Episode 16: Dr. Winny Shen – Building a Healthy Professional Mindset

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast, the podcast for REALTORS®, and especially in this episode for everyone. Brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. I’m your host, Erin Davis. Delighted to share the messages in today’s episode because they’re issues that affect us all from boundaries to burnout, but with a ton of positive messages and motivation, just what the doctor, this doctor, our guest, Dr. Winny Shen, has ordered to take us through the second half of 2021 and beyond.

While highly rewarding real estate is just one of the many industries that at times can also be highly competitive, fast-paced, and yes, that dreaded word — stressful. In this Episode 16 of REAL TIME, we’re lucky to be joined by Dr. Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies at York University, as she shares the latest thinking in industrial and organizational technology techniques for REALTORS®, and all professionals to gain a mental edge by better managing work-life balance, career uncertainty, and interpersonal conflict.

Thank you so much for joining us here today and giving us a different perspective on where we are and where we’re going. Dr. Shen, may I call you, Winny?

Dr. Winny Shen: Yes.

Erin: Thank you. Can you start by defining your field of work and study? Industrial and organizational psychology.

Winny: Yes, of course, Erin. Industrial-organizational psychology or IO psychology, as we often call it, for short, is psychology theories and methods applied to understanding the workplace. A lot of times we think about it in terms of A, our field is interested in helping identify the best people for the job. A lot of times that is, how do we hire? How do we train people so that they can perform these jobs effectively? Also, the other piece is how do we create optimal workplace environments so that people are really motivated and can do well at their job? We’re interested in both that pre-hire piece but also in how can we continue to create a great workplace environment so that workers can really flourish.

Erin: How does this differ from other psychological disciplines, though?

Winny: I would say that IO psychology differs from other psychological disciplines in that it’s a scientist-practitioner model, in that we are trained to be scientists so that we understand data and use it to understand workplace phenomenon. Also, we are trained to be practitioners so that we can also help organizations to address these questions. That’s another one of the differences too, is that most IO psychologists tend to work with organizations or other organizations like trade unions, for example, rather than individuals, though, there are some IO psychologists who work as, let’s say, professional coaches and do work with individuals.

Erin: Putting this into the day to day, can most working professionals, Winny, benefit from a basic understanding of IO principles and how to go about applying them day to day?

Winny: I definitely think so. We spend so much time at work. It really makes a lot of sense to understand how to make the most of this experience. Additionally, our work lives really intersect and affect our other life domains, for example, how we interact with our family, our health, and well-being. It really should be carefully managed, so that we can really ensure that people can meet all of their life priorities. Work is just one major part of that for a lot of people.

Erin: In the past year or so, the lines have become so blurred. We’re going to talk about this as we continue on with REAL TIME. When we’re talking about REALTORS® here, most would characterize themselves as entrepreneurs in a competitive, constantly changing industry. Are there approaches or best practices to finding success, specifically in highly competitive fields, Winny?

Winny: Yes. I think when we look at what makes people successful in, let’s say, highly competitive fields like entrepreneurship, there are a couple of characteristics that really set people apart. First, it’s really important as an entrepreneur, for example, that you are self-driven because you are often running your own little shop in a lot of ways, that you have good stress tolerance in a changing environment. That’s really necessary. We also think it’s really important, or the data has shown that it’s really important to have a proactive personality. If you’re someone who can see the difference between the current status quo and how things you think should be, and really are motivated to close that gap, then you are probably someone who has a proactive personality.

I would also say, though, that there are some maybe pitfalls or things that we should be aware of, that might trip us up in more competitive fields. One of those things is that competition tends to be associated with some greater likelihood of unethical behaviors or misconduct. If we really think about our field as a very winner takes all kind of mentality, then we have a tendency where it’s very easy for us to say things like the ends justify the means, or we might be willing to cut some corners.

I think it’s really important that even though this environment might be competitive, that we need to make sure to think about the long-term consequences of our actions versus really focusing on short-term wins. Because, especially in a field like real estate, reputations are probably very difficult to build but are actually quite easily lost or tarnish. I think we need to be really careful to not think like, “I’ll cut a little bit of a corner here or there in order to make the sale or make something happen,” and lose sight of why we’re doing this job maybe in the first place.

Erin: Yes. That reputation, the integrity that you talk about that takes a lifetime to build up, it only takes now a flash because of social media. All it takes is a couple of posts, and they spread it and they spread it and they spread it. Suddenly, that cut corner turns into something that you really, really wish you hadn’t taken.

Winny: Exactly.

Erin: What do you think is the best or most productive way to manage high-stress work situations? I know that that is a big bite to try and digest here. You have looked at this, you’ve studied it. Help give us some ideas, some hacks, if you will, for the best ways to manage high-stress work.

Winny: Yes. I think maybe the first thing to really think about is, not all stressors in our environment are created equal. I think step one is probably to think about, “What are the stressors I’m faced with?” We often make the distinction in the research literature between two kinds of stressors. One set we’ll call challenge stressors. They tend to be stressors that although cause us stress, also push us to grow and develop. A lot of times people would say things like having a little bit of a higher workload or having there to be some time pressure on the job as might be common in real estate or to have a greater responsibility on the job. These are all things that can be stressful, but also really help us to grow and develop and mature.

Now, we might contrast these stressors with what we call hindrance stressors. Now, these stressors are often more roadblocks. They don’t necessarily help us grow. They just prevent us from going where we want to go. Many people would say things like organizational politics, or red tape on the job, or job ambiguity, where you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be doing, those things are hindrance stressors.

I think if you are feeling really stressed, the first thing to do is to think about, “Am I being stressed because these are challenge stressors? I’m faced with a lot of stress, but I think I will come out of the other side of it stronger, have developed. Or am I really just being bogged down by these hindrance stressors? If so, how can I manage them better or how can I get rid of some of them? For example, if there’s a lot of red tape, can I make suggestions about streamlining some of these processes so that I’m not dealing with this much bureaucracy?” as an example.

