Getting down to business
My parents had flipped a lot of homes and it was something we were involved with quite a bit. So I started a construction business that I still operate to this day. Not one to sit still, I was always looking for new opportunities. A trip to Florida to visit my wife’s parents sparked an idea. It’s very common in Florida to see homes with lanais, a screened room at the back of a house. Sitting there, I kept thinking it would be amazing to have a lanai of our own. Summers are so short in Canada and when we have a decent one, there are too many mosquitos and black flies, so sitting outdoors is not always a pleasant experience. Starting a niche business like this one seemed a no-brainer, although it would have to be adapted to a Canadian climate.
I came home determined to figure out a way to get this business established in Canada. I started calling American distributors, all of which were located in the southern United States where it’s warm. Unfortunately, none of them took me seriously when I asked if they could design a lanai that could withstand snow loads, but I kept at it. Not paying attention to the area code, I phoned a company based in Western Canada who agreed to re-engineer the product. I immediately signed on to be the company’s southern Ontario and GTA dealer.
After exhibiting at the National Home Show in Toronto, business started to pick up slowly. We had a couple of jobs the first year and it just got bigger and bigger every year, even to the point where we had clients asking for a solid roof to keep the rain out or to include windows in the design. These requests led me to my next venture, and I joined the dealer network of a company in Ontario that builds modular sunrooms. That business also grew, and I secured a deal to be the preferred contractor of a hot tub manufacturer in Mississauga, Ont.
Signs of success
Driving along a street one day, my wife and I noticed a PropertyGuys.com lawn sign. Neither of us really knew very much about the concept other than it entailed selling privately instead of using a real estate agent. When another PropertyGuys.com sign went up on a farm down the road, we became curious to learn more about the franchise.
Upon further research, we learned the concept is much more of a full-service real estate system than we originally thought possible. For instance, the company organizes a wide variety of services that most people would only equate to using a high-priced agent. The program offers legal services through a group of real estate lawyers who offer expertise and advice (leaving nothing to chance), a pricing strategy for sellers delivered by a network of specialized appraisers and even a 24-7 answering and appointment booking service. The entire PropertyGuys.com concept is aimed at taking away the hassles that have often been associated with selling without using an agent.
Another thing that drew me to the PropertyGuys.com model was that it has a unique way to get properties posted onto REALTOR.ca (formerly known as MLS.ca) through real estate brokers who are all members of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
The more I learned about PropertyGuys.com, the more I realized the concept is sound. My reasoning is most people don’t necessarily need to use agents like they once did. Before the Internet, our parents’ agents drove around looking for properties to simply know what was for sale. Anyone wanting to purchase a house called their agent to have them find one in a particular area with a certain number of bedrooms, etc. It’s not like that today, thanks to the power of the Internet. These days, most buyers begin their search online, which is why I believe the role of the agent so much less important than it once was.
When we finally decided to sell our house, we realized how much we would need to pay an agent in commission (likely five per cent of our final sale price). That’s when we decided to go back to PropertyGuys.com to take an even closer look at what they did. We soon realized how well their flat-fee concept of approximately $1800 stacked up against what most agents offered. I immediately wanted to meet the local franchisee, but when I entered my postal code on the website, I discovered that PropertyGuys.com had a franchise opportunity available for my market.
When I see something I like, I go for it. My wife, on the other hand, is more cautious and likes to think things through. However, when I told her about my idea to buy a PropertyGuys.com franchise, she thought it was a good one. We were particularly pleased to learn that franchisees are not required to have a real estate licence. After just a few initial conversations and the completion of a personality profile aimed at assessing our suitability to own the franchise, the company’s franchise development manager offered to award us the marketing rights for our area. From there, we were off to PropertyGuys.com University (PGU), the company’s training facility in Moncton, N.B.
The visit cemented our resolve to buy a franchise, which we did, establishing the Georgetown, Acton and Milton store in May of this year. We were at the right time in the right place and we couldn’t be happier. We had 14 listings in our first month of operating, which is quite significant for rookies.