Paul Zammit has been a dominant force in Toronto real estate for over 30 years.
According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, out of approximately 40,000 agents, Zammit has been its #1 agent— several times over — in Markham, York Region and Thornhill — for having sold the greatest volume of listings.
The team at Paul Zammit Real Estate Ltd. is now a well-oiled machine of veterans in the region.
So, we had to find out what motivated him to build this juggernaut, how he deals with the pressure to maintain such high standards, and how he continues to nurture personal relationships with clients, despite his busy schedule and growing business.
What initially brought you to real estate?
I was out of high school and my dad was a realtor. I figured I'd give the business a shot at a young age because I had first-hand knowledge of the business from my dad.
Why did you choose to follow in your father's footsteps instead of going a different way?
I think it was an affinity for that particular business, regardless of what my parents were doing.
I didn't use the “I'm going to do something different because someone else is doing that in my family” idea. I just looked at the business part of real estate and the freedom in it and I thought a real estate licence was something I could use my whole life.
With that licence you were able to rise to a pretty iconic level among real estate agents in the city. How were you able to rise to such a status when so many other real estate agents don't?
Looking back, I think I had a lot of youthful determination. When you're young, you have a lot of energy and people will either waste it and do other things or try to hone it. I was trying to grow past being average and take something on at another level.
I did a lot of positive reinforcement courses over the last 20 to 30 years — business courses, mind courses, etcetera — to kind of expand my interpretation of what was going on. I owe it to that and I also owe it to studying real estate.
I studied it at a very in-depth level — and I had time to do that when I was young. I went to seminars and talked to the top agents in the country and across North America, taking some of them out for lunch. All of that played an important role in helping me understand what makes people tick as far as real estate goes.
I've seen where other companies have grown to 500 or 1,000 agents. I've seen groups and I've seen teams.
Teams are a really different setting than your typical groups. People have to have a team mentality to get along within a team. While with groups, you have numbers that grow to a point where you may have some egos in there that don't necessarily get along with team members if they're attached to strong-minded individuals.
The thing for me is that as I've hired people I've looked for team players. These are people that are thinking about covering for everybody and having everybody's back.
There's a level of thoroughness within a team that's different than having too many people within a company that ends up being a group. Not that there's anything wrong with groups, but it's easier to not betray my brand when I'm in a team environment.
A lot of agents we've talked to believe that teams are the future of real estate due to their ability to stay competitive and properly serve their clients. Still, there are agents who prefer to stay individuals because they want to be involved with every aspect of their business. Obviously, you have a team, but how do you feel about these two schools of thought?
I do respect the individual approach, but I think everybody tends to forget that there's one thing in this that will rear its ugly head from time to time: Growth.
What goes along with growth is what I call the ceiling of complexity.
Everybody will hit their head on the ceiling of complexity up to 10 or 15 times in their entire career, once they grow to a point in their business where there are going to be stresses. They need to be two, three or four places at once, or they're working on two to four offers at the same time and have a bunch of ad deadlines. There are only so many hours in a day.
I think, what it is for me after being in the business for 33 years, is that I've hit that ceiling multiple times and I realized I can't do everything the way I used to do it. I've recognized when I needed to change some things around and hire another person.
It comes down to this: You can be really successful, but not have balance or joy in your life. And to have it all means having your business, personal life and health in order and all working well at the same time. That's the secret sauce right there.
How do you get there? For me, a team helps me get to where I'm giving individual attention, but am still accessible and have all those other things working well at the same time.
As your business expands, how do ensure your clients are still being served on a personal level and don't feel like a number?
There are a lot of things to do in regards to the business: There's listing a property, there are buyers, there are offers, there are feature sheets, there's answering the phones, there's booking appointments, there's feedback … All of those things.
On the listing side, there's particularly a lot of things to do. So I've worked with my team to have some of those things that are administrative spread out among the salespeople. However, there are things that go along with why they need me, like negotiating the offer, setting a price on the house and talking about market conditions.
I don't let my clients down in that regard. But certain things I'm not really expected to do, like booking ad space or things like that. They understand why I'm not doing that.
My unique abilities lie in setting the price, negotiating the offer and approving the marketing. They know that's what they're paying me for. I do open houses too, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere and understand where the staff comes in and the value of that.
So, at the end of the day, it comes down to your unique skillset and what it takes for you to come in at those clutch moments?
For sure. A lot of people don't put a lot of emphasis on what's the real value from agents. I've seen a lot of people get distracted by social media and all the marketing.
The key is 70 per cent of marketing is the right price and the ability to be able to set that price. It's that judgment that agents really offer to clients and the reason they're setting the price at that level, given the market.
Still, a lot of people skip past that and you can't afford to do that. Depending on your market, you have to be careful. We're in a real sensitive time right now. A real sensitive time.