Mark Salerno, broker of record, Euromart Realty Ltd. Brokerage. (Photo courtesy of Mark Salerno)
Mark Salerno always knew real estate would be a part of his life, but he probably didn't expect to be running a brokerage at the age of 24.
His father Mario Salerno started Euromart Realty Ltd. in 1980 and Mark always knew he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
Growing up around the industry made working as a realtor was his dream. At one point, the young Salerno thought he might work alongside his father, but his dad didn't want him to work for him right away. His father wanted him to learn from a larger firm.
But after three years as a sales representative at Royal LePage, Salerno was thrust into preserving his father's legacy much sooner than expected.
He didn't want to see Euromart go down with its founder, so while his father battled illness, Salerno took the broker's exam. Since then, he has morphed Euromart Realty into a dark horse Toronto real estate player for this modern digital age.
We sat down with him to find out how he plans to carry his father's legacy so it will endure for generations.
What keeps you getting up in the morning these days?
I just love real estate. Every day is different and I love everything about it.
Everybody needs a job and everybody has to make a certain amount of money to live, but you have to work at a job that you're passionate about. And the fact that I haven't changed over the years means I've hit that sweet spot.
I don't feel like I'm working. Not many people find out what their calling in life is and I really feel that's what has happened to me.
What do you provide that sets you apart from your competition?
The one thing about me, and I guess by extension my company, is we're a boutique brokerage. I only have five others working for me and I always try to provide very, very personal service to my clients.
I have on my business card 24/7 service, because, literally, the one thing people who sign up with me can count on is that I'm available for them. It doesn't matter whether I'm in the country, out of the country, or whatever the case may be, I know my clients get my commitment that I'm always available.
For example, I was on my honeymoon in the Maldives in 2013. And I was literally FaceTiming from a hut in the middle of the ocean at 4 a.m. That's the kind of service I give to my clients and I will never stray away from that.
What made you start a boutique firm instead of joining one of the more established real estate companies out there?
When I got into the business, my father had the company since 1980, but he was old school. And when I got into the business he said, “Mark, I don't really want you to work for me. I want you to work for a larger company.”
He sent me over to a Royal LePage office. I worked there for about three years. And the only reason I really quit is that my father got sick.
I didn't want to see everything my father started just go away.
So I was 24 years old, wrote my broker's exam, and literally in a month we began to bring the company to where it is today.
It was very important that I keep it in the family.
At first, it was pretty difficult. But over time I got the hang of it. And now I would put our agents up against the Royal LePages and larger real estate firms out there any day of the week.
Salerno's favourite property: Fairfield Estates at 95 Eden Vale Drive in King City. It sold for $5,450,000. (Photo courtesy of Mark Salerno.)
Since you have a boutique firm, it can be hard to get the same name recognition as some of the larger firms. So how do you make yourself stand out and get above the fray when it comes to marketing?
When I first started in the business in 2006, Facebook was starting to really take off. Sure, I had my personal profile, but I started posting my listings and real estate albums. And those started doing really well.
I was getting a great response.
Then, Instagram came and things started to really take off.
People seem to really appreciate the quality of the content we post there and I started getting loads of referrals just from our social media.
What really separates me on that level is the content. People are always complimenting the content.
I looked to the bigger realtors out there to see what they were doing. They inspire me.
There are drawbacks to Instagram though too. I must've spent four hours — before this conversation with you — eliminating like 1,000 bots from our profile.
But the great thing about having a small business is you can be transparent and show your clients the backend.
You can see just what kind of response you get to your photos and listings through the insights section of Instagram and clients get a real thrill out of seeing their listings perform so well.
Our business is 100 per cent referral and we get those referrals mostly from word-of-mouth, which is driven almost entirely by our strong social media presence.
Of course, social media gets clients in the door, but it's our commitment to 24-hour service and covering their every need that keeps them coming back.
We're a small brokerage, but I can provide the type of online service that you will absolutely get from a larger firm.
What are you telling buyers and sellers in Toronto these days?
Toronto as a market is still highly competitive, especially on the detached home, entry-level side. I see the numbers go up where people could've bought in January for around $700,000 and now it's going up to the $800,000- to $900,000-range.
Toronto is a very desirable place to live for a lot of people. But with such limited supply, it will continue to be one of the most in-demand places in Canada and I don't see that changing any time soon. And I believe it will continue to be the case throughout my lifetime.
Prices will just keep going up and up.
Since you have at least five people under you, what do you see as the qualities of a good manager?
I don't like to think of myself as a manager because I'm still really hands-on and want to be involved in every deal.
Our clients' satisfaction is Number 1. And if my name is on the door, I need to know that my standards for service are being kept.
I just started my team not too long ago and I was really nervous about it and avoided it for the longest time. I didn't want to have issues where my listing agent never visited or the client felt like they were being shuffled off to some underling.
I needed to know everything that was going on. So even though I have a team, I'm still very much involved in every deal because I need to know that our commitment to service and our standard for negotiation is still there at every step.
How do you balance your 24/7 service commitment with your family life?
If it weren't for my wife, I wouldn't be able to do anything that I do at the level that I do it.
She is the unsung hero of our family. It's because of her that I'm able to perform at such a consistent level every day.
Some people might say that I need more balance ... I shouldn't work this hard ... But this is just the way I do it and this isn't work for me. I love it.
Real estate is my life and it always will be.
Mario Salerno. Broker of record at his office Toronto, in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Mark Salerno)
Now that you've been able to preserve your father's legacy and build Euromart even stronger, how do you reflect on what you've been able to build?
My dad passed away in 2011 and his values and making his company the best are still the motivating factors for me.
He used to say to me, “When you go to work, you can do whatever you want, just work hard at it and make sure you absolutely love it.”
At the end of the day, after all the hard work and sacrifice, my goal is for the Salerno name to be the most recognizable name in Canadian Real Estate.