist first-time homebuyer who spent time shopping in Kitchener, where nice houses still cost less than three bills. On September 9th he teamed up with an agent from Brampton, Karambir Sira, to make an offer on a K-W property. After a couple of sign-backs, the deal fell apart, Karan says, because of multiple offers.

“The thing is, he got my signature on a BRA (buyer representation agreement) when we put in the offer, by telling me that it is just a legal paperwork for that particular property.” In fact Karan claims the agent said it was “all routine” and he signed the form before it was filled out. (The agent has since disputed this allegation.)

Well, like I said, the deal went south. K went his separate way and started looking at other places. He says he found a FSBO he liked and on September 14th made an offer of $280,000, which was accepted. The deal closed Monday.

“I saw the property myself on Comfree,” he says, “meanwhile the agent also sent me an email regarding that same place, but I told him I already knew about it and would deal directly with the owner. He agreed to that. When I bought I told him, and he even congratulated me.”

Well, guess what? Agent Sira sent Karan an invoice for $9,492, representing $8,400 in commission (3% of the sale price) plus $1,092 in HST. “He is now harassing me,“ Karan says. And no wonder.

The BRA K signed is not for the property our guy originally made an offer on (which failed), but for any property meeting the description of “Single Family Residence” in the location of “Kitchener.” It is not specific to the day of the offer, but for a period of 10 days, plus an additional ‘holdover’ period of thirty days.

In other words, if Karan were to make an offer on any house in the entire region of Kitchener at any time during this 40-day period, then Karambir Sira will be paid, whether he is involved in the deal or not. This BRA also stipulates that the compensation Sira can expect is 3%, plus tax, of the price paid. If K found a house and used another agent, who was paid by the seller, then Sira would also receive payment – but this time from the buyer. Ditto for a FSBO deal.

Without a doubt, Karan signed. He admits it.

Did the agent explain this to you, I asked? K claims no. “He just said that that was routine and he is representing me to buy that day only,” says the distraught first-timer.

Well, I emailed Mr. Sira, of Save Max Real Estate Inc., to get his side of the story. No reply. So I called. “I will not be responding to your email,” he said, “because I spoke with my broker of record and this is a private matter, between me and the buyer. I cannot disclose anything to you.”

Did you explain the implications of the BRA to the buyer? “Yes, I always do.”

Do you believe the buyer understood he would have to pay you commission if he bought another home without your assistance? “Yes, absolutely.”

If K refuses to pay this, he’ll probably be sued. He’ll probably lose. Of course he can lodge a complaint with the toothless real estate regulator, but it won’t get his nine thousand bucks back. So instead of buying a house at a supposed discount from a FSBO passing along the savings from no commission, he ends up whacked himself.

BRAs are toxic agreements doing an excellent job of ensnaring unsuspecting buyers, which is why you should never, ever sign one. I have no idea if agent Sira explained this evil document to the buyer, or not, just as I cannot prove Karan’s statements. But the agent did cast a wide net, saying he would be compensated not just in one deal, but in any deal for any house in an entire city for over a month.

Karan was a fool. Most virgins are. He’ll pay handsomely for it. His folly was believing it’s ridiculous to pay a real estate agent a big commission in a deal the guy had nothing to do with, for work undone.

But that would just be fair. How naïve.

Into the night

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On Friday at dusk I pulled onto Highway 407, from the 400.

“Cops,” said Dorothy. So I throttled back to two demerits. She was right. A black-and-white hit the shoulder, lights flashing. We sailed by. “More,” she said, and ahead were two other units, also ablaze. Then the trip turned historic.

We suddenly passed at least fifty vehicles – minivans, sedans, pickups – all parked on the side of a super toll-highway where nobody brakes unless they’re toast. In the gathering dark, all had their four-ways flashing. Yards ahead eight tow trucks were parked in formation, at a diagonal to the road, their orange strobes lit up.

Moments later, we slid beneath an overpass. Astride it were two fire trucks, in full illumination. Standing on the equipment were firefighters, in their regalia, helmets and visors. Below, shoulder-to-shoulder the entire length of the bridge – at least half a kilometre arching over eight lanes – were people. Hundreds of them. As we moved through we could see most were clutching flags they were draping down the sides of the concrete structure.

As dusk turned to dark, and over the next 68 kilometres, every bridge was the same. Local police and fire units – Mississauga, then Brampton, then Milton, Oakville and Burlington – packed the overpasses with all of their equipment, strobing in the night. Along the highway, Ministry of Transportation vehicles were lined up end-to-end, their operators in fluorescent vests, standing at attention.

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Near Highway 410, the first of the giant ETR 407 pixelboards appeared, hurtling a brilliant crimson Canadian flag into the night. Here the entire shoulder was taken with cars, now hundreds of them. All parked nose-to-bumper, all flashing. The bridges now three and four deep in shadowy figures. Hundreds had turned into thousands. By the time we neared Hamilton, tens of thousands.

Close to the end, eight more tow trucks, parked close with their jacks extended and laced between them a massive flag. Vehicles were positioned to shine their headlines upon it. It was black now, each bridge and the shoulder a cacophony of brilliance, against the failing light.

Close to the Hamilton cut-off, the opposite side of 407 ground to a halt. Drivers were leaving their vehicles, walking to the concrete wall separating east and westbound. I cut the engine and we waited. In a minute it was over.

With a single siren, Corporal Cirillo’s cortege pierced the night.

We’ve been discussing what drew all those people in the dark to a barren highway to watch a few cars roll by. Not just along our stretch, but the entire 600-km route from Ottawa – where this unarmed soldier was shot in the back at the base of a monument – to a funeral home in his home town. It drew crowds to the spot at which he fell, had people across the nation rummaging for last year’s poppy, and brought spontaneous anthem-singing among those who think Canada Day’s just another boozy long weekend.

NATHAN & DOG 1 modified  Dorothy said it was empathy. “So young. He could have been anyone’s son.” She also believes the dead soldier represents a loss of innocence. Despite our military record of valour and bravery, most believe Canadians are more peacekeepers than warriors. We let the Americans kill the crazies, then send aid. So seeing a jihadist shooting in Parliament, murdering a guy in a kilt – because he was symbolic – is deeply shocking. Going to the overpass and weeping was cathartic.

She’s right. There’s probably more, too. Patriotism is emotional and infectious. In a country where Toronto looks like Chicago and Red Deer looks like Rochester, where we watch US television and speak the same language, where Tim’s is foreign-owned and Stanfields are made in Asia, there are few things that draw us together. So when one comes along – a defender cut down unfairly, from the back, by a loser with a hunting rifle, devoid of respect, and trashing every rule – we rustle and rouse. We may be unable to revive this young man, but we sure as hell can honour him.

To the troubled shooter, Nathan Cirillo, in his dress uniform defending a pile of stones, said ‘Canada.’

On the bridges and the gravel Friday night, he was.

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