Canadian Real Estate Association News
Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast, the podcast for REALTORS®, and especially in this episode for everyone. Brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. I’m your host, Erin Davis. Delighted to share the messages in today’s episode because they’re issues that affect us all from boundaries to burnout, but with a ton of positive messages and motivation, just what the doctor, this doctor, our guest, Dr. Winny Shen, has ordered to take us through the second half of 2021 and beyond.
While highly rewarding real estate is just one of the many industries that at times can also be highly competitive, fast-paced, and yes, that dreaded word — stressful. In this Episode 16 of REAL TIME, we’re lucky to be joined by Dr. Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies at York University, as she shares the latest thinking in industrial and organizational technology techniques for REALTORS®, and all professionals to gain a mental edge by better managing work-life balance, career uncertainty, and interpersonal conflict.
Thank you so much for joining us here today and giving us a different perspective on where we are and where we’re going. Dr. Shen, may I call you, Winny?
Dr. Winny Shen: Yes.
Erin: Thank you. Can you start by defining your field of work and study? Industrial and organizational psychology.
Winny: Yes, of course, Erin. Industrial-organizational psychology or IO psychology, as we often call it, for short, is psychology theories and methods applied to understanding the workplace. A lot of times we think about it in terms of A, our field is interested in helping identify the best people for the job. A lot of times that is, how do we hire? How do we train people so that they can perform these jobs effectively? Also, the other piece is how do we create optimal workplace environments so that people are really motivated and can do well at their job? We’re interested in both that pre-hire piece but also in how can we continue to create a great workplace environment so that workers can really flourish.
Erin: How does this differ from other psychological disciplines, though?
Winny: I would say that IO psychology differs from other psychological disciplines in that it’s a scientist-practitioner model, in that we are trained to be scientists so that we understand data and use it to understand workplace phenomenon. Also, we are trained to be practitioners so that we can also help organizations to address these questions. That’s another one of the differences too, is that most IO psychologists tend to work with organizations or other organizations like trade unions, for example, rather than individuals, though, there are some IO psychologists who work as, let’s say, professional coaches and do work with individuals.
Erin: Putting this into the day to day, can most working professionals, Winny, benefit from a basic understanding of IO principles and how to go about applying them day to day?
Winny: I definitely think so. We spend so much time at work. It really makes a lot of sense to understand how to make the most of this experience. Additionally, our work lives really intersect and affect our other life domains, for example, how we interact with our family, our health, and well-being. It really should be carefully managed, so that we can really ensure that people can meet all of their life priorities. Work is just one major part of that for a lot of people.
Erin: In the past year or so, the lines have become so blurred. We’re going to talk about this as we continue on with REAL TIME. When we’re talking about REALTORS® here, most would characterize themselves as entrepreneurs in a competitive, constantly changing industry. Are there approaches or best practices to finding success, specifically in highly competitive fields, Winny?
Winny: Yes. I think when we look at what makes people successful in, let’s say, highly competitive fields like entrepreneurship, there are a couple of characteristics that really set people apart. First, it’s really important as an entrepreneur, for example, that you are self-driven because you are often running your own little shop in a lot of ways, that you have good stress tolerance in a changing environment. That’s really necessary. We also think it’s really important, or the data has shown that it’s really important to have a proactive personality. If you’re someone who can see the difference between the current status quo and how things you think should be, and really are motivated to close that gap, then you are probably someone who has a proactive personality.
I would also say, though, that there are some maybe pitfalls or things that we should be aware of, that might trip us up in more competitive fields. One of those things is that competition tends to be associated with some greater likelihood of unethical behaviors or misconduct. If we really think about our field as a very winner takes all kind of mentality, then we have a tendency where it’s very easy for us to say things like the ends justify the means, or we might be willing to cut some corners.
I think it’s really important that even though this environment might be competitive, that we need to make sure to think about the long-term consequences of our actions versus really focusing on short-term wins. Because, especially in a field like real estate, reputations are probably very difficult to build but are actually quite easily lost or tarnish. I think we need to be really careful to not think like, “I’ll cut a little bit of a corner here or there in order to make the sale or make something happen,” and lose sight of why we’re doing this job maybe in the first place.
Erin: Yes. That reputation, the integrity that you talk about that takes a lifetime to build up, it only takes now a flash because of social media. All it takes is a couple of posts, and they spread it and they spread it and they spread it. Suddenly, that cut corner turns into something that you really, really wish you hadn’t taken.
Erin: What do you think is the best or most productive way to manage high-stress work situations? I know that that is a big bite to try and digest here. You have looked at this, you’ve studied it. Help give us some ideas, some hacks, if you will, for the best ways to manage high-stress work.
Winny: Yes. I think maybe the first thing to really think about is, not all stressors in our environment are created equal. I think step one is probably to think about, “What are the stressors I’m faced with?” We often make the distinction in the research literature between two kinds of stressors. One set we’ll call challenge stressors. They tend to be stressors that although cause us stress, also push us to grow and develop. A lot of times people would say things like having a little bit of a higher workload or having there to be some time pressure on the job as might be common in real estate or to have a greater responsibility on the job. These are all things that can be stressful, but also really help us to grow and develop and mature.
Now, we might contrast these stressors with what we call hindrance stressors. Now, these stressors are often more roadblocks. They don’t necessarily help us grow. They just prevent us from going where we want to go. Many people would say things like organizational politics, or red tape on the job, or job ambiguity, where you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be doing, those things are hindrance stressors.
I think if you are feeling really stressed, the first thing to do is to think about, “Am I being stressed because these are challenge stressors? I’m faced with a lot of stress, but I think I will come out of the other side of it stronger, have developed. Or am I really just being bogged down by these hindrance stressors? If so, how can I manage them better or how can I get rid of some of them? For example, if there’s a lot of red tape, can I make suggestions about streamlining some of these processes so that I’m not dealing with this much bureaucracy?” as an example.
Erin: Coming up, the power of detachment. This is great. We’re super excited to share that Canada’s number one real estate platform REALTOR.ca now has a new app. Rebuilt from the ground up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s homebuyers, the app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients. Download it on the App Store or get it on Google Play.
Now back to Dr. Winny Shen, who not surprisingly, was named a rising star in 2016 by the Association for Psychological Science.
Part of your message that comes out of your research is one really important word and that is detach. Detach can mean so many different things. It can be detaching from negative social media. It can be detaching from news that is completely dominating your thought process. It can be detaching from those hindrances or challenges too. Tell us about the power of detachment, Dr. Shen.
Winny: I think the power of detachment is really important. What we know is that although, let’s say, challenge stressors often result in better stress in that it might really motivate us to work hard and do our jobs well. Even the benefits of good stress can wane over time if we don’t take time to detach from the workplace. What that really means is, oftentimes, we talk about it as psychological detachment. That you should stop thinking about your job sometimes. That really allows your body and your mind to reset and to step away from being in that stressed-out state all the time because our bodies are really not designed to be stressed all the time.
Even in a very challenging, rewarding jobs, it’s really important to take that step back and recover. That can be if you’re feeling a little bit tired, to taking a quick break. It might mean to detach from work and turn off your email at the end of a workday. It might mean to find time to take regular vacations so that you have a longer period of time away from your work. Probably something that we’re struggling with right now, but I think still important to keep in mind. I think those are some things that we should think about as we try to detach.
Erin: Writing down that time for you in ink instead of always making it something that– it reminds me of a sign that I saw at a gym that– of course, I was walking by at the time. That you always have the time for the things you put first. We all tend, especially when we’re busy and in a super competitive climate that we’re in right now in real estate, to put everything for ourselves to the back burner and then just leave it simmering until the pot is empty, don’t we?
Winny: Exactly. I think in addition to that, sometimes people will borrow against things that are really important to their health like sleep. They’ll be like, “I can just sleep a little bit less.” That can really add up over time in terms of starting each day more and more exhausted. I really agree with you, Erin, in that it’s really important to make these recovery breaks part of your schedule so that you can come back feeling refreshed and energized, as opposed to thinking that these are luxuries. Because I really think that these are actually necessities.
Erin: Yes, and I can hear people thinking, “Oh, yes. Easier said than done because I’ve got a house that’s going to have six offers on it. When am I supposed to take the time?” I guess, what do you do when you’re right now in such a high-pressure situation? Do you just look down the road and say, “It’s okay. I’m going to take a week off, or I’m going to delegate some of my work, but right now I’m going to power through this and that will be my reward.” How important is having that mental reward, that carrot or something to look forward to at the finish line?
Winny: I think it’s really wonderful to have something to look forward to. I think that’s great. The other thing you can try to do is if you do have something that’s really stressful is, I think we do have some power over how we frame the situation. Especially, if you’re feeling stressed because of some of those what we talked about earlier hindrance stressors, I think you could potentially try to reframe that as a challenge stressor. Look for a silver lining or something to think about, “Can I think about how this could make me grow, even if this is a difficult or maybe currently unpleasant situation?”
That might also be helpful in terms of helping you get over that short-term hurdle. I think that it’s really important to keep in mind that we often don’t. Two people can be faced with the same stressors, but have very different reactions to it. A lot of that is in our mindset. We do have a lot of power in terms of how we think about the situation that can really motivate us to power through them or get through them and then I think we should definitely reward ourselves and regularly plan for some recovery.
Erin: The Dalai Lama said, “If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” We’re going to talk about that a little later in our conversation. This is me doing time management because we’re about to talk about good time management. Of course, in real estate, it’s crucial. Now, I have to ask you, Winny, is this a skill you just do or don’t have like a talent, or can it be learned and strengthened.
Winny: I think that’s a great question, Erin. There is definitely evidence that time management skills can be trained. I think that it’s helpful for us to think about first, what do we mean by time management? Actually, when we break it down, there’s a couple of things involved. First, there’s a self-awareness of one’s time use. Are you cognizant of how you’re spending your time? If you’re not sure, I would encourage you to maybe do an exercise like a time diary. Spend a couple of days just actually jotting down what you’re spending your time doing.
I think that perhaps you might be surprised. For example, I think, many of us might be surprised, perhaps even in my case horrified, at the amount of time that we’re spending on things like social media, or things that perhaps feel urgent, but actually aren’t very important. Like responding to emails as they come in. I think first is, we have to be able to be aware of our time usage.
Now, the second piece of that is good planning. Are you doing things like setting goals, planning your tasks, making to-do lists? Are you thinking about how you can group tasks together so that they can be accomplished more efficiently together? There are some tips that might be helpful here too in terms of perhaps taking some time at the beginning of each day to make a list. I often also take time at the beginning of my work week to make a list. Then I do build in some slack time for unexpected things that might happen.
Also, I think that that also pushes us to think about how to say no to things. That if our agenda is actually too full, that there’s actually not a very realistic way for us to get everything done, to think about what are things that we actually should work on getting off our plates. Because there’s often some tasks that we find later on that you wonder, “Why am I even doing some of these things?”
Then lastly, I would say that once you have and enact these plans, it’s really important to monitor these time management tasks. For example, are you allocating enough time for some of these activities? I think it’s also really important here, there’s some evidence that we should engage in some contingent planning. The best-laid plans often go awry and so I think we need to anticipate possible interruptions in our work and plan for them.
Especially in a setting like real estate where there might be a lot of things that happen unexpectedly. Your client unexpectedly decides to make an offer, or unexpectedly there’s a new house that comes on the market that they’d really like to see right away. I think it’s important to have an idea of, “Oh, what interruptions might come up this day, and how can I accommodate them?” so that you’re not surprised by them, or that you’re inflexible because you’ve already made a plan and you really like to stick to it for the day.
Erin: I can think of few professions where somebody is almost on-call virtually 24 hours a day. Of course, there’s doctors but if you call a doctor’s office at four o’clock and say, “I need to see you at five.” They’ll say, “Okay, you go here or talk to this doctor or whatever.” It seems like that those unplanned interruptions are almost a fact of life. They really are something that has to be budgeted into that time diary that you so wisely recommend, Winny. That’s a great point.
More great points when we return as Dr. Shen explores the importance of mentors. What to look for, and where to find one? REALTOR.ca Living Room is where you’ll find all things home. From market trends and home improvements to DIY hacks and design inspiration, you’ll find everything that you and your clients need in one place. Now, that’s organization. Something that our guest today, Dr. Winny Shen is an expert in, as Associate Professor of Organization Studies at York University.
Now, many REALTORS® are still new to the profession, having worked in the industry for fewer than five years. For professionals who are just starting their careers, let’s talk about mentors. How do you go about finding one first off?
Winny: Well, I would really recommend new professionals look for a mentor. There’s a lot of evidence that there can be a lot of career benefits of mentoring, both in terms of objective career success, so things like compensation and promotion, but also in terms of subjective factors. Things like career satisfaction and commitment or job satisfaction. People who are mentored typically have much better and more positive attitudes towards their jobs.
Now, I think as you go about looking for a mentor, it’s important to think about what a mentor is supposed to do. A mentor really is supposed to have three functions. First is probably what we think about a lot. A mentor is supposed to help you with career development. This might be someone who can sponsor you in the workplace. Someone whose opinion, other people really would listen to. They should maybe be someone who’s knowledgeable who can coach you in terms of your development.
Some people also say that a good mentor might also be able to protect you. Someone in the workplace who can maybe stew you away from problematic issues or difficult encounters, that might be another function a mentor can serve. Or someone who can help you gain challenging opportunities or increase your exposure or visibility. There are a lot of things I mentor can do to help us in terms of career development, but also for most people, we also want someone who’s there to support us more broadly.
A lot of people would say that in addition to maybe someone who’s helping you in your current job or in your current career, that really, you’re looking for someone who could help you grow as a person. A mentor might be someone who can be a good sounding board, provide you with counseling, someone who is a friend who’s gives you respect and support or someone who really is another source of acceptance and confirmation. I think it’s also important to think about not only when you’re looking for a mentor, someone who has a lot of expertise, but someone who can also give you that support that’s really important. A safe space for you to develop.
Then lastly, I would say a lot of people say that people who they seek out as mentors are there role models. Look around for someone whose maybe position or you would really like to have it in the next 5 to 10 years. Someone who you really admire. I think that when you keep these things in mind, sometimes you’ll be lucky and you’ll find one person who can fulfill all of these roles, but sometimes perhaps you might have to think about having a board of mentors instead, or multiple people who together can fulfill all of these functions that great mentors really do for us.
I think you might sometimes need to be open and flexible and think about, “How can I get all of my mentoring needs met?” Sometimes that might be through multiple people, and sometimes through peers as well. We usually think about mentors as someone who’s more experienced, but I think we can also learn a lot from people who are going through the same things as us at the same career stage.
Erin: Well, then on the other side of this, there are definite benefits, I’m sure, to being a mentor, if you’re a seasoned professional, as of course, many REALTORS® are. What are some of the pluses of being a mentor yourself because of the three steps that you’ve mentioned, develop, support, role model, those things that a mentee is looking for. It sounds like a lot. Tell us, what’s in it for the mentor?
Winny: Yes, I think that’s a great point. Now the research evidence really suggests that mentors also benefit from this arrangement or relationship, and that giving others career advice can sometimes really help us with our own career success. Sometimes it’s a bit of a mirror in terms of, “Am I following my own advice? Am I spending my time in the right places?” Sometimes it helps us reflect.
Also, I think people often reaffirm the value of the work that they’re doing, as they go through this mentoring relationship. I think that as we move on in our career, a lot of people find it really important to give back. Mentoring is a really great way to do that, and there is also some evidence that mentors can also reap financial benefits, for example, salary, promotion rates from engaging in this too, because I think, it also speaks well to your expertise, but also perhaps your character, if people know that you are a sought-after mentor.
Erin: Say I’m new in the business and I’ve had this happen to me in my own career, in radio where people finally approached me and said, “Well, I didn’t want to talk to you because I figured you’re so busy and I see this and this and this, and I figured you’ll never have time for me,” when quite the opposite was true, because it’s exactly, as you’re saying, Winny, when you get a chance to look at what sparked you, what gives you joy in the job that you do, then it’s a gift to you to be able to go back and say, “Yes, this is why I love this. This is what you’re going to love too.” How do you go about approaching someone that you want to be your mentor? I can recognize how that would be intimidating for some people. Do you have any advice on that?
Winny: Yes. When we ask mentors, what are they really looking for in a protégé or a mentee, the number one thing most mentors say is that they’re looking for someone who’s willing to learn. I think that you really need to express your interests and your desire to grow and learn as you are approaching your potential mentor. I think that you will be surprised at how open and interested people are in being able to help you in your developmental journey. I’d really suggest that.
Now, I would say that if a mentor seems really much more interested in themselves than perhaps you, then perhaps they’re not a good mentor. I would also say that probably a mentor that’s accessible and available is also a really critical ingredient. That although someone who’s perhaps really well-regarded, but too busy to really have much time for you may or may not be a great mentor for you. I think it’s really someone who is going to be as invested in this relationship as you are.
Erin: We’ll be back with Dr. Winny Shen in a moment. Embracing the change. As you sip your latte or grab a traveler, remember, there really is a place where everybody knows your name or soon will. I don’t mean Cheers. CREA Café is a cozy place for REALTORS® to connect and stay up to date on the latest industry happening over a virtual cup of coffee or whatever you like. Pull up a stool and join the conversation at CREACafe.ca.
Now back to our conversation on REAL TIME with Dr. Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies at the Schulich School of Business York University. Do you remember a book called, Who Moved my Cheese?
Erin: Yes. Well, perhaps you can sum it up better than I, but it’s just like, “Okay, that happened, now, how do I keep up or get ahead of that? How do I find my cheese again?” There’s a reason why this book resonated so clearly some 20 years ago. The benefits of working in a competitive industry like real estate can be great, but there can be a lot of cheese moving, a lot of uncertainty, shifting market forces, commissions-based earning, et cetera. How can professionals overcome uncertainty and embrace the change?
Winny: Uncertainty is something that’s very difficult, for most of us, but first I would say is to think about, the emotions you feel. I think probably when most of us are faced with uncertainty, the predominant emotion that most people feel is anxiety. Really nervous about what’s going to happen. I think there’s another opportunity or option here. Another emotion that’s associated with uncertainty is hope actually, because maybe we’re a little bit fearful at what will happen. We don’t know what will happen, but perhaps we are also hopeful that the ending will be positive.
I think that when we’re confronted with these negative feelings, I think sometimes maybe it’s useful to take a step back in terms of, “Okay, but could we see how this could turn out well perhaps?” That hope might also sustain us because often hope is what allows us to think about how we’re going to move forward. I would say that that would be one.
I think also is that in a competitive industry like real estate, I think you have to take some risks. That’s just part of the job. I think in order to take risks, though, we really need to look for an environment that provides us with psychological safety. How can you surround yourself with people, perhaps in your agency or otherwise, who really gives you this sense of psychological safety, who will still support you when the risks you take, perhaps don’t pay off, and that really gives you the courage to take these risks in uncertain environments?
Erin: Then that way what’s perceived or what you may perceive as a failure, doesn’t hit as hard. Going back to the Dalai Lama saying, “If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” There are many perceived failures in competitive places like real estate. Lost or fewer clients, rejected offers, lower than expected sold prices. Are there ways to rebound from “failure” to move ahead and to take that hope or experience and move on with that? Tell us what the research says. Will you please?
Winny: Yes, of course. One interesting thing is that in the face of difficulties or failures, we often feel negative emotions, but what seems to separate people who bounce back more quickly from the people who have more difficulty bouncing back or are less resilient, is that the people who are more resilient also experienced positive emotions in addition to those negative emotions. That suggests to me that, A, it’s really important for us to try to look for that silver lining. “Is there something that could be learned? I’m not happy perhaps that this didn’t go well, but maybe it was better that it happened now rather than later, and that there are some lessons I can take from this.”
I would also say that it’s important in the aftermath of perceived failures or events that don’t grow well, to engage in maybe a debrief. I think it’s important even in the face of failure to acknowledge perhaps what did go well. Some things didn’t go well, but perhaps you did do some things right and that you should carry those things forward. To think about what did you learn from this? Perhaps create a plan in terms of what you want to try next time if faced with the same circumstances.
I think once you’ve engaged in that cognitive reflection process, it’s important to not ruminate about it. You’ve thought about it, you’ve tried to gain the lesson from it, but then sometimes we can’t let it go. We rehash it and we relive it. I think that that rumination can be really problematic. I think we also need to move on from those failures when we can and part of doing that also, I might suggest, is that we should try to be self-compassionate.
I think that sometimes a lot of times I would argue we can be our own worst critic. What self-compassion really refers to is not that you’re letting yourself get away with it, but more that you’re not kicking yourself while you’re already down so that you’re as kind to yourself as you might be to someone else who’s going through a difficult time, that you experience a sense of common humanity. Failure is part of being human and recognizing that that is a very human experience. Also, to acknowledge but maybe not judge your negative emotions and that together that allows us to get through difficult times a bit more quickly or easily.
A technique I often use myself is to think about what I would say if my best friend told me about this failure. I think a lot of times when we take that other perspective, we’re actually very supportive. We understand that this failure while difficult maybe not completely under their control or maybe not as bad as we’ve made it out to be. When we put ourselves in that situation, sometimes we’re really harsh. I think if you would be kind to your best friend, then I think that you should extend that same kindness to yourself. Someone who you should love just as much as your best friend.
Erin: To me, the piece of advice that sticks most often is that from doctor, speaker, author, Bernie Brown who says if you were driving along in a car and the person in the passenger seat was saying to you what you say to yourself, you would pull off and say, “Okay, the ride ends here. Get out.” Maybe that’s what we have to think of. That best friend that you’re talking about, Winny, as well. Don’t let her talk to you like that. Just pull over and let them out and drive. Just go. Right?
Erin: We’ll return with Dr. Shen in just a moment. One of my favourite sayings is you always have time for the things you put first. Putting others before ourselves is what REALTORS Care® is all about — a national guiding principle celebrating the great charitable work done by the Canadian Realtor Community. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to your heart by sharing your story using #realtorscare on your favourite social media platforms.
Dr. Winny Shen is our special guest for this Episode 16 of REAL TIME. We’re talking now about a sign of these times. — how to watch for it, and how to take care of it in yourself.
COVID 19 of course we’ve heard the word burnout a lot. That’s not a new word to us. The New York Times did a piece a few weeks ago where they called what we’re going through languishing, but of course, with REALTORS®, they’ve reported feeling burnt out before the pandemic. What is this languishing, this burnout? How can it affect us professionally and personally, Winny?
Winny: When we’re talking about burnout, what we’re referring to is usually the state of exhaustion. That exhaustion is mental, physical, emotional, and it’s typically caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
There’s three symptoms that tend to go together to create this burnout experience. First is emotional exhaustion. You’re just completely tired, fatigued, you’re wiped out.
The next is the sense of depersonalization or cynicism where you’re really starting to feel detached from your job and the people in it. You feel the sense of rejection and alienation, and perhaps this is your way of disentangling or distancing yourself from a very stressful job.
Then, this third piece is a reduced sense of personal accomplishment or just the sense of ineffectiveness. “I’m just no good at this.”
I think when we think about burnout or languishing, it really refers to the fact that our tank is on empty. We’re running on empty. It really can affect us both professionally, it makes it difficult for us to do our jobs, to enjoy doing our jobs. It also really affects us personally particularly in terms of our health and well-being. This prolonged sense of being on empty is really associated with some negative health outcomes.
Erin: Are there some techniques to help mitigate or avoid workplace burnout either for yourself personally or among your employees and co-workers? If you can see it happening what are the steps that you take?
Winny: I would say that the best probably tip is prevention. Preventing this from happening altogether. If we think about burnout as being on empty, then we have to think about the importance of refilling our tank periodically so it doesn’t get to that point. We’ve already talked about earlier the importance of recovery but this is an important piece of that too. Taking breaks, taking time off of work, taking vacations. Those are all potentially activities that can help refill your tank.
Now, let’s say that you, unfortunately, have reached a state of burnout, there are some things that seem to help. In terms of yourself, as we referred to earlier, this is another time where being self-compassionate seems to really help, and in particular, it helps with exhaustion. Giving yourself that grace, that kindness, when you’re exhausted to say like, “Yes, you are at this low point,” and not to beat yourself up or perhaps push yourself when you have nothing left to give is an important pause that might allow you to reset.