Erin: Coming up, the power of detachment. This is great. We’re super excited to share that Canada’s number one real estate platform REALTOR.ca now has a new app. Rebuilt from the ground up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s homebuyers, the app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients. Download it on the App Store or get it on Google Play. 

Now back to Dr. Winny Shen, who not surprisingly, was named a rising star in 2016 by the Association for Psychological Science.

Part of your message that comes out of your research is one really important word and that is detach. Detach can mean so many different things. It can be detaching from negative social media. It can be detaching from news that is completely dominating your thought process. It can be detaching from those hindrances or challenges too. Tell us about the power of detachment, Dr. Shen.

Winny: I think the power of detachment is really important. What we know is that although, let’s say, challenge stressors often result in better stress in that it might really motivate us to work hard and do our jobs well. Even the benefits of good stress can wane over time if we don’t take time to detach from the workplace. What that really means is, oftentimes, we talk about it as psychological detachment. That you should stop thinking about your job sometimes. That really allows your body and your mind to reset and to step away from being in that stressed-out state all the time because our bodies are really not designed to be stressed all the time.

Even in a very challenging, rewarding jobs, it’s really important to take that step back and recover. That can be if you’re feeling a little bit tired, to taking a quick break. It might mean to detach from work and turn off your email at the end of a workday. It might mean to find time to take regular vacations so that you have a longer period of time away from your work. Probably something that we’re struggling with right now, but I think still important to keep in mind. I think those are some things that we should think about as we try to detach.

Erin: Writing down that time for you in ink instead of always making it something that– it reminds me of a sign that I saw at a gym that– of course, I was walking by at the time. That you always have the time for the things you put first. We all tend, especially when we’re busy and in a super competitive climate that we’re in right now in real estate, to put everything for ourselves to the back burner and then just leave it simmering until the pot is empty, don’t we?

Winny: Exactly. I think in addition to that, sometimes people will borrow against things that are really important to their health like sleep. They’ll be like, “I can just sleep a little bit less.” That can really add up over time in terms of starting each day more and more exhausted. I really agree with you, Erin, in that it’s really important to make these recovery breaks part of your schedule so that you can come back feeling refreshed and energized, as opposed to thinking that these are luxuries. Because I really think that these are actually necessities.

Erin: Yes, and I can hear people thinking, “Oh, yes. Easier said than done because I’ve got a house that’s going to have six offers on it. When am I supposed to take the time?” I guess, what do you do when you’re right now in such a high-pressure situation? Do you just look down the road and say, “It’s okay. I’m going to take a week off, or I’m going to delegate some of my work, but right now I’m going to power through this and that will be my reward.” How important is having that mental reward, that carrot or something to look forward to at the finish line?

Winny: I think it’s really wonderful to have something to look forward to. I think that’s great. The other thing you can try to do is if you do have something that’s really stressful is, I think we do have some power over how we frame the situation. Especially, if you’re feeling stressed because of some of those what we talked about earlier hindrance stressors, I think you could potentially try to reframe that as a challenge stressor. Look for a silver lining or something to think about, “Can I think about how this could make me grow, even if this is a difficult or maybe currently unpleasant situation?”

That might also be helpful in terms of helping you get over that short-term hurdle. I think that it’s really important to keep in mind that we often don’t. Two people can be faced with the same stressors, but have very different reactions to it. A lot of that is in our mindset. We do have a lot of power in terms of how we think about the situation that can really motivate us to power through them or get through them and then I think we should definitely reward ourselves and regularly plan for some recovery.

Erin: The Dalai Lama said, “If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” We’re going to talk about that a little later in our conversation. This is me doing time management because we’re about to talk about good time management. Of course, in real estate, it’s crucial. Now, I have to ask you, Winny, is this a skill you just do or don’t have like a talent, or can it be learned and strengthened.

Winny: I think that’s a great question, Erin. There is definitely evidence that time management skills can be trained. I think that it’s helpful for us to think about first, what do we mean by time management? Actually, when we break it down, there’s a couple of things involved. First, there’s a self-awareness of one’s time use. Are you cognizant of how you’re spending your time? If you’re not sure, I would encourage you to maybe do an exercise like a time diary. Spend a couple of days just actually jotting down what you’re spending your time doing.

I think that perhaps you might be surprised. For example, I think, many of us might be surprised, perhaps even in my case horrified, at the amount of time that we’re spending on things like social media, or things that perhaps feel urgent, but actually aren’t very important. Like responding to emails as they come in. I think first is, we have to be able to be aware of our time usage.

Now, the second piece of that is good planning. Are you doing things like setting goals, planning your tasks, making to-do lists? Are you thinking about how you can group tasks together so that they can be accomplished more efficiently together? There are some tips that might be helpful here too in terms of perhaps taking some time at the beginning of each day to make a list. I often also take time at the beginning of my work week to make a list. Then I do build in some slack time for unexpected things that might happen.

Also, I think that that also pushes us to think about how to say no to things. That if our agenda is actually too full, that there’s actually not a very realistic way for us to get everything done, to think about what are things that we actually should work on getting off our plates. Because there’s often some tasks that we find later on that you wonder, “Why am I even doing some of these things?”

Then lastly, I would say that once you have and enact these plans, it’s really important to monitor these time management tasks. For example, are you allocating enough time for some of these activities? I think it’s also really important here, there’s some evidence that we should engage in some contingent planning. The best-laid plans often go awry and so I think we need to anticipate possible interruptions in our work and plan for them.

Especially in a setting like real estate where there might be a lot of things that happen unexpectedly. Your client unexpectedly decides to make an offer, or unexpectedly there’s a new house that comes on the market that they’d really like to see right away. I think it’s important to have an idea of, “Oh, what interruptions might come up this day, and how can I accommodate them?” so that you’re not surprised by them, or that you’re inflexible because you’ve already made a plan and you really like to stick to it for the day.

