Intense real estate market takes toll on one Vancouverite’s grieving process

‘Stunningly insensitive and offensive’ visit from real estate agent irks grieving family member

Vancouver home for sale | Photo: Rob Kruyt, BIV

The grieving process after the loss of a parent can be devastating at its peak before subsiding into numbness for many people.

For one Vancouver resident, that pain was amplified further following a knock at the door.

That’s when a Reddit user identified as EastVanJ found themselves being visited by a real estate agent offering condolences two days after the passing of the former’s mother, according to a July 26 account on the social media site.

 “Somehow, I don't think he was offering grief counselling,” the Redditor recounted after naming Graeme Lin of Oakwyn Realty Ltd. as the unexpected visitor.

“Then, Mr. Lin proceeded to ask who was now living in the house and what our ‘plans’ were.” 

Three weeks after that encounter and the Redditor said they are still in shock over what unfolded.

“I know [the Vancouver real estate] market is hot, but it was stunningly insensitive and offensive,” EastVanJ wrote on Reddit.

The Redditor did not respond to a message from the newspaper.

But Lin told BIV the encounter was a mistake and he has since apologized via email.

“I understand it’s a difficult situation. It’s an innocent mistake, like, bad timing and everything,” he said over the phone before directing BIV to his office for further information.

Lin said his own mother was friends with the Redditor’s recently passed mother, having grown up together in China.

Oakwyn managing broker Shelly Smee said Lin’s outreach came from a genuine place and that the Redditor has not acknowledged her firm’s overtures following the apology.

“I always get really sad when somebody who is a very good person and a very excellent Realtor does something that in retrospect could have taken a moment and said, ‘Mom, I don't think that's a great idea,’” she told BIV.

“If you were in his position, [what] would you think if suddenly your phone starts ringing and people are yelling at you, and accusing you of things and threatening your family?”

Smee said the viral nature of the Reddit post could have real consequences on Lin’s career.

“This is an unfortunate situation where somebody was just doing something that they thought was following what their mom suggested would be a good idea, and was not a great idea in the long run,” she said.

“It's just this whole social media environment that we're in right now is just — it can be very toxic.”

The Redditor said in their post they complained to Oakwyn, as well as the Real Estate Council of B.C. (RECBC), the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) and the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA).

An BCREA spokeswoman confirmed that her organization received a complaint pertaining to this matter; however, such a complaint is outside the jurisdiction of that organization.

“Realtors are trained and expected, through mandatory education and a national code of ethics, to not only meet their legal and regulatory obligations, but to always exercise good judgment and operate with respect and professionalism,” a REBGV spokesman told BIV.

“If the public has concerns about how someone licensed to sell real estate has conducted themselves, we encourage them to contact the Real Estate Council of B.C. to have the situation investigated.”

The RECBC enforces entry qualifications, investigates complaints against licensees and imposes disciplinary sanctions under the Real Estate Services Act, while the bulk of the REBGV’s jurisdiction falls under member-to-member complaints.

Under the RECBC’s rules, agents are not permitted to knowingly publish false advertising.

“If the advertising, calls, or visits continue, or if someone you know is at risk because of unethical real estate marketing, contact the Council,” the RECBC stated in a 2017 blog post following a series of complaints that year about advertising and marketing techniques that appeared to be targeting vulnerable people.

Lin identifies himself as a Realtor — a member of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) — on his personal webpage.

It’s unclear whether any specific rules within the organization’s code of conduct apply to a circumstance similar to what EastVanJ recounted.

But Article 21 states a “Realtor shall not engage in conduct that is disgraceful, unprofessional or unbecoming of a Realtor.”

“This article is intended to deal with conduct that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is egregious in nature and goes beyond simple error.”

Updated July 29, 2021, with statements from the REBGV and the RECBC.