Not only the self-compassion help though but actually there is some evidence that giving compassion to other helps. As we talked about earlier, part of this experience of burnout is this feeling of alienation or separation from the people who are doing this job with you. You can think about it when someone offers you compassion or empathy about what you’re going through, that really helps to reform that social connection to the people on the job and helps you feel like you belong there again.
I think if you see people in your work environment who are very burned out, I would suggest that you offer them compassion. That empathy can really help them gain that important resource in terms of feeling like they belong, which is actually a very fundamental human need. We all need to feel like we belong.
Erin: Sometimes I find that it takes us out of ourselves, out of our grief of what the past year should have been or whatever it is that we are going through to turn our attention to others. You’re talking about others in the office but it reminds me too of all the good charitable work that REALTORS® do across the country which is highlighted by REALTORS Care® through CREA. Just helping the community and doing what you can to help others because somebody’s always got it worse than you. That’s a perspective too that can open your eyes to just shift that feeling that you might have. It also speaks to the cynicism or the detachment like, “Ugh, what’s it all for?” You remember, you’re reminded what’s it all for through things like REALTORS Care®.
Winny: Exactly. I think it’s part of rebuilding that connection and that meeting to stop that process where I think part of that is you’re trying to protect yourself by detaching from this very stressful workplace or work experience, but I think when we’re reminded about the other people who are in it with us or the other people that benefit from what we do that can give us a renewed sense of energy that can help us overcome the sense of burnout.
Erin: Next up, has work-life balance become more of a reality for you, or the rainbow unicorn we’re all just dreaming of? Dr. Shen answers that in a moment.
The keyword of 2021 so far, haven’t you found, has been connection? Your opportunity to do that, connect with potential homebuyers and sellers plus a chance to take advantage of a deep chest of tools and resources, is as close as your keyboard at REALTOR.ca, Canada’s trusted real estate resource. We’re glad you’re here today as we continue our conversation with Dr. Winny Shen on REAL TIME.
Dr. Shen, Winny, you and I are both talking to each other from our homes today, and many of the people who are listening to us, thank you so much for listening to REAL TIME, are also listening and working from home. Really, is work-life balance achievable? Is this a thing or have the past 14-15 months, whatever it’s been now, have they blurred the lines so completely that it’ll never be seen again, and maybe that’s not a bad thing? What do you say about work-life balance?
Winny: Yes, work-life balance is I think this very interesting idea or concept. I think one thing that’s really important to keep in mind when it comes to talking about work-life balance, is that this is really a subjective judgment. It’s whether or not you think that you’ve achieved this. When we ask people about what they think about when it comes to work-life balance, they’re often talking about three things.
First is are they happy and satisfied in these multiple aspects of their lives like work-family, for example, but maybe other domains that are important to them as well? Do they feel like they are giving enough attention to all of these life priorities? I think that’s really important. It’s not equal attention. I think that that’s probably not always possible, but enough. I’m not neglecting anything that’s really important to me. Also, am I performing well, handling the responsibilities of these different important life domains adequately?
I think that if you feel like, “Yes, I’m keeping all these balls up in the air well enough,” then I actually think that you have a work-life balance. I think that what’s difficult is that sometimes we have these ideas or externally imposed standards about what work-life balance looks like. I actually think that it looks different for every person because what’s important to every person is different. If you are living your life in accordance with your priorities, such that you’re giving time, and you feel like you’re doing fairly well, in all the areas of life that’s important to you, then actually, I think that you are very lucky and you have actually achieved work-life balance.
Erin: You break us into groups. There’s the segmenters and the integrators. One example of this that I think can illustrated very clearly is, “Okay, who is sending and taking emails at 9:00 PM when they should be watching Dateline?” Tell me how the two different groups function and is there an either side that has a more competitive edge or is more mentally stable or balanced in their job or does it not really matter? It’s one size doesn’t fit all and whatever fits you.
Winny: Yes, I think that’s a great question, Erin. I would say that an integrator is someone who likes to combine multiple aspects of their lives, for example. It’s someone who maybe wouldn’t mind writing an email as they’re watching Dateline at night. They don’t find that to be intrusive at all. Whereas someone who’s a segmenter definitely prefers that there be strong boundaries around the different aspects of their life. They might like to really only do work during certain hours, and only to be purely, let’s say, with their family during certain hours.
I think that it’s really interesting, because, for example, integrators seem to be bothered less by things like really late emails, or pressure to respond quickly. Whereas people who are segmenters are a little bit more sensitive to that. I would say that if you are a segmenter, you could think about setting some boundaries, and we can talk about boundaries in terms of time. You could have certain off-hours. I know for realtors, that’s difficult.
I think you can think about, “Okay, well, I’m just not going to check email every five minutes, even if I’m just going to check email every hour,” that’s still a boundary. I think that there’s that. There’s also some evidence, just that not being present can be not a great thing, right? That our phones can maybe take us away from what’s happening around us. Even if you’re someone who’s very comfortable, you’re an integrator, you’re comfortable hopping back and forth, there might be some times where the people around you really appreciate your undivided attention.
It’s really interesting. There’s actually some research that shows that, let’s say we’re having a conversation, just having the phone on the table, even if I don’t look at it makes that conversation less enjoyable. I think that even if you’re a busy realtor, it might make sense for you to say, “Okay, I’m just going to give you my undivided attention, I’m going to put the phone away in another room,” even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes, undivided attention, that really makes the most of your time with the people you’re with. I think it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, if that’s not your preference, but I do think some time where you’re completely off of work is probably appreciated by the people around you.
Erin: I know that our time with you is most definitely appreciated and we have a few more things that we’d like to cover with you, Winny. This is so enlightening, encouraging, it’s just everything today. Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us. Many realtors work within a team, right from the jump. How would you characterize a healthy working relationship?
Winny: I would say a healthy working relationship is one that’s based on trust and commitment. That one, that’s really where people are not doing things in a very tit for tat way. Like, “I’m only doing this with an expectation of something in return.” I think that we have to have these healthy work relationships where you know that other people are committed to being in this relationship, building this relationship with you and that you can be vulnerable with knowing that they won’t take advantage of you. I think that’s really at the heart of a healthier working relationship.
Erin: Or marriage for that matter.
Erin: Yes, the give and the take. It’s going to ebb and flow, and some days it’ll be different. What are the benefits of proactively and continuously fostering strong professional relationships with your colleagues?
Winny: I think there’s a lot of evidence, actually, that the people we surround ourselves with, or our networks, including at work, are really important for our professional development, our professional careers, not surprisingly, people with a lot of connections often are in a good way when it comes to the workplace, especially in a very interpersonal job like real estate. Also, we can think about how people who can connect different people, I think, are actually really valuable connectors in relationships. I think it’s really important to think about the people we surround ourselves with.
Also, there’s a lot of evidence that what often makes workplaces go around and work, is people’s willingness to go above and beyond what’s exactly in their job description. How we’ve all benefited from someone who was willing to teach them something, even if that wasn’t part of their job description, or someone who was willing to stay late to help us do something, or someone who was just willing to help. A lot of that, our work lives are just made better by having these people we can count on to go above and beyond for us, but also for our organization. I think those are all great reasons to ensure that we try to build strong relationships with others.
Erin: What about the mindset of self-reliance? In self-driven professions like real estate, success is often linked to how hard and how often you work, how visible you are, you’re out there all the time, but this mindset of self-reliance can make accepting help difficult, or even perceived by some as a weakness. What are the drawbacks of this line of thinking, Winny?
Winny: I think that it’s a little bit of a trap to think that way. First, I think that it’s probably to some extent, not entirely true. It also makes it very difficult for you to delegate work, everything stays on your own plate. That really contributes to, I would say, a pretty problematic long work hours culture where we valorize working a lot or being busy. Sometimes even when we take a step back, we realize that that’s misaligned with our life priorities or goals.
My friends and I sometimes talk about this funny phrase when we feel like someone is working too hard or has this, “I got to do it all” mentality. We’ll tell each other, “Your job doesn’t love you back.” I think that’s sometimes important to keep in mind that– especially also given that we know that one of the things that make human life so fulfilling is these connections. That going it off alone you might be curtailing some of those opportunities for you to build those relationships that a lot of people actually find to be the most meaningful part of their work.
Erin: One of the ways I think that you’ve suggested is to turn it around and think about how you felt when people asked you for help. For those who are giving, it often feels really good fulfilling and just adds to the joy of the job.
Winny: Oh definitely. I think that oftentimes when we’re asking, we’re often afraid that maybe we’ll be a burden. I think when we take that mindset, when we think about all the times when people have asked us and all the times where it wasn’t a big deal or we were very happy to help, I think maybe we’re overestimating sometimes that people would be unhappy to help when I think the fact is that most people are actually very happy to help.
Erin: As are we here on REAL TIME, which is why when you go to crea.ca/podcast, you’ll have at your fingertips a wealth of wit and wisdom like we’re hearing today from designers to panels to marketing wizards, tech, and tips for great reviews. It’s all right here. Just subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher, and don’t miss an episode of REAL TIME.
Back to our conversation with Dr. Winny Shen as we continue with our in-depth and the illuminating look at how in high-pressure careers, we can get in the right headspace to overcome challenges and thrive as professionals and peers.
I have to have a difficult conversation with you right now, Winny. It’s about difficult conversations. How do you go about having those, even if you get along great with your colleagues? How do you do that, and anticipate a positive outcome?
Winny: I think it’s really important to have open lines of communication. I think that sometimes we have a little bit of an ostrich mentality. When something doesn’t go right, we’re like, “Maybe it won’t happen again. We can just let it go and we won’t have to have this difficult conversation.” I think the data suggests that what will happen often instead is that we end up having to have that conversation later on when things are actually more serious.
If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it probably is much more difficult not to be defensive when someone confronts you with what feels like a long laundry list of transgressions. Like, “Here’s all the evidence of all the things that you’ve done wrong or I’ve disliked.” Whereas I think if you were just approaching someone with one small thing, they wouldn’t necessarily feel that way.
I think another important element and this is more general psychology, perhaps a clinical psychologist would say something like this, is I would be really careful about the language you use when you’re having these difficult conversations with people. I think it feels very different for a receiver to hear something like you were being inconsiderate versus, I felt hurt when you said X. How you say it I think really can affect how other people react to it.
I would spend some time thinking about what is it that you actually want to convey. You could also even think about, if you’re less comfortable, maybe writing a letter to someone, where you can feel like you have the time and the space to really put things down in a way that really accurately reflects how you feel. That might be a strategy too if you’re a little bit afraid of saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.
Erin: Yes, and you can edit it endlessly so that it ebbs and flows, and accentuates the positive and all of that. Those are some wonderful tips. Now, I’m going to ask you for a resource. Your favourite website or book or a place that people can go to really explore some of the things that we’ve talked about today. The entrepreneurship, the teamwork, and leadership. The turning things around and seeing hope where there was burnout or languishing or however you want to call it. What are some of your go-to sites? If you weren’t already an expert in it, Dr. Shen?
Winny: I would say that I have a couple of recommendations. Dr. Kristin Neff who’s done a lot, an expert in self-compassion, does a lot of great work. Her website, which is selfcompassion.org, has a lot of great resources. Some exercises you can walk yourself through, actually evidence-based, in terms of how you can improve your self-compassion. If you’re looking for maybe some tidbits in terms of evidence-based things to think about as you’re approaching your work, For the Love of Work is a wonderful podcast hosted by Dr. Sonia Kang.
If you’re looking for even smaller tidbit, my personal friends, Keaton Fletcher and Maryana Arvan also host a podcast called Healthy Work where they summarize very briefly some new emerging research that people are learning about work, a lot of it also focused on stress. You can hear a little bit about what experts are learning and finding about how to manage work stress. Those are some of my own personal go-tos.
In terms of perhaps thinking about relationships, Adam Grant has a really great book on just Give and Take. Those are some things that I think would be good food for thought as you move forward.
Erin: All right, selfcompassion.org for a website, podcasts For the Love of Work and Healthy Work, two separate podcasts, and Adam Grant’s book. What did you say it’s called again, please?
Winny: Give and Take.
Erin: Give and Take. Wonderful. Before we give our thanks and take our leave, let me ask you if you don’t mind, how are you hoping to describe 2021 when all is said and done?
Winny: Well, given how the pandemic has really upended work, I really hope that we all take the time to reimagine what the future could be. I’m a big believer that work can be a big plus in people’s lives. That it can give us a lot of meaning. It can give us financial security. I also think that how work is now is perhaps not how work is optimally. I think the pandemic has really forced us all to re-examine our life priorities and I really hope that we can imagine work in a way that ironically perhaps works for more people and really allows people to live more their values. Also, that we can build the workplace back in ways that are more equitable.
I’m personally thinking very much about some of the research about how the pandemic has really eroded some of the progress we’ve made in terms of women’s workforce participation. I really hope that at the end of 2021, we can say, “This was a very difficult year, but it’s actually caused us all to grow and be more resilient, and actually face work with a more positive mindset.” It can be a positive stressor as opposed to I think a hindrance stressor for a lot of people using the language earlier on.
Erin: Thank you so much for ending on such a positive note. We so appreciate your time and your wisdom today.
Winny: Thank you so much for having me, Erin.
Erin: What a great talk, and we’re so grateful to Dr. Shen for being here with us. We invite you to join us next time for Episode 17 of REAL TIME. We’re going to have a fascinating panel discussion on the generational influence on Canadian real estate as one generation moves into retirement, the one coming up, takes its place as primary market contributor. How Realtors and homebuyers are navigating this landscape. Don’t miss it. For more, visit crea.ca.
REAL TIME podcast is a presentation of CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association, produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and by Alphabet Creative. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you here next time.
Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast especially for and about REALTORS® brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. I’m your host, Erin Davis. Today we have a guest who’s going to open the doors and open our minds to the possibilities of PropTech. Think you don’t use it? Think again. Nikki Greenberg is a PropTech entrepreneur, architect and real estate futurist. She joins us now on REAL TIME. Welcome, Nicki, joining us from Sydney, Australia tomorrow.
Nikki Greenberg: Thanks so much for having me. Yes, it’s tomorrow from me already with the time differences.
Erin: You’re in Sydney, Australia, and we’re in Sydney, British Columbia. We’re just one wrong airline ticket from being together.
Thank you so much for joining us. I know this is going to be enlightening. You’re a passionate advocate of property tech. Let’s start by defining it. What is PropTech?
Nikki: That’s a great place to start and I am very passionate about PropTech. It really is an emerging field and to some of the listeners, if they haven’t heard about it before or if they’ve only started hearing about it recently, there’s a reason for it because the term actually really came to its own maybe about three, four years ago. There were different versions being thrown around. Is it Cretech, is it Retech, is it PropTech? PropTech is the term that essentially stuck around being short for property technology.
Now, there’s a few things that I just want to explain to your listeners just to essentially set the stage because there are concepts that I will be referring to later in just understanding exactly what PropTech is. The thing about PropTech is that it’s really made up of three different verticals. You have real estate, you have technology and you have venture capital and where those communities converge is where you have PropTech.
What’s quite interesting about this is that because you have these three different communities, they also come with different languages and different ways of working. That’s one of the challenges, especially for real estate professionals coming into this industry and trying to understand the whole PropTech ecosystem is not necessarily a language or a way of thinking that we’re used to because we’re often used to talking to engineers and real estate agents and other real estate professionals. That’s one of the things that is often a barrier to people initially becoming involved, is that it is quite a different ecosystem.
The second thing that I want to just point out is that purists believe that PropTech does actually need to be a technology, which means that it’s something that is a hundred percent pure tech, no hardware, no spaces. It’s not about the physical, it’s about the digital, but for most people within PropTech, there’s an understanding the ecosystem essentially has two sides.
There’s the technology itself, pure technology and then there’s another side which is essentially tech enabled real estate. What that means is that it’s real estate that is operated through technology and that it wouldn’t be able to operate in such a way if there wasn’t this new generation of technology that’s come out. Examples of this co-working or co-living because these are actual spaces, but it’s the technology that allows them to work.
The third thing that I want to just point out also is just an understanding about PropTech versus regular technology in real estate and why there’s a bit of a differentiation. We have obviously working in real estate, there’s always been technology at our disposal. This is nothing new. Then we pose the question about, okay, well, if we’ve always had technology, then why is this whole area called PropTech? Why is there a whole different field? Is it just a buzzword or what’s going on?
The thing about PropTech is that PropTech really describes this new generation of technology that’s come out using AI or machine learning or very user-friendly interfaces that’s not talking together, that work on the cloud that embrace IOT. It’s essentially this new generation of tools that we get to use in our industry that just has a fresh approach is user first and is super smart. I know there was a very long explanation that I just really wanted to set the stage for your audience.
Erin: Thank you for that. I appreciate it, especially with the focus on the real estate industry and the relationship of PropTech and the real estate industry. How does real estate influence other aspects of PropTech?
Nikki: With real estate, what we’re talking about it’s really about having fixed assets. What you’re talking about in PropTech is you’re talking about technology. We’re having this relationship that goes on that’s symbiotic and reliant upon each other. As I described before, what we can have happening is that you can have take enabled real estate that relies on the technology, but then on the flip side, you also need to understand that the technology itself and technology providers also need to have space around them. In the real estate industry, we also want to be thinking about the needs and the spatial requirements for those tech companies.
Erin: How has PropTech evolved over the last decade or so? You’ve even talked about the different conversations. Well, what are we going to call it? It’s so new that it’s still got that new baby smell to it. How have you seen it evolve over the past decade or has it been with us longer than that? Now we just have a name for it and we’re able to put it in a column, Nikki.
Nikki: I think that’s great. I love the idea of the new baby smell. There’s a few things that have happened in the past few years that really differentiate this new generation of technology. Some of them being the move to us using smart phones for everything and having these as devices. Our traditional technology has been operated through a desktop computer and it might be on the windows operating system, for example, whereas with PropTech, what just starting to do is understand that a lot of the technology is working off our smartphones and devices.
Another move is also using the cloud increasingly. That means that we’re not having to be storing our documents in a fixed location. Then of course around the cloud, there’s all that hard infrastructure that’s needed in terms of data centers. This new generation of technology is– and as the internet has really come into its own is that it’s all internet first. We’re not talking about local technologies, we’re talking about networks and devices and information being able to connect across geography, which is something that’s quite interesting and definitely wasn’t part of the earliest software.
One of the other big trends we’ve seen over the past especially over the past decade is the rise of the shared economy. This tech enabled real estate that’s come through. A lot of it has existed before but this is a formalization of some of it such as before there was co-living, there were roommates and before there was co-working, there was sharing an office space, but now what it is it’s about really formalizing the brands and creating productizing what’s available to benefit the consumers
Erin: Just to dumb it down for me anyway, Nikki, what is the difference between co-living and roommates since you brought up that example?
Nikki: With co-living, there’s some great brands around it and essentially what’s happened there is that the operators have created consistency. There’s always been a demand and a market to share a space with someone for various reasons, an obvious one being students wanting to share the costs of renting a place where they could get a nicer three-bedroom place rather than a one-bedroom place to have a sense of community.
Now there’s always been these benefits, but what happens is that when you do have an informal setup, there’s disadvantages to it. Number one being consistency. You don’t know what you’re going to get, being able to find what you need. Again, in informal economies, you might be able to find a flat-mate, but where are you really going to look? You’re looking at a few different places.
In formalizing and productizing some of these concepts such as co-living, there’s certain advantages that come out and then by building brand loyalty and understanding the customer and creating beautiful products that compete with each other and do so in an elegant way that puts the customer first. Then there’s also ways of then expanding upon the offering to keep getting better and better and better. The flip side of that is that if you have a share house with say, five people living in it, there’s no incentive for the share house to get any better, but when you have a co-living situation, there’s always learnings and data that comes through to be able to offer a more and more optimal experience.
Erin: When you talk about embracing PropTech for the workplace and sharing workspaces and that sort of thing, how much do you think PropTech has been fueled by so many people working from home during the pandemic? Is this it’s moment? When you look at zoom, for example or the technology that you and I are using today to be talking to each other from different hemispheres, how important has that been in pushing forward PropTech into the 21st century and into this decade?
Nikki: You’ve absolutely recognized the trend that’s happened. A lot of the conversations that I have, have been with both real estate operators and owners and with technology companies. What the technology companies were finding is that with lockdowns that have happened and the move to working remote and this need to work in a more digital way that some of the barriers to adoption of their technology were removed and that clients that they’d been speaking to for quite some time suddenly came back to them and said, “Aha, now I get it.”
The interesting thing is that this has actually happened across a few different types of technologies. One of the first to really feel the upside of that was around tenant management apps and being able to communicate with people in workspaces because there was a need, a recognized need that if you do have a class, an office building, for example, you want to be able to communicate with the people within the building, whether it’s messages around how to use the lifts, different hours of access, also to be able to let them know about new procedures and also community activities that might be going on. They definitely felt an upside.
Another area that felt an upside very quickly was really around health and wellness providers because again, with the return to the office, there were concerns around indoor air quality, for example, and a need to start understanding some of the health ramifications of these spaces. They certainly came into their own.
Then of course, within the venture capital landscape, there’s been a lot of investors that have either been in the area for a while or are starting to enter the area. Again, there’s just been this reckoning of understanding. Well, real estate is fundamentally changing as a result of the pandemic and technology can provide a lot of the solutions that we need.
Erin: Coming up, fun with Nikki, as she looks at advances in the world of architecture and digital construction design. First, we are super excited to share that Canada’s number one real estate platform, REALTOR.ca, now has a brand-new app Rebuilt from the Ground Up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s home buyers. The app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients, download it on the app store or get it at Google play.
Now back to our guest on REAL TIME, futurist and PropTech entrepreneur, Nikki Greenberg. Let’s talk about construction because this is one of your many wheelhouses, Nikki, as an architect. What can you tell us about advances to the design process?
Nikki: This is a fun one, and I honestly, I wish some of these tools were around when I was working as an architect some years ago, but there’s been a lot of advancements that have been happening especially in automating and generating designs. There’s a few tools that come to mind and I apologize to listeners, I don’t tend to mention companies by name. Often that come across as a recommendation and I don’t want to do a disservice to anyone because there are different companies working within the space.
There are certain tools for example where you can find a building site and then essentially plunk on digitally a model and then figure out, okay, well, what happens if there’s retail? What happens if there’s commercial? What happens if there’s apartments? You can start actually moving this model around within the envelope of what’s permitted by the building code to start getting actual feasibility studies.
As an architect, when I used to have to do these things, it would take hours and hours and hours and hours because one little change would affect everything. To be able to just do an automated model is fantastic. There’s other models that are out there that can look at a city, for example, and identify opportunities for investment sites, just realizing that they’re underutilized.
There’s tools that now can generate, for example, an office layout. You can just give the tool essentially a full plate and the parameters and then in the background, the robots do the work and before you know it, you can have different options of office layouts. There’s a lot that’s been happening in that regard. For me personally, I think it’s fantastic because what you’re doing is you’re taking out a lot of the repetitious work and you’re able to give more options quicker which is something that I think is very exciting and then essentially frees us architects out to do some of the more fun and creative stuff.
Erin: Well, as someone who can look at a layout for a house that’s going to be built or go and stand among the studs and the construction workers and not have a clue which room is the powder room, which room is the living room, I think that this has to be a really wonderful thing even for home buyers, quite apart from the commercial applications of this, just to help somebody like me recognize, okay, that’s where the master bedroom should definitely go.
Nikki: Yes, absolutely. There’s been fantastic 3D renderings and software to create 3D models of spaces that have been around for a while. The technology has always been there. It’s just been around adoption and just for there to be somewhat of an education around the developers, for example, on understanding why it is worth investing in these tools, but also a comfort level for our real estate agents and their clients to be able to look at digital models and to be able to read them.
We’re so used to, especially in residential real estate, for example, that you can go into a house or into a new development and I spent most of my career working in new developments off the plan. There was always this desire to go into a newly built building or a newly built apartment to get a sense of what it feels like, what it looks like to see the finished product, and that if you were looking at computer-generated images, that you couldn’t really get a sense because as people, we’re so tactile, we love being in spaces.
I think with the pandemic because we’ve gotten more used to doing things front of the computer that being able to watch a 3D tour or a video tour of a space, we’re starting to get more comfortable with understanding what it means or what it feels like and being able to interpret things in a video or in a digital way, and letting that at least be that first point of interaction.
