Sam McDadi is one of the most well-known realtors in the GTA. With more than 9,500 homes sold, the impresario behind Sam McDadi Real Estate Brokerage inc. made his name as the No. 1 real estate agent for the RE/MAX organization a decade ago.

“When I first started, it wasn't that I thought I'd be No. 1 on the planet. My intention was just to have fun and find an industry you can have a good time with,” says McDadi. “Then we started building great momentum and I realized we could be as good as anybody. We have the right structure, the right mentality and we're fortunate enough to be in a marketplace where homes sell briskly, so we positioned ourselves for success and we believed we could get there.”

The achievement was a long way from his former life in corporate finance, where the most exciting thing to happen was a one per cent raise.

“One per cent? After taxes and fees, they might as well keep it,” McDadi said he remembers thinking.

These days he sets his own schedule, works his own hours and no one defines how successful he can be or how far he can go.

McDadi reveals to Storeys his secrets to success and what really makes him tick during his time off.

What are you reading these days?

The Gerson Therapy. I'm really into health and this talks about cancer treatments, preventative medicine and all that stuff, so that's the book I've been reading for the last week or so. It's just a naturopathic, health-related book.

What is the first album you ever bought?

Hard to recall, but I'm going to say Led Zeppelin IV.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was pretty active in sports. I played a lot of tennis in my teenage years and I had a small ambition to be a tennis professional, but shortly thereafter realized the climb was too big.

You weren't going to be Andre Agassi?

I couldn't get to that level. I was good enough to get a tennis scholarship and enjoy some good years in the States, but I didn't get to take it to the next level.

What advice would you give the younger you?

Leverage a little bit earlier in the game. I built a pretty good team practice now and it's a business with good team players. I think in the beginning I wanted to tackle everything myself, but having one good assistant that you can assign $10- to $15-per-hour tasks to makes a lot of sense versus you doing all the fumbling and running around. It lets you focus on the core business and if I had to do it again, I would have that a little bit earlier to free myself up to do activities that I think I was better suited to spend my time on.

What sets you apart from all the other realtors working in the GTA?

There are a lot of good realtors, but I think what makes us a little bit different or myself a little bit different is I have super strong tunnel vision and focus with ultimate discipline, but I've also built a really good team structure.

I always try to think one step ahead and be proactive. I've got full-time stagers, I've got a full-time inspector, I've got a full-time marketing team and I've got a full-time social media specialist, so I'm able to remain on the cutting-edge by surrounding myself with good people.

What are your tips for homebuyers in this overheated market right now?

I was telling people in the spring and in the early summer when things were really crazy, “Put the brakes on, it's going to normalize at some point.” Figure out where you want to be price-point-wise, but don't go too crazy because if you get too caught up in the bidding frenzy, six months down the road you may find yourself a little offside in terms of values.

Now in December it's probably the perfect time where it's a little less crazy and it might be a better time to get into the market. Don't go too crazy. There will be a more normalized market and supply and demand will kind of level. Don't feel like you have to push the panic button.

What do you think is Toronto's most underrated neighbourhood?

A lot of our business practice is in the west end. I'm a Mississauga/Oakville guy, so I would still say the areas I know, even Mississauga, people are starting to really appreciate and understand. Just recently, we sold some properties to some pretty big baseball and basketball personalities, so I think it has still got some pretty good upside versus the city and it's just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Is it different selling to celebrities?

You know what, one of them made a very quick decision, spent a lot of money and bought a couple houses – boom, boom, and the other one was more methodical. They're nice. They like their privacy because I guess they're so used to being surrounded by people.

We've dealt with athletes and some pretty big corporate guys and at the end of the day, they're just human beings who have happened to be very successful in their chosen field.

What is a profession that you'd most like to try?

If I wasn't doing real estate, I love fitness. I'd probably have my own fitness centre. Probably an integration of regular exercise with a holistic approach. I'd call that my passion and I think that would be my No. 2 thing I'd consider doing if not real estate, which I love.

Who is your favourite architect or architectural style?

Frank Lloyd Wright I think is a really cool architect who has inspired a lot of people and a lot of things you're seeing now in the city. A lot of buildings here are spin-offs of Frank Lloyd and his concepts, so I think he is one I look up to.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I'm a big fan of Barack Obama, so I think he and Michelle are two people I'd be very fascinated to talk to and have over for dinner.

How have you stayed a top producer in the industry for so long?

I've been fortunate that I have never lost that flame, so I'm still very passionate about what I do. I think the key thing for me is 95 per cent of what I like about this business I get to do and the five per cent I don't like, I delegate it. I get up every morning and I'm really excited about my day. Before, I used to work in corporate finance, I did an MBA and I thought I was going to go down that path. I didn't really like the structured corporate environment. I remember on Sunday I would get the Sunday night blues. In real estate, I am working seven days a week, but I really don't feel it's work.

What I tell people of younger ages is that if you are really passionate about what you do and it doesn't feel like work, then it's all gravy after that. I still have that burning desire, which makes me really happy now that I'm seven years older.

What's a moment that you're most proud of?

We have our own brokerage now, but about a decade ago I was fortunate enough to, out of 100,000 realtors to be number one realtor in the world within the Remax organization and I remember thinking that's all my hard work coming to fruition.

What's your secret to balancing your work life and personal life?

I have a really great partner in my life who's very understanding and having the right person in your life is important. But, I started realizing it's also important to take some time off, so we bought a place in Florida and I try to go there maybe four or five days every month or so and recharge the batteries. I get a chance to workout, play tennis and get massages to re-energize.

I think it's so important to have balance because it's so easy to go to one side in this business and then you can burn out. There has been a lot of people in this business who are shooting stars who have one or two good years and you don't see them again. I think for me the definition of success in this vocation is having sustained growth on an ongoing basis.