Our Toronto real estate agents on honesty, balance and rock ‘n’ roll
It was an insightful year as Toronto Storeys spent 2016 getting to know some of the city’s top real estate agents. Here’s what we learned, along with some of their most colourful commonalities and best advice.
Toronto realtors are big fans of classic rock
Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, The Kinks and The Beatles topped the list this year when asked about the first album they ever bought.
Honesty is the best policy
The honorable trait rated highest when asked “What sets you apart from other realtors in the GTA?”
“My honesty, as cheesy as that sounds. I am honest and up front with my clients. I will talk buyers out of a home when I know it’s not right. I won’t sacrifice my integrity or reputation for a sale. My strategy is to work as a team with my buyers and sellers. They are investing in property, and I am investing in them for my future business. I want everyone to be happy.” — Marni Lokash
“I will say whatever I think or feel about real estate, even if it rubs some people the wrong way, ruffles feathers in our industry or goes against the grain. This is how my blog started in 2007 and I took so much flack for it because people couldn’t believe what I was saying. I’ve always been honest to a fault if you ask a lot of people in this industry. This is how I’m known and that’s how I get all of the media appearances and people always say, ‘This guy’s honest. He’ll say anything’.” — David Fleming
Patience and calm needed in Toronto’s overheated market
Almost all the realtors we talked to agree that buyers can weather the storm of Toronto’s overheated market by staying calm and not getting excited too quickly.
“My advice is, don’t get excited. Stay within your means and don’t spend more than 40 per cent of your household income on your shelter. If your dream is a 2,000-square-foot detached home but all you can afford is the one-bedroom apartment, buy the apartment. — Amit Kalia
“Be patient and persevere. Markets move very quickly these days and you may lose out on a property more than once or twice. Just keep at it. Trust your realtor’s experience and guidance. Eventually you will end up with a home that you love and is just right for you.” — Judy Wingham
“Right now, patience is a buyer’s biggest asset. Even in the current market, we go through seasonal cycles and opportunities always come up. Be patient and be ready to pounce when that opportunity shows up. Secondly, if you’re open to doing some renovation yourself, homes without the sexy kitchens and modern finishes will often times attract less attention, and fewer bids. It’s better to do the work yourself, than pay a premium to someone else.”
— Andre Alves
“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.” — Sam McDadi
The east side of Toronto’s downtown and Mississauga are the GTA’s most underrated areas
Toronto’s east side (Corktown, St. Lawrence Market, West Don Lands, Birch Cliff Village) and Mississauga tied for the GTA’s most underrated areas among the agents we interviewed.
“For underrated, I’d say where I live in the St. Lawrence Market area. We have more of Toronto’s original history than any other area. Every 30 feet you’re walking, you see a historical plaque that explains to you what was on that site or where that building came from. I think that’s so cool and it’s so unique.” — David Fleming
“There doesn’t seem to be an area of Toronto that has gone undiscovered or hasn’t seen some price gains, but I think close to the city core the Corktown/West Don Lands area and Little Portugal both have a lot more potential for growth and that’s where I recommend people buy now because they’re going to be really quite hot.”
— Judy Wingham
“There are a few neighbourhoods in the west end and east end that still have a lot of upside, but one in particular that I really like is Birch Cliff Village. Properties there tend to have great lot sizes and the housing stock is starting to be revitalized with top-ups and new construction.” — Andre Alves
“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.” — Sam McDadi
“Lakeview (Mississauga) is a great place to invest right now, and the landscape is going to change drastically in the next few years. The waterfront is in the process of being revitalized with a mix of parkland, housing and commercial and this will make it very desirable in the coming years.” — Sandy Casella
“The most underrated neighbourhood is where I work, Mississauga City Centre. Being just 20 minutes from downtown Toronto, while being connected to the new LRT system, Metrolinx and the BRT (bus rapid transit) system makes the city no longer than a 25-minute commute. Mississauga is the new downtown and more people should be buying in the city centre in the next four or five years.” — Amit Kalia
Social engagement is a realtor’s best tool
Many of Toronto’s best realtors are harnessing the power of social media to gain a leg up on their competition.
“We’re not stuck in 1990. We’re extremely current with our updates, our marketing, our social media and videos. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube, we’re very outside the box in how we approach our listings, our work ethic and what we do to get the property seen and the listing out there.” — Mark Arnstein
“I have a popular blog which I started writing in 2007 called Condo Pundit. In it, I share knowledge about the market, the buildings and the neighbourhoods. That’s how people figure out that I know what I’m doing, plus it allows them to go and check my reviews.”
— Amit Kalia
“I just wrote a 2,300-word blog post about becoming a first-time father. You can’t get more honest, more open or more sharing than that. That is what I do on my blog.”
— David Fleming
Realtors work hard, but they play hard too
If there’s one thing we learned this year, realtors work insanely long hours, but more and more are realizing the importance of taking a break.
“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 work out, play tennis and get massages to re-energize.” — Sam McDadi
“I always stay focused. Maintain high ethics and standards of work, and work very long hours, 24/7.” — Ophira Sutton
“Everyone has a different definition of balance, so people might think I’m crazy for wanting to work 70 hours a week. But as long as I continue to get everything out of life that I want — time with my wife, my newborn daughter and my dog, going to the gym, golfing in the summer and taking a couple vacations — I’m a happy camper.”
— David Fleming
“To stay balanced, I take at least a one-week holiday every year.” — Amit Kalia
“I try to be available to my clients as much as possible: evenings, weekends, whenever they need me. But, at least once a week I set aside some time to spend with my husband, my daughters or go out with my friends. You know what they say about all work and no play …” — Judy Wingham
Join us next year for more candid interviews with the GTA’s most distinctive realtors.