I think even just over the past year, the changes that we’ve seen with 3D tours with more 3D models and that being widely adopted by residential real estate has been absolutely fantastic. I honestly think that it is going to continue on for quite a while because for customers there’s such a huge benefit in that being the first way to view a space before you get in your car or get on the subway and go over there.
Of course, also for the real estate agents to be able to get more qualified leads that understand the space, they’ve seen it before, and then you’re only taking somebody in for a walkthrough that already has a sense of, “Okay, this looks to be what I want.” There’s only a few factors that had really need to get a sense of. I think it’s really been a game-changer.
Erin: While we still have our virtual hard hats on here. Let’s stay with construction for a moment, Nikki, and I’ll ask you, are there new materials or processes that didn’t even exist 10 years ago?
Nikki: Yes, look, there’s technologies and processes that have been around but not adopted. One of the emerging areas that I’ve seen a lot bit of attention given to is around 3D printing. Now, 3D printing has actually been around for quite a long time and it’s been experimented within construction applications, but now what’s happened is that it’s been seen on some live projects around the world. That one’s getting a little bit of attention. Modular is getting a bit of attention, prefabrication, factory fabrication is getting some attention there as well. Now, again, these are technologies that have been around for a while, but the benefits and the cost-benefit of using them or the appetite for risk wasn’t quite there.
I think there’s certain things that we can definitely keep our eye on. Some of the processes have been changed around a little bit. I get quite excited about the number of companies that are now using drones to do building surveys and they can do site surveys so they can measure the site levels and they can actually also fly these drones around buildings looking for defects, seeing if they’re being built as per the drawings, being able to document these buildings in three dimensions all through an operator that’s sitting essentially with a joystick being able to do this. There’s incredible stuff that’s coming and I think it’s exciting that we are on this adoption curve to see where we might land up.
Erin: While you’re talking about 3D printing, just a little sideline here because I find it fascinating. What is the first thing comes to mind when you think of a construction site and something that has been 3D printed? What’s most common out there, Nikki?
Nikki: I’ve seen 3D printed buildings that have happened. Personally, I think that the buildings that I’ve seen, they’ve been single-family dwellings in low-cost situations. I’ve seen those popping up in little communities as test cases. Personally, I think in those applications, I don’t think that printing by a 3D printer is something that necessarily needed to happen. I think that those same dwellings could probably have been constructed at a lower cost, quite honestly, through traditional construction.
I think what’s more exciting though, is that you do see some 3D printing of different design objects and different ornaments, for example, because when it comes to 3D printing, it’s endless. As soon as you can create something in a CAD program or Rhino or whatever it might be, to be able to produce that straight away and let it come to life without having to think too much about the construction or the materiality of it is something that’s just can be rapidly prototyped and tested and come to life.
Erin: Oh, it’s fascinating and limitless really, which I hesitate to ask you this because everything has been growing so exponentially, Nikki, but what do you think is in store for the builders, planners and architects of tomorrow?
Nikki: That’s a good question. I think with building and construction, it is still a very traditional skill-based industry. Even with the advances that we’ve had with the internet age and with material science and everything else that’s come through, the way that we build hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s still very much manual process.
Also, because it’s often based on both skilled labor and also unskilled labor to an extent. There tends to be that cost trade off, which is something that’s looked at as an essential priority. I get excited about different processes that can be digitized or roboticized, I suppose you could say. One of the technologies that I heard about recently, it sounds so vanilla, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant is that again, it was a drone that could render and paint the outside of buildings.
The reason I find this quite interesting is that one of my next-door neighbours went through the exact same process these past couple of weeks. I just saw how the how the trades people had to put up scaffolding and then they had to come in and they had to do put the first layer of render, then they had to scrape it then two days later, come in and do the second layer and then they had to come in and do some painting.
They were there for about two weeks doing a very simple process and, of course, constructing and dismantling the scaffolding around and then the cost associated with that. To be able to just have a robot that can come in and is using its “laser beams” to be able to assess and measure the building surface and where there were defects and where it needs to go next to actually analyze it and essentially do so in a very robotic manner without being burdened by scaffolding or by gravity is something that I think is absolutely brilliant.
I think we’ll start probably seeing more chunks taken out of the building process that are very labor intensive or have safety concerns. In terms of the whole construction process, being completely overhauled is something that I think we’re not going to see for quite a few generations if at all.
Erin: There is no place like home and there have been incredible advances that Nikki looks at in a moment. Want the latest scoop from news and stats to trends and happenings in the industry? Well, make your way to CREACafe.ca, a cozy place for REALTORS® to connect on the latest info and industry developments. That’s CREACafe.ca.
Now back to PropTech, entrepreneur and futurist, Nikki Greenberg on REAL TIME. Let’s bring it on home here for a little bit and talk about home ownership. What technologies, Nikki, have significantly impacted the way we interact with our homes?
Nikki: Look with technology in the home, it’s something that’s really evolved through the ages. Let’s not forget, electricity hasn’t actually been around all that long. There’s many people ordinarily live in New York. The building that I lived in for quite some time predates electricity. You have to remember that even that it was an advancement. Of course, then we’re coming into having the internet. The changes that we have in the home haven’t been all that significant even though the opportunities are there. There’s some people in the home, all of us we have appliances and we have TVs. We might have a clicker for our garage, if you’re in a detached dwelling. That’s all commonplace.
The next generation then it becomes okay, well what about automated blinds for an example or what if I can start to control my lights from my phone or voice command? The adoptions haven’t been that significant in our homes themselves, but there are few exceptions.
First exception obviously is with the cloud and all of that information being stored there, we’re now able to work from home, we’re now able to access everything from anywhere, our photos, no matter where we are in the house, for example, for us being able to, if we wanted to do everything from our phones. There is a whole generation of IOT, the internet of things, different appliances that you can control through your phone. Again, being able to control your stereo or control the lights or being able to change channel on the TV. You can do everything from your phone.
The next generation that we’re already moving into, is voice control. This is, again, increasing on the adoption curve. Anything from, I can’t say its name aloud or you’ll hear my phone responding on an apple device. Hey, S… These smart hubs that let us control our smart appliances by using voice such as asking for a timer to go on or a TV to go off, a light to go on or light to go off and so on and so forth.
This is very rudimentary in the way that most of us use it if at all and this is where it starts getting exciting, it’s when we start moving up that adoption curve and where the technology is heading. With voice command, and this is something that I find to be incredibly exciting is that the way it’s moving is that at the moment, it’s a little bit in our face. We know if there’s a Google home or something to that extent in the room, and we’re very self-conscious of it. We’re worried if it might be recording us or listening in on private conversations.
What’s going to start happening with a lot of this technology is that it’s just going to be omnipresent and it’s going to be part of our lives. You won’t be thinking when you walk into a room, you won’t be searching for light switch anymore. You’ll just know to give that command of turn on the lights. You won’t expect to interact with switches, you’ll expect to interact with technology in our most natural way, which is through a conversation. The technology is there and again, it’s about the adoption.
The next step after that is about our home starting to learn from us. Rather than me coming home every day at the same time, turning on the lights, my home will know that I tend to come home at a certain time and come in with the settings and the music and the scents or having dinner ready for me just intuitively. That butler service that you always wanted to have, that invisible helping hand that’s there for us. When that starts to happen, we start seeing this ease of use and this incredible level of dare I say, customer service, that’s being provided by the technology and that benefit, then there’s going to be a greater comfort in us.
As I mentioned, at the moment, there is a little bit of a fear factor around giving up some of the privacy to some of these devices and them listening in our conversations. When we start getting the benefits back, then we’re going to start living in a dare I say, a more seamless, integrated way with the technology that we talk to or the technology that’s just there for us in the background, just being part of our daily lives in our homes.
Erin: It seems to me that what we’re heading into now is far less passive than what we’ve been through before. We’ve all got the devices that we talk to and give us timers and the song and the time and the weather and all of that stuff that we want. Now, if you want things that are going to bring the lights on or do the things that these devices can also do, you have to go out to your local high-tech store and buy the parts and learn how they operate.
Is that holding us back at all do you think, Nikki, because it’s like, I’m going to have to spend some money, I’m going to have to figure out how this works and it’s not just like suddenly having your home connected to the internet.
Nikki: I think yes and no. Yes because as you’ve described let’s use smart lights as an example, you do need to go out to the hardware store and you need to make some changes and learn to use your light in a different way. The reason I say no is that so much of this technology is designed to be incredibly user friendly and consumer friendly. If I just use the example of the light bulb, what’s happening now is that if you want to have a light that you can control from your phone, you’re not having to go there and buy a fixture to go into a ceiling, take out your existing fixture, put it in, rewire it, get the electrician in and lo and behold, you have a new setup.
All you’re doing is you’re going into just any store that has consumer goods and you can just buy a smart bulb and you just put it into existing fixtures. There’s an understanding about making it easy and working with what’s there already.
Now, what we tend to see a lot when we have technology improvements coming along and we see it on our phones, is that when something comes, then it’s already built in, you start using the features. An example is the health trackers on our phones. I never needed a pedometer, I’ve never wanted a pedometer, but there’s a pedometer on there now that I know it’s there, I actually do every day I go and I check how many steps I’ve done. Some of the stuff’s going to be increasingly commonplace and it’s just going to essentially slip into our lives.
Erin: That’s more of the passive that I’m talking about. That if it’s there we’ll go, yes, okay, maybe I’ll try this. Let’s talk about embracing and adopting PropTech. Do you think that the real estate industry truly has embraced PropTech, Nikki?
Nikki: I think it’s still early days and there’s a lot more that can and will be happening but real estate hasn’t changed that much. Buildings are buildings and the way that we use buildings hasn’t changed very much. If you look at photos from the 1920s, you’ll see people coming into office buildings in suits and ties and sitting down at desks. There might be the typists pool, meeting rooms, boss has his corner office, that hasn’t changed all that much until recently.
What’s happening is that even though the way that we live and the way that we work and the types of activities that we do, even though that is changing and becoming more technology first and the way that we shop is another example, the way that we order food, the way that we cook, the way that we work out, we can work out or using Pelotons or doing a yoga session with an instructor in San Diego, live and working out at home.
Now, the way that we live has changed much and we’ve been very accepting of our spaces very much being the same as they’ve always been but what’s happened now is especially with the lockdowns and people having to work remotely and our way of living being so fundamentally different, there is going to be a larger push from the consumers for the real estate industry to engage more with technology. It’s going to go from a nice to have add-on to something that’s being essential.
Erin: Nikki’s traveled and worked worldwide but how do countries compare when it comes to grabbing on to and implementing property technology? We’ll find out in a moment.
We’re all looking for connection these days and I don’t just mean a great Wi-Fi signal when you’re working, but real heart connection. REALTORS® across Canada are committed to supporting the causes and charities closest to their hearts. Get inspired by incredible stories and follow REALTORS Care® on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and by sharing your own using #realtorscare. Thank you for what you do for us all. Now back to our chat with architect, entrepreneur and real estate futurist, Nikki Greenberg.
You’ve lived and worked around the world. Right now, as we’ve said, we’re speaking to you in Sydney, Australia, you’ve been everywhere, you’ve lived in Manhattan and many more stamps on your passport, Nikki, how does adoption vary globally?
Nikki: It’s a good question. Look, I do believe that across geographies, there are differences some of them cultural differences. We know that Asia has always had a reputation for being very technology first — Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Shanghai, there have been these cities that are just very techie by nature. The general population has just always had this great embrace of technology. Those countries tend to be the leaders.
Now, China is quite interesting. There’s a lot of technology that’s coming out of there as they become entrepreneurs and huge companies that are coming out from there. Hong Kong has always relied on technology to a huge extent but then when you look towards the other extreme such as Africa, I actually, I was born in and grew up in South Africa. I can definitely speak to their context as well. When you’re looking at developing countries where people are working very hard just to put food on the table and a roof on their heads but yet everybody has a mobile phone.
There’s a lot of what we refer to as leapfrog technology, where it’s technologies that may have been invented in developed countries, and then over time, as it becomes more accessible and less expensive, is then available to these emerging economies, that the adoption rate is incredibly high because the technology’s there to solve problems. At that end of the spectrum, there’s an expectation from consumers, again, just in line that the properties and the offering is in line with technology. Then in between, we have Europe, you have the US, and the technology, adoption in real estate is now increasing, increasing and increasing.
Now, having said that, of course, there’s certain personalities from different ages, different demographics, different locations, et cetera, that do tend to embrace technology earlier than others. There’s always been a product adoption cycle, and that’s still there but what we’re seeing now is that the comfort level around what technology is and as the technology evolves also to be easier to use, and a lower adoption curve.
We’ve now removed the barriers or some of the barriers or perceived barriers rather, to the adoption, which means that the use of it is broader and more commonplace. We’ll see that increasing and increasing across the globe, wherever there’s internet and there’s greater internet at greater speeds being offered to more and more people everywhere.
Erin: What do you see as technological and socio-economic trends that are forming today, Nikki, that are going to impact our living and working spaces over say, the next decade?
Nikki: This one trend that I love to talk about, and it just summarizes a lot in a very simple statistic. What we’re finding is that by 2030, 75% of the workforce will consist of millennials and Gen-Z. What you’re seeing here is that it’s a group of people that really embrace technology and expect technology to be part of the way that they live and that they work and are uncompromising.
They expect that the physical in-person experience and the digital experience will work together. What we’re really going to see and what we need to realize is that, as we’re looking at workplace as an example is that we need to be designing for them, we can’t be designing for generations gone past or ways of working gone past because that has fundamentally changed.
My advice to anybody that’s in commercial real estate, for an example, is to if you have kids or if you have grandkids or friends or whoever it might be that all between the ages of 9 and 25, just get a sense of what matters to them and get a sense of how they’re using technology and what attributes are they looking at in places? You might find, for example, that they sit on the sofa and that’s where they do their work. I’ve definitely seen that if you’re doing homework with a friend, that even if the friend’s in the same room, that they’re still communicating with them through their computers, which is just something that comes naturally to them.
Definitely keep an eye on what they’re doing and how they’re thinking about technology and also some of the attributes. Another status power that I also like to throw in and trying to think about is that within the group of Generation Z, I believe the statistic is that 46% of them plan to become entrepreneurs and 57% of them, if I’m not mistaken, plan to invent something that will change the world. This is really who we need to be thinking about as our future customers and also our future workforce that is going to be changing the way that our spaces operate.
Erin: That is fascinating. When we think of the younger generations like Gen-Z and millennials, we think of more eco-conscious, are we becoming so as homeowners and buyers that you’ve seen, Nikki?
Nikki: I’d like to think so. We’re definitely seeing in consumer goods that there’s more that appeals to the eco-conscious and sometimes it falls into the category of greenwashing, that it’s presented as being better for the environment, but isn’t necessarily such. It’s a tricky one because by nature, a lot of us do care about the environment and say that we care about the environment. However, the sad thing is that on the flip side, and I’ve definitely seen this through my career is that consumers aren’t necessarily willing to pay more for a greener solution, which becomes one of those tricky obstacles to get around.
One of the exceptions is again, coming back to Generation Z, and they are these like eco-conscious climate warriors, we saw them definitely with the climate protests is that they see global warming as something that is very real and something that is affecting them directly because the consequences are happening within their lifetime.
For them, you’ll find a lot of them will actually come and they will ask about the sourcing of materials, they will ask where the electricity is coming through. They will actually look at the origins of certain things. They do want to have vegetable patches and sustainable materials and it’s something that’s not a passing fad, but something that is really important to them and their livelihoods.
In terms of attracting and appealing to Generation Z renters and buyers, this is something that does interest them, does appeal to them, but they’re also pretty savvy and they understand when something is just being used as a marketing ploy or when it’s something that really is ingrained and is something that is of benefit to the environment.
Erin: Savvy, is the key word there. How about life in dense urban cities where smaller homes are more affordable? Are you seeing people using PropTech to live simpler or with less? The Marie Kondo idea has been around now for probably, I guess about five years, is PropTech in line with that idea of minimalism?
Nikki: Absolutely. There’s a few different ways that it’s been done and where there have been benefits that I’ve seen. One of them that I absolutely love and it’s basically is the shared economy and the idea of as a service, you don’t need to own, you can share. Obvious examples of this being, we all know Uber, you don’t need to own a car, you can just call an Uber to get around. There’s basically and especially in New York, there’s a service for everything.
As I described earlier in my apartment, I don’t have a washing machine, so I send my laundry out, somebody else does it for me. There’s rent the runway, I don’t need to keep buying beautiful outfits, I can loan an outfit. There’s solutions where I can actually store my winter clothes somewhere else and then on my app, I can order my clothes back into my apartment when I need to change between my summer and winter gear, for example.
There’s on-demand cleaning services, there’s on-demand pet walkers, there’s on-demand toolboxes so that you don’t need to own your own tool collection for something that you only use maybe once or twice a year. There’s on-demand everything, so very much this getting away from needing to own things and instead being able to share and just pay for things as a service and as you need it.
One of the other things that I quite like is going essentially to another extreme is that there’s been a resurgence of robotic interiors that let you reconfigure spaces such as having a bed fall down from the ceiling and it’s stored up in the ceiling during the day so that you have more usable space during the day or being able to slide wardrobes backwards and forwards to change the configuration of a space in a small setup.
There’s a lot of different things that are coming or rather they’re already here, but the adoption is increasing or what it means is that we can own less, have more space, be able to be more mobile. If you’re renting and you’re moving fairly often to be able to come into furnished apartments, for example, or there’s services that you can hire furniture packages that are pre-styled instead of going out of buying every single item. There’s this wonderful rise of there being a service for everything and whatever your heart desires, there’s a technology that’s there to just make your life simpler.
Erin: Of course, commercial properties have kept up with this evolution too, haven’t they?
Nikki: Oh, yes absolutely. Co-working spaces or flexible offices being a prime example, tenants apps, where you can order every single amenity, ghost kitchens where you can have food being delivered up to your office from restaurants that don’t even exist, everything just done on the click of an app. Now that’s really where things are heading is app first, own less.
Erin: Did you catch that? App first, own less. Back to Nikki in a moment about repurposing buildings, mall meet school and more.
Speaking of apps, we are so excited to share with you that Canada’s number one real estate platform, REALTOR.ca now has a new app, Rebuilt From the Ground Up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s home buyers. The app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients. Download it on the app store or get it on Google Play.
Back to, Nikki Greenberg, now. She’s been incredibly enlightening as a real estate futurist, entrepreneur and architect. Here’s the rest of our talk. Are there opportunities to repurpose these spaces beyond traditional work environments?
Nikki: Yes. This is something that’s been discussed at length in New York especially. With the pandemic that’s been happening, the occupancy in Manhattan has really dropped. The statistic that I heard is that the peak of 2020 saw office occupancy sitting at around 15%, which is very concerning for great industry. There’s been talk about for office buildings that haven’t been developed having a change of use to residential. There’s a housing shortage in Manhattan, so that being an option. There’s been talk around repurposing offices to again, residential or to logistics centers.
It extends beyond offices as well. I’ve recently heard about some shopping malls that were being repurposed as schools, which I thought was actually quite a nice idea because you still have a public space for the community to gather and in a shared space and also some of them being repurposed to as logistic centers for e-commerce.
There’s discussion around repurposing and changing spaces for use. I’m absolutely a big believer in it. It’s easier said than done. There are zoning requirements, there are building codes, you do have fixed infrastructure and mechanical workings, piping, et cetera that’s not that simple to move, but there is opportunity, I think by just putting on a bit of a creative lens and having a sense of simple supply and demand.
If you have falling demand for something, but you have a rise in demand for something else, then wouldn’t you want to shift over to the area that’s in higher demand if it’s at all possible?
Erin: Your vision and your excitement and your enthusiasm for everything PropTech is really contagious. I’d like if you could, Nikki, offer any advice to REALTORS® to help them better understand new PropTech trends.
Nikki: I will say that it’s a journey. Technology and especially PropTech, it’s new to everybody. None of us were born knowing about PropTech. It’s only something that’s emerged in the past few years and it’s changing constantly. If you’re coming into it fresh and this is very new to you, don’t worry, we’ve all had to learn. Right at the start I said when it comes to PropTech, we’re really talking about these three communities or real estate, investors and technology coming together.
Now, the technology crowd didn’t know anything about real estate either when they came in. It’s learning process. I think the first thing is realize, if this is new to you and you don’t quite get it, you’re not alone. It’s been the exact same thing for everyone.
The second thing I’d suggest is go out there, look on Google, subscribe to different newsletters. You can always go onto my website, nikkigreenberg.com, keeping it very simple, I have some fun ideas there. There’s great conferences that happen, there’s a lot of webinars and just start getting a sense of what’s out there and what’s the conversation that’s happening? Very soon, you’ll start to notice some of the patterns and the trends that emerge. You’ll start being able to piece together an understanding of the ecosystem.
If you do have particular needs that you’re trying to solve and you know what they are, go on to Google, see who’s providing those solutions and hop on the phone or organize a meeting with some of the technology providers. The sales reps, they’re fantastic, they’re very happy, a lot of them, to give up their time and expertise to really explain not just their own technology but why the technology is needed and the benefits to you.
They’re there as a resource, they’re very interested in adoption of their products and a lot of them, they’re very patient because they do have the enthusiasm to get their products being used. They also do have an understanding that there is a learning curve for the users of their products as well. Use them as a resource and just be okay with taking a risk. Try something out. You might find, for example, if you’re using a technology in your office operations, if there’s something that you want to try, test it, see if it works.
A lot of the technology that’s out there, they’re done on subscription models, which means that you’re paying month to month, so you’re paying a small amount every month instead of investing tens of thousand dollars in setting something up and then being locked into it.
In summary, it’s new to everyone, don’t be scared of it, start educating yourself, familiarize yourself with some of the products and be okay speaking to the sales reps to help them bring you on this journey. Then finally, just be okay testing stuff. That’s the way that you learn. If it’s not the right thing for you, try something else. It’s not a one size fits all. It’s a process and the technology keeps changing and it keeps getting better. It’s designed more and more to be more user-friendly and easy for both you and for your customers.
Erin: Oh, thank goodness. I’m glad to hear that. Just a tip or two, if you have them, Nikki, on how REALTORS® can educate their clients on what to expect.
Nikki: I think what I’d say is my top tip would be to let them know that the technologies that are coming out are designed to be user-friendly and to be useful. I like to use the example of the butler that’s there in the background just attending to every need.
Secondly, again is just letting them know that sometimes there is a learning curve and that even if something is a little bit clunky at the most because it’s an emerging technology, it will get better in time, but it’s fun to just test something out and learn from it. It’s all a growth process. The beautiful thing about the technologies coming out now is that you’re not necessarily locked into it. You don’t have to put in a whole new light fixture to get a smart light, you can put in a light bulb. You can have a subscription service to a software instead of buying a whole enterprise package. There is flexibility to just try things out and let your customers know that it’s just better to just start dabbling and learning. It’s exciting too, to get a sense of where the technology is, where it’s headed and how it can be helpful to us.
Erin: You have been amazing because coming into this, PropTech, I thought were some kind of EDM, Electronic Dance Music or something. This has been absolutely fascinating and it’s opened all kinds of doors and windows to opportunity to just look and see what’s next and give it a try, be like a toddler with an iPhone and push all the buttons and see what happens. We did and we reached Sydney, Australia. Look at that, but before we let you go, you’ve done all this looking into the future, Nikki, we’re going to ask you to take one look ahead a little bit and think how you would like to describe 2021 when all is said and done.
Nikki: That’s a good question. I think when all is said and done because our world has been so fundamentally disrupted by the pandemic, we have an opportunity right now to build back better. I think 2020 was about dismantling and 2021 is about repairing in a better way. I just hope that we, as an industry, do seize upon this opportunity because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do things in a better way.
Erin: That is a great metaphor for all of us in all ways, the dismantling and the rebuilding. What did you want your life to be? Because here you’ve got a chance to start again from the ground up. Nikki, thank you so much. This has been wonderful, and we are so grateful to you for taking the time and sharing your wisdom with us here today on REAL TIME.
Nikki: Thank you so much for having me as a guest. I love talking about technology and I hope that your listeners and yourself will have found my insights useful and that you’ll just go out and buy some smart bulbs and just start dabbling in your time off. It’s a lot of fun, there’s so much we can do and it’s been an absolute delight joining you. Thank you so much for having me as a guest.