Erin: I can think of few professions where somebody is almost on-call virtually 24 hours a day. Of course, there’s doctors but if you call a doctor’s office at four o’clock and say, “I need to see you at five.” They’ll say, “Okay, you go here or talk to this doctor or whatever.” It seems like that those unplanned interruptions are almost a fact of life. They really are something that has to be budgeted into that time diary that you so wisely recommend, Winny. That’s a great point.

More great points when we return as Dr. Shen explores the importance of mentors. What to look for, and where to find one? REALTOR.ca Living Room is where you’ll find all things home. From market trends and home improvements to DIY hacks and design inspiration, you’ll find everything that you and your clients need in one place. Now, that’s organization. Something that our guest today, Dr. Winny Shen is an expert in, as Associate Professor of Organization Studies at York University.

Now, many REALTORS® are still new to the profession, having worked in the industry for fewer than five years. For professionals who are just starting their careers, let’s talk about mentors. How do you go about finding one first off?

Winny: Well, I would really recommend new professionals look for a mentor. There’s a lot of evidence that there can be a lot of career benefits of mentoring, both in terms of objective career success, so things like compensation and promotion, but also in terms of subjective factors. Things like career satisfaction and commitment or job satisfaction. People who are mentored typically have much better and more positive attitudes towards their jobs.

Now, I think as you go about looking for a mentor, it’s important to think about what a mentor is supposed to do. A mentor really is supposed to have three functions. First is probably what we think about a lot. A mentor is supposed to help you with career development. This might be someone who can sponsor you in the workplace. Someone whose opinion, other people really would listen to. They should maybe be someone who’s knowledgeable who can coach you in terms of your development.

Some people also say that a good mentor might also be able to protect you. Someone in the workplace who can maybe stew you away from problematic issues or difficult encounters, that might be another function a mentor can serve. Or someone who can help you gain challenging opportunities or increase your exposure or visibility. There are a lot of things I mentor can do to help us in terms of career development, but also for most people, we also want someone who’s there to support us more broadly.

A lot of people would say that in addition to maybe someone who’s helping you in your current job or in your current career, that really, you’re looking for someone who could help you grow as a person. A mentor might be someone who can be a good sounding board, provide you with counseling, someone who is a friend who’s gives you respect and support or someone who really is another source of acceptance and confirmation. I think it’s also important to think about not only when you’re looking for a mentor, someone who has a lot of expertise, but someone who can also give you that support that’s really important. A safe space for you to develop.

Then lastly, I would say a lot of people say that people who they seek out as mentors are there role models. Look around for someone whose maybe position or you would really like to have it in the next 5 to 10 years. Someone who you really admire. I think that when you keep these things in mind, sometimes you’ll be lucky and you’ll find one person who can fulfill all of these roles, but sometimes perhaps you might have to think about having a board of mentors instead, or multiple people who together can fulfill all of these functions that great mentors really do for us.

I think you might sometimes need to be open and flexible and think about, “How can I get all of my mentoring needs met?” Sometimes that might be through multiple people, and sometimes through peers as well. We usually think about mentors as someone who’s more experienced, but I think we can also learn a lot from people who are going through the same things as us at the same career stage.

Erin: Well, then on the other side of this, there are definite benefits, I’m sure, to being a mentor, if you’re a seasoned professional, as of course, many REALTORS® are. What are some of the pluses of being a mentor yourself because of the three steps that you’ve mentioned, develop, support, role model, those things that a mentee is looking for. It sounds like a lot. Tell us, what’s in it for the mentor?

Winny: Yes, I think that’s a great point. Now the research evidence really suggests that mentors also benefit from this arrangement or relationship, and that giving others career advice can sometimes really help us with our own career success. Sometimes it’s a bit of a mirror in terms of, “Am I following my own advice? Am I spending my time in the right places?” Sometimes it helps us reflect.

Also, I think people often reaffirm the value of the work that they’re doing, as they go through this mentoring relationship. I think that as we move on in our career, a lot of people find it really important to give back. Mentoring is a really great way to do that, and there is also some evidence that mentors can also reap financial benefits, for example, salary, promotion rates from engaging in this too, because I think, it also speaks well to your expertise, but also perhaps your character, if people know that you are a sought-after mentor.

Erin: Say I’m new in the business and I’ve had this happen to me in my own career, in radio where people finally approached me and said, “Well, I didn’t want to talk to you because I figured you’re so busy and I see this and this and this, and I figured you’ll never have time for me,” when quite the opposite was true, because it’s exactly, as you’re saying, Winny, when you get a chance to look at what sparked you, what gives you joy in the job that you do, then it’s a gift to you to be able to go back and say, “Yes, this is why I love this. This is what you’re going to love too.” How do you go about approaching someone that you want to be your mentor? I can recognize how that would be intimidating for some people. Do you have any advice on that?

Winny: Yes. When we ask mentors, what are they really looking for in a protégé or a mentee, the number one thing most mentors say is that they’re looking for someone who’s willing to learn. I think that you really need to express your interests and your desire to grow and learn as you are approaching your potential mentor. I think that you will be surprised at how open and interested people are in being able to help you in your developmental journey. I’d really suggest that.

Now, I would say that if a mentor seems really much more interested in themselves than perhaps you, then perhaps they’re not a good mentor. I would also say that probably a mentor that’s accessible and available is also a really critical ingredient. That although someone who’s perhaps really well-regarded, but too busy to really have much time for you may or may not be a great mentor for you. I think it’s really someone who is going to be as invested in this relationship as you are.

