Believe In The Possibilities. When a seller trusts us to help sell their home, our job is to make sure the right seller sees that home. Sometimes, it’s not about telling a seller the changes they need to make. It’s about investing in our marketing to make sure the type of person who wants the home has the opportunity to buy it.
As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Leo. Frank is a powerhouse real estate broker in the Greater Toronto Area. He grew his business from a one-man company to Frank Leo & Associates, which is the number one RE/MAX team in Canada.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
I studied economics at university and understood the power of marketing. I needed an industry with unlimited potential that would allow me to help others and really dive into my passions. I took out a loan and threw myself into learning everything I could about real estate.
I entered the real estate industry in the Greater Toronto Area in 1990, just as the market plummeted to its worst state since the Great Depression. I focused on what I could do, which was help people make the best possible decision for their families, whether that meant buying, selling or renting a home. That mindset propelled me through the market downturn, and three decades later, my one-man business has evolved into Frank Leo & Associates. We are the number one RE/MAX team in Canada.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Real estate allows you to meet many different people and see interesting houses. In one case, I walked into the home of a seller and found a hot tub in the middle of his family room. All of the previous real estate agents he’d met before told him he could not sell that home unless he ripped out the hot tub and replaced it with hardwood floors.
I didn’t look at the hot tub set-up as an obstacle. I simply said it looks like someone with a different lifestyle put a hot tub in the family room. We can either rip it out or find a buyer who can appreciate it. To the seller’s delight, we found a buyer who loved that hot tub right where it was.
The lesson here is that you may not like the home, but it may be what a buyer is looking for. My job is to go out and find that buyer. I can make suggestions that may make it easier to find a buyer, but ultimately the job remains the same: find the right buyer.
Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do good and forget about it. Do bad and remember it!” That’s a quote my dad always shared with me, and it has guided me over the years as I remember to put my customers’ needs ahead of my own.
When I first entered this industry, a family called me because they needed to sell their home. It was a down market, they had five kids, and if they sold the home, they would have nowhere to go. I needed a sale, but I also knew selling this particular home was not the best move for that family. I showed the family the changes they could make to rent out their basement and generate the income needed to help them keep the property. They took my advice. Ten years passed and I thought nothing of it, but they came back to me when it was the right time to sell their home and upgrade to a new one. They said they chose me, even though they had friends who were real estate agents, because I helped them at a time they needed it most.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Frank Leo & Associates is powered by the mission of helping people as they take on the biggest investment of their life, which is their home. We also want to make sure they have access to knowledgeable agents if we are unable to help them. With that in mind, I am finalizing a book in which I’m sharing some financial tips that will help people in their quest to make the best possible investment when choosing their home. I’m also putting the finishing touches on my new training and coaching programs to help real estate agents grow and evolve with this industry.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We care about our clients, but it’s not just words at Frank Leo & Associates. We show our commitment to them through the tools we use to assist them during the major process of buying a home. We have a multi-million dollar marketing budget to find the right buyer for the right home. You can’t attract buyers if they don’t know your home is available.
When the pandemic took hold, we leaned into technology to help people who still needed to buy or sell a home. We used 3D imaging to do virtual tours, FaceTime, Zoom — whatever it took to help people who were unable to see the properties in person.
We also recognize that the average price of a home in the Greater Toronto Area is 1million dollars. Most people can’t afford to buy a home in this market without selling their current one. To take some of the pressure off during their home buying process, We offer the Guaranteed Home Selling System in which we buy the home if they can’t sell it in time to close on their new property. We also help them get bridge loans. All of those things help to remove the stress that comes with trying to buy and sell a home at the same time. Ultimately, we always try to find the best possible solution for our customers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am always learning, reading and taking seminars to evolve and grow. When I started in this business in 1990, the market was in the middle of its worst performance since the Great Depression. Even with my passion and work ethic, going to the office was hard. Each day more people lost their jobs, and housing prices were sinking lower. I won’t share his name, but I worked with a man who was doing well during this difficult time. He did it by going to work every day and finding a way. He showed me that it was possible to be okay during such a daunting period. Once I see something is possible, I do whatever I can to make it happen.
I stayed the course and my business grew, but I reached a point where I had to make a decision about the future of my business. My wife was not in good health, and we had two young children at the time. I needed to figure out if my firm would go small or expand. I traveled from Toronto to Edmonton to attend a seminar hosted by a man named Terry Paranych. And Carrie doesn’t even know this, but he showed me what was possible in our industry. This was in the time before computers so I, like many people in the industry, felt I had to do everything myself. Carrie showed me that it was possible to delegate some of the duties and grow with the right team, even though that particular seminar had nothing to do with growing your team. There is really unlimited potential in real estate. I tell people to see what is possible and set their plan in motion.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.
There are so many things that excite me about the real estate industry.
1.Watching Real Estate Dreams Become A Reality — There is nothing like looking into the eyes of a buyer when they get the home of their dreams. I have had countless moments like this because this is a major purchase and likely one of the biggest investments many people will make in their lifetime.
2.Seeing Homeowners Get A Good Return on Their Investment — So much of real estate is marketing. We have a multi-million dollar marketing plan that helps put homes in front of the right buyers. We are always thrilled to see the surprise on a seller’s face when they realize we can help them sell a home for a price higher than they expected. In one case, we had a seller gasp and say,” I can’t believe this is the price I’m getting!”