Erin: Thank you to Nikki Greenberg and to you for making time for REAL TIME. Join us on Episode 16, when we’ll talk about the psychology of real estate with Dr. Winnie Shen. She’s got a lot of great information and ideas to implement in your work and home lives.
CREA REAL TIME podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead and Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. We invite you to our previous episodes. Thanks for sharing these REAL TIME podcasts with your coworkers, your friends and fellow REALTORS®. I’m Erin Davis.
Erin Davis: Hi there. Welcome to REAL TIME. I’m your host, Erin Davis, and I promise, you’re in not just for some REAL TIME, but a great time with our guests today, Sandra Rinomato. This is the podcast for REALTORS®, and it’s brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. Here, we talk about ideas surrounding Canadian real estate, and topics that impact you as a REALTOR®.
Buying your first home can be equal parts, exciting and intimidating, but for some, it can feel like a distant dream. In episode 14 of REAL TIME, we sit down with REALTOR®, author and TV, host Sandra Rinomato, to discuss the process on both a practical and personal level, to give first-time homebuyers more knowledge and confidence, and to help REALTORS® bring more value to their clients.
What a pleasure it is to have you talking with us today, Sandra. Longtime fan, and you’ve got a new book, and we’ve got so much to dive into, so let’s do it. What do you say?
Sandra Rinomato: Awesome. I’m ready, Erin.
Erin: Okay. What makes the experience of buying a home so different for a first-time buyer?
Sandra: Wow. Well, there’s so much culture shock, if you’ll allow me to use that expression, because they’re considering taking on what they consider to be enormous debt with a mortgage, and they’ve never owned a place before, so there’s a lot of things to take into consideration: if the roof caves in, I have to fix it, or if the furnace breaks, I have to fix it. There’s all of that to worry about as well. Plus, they don’t really know how they’re going to use the space. They’ve never owned before, they don’t know the responsibilities, they aren’t really familiar with the ongoing costs associated with homeownership, and it’s pretty scary. Especially if nobody in their family has ever purchased before, never been a homeowner, there’s a lot to consider. There are a lot of emotions involved in this, and false beliefs come up, and all kinds of stuff, like especially– Like I’m the baby of the family, so it was like, “Well, you can’t do that, you’re not old enough to do that,” I’m not 30, but you’re going, “I’m 30 years old, guys, it’s time.”
There’s a whole lot of things that are unknown, they’re afraid of the unknown, as we are as human beings.
Erin: We don’t know what we don’t know until you do it, right?
Erin: Yes. Now, homeownership isn’t right for everyone, but in your new book, Home Worthy, you talk about exploring your values, beliefs and goals before investing in real estate. Finding out if it is right for you. What does that mean to you, Sandra?
Sandra: There’s a whole lot of psychology behind this. First of all, is it the right time of your life? Is your family growing? Are you prepared to do this? Why are you doing this? Then that whole why exercise, going seven levels deep into the reasons why you want to become a homeowner, or invest in real estate, for that matter, you need to do that exercise because you’re going to learn a lot about yourself, and you’re going to uncover a lot of things. You’re going to become aware of some of your beliefs, and those beliefs are going to crop up at certain times of the home buying journey to either hold you back or propel you forward. It’s best to shine the light on them, awareness of what you truly believe will help you overcome obstacles.
When you say, “Well, I want to buy a home because of this reason,” it’s probably a nice reason, but it’s probably superficial. When you start asking yourself, “Well, why is that important to me?” Or if your REALTOR® helps you do this, “Why is that important to you?” Then you go down to level two and you start thinking about it. By the time you’re at level five, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, by the time you’re at level five, you’re emotional, you’re a sobbing mess. If you’re doing it right, you will be, and you’re connecting to something really powerful within you, and that is your driving force. That is the true you. These are the reasons why you want to become a homeowner, and these reasons can vary. It’s not just about building wealth or keeping up with the Joneses.
I’ve worked with some REALTORS® exploring their reasons why, but also just homeowners understanding what’s really driving their purchase, is really fascinating.
Erin: It sounds like that a buyer’s belief will either stump them, trip them up, or push them forward. What I’m hearing you say is that connecting with a REALTOR® early on sounds like a really good idea, because it’s going to take time to do that digging, to get to the tear level.
Sandra: Well, I don’t want REALTORS® around the country to be making people cry.
I think, yes, you’re nailing it. Your belief system, understanding what do you believe about homeownership. Homeownership is only for rich people. I’ve heard that one. I’m a woman, I can’t buy a home on my own. I hear that all the time. Understanding what is driving your belief will help you uncover some truths about yourself and your goals, understanding what your true goal is will help you overcome obstacles.
When you’re buying in a busy city like Vancouver, Toronto, other places in Ontario, when you’re buying in those busy cities, you have to overcome an objection a day, it seems, or an obstacle a day. When you drill down to the reasons why, and you understand yourself, and you connect with that emotion, you’re going to be able to burst through that objection. You’re going to be able to burst through that obstacle, you’re going to find a way over it, under it, around it or just through it. It’s going to be one after another sometimes. It’s not always as easy as, “Oh, I qualify for this much mortgage, let’s go look at a few places and buy one.” It’s rarely that easy because of all the obstacles.
Erin: You mentioned women homebuyers and first buyers. You do pinpoint that in your book. I promise, we’ll get to that a little later in the interview as well, Sandra, but let’s go back to the emotions. the emotional experience of home buying. How does it differ for a first-time buyer other than the fears, for example? What about second, third, fourth-time buyers, how do the emotions differ there?
Sandra: For a second-time buyer, or let’s say a downsizer, or perhaps someone looking for their forever home, sure, there are a ton of emotions involved in that as well, and they’re different. Now you’ve already been a homeowner. Now perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve overcome that fear. Now I know what it’s like.” It’s easy to be a homeowner for you, if you had a good experience, and I’m not worried about the maintenance. I know I have to pay for maintenance, whether it’s in condo fees, or if I own a freehold, I’m going to have to save money for a new furnace and all those things.
As you’ve overcome all of those unknowns, now you’re familiar with that, those are put aside. You still may, however, have some fears because now you’re increasing your mortgage. And over the last 10 years, or a number of years, you’ve watched your mortgage principal go down because you’ve paid it off quickly, in 15 years, let’s say, and you haven’t had a mortgage, or you only have a small, small mortgage left, and now you’re going to be increasing that again. You look at your lifestyle, and you say, “Am I ready to do that again?” It’s almost like getting a new puppy, “Am I really ready to take that on? They have to go out every hour, and all the crying and the sharp teeth and everything.”
You really have to understand what you’re doing, and those emotions come into play. Quite often, if you’re buying with someone else or family, you have those considerations now. Now it’s like, what do the kids want? Where do the kids want to live? Are the kids going to want to leave school? They each need their own room, or we need space for this activity, and that activity is going to be close to the skating or the hockey or the soccer or the ballet or whatever it is, right?
Erin: Yes. Well, how far into the future, Sandra, do you think that we should look when we’re deciding what we need or want to buy? The last year has taught us that life can change in a moment, and we shouldn’t wait, and we shouldn’t expect, we can always hope, but how far ahead do you think realistically we should look?
Sandra: That’s a really interesting question. Some people who are starting to plan a family, obviously they can’t buy a one-bedroom. You have to look at your immediate future, certainly, but if you don’t have the budget, let’s say you’re just a single person and you don’t have the budget for a three-bedroom home, but you can afford a two-bedroom condo or a one-bedroom condo, and you want to become a homeowner, it’s the right time of your life, you’ve planned for this, you know why you want to become a homeowner, then get what you can afford.
In my city, Toronto, very expensive, Vancouver, very expensive, other cities across Canada also becoming very expensive. Sometimes your budget will dictate what you can buy and where you can buy. If you’re thinking, “Well, at some point, I’m going to have a family and I’m going to need a three-bedroom home,” but right now, you can use the space in a one-bedroom or perhaps a one-bedroom plus den condo, then go for it. I don’t think you should hold back for what you project your life to be 5, 10, 20 years down the road. As you said, look at what has happened to us in the last year. Nobody saw this coming, and it has changed everybody’s life.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, so deal with what you have going on today. What can you afford? Where do you want to live? I talk to a lot of people who are 50 and over, and they want to invest in a little investment property, maybe a condo, “Maybe we’ll buy a condo downtown somewhere so that when we sell our house and retire, we’ll move into it, but for now, I’m going to rent it out.” I say, “Well, when do you think you’re going to retire?” They say, “I don’t know, maybe 5, 10 years from now.” Okay. Well, worry about it then, because you don’t know what your lifestyle will be 5 or 10 years from now. Maybe you won’t want to live in this city at all. Maybe you want to live somewhere else in Canada or somewhere else in the world. Maybe you won’t like condos. Maybe you won’t like where that condo is located. Strictly focus on the investment part of it. Treat it like a business and put the tenants in it. Also, because you aren’t emotionally attached to it, you’re not going to get that upset when the tenant has chipped the Corian counter or something like that. Don’t buy now for what you project your lifestyle to be 10 years from now, make it work for you now.
Erin: As you’ve said, the bottom line is owning real estate, and that gives you options.
Sandra: You don’t want to be stuck. I remember watching a judge on TV. I was folding laundry. I was multitasking. She was yelling at this woman for allowing herself to get stuck. She had painted herself into a corner. She had no options in life, and then she lightened up and she said, but it’s never too late. You can start building options. Owning real estate gives you options. You’ll have options at any point in your life.
I remember working with a woman who was in her late 50s, and she started asking me what it was like to be a REALTOR®. She had a great job. She was running this company for this guy. I said, “Why? Are you thinking of leaving this job?” She said, “Well, he’s closing down the company, and they’re moving outside of Toronto. I live in Toronto. I own a home, and I’m not going to commute an hour and a half every day, and I’m certainly not leaving my neighbourhood and my family and friends to go live in a new city for a job.” I said, “Wow, aren’t you worried? How are you going to support yourself?” She goes, “No, I’m not worried. I only have two mortgage payments left, and then I own my house outright.” She had options.
She could sell and downsize. She could rent out her basement. She could renovate and flip and then buy something more affordable for her. She says, “All I have to pay for are the utilities and some maintenance.” She said, “I’ll get a part-time job and be more than fine.” I thought, wow, that is amazing. That is a great testimony to what homeownership can do for you. She had options. She will never be stuck.
Erin: Coming up. How a buyer’s why helps you both decide the where and managing reality versus wish list, as our chat with Sandra continues. I hope you’re enjoying this Episode 14 of our REAL TIME podcast. Why not check out some of our other discussions with award-winning author, Jesse Thistle, TV icon, Sarah Richardson, marketing genius, Terry Riley, and his timeless advice on how you can connect with clients and build your business. So much to explore, and it’s all on REAL TIME on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, or visit CREA.ca/podcast for more.
Knowing you want to own a home, making that decision and saying that you’re ready to do it, that’s one thing, but how do you decide how much home to own, Sandra, and, of course, location, location, location, where to buy?
Sandra: You really have to do your soul searching there. What kind of location are you envisioning yourself in? What’s important to you in your lifestyle? Working with various buyers, they want to buy downtown because that’s where they spend their leisure time, but they don’t work in the city. That’s fine. They want to hang out, go to clubs or fancy restaurants or wonderful theater and opera and whatever. They want to be downtown for their leisure time, but for work, they don’t mind a little bit of a commute, and there’s others that I do not want to commute. I want to live where I work, and then if I want to go to restaurants, I will commute to that. It really depends on your lifestyle for location, but also what the neighbourhood offers. Is it safe? Is it historically a safe investment? Is it gentrifying? What people live there? Your personal preferences and desires.
I’ve had people buying a certain area because there was a particular coffee shop in the neighbourhood, and that made them happy. It’s not the one you think.
When it comes to lifestyle, you have to understand yourself very well, and understand your why again, and that will help you choose location. Now, how much house to buy, or how much property to buy, again, will be dictated very much by your budget, but if money is no object, then it just comes down to, what’s going to make you happy? What is going to fulfill you? How do you envision your life in that space? Will it provide the ultimate result that you are after?
Erin: You mentioned budget, so let’s go there. How should a first-time buyer, Sandra, manage expectations around budget versus wish list? We all have this idea of our forever home the first time we buy, and that may not be realistic, is it?
Sandra: No, definitely not. I truly believe that you work your way up the property ladder, especially now that prices are so high. To think that you’re going to live there for the next 30 years, is unrealistic anyway, especially as a first-time buyer, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe you’re going to get a job transfer. Maybe you’re going to get tired of the weather or other things that are happening in your city, and you’re going to want to move to a different part of the country or outside of the country. So many unknown factors that will determine your life 5, 10, 30 years from now.
Your budget could determine not only are you buying a big home or a small home, but are you buying a condominium versus a freehold? Is this something you want to work up to? Because some people do not want to own a freehold because of the work that goes along with it.
These are considerations that you should take into your thought and your planning before you make a decision. Sometimes it’s just a matter of your REALTOR® pointing things out to you, or touring properties with the eyes of a potential buyer, because that’s the difference. Especially when it comes to unrealistic expectations of first-time buyers, you’ve never gone through a property with the eyes of a buyer. Now you’re looking at things differently because you’re paying for it, and you are looking at what you can comfortably afford. Then you start thinking about other things, well, where is this located? What can I buy? Does that suit me?
I will never say to someone, just get into the market because you’re getting priced out. I don’t believe that. I believe when you’re ready, you will find a way to make it work. Again, if you are attached to and aligned with your reasons why you want to become a homeowner, the options become available to you. You will start to see opportunities, and a professional REALTOR® will always be able to help you sort of find another way to get there. If you have an idea that you want to live in this address and you want that kind of a house, and right now you just can’t afford that, that’s way beyond your affordability, no problem. We’re going to find another way to get you those feelings, those feelings of pride of home ownership, or the independence, or whatever it is that you’re after, we can achieve that in this neighbourhood or this type of dwelling.
Erin: Are starter homes still a relevant concept in today’s market?
Sandra: Probably more than ever.
Sandra: Yes. I remember hearing stories, elderly aunts telling me they bought their first house and they lived there forever. That doesn’t happen very much anymore because the cost of real estate is higher in many places. The availability of affordable housing can be a one-bedroom condo. How are you going to have three kids there, and two great Danes and four cats?
Erin: Of course.
Sandra: Realistically, again, you don’t know what your lifestyle will be 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Just look at what your lifestyle is today, what do you want today, what’s going to make you happy, what’s going to give you all of those good feelings, what can you afford, and what will prove to be a solid investment for you. Don’t just buy real estate for the sake of buying real estate. You make your money when you buy, not when you sell. That means buy wisely. Take your time, understand, ask your REALTOR® if you don’t understand. If you are the REALTOR®, keep explaining it to them, why this is not a good purchase, or why this is a good purchase.
For example, I love to explain to people why purchasing a stigmatized property will make them sad in the end, because when you go to sell it, if you had bought property A, which is stigmatized, versus property B, which is not stigmatized, property A will not appreciate at the same rate as property B. That might annoy you. You make your money when you buy, buy wisely. Buy with the guidance of your professional REALTOR®.
Erin: Explain to me what stigmatized is in this case?
Sandra: Stigmatized would be something like a property backing out onto a very busy, noisy highway, or hydro towers that some people believe have negative effect on your health. Things like that, or stigmatize a property could be one where people think it’s haunted, or even perhaps a violent death that could be a stigmatized property.
Erin: Something you could be able to Google and find a news story about it, for example.
Sandra: Oh, and trust me, your neighbors will tell you the day you move in. “Hey, did you know?”
Erin: Great. That’s so good. Okay. What about, Sandra, a move-in ready home versus one that needs work? I guess that all depends on the buyer?
Sandra: Yes. You would think that everybody wants move in ready magazine quality, but it’s not necessarily true because some people are afraid that the work wasn’t done properly, it wasn’t done to code. We can’t see how the plumbing was done, or a lot of these places are renovated without the proper building permits, so all that glitters is not gold. You don’t want to buy this pay top dollar and then find out that everything’s breaking down.
Then there are the people that don’t have the time or the resources to do any renovations. They put their entire savings into the down-payment, and they don’t even have $10,000 to renovate a small kitchen or something like that. They want it done for them. Quite often working with buyers, they realize that they can’t get that shiny new object, and that they may be better off getting to what they can afford in the same neighbourhood that will make them happy and deliver the results that they want. They will have to look at a property that will not be recently renovated with expensive quality stuff.
You’re walking into a house that hasn’t been renovated in 30 years or longer. You’ve got that 1970s or 1990s kitchen that you really don’t like, but you start to think, “Gee, but the reality is, I could paint the cupboards, change the laminate countertop to something stone, put in some stainless-steel appliances, paint the walls, change the light fixtures, put in nicer baseboards, change the doors and the hardware. You know what, I think will be very comfortable here.”
A lot of people opt for that because then down the road, and I think it’s a great idea actually to live in a house for a little while before you renovate because now you know how you use the space, and when you think you would like the kitchen to look like this, actually, when we’re both in here cooking and the kids are running around at our feet, we need the kitchen to look like this instead. Rather than doing it before you move in or as soon as you move in, you might make a mistake. You see that happen quite often.
Erin: Knowing a couple who moved into a home that they are the second owners of this home and they’re thinking, “You know what, we’d like to paint this so that these colours reflect our personality,” as per our last podcast with Tiffany Pratt, but realizing too, they’ve got a toddler and a six-year-old, “We’re going to wait. We’re going to take our time. Let the kids scuff up these walls and do it later. You can always, always wait.”
Sandra: My friend built a house. She has a young daughter, and they had a birthday party shortly after they moved in. One of the kids found a pen and wrote on their freshly painted wall.
Erin: Oh, no. Great. That child turned out to be Banksy.
Back to REALTOR®, author of the book, Home Worthy, and TV host, Sandra Rinomato, in a moment, talking about the bones of a potential property and a project she recommends for people budgeting for a house. Honestly, it’s like your own reality show. When it comes to your audiences, whether you’re looking to connect with local leads, grow your network, or find valuable content, REALTOR.ca has you covered. Just visit REALTOR.ca today. Reliable real estate resources, all under one roof.
Now back to Sandra Rinomato, Peeling back the layers on REAL TIME.
Now, we’ve talked about maybe some of the skeletons in the closet. On a more positive note, let’s talk about bones. What do the bones of a house mean to you? You hear this so often. How important is it to you as you’re showing a first-time buyer a place, Sandra?
Sandra: I like to think of it as the structure. Is there structural integrity? Is it a solid foundation? Is the wiring and the mechanicals, are they up to date or good enough? Those are the bones. Also, I like to think of the flow of the property, because although many people think, “Oh, we’ll just tear down this wall, and we’ll build out an addition,” it’s not as easy as you may think because inside that wall that you think you’re going to tear down, maybe it’s a load-bearing wall. That’s extra cost. Maybe it has the air duct venting in there and you need to remove that and reposition it. That creates a whole other problem.
It’s not as easy as you think to just tear down a wall or add on to the property. When it comes to the flow, you want to see, “Does this make sense for my lifestyle? When we walk in here, do I feel like, “Yes, we would use the space like this.”? It really helps with real estate staging, to have one purpose per room. If it’s the dining room, just make it a dining room. Don’t put the piano in there and a treadmill. It’s just a dining room, people, so that the buyers coming through can see the flow of the property. Oh yes, this makes perfectly good sense. It’s not an eat-in kitchen so you want to obviously right beside the kitchen and there’s a nice flow there. Or when you walk in, there’s this weird wall obstructing or, for some people walking from the outside right into their living room is an issue. Those are the things that cannot easily be changed, and I would look at that. When I say good bones, it’s like “You know what, this is a good solid home, and it’s got a decent flow. I like it.”
Erin: Although you can’t always look behind the walls, especially the ones that maybe were fixed up a little bit in preparation for sale, there are things you can look for in terms of the structural integrity. Ideally buy a home inspector, but we’re talking about do things look like there’s been some flooding or some leaking or any number of those things. You just have to have an eye for, right?
Sandra: Exactly, a trip up to the attic, and looking at the rafters. Maybe there was a bad leak for years, and they never replaced the roof in time, and now it’s affected the structural integrity of those rafters, or it was a grow-op and they’re warped, or one thing after another can be seen through the attic. If the basement is finished, it’s okay. There’s usually a portion of the basement that’s not finished, maybe a furnace room. You can still see, is there water coming in, is there efflorescence, which is a residue on the cinderblock, that shows that moisture is coming in. You can do an exterior walk around to see places where perhaps the grading dips towards the house that could be problematic or other issues, the neighbor’s driveway. Asphalt is right up to your window well, that could be a problem. You can certainly do some due diligence just by inspecting it with your eyes. I recommend to get a home inspection report done for yourself as a buyer.
Erin: Sandra, you have an amazing idea, and it could be some really tough medicine. I wouldn’t want to do it, but you go for it, about budgets and tracking for one month. What is it?
Sandra: I did this years and years ago, and I was floored. People who are budgeting for a house, this is what I recommend to you. For one month, track every dollar you spend. It’s really easy to do it with a debit card or a credit card, because you can see, at the end of the month, where your money went, because I don’t know about you, but I open up my credit card bill and I go, “What? I don’t remember shopping there. Oh, yes, it’s that thing.” You can see where you’re spending your money, and that’s important.
Also, you have to track the annual expenses, as well as your monthly expenses, let’s say a car loan or a loan repayment that you pay every month. Those are static. Those you know you can add those in. Don’t forget the annual stuff, including insurance, or perhaps travel or gifts. You don’t want to underestimate how much you truly spend. When you look at and you say, “I spend that much money every month,” I guarantee, nobody who’s ever done this experiment has ever come out and say, “Yes, I knew that.” No, they’re all floored. It’s really eye-opening, and you go, “Wow, I have to earn that much money. That’s how much money I really spend?”
You don’t do it so that you chastise yourself and say, “Okay, that’s it. I am never going to spend money on entertainment again because I spend so much money every month on entertainment.” That’s not realistic. When you’re budgeting for a home, you can look at your lifestyle and say, “Well, no, I really enjoy that. That makes me happy, and I am going to continue to do that.” If you don’t do that, that’s where that expression house poor comes in because you can’t do the things you love doing anymore, because you didn’t do this exercise. Because when the lender qualifies you, they will look at your overall expenses and say, “Okay, you qualify for this much mortgage loan.”
Taking that information, plus your spending habits, only changing something if you really want to. If you look at it and say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m spending that much money on x.” Then stop it. Maybe pare it down by 10%, something very realistic, then you can plan going forward and know exactly what your spending habits are, how much money you need to earn every month, and how much you’re already carrying.
For many of the first-time buyers, they say, “You know what, I’m already spending all that money anyway.” When the guy said the mortgage is going to be this much, and your property’s just going to be this much, and your utility is going to be this much, I freaked out, but I’m spending that anyway. It really is a good exercise. I really recommend people doing it. Just for 30 days, track it and understand where your money’s going.
Erin: It doesn’t have to be punitive, just in enlightening.
Erin: When we return with author, REALTOR®, TV host, Sandra Rinomato, digging into hidden costs your clients need to know about, and rising to the top in a bidding war. The win may be in the details.
Looking for the latest news and stats legal matters and advocacy updates, we have just the place. It’s CREA Cafe. Stay connected to the world of Canadian Real Estate on CREACafe.ca.
Now, back to our inspiring and just delightful guest, REALTOR® Sandra Rinomato on REAL TIME.
What are some of the hidden costs? Now, these are the things that when we look at the price of a house we go, okay, I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve crunched this and this and this, but there’s so much more that happens on closing date or thereabouts, and we’re talking about like land transfer taxes and so on. This comes under the purview of the REALTOR® and informing their client customer, doesn’t it?
Sandra: Yes, absolutely. I think your REALTOR® should be a great advisor to you, and especially when you’re working with first-time buyers, I think REALTORS® really need to be an expert in that field and know all things real estate, and explain them in a way to the customer, that they will understand it. Even if you have to say it over and over again and find a different way to explain it to them, make sure that they truly understand it.
Land transfer tax, for example, in the province of Ontario, you pay land transfer tax, but as a first-time buyer, you get a rebate, which means you’re forgiven a portion of it, but only up to a certain amount.
