Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a real estate agent, especially since the commissions can seem so attractive? According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, the average selling price in July was $1,062,256, up 12.6 per cent from last year. While one size does not fit all when it comes to real estate sales, the standard commission fee is 5 per cent, usually split between the buyer and seller agents.
But, there’s no free lunch in life and there is no free ride in real estate, say seasoned real estate agents and brokers. You need to be prepared to put in your grit, time, heart and sometimes soul into a job that can demand the most of you while sometimes providing payoffs that can be far beyond what you might reap financially.
Janice Fox is the broker of record for Hazelton Real Estate Inc. in Toronto, a brokerage with deep expertise in Yorkville that focuses on the luxury market in Toronto.
Fox has worked on projects for clients including Menkes Developments Ltd., most recently on its Maison 77 Clarendon boutique condominium in the prestigious South Hill neighbourhood at Russell Hill Road and Clarendon Avenue.
Having been in the business for 30 years in the Greater Toronto Area, she’s seen it all, from the bottom on up.
She has sold $12-million single properties and brokered hundreds of other real estate transactions (she averages 50 sales yearly at an average price point of more than $4-million) but, occasionally, there is a deal that goes right to why she’s in the business.
“You need to have a genuine interest in people to be in this business and you must want to do what is right for them,” Fox says. “If you don’t, if you’re just in it for the money, this is really not the business for you. And if you aren’t prepared to work nights and weekends, find something else.”
This past summer, while Fox was meeting with a client, she got a call from a lawyer in Ottawa with whom she’d dealt years ago. He told her that he was on a very tight timeline and that he wanted to buy a house in Toronto for his daughter and fiancé, who were getting married soon.
“I really need this to happen in the next six weeks, if you can do that for me,” he told her.
The market was tight at the time, but Fox and her team worked out the financing with him and swiftly found a house. On the day of the deal closing, the daughter called Fox and told her that she could not be there that day. She asked if Fox could handle the move and everything else for her. Sure, Fox replied, and asked the daughter why.
It turns out her father had just died.
“That’s the reason he wanted everything done so quickly,” Fox says.
“He hadn’t told me that he was ill. We were so happy to be able to do this for the family. It was very emotional and powerful for everyone at the brokerage. His story explains why we are in the business. It can often be so rewarding beyond what you might earn.”
When Fox was a child, she was fascinated when her father, who was a small developer, would put together deals and turn a blank plot of land into a place where people could live and thrive. Later, she married a custom builder. After a time running a clothing store chain with hundreds of employees, she realized that her passion was for real estate. It invited her creativity and people skills.
Real estate tips and tricks from a pro
Fox’s secrets for real estate success boil down to hard work, a tolerance for risk, a willingness to learn, a daily routine that can optimize your organizational skills in a business that is often anything but routine, and a desire to help other people that balances the motivation to make a healthy profit.
“You learn fairly quickly that no matter how much success you might have, you are only as good as your last deal,” she says. “Remember that whenever you put a transaction together, it is always about the people involved. When you focus on that it can be very satisfying. If you are in real estate, you are probably a people pleaser at heart.”
- Real estate is a rapport-based business. If you don’t like dealing with people, it’s not for you.
- Be willing to educate yourself on how real estate can build wealth and stability for clients and how it behaves as a commodity, as well as legalities and other necessary topics.
- The Canadian Real Estate Association is a great place to find information on education, housing market stats, buyers and sellers, and much more.
- Your time is your own in this business and the harder you work, the luckier you get. Tenacity is a key to success.
- Focus on a niche and specialize. Even pick a neighbourhood. “I always say to agents starting out that you need to pick one area. Go narrow and deep. When people hear my name, they think luxury condos and Yorkville.”
- Product knowledge is essential. Know the demographics, what your clients want, the area, the building, if it’s condos, and everything about why this is or isn’t a good fit for your client.
- Establish relationships with building concierges, property managers and others who can help you to understand the business and can steer referrals your way as well.
A typical day in the life of a real estate agent
In the mornings after Fox gets up, she checks her schedule to see what appointments she has lined up and does any necessary prep work for them such as pulling out sales data for a property. Then she goes to her office, where she has two stacks of files: one for people trying to find a property and a list of buyers she is not actively working with but who may be looking for something.
She checks the hot sheet on MLS® new listings for the day and considers if any match with clients. She will also work out marketing angles for projects, preferring visual pieces such as billboards and direct mail, and her company signs are distinctly turquoise. Mornings also involve often dealing with agents.
Lunchtime for Fox is usually a working one, sometimes meeting with a client. And then afternoons are spent meeting with clients and being out and about showing properties.
Fox’s workdays end with another checking of the hot sheets, returning phone calls and making a list for what’s coming out for the next day.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.