Founded in 2004, Right at Home Realty was an industry disruptor from the start – and the brokerage maintains that title.
Inspired by a new business model in the United States that offered agents the ability to keep 100% of their commissions, the late Arthur Bartram, Howard Drukarsh, and Ronald E. Peddicord brought this concept to Canada with the launch of Right at Home, nearly 20 years ago in Toronto.
This style of operation shook up the status quo in the Canadian real estate industry, providing agents with an appealing alternative to the traditional percentage commission models brokerages had been offering for decades. The new model would also allow agents to invest their commissions back into their businesses, enabling them to market themselves, generate leads, and provide more services to their clients.
In short, it worked.
By 2013, Right at Home had become the number one real estate brokerage in The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – Canada’s largest market – for total units closed, listing, and selling combined. Right at Home is now the largest independent real estate brokerage in Canada, with a network that’s grown to 10 offices and close to 6,000 members serving Ontario.
Smashing The Stigma
It’s no secret that Right at Home has been stigmatized over the years – as is the case with many industry outliers. But, with each impressive new milestone, that stigma is starting to subside.
“My challenge has been to change the narrative that exists about who Right at Home is,” says Right at Home President John Lusink. “Some of the legacy brokerages have created this narrative that we’re a discount company – we’re anything but. A discount company offers discounts; we don’t actually do that. We’re as full-service – if not more – than the traditional companies. So, what’s made us unique is that we offer everything a traditional brokerage offers – and then some."
Lusink says Right at Home is completely full-service without being complicated. “We have onsite full-time management, office services, admins, a concierge service, training, marketing and tech support, and a compliance department with support from two experienced paralegals,” he says.
“Some of the legacy brokerages have created this narrative that we’re a discount company – we’re anything but. A discount company offers discounts; we don’t actually do that. We’re as full-service – if not more – than the traditional companies. So, what’s made us unique is that we offer everything a traditional brokerage offers – and then some."
Putting Agents First
From the start, Right at Home has helped agents’ careers thrive by putting agents first with an agent-centric business model. Julie Kee, Broker of Record and General Manager at Right at Home, says the brokerage represents the future of real estate. “We’re giving agents that flexibility to work with our model and hone in on what they want to offer their consumers; they have a business plan and funding to do that,” says Kee. “They can target their audience and cater to their wants and needs. We offer a new way for agents to think about their businesses and carve their own path to success.”
While they may be carving their own path to success with each sale, Right at Home agents have no shortage of support along the way. “We have a dedicated support team of agent care experts who create easy learning tools and full support – over-the-top customer service,” says Kee. “We also have 15 managers in Barrie, Ottawa, and the GTA, where we provide advice and assistance daily. The management support is second to none.”
Another major draw of Right At Home is its embrace of new agents.
“Like many other agents, I started off in this industry as a part-time agent,” says Nick Gewarges of Right at Home. “I quickly learned that many other brokerages (especially the franchised ones) don’t embrace part-time agents in their business model. I was happy to meet with the Right at Home Realty Mississauga Branch manager, realizing she welcomed me with open arms and even gave me words of encouragement about how one day I’ll make this a fulfilling, full-time career.” And Nick did just that. “Here I am, 12 years later, as one of the top agents in the company, doing interviews about how great we are,” says Nick. “Looks like those other brokerages lost their opportunity for a good hire!”
An Ever-Expanding Footprint
Right at Home’s footprint continues to expand across Ontario. Most recently, Right at Home has further extended its reach, with acquisitions in Barrie and Ottawa.
When Gewarges joined the company in 2011, Right at Home didn’t have a Burlington office, so he was stationed in Mississauga. “Now, we have a state-of-the-art facility and over 600 agents in Burlington alone,” says Gewarges. “I’ve been lucky to have personally experienced our incredible growth firsthand.”
Right At Home Realty, Burlington Branch (via rightathomerealty.com)
Gewarges is part of a real estate team with his wife Zina, who joined Right at Home in 2016. “Prior to that, I was helping Nick as a stager for his listings,” she says. “It came to a point where Nick was considering bringing on a second agent, and he basically begged me to join him in an official capacity. Even at that point of expansion in our business, we knew that Right at Home was the right brokerage to do that with. We considered our options, and we chose this brokerage to grow our business.”
Right at Home’s vast footprint helps this growth. “Right at Home offers local presence in over a dozen cities across the GTA and beyond,” says Zina. “That gives us the ability to show our clients we are heavily active with a state-of-the-art office in their given city.”
Disrupting ‘Business As Usual’
Right at Home has remained true to its industry-disrupting roots. In an industry that’s been historically slow to adopt tech, the brokerage was one of the first to digitize operations. It continues to pave the way with industry-leading tech.
“Right at Home came in strong and changed the way people view real estate,” says Dina. “Everything was paper based. It involved long hours. It was all in person and we embraced that change with electronic signing. We have an à la cart offering so if you want your deal paperwork done by an administrator then you can pay for that service; if you are an agent that prefers to do that on your own then you don’t have to pay for it. At other brokerages, you pay for it whether you use that service or not. Our model helps a lot of new agents lower their commission expenses and eventually pass on those savings to the client, if they choose.”
Right at Home is nearly finished building their completely proprietary tech platform – something that has been in the works for two and a half years and will launch next month.
“Given the sheer scale of Right at Home” Lusink says, “both in terms of agent count (almost 6,000) as well as transaction count (20,000+), one of the biggest challenges is finding technology that can both make the back office and admin departments efficient and agent-centric, and at the same time bring agent-facing technology to the members so they can continue to build their businesses in a profitable and effective way.
He says after years of research and testing, the brokerage decided to pursue the development of its own end-to-end tech platform. “It will enable everything from agent onboarding to transaction management, training, marketing, and more.”
Because Right at Home was first to bring its disruptive model to market – offering agents a new way to think about their businesses and carve their own path to success – the company has been able to expand on it. “We’ve been through the good times and the bad times in real estate with this model,” says Kee. “We have perfected the infrastructure. The competitors haven’t been able to keep up, even though they’ve tried; they can’t build their models to the scale that we have. This scale is our biggest advantage because it lets us invest back into the business, which ultimately helps the consumer.”
Remaining An Industry Leader
Right at Home is now an industry leader – a status that won’t change any time soon.
“First and foremost, our stats speak for themselves: we’re the number one brokerage in the GTA for the past 10 years in a row,” says Gewarges. “The highest number of transactions is an accomplishment that our agents, our leadership team, branch managers and staff should be very proud of. We have collectively turned this relatively young brokerage into a major industry player and powerhouse in Ontario.”
Kee says that the (dwindling) stigma largely rests within the agent community, not with consumers. “Consumers are less brand-focused on the brokerage, and more focused on who they know and trust,” she says. “So, we make sure that agents realize that you need to become a trusted advisor and really understand every little area of the market. Support is a big thing for agents. Even in our exit interviews, they report that their support was phenomenal.”
Right at Home’s one-stop shop has indeed become a major draw for busy agents in bustling markets.
“We’re now close to 6,000 agents,” says Zina. “Most of these people are making the switch from other brokerages. If that’s not proof enough that we are making waves in the industry, then I don’t know what is.”
This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.