Then if you’re fortunate enough to live in the city of Toronto, which is the only city in the country that has a second land transfer tax, a municipal land transfer tax, you have to take that in consideration, and those are paid on the day of closing. You can’t add that to your mortgage loan. The way you can add the CMHC fee, if that is in fact a situation that you’re in, if you have less than 20% down, you may be subject to CMHC fee, which is the loan insurer. If you have 5% down, your insurance is going to be higher than if you have 10, 15, 20, it’s on a graduated scale, so it becomes less and less as you get closer to the 20%.
Those are expenses that you need to be aware of. Also, your mortgage lender will talk to you about this, because they’re going to ask you about your down payment, and your down payment is immediately eroded by the land transfer taxes that you have to pay, because, again, those are paid in cash on the day of closing.
You think you have $50,000, but it ends up, after paying your land transfer taxes, you really only have $45,000. That could affect how much loan you get, mortgage loan, that could affect your rate, if it’s significant. Those are things to really take into consideration.
When you work with a professional REALTOR®, we do have a network of trusted professionals, like a good mortgage lender, who will explain this stuff to you, and a lawyer who will explain things. You’ve got lawyers’ fees, and they vary from lawyer to lawyer, so you want to ask about those, including all of the disbursements. For example, if you’ve never had utilities in your name, you might have to put down a deposit of a certain amount of money until you’ve proven that you are credit worthy for two years, and then they give that back to you, but you have to put that out.
All those little expenses, maybe an appraisal, the cost of an appraisal, depending on who your lender is. Maybe the cost of the home inspection, maybe even you bought the house without the home inspection because you were in a fierce bidding war, and then you think, you know what, I really want to know about my house, so I am going to hire a home inspector to come through, show me all the things. If you buy an older home, there might be things that are not to code that you might want to address as a homeowner over the period of time that you own the property, especially if they are things like plumbing or electrical issues.
Maybe you want the home inspection. Those are some of the hidden costs that perhaps you’re not aware of, so you do you have to budget for those because that’s cash out of pocket.
Erin: Sandra, you’ve raised the specter of home inspections, and it’s something that’s happening more and more often that in the flurry of activity and the heat of the moment and the competition, if you want to move yourself up from number eight to number two in a bidding war, you may let that home inspection go, and it’s something of course that is never ever, ever recommended, but it’s happening, and it’s a nerve-racking tactic for many, many buyers. What do you recommend to your clients in this case, or to anybody who’s listening, because we know how vitally important home inspections are.
Sandra: Right now, it’s happening that they are going in with no conditions whatsoever, so there’s no financing condition, there’s no home inspection condition, there’s no pool inspection condition. There’s no condition on insurability, so for example, if you are in a floodplain in Toronto, there are areas that the insurers are not too happy to insure you. That could be an issue. People are buying these properties because they have to. In order to be competitive, you have to go in with what we call a firm offer.
Now, a firm offer means you buy it today, you own it. There’s no condition. You can’t think about it and back out tomorrow, or find out your financing fell through, you can’t back out, and you have a hefty deposit with your offer. You stand at risk of losing that money, and of course being sued because a contract is a contract, and contract law in Canada is very serious.
Should you go in without a home inspection condition? You want to avoid it as much as possible, especially a first-time buyer who isn’t particularly savvy with even how to take care of their home. A home inspection report can have something in it like, just move this downspout so that it’s further away and discharges further away from your home to prevent future water in your basement. It could be little things like that, that are $10 to fix, you want that stuff. Where’s my water shut off? Where’s my water meter? You want to drain the water so that the pipes don’t freeze with your garden hose, that sort of stuff. You may want to do that anyways, but in many cases, with multiple offers, the buyer doesn’t have the opportunity to bring in a home inspector because it’s $600 or $700 in some places, or more.
In many cases, buyers are bidding on a house and not getting it. If you knew you’re getting it for sure, you don’t mind paying the $600, but tomorrow night, you’re going on another bidding war and you lose that one and it’s several offers before you actually get the house, they can get pretty costly and time consuming and disheartening.
My recommendation to every home seller out there, and the listing agents, please consider getting a pre-sale home inspection report done before you list the house, because you are serving as a REALTOR®, as a listing agent, you are serving your client’s best interest. How? You have a seller, and now your seller is providing a home inspection report from a reputable company that knows the area and people know them in that area, and you can hand it out to the potential buyers to review. The buyers have an idea of what they’re getting into. Now, it could have all kinds of unsavory things in it, and then a really strong seller’s market, that’s not going to stop them, but they’re going to know what they’re dealing with. The seller might say, “Well, I don’t want to find out things are wrong with my property, then I have to fix them.” No, you don’t necessarily have to fix them at all, you’re just disclosing, and it’s better to disclose those deficiencies in writing, and offer it to the buyer so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you. Then maybe things that you weren’t aware of.
Erin: In a field of say, 10, how do you recommend that your client move up that line? If all things are played out equal or seem to be in terms of this bidding war, how does your client rise to the top?
Sandra: Well, you know what’s funny, Erin, is that I sit on both sides of the table. I sit on the seller’s side, and I sit on the buyer’s side. Quite often as a seller’s agent, I see offers come in that have issues in their offers that the seller will never accept. As a buyer, don’t put anything in there that isn’t on the listing. As a listing agent, make sure that the information on the listing, on the MLS listing, is complete and accurate. If the closing date, preferred closing date is June 15th, put that in there. Because we call ahead. If it just says June TBA, we call ahead and we say. “What’s the preferred closing date for your seller?” They say, “Well, anytime in June.” Then you get to the table and they say, “Well, actually June 1st or July 15th.” Now it’s a problem.
As a buyer’s representative, you want to make sure that you are giving them everything they’re asking for, and sometimes, yes, you’re right, there are multiple offers that have exactly what is on the listing, and then a variety of prices. One thing you can do is increase your deposit, and why that’s important to a seller, is that when somebody has more money, more skin in the game, they’re less likely to back out.
Let’s say something bad happens, they don’t get their financing, well, when there’s 100 grand or 200 grand on the line, that’s their deposit, they’re going to work really hard to make sure that they get some kind of mortgage funding, even if they have to sell it the next day after closing on it, because they don’t want to walk away from their 100 grand or 200 grand, and the other thing is, have it there at offer time. Go convince your buyers to go get the bank draft.
I’ve heard many REALTORS® say, well, they don’t want to because then if they don’t get the house, then what? Well, then you take the bank draft back. I know many banks will say, “Are you trying to buy a house?” “Yes.” “Okay, well, I’m not going to charge you for this next bank draft, or I’m not going to charge you to deposit that money again,” because they know, they’re going through it themselves when they see it every day.
That small inconvenience could win you the deal, because if I’m representing a seller, and as I see two beautiful offers, and they’re identical, and one of them has the deposit cheque and the other does not, if we accept the one that does not have the deposit bank draft, guess what? That’s a conditional offer. That person may never show up with that cheque, and then you’re sitting there and you have not, in fact, sold your house, and you have to go through it again.
Having $100,000 paying draft versus zero, I know which offer I’m going for.
Erin: It’ll always save so much more than that heart-string letter that you were considering writing.
Sandra: Yes, in rare occasions, I have seen the letter work. For example, in a situation where the home seller is still emotionally tied to the property, and they don’t want a builder to come in and tear it down. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational because you are going to get your $2 million and move on. Let go with the memories here, you’ve made the decision to move on, so move on. Let go. Then they get a letter from a young family that says, “We’re not going to tear the house down. We’re going to move in.” They go, “Oh, that’s nice. I want to sell it to them.” That might happen.
Especially if they have an aversion to builders, for some reason. Maybe they’ve been hounding them, pounding on their door, sell me your house, sell me your house, or whatever. It might just help to sway them in your direction. At that point, if you don’t have the most money, the seller might say, “Okay, well, that other offer is higher than yours. I tell you what, I want to work with your offer, but you have to increase it, and increase it by this amount.” They can say that. The seller can actually sign it back to you. That doesn’t happen very often.
The seller will instruct their agent to say, “You know what, go back and ask them for 25 grand. If they increase their offer by 25 grand, we’ll sell it to them.” The seller doesn’t necessarily have to send all of the offers back. That is misinformation. The seller can do whatever they want. If the seller has 10 offers, they don’t have to send all 10 offers back to improve. As a matter of fact, in most cases, the seller will just take the highest and best offer. If there’s an outlier, there’s one that’s way above the crowd, it’s a beautiful offer. There’s nothing weird in it. You warrant that the pool is going to be in good working order for 17 years. Some other warranty in there that they don’t want to take on. It’s a beautiful clean offer, they might just take it. Other REALTORS® and buyers are like, “Well, I thought they were going to send us back.” No, nobody ever promised you that.
When I’m training my agents, I say, “Go in with your highest and your best offer, and then walk away.” If you’re asked to improve, you can revisit it at that moment. Just go on the premise that you will not be given a second chance.
Erin: Lots more with Sandra Rinomato to come, including some fascinating and surprising stats in her book, looking at women versus men in buyers numbers, and shaking off the past in terms of our limitations. Writing the book of you, we’ll talk about that too. Everything you and your clients need have served up to you all in one place, at REALTOR.ca Living Room. Share the latest insights from your go-to source for content, timely articles, inspiring design tutorials, and everything you and your clients need to make that dream home a reality. Visit REALTOR.ca Living Room today. Now back to author, TV host, and of course REALTOR®, Sandra Rinomato, on REAL TIME.
Let’s talk about an interesting stat we referred to earlier from your book, Home Worthy. You note, Sandra, that one in four buyers, 25%, are single women compared to only 10% being single men. Why?
Sandra: First of all, isn’t that an amazing statistic, and would probably shock a lot of people when they hear it. I like that, because society has changed so much. I grew up with an aunt who was a very forward-thinking woman. She had a career, and she worked for the airline. She was out in Honolulu and she walked into a builder site. They were building condos, and condos were a little bit untested at that time. Lenders weren’t that crazy about funding a condo. They were a new thing. She walked into the builder’s office and she wanted to invest in a condo in Honolulu. Imagine how much money she would have made? Oh my gosh, anyway.
Sandra: The builder said, “Well, we’re not going to sell it to you unless you have a male cosigner.” That was that time. Women couldn’t get a credit card on their own. Women were not really buying cars on their own. Things have changed. Women are not getting married at 18, fresh out of high school. A lot of us are never getting married. A lot of us are pursuing careers. Then we wake up one morning, and we’re way far from 18 and we think, “You know what, I want to buy my own place. What am I waiting for?” You start to explore your own false beliefs and thought, “I should have bought 10 years ago or whatever number of years ago.” Now you start to seriously consider this.
Women are not getting married as young, if ever. Some women are not getting married at all, and they’re not having children, and they’re pursuing careers. They’re very happy living a life on their own or with a partner, but not being married. All of these things coming into play, society has changed greatly. Women are saying, “I don’t need to have that 1950s lifestyle to be able to own my own property. I can buy it on my own.” I think it’s so beautiful because by doing that, by realizing that, they change their destiny.
You don’t have to live that 1950s lifestyle. You don’t have to live that prescribed life. You are going to control your own destiny. I love it, and I love the wealth-building through homeownership. I think it’s very, very powerful. I think everybody should own real estate somewhere in their portfolio, even if you don’t live in your own home if you own an investment property, because actually, I talk to a lot of people who cannot afford to buy in their city. I say, “Well, what about buying an investment property in a less expensive place?” and they go, “Well, what do you mean?” I say, “Well, now your tenant is paying down your mortgage. You can buy a place. It doesn’t have to be your dream home because you’re not living in it. You become a landlord.” Now, there are a lot of things to know about being a landlord. It’s not as easy as you may think it is. There are some things you have to be aware of, educate yourself, contact your REALTOR® to help you understand the ins and outs. You can become a landlord, have your tenant pay down your mortgage, so you’re building equity two ways.
One, the tenant’s paying your mortgage down. Two, the property will go up in value over an extended period of time. Nobody’s telling you you’re going to make a million bucks in an hour, but over a long period of time, if you can buy real estate for the long-term, then I think you will see gains. If you’re never in a position where you have to sell it now, then you will always have options, and you can sell at the right time.
Erin: You’re all about empowering, and especially first-time buyers, and focusing on allowing women to create and change their own destinies, change the dream, and then just go from there. That’s fantastic.
On the flip side, what advice do you have for REALTORS® who are working with new homebuyers? It sounds like there are a lot of things, and being a great listener seems to be the first part of it.
Sandra: Oh, it’s so important. I remember shooting Property Virgins, and when I saw one of the first episodes where somebody was crying and I wasn’t around, they were talking to the director. The interview’s after we toured a property and she’s crying. I’m like, “What?” I was like, “Tom Hanks, there’s no crying in real estate.” I was shocked because quite often, the buyer won’t communicate honestly with you. As you’re touring the property, you have to be in tune with their body language. You have to ask them why they don’t like this one, or why they do like this one, and then bring them back to their why, their reason why they’re buying a home, and make sure that it is in fact aligned, and they’re not being swayed by beautiful furniture or pictures of the family on the wall and they see their lifestyle, and you really are a psychologist. You’re using a lot of psychology in real estate. You really have to open up the lines of communication. You have to work hard. Some people are way more verbose and open to sharing, and others are not.
Others may not share, especially you’re working with a couple, they may not want to share in front of you because they don’t know what their partner’s thinking. They want to go and discuss it in privacy. What happens, in that case, is they’ve gone away, they’ve talked about it overnight, and then tomorrow they say, “Okay, we want to look over here instead.” Now you have to uncover the reasons why. Talk to me guys, what happened? I don’t mind. If you tell me you hate the homes I’ve been showing you, I’m not going to be offended. I’m here to help you. Give me the information so that I can put it into my data bank of information which is in my head, and then I can try to solve your real estate problem. I can see where you want to go, and I can help you get there, but you need to have this flow of communication, and it’s sometimes more difficult than other times.
The other thing is when you’re working with first time buyers, you have to explain things in a feature advantage benefit. Don’t just give the features. Sometimes a real estate just gives the features. Well, it’s got this. In your head you’re saying, like you said, you wanted, but you have to explain. This delivers that thing you wanted. You said you wanted this, here it is. This is the feature and this is the benefit to you
Erin: That goes into your book of you at the end of the day too. Tell us about that.
Sandra: I mentor my agents, and I tell them, especially the new ones, every day you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn for the first five years. First three years, you’re learning multiple things every day. At the end of the day, just take some time to pause and reflect. Open up a book of you, just a notebook, and you can keep a series of them because you will go through a lot of them if you’d like to write.
Journaling is always good. Just reflect. “You know what, I nailed today. I said this, and then this happened, and oh my gosh, I solved that problem because we couldn’t find this. I found that, oh my gosh, I’m so proud of myself, or I don’t like the way I did that. I could do better. Instead of saying that or doing that, I should have does this. And you write it down, and you grow from that. When you go back and you read that stuff six months from now, I guarantee, there’s going to be some stuff in that book of you that you’re going to say, “Oh, my goodness. I was so smart back then. How did I forget that?” I’ve kept some from the beginning of my career. I have so many. I’m on my third one already this year. I love to write anything I learn. Really important stuff goes in there. I always have, and then I date it. On the front of the book, it will have like, it goes from January 1 to February 15, or whatever the dates are. And then I’ll read through them.
If you were running a billion-dollar corporation, you would have these reports prepared for you. They would come at you with explanations, but you are an entrepreneur. You’re running your own business as a REALTOR®. Don’t rob yourself of this beautiful experience. This is data about you. It is just about you. It’s amazing, amazing information. Any new REALTORS® out there, even if you’ve been doing it a couple of years, start writing in your book of you. It is so wonderful to review it. I go back a few years and I read it, yes, I forgot I wanted to do that to my website or whatever.
Because you do come up with these inspired thoughts and brilliant ideas and wonderful knowledge that you sometimes tend to forget because we get so busy working at the business. We’re so busy running here. We’re tending to this. We’re making sure we go through our checklist and do a good job, that we forget to work on our business. When those ideas come to you, it’s in your book of you. When you have time to stop and work on your business, the information is there. You don’t have to guess.
Erin: When we return, how to turn what you or your client may see as the impossible dream of homeownership into concrete steps towards reality? Grow your business on REALTOR.ca. Canada’s resource for all things real estate. Now, back to REALTOR®, author, TV host, Sandra Rinomato on REAL TIME.
What would you say to someone who wants to own a home but is struggling to see their dream being anything other than just a dream?
Sandra: There are some people that won’t even allow themselves to dream. I think that’s really sad. If you think it’s just pie in the sky, there’s a couple of things that could be holding you back. It’s either a lack of clarity, you don’t know what to do next. Call a professional REALTOR®. Maybe get some recommendations from friends or family that have used one, or when we can go to open houses, go into some open houses and meet one that you connect with. Talk to that REALTOR®, and ask them the questions. What do I do next? I’ve never bought a place. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to. I don’t even know if I should buy a place.
Listen, you want clarity. What’s my first step? You may think your first step is looking at houses. That’s not even on the list of the first five things you need to do. Hire a professional right away, and one who is patient. One who knows this may not happen for two years, or six years. I don’t care, ask me now. If you don’t have clarity or focus, you don’t know what to do next, that could be a really big stumbling block for many, many people and they will never get started. Just knowing one tiny step, one action you can take that will propel you closer towards your dream, will work miracles. That’s one thing that could be holding people back.
The other thing is, some event is holding them back. I know with working with a lot of single women, sometimes it is things like, in our community, women don’t buy their own properties. That can be something that you can become aware of, shed light on, and realize that maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be true for you. Maybe that worked 50 or 100 years ago, and maybe that worked in the old country. Here, I was raised by Italian immigrants, and they brought a veritable time capsule from small town, Southern Italy 1950. They raised their three daughters using that set of mores, and know how.
This is how we do things because it’s always been done this way, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even some of the things they told me like, I remember my mom told me I should be a wife and mother and I thought, oh, well. She knows me better than I know myself. No, that’s not true. That is not true. Then I took on these other things myself. Maybe nobody ever said to me, Sandra, you can’t buy a home on your own, or you can’t have a career, but I took it on myself. I took those beliefs on their false beliefs, but I took them on, and working through them takes wisdom. It takes awareness.
You need to know who you truly really are. What are your beliefs? For example, homeownership isn’t for me. That’s only for rich people. Or, I’ve heard single women say this one. Well, I would buy my own place, but I’m just so worried, what if I buy a place and then I meet Mr. Right? I’m like, what’s the rest of the sentence? I don’t understand. What’s the problem? You can still date when you own real estate. I’m going to start rapping about it, but it was just such a bizarre belief. Why would you have such a limiting belief? Let’s shed awareness on it. Then they go, yes, you’re right. I just have options.
So what? The guy can move in with me or the person can move in with me, or I can rent that place out, move in with them, or we rent a place together, try out our relationship, see if it’s going to stick, and then we decide to sell our properties. Here’s the question to women. Why would you want to shrink yourself for someone you’ve never even met? Let alone for someone you have met. Why would you want to say my dream partner does not want me to have my act together? Let your light shine brightly. Achieve all that you want to achieve, all that you can achieve, because your shining light will be the beacon of hope for the young girls today, or perhaps another woman who never allowed themselves to dream of that lifestyle of owning her own property, of being independent, of maybe having a career earning her own money. These false beliefs go really, really deep. As soon as you shed light on them, as soon as you become aware, they disappear. Most of them just disappear. Others, you need to work on a little bit, but I’m telling you, everyone, not just women, when you are working on improving yourself, self-development, introspection, analyzing those false beliefs, becoming aware of who you truly are, you have to do this daily. This is daily work.
Erin: I can’t let you go. We’re a third through 2021. Tell me, Sandra, how are you hoping to describe this year when it’s said and done?
Sandra: You know what? I hope that people find the opportunity to grow, to find joy in the small things. Right now, the sun is shining. That is enough to make me happy, to feel the happiness that already resides in me. I’m one of those optimistic crazy people, I know. Really, I want you to connect with your joy. I hope that everybody out there can find it because, as you say, we’ve gone through a lot in the last 12 months. We’ve seen a lot of things change. There’s so many opportunities. Industries have changed. New millionaires are coming up. There’s a shift in the disbursement of wealth. You can’t take anything for granted now.
Small business owners, I know there’s one near my place, she’s doing tremendous business online because she was able to pivot her business. I guess what I want 2021 to be is a year of growth, and us connecting to our inner joy and peace. Love ourselves and love each other.
Erin: Sandra, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your time with us today. It has been wonderful.
Sandra: Thanks, Erin. You know me. I hate to talk about real estate. It’s been a joy speaking with you, Erin. Thank you.
Erin: Thank you. Just a reminder, Sandra Rinomato has a book called Home Worthy. A great read, gift and source of inspiration and information, just like Sandra herself.
Thinking about buying your first home, REALTOR.ca has everything you need to feel ready. Discover our tips for first time homebuyers. These helpful checklists, resources and tools cover everything from mortgage options to putting in an offer to the value of a professional REALTOR®. Be fully prepared to buy. Visit REALTOR.ca to learn more. Before we say goodbye for now, don’t forget to subscribe to our REAL TIME channels on Spotify, Apple and Stitcher, or just go to CREA.ca/podcast for more.
In the meantime, I hope you plan to join us for Episode 15 when we sit down with Nikki Greenberg, founder, Real Estate of the Future, and Founder, Women in PropTech. She’s a futurist and thought leader, and promises to have a lot of fascinating ideas to share.
This podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and Alphabet Creative. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you next time on REAL TIME.
Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association, where we’re all about sparking conversations with inspiring people about all things Canadian real estate, and topics that impact REALTORS®, and all of us. I’m your host, Erin Davis, and this is going to be an enlightening, uplifting, and fun edition, this episode 13 of REAL TIME.
As we spend more time at home than we ever have before, what can we learn about the relationship between our homes and our wellbeing? Are there changes we can make to support our physical and mental health without sacrificing resale value, and what’s the best approach to beautifying our homes on a budget? All good questions and we have just the guest to answer them.
Tiffany Pratt is known as the queen of colour, and can’t we all use a little of that in our lives right now. She is a spark, with a passion for interior, commercial, and product design, writing, painting, and lucky for us, speaking. You can see Tiffany Pratt on HGTV on Home to Win and Buy it, Fix It, Sell It, and she’s with us here today on REAL TIME. Well, what a treat to have you on REAL TIME and also to learn that you got your start with REALTORS®, Tiffany. Tell us about that.
Tiffany Pratt: It was when I moved to Toronto. I had closed my art studio and I was just a creative woman on the loose, doing all sorts of wild creative jobs. A local agent came up to me in a panic because his stager had quit on the job. He said, “I think you can make a room look pretty, right? You can do that?” I said, “Yes, sure. Why not?” I started to home-stage without any formal training for interior design. I tell anybody who wants a career in interior design, become a home stager, because you truly learn on the fly, you have a certain amount of time, you work with lots of different houses, different configurations, ages, and you really learn what moves on the market. It was a really valuable experience for me.
Erin: Well, that’s terrific because that synergy is going to come in great over the next little while as we talk here today. Tiffany, how significant is the link between our living spaces and our physical and mental wellbeing, which are just so important, now more than ever.
Tiffany: They’re intrinsically linked with one another, in my opinion. Having worked with homes the way I have, for as long as I have, in the quantity that I have, I can’t see a difference between the person, their choices, how they want to live, and the four walls that they choose to live them in. All the decisions that we make in that process, not just on the home itself but within the home, really make our lives, and that is our wellness effectively. We’re just going to dig into and tear apart all of the choices that we make and maybe some different little tweaks and twists we can do to our existing four walls to make ourselves feel better.
Erin: That really lays the groundwork for what we’re talking about today. Because you have a saying that everything is everything. It’s all interwoven.
Tiffany: That’s right. As a creative person, when you think of everything a human life touches, if it’s your home, if it’s the pets that you choose, the people you surround yourself with, the way that you write, the colours you choose, the car you drive, how you activate yourself in the world is all an expression of the life that you want to lead. When we go to bed, we’re closing our eyes on that life and within these four walls that we’ve chosen. What those four walls can do is serve us and keep us strong to do the service we’re supposed to do. Everything really is everything.
Erin: Now a lot of us have these creative sparks and ideas, but we’re held back by fear that what we want to do to, say, promote wellness might sacrifice the resale value of our home. How do you change that mindset so that we live in the now and where we are, literally and metaphorically, Tiffany?