Erin: We’ll be back with Dr. Winny Shen in a moment. Embracing the change. As you sip your latte or grab a traveler, remember, there really is a place where everybody knows your name or soon will. I don’t mean Cheers. CREA Café is a cozy place for REALTORS® to connect and stay up to date on the latest industry happening over a virtual cup of coffee or whatever you like. Pull up a stool and join the conversation at CREACafe.ca. 

Now back to our conversation on REAL TIME with Dr. Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies at the Schulich School of Business York University. Do you remember a book called, Who Moved my Cheese?

Winny: Yes.

Erin: Yes. Well, perhaps you can sum it up better than I, but it’s just like, “Okay, that happened, now, how do I keep up or get ahead of that? How do I find my cheese again?” There’s a reason why this book resonated so clearly some 20 years ago. The benefits of working in a competitive industry like real estate can be great, but there can be a lot of cheese moving, a lot of uncertainty, shifting market forces, commissions-based earning, et cetera. How can professionals overcome uncertainty and embrace the change?

Winny: Uncertainty is something that’s very difficult, for most of us, but first I would say is to think about, the emotions you feel. I think probably when most of us are faced with uncertainty, the predominant emotion that most people feel is anxiety. Really nervous about what’s going to happen. I think there’s another opportunity or option here. Another emotion that’s associated with uncertainty is hope actually, because maybe we’re a little bit fearful at what will happen. We don’t know what will happen, but perhaps we are also hopeful that the ending will be positive.

I think that when we’re confronted with these negative feelings, I think sometimes maybe it’s useful to take a step back in terms of, “Okay, but could we see how this could turn out well perhaps?” That hope might also sustain us because often hope is what allows us to think about how we’re going to move forward. I would say that that would be one.

I think also is that in a competitive industry like real estate, I think you have to take some risks. That’s just part of the job. I think in order to take risks, though, we really need to look for an environment that provides us with psychological safety. How can you surround yourself with people, perhaps in your agency or otherwise, who really gives you this sense of psychological safety, who will still support you when the risks you take, perhaps don’t pay off, and that really gives you the courage to take these risks in uncertain environments?

Erin: Then that way what’s perceived or what you may perceive as a failure, doesn’t hit as hard. Going back to the Dalai Lama saying, “If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” There are many perceived failures in competitive places like real estate. Lost or fewer clients, rejected offers, lower than expected sold prices. Are there ways to rebound from “failure” to move ahead and to take that hope or experience and move on with that? Tell us what the research says. Will you please?

Winny: Yes, of course. One interesting thing is that in the face of difficulties or failures, we often feel negative emotions, but what seems to separate people who bounce back more quickly from the people who have more difficulty bouncing back or are less resilient, is that the people who are more resilient also experienced positive emotions in addition to those negative emotions. That suggests to me that, A, it’s really important for us to try to look for that silver lining. “Is there something that could be learned? I’m not happy perhaps that this didn’t go well, but maybe it was better that it happened now rather than later, and that there are some lessons I can take from this.”

I would also say that it’s important in the aftermath of perceived failures or events that don’t grow well, to engage in maybe a debrief. I think it’s important even in the face of failure to acknowledge perhaps what did go well. Some things didn’t go well, but perhaps you did do some things right and that you should carry those things forward. To think about what did you learn from this? Perhaps create a plan in terms of what you want to try next time if faced with the same circumstances.

I think once you’ve engaged in that cognitive reflection process, it’s important to not ruminate about it. You’ve thought about it, you’ve tried to gain the lesson from it, but then sometimes we can’t let it go. We rehash it and we relive it. I think that that rumination can be really problematic. I think we also need to move on from those failures when we can and part of doing that also, I might suggest, is that we should try to be self-compassionate.

I think that sometimes a lot of times I would argue we can be our own worst critic. What self-compassion really refers to is not that you’re letting yourself get away with it, but more that you’re not kicking yourself while you’re already down so that you’re as kind to yourself as you might be to someone else who’s going through a difficult time, that you experience a sense of common humanity. Failure is part of being human and recognizing that that is a very human experience. Also, to acknowledge but maybe not judge your negative emotions and that together that allows us to get through difficult times a bit more quickly or easily.

A technique I often use myself is to think about what I would say if my best friend told me about this failure. I think a lot of times when we take that other perspective, we’re actually very supportive. We understand that this failure while difficult maybe not completely under their control or maybe not as bad as we’ve made it out to be. When we put ourselves in that situation, sometimes we’re really harsh. I think if you would be kind to your best friend, then I think that you should extend that same kindness to yourself. Someone who you should love just as much as your best friend. 

Erin: To me, the piece of advice that sticks most often is that from doctor, speaker, author, Bernie Brown who says if you were driving along in a car and the person in the passenger seat was saying to you what you say to yourself, you would pull off and say, “Okay, the ride ends here. Get out.” Maybe that’s what we have to think of. That best friend that you’re talking about, Winny, as well. Don’t let her talk to you like that. Just pull over and let them out and drive. Just go. Right?

Winny: Exactly.

Erin: We’ll return with Dr. Shen in just a moment. One of my favourite sayings is you always have time for the things you put first. Putting others before ourselves is what REALTORS Care® is all about — a national guiding principle celebrating the great charitable work done by the Canadian Realtor Community. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to your heart by sharing your story using #realtorscare on your favourite social media platforms. 

Dr. Winny Shen is our special guest for this Episode 16 of REAL TIME. We’re talking now about a sign of these times. — how to watch for it, and how to take care of it in yourself.

COVID 19 of course we’ve heard the word burnout a lot. That’s not a new word to us. The New York Times did a piece a few weeks ago where they called what we’re going through languishing, but of course, with REALTORS®, they’ve reported feeling burnt out before the pandemic. What is this languishing, this burnout? How can it affect us professionally and personally, Winny?

Winny: When we’re talking about burnout, what we’re referring to is usually the state of exhaustion. That exhaustion is mental, physical, emotional, and it’s typically caused by excessive and prolonged stress. 

