Going once, going twice — Zold!

If you’ve spent any time in York Region you’ve probably seen that word on lawns of homes for sale. This is because Shawn Zigelstein’s Team Zold is one of the most successful group of realtors in the area. As part of Royal LePage’s Chairman’s Club from 2012-2016, their team is among Royal LePage’s top 1 per cent of realtors in Canada. Not bad for a guy who was once in the restaurant business.

“I worked as a prep cook, I worked as a waiter, I worked as a bartender and I worked as a manager. I did absolutely everything in the restaurant industry within a three-year span with the thought of maybe opening my own restaurant,” says Zigelstein.

Zigelstein made the switch to real estate 13 years ago in search of more flexible hours so he could spend time with his family. He finds he frequently uses the management systems he learned in the restaurant business to keep him organized, successful and serving up a consistent level of service to his real estate clients.

Zigelstein’s late father-in-law came up with the Zold name as a way to set his son-in-law apart from the competition and Zigelstein took the concept and ran with it. He sat down with Storeys to share what it takes to stay in the top 1 per cent of Royal LePage producers five years in a row.

What initially attracted you to real estate?

I had two young kids at the time and had a little bit of experience around real estate. I hadn’t bought or sold properties, but I was around other families that had been in the real estate industry. I thought, why don’t I give this a try? I can create my own business, I can create my own brand within a brand of a company and really I can explore my own entrepreneurial spirit a little bit. I can try to take that to the next level and really make a difference.

What are the issues and innovations you are seeing in the industry that will affect real estate’s future?

The age of the realtors that have predominately been in the business is changing. I think when you see the average age of agents dropping, we’re going to see a lot more innovation on technology. When I started in the business the local newspaper had 20 pages of real estate advertising in it, now we’re lucky if there’s one or two pages. It has become a much different market. It’s a lot more digital, technology is key and as a team if we’re not keeping up with the technology … we’re going to be the age of the dinosaur.

As a top producer in the industry yourself, what did it take to get there and what does it take to maintain that standing now?

You can’t be a top producer unless you have the support of a team. I find that the average agent who is doing two to three transactions a year, unfortunately doesn’t have that support. With a team around you and supporting you, you have the ability to really make sure your clients are being looked after. Your clients know that they can see a property at a moment’s notice. They know that if they need something done, it will get done immediately. I think the other big key to being a top producer in this business is just being focused and being consistent with what you do.

If you weren’t a realtor, would you still be in the restaurant business or would you do something else?

I couldn’t even imagine doing anything else anymore. I was at a client’s house this morning. They’ve been in that house for 41 years and we just sold their house last week, so I got them a photo book made from all of the photos from their home. I took it over there this morning and watching these people looking at this house that they’ve lived in for 41 years — a husband and wife who absolutely loved it — reminded me what I love about this business, so why would I ever do anything else?

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the connections we make with our clients and I love the fact that when I started in this business 13 years ago, I can go to those same clients’ houses today and see kids who I saw when they were five or six years old heading off to university and they say, ‘OK Shawn, when we have to buy a condo, we know we’re calling you.’ I love those relationships that I built with my clients and that trust that they know that I’m there for them.

What annoys you most about what you do?

In the business, what is difficult a lot of the time is just the uncertainty of what your schedule is going to be like. Sometimes you will get calls and you will have to run around and sometimes … you will have to be there for an offer. That’s what we do, we work when other people play. Other people are at work from nine to five and we work nights and weekends. The uncertainty of the day-to-day can be a struggle, but as long as you have some consistency and run a tight schedule, then that consistency helps even out your schedule quite a bit.

With the unpredictability of your schedule, do you find it difficult to balance your family and leisure time?

No, not at all. I am the type of person that thinks balance is important. I take my vacation time, I go to my kids’ hockey games and baseball games. I go golfing with my sons, go on date nights with my wife and we will make sure we spend that time together … We all need a break from our jobs and we all need a break from a day-to-day grind. By having the team there, we’re able to help each other out from the standpoint of making sure that happens.

What is your opinion on the state of Toronto’s real estate market?

I don’t for a second believe Toronto is in a real estate bubble. I think what we’re seeing in Toronto and the surrounding Golden Horseshoe is that the amount of people purchasing properties for their use is huge. Immigration is continuing to boom, interest rates continue to be at a low that doesn’t see any sign of increase and then there’s really no inventory out there. Until we have an influx of inventory coming in, we won’t see any type of slowdown because right now we’re at three weeks’ worth of inventory on the Toronto Real Estate Board.

How do you feel about that lack of inventory?

I’d love to get some more inventory on the market because we have a lot of buyers who are looking to buy and then they’ll sell their properties. A lot of people are hesitant right now because they haven’t found that house, which then slows them down from making the move. If we saw more inventory, we’d get a little more of a balanced market, rather than a seller’s market, which is what we’re in right now.

How do you plan to make yourself a better realtor and get to your next goal?

I like to surround myself with great people, that’s the No. 1 step to becoming a better realtor. You need good people, a good team and good resources. What I do is a lot of networking with realtors from across North America and that enables me to gain insight into their market, into how they’re doing things … Then I also have the ability to refer people to other parts of the country and into the States as well. The other thing is learning. I’m a big believer that education is important.