Tiffany: Erin, you just said it perfectly. You live in the now. We’re always living for that future. What if, when I sell, when I don’t want to live here anymore, when I live somewhere else, or when I knock out this wall, or when this kitchen is redone. We all live in the what-ifs. As a designer, I’ve explored tearing homes down to putting a little lipstick on a pig.
In the end, it’s really not about the future. It’s about creating joy, happiness, and wellbeing in this moment, and there are so many ways to do it. Even if these changes that we make to bring our own joy to the present moment are temporary, it’s essential because to feel happy right now is way better than thinking of a future renovation or alternative place to live. We’re going to dig into why it’s important that, obviously, we don’t taint any resale value of the home, but certainly, we don’t want to devalue joy now.
Erin: Well, let’s look at the shades of the lipstick on that pig, so to speak. As the queen of colour, what can you tell us, Tiffany, about incorporating colour and specific palettes to improve our mood? We’ve all heard the tropes about this colour does this and this colour does that. What can we use to improve our mood, whether it’s to calm us or to inspire us?
Tiffany: I don’t know who coined me, the queen of colour, also many years ago, but I now hold that as a very, very important factor in my work. I always tell people that we live in a culture that’s very colour cautious. To be the queen of colour is sometimes very difficult because I’m teaching people a language that they’re scared to speak. In the end, we all have a palette. We all have a colour or colours that make us feel a certain way. Effectively, our homes should make us feel something. It’s not about the way something may look to an external party so much as the way that something makes us feel.
Everyone looks at colour in a different way because their retinas, the way that they’re made, they all transmute, look at, and understand colour in their own private way. My job as a designer, and the queen of colour, is to really, really, really invite people to be who they really are, to invite colour into their life, not to be different for the sake of being different but to invite colour into their life because it adds to their life energy and it makes them feel more like themselves.
I don’t really subscribe to common culture, blue calms us because it reminds us of the water. I think that everyone looks at colour very privately because of the way that history has made them, with experiences or childhood memories, and really uncovering what people love and what colours sing to them sometimes takes a little bit of investigation, like what colour is your cell phone case? What colour is your underwear? What’s your favourite lipstick colour? What colours are you drawn to?
When you really investigate in your grayish monochromatic world what you really love, sometimes it’s not just black, white, and gray. Sometimes it could be lime green. I implore people to really start to become an investigator to their choices and look at colour not as something that’s scary but as something that could really give something to their life.
Erin: And make us happy. Your colour is pink, right?
Tiffany: My colour, without question, is pink. If you look at my website, if you’re on my Instagram, you will– 100%, my hair is pink. I can’t put pink on enough surfaces. It’s my happy colour, and it always has. I’m unabashed with my just constant use for it, and every shade it comes in, but not everyone’s like me. In the end, I know that colour pink and the rainbow give me joy. For me, I know I have one precious life, and I want to do as many things as I can do to bring joy, and that one of the most powerful ways of doing it to me is through the use of colour.
Erin: Coming up Tiffany Pratt, and feeling colours, and how to put them to work for you. Immerse yourself in a world of colourful content, covering all of your client’s house and home needs, just by visiting REALTOR.ca. From informative articles on key market updates to fun design trends, REALTOR.ca Living Room has it all.
Now back to Tiffany Pratt. I told you she was fun. Do you feel that colours have energies? Is there healing energy in colour, Tiffany?
Tiffany: 100%. I’m not going to get all historical on you right now, Erin, but we know that in the past colour wasn’t used as aesthetic. Colour was used as a message we were sending to the universe, the gods, or the powers that be, of what it is that that colour represents that we want to draw into our lives. You fast forward into families of affluence in the 1800s who had a family crest and family colours, and they would decorate their homes and dress in these colours because it meant something to their heritage to their family.
Colour wasn’t about aesthetic and being different or something to be scared of. You celebrated those colours because you were drawing in what they represented and what you wanted for your life. If you look at colour in that context, you can understand that it really does add healing energy. If you were to put yourself in front of an ever-changing coloured light, and you watch those colours shift in front of your eyes, you can honestly feel your emotions change based off of the colours that your eyes registering at that moment. I challenge anyone out there just to get a Pantone index and flip through it and not feel something.
Erin: If someone doesn’t have access to a colour conduit, or even a medium in a way that you are, of course, what is the best exercise that you could recommend, other than flipping through the Pantone or sitting in front of a changing colour spectrum? Do you just take a look around and say, “Okay, I love that red piece there or aqua makes me happy, or there’s that bit of yellow,” what’s a good exercise that we could do just in our own homes?
Tiffany: You could go through old photos of travel pictures that maybe you’ve blown up, and a picture that really resonates with you and why. Sometimes it could be that blue when you were in Greece, or it could be you you’re in some vineyard and all the green and the grapes or you can think of pictures of places you’ve been or things you’ve collected. People often collect things and colours that they like, but they don’t think to decorate or design in those colours.
You can be an investigator of your own life because often everything that we’re choosing is very subconscious. We’re working on that very deep connective layer when we’re purchasing something, especially if we’re far away, we’re just trying to bring something home with us, it makes us think of a happier time, or we’ve kept something from when we are a child or we always seem to be buying the same thing that is in this colour, or the sun is setting, the sun is rising, and it makes us feel a certain way. When we get really quiet and quite microscopic with how we look at the world and why we feel what we feel, colours attach to those experiences and those are clues.
Erin: Okay, the queen of colour has us talking about changing the colour of where we live to reflect and to imbue us with different energies in our lives. What if somebody is going, “Yes, but I don’t know. I’m not sure about painting my whole kitchen, say green, for example.” We can dip our toes in this, can’t we, Tiffany?
Tiffany: Well, I am also a designer and I want us to make wise purchases. If we’re dealing with a colour cautious person, not someone that’s as colour confident that would be so willing to spend big bucks to paint their kitchen green. I am a huge proponent for white on white on white because there is so much colour possibility when you frost colours on top of a fresh white space. Having worked in real estate, having staged plenty of homes, I know the power of a clean slate, the tabula rasa have a white space. When you frost in accessories, pillows, carpets, art, or even those hue bulbs that you can change the colour of your lamps that therefore can change the colour of the room.
You’ve got a fresh white space, you’ve invested in flooring in a kitchen, and big things in a fresh white that will effectively go with everything but it’s the colour touches for the more colour-conscious people that really can put those feelings in a room without feeling like you’re investing a lot of money or energy in a colour you’re not so sure of. Colour collecting takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s something that we discover through slow entry with certain objects and we let them live with us and then effectively they start to find friends and buddies that they want to work with and those friends and buddies can come in other colours and then before we know it, we have a bit of a technicolour dream all of our own.
Erin: I love that because a lot of people are cost-conscious now more than ever, so it can be just the accessories that it’s not going to break either your heart or your bank if you decide, “No, that didn’t work. That’s not for me. Let’s send that off for someone else to love.”
Tiffany: Yes, with colour, certainly the most inexpensive way to add colour to a space is by paint, but I don’t always subscribe to colours on walls, because that’s quite a commitment in some cases and it does divide a space or a room. If you paint a piece of furniture, if you paint a ceiling, if you paint an object in a room, you really could be adding that colour in a fun interesting way and then to repaint the ceiling or to move that piece of furniture or whatever it is, isn’t a big deal, you could gift it to a friend or send it off to Habitat for Humanity when you want to shift your shades.
There are lots of inexpensive interesting ways to bring colour into our life without feeling like we’ve done it. This is also something that people often do, which is they go to “decorate their space” and then they’ll do it once and think this is it forever. That’s not always the case. It’s an ever-evolving conversation you’re having with your home and your four walls and it’s changing just as you are.
Erin: If you’re enjoying our chat with queen of colour, Tiffany Pratt, and we have a new nickname for her in a sec, while also talking creating cozy through textures, art, and light, why not do a deeper dive? Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts for monthly episodes with guests such as TV icon Sarah Richardson, award-winning author Jessie Thistle, Canadian ad and marketing guru Terry O’Reilly and many more. Back to REAL TIME now with Tiffany Pratt.
Well, if you ever get tired of the moniker queen of colour, shade shifter is also a pretty good one, I think.
Not a shapeshifter, a shade shifter. Let’s talk to Tiffany about textures. We’ve talked about colours so far, and accessories, what about textures to help us?
Tiffany: Textures are essential to coziness and to that feeling of home. I think when we think of the word home, we think of something that envelops us like a hug. Texture often gives us that hug-like feeling. Textures can come in many formats. We’re talking about the ever-popular fabric choice that we’re using. I love using natural fibers in linens, things that can be washed, and things that are functional for an everyday home but you can do something a little bit more elaborate for throw pillows.
I always like doing double-wide draperies to really help with sound and trapping in heat or cold. I’m a big, big fan of art, wallpaper, how we’re layering in those textures in our life, really create those cozy elements but then the icing on the cake is always the little things. By human nature, we’re all effectively for the most part collectors. If it’s that collection of something we’ve inherited from our family, or if we just love collecting old National Geographic, whatever it is, those collections, if you know styled in mass can really add to that coziness as well.
Erin: Yes, and you mentioned art there rather in passing but as an artist, of course, you know more than anyone just how great the energy is to bring something into your home, whether it’s a small ceramic piece or a painting, or a mosaic, whatever that has been made by someone’s two hands and has their whole self in it.
Tiffany: There’s nothing that’s more powerful than that. Erin, you are bang on. I worked with children, I’ve painted my whole life. I’ve worked with artists of all kinds. To this day, I still support the arts here in Toronto and it’s because artists are special humans that spend their days making beautiful things. When you connect to something that an artist has created in whatever format, it speaks to you on a subconscious level, and that level is very healing and it’s joy-inducing. If you can get out to a market, go to a gallery, check out whatever you can where artists are, and it doesn’t have to be big money.
I always tell people this, you know, sometimes there are artists out there that are just happy to paint and want to have their work in the world. Having those beautiful pieces of someone’s soul hanging in your wall, it really adds something that no one else’s space could have. They’re often one of a kind and it’s always got a story to tell and it’s always a wonderful thing when you have someone in the home to share that story with so I can’t speak enough about art, it is truly the best.
Erin: It’s so subjective, like the things that you’re talking about, the National Geographics that are artfully arranged or whatever else it is in your home that brings you joy.
Tiffany: Well, you know what’s interesting too, is that this also becomes subjective too is lighting because how you light the home adds to coziness too and what type of light fixtures you hang and where it distributes light is a really powerful way to create coziness, but also to really make a room feel good. I’m a big fan of lamps everywhere lighting up all four corners. Then if we’re thinking about that centerpiece in the room, we’re thinking about the earrings on a really great outfit. You’re thinking of the room as your wardrobe and then the centerpiece that’s hanging in the middle on top of your dining room is that really great pair of chandelier earrings.
How we’re choosing to assemble things and how we’re implying our own emotional juxtapositions to the things we collect in our lives, based on how we respond to them and feel about them, really makes a home your own. That’s the stuff I always tell my clients. “Stop looking at Pinterest, stop looking at magazines because you really want your home to be an expression of who you are.”
Erin: Once again, you’re talking about something that doesn’t have to cost a mint.
Tiffany: Absolutely not. I’m known for my thriftiness and it’s not because I don’t like to spend on beautiful things. It’s that there are so many important places to spend on a home and with little things that become pretty items, those don’t always have to cost a mint, and we don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful life. As a designer, you get known that if you do what I do for a living, you have to have a lot of money to work with the designer to live that lifestyle and it’s not the case.
Erin: That always shied me away from calling in a decorator. I thought that I was going to have to buy an $8,000 urn or something to put in the front hall, but you’re saying, no, not so.
Tiffany: I walk into a space and I’m letting the space tell me what it wants to be and what it wants to have within it. We are all people that can’t see the forest from the trees. We hate our own living rooms. We think everything has to go. We have a closet full of clothes and we hate everything that’s in it, but my take on design and art in life is that we need to view what we have with fresh eyes and look at what we have is more of a shape versus something that we’ve sat on for a really long time.
If it can be repainted or reupholstered, or put in a different room and maybe serve a different purpose or have a different use, you can fall back in love with these things again and that’s how effectively as a designer, you start saving money because you’re not buying as much furniture. You’re just shifting it around.
Erin: Coming up, Tiffany Pratt talks working in a circle, clutter and staging, but here’s a reminder that there’s a way to shine a spotlight on the charities and causes closest to you and that’s through two words, REALTORS Care. Those words are a national guiding principles celebrating the great charitable work done by Canada’s realtor community. You help raise awareness by sharing your story using #REALTORSCare on your favourite social media platforms.
As a stager, you probably did have a few key pieces that you absolutely loved. First of all, let me ask you this. When you worked with REALTORS, did you generally stage using the furniture and the pieces that homeowners had, or did you have a couple of go-to pieces that you always brought in, Tiffany? What was your plan or was there never a plan you just went in and intuited it?
Tiffany: Erin, this is a great question because every home was very different and I did have to intuit every space because some homes needed lots of work. Some homes just needed a little sprinkling and some homes needed an overhaul because you’re trying to build a perception of a home. When someone comes in to buy it, they need to envision themselves there.
If things had too much of a particular style, it would deter certain people of a certain other style from buying it. My job was to create a home that spoke of the homes different time frame because it’s not always going to be a new build or an old home. You have to work with what the home actually is. I would keep key pieces. I would bring in some newer ones, but I have to tell you, there was one time I walked into a home, it was an older woman that lived there. She had been living there since the ’50s. She had redone the home between 1950 and 1975 and it had never been touched again. She took such great care of all of the fixtures, furnishings and the space that it looked like you were trapped in a museum and everything was original and it was spectacular. When I was told to stage this home, I said, “I’m absolutely not touching anything.”
Tiffany: You bring someone in and they have to appreciate everything as it is. There’s no way of changing this. Every home has a message to share. I think my job and what I’ve learned over the years as a designer, my job is to listen and then to sometimes add or strip away in order for the space to be of best use for that particular couple, person or family.
Erin: You talk about possibly stripping away and that brings us to something that, of course, Marie Kondo became such a household name of just getting rid of stuff. Does it bring you joy? Pitch it. What impact can clutter have on our mental state, in your experience, Tiffany?
Tiffany: It’s huge. People don’t realize that everything we have, everything is everything, we’re coming back to it. When we have piles of something that just accumulate in certain corners or on our dining room table, it’s holding energy in that space, it’s unattended to energy. When I go over to someone’s house, they’ve feverishly been trying to clean up all the surfaces because guests are coming over and they slam things in drawers and in cupboards, that’s not cleaning.
Cleaning is literally pulling everything out, looking at what you have, witnessing it. If it serves a purpose or not, if it adds to your life or subtracts it, and that is the process of elimination. Then when you go to move back into that space we’ve redone or move to that new home, we’re not bringing old practices of not witnessing our old habits of collecting clutter and not tending to our things. We get really mindful of what comes in and what goes out and where it goes and building homes for the things that we have, because that is effectively the foundation of good design.
Erin: Tell me about the working in a circle that you say you like to do. Explain that for us, would you, Tiffany?
Tiffany: I work both commercially and residentially. When I’m working in a space, especially high-traffic areas in larger homes or homes with families, blended families or in a café or a space that people frequent, I want to make sure that there is very intuitive pathways for anyone who’s coming into the home to do what they need to do naturally. Those pathways often when they’re feeling good, appear in circles for me. An energetic pathway that goes in circles throughout the house means that people can get out in and around any one space or piece of furniture at any time effortlessly.
When I’m thinking of feng shui, we’re thinking of building a room with furniture that isn’t in the middle of doorways, where we’re stubbing toes or walking into the corners of furniture or knocking into things because all that spoils that circular chi that I’m talking about in a room. When I’m talking to my clients about furniture placement, or where things need to go, not only does it look aesthetically pleasing, but it feels good when you’re designing in the round.
Erin: Next up, Tiffany Pratt discusses getting rid of things in a way that’s gentle to the planet and her beef with TV. Spoiler alert it hampers connection. You can stay connected through CREACafe.ca, it’s your reliable source for all things real estate, from the latest news and stats to legal matters and advocacy updates. Stay connected to the world of Canadian real estate on CREACafe.ca.
You’re talking about natural and you mentioned that word there. Let’s go to the next step of natural and talk about green or natural materials and how they can play a role in boosting our well-being.
Tiffany: Natural is not only a big thing and super hype right now, but it actually becomes something when we strip it all down that makes us feel the best because it’s always those silent killers that we’re not thinking about. Killers of energy, killers of joy when we’re smelling things that aren’t making us feel happy, or we’re in an environment that we just can’t put our finger on that one thing that’s not right. When I’m thinking of green, I’m talking about as a designer, when we strip things out, are we doing it mindfully?
Are we mindful of how we’re stripping off wallpaper, old paint, tearing things down, what’s becoming airborne? What kind of paint are we using? Ventilation open windows. I can’t say enough about the power of just opening up your front door and your back door. Any windows to get circulation. Air purifiers are just the best. I have two of them rolling in my old place all the time.
Cleaning products for that beautiful furniture we’ve painted, or we purchased. Using something without a heavy chemical so that when we’re smelling it, it’s better for ourselves and our furry friends. It’s really just endless the amount of things we can do, even just with going down to the beach or going to a weird corner store and picking up a plant. We bring that rock from the beach home, or we bring that really beautiful spider plant, put it in the corner. All of these things imbue the home with an energetic energy. It’s a grounding force that we need to bring that really makes us feel alive and at home.
Erin: It’s also taking the next step, once the renovations have been completed, working with conscious trades people, making sure where this stuff is going when it leaves your home as well.
Tiffany: This is one of my favourite topics right now, because it’s a wasteful business that I’m in and it’s really wonderful when everything just magically disappears but the question is where is it going? It needs to be a diversified waste removal service that we’re calling upon province-to-province where we’re finding out who in the most effective and conscious way can remove whatever building materials, paints, old appliances, toilets, chemicals. There’s so much that we need to think about when we’re verging and we’re cleansing our home or we’re renovating, or we’re starting a new. It’s not just a matter of stripping it down and it’s good for us and see you later old stuff.
Oftentimes I’m really mindful if I’m ripping out old cabinetry or things I know someone could use again, it may not be my taste, but certainly if I tear it apart or take it out in a great way, someone can reuse it. This is all valuable stuff for anyone out there who’s looking to make small or large changes to their home is really make sure you’re doing your homework on the final step of where the stuff is going so it’s in the right hands and we’re being kind to our planet.
Erin: Speaking of the planet, the days are getting longer, we’re getting more light and it just shows in such a concrete way how much that means to our spirit. What can we do to bring more of that energetic light to us, literally, metaphorically, once again, in our homes, Tiffany?
Tiffany: We have really tuned into the things that bring us joy and it’s not always the stuff that appears in magazines or looks a certain way, but it’s the things in our life that make us feel a certain way. If it’s a music room or if it’s getting rid of that old armchair in the corner that’s not doing anything, and applying a new surface for ourselves or our spouse or our children to create on. In the end, it’s these creative urges, these places where we can go to get lost in something that we love to do outside of television and it could be anything really, but it’s to create space for creativity, for play and for joy.
We can turn all the lights on in the house and really inspire some play because play is what makes us feel joy and so to almost restore ourselves to our childlike center is to then create spaces that help us let that part of ourselves emerge. In the end, yes, it is darker, but when the doors are shut and you’re surrounded by colours and tidiness and beautiful sounds and beautiful light, doing the things you love, you don’t really notice what’s going on outside.
Erin: You mentioned television there and I couldn’t help but remember the podcast we did to kick off 2021 and designer Steven Sabados told us that the sales of enormous screen TVs went through the roof in 2020, because so many people were at home, safe at home, not stuck at home and of course we’re turning to their televisions for diversion or entertainment or whatever. You’re not a big fan of the elephant in the room, are you?
Tiffany: I’m not, and it’s not the best thing to confess, may I say, Erin, as a television personality, but I have to tell you as a designer that loves colour in light bright spaces, when I’m trying to accommodate the gigantic black rectangle in the room, which is the television, it is like putting a deep, dark vortex in a space. Unless I can then in turn paint something else in a nice dark shade that offsets and gives that television a buddy, I tell anyone that will listen to me in all my wild ways that, okay, I understand the need for a little entertainment and a little reason to get lost.
We all love it, but put it in a place that’s not in a central high traffic area of the home. In a basement or in a small entertainment room where you go to for a few hours and then you reemerge and get back to your life because what I find is that television becomes that life suck that takes the time away from the day where you could be going through those piles of things or repainting that chair or tuning into your joy or playing that music or doing your cross-stitch. We just go for the– it’s like the lowest hanging fruit, which is turning on that clicker, watching something that’s going to make us feel better instantly. Anyone out there that’s listening to me, I don’t hate television, but I do think it needs to be used wisely.
Erin: Can I just tell you that when we had a cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe and it was all windows, we had a cheap fabric print on a frame that I would place in front of the TV screen for most of the day until the evening so that it didn’t own the room. I took a fair bit of ribbing about that, but I totally subscribed to what you’re saying and hear where we overlook the ocean here on Vancouver Island, my fantasy is to have a TV that drops down from the ceiling — ain’t going to happen. The people upstairs, know, I’m just kidding, but I would love that idea so that it’s only there when you need it. It’d be a wonderful luxury.
Tiffany: I’m a creative person and I moved into the space I’ve been living in now. I live down by Lake Ontario here in the beach in Toronto. I love being down by the water and listening to the wave and I love the old place that I live in. When I moved in, I listened to the building and its weird old bones and I never moved the television in and I haven’t had one sense and it’s been 13 years.
Erin: Wow. There’s this woman on HGTV named Tiffany Pratt. She’s really good. You should look for her.
Good, we can see you online.
Tiffany: Well, at least you know I don’t watch myself on TV.
Erin: Yes, okay. I believe you. We’re back to Tiffany in a moment. Flow, function at building a beautiful life piece by piece that’s yours alone. If you’re enjoying this episode, please be sure to subscribe to our channels on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher to stay up-to-date on future guests and stories.
Once again, here’s Tiffany Pratt on REAL TIME. You’re in the beaches in Toronto, I’m on Vancouver Island. You have toured Canada numerous times. Is there a thread that you have been able to sow this great land together in terms of our design desires, if you will?
Tiffany: I think when I have done the home show tour, the multiple times that I have, I’ve been so lucky to speak province-to-province, person-to-person, and really discover what’s out there. What kind of homes people are living in, what kind of circumstances they’re living in, what snack bracket they live under with finances and it doesn’t matter where you live, how old you are, what your style is, what your capabilities are with DIY, how much money you make. Anybody can transform anything in their life with paint.
I really believe that there needs to be sustainable, easy, accessible ways for all of us to access a beautiful life and when we can do something so easy as painting something, our walls, our doors, our furniture, our floors, our ceilings, anything really with our own two hands. We’re imbuing that with our love, we’re taking time to do it, and we’re really transforming the space or the object and it makes us feel good. No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what space you live in there is really no end to the message I can share of the power of paint. The power of paint is truly endless.
Erin: I love that message and it doesn’t have to be expensive and if you don’t like the colour, you paint over it, nothing is permanent and it really does speak to the title of your book. This Can Be Beautiful, which really, Tiffany, needs to be re-upped because this message is more timely than ever and you share projects to help beautify your home, wardrobe, beauty routine, travel style, and more, how does it relate to our homes?
Tiffany: Why I wrote This Can Be Beautiful is because it was my love note to the world to say that anything that you can truly look at, touch, see, that you’ve collected in your life, this table, this light, this dress, this toilet paper, roll this newspaper, truly anything can be beautiful. If we re-imagine it and look at it, we have it all. We are a culture that thinks that we need to constantly buy and accumulate and everything we need is external and it’s not internal and the book is a call to action to basically say you have everything you need and stop looking at things for what they are and look at them for what they can be.
This Can Be Beautiful, was created as a lifestyle book, not just for the kids and for the crafters at heart, but for the everyday person, to understand that through the use of their own two hands, they can build a beautiful life piece by piece. When we create, we use our own two hands, we use what we’ve got. We’re not only saving money, we’re being imaginative. We’re accessing our creative spirit, but we’re also building a life that looks like only ours and no one else’s, and that is a true gift in this world. I’ve always felt that you didn’t need a lot of money to have a beautiful life and this book is an invitation to do that and to really appreciate what you have, and to celebrate it by making it better.
Erin: How important are things like flow and function now that our homes have just become everything is everything to quote you, they are all things to all people?