There’s three symptoms that tend to go together to create this burnout experience. First is emotional exhaustion. You’re just completely tired, fatigued, you’re wiped out.

The next is the sense of depersonalization or cynicism where you’re really starting to feel detached from your job and the people in it. You feel the sense of rejection and alienation, and perhaps this is your way of disentangling or distancing yourself from a very stressful job. 

Then, this third piece is a reduced sense of personal accomplishment or just the sense of ineffectiveness. “I’m just no good at this.”

I think when we think about burnout or languishing, it really refers to the fact that our tank is on empty. We’re running on empty. It really can affect us both professionally, it makes it difficult for us to do our jobs, to enjoy doing our jobs. It also really affects us personally particularly in terms of our health and well-being. This prolonged sense of being on empty is really associated with some negative health outcomes.

Erin: Are there some techniques to help mitigate or avoid workplace burnout either for yourself personally or among your employees and co-workers? If you can see it happening what are the steps that you take?

Winny: I would say that the best probably tip is prevention. Preventing this from happening altogether. If we think about burnout as being on empty, then we have to think about the importance of refilling our tank periodically so it doesn’t get to that point. We’ve already talked about earlier the importance of recovery but this is an important piece of that too. Taking breaks, taking time off of work, taking vacations. Those are all potentially activities that can help refill your tank.

Now, let’s say that you, unfortunately, have reached a state of burnout, there are some things that seem to help. In terms of yourself, as we referred to earlier, this is another time where being self-compassionate seems to really help, and in particular, it helps with exhaustion. Giving yourself that grace, that kindness, when you’re exhausted to say like, “Yes, you are at this low point,” and not to beat yourself up or perhaps push yourself when you have nothing left to give is an important pause that might allow you to reset.

Not only the self-compassion help though but actually there is some evidence that giving compassion to other helps. As we talked about earlier, part of this experience of burnout is this feeling of alienation or separation from the people who are doing this job with you. You can think about it when someone offers you compassion or empathy about what you’re going through, that really helps to reform that social connection to the people on the job and helps you feel like you belong there again.

I think if you see people in your work environment who are very burned out, I would suggest that you offer them compassion. That empathy can really help them gain that important resource in terms of feeling like they belong, which is actually a very fundamental human need. We all need to feel like we belong.

Erin: Sometimes I find that it takes us out of ourselves, out of our grief of what the past year should have been or whatever it is that we are going through to turn our attention to others. You’re talking about others in the office but it reminds me too of all the good charitable work that REALTORS® do across the country which is highlighted by REALTORS Care® through CREA. Just helping the community and doing what you can to help others because somebody’s always got it worse than you. That’s a perspective too that can open your eyes to just shift that feeling that you might have. It also speaks to the cynicism or the detachment like, “Ugh, what’s it all for?” You remember, you’re reminded what’s it all for through things like REALTORS Care®.

Winny: Exactly. I think it’s part of rebuilding that connection and that meeting to stop that process where I think part of that is you’re trying to protect yourself by detaching from this very stressful workplace or work experience, but I think when we’re reminded about the other people who are in it with us or the other people that benefit from what we do that can give us a renewed sense of energy that can help us overcome the sense of burnout.

Erin: Next up, has work-life balance become more of a reality for you, or the rainbow unicorn we’re all just dreaming of? Dr. Shen answers that in a moment. 

The keyword of 2021 so far, haven’t you found, has been connection? Your opportunity to do that, connect with potential homebuyers and sellers plus a chance to take advantage of a deep chest of tools and resources, is as close as your keyboard at REALTOR.ca, Canada’s trusted real estate resource. We’re glad you’re here today as we continue our conversation with Dr. Winny Shen on REAL TIME.

Dr. Shen, Winny, you and I are both talking to each other from our homes today, and many of the people who are listening to us, thank you so much for listening to REAL TIME, are also listening and working from home. Really, is work-life balance achievable? Is this a thing or have the past 14-15 months, whatever it’s been now, have they blurred the lines so completely that it’ll never be seen again, and maybe that’s not a bad thing? What do you say about work-life balance?

Winny: Yes, work-life balance is I think this very interesting idea or concept. I think one thing that’s really important to keep in mind when it comes to talking about work-life balance, is that this is really a subjective judgment. It’s whether or not you think that you’ve achieved this. When we ask people about what they think about when it comes to work-life balance, they’re often talking about three things.

First is are they happy and satisfied in these multiple aspects of their lives like work-family, for example, but maybe other domains that are important to them as well? Do they feel like they are giving enough attention to all of these life priorities? I think that’s really important. It’s not equal attention. I think that that’s probably not always possible, but enough. I’m not neglecting anything that’s really important to me. Also, am I performing well, handling the responsibilities of these different important life domains adequately?

I think that if you feel like, “Yes, I’m keeping all these balls up in the air well enough,” then I actually think that you have a work-life balance. I think that what’s difficult is that sometimes we have these ideas or externally imposed standards about what work-life balance looks like. I actually think that it looks different for every person because what’s important to every person is different. If you are living your life in accordance with your priorities, such that you’re giving time, and you feel like you’re doing fairly well, in all the areas of life that’s important to you, then actually, I think that you are very lucky and you have actually achieved work-life balance.

Erin: You break us into groups. There’s the segmenters and the integrators. One example of this that I think can illustrated very clearly is, “Okay, who is sending and taking emails at 9:00 PM when they should be watching Dateline?” Tell me how the two different groups function and is there an either side that has a more competitive edge or is more mentally stable or balanced in their job or does it not really matter? It’s one size doesn’t fit all and whatever fits you.

Winny: Yes, I think that’s a great question, Erin. I would say that an integrator is someone who likes to combine multiple aspects of their lives, for example. It’s someone who maybe wouldn’t mind writing an email as they’re watching Dateline at night. They don’t find that to be intrusive at all. Whereas someone who’s a segmenter definitely prefers that there be strong boundaries around the different aspects of their life. They might like to really only do work during certain hours, and only to be purely, let’s say, with their family during certain hours.

