These days, uncertainty is the name of the real estate game. But uncertainty breeds creativity, one Toronto-based agency is proving. 

The Bank of Canada may have halted interest rates for the time being, and yes, prices are beginning to level out, but there’s still a lot of reservation. This is according to Riel Sammy, partner of creative strategy at Channel 13 -- a specialized branding and design agency immersed in Toronto's pre-construction space.

“The market has been really interesting and challenging,” he says. “In general, I've seen a lot of hesitation, a lot of ‘let’s wait and see' and delays in project launches to see what the market bears."

As such, the job at hand for a company like Channel 13 has shifted. To market, brand, and strategize with a pre-construction client has a different weight to it now; it carries the responsibility of maneuvering the mixed emotions that stem from years of market shifts.

These mixed emotions are fair; the market hit a peak last spring, while today, affordability challenges are resulting in slower real estate action. So from Sammy’s perspective, when working with clients, it’s not about denying those mixed emotions. Instead, he drives home the message that the market will prevail.

In part, this relies on bringing any trepidation -- amongst clients and their desired audiences -- into perspective. Because there’s a strong case to be made for pre-construction investing, even in an uncertain market.

“A pre-construction investment is the best one you can make, especially as interest rates increase,” says Sammy. “You don't necessarily have to close on a mortgage for a number of years and it's a good way to continue to make your money work. Prices, I believe, will only increase.”

In other words, market fundamentals remain strong. So, what companies selling real estate should actually be focusing on is building brand trust. 

“We recommend tailoring the approach”

“Interest rates are high,” Sammy explains, “there hasn't been much movement in the market up until late. But if you pay attention, and the details are aligned for the buyer, there’s always a deal to be had. The idea of taking action with a tailored approach is better than doing nothing, every time.”

As for what “tailoring the approach” means in today’s market -- well, it’s different for each and every client, Sammy continues. At an overarching level, he defines it as “doubling down on your brand as a developer and building more awareness.”

In some cases, this means investing more intentionally in relationships with customers, brokers, and other critical players. In others, it means putting more weight into corporate initiatives to help promote company ethos. Across the board, it boils down to honing in on a forward-thinking and positive brand strategy that considers what developers can do now to benefit down the line.

“It’s those types of developers that people are going to pay attention to and put their dollars towards,” says Sammy. “And consumers now are looking towards understanding who's actually behind the projects; that it will get built, that it will be built well, and that it's going to be a great place to live and a great investment.”

READ:How One Branding and Design Agency is Making its Mark on GTA New Builds

Two pre-construction projects that Channel 13 has worked on -- LSQ, a master-planned community by Almadev, and the Wilson West condominium development by First Avenue -- are indicative that the firm digs deeper than the content and campaigns one may typically expect from an agency.

“We've named, positioned, branded, and created all the marketing communication around both of those projects, and now we're in the phase of supporting both sales teams to get their marketing communication and marketing assets ready so that they can go out and work their sales programs,” says Sammy.

He adds that a large part of Channel 13’s mission is to be an extension of their clients. To build upon what the client is already doing right.

“Using Almadev as an example, they're a developer that's really invested in their brand, they do things thoughtfully, they have a great team, they build great communities, they have that reputation. We've helped to continue to build that reputation in a positive light,” he says. “And other developers are cheering on the fact that this has been one of a couple of projects that have brought faith back to the market.”

Investing in strategy to stand the test of time

“We produce amazing assets, amazing brands, great advertising, great digital experiences, but by the same token, we understand the real estate market,” says Sammy of Channel 13’s unique, and completely customizable, suite of services. “It's not just about making something pretty -- we're in tune with what sales are doing, what developers are doing, what the market is doing, what competitors may be doing.”

READ:This Full-Service Creative Agency Guides Real Estate Insiders to Success

For new developers in particular, investing in branding early on -- and teaming up with a company like Channel 13, that’s in tune with the unique ebbs and flows of today’s market -- can be an investment in longevity.

Branding, says Sammy, stands to permeate through many different decisions and departments in a company.

“Up-and-coming developers may not be having these branding conversations because there's so much to think about when you're a developer, and they just don't have the time or the capacity, or they're just not there yet in their business, but these conversations need to happen,” he continues. “Brand is business. It's connected -- and if you have a really tight brand ethos, that can guide a lot of the principles of what you're doing.”

For clients across the board, Sammy adds, there’s always an opportunity to evolve branding. In fact, doing so is a necessity. It’s easy to see that the real estate market is in a state of flux, and standing the test of time as a pre-construction developer can boil down to putting out the right messaging, and selling the right experience for the times.

“It can be a benefit to just have constant conversations around what you're doing as a brand because we see things differently than an internal team member would -- or even the development world in general, even though we play in both worlds. There's always an opportunity for conversation.”

Cover image: LSQ by Almadev

This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.