Tiffany: Homes have always needed to be hard-working, but never as hard-working as they need to be now. Space is truly at a minimum for a lot of families that are homeschooling or have ailing parents moving in or, you’re downsizing, whatever it is, everyone has found themselves in a new circumstance. With new circumstances, comes great change. One of the greatest tips of advice I’ve ever shared with anyone that’s looking for a way to accommodate more activity within one space is to take everything out of that room and look at it in a new way without everything you used to have and do in that room. Because when you strip it out, and you think, “Okay, I need a space for my children. I need a space for my parents. I need a space for me, I have to put a desk here.” You start to look at fun malleable ways to work four walls.
That’s what I’m recommending to anyone out there right now is that it doesn’t all have to happen on the dining room table. That’s what everyone’s doing. Now the dining room has been taken and forsaken for all of these secondary purposes. I say, gone with the formal living room, gone with the formal anything, let’s have fun in our space and have the space work with us and not against us. It’s time to get rid of that old lumpy couch, bring in the fun big work table, bringing the ping pong table, whatever it’s got to be, and make the family feel like they fit.
Erin: One of my favourite things, I never did bring it into our lives, although my husband would have loved it is the pool table that converts into a dining room table. Talk about form, function and fun. Oh my gosh, what a great idea.
Tiffany: Why not? This is what I’m sick of seeing everything be so status quo, and to the letter and by the book and things we see because in the end, we’re all very different people. We all see this world very differently. Why should our homes all look the same?
Erin: Yes, why is all the fun stuff stuck in the basement?
Tiffany: Yes, I don’t understand it. I think the whole home should be fun and a reflection of the people within it. There are so many incredible, weird, wonderful things that each person in a home can bring to the table and bring to the overall design. Let’s celebrate the weird climbing equipment. Let’s stack up the weird collectible junk items that your wife loves. Let’s really celebrate the things that we love instead of tucking them away or throwing them in a garage. This is the thing about design, it’s not about having to go out and get high style stuff. It’s about looking at everything we do in our life as art.
Erin: Yes, and as you’ve said, instead of how things look more about how things feel. I also love that while you’re trying to stay within a budget too, customizing for a hard-working organizational investment, like Murphy Beds and that sort of thing too. You’re all in favor of that.
Tiffany: Yes, if I’m going to spend on anything, it’s always going to be on custom storage, cabinetry, anything that gives me more floor space. If I can have a hard working built in that has a flipped down top that becomes a desk or has a flip down screen that conceals a television, that also has another little spot that a bed pops out of I’m all about it even in a large space, because effectively floorspace is what we all need to play, to move effortlessly through our homes and to really make the space work for us. Anyone out there that’s looking for a place to spend, I can’t say enough, find a beautiful tradesman or a custom cabinetry person, and really see what you can do by putting really effective properly designed for what you have built-ins in the home.
Erin: You don’t have to have an entire meditation room or I remember the story of the billionaire’s wife in Los Angeles, Candy Spelling, who had her own wrapping paper room. That was just the ultimate, you can have your pocket, you can have your little place that is special to you. Even if it is just a tiny altar and a candle and a pillow for meditation and that sort of thing, right?
Tiffany: Yes, I think sometimes we stop doing the things that are good for us because we’ve built it in her head to be too complicated. If we don’t carve this Zen retreat for ourselves in some beautiful corner with crystals and incense burning, we’re not going to be able to meditate because we don’t have our special meditation corner. Or if we don’t have this perfect art room or this perfect music room or sports space. I often think the greatest things, the biggest a-has, our most wonderful moments of Zen occur in our everyday lives where we can access it at any time without anything fancy because that’s how we live. We’re not always going to be home, sitting on that meditation pillow.
If you find a spot on your sofa, by your dining room table, you don’t need the crystals, you just need a moment to yourself. That’s where when we can organize our homes and give everyone a space where they feel represented. They can be busy and we can have our moment to ourselves, just to close our eyes for 10 minutes and take a deep breath and listen to the thoughts that are running through our minds and find some peace. I’m all for creating beautiful nooks in the home but don’t let it stop you from having the thing you want to have. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be accessible.
Erin: I love this time that we’ve spent together today, Tiffany, and I know that everybody listening to this podcast has as well. There’s so many takeaways and the thing that resonated most clearly with me was clearing everything out and taking a look at the space. The status quo doesn’t have to be and if this is a year of change and growth, then it starts with us and it starts in our homes. I just love that.
Tiffany: Well, we have a lot, we can shop in our homes and put things in new places. We don’t have to go out there, we all have so much. I implore anybody out there just to celebrate what we have, be grateful for what we have, look at our four walls as brand new space and try to bring in the fun.
Erin: Yes, is that how you’re hoping to define 2021?
Tiffany: 2021, for me is going to– I’m all about the fun and the colour always because I think that’s always a personal mission for me is to always try to find the joy and the fun and what I’m doing, because I’m a human just like everybody else, trying to dig for the things that I love. This year is about inside out. I think it’s about feeling, less about what things look like more about what things feel like, vulnerability, being completely transparent, communication, treating others the way that we want to be treated. All of that really makes a life. Outside of the beautiful trimmings to our home, it’s the people around us in our homes outside of our homes that we are subject to, and we want to be as good as we can to our fellow man and to ourselves. That’s what this year is all about for me is to be as good to myself and others as I can.
Erin: Thank you for making our lives a little more colourful, certainly more joyful, so much to think about. I look forward to checking out your podcast The Love Jam, too.
Tiffany: Thank you, Erin.
Erin: My pleasure. Our pleasure. Thank you so much, Tiffany, for being with us here today.
Tiffany: An absolute treasure and a pleasure for me. I was so excited to be on this podcast and speak with you today. You are such a joy. Thank you again for having me on. I hope we can do it again.
Erin: Me too. Thank you to Tiffany at tiffanypratt.com for the great conversation and just adding a splash of pink to our podcast.
Don’t miss Episode 14 when our guest will be realtor and TV host of Buy Herself and Property Virgins, Sandra Rinomato. She’s going to be great. Meantime, for more realtor resources, be sure to visit CREA.ca. This podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Talk to you next time on REAL TIME.
Erin Davis: Welcome to Episode 12 of REAL TIME, a podcast for and about REALTORS®, and a presentation of the Canadian Real Estate Association. We are all about ideas surrounding topics that impact you as a REALTOR®, and really all of us. I’m your host Erin Davis, and today we’re discussing working while Black, a conversation about race in Canada that hits home and homes in far more ways than one.
No one should be demeaned or disadvantaged because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other particular characteristics of their identity. However, acknowledging a problem and resolving a problem are two completely different things. In this episode of REAL TIME, we’re opening up a much-needed conversation around confronting and addressing bias in our day to day lives, and we’re analyzing opportunities for improvement that exists for REALTORS®, leadership, and beyond. You’ll hear from three of your fellow CREA members sharing their experiences. In one case, one guest discloses something he’s never talked about publicly before. I promise you’ll be glad you listened today.
We begin with Dr. Hadiya Roderique. She is a lawyer, researcher, broadcast commentator, and an award-winning writer. She’s best known for her Globe and Mail piece Black on Bay Street, which outlined her experiences as a young Black woman working in a Bay Street law firm. She also has bylines in the Walrus, the National Post, Chatelaine, and Maclean’s. Dr. Roderique has a PhD in organizational behaviour from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. She also has an MA in criminology and a JD from the U of T. She’s a passionate advocate for representation and inclusion in the workplace, and she joins us today on REAL TIME. Dr. Roderique, welcome. It’s lovely to have you with us here today.
Dr. Hadiya Roderique: Thank you for having me, a pleasure to be here with the Erin Davis.
Erin: With the Dr. Hadiya Roderique, come on. Your essay, Black on Bay Street went viral in 2017. I’d urge anybody who’s listening who hasn’t read it yet to look it up. It was shining a light on the challenging experience of a Black woman working in a traditionally white male-dominated industry. Can you describe that experience and tell us why you chose to write about it?
Dr. Roderique: Initially, I never meant to write about myself. The piece was really supposed to just be about the Bay Street hiring process, which I frankly thought was quite ridiculous. My interviews for Swiss Chalet when I was 17 were harder than many of my Bay Street interviews. At Swiss Chalet, they asked me questions about math, and where I wanted to be five years from now, and what school I was planning on going to because they want to know if I’d be a long-term employee.
In one of my Bay Street interviews, we talked about Manolo Blahnik’s and hockey for 20 minutes, and then I got a call-back. I really didn’t understand how most of what I was asked would tell them what kind of student I was, what kind of person I was, and what kind of lawyer I’d be. I really sat down to write this more academic examination of the way that the Bay Street hiring process took place, but then when I sat down to write, it’s like a different story poured out of my fingertips, and it turned out to be the story of my experiences.
I was one of only five Black law students in my class of about 200. I was, when I joined the firm, one of two Black female lawyers, and when I left the firm, I was the only Black female lawyer. My firm had five Black lawyers, which to my knowledge, was the most of any firm on Bay Street. We were doing well, but I was still so alone.
Erin: How did this blow up the way that it did? Obviously, it was a message that resonated and needed to be heard, needed to be told, but tell us how it affected you and your life after this just caught fire.
Dr. Roderique: To be frank, came out on a Saturday, and I thought that everybody would forget about it by Monday. The news cycle is pretty quick. Things turn over. I was actually writing another piece for the National Post and doing a social media cleanse. I logged into Twitter and tweeted, “I wrote a thing,” and put a link to the piece, and then put my phone aside. Then about an hour later my phone just basically started vibrating. I think I was getting a new Twitter follower every minute. My piece was getting shared. It was going viral.
I think in the first week, it was shared on Facebook 13,000 times. There is a video that accompanied the peace that the Globe recorded, and that was watched, I believe, 250,000 times in the first week. I did not expect any of this. I didn’t think I was saying anything that was news to anybody. I didn’t think that people didn’t realize that it was harder for someone whose gender and race doesn’t match up with what we expect of a Bay Street lawyer, that that experience would be more difficult. It really shocked me that this was something that resonated with so many people.
It wasn’t just other people of colour. I got a lot of messages, and I still get messages from people who’ve read the piece, but I got messages from white men who didn’t feel like they belonged, who didn’t feel like they could belong into this boys’ club mentality, who felt they were a bit different. It was just really interesting to me how many different people were able to see themselves in my story, because I think, ultimately, it was just really a story about not belonging. I don’t think that there’s anybody who hasn’t at some point in their life felt like they didn’t belong.
Erin: Now, February, of course, is Black History Month in Canada, and most or many Canadians would be proud to say, “We’re not racist,” but you’ve noted how even well-meaning people often unconsciously perpetuate bias and racism in the workplace and other interpersonal settings. How would you define, Dr. Roderique, unconscious bias, and how we can recognize it in our own lives?
Dr. Roderique: I would define it as social stereotypes and patterns and thought processes that guide our decisions without us realizing it. I think a lot of people associate racism with there’s capital R racism and then there’s not being a racist. They associate capital R racism with hoods and people using slurs and violence, and you’re either that or you’re not racist, especially in Canada. We compare ourselves to the States a lot in this idea of Canadian exceptionalism.
People fail to recognize that there’s a lot of gray. It isn’t just Black or White, racist or not. There’s a lot of different actions and different things you can do that you might not realize are enacting on these prejudices or stereotypes that you hold. It’s not that you’re someone reviewing resumes, and you’re like, “Black resume, no, no, no, no,” but it’s the fact that maybe you didn’t notice that you were a harsher judge of their education or experience without realizing where that judgment was coming from, or you see a particular type of experience and you assume X about it, when you assume Y when it’s a White person having that same kind of experience.
A lot of people who are hiring are trained in diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias, yet when we send out resumes with Black and White names, or we send out resumes where people have whitened the experience of the Black people, and the whitened resumes or the White resumes get 50% more callbacks or two and a half times more callbacks, that has to be explained by something. The only explanation can be racism and bias, if everything else on those resumes is identical.
One of the first studies sent out, I think, 2500 resumes with Black and White names, and the White names got 50% more callbacks. The experimenters wanted to know, what would it take for the Black person to get the same callback rate as that White individual? They had to add eight years of experience to Jamal’s resume for Jamal to get the same callback rate as Greg. That has to come from somewhere.
Erin: Wow. That’s startling when you hear it in empirical terms like that, laid down as data and not just feelings or conjecture. That is astounding. You yourself walked this path as you lay out in Black on Bay Street, where your father and mother, Joseph and Judith, and you could have been, Jody.
Dr. Roderique: Yes, Joe and Judy, making Jody.
Erin: Yes. They chose Hadiya, which means, the gift. It’s beautiful. Do you think that Jody would have gotten more callbacks than Hadiya did, looking at that data?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, I do think so. When I applied for my last round of jobs, I did not use Hadiya, I used HJ Roderique. I did that for a reason. Because I knew it would be more likely to get my foot in the door, to get my resume at least to the interview stage. They’re going to know I’m Black the minute I show up, but at least I want to get there and have the chance to prove my worth in person.
Erin: That’s stunning to me, because you laid this bare in this essay, and yet you’re still in this position where you’re hiding who you are until you can reveal, the gift, when you walk through the door.
Dr. Roderique: Yes.
Erin: Astounding. We’re going to hear a few stories a little later in this podcast from the people themselves. CREA members who are Black have shared stories about being followed around a house showing by a White seller, not having their offers accepted almost certainly, just because they’re Black. Can you talk about the opportunity gap faced by Black professionals?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, I’d say it generally stems from a failure to receive the resources and exposure that professionals need to be successful. Generally, not getting the same chances and not same opportunities, not getting the same benefit of the doubt as others get. That means you have to work so much harder to achieve the same level of success. Some researchers call this the prove it again bias. It’s where groups that are stereotyped as less competent, so women, people of colour, et cetera, may have to prove themselves over and over and over before they’re given the same opportunity that someone is just given from the jump. Thinking about, oh, he’ll crush it, versus, she’s not ready, I need to see her do X, Y, and Z first, whereas not having that same requirement or expectation of the other individual.
I heard Trevor Noah say this quite well. He was talking specifically about anti-Black racism. He said, “Black people are not asking you, asking companies to hire them because they are Black, they are asking you to stop not hiring them because they are Black.” I think that’s one of the crucial differences that people don’t seem to get. They think that Black people are asking for special opportunities. No, we’re just asking for the same opportunities that you already enjoy.
Erin: Is it doubled when you’re a woman?
Dr. Roderique: Yes. The intersectionality of race and gender or anything else, disability, et cetera, will definitely play a role. There’s research that shows that Black men and White women may have more similar experiences than Black men and Black women. Certainly, the maleness insulates Black men from some effects or gives them access to certain spaces that Black women wouldn’t have the same access to.
Erin: Conformity and belonging are at the root of your experience as a Black woman working in law, did the pressure to conform to a White male workplace culture negatively affect you professionally or personally?
Dr. Roderique: I certainly understood that I had to conform socially. I knew not to talk about the fact that my dad was a cab driver, but instead to talk about the fact that he had an engineering degree. I knew to talk about, Glenfiddich and my travel to Japan, or wherever I had gone and not, roti and park barbecues. There’s this expectation of conformity to this upper-middle-class standard. I think in the past a lot of companies wanted basically people of colour who were like White people, who came from the upper-middle class, spoke that language.
I was lucky that despite growing up in a lower SES category that I had a university-educated father, stressed the importance of being well-rounded. I had arts and music in my life, despite the fact that my dad didn’t buy a new coat for six years, but he made sure that he could pay for those lessons for us. I did dance lessons, I did gymnastics, I had movement classes when I was four, I had art classes when I was four. I grew up knowing how to speak the language. I think that made it easier for me to enter these spaces.
I did know that no matter what I would physically stand out, so I actually didn’t tone down my dress or my hair, I wore an afro for my interviews. I often wore an afro to work, I changed my hairstyle a lot. I rarely wore a suit because I hated suit jackets, I wore a lot of dresses, and I wore bright colours. I just figured I was already going to stand out in the room so I might as well dress the way I wanted to. That’s something I think I’ve carried forward, even more, I think now I have the benefit of hindsight and more years of experience and I’m going to be my best when I can be myself and being myself means usually big hair and big earrings and bright colours.
Erin: Phenomenal woman. It reminds me of the piece by Maya Angelou.
Dr. Roderique: I’m going to be phenomenally me.
Erin: Absolutely. You’ve also written about the burden of being first at work, the first Black woman to potentially be made partner, for example. This is something that we as a society celebrate, oh, look at this, she’s the first this this, this and this, as we did with the inauguration last month of Vice President Kamala Harris, but you say that it can be very isolating. Why is that?
Dr. Roderique: Well, I think, first of all, it’s great to celebrate the first, it’s great to celebrate someone who has done something that no one else has done. As soon as that celebration is over, we have to think about, how do we make sure that they stay and how do we make sure they’re not the only one? It can be isolating because there’s no one to look up to. There’s no one else that’s blazed that path, there’s no role model, there’s no one to go to bounce your experiences off of.
Often, you’re the most senior person that looks like you at the organization, you’re the one that’s expected to advise downwards, and there’s no one for you to go to often in your own workplace. You might be able to find those mentor or sponsorship opportunities elsewhere but there’s no one in your workplace who really gets what you’re going through. I think that can be pretty hard, and pretty isolating.
I know, I was choosing between two organizations recently. One didn’t have any Black people in their Canadian office, and the other did. The other put me in touch with other Black professionals, put me in touch with a senior leader in the organization who was Black. That was really meaningful to me. It was a huge part of my decision to choose that workplace over the other. It’s so much easier when you can join and look up and see someone who looks like you and know that someone who looks like you can do this.
Erin: Is it exhausting to even contemplate being the first Black woman in that first firm that you decided not to go with? It’s like, “Oh, do I have to kick this door open too?”
Dr. Roderique: I just knew it would be harder, it would be harder without that immediate support group. Having support, I think, is really crucially important. If I’m given the choice between two very excellent workplaces, but one has a more robust Black support network or a larger Black population, all things being equal, that’s where I’m going to go.
Erin: Oh, the place that she’s gone and is going, facing the phenomenon of the glass cliff, owning our unconscious bias and more with Dr. Roderique in a moment.
Celebrate one year of REAL TIME by revisiting some of our most popular podcast episodes from season one, including our in-depth review of COVID-19’s effect on Canadians, REALTOR® and the industry. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher, or visit crea.ca/podcast for more details.
Now, back to Dr. Roderique, speaker, writer, consultant, EDI Researcher, and our REAL TIME guest today.
You reference something called the glass cliff. Can you explain that to us, please?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, so the glass cliff is a phenomenon where you might have a company that’s struggling or is in a more risky position and that’s when the company will give a woman or a person of colour the leadership opportunity. I think about like Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, for example. They’re in this sink or swim environment, they’re given a very challenging situation and if they don’t succeed the company will be like, “Well, look, we tried, we tried a woman, we tried a person colour and it didn’t work.” Then so they can pivot back to hiring White men for that CEO position.
Sometimes it’s a position where you can’t convince a White man to come in and take it because it’s tenuous, or it’s going to be very difficult. That’s when you give the opportunity to the woman or to the person of colour, and they’re already dealing with a more challenging situation than anybody else would be dealing with. That’s the phenomenon of the glass cliff.
Erin: I keep thinking about the saying that I always went through my mind in a career in a male-dominated field. Of course, I don’t have the perspective or the experiences that you do, Dr. Roderique, but it is the old saying that Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in high heels. You’ve just added the element, yes and by the way to make sure that the dance floor is spinning at the same time.
Dr. Roderique: Only spending for Ginger and not spinning for-
Erin: Not spinning for Fred.
Dr. Roderique: Fred, yes.
Erin: That’s right. Dr. Roderique, how does unconscious bias affect our actions and decision making, for example, as a hiring manager or colleague? We’ve talked about the names and Jamal versus Greg, and which resumes get looked at, and which ones are considered, how does that unconscious bias affect our actions and decision making?
Dr. Roderique: What I want those populations to think about is changing processes that people can’t be biased within them. I don’t think three one-hour sessions of unconscious bias training is going to do much to solve our problems about racism. What you want to do is have a system so that someone cannot enact their racist ideals or thoughts within that system. Things like work allocation, what’s your work allocation process? How do managers give out work? Because often the kind and caliber of projects that you do are what sets you up for success and sets you up for ascension and promotion. If certain people are getting all of the good files, or in the past, as they were called the blue files and the pink files, the men got the blue files, the women got the administrative pink files, what are your Brown files and your White files? Thinking about that and thinking about ways you can change your processes to interrupt bias.
With resumes, making sure that you set out the screening criteria before people review resumes, and don’t just leave it up to their whim and their presumed good judgment. What qualities are you actually looking for? What are the metrics of these qualities? What are the different ways in which these qualities can show up? Do you have a rubric? Do you have a metric, something that people can actually use so they don’t lapse into biased patterns of thinking?
Same thing with work allocation, do you have a formal work allocation process? I remember speaking to one lawyer when he was saying, “I gave someone a piece of work, and I want to go back and give that person more work. They did a good job, why do I have to spread the wealth in a sense?” I said, “Well, first of all, what if that person leaves tomorrow, and you’ve only trained him and you haven’t given that same consideration to other people? That’s going to leave you in the lurch. You’re thinking short term, instead of thinking long term.” Then I asked him, “What made you go to him in the first place?” He couldn’t answer the question. Or maybe he didn’t want to answer the question.
But it’s, who do you think of first? Why are you thinking of them first? Why do you go to that person? It’s usually because there’s some similarity or something drawing you towards that person. Oh, they’re kind of like me, I was good, therefore they’ll be good and not discounting someone else’s potential or experience. Just making sure that you’re giving everybody the same opportunity to succeed, and different people will run with that opportunity in different ways, but if people are starting out from different starting points and not getting the same chances, of course you’re going to have different results at the end.
Erin: What advice would you give to Black, Indigenous, and people of colour who may be struggling professionally, or just feeling worn down by the bias and racism that they face?
Dr. Roderique: Have a support network. I have a Black woman’s book club where we read work by Black authors, and most of the time we don’t talk about the book. We just talk about work and we gripe about work. We talk about our experiences, our lived experiences as Black women in the world. I always leave those feeling heard and refreshed, and really grateful for that group of women.
Document everything, cover your butt. If someone gives you instructions, verbally, get back to your office write a confirmatory email saying, as I understand it you want me to do A, B, C, and D, but not E, so that later when E doesn’t get done and they actually wanted E to get done they can’t throw you under the bus. Documenting everything, just knowing that people will have it out for you more than they will have it out for others, and so you have to cover yourself, make sure that you’ve dotted your Is and cross your Ts.
Take notes. If you have a negative experience, go back to your office, send an email to yourself. You have a date-stamped receipt of your immediate recollections of what happened, because then, if 5, 6, 7 more incidents happen, and if there’s a harassment case or there’s an investigation when they’re asking about what happened you’re like, well, here are my immediate notes from the situation versus this person’s sketchy recall six months later. Just making sure that you’re protecting yourself in case something goes wrong. Hopefully you would never have to use any of those things but I’m a realist and so for me, those are the kinds of records that I would keep.
Erin: Have you had to use them?
Dr. Roderique: I actually have been working for myself for the past little while, so haven’t had to keep any records because it’s just me. I’m not going to tell on myself. Going forward that’s something that I would take with me.
Erin: I do love the idea of your quasi-book club because 25 years ago I wanted to start up a group called Broads in Broadcasting, something like that, just because I did feel so alone. As soon as you start talking with somebody, you know that they’ve got the same problems that you do, and it can only help to discuss, okay, well then what did you do?
Because there are so many restrictions and parameters and stuff that if you can just find a way that someone else saw that perhaps that you don’t, it can be invaluable. Sometimes just having that safe place to be vulnerable, to not have to be standing up and be the only and get worried about getting shoved off the glass cliff and all of that. It must be a tremendous sense or it is a tremendous sense of relief.
Dr. Roderique: Yes, I think too it can be really hard to express weakness or to express that you’re having trouble or challenges in the workplace because you’re worried that that will be held against you because sometimes it feels like they’re just waiting for you to mess up and expecting you to mess up and you don’t want them to be right. Having a place where you can go and be honest and talk through the challenges you’re experiencing, I think, is really important.