I think that it’s really interesting, because, for example, integrators seem to be bothered less by things like really late emails, or pressure to respond quickly. Whereas people who are segmenters are a little bit more sensitive to that. I would say that if you are a segmenter, you could think about setting some boundaries, and we can talk about boundaries in terms of time. You could have certain off-hours. I know for realtors, that’s difficult.

I think you can think about, “Okay, well, I’m just not going to check email every five minutes, even if I’m just going to check email every hour,” that’s still a boundary. I think that there’s that. There’s also some evidence, just that not being present can be not a great thing, right? That our phones can maybe take us away from what’s happening around us. Even if you’re someone who’s very comfortable, you’re an integrator, you’re comfortable hopping back and forth, there might be some times where the people around you really appreciate your undivided attention.

It’s really interesting. There’s actually some research that shows that, let’s say we’re having a conversation, just having the phone on the table, even if I don’t look at it makes that conversation less enjoyable. I think that even if you’re a busy realtor, it might make sense for you to say, “Okay, I’m just going to give you my undivided attention, I’m going to put the phone away in another room,” even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes, undivided attention, that really makes the most of your time with the people you’re with. I think it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, if that’s not your preference, but I do think some time where you’re completely off of work is probably appreciated by the people around you.

Erin: I know that our time with you is most definitely appreciated and we have a few more things that we’d like to cover with you, Winny. This is so enlightening, encouraging, it’s just everything today. Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us. Many realtors work within a team, right from the jump. How would you characterize a healthy working relationship?

Winny: I would say a healthy working relationship is one that’s based on trust and commitment. That one, that’s really where people are not doing things in a very tit for tat way. Like, “I’m only doing this with an expectation of something in return.” I think that we have to have these healthy work relationships where you know that other people are committed to being in this relationship, building this relationship with you and that you can be vulnerable with knowing that they won’t take advantage of you. I think that’s really at the heart of a healthier working relationship.

Erin: Or marriage for that matter.

Winny: Exactly.

Erin: Yes, the give and the take. It’s going to ebb and flow, and some days it’ll be different. What are the benefits of proactively and continuously fostering strong professional relationships with your colleagues?

Winny: I think there’s a lot of evidence, actually, that the people we surround ourselves with, or our networks, including at work, are really important for our professional development, our professional careers, not surprisingly, people with a lot of connections often are in a good way when it comes to the workplace, especially in a very interpersonal job like real estate. Also, we can think about how people who can connect different people, I think, are actually really valuable connectors in relationships. I think it’s really important to think about the people we surround ourselves with.

Also, there’s a lot of evidence that what often makes workplaces go around and work, is people’s willingness to go above and beyond what’s exactly in their job description. How we’ve all benefited from someone who was willing to teach them something, even if that wasn’t part of their job description, or someone who was willing to stay late to help us do something, or someone who was just willing to help. A lot of that, our work lives are just made better by having these people we can count on to go above and beyond for us, but also for our organization. I think those are all great reasons to ensure that we try to build strong relationships with others.

Erin: What about the mindset of self-reliance? In self-driven professions like real estate, success is often linked to how hard and how often you work, how visible you are, you’re out there all the time, but this mindset of self-reliance can make accepting help difficult, or even perceived by some as a weakness. What are the drawbacks of this line of thinking, Winny?

Winny: I think that it’s a little bit of a trap to think that way. First, I think that it’s probably to some extent, not entirely true. It also makes it very difficult for you to delegate work, everything stays on your own plate. That really contributes to, I would say, a pretty problematic long work hours culture where we valorize working a lot or being busy. Sometimes even when we take a step back, we realize that that’s misaligned with our life priorities or goals.

My friends and I sometimes talk about this funny phrase when we feel like someone is working too hard or has this, “I got to do it all” mentality. We’ll tell each other, “Your job doesn’t love you back.” I think that’s sometimes important to keep in mind that– especially also given that we know that one of the things that make human life so fulfilling is these connections. That going it off alone you might be curtailing some of those opportunities for you to build those relationships that a lot of people actually find to be the most meaningful part of their work.

Erin: One of the ways I think that you’ve suggested is to turn it around and think about how you felt when people asked you for help. For those who are giving, it often feels really good fulfilling and just adds to the joy of the job.

Winny: Oh definitely. I think that oftentimes when we’re asking, we’re often afraid that maybe we’ll be a burden. I think when we take that mindset, when we think about all the times when people have asked us and all the times where it wasn’t a big deal or we were very happy to help, I think maybe we’re overestimating sometimes that people would be unhappy to help when I think the fact is that most people are actually very happy to help.

Erin: As are we here on REAL TIME, which is why when you go to crea.ca/podcast, you’ll have at your fingertips a wealth of wit and wisdom like we’re hearing today from designers to panels to marketing wizards, tech, and tips for great reviews. It’s all right here. Just subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher, and don’t miss an episode of REAL TIME. 

Back to our conversation with Dr. Winny Shen as we continue with our in-depth and the illuminating look at how in high-pressure careers, we can get in the right headspace to overcome challenges and thrive as professionals and peers.

I have to have a difficult conversation with you right now, Winny. It’s about difficult conversations. How do you go about having those, even if you get along great with your colleagues? How do you do that, and anticipate a positive outcome?

Winny: I think it’s really important to have open lines of communication. I think that sometimes we have a little bit of an ostrich mentality. When something doesn’t go right, we’re like, “Maybe it won’t happen again. We can just let it go and we won’t have to have this difficult conversation.” I think the data suggests that what will happen often instead is that we end up having to have that conversation later on when things are actually more serious.

