It seems nobody knows Toronto’s Leaside and Davisville neighbourhoods like Patrick Rocca.

The proof is in the accolades the Bosley Real Estate broker has received, including being deemed the company’s top Leaside broker and being among the top .05 per cent of brokers in Toronto. Of course, in addition to knowing his neighbourhoods, Rocca also knows selling more houses does not truly make the man. Instead, this is a guy who is known for typically prioritizing his family over his work.

He recently sat down with Storeys to discuss why realtors’ reputations are flawed, and why giving back to community is as much a part of being a top producer as being successful at selling.

How did you first get into real estate?

It’s in my blood. My dad was a developer back on the east coast. He subsequently built a lot of commercial and residential properties in Ontario and Quebec, so I was brought up around real estate in general. When I came to Toronto, I was supposed to go to university, but I was out of whack by about a semester because I switched programs, so I had a semester before I graduated to do nothing. My dad said, “Why don’t you get your real estate license, and low and behold, here I am.

What do you like most about real estate?

It’s interesting, I started in commercial for a year and my initial goal was to open a brokerage of my own, so I had this commercial background, but I thought I’d do residential for a while so I had both expertise. But when I got into the residential side, it totally converted me. I love the emotional side of the business, I love working with people, I love negotiating, which is totally different from the commercial side because that side is more about numbers. I went residential and never went back. My day is very structured. I start work every day at 8 a.m. and I just love going to the office.

What do you think people most misunderstand about working with a realtor these days?

The fact is, with realtors our reputation just isn’t as solid. We’re probably right up there with used car salesmen and lawyers. I think a lot of people’s perceptions of a realtor is that they can’t trust us, we make too much money and we make easy money. There is something to be said for all that because there’s 46,000 to 48,000 realtors registered with the Toronto Real Estate Board and half of them shouldn’t even be in business. They don’t know what they’re doing. I deal with it on a daily basis and I’m not sure how these people are getting licensed. They can’t even open a lockbox — it’s bizarre and it’s frustrating from that standpoint. I could tell you stories for hours.

What are your impressions of where we’re at with the Toronto market? It’s much different from where it was in January and February. What do you think of it now?

You’re right. The market is totally different now than it was six to eight weeks ago. We were in the midst of an unprecedented craze from January or February to early April. Homes were selling for $800,000 above asking, prices were out of control, stuff was flying with 10, 12 and 20 offers and all of a sudden, the brakes went on. We were in what I call a hiccup. We’re off now, there’s no doubt. I think it’s a combination of factors. If we go back to March or April, things were insane until March Break when people started panicking and the federal government started talking about Capital Gains, which they did nothing about. Then, as you know, our provincial government implemented their foreign tax and their rent controls, which just made buyers step back and say, ‘Hold on a minute.’

Stuff is still selling. I had a great May and I’m having a fabulous June, but the challenge we’re running into now is that buyers think the market is still fragile. Prices are going to come up a little more, summer will be slower and it will come back in the fall, but I don’t think we’ll see those crazy ’80s. The big problem we’re having is that sellers are still thinking about a few months ago. I sold a house last week for $1.6 million and the seller goes, ‘Actually, the one down the street sold in March for $1.7 million.’ Yeah, but that was March. There’s a disconnect right now with the seller. They’re still thinking March when it’s June. There’s a greed factor out there still and some people are getting it, but some people aren’t.

How do you get people beyond that greed factor when you’re representing them? Do they receive it properly?

Some do some don’t. I had some buyers yesterday and I was telling them, it’s a good time to buy. We’re getting into the last week of the spring market and summer is slower, so there could be some good opportunities. In fall, yeah, it’s going to come back and there will be activity, but we’re not going to get those 10 or 20 per cent hikes. We’re back in a normal market and hey, normal is good, right? A 30 per cent increase is not sustainable. From the buy side, I’m telling people now is a good time to buy and I’ve had a few buyers that have saved $100,000 to $150,000 over March. The sellers are the real issue. I’m a listing agent primarily. I list a lot of homes, so it’s a different game. With the sellers, I’m talking about price reduction and I can’t remember the last time I did that. We’re doing that now. I had some people who won’t reduce and say, ‘We’ll put it back on in the fall.’ Well you know what, your price will be high and I think you’ll have to bring it back down because people will know you didn’t sell in the spring.

What does it take to be a top producer in this industry?

Honestly, it takes a lot. It takes organization. I’m a very organized worker, I’m very structured and very detailed in terms of my time. There’s not a day that goes by where my wife doesn’t know where I am. You have to have commitment. It’s not one of these jobs where you can take off early, come back and start over again. I’m very involved in my community, including schools and charitable organizations. This sort of stuff doesn’t happen overnight though, it comes with experience. Still, being a top producer is about giving back to the community, not just about taking. This is what’s part of my success, but I work hard to be able to do that and still try to have a life at the same time.

So when you’re trying to establish a work/life balance do you have to set ground rules in terms of expectations for your family and your clients?

Well, my kids are older now, but there has always been an understanding that during occasions and events, I might have to slip out. Like on Father’s Day, I had to slip out in the morning to do a deal, but only for an hour. Then, there are times where you have to put your clients on the backburner in favour of your family and most people respect that. Actually, there was a time when I was supposed to list this house, the client cancelled and asked to reschedule it in the evening. This was at 9 p.m. and I had dinner plans with my daughter who was going to university the next day. The client sent me an email saying, ‘I guess you’re too busy for me then,’ and I responded, ‘You know what? I guess I am.’ I don’t mean that negatively, but I have to respect my family and I do have a life.