Erin: Coming up, we’re going to hear from three of your fellow REALTORS® about their experiences with racism, and Dr. Roderique has her three kinds of racism. That’s on the way. There is a place to discuss what you’re going through, tap into the knowledge and experiences of REALTORS® across Canada sharing your own lessons and insights by visiting REALTORS’ Quarter on CREA Cafe, a hub of content created by REALTORS® for REALTORS®. Back to Dr. Hadiya Roderique, who tells us that there are three kinds of racism.
Dr. Roderique: You can be actively racist, bad, passively racist, also bad, or you can be actively anti-racist, good. You cannot be passively anti-racist because the current system is biased and racist and so to do nothing, to be passive is to allow that current to continue. You have to be pushing back against that current to be anti-racist. I know there are some educators who put the four categories on the board and everything that people try and put in the passive anti-racist box, they’re like, no, that actually belongs there, that belongs there. There’s really nothing that fits in the passive anti-racism box.
You have to be taking action, you have to be doing something. It doesn’t have to be huge. Maybe, you notice that the curriculum of your kid’s eighth grade English class has no authors of colour on it. You’re a White mother, you’re a White father, you write to the teacher, you write to the school board asking for there to be more representation. As a White person who’s seen as not having anything invested in that you will be taken more seriously than if I write it and make that same request.
What are the small things you can do? Have you noticed that the parent groups seem to be excluding certain parents? Or some people are not getting invited to playdates? Have you noticed that your colleague isn’t getting the same opportunities that you are or when they try and talk in a meeting they’re being talked over? You can be like, “Hey, I think Anna was trying to say that.” Or if you notice that someone has sort of stolen someone else’s idea and getting credit for it and be like, “Oh, that sounds a lot like what Kamala was saying.
Do you want to repeat that? Let us know your thoughts again, maybe people didn’t hear,” and so calling attention, using your privilege for good. It can be a force for good, you just have to wield it in the right way.
Erin: My mind is blowing up right now with ideas because of what women have gotten to now in this position 20 to 30 years later. Okay, we’ve had that struggle, we’re up that ladder. Now reach down and pull somebody else up, because it’s not over for everybody.
Dr. Roderique: Yes, so much of the advances we’ve had for women in the workplace have really been advances on the part of White women, intersectionality piece has been lacking. We need to make sure when we’re talking about feminism, that our feminism includes all women and not just upper middle class White women. Think about, does your feminism include women who don’t look like you, women who inhabit a different socio-economic class than you?
Erin: Good question. Dr. Roderique, what steps can White allies take to genuinely support their Black and racialized colleagues, clients, and friends?
Dr. Roderique: I think one thing is to do your own research work in education. You don’t need to go up to your Black friend and ask them to explain microaggressions to you, you have fingertips and probably four different devices that connect to the internet, you can Google. You can Google basic terms, you can read books to get more familiar with the language, so making sure that you are up to date on your vernacular.
Then the second thing is to recognize how much power there is in your silence and in your action. The power in your silence is negative. When you see something happening and you say nothing, it comes across as tacit endorsement of what is happening. If someone says to me, do the carpet match the drapes, which is an actual thing that someone has said to me in the workplace, and you say nothing, you are approving that behaviour.
You are saying, yes, that is an acceptable thing that should be said and that is an acceptable thing that can be said to you.
I remember, I had one experience with a lawyer where the client pointed at me and said, “Where they’re mostly black,” and just stood there pointing at me and it was super awkward. People do dumb things all the time, but the thing that was actually the most hurtful was that she never said anything about it, that she pretended like it didn’t happen. It made me learn what my value was to her. It can be most hurtful when it’s the people you respect, when it’s your friends who stand by and say nothing.
I know a lot of people worry about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing but I promise you that doing anything is literally better than doing nothing. Even if you mess it up a bit you’ll learn, you’ll grow, the person will know that you supported them. Even though it was imperfect, that you recognize that what was happening was not okay, and you took action against it.
It shouldn’t always be on the person who’s insulted to have to be the one that stands up because if I do I’m seen as the angry Black woman or being too sensitive, or it’s going to affect my career and my prospect and I want to see White people putting themselves on the line, sticking their neck out and telling that person, yo, that’s not okay. Knowing that that person might be upset at them for calling them out on the thing they shouldn’t be doing but that’s okay, and that you’re more afraid of your Black colleague or friend being harmed and hurt than you are of saying the wrong thing or not saying it perfectly, because that’s what you should really fear. You should fear the racism, not standing up to the racism.
Erin: Does it behoove the people who have more power to have louder voices in this because I know if I was lower in the company, and I heard someone say something to you, I’d look around the room and go, okay, before I stand up for my friend, Hadiya, is this going to be a career limiting move for me?
Dr. Roderique: If you think that’s going to be a career limiting move for you I think you’re in the wrong organization. You want to be in an organization where there are consequences for bad behaviour and good consequences for good behaviour. If you feel like speaking up against injustice is going to get you in trouble at work, do you really want to work there? I know I would not want to work there. I would not want to grace that place with my presence.
You have to be part of changing the culture. If you want that kind of speech or actions to be unacceptable, you have to be one of the people saying it’s unacceptable. It’s not my ancestors who dehumanized Black people, it’s not my ancestors who kept them enslaved, and so it’s not supposed to be my job to undo racism. I didn’t make racism. My people didn’t make racism, all we did was exist and try and survive and try to live. It’s the people who are part of the system, who perpetuate the system, who continue the system, it’s their job to undo that. Yes it’s hard and yes it’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s going to help us all.
You think about rising tide lifts all ships, so why are we satisfied with a world where mediocre men get positions and power above other people that deserve it more? We have accepted mediocrity for a very long time, and I think it’s time for us to stop accepting mediocrity for us to give people opportunity, and to let people actually be the best that they can be. Therefore, then give positions and give those rewards to the people who truly deserve it.
All people of colour want is an actual meritocracy, but for you to believe that what we have now is a meritocracy, that would mean that you believe, for example, that intelligence is unequally distributed by race and by gender. I went to law school I can tell you that that is not true. Women get into university more than men. Right now, for them to keep university classes more gender balanced because they’re not, I think right now it’s about 57% women and 43% men in university because women actually do better in school.
They are more likely to be on the Dean’s list and so for you to go from that, to having 10% women partners, and for you to think that that’s okay and that actually represents the best of talent, that you think that somehow men get this magical injection of legal talent right after they graduate from law school that they just didn’t hold before. They didn’t have it in university. They didn’t have it in high school, but somehow it just magically appears. Do I have a timeshare in Florida to tell you about?
Erin: Tell us how professionals like real estate brokers and REALTORS® can encourage a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture in a real way Dr. Roderique?
Dr. Roderique: You can demand actions that don’t seem like they benefit you. If you’re a White broker pushing for a BIPOC, so a Black, Indigenous, People of Colour internship program, you’re not seen as having skin in the game or looking out for your own, you’re just saying, this is a thing that will benefit us all and I as a White person support this. I think also not tolerating intolerance and having actual consequences for negative behaviour.
The person who’s harmed should after be the one that’s supported, be the one that’s given opportunities, not the person that has harmed. But so often we see people who do bad things still getting rewards and still failing upwards. It’s how we got Harvey Weinstein. It’s how you get all of the men who, comes out, that they’ve repeatedly harassed women in the workplace, and yet have still been allowed to move up and move up and gain more and more power. Why is the consequence of bad behaviour rewards?
Erin: Because whistleblowers are not seen as team players, right?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, which you think about the police as well. They say it’s one bad apple but usually it’s actually more a lot of bad apples and one good apple, and then the gang up on the good apple, and then the good apple has to leave the force and is harassed by the police for the rest of their life. Making sure that if you have bad apples, you actually get rid of them. Or you put pressure on them to change into good apples, and not tolerate the bad apples.
What that is actually saying is that you do not believe in your HR department’s ability to get someone who can do the job without being a jerk. I’d like to think you trust your HR and hiring committees much more than that, and know that you don’t have to keep someone who is toxic around. Often we keep these person because maybe they sell 10% more than the other person, but we are forgetting about the negative impact that they have on everybody else around them. If they’re making everybody else around them sell 5% less, they’re a net negative on the organization and so, why are we keeping them? I think actual consequences for behaviour, not tolerating intolerance, and then making sure when you see something you say something and you do something.
Erin: Listening to the people who have left, why did they leave?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, exit interviews, very important.
Erin: You’ve also talked about giving equal opportunities to succeed and often they only get a break when they’ve repeatedly proved themselves, as well as revamping the hiring processes.
Dr. Roderique: Not just hiring. I think a lot of people think that if they hire a diverse slate then they can wipe their hands and have done their job, but if you hire people only for them to all leave six months after because the workplace culture is toxic, that’s not really doing much good. You can’t hire people into a place that is harmful or unsafe for them. So, making sure not only that you’re working on hiring, but you’re working on retention.
Erin: As we wrap up our conversation with Dr. Hadiya Roderique next, on our way to hearing from CREA members who faced racism themselves, here’s a reminder, REALTORS® Care is a national guiding principles celebrating the great charitable work done by the Canadian REALTOR® community. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to you by sharing your story using #REALTORSCare on your favourite social media platform.
In the three to four years since you wrote Black on Bay Street and it was published in the Globe and Mail, have you observed any significant movement on the issue of bias and racism in the workplace since then, any signs of hope that we’re headed in the right direction?
Dr. Roderique: Yes, I think some people have made some changes to their hiring processes. I know some firms have implemented some unique programs that give young BIPOC individuals opportunities to work the firm when they’re more junior in their tenure. I think that there’s the Black North Initiatives where now a lot of people are signing on to that and there’s targets associated with that. I think we’re seeing some changes. I think some people who are doing good work just aren’t blasting out on social media or using it for publicity or credit. They’re just doing good work behind the scenes. I think sometimes there’s an unwillingness to share best practices or put it out there, but I think we have to recognize that we’re all in this together, and we want everybody to be using these good practices. We don’t want anybody to be treated badly, even if they’re not at our organization.
I think there’s more of a culture of sharing and collaboration on EDI initiatives, which I am encouraged by, but what I don’t want to see is just performative action on Twitter or social media posts and then no action.
I know that there was something- there was a blow-up with Glossier, which is a makeup company, and there was a statement posted, but there hasn’t been any clarity on follow-up for whatnot, making sure that if you’re putting commitments out there, that you’re following up on those commitments and publicizing your action as well as your commitment to action. I think I want to see, and hopefully, we are seeing, some senior leadership EDI positions that have real teeth and have the ability to really implement change in an organization.
Erin: Black Lives Matter was huge in 2020. It really, truly came to the fore, and, of course, in Canada, many, many people were made aware of this movement that wasn’t just something fringe or only something that happened in the United States. What is your hope for the future and what is your take on the state of equality for Black people in Canada now?
Dr. Roderique: We still have a ways to go. I think we like to think we’re very different from the US, but the way that we treat Black people, the way that we treat indigenous people is very similar. We had slavery in Canada. There’s a lot of people who don’t know that. We had slaves in Canada. It’s just that our temperature wasn’t as warm. There weren’t as many people out in fields, but we had slaves doing things in Canada.
Robyn Maynard’s, Policing Black Lives is a really good book that canvasses the Black experience, especially, the Black experience in relation to the state. My hope for the future is that kids will look at us with puzzled faces when we say that this used to be a thing that people cared about, and they’d be like, “What? You cared what colour people were? You cared what gender people were? What? Why?” I just want the future generations to look back with incredulity that we differentiated people based on these characteristics that really don’t matter.
Erin: The work you’re doing, opening eyes and hearts, to the message that you’ve got, it has been incredible. We can only hope that you’ll continue to use your platform, use your voice, to make people aware of what we’re doing, whether consciously or unconsciously. Let’s look in a crystal ball to the rest of 2021 and get us to the end of it, if you will, Dr. Roderique.
Dr. Roderique: Please, please, fast forward.
Erin: How would you like to be able to describe this year when we’re all done?
Dr. Roderique: I’d like it to be pandemic-free. I’d like there to be fewer Black people being harmed and killed by the state. I’d like to see more accountability for people’s actions. I’d like to see us recognize the people who do the real work that sustains us, it is the cashier at the grocery store, it is the warehouse stalker. It is the front-line worker, and really rethink what we want our community and our province and our country and our city to look like.
Do we want it to look like a place that leaves certain people behind, or do we want it to look like something that supports and tries to get the best for everyone and from everyone? I hope that over this next year, we’ve really, truly, and deeply started to confront our history. I think we need to acknowledge the harms we’ve done in the past for us to move forward.
I think we need to acknowledge the harms that have been committed against indigenous people in this country, committed against Black people in this country, and other groups, and understand why, understand what we’re going to do about it and how we’re going to change that and move forward. I think there’s still so many people who deny that racism even exists or deny the genocide of indigenous people.
It’s going to be really hard, I think, for some of us to move forward if we still have these ideas out there, gripping and lingering. I feel like sometimes when I talk about this work, it sounds depressing. Sometimes I will quit when I’m giving a talk, “Now, that I have depressed you all, here’s the optimism.” I like to think that we can only get better from here. Let’s operate on the model or the idea that we’re going to get better, every day is going to be a little better.
I’m not expecting to solve racism tomorrow. I’m not even expecting to solve racism in my lifetime. It was hundreds of years in the making. It’s going to be a long time in the undoing, but the time for talking about it and platitudes is over. I think that people just aren’t going to get away with denying racism, or pretending it doesn’t exist, or saying that they had no idea.
If after this summer, you have no idea about racism, were you living under a rock? Were you living up North with no internet and no communication with any other humans? Then maybe I might be able to buy it, but if you have been able to look at what’s happening and still want to deny that the experience here is different for other people, then I don’t really know what to do, but hopefully, those kinds of attitudes are just not going to fly anymore.
The newer generation, the younger generation is watching, and they are not going to be satisfied with people saying something and doing nothing. They will call you out on it. They will make a bunch of TikToks about you. You had a bunch of 15-year-olds trolling the president of the United States, buying up tickets to his various rallies and leaving them empty. The young people, especially if you’re someone who has an organization, the young people are very conscious of this issue and they’re going to be looking at what you’re doing. Are you walking the walk, in addition to talking the talk?
They don’t have the same company loyalty that used to exist 30, 40, 50 years ago. If they come to your organization and you’re not doing enough for them, they’re going to leave. They’re going to have their own startup, or they’re going to go somewhere else that’s more progressive. It’s really a war for talent. For me, if you’re lagging behind on EDI, that’s going to really hurt you for the rest of your time, really. This is also about your own survival. If, as an organization, you’d like to stick around, you’re going to have to do better in this area.
Erin: We can’t thank you enough for the time you’ve spent with us today. It’s been enlightening in so many ways, and it’s just wonderful that an essay you wrote in 2017 continues to have a life of its own. We’ll keep sending people to that Globe and Mail, Black on Bay Street, 2017, Dr. Hadiya Roderique has been our guest here today. Thank you so much.
Dr. Roderique: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
Erin: Okay. As we continue with the discussion of working while Black with Dr. Roderique, let’s turn our attention now on REAL TIME to the real estate context. We spoke with three Black REALTORS® who shared their experiences and insights on bias and racism. Here’s what Bethany King, a Broker REALTOR® from Brampton, Ontario, had to say about witnessing discrimination in her work environment.
Bethany King: We see racism or racial bias primarily in our rental markets, when certain ethnicities are denied offers to lease without any reason or explanation. If you have ever represented a minority tenant in at least transaction, then it’s apparent of the racism prevalent within our communities. Furthermore, certain races are often asked to provide additional supporting documentation to prove their worthiness when, in fact, they’ve already met all of the tenant requirements.
Now, this is primarily driven through stereotypes, and you and I both know that research and analysis shows that the Black to White gap in income is substantial, coupled with racial bias and law enforcement schooling and the jobs sector. Therefore, Black people are not seen as desirable tenants. They’re not seen as trustworthy or financially secure. The worst part about this is that our Black children are being raised in a system that is not welcoming to them, nor supports them.
Erin: Thank you, Bethany King, for sharing your insight. We’ll hear from her again in a moment. Beyond bias against clients, Chris Peters, who many of you know as the President of the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®s, shared for the first time publicly, a personal story of when he was directly targeted with racism.
Chris Peters: I’ve been blessed and fortunate that I haven’t faced a lot. I’m in a small community, Eastern Passage, one of the suburbs of Halifax, and I’ve always been very active in the community, so my face has been out in the community way before I ever started real estate, so people were always aware of my loud, outspoken character.
I think that probably softened the blow for me in this community. I haven’t shared this story with- actually, you might be the first one I have shared this story with, Erin. A few of my signs have racial slurs, both the swastika and KKK, written on them. I was fortunate that I had a couple of friends of mine in the community point them out to me, they were quickly removed and they were replaced.
In most cases, you’re never going to find out who did it or why it was done. Sometimes it’s people who are just ignorant and don’t even know the significance and meaning of those symbols and those letters. Sorry, it’s emotional talking about it.
Erin: I appreciate you sharing it. You don’t want to think that it could be something as nefarious as Proud Boys, you want to think it’s stupid boys, young boys.
Chris: Yes, it’s true, it’s true, but that stuff happens. I’ve had that stuff happen when I was a young kid in high school, I think that’s what one of the original conversations I had with CREA last summer, was about some of that stuff happening, and that would have been me living up in Sudbury.
Here I’m an adult in my 40s, in real estate, and it’s still happening. It took me by surprise, but at the same time, it also didn’t surprise me that much, knowing the demographics, knowing the history of this province, knowing the racial tensions that still exist to this day in this province. In some respects, it didn’t surprise me.
For me, it was a matter of taking those signs down, replacing them with new ones, and just going on, whether or not that was the right or wrong thing to do, I didn’t even mention it to my wife. It was just something I did, got the signs down, replaced them. Fortunately, the ones that I replaced them with never got vandalized. I never really thought much about it after that. It never happened to me again, that was probably about seven or eight years ago.
Erin: It’s obvious that bias and racism are still very much present in real estate, like so many other industries and systems in Canada. Jasmine Lee, a Broker RELATOR® in Toronto offers us some ideas on how we can work together to make real estate more inclusive and equitable for Black and racialized Canadians.
Jasmine Lee: I’m all about solution focus, so even for me spending my time and energy to do things like this, I’ve been talking about this, I’ve been approached by newspapers and by our boards about interviews and I spend my time and energy away from my business and my family to help with the solution.
There’s a lot of groups starting now, Black REALTORS® in Toronto, Black REALTORS®, even the brokers, I’m a part of, they have a Black REALTOR® association and its international, so there is a need, but we need support from our bodies here in Toronto, I would say. There’s groups that are already formed. We need support from our bodies here, Toronto real estate board, RECO, CREA, or they need to form something from the bodies that support REALTORS® of colour to, what are the opportunities?
A lot of them are first-generation in the business, what are things that they can do to help their peers? What are things that we can do to get more access into the builder connection? Things that we can help our community, things that we can help other REALTORS® that are coming into the business, so I think we need some more support from the bodies, for sure.
I would say for the bodies that govern our real estate business, they need to look at their online presence, they need to look, does it reflect our industry? Does it reflect an inclusive environment that they want to cultivate and create? Take a look at that. One of the things I talked about on my social media on Instagram, and you can find me there @thejasmineleeteam, is that I find that all the brokers that I’m with, all the bodies, they’d celebrate donut day, dog owner day, they wouldn’t celebrate Black history month ever, until I moved to this brokerage, eXp, I didn’t even know that they do, but at Black history month, they made a post and they celebrate it, and that was such a big thing for me.
It was such a small thing from what they thought they did, but it was huge, and once I shared that on social media, so many REALTORS® were like, “Wow, that is amazing,” because the brokerage I’m at never acknowledged even Black history month, and they celebrate Halloween, Leprechaun Day, so many different things, but they don’t acknowledge that, so that was a huge thing for myself and a lot of other REALTORS®.
Erin: As for Chris Peters of Nova Scotia, he’s working to reverse an almost 80-year history of under-representation among leadership in organized real estate.
Chris: In the summer, I put forward a motion, one of the great things about being president is, I can request to create a task force. I had unanimous support from our board of directors to create a task force on diversity and inclusion for NSAR to look at some of the issues and causes with regards to a lack of diversity and inclusion in not necessarily our membership, but in our committees and our board.
I think, when I look over our membership, we have pretty good representation, but it doesn’t appear that we have that at all when it comes to our committees and boards. It’s our committees and boards that govern where we’re going to go as an association. For me, it was important that we start to incorporate that as part of our philosophy, in order to do that, I thought that creating this task force, which we met for the first time in September, and we’ve met a few times since, is going to be our first step in recognizing what actions we as an association need to do to ensure that we are building and developing and fostering a community of inclusion, a sense of belonging for our members.
When you look at Canada as a whole, and Nova Scotia, some of our most socially and economically challenged neighborhoods tend to be racialized. If we’re not doing things to support those groups and a lot of those groups, because they’ve had such a negative history with people of non-colour with what you would say is your white person, you’ve got to be able to have people that they can associate to and relate to, by being able to see themselves for them to be able to hopefully respond in a positive way.
Erin: Bethany King, from Brampton, compiled for us key points of focus that she believes will help the real estate industry shift to being more inclusive and equitable.
Bethany: The five points that I always bring it back to is, number one, an acknowledgment that there’s an issue that Black people, Black children have always been treated as inferior and the presence of Black youth remains unwelcomed and undesirable, acknowledging that there is an issue as the first step in opening the conversations.
Number two, we request that ARIA, RECO, TREB, create a post or position of director of race relations, and this position should be occupied by a member of the Black community with an immediate mandate to create a task force. I do believe that ARIA is already working on something like this.
The third one is that we requested our boards start to begin to collect race-based data from both their members and their member clients. This vital information could help pinpoint some problems and address issues. We also request that the same boards analyze the effect of gentrification and racialized communities and have a mandate to protect said communities from unfair property tax hikes and predatory land assembly.
Finally, most importantly, and I believe CREA is already making steps towards this is immediately creating and implementing mandatory race, focus, education programs to help REALTORS® identify and navigate racial discrimination by clients and fellow REALTORS®, there’s far too many instances of a Black person or another person of colour being denied rent or financing options based solely off the colour of their skin. REALTORS® have a role to play in this discriminatory practice, and members should be educated and reminded of how to properly conduct their business in the community when it comes to these situations.
Erin: Lastly, we asked our real-time guests what advice they would give to Black and other racialized or underrepresented Canadians who might be interested in a career in real estate, and here’s what Jasmine had to say.
Jasmine: You are going to work harder as a minority, and you will definitely work harder as a minority and a female, it will be the best career and it’ll be so worth it as long as you align yourself and create your tribe in real estate, in terms of people that look like you, that have the same values, characteristics as you, and just build on that together.
Erin: Finally, we wrap up this edition of REAL TIME with passionate words from Bethany King.
Bethany: I would say to other members who are Black or from minority descent, and I try to be a little bit compelling here, but that I would tell them that you can break those generational curses that were imparted on them in the first place. One of the things that I love about being a REALTOR® is being able to choose the kind of people that I have to work with, minorities are not only discriminated against in real estate, but even in the corporate world as well. They’re hindered with prejudice and they often have to take a lower wage in some cases, and you don’t have to do that. You can take control of your career. You can live a very comfortable life. I’m Black, I’m a woman, I’m a single mom, and I’ve quite literally doubled down on the adversity. I’m changing the stereotype for my daughter and her future. I think that I love being a salesperson. I love working in real estate, and pressure creates diamonds. I would welcome more people of colour, more minority immigrants to pursue a career in real estate, because it’s been really great for me.
Erin: Thank you, Bethany, Chris Peters, and Jasmine Lee for sharing your insights and your experiences so that we may all see things a little more clearly as we celebrate Black History Month and move towards a future of compassion, empathy, and justice. If you’re interested, you can google Black on Bay Street in the Globe and Mail, no paywall, and read Dr. Roderique’s piece from last September on being a Black mother in a world that’s dangerous for Black children. It’s amazing. So is she, and we’re so glad to have shared her wisdom here today.
Just before we go, here’s another reason you’re going to want to subscribe to this podcast. Up next time, an uplifting and joyful conversation with Tiffany Pratt post of HGTV’s Home to Win, and Buy It, Fix It, Sell It, to name just a few of her projects. She’s dynamic. She’s got so much on the go and a lot of joy to share, and she’ll do it right here. You won’t want to miss it.
REAL TIME is produced by Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Talk to you again soon and don’t forget to subscribe.