If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it probably is much more difficult not to be defensive when someone confronts you with what feels like a long laundry list of transgressions. Like, “Here’s all the evidence of all the things that you’ve done wrong or I’ve disliked.” Whereas I think if you were just approaching someone with one small thing, they wouldn’t necessarily feel that way.

I think another important element and this is more general psychology, perhaps a clinical psychologist would say something like this, is I would be really careful about the language you use when you’re having these difficult conversations with people. I think it feels very different for a receiver to hear something like you were being inconsiderate versus, I felt hurt when you said X. How you say it I think really can affect how other people react to it.

I would spend some time thinking about what is it that you actually want to convey. You could also even think about, if you’re less comfortable, maybe writing a letter to someone, where you can feel like you have the time and the space to really put things down in a way that really accurately reflects how you feel. That might be a strategy too if you’re a little bit afraid of saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.

Erin: Yes, and you can edit it endlessly so that it ebbs and flows, and accentuates the positive and all of that. Those are some wonderful tips. Now, I’m going to ask you for a resource. Your favourite website or book or a place that people can go to really explore some of the things that we’ve talked about today. The entrepreneurship, the teamwork, and leadership. The turning things around and seeing hope where there was burnout or languishing or however you want to call it. What are some of your go-to sites? If you weren’t already an expert in it, Dr. Shen?

Winny: I would say that I have a couple of recommendations. Dr. Kristin Neff who’s done a lot, an expert in self-compassion, does a lot of great work. Her website, which is selfcompassion.org, has a lot of great resources. Some exercises you can walk yourself through, actually evidence-based, in terms of how you can improve your self-compassion. If you’re looking for maybe some tidbits in terms of evidence-based things to think about as you’re approaching your work, For the Love of Work is a wonderful podcast hosted by Dr. Sonia Kang.

If you’re looking for even smaller tidbit, my personal friends, Keaton Fletcher and Maryana Arvan also host a podcast called Healthy Work where they summarize very briefly some new emerging research that people are learning about work, a lot of it also focused on stress. You can hear a little bit about what experts are learning and finding about how to manage work stress. Those are some of my own personal go-tos.

In terms of perhaps thinking about relationships, Adam Grant has a really great book on just Give and Take. Those are some things that I think would be good food for thought as you move forward.

Erin: All right, selfcompassion.org for a website, podcasts For the Love of Work and Healthy Work, two separate podcasts, and Adam Grant’s book. What did you say it’s called again, please?

Winny: Give and Take.

Erin: Give and Take. Wonderful. Before we give our thanks and take our leave, let me ask you if you don’t mind, how are you hoping to describe 2021 when all is said and done?

Winny: Well, given how the pandemic has really upended work, I really hope that we all take the time to reimagine what the future could be. I’m a big believer that work can be a big plus in people’s lives. That it can give us a lot of meaning. It can give us financial security. I also think that how work is now is perhaps not how work is optimally. I think the pandemic has really forced us all to re-examine our life priorities and I really hope that we can imagine work in a way that ironically perhaps works for more people and really allows people to live more their values. Also, that we can build the workplace back in ways that are more equitable.

I’m personally thinking very much about some of the research about how the pandemic has really eroded some of the progress we’ve made in terms of women’s workforce participation. I really hope that at the end of 2021, we can say, “This was a very difficult year, but it’s actually caused us all to grow and be more resilient, and actually face work with a more positive mindset.” It can be a positive stressor as opposed to I think a hindrance stressor for a lot of people using the language earlier on.

Erin: Thank you so much for ending on such a positive note. We so appreciate your time and your wisdom today.

Winny: Thank you so much for having me, Erin.

Erin: What a great talk, and we’re so grateful to Dr. Shen for being here with us. We invite you to join us next time for Episode 17 of REAL TIME. We’re going to have a fascinating panel discussion on the generational influence on Canadian real estate as one generation moves into retirement, the one coming up, takes its place as primary market contributor. How Realtors and homebuyers are navigating this landscape. Don’t miss it. For more, visit crea.ca. 

REAL TIME podcast is a presentation of CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association, produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and by Alphabet Creative. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you here next time.

Episode 15: Nikki Greenberg – Technology and the Future of Real Estate

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast especially for and about REALTORS® brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. I’m your host, Erin Davis. Today we have a guest who’s going to open the doors and open our minds to the possibilities of PropTech. Think you don’t use it? Think again. Nikki Greenberg is a PropTech entrepreneur, architect and real estate futurist. She joins us now on REAL TIME. Welcome, Nicki, joining us from Sydney, Australia tomorrow.

Nikki Greenberg: Thanks so much for having me. Yes, it’s tomorrow from me already with the time differences.

Erin: You’re in Sydney, Australia, and we’re in Sydney, British Columbia. We’re just one wrong airline ticket from being together.

Thank you so much for joining us. I know this is going to be enlightening. You’re a passionate advocate of property tech. Let’s start by defining it. What is PropTech?

Nikki: That’s a great place to start and I am very passionate about PropTech. It really is an emerging field and to some of the listeners, if they haven’t heard about it before or if they’ve only started hearing about it recently, there’s a reason for it because the term actually really came to its own maybe about three, four years ago. There were different versions being thrown around. Is it Cretech, is it Retech, is it PropTech? PropTech is the term that essentially stuck around being short for property technology.

Now, there’s a few things that I just want to explain to your listeners just to essentially set the stage because there are concepts that I will be referring to later in just understanding exactly what PropTech is. The thing about PropTech is that it’s really made up of three different verticals. You have real estate, you have technology and you have venture capital and where those communities converge is where you have PropTech.

What’s quite interesting about this is that because you have these three different communities, they also come with different languages and different ways of working. That’s one of the challenges, especially for real estate professionals coming into this industry and trying to understand the whole PropTech ecosystem is not necessarily a language or a way of thinking that we’re used to because we’re often used to talking to engineers and real estate agents and other real estate professionals. That’s one of the things that is often a barrier to people initially becoming involved, is that it is quite a different ecosystem.