3.Helping People When They Need It Most — Sometimes selling or buying a home is the result of unfortunate circumstances such as divorce or death. I am thankful I can use my knowledge and resources to relieve some of the burdens those people are carrying as they go through this process.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.
I cannot emphasize enough how important the home buying and selling process is. These are life-changing decisions for our clients. With that in mind, the three things about the real estate industry that most concern me are the ease with which people can get a real estate license, the public’s perception of what a good deal is and the lack of understanding when it comes to contracts and finances. Here are my solutions to those issues.
- Improve Real Estate Training — Being a real estate agent comes with incredible responsibility. We need to weed out the bad apples. Real estate agents help the average person navigate the largest investment of their life. Before a hopeful real estate agent gets their license, we need to make sure they understand that. I have seen so many cases of people getting a real estate license to get a quick buck. Those agents walk away with the check, but they’re not thinking about the lasting impact of their actions. They’ve left a family with a poor investment that could affect them for decades.
- Increase The Public’s Knowledge of Real Estate — I am working hard to increase the public’s knowledge about real estate. So many people think it’s all about who sells the home the fastest. They don’t understand the value of marketing and ensuring that as many people as possible see the property. Right now, we have less inventory of homes for sale and lots of buyers ready to snap them up quickly. Sellers are so happy to say they sold their home in a day. My question is always, “How much money did you lose?” I’ve had sellers who made an extra 300,000 dollars more than a neighbor with the same floor plan. It’s because they understood they didn’t have to take the first offer, and they let the housing market and marketing work for them.
- Understanding Contracts and Finances — While a great real estate agent is priceless when it comes to the home buying and selling process, the consumer should also have some knowledge as well. If you don’t understand the contract you’re signing or how much you can actually afford to spend, you could end up in a world of trouble. I always suggest that people get a good financial advisor. From an investor point of view, I can show you wonderful homes, tell you the pros and cons of the corner lot, the amenities of the area and the price point. You have to have a complete understanding of your finances and your plans for the next decade to ensure you’re making the right choice.
What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a fantastic work culture?
Mindset is crucial. It fuels your team and how they treat your customers. For my team, our mindset is all about possibilities. We have to ask what is possible for our clients. We focus on helping families achieve their real estate goals. If we assist them in achieving their goals, we won’t have any trouble reaching our own. To do that, we have to set standards and be consistent. We practice being the best at our job daily to maintain the highest level of service. It starts with what appear to be the little things like returning phone calls promptly and evolves to providing clients with the information and knowledge they need. Real estate is a moving target. It’s always evolving, and we continue to innovate to maintain the highest level of service for our clients.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Real estate is not just about a home — Real Estate is an investment. It’s a person’s retirement fund. If a potential buyer is not looking at their future home from an investment perspective, they may be leaving a lot of money on the table. That’s where our expertise comes in and becomes invaluable to them. For example, if a buyer knows their parents will eventually live with them, they should probably invest in a home with fewer stairs or a downstairs suite. If they decide not to consider that, they may have to sell the home sooner than expected and make less money because they did not invest in what they needed the first time.
- The value of a real estate agent — Many people try to save money by selling their home on their own. I understand why they do that, but I don’t think they understand how much money they are leaving on the table. Marketing is key to getting the best price for your home. A good real estate agent ensures that your home is in front of as many potential buyers as possible. I always use the example of someone trying to save 5,000 dollars in fees by going to a real estate agent with cheaper fees or selling the home themselves. They save that 5,000 dollars but lose 100,000 dollars when selling the home because they didn’t attract a premium buyer. So ultimately, they ended up losing money, and their attempt to save cost them 95,000 dollars (100,000 dollars — 5,000 dollars). Young real estate agents have to believe in their value and show their value in the work they do.
- Never Stop Learning — This industry keeps growing and changing. It is your job to keep up with it and acquire the best skills to help make your clients’ real estate dreams come true. You can learn the hard way by going out there and making tons of mistakes that could negatively impact a family in the future, or you can learn from people who are already thriving in this industry. Combine your natural gifts with the desire to be the best, and deliver the best possible service for your clients. Always remember that luck is where opportunity meets preparation.
- Remember Real Estate Agents Don’t Buy and Sell Homes — We are not in the business of transactions. We do not buy and sell homes. The clients do that. Our job is marketing. Most real estate agents don’t realize that. We want to expose that home to the ideal buyer. You can’t do that without boosting your marketing budget. You always have to think about how much you are costing a seller if you don’t make sure that the right buyer sees that home.
- Believe In The Possibilities — When a seller trusts us to help sell their home, our job is to make sure the right seller sees that home. Sometimes, it’s not about telling a seller the changes they need to make. It’s about investing in our marketing to make sure the type of person who wants the home has the opportunity to buy it.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want the real estate industry to embrace the servant mentality. We are helping people navigate one of the largest investments of their lives. We need to be passionate about that. Helping people achieve their goals ultimately helps you grow personally, socially, emotionally and financially.
My path is a slower process because it’s not about the real estate agent, it’s about the client. But, it ultimately benefits the entire community.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.