I became a mortgage agent because of my university classmate Lihua. This is a profession that I would and could never imagine doing since I came from a country where mortgage has been only about 15 years of history since 1949.
I joined Multi-Prêts in the beginning of 2003. It was only till the end of the 2nd year when I got to know that the first half of each year is the busy season for our profession, which means that we should get ready and work hard to make 70% of our business. This is because most people who rent will have to notify their owners of their intention of not wanting to renew 3 months before the expiring date of their leases. I didn’t know that and I took my time in starting my work.
Time passed without trace when my easy-going attitude was tossed aside by my very first client in May.
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon in our office at Berri & René-Levesque. I was trying to set up my computer and start fooling around in my new business of which I had absolutely no idea what it was and how to go about it.
We had a condo of 1,200 square feet as our office, ground floor with a semi basement. It was basically the place for our Call-Center with agents coming in to meet our clients. I should say it was a bit too small for a company of about 12 people working from 8:30am to 5pm and 200 agents in and out. Luckily we had the semi-basement where we had copy machines, etc.
I was making some copies when someone said to me: “Are you Hai Bo? Some one wants to speak to you.”
I asked back: ” Oh, Where?” Then I heard my name called through the loud speaker:
“Hai Bo, pick up line 2, a client called Eric wants to speak to you.”
Before I could really realize what the matter was, the phone was put in my hand and I heard a man’s voice:
” Bonjour! Je peux parler avec Mme Hai Bo?” (Good-day! Can I speak to Ms Hai Bo?)
“Ohooo, French! my god, French!!!I learned only 7 months during 4 years and now I have to speak French to a client!” I sweated this thought, but had to reply quickly in FRENCH!
“Oui, c’est moi, Hai Bo! Qu’est-ce-que je peux faire pour vous?”( Yes, it is me, Hai Bo! What can I do for you?) “of course, mortgage, what do you think, you idiot!” I cursed myself about the dumb and awkward reply.
The following 2 minutes, we were talking in French, couldn’t go on, we agreed to change to English, then couldn’t go on neither and the conversation got stale. Obviously, I was not at all prepared for such a conversation, the quality is assumably imaginable. Then I asked him:
“Do you have time later today so that I can talk to you, because I am busy right now and it is better that I talk to you later”. Of course I was lying, not for bad purpose, but truly to win more time to prepare in order to save my first deal!
“Pas de problèmes. Mais je vais travailler bientôt et demain je serai en congé!” (No problem. But I am going to work soon and I will be having a day off tomorrow!)
Woohoo! Okay, I said to myself: I can offer to go see him. I expressed my wish and he said yes. I was so happy that I will meet my first client. He was living in Vaudreuil-Dorion. I got his address and the appointment was set at 3:30 pm in the afternoon the next day.
I prepared myself what to say to him, got ready the contract and other necessary document, and off I went in my car. It was raining and the rain just got heavy on the way. I had never been to Vaudreuil-Dorion and had no clue it was this far. The pools of water on Highway 720 Ouest made my car sway from side to side, the wiper had to be crazy like the flopping wings of a flying hummingbird so that I could see 5 meters ahead. I slowed down but only to hear the driver behind horning!
“Okay, okay, go ahead! I’ll let you pass!”
Got over the bridge and I had to turn around a few times because I got confused of the roads as a new driver here. I arrived 25 minutes late than I expected( it took me 50 minutes, but it should take only 25 minutes).It was 20 to 4.
Arriving late, I was feeling sorry thinking, my god, first time seeing a client, and I was late! Damn!
I knocked on the door. A very young girl showed up.
“Bonjour! Je m’appelle Hai Bo, et je suis ici voir M. Eric!” (Good day! I am Hai Bo and I am here to see Mr.Eric). The girl led me into the house.
Oh, my! whom I was meeting was a very young man of 26 years old! One great thing about our profession is that we do not have to ask bluntly the age of our clients!!! It is a requirement! So, he was neither tall, nor short, not too small, definitely not big. A quebecois of the moyen look! His girlfriend stayed all the time very quietly by our side watching and listening.
I didn’t really know how I got the forms filled out, contract signed and how I left his parents’ house. One thing I did notice was that they were very quiet and didn’t say much. The whole procedure was in FRENCH. They answered all the questions I asked and agreed on anything I said. After all these years of working mostly with my own people with whom I had no problem of communication, I realized how nice they had been all this time during the interview, how patient and trustful they had been towards somebody they had chosen from the internet!
The institution that I applied had a rule that it only gave us agents one chance if the rate lowered down. Well, we never know how many times the rate will go down. The later the date of the transaction of the client’s deal, the more chance we will have to catch the lowest rate for our clients . Most banks allow us to follow the lowest point in the rate changes 10 days before the transaction date, but this institution gave only one chance. I was worried. Worried that I could not get the best rate for my first client…
The rate did get down twice. If I had locked the first one, I would have missed the second one and the third one. But I did lock the first one and I fought for the 2nd one very hard on the phone with the underwriter and I finally matched the best rate on the market for my very first client.
5 years passed and their renewal was about time. I called him up and asked him if he would use my service again. I felt very warm and grateful when I heard him reply:
“Bien sûr!”( of course!) again in French, “Je voudrais encourager le gens qui m’ont aidé!” (I would like to encourage people who had helped me!) So, I signed the contract with him again for the 2nd time, yet it was not as smooth as the 1st time. Usually, there is no notary or any other fee when we transfer the loan to another bank or institution, but the loan with his first institution was not transferable which means that there will be a notary fee to pay! Bang! I got stuck! I had promised Eric that there would be no fee whatsoever, now there would be a fee, not 200, 400, it was 900!
“What am I going to say to Eric?”, about this fee and my mistake! My commission was much less than this figure. Even though I would give it all up, that wouldn’t be enough to cover it! I tried to negotiate with the institution for half of the fee willing to pay the other half myself, but unfortunately, I got a soft sympathetic NO! I did feel very ashamed to talk to Eric about all this, yet I had no choice but to tell him the whole story and asked him of his opinion.
“Hai Bo, c’est pas grave! On va le payer. Le taux que vous m’avez donné n’est pas mal du tout!” (Hai Bo, it’s ok! We are going to pay for that. The rate you got for us is not bad at all) I understand that he had absolutely no reason to be so nice, but he did pay the notary fee himself. I had another case where I gave up all my commission to my client because for that time, the manager of the center promised me the notary fee, but nobody of his center would acknowledge his promise because he left for another institution, and I had no e-mail to prove his promise. I represented the bank. Whatever I promised the client is a true deal even though my bank falled me bad.
Of the 2 experiences that I had with Eric, I was learning something from him. Something that we could do, but we usually do not do out of many reasons such as rules, promise, loss, etc. You promised, so you should deliver as promised! I learn something that is beyond all these moral values and that can not be measured by any of these rules and logic. This something is called: kindness, generosity, forgiveness, support and respect! It has been because of these people that I grow and it is because of these great priceless qualities that I am successful today. Of all these years of my life, luckily I met with them all the time… I am lucky, grateful and I am ready to follow my sweet young soul!