The second thing that I want to just point out is that purists believe that PropTech does actually need to be a technology, which means that it’s something that is a hundred percent pure tech, no hardware, no spaces. It’s not about the physical, it’s about the digital, but for most people within PropTech, there’s an understanding the ecosystem essentially has two sides.

There’s the technology itself, pure technology and then there’s another side which is essentially tech enabled real estate. What that means is that it’s real estate that is operated through technology and that it wouldn’t be able to operate in such a way if there wasn’t this new generation of technology that’s come out. Examples of this co-working or co-living because these are actual spaces, but it’s the technology that allows them to work.

The third thing that I want to just point out also is just an understanding about PropTech versus regular technology in real estate and why there’s a bit of a differentiation. We have obviously working in real estate, there’s always been technology at our disposal. This is nothing new. Then we pose the question about, okay, well, if we’ve always had technology, then why is this whole area called PropTech? Why is there a whole different field? Is it just a buzzword or what’s going on?

The thing about PropTech is that PropTech really describes this new generation of technology that’s come out using AI or machine learning or very user-friendly interfaces that’s not talking together, that work on the cloud that embrace IOT. It’s essentially this new generation of tools that we get to use in our industry that just has a fresh approach is user first and is super smart. I know there was a very long explanation that I just really wanted to set the stage for your audience.

Erin: Thank you for that. I appreciate it, especially with the focus on the real estate industry and the relationship of PropTech and the real estate industry. How does real estate influence other aspects of PropTech?

Nikki: With real estate, what we’re talking about it’s really about having fixed assets. What you’re talking about in PropTech is you’re talking about technology. We’re having this relationship that goes on that’s symbiotic and reliant upon each other. As I described before, what we can have happening is that you can have take enabled real estate that relies on the technology, but then on the flip side, you also need to understand that the technology itself and technology providers also need to have space around them. In the real estate industry, we also want to be thinking about the needs and the spatial requirements for those tech companies.

Erin: How has PropTech evolved over the last decade or so? You’ve even talked about the different conversations. Well, what are we going to call it? It’s so new that it’s still got that new baby smell to it. How have you seen it evolve over the past decade or has it been with us longer than that? Now we just have a name for it and we’re able to put it in a column, Nikki.

Nikki: I think that’s great. I love the idea of the new baby smell. There’s a few things that have happened in the past few years that really differentiate this new generation of technology. Some of them being the move to us using smart phones for everything and having these as devices. Our traditional technology has been operated through a desktop computer and it might be on the windows operating system, for example, whereas with PropTech, what just starting to do is understand that a lot of the technology is working off our smartphones and devices.

Another move is also using the cloud increasingly. That means that we’re not having to be storing our documents in a fixed location. Then of course around the cloud, there’s all that hard infrastructure that’s needed in terms of data centers. This new generation of technology is– and as the internet has really come into its own is that it’s all internet first. We’re not talking about local technologies, we’re talking about networks and devices and information being able to connect across geography, which is something that’s quite interesting and definitely wasn’t part of the earliest software.

One of the other big trends we’ve seen over the past especially over the past decade is the rise of the shared economy. This tech enabled real estate that’s come through. A lot of it has existed before but this is a formalization of some of it such as before there was co-living, there were roommates and before there was co-working, there was sharing an office space, but now what it is it’s about really formalizing the brands and creating productizing what’s available to benefit the consumers

Erin: Just to dumb it down for me anyway, Nikki, what is the difference between co-living and roommates since you brought up that example?

Nikki: With co-living, there’s some great brands around it and essentially what’s happened there is that the operators have created consistency. There’s always been a demand and a market to share a space with someone for various reasons, an obvious one being students wanting to share the costs of renting a place where they could get a nicer three-bedroom place rather than a one-bedroom place to have a sense of community.

Now there’s always been these benefits, but what happens is that when you do have an informal setup, there’s disadvantages to it. Number one being consistency. You don’t know what you’re going to get, being able to find what you need. Again, in informal economies, you might be able to find a flat-mate, but where are you really going to look? You’re looking at a few different places.

In formalizing and productizing some of these concepts such as co-living, there’s certain advantages that come out and then by building brand loyalty and understanding the customer and creating beautiful products that compete with each other and do so in an elegant way that puts the customer first. Then there’s also ways of then expanding upon the offering to keep getting better and better and better. The flip side of that is that if you have a share house with say, five people living in it, there’s no incentive for the share house to get any better, but when you have a co-living situation, there’s always learnings and data that comes through to be able to offer a more and more optimal experience.

Erin: When you talk about embracing PropTech for the workplace and sharing workspaces and that sort of thing, how much do you think PropTech has been fueled by so many people working from home during the pandemic? Is this it’s moment? When you look at zoom, for example or the technology that you and I are using today to be talking to each other from different hemispheres, how important has that been in pushing forward PropTech into the 21st century and into this decade?

Nikki: You’ve absolutely recognized the trend that’s happened. A lot of the conversations that I have, have been with both real estate operators and owners and with technology companies. What the technology companies were finding is that with lockdowns that have happened and the move to working remote and this need to work in a more digital way that some of the barriers to adoption of their technology were removed and that clients that they’d been speaking to for quite some time suddenly came back to them and said, “Aha, now I get it.”

The interesting thing is that this has actually happened across a few different types of technologies. One of the first to really feel the upside of that was around tenant management apps and being able to communicate with people in workspaces because there was a need, a recognized need that if you do have a class, an office building, for example, you want to be able to communicate with the people within the building, whether it’s messages around how to use the lifts, different hours of access, also to be able to let them know about new procedures and also community activities that might be going on. They definitely felt an upside.

Another area that felt an upside very quickly was really around health and wellness providers because again, with the return to the office, there were concerns around indoor air quality, for example, and a need to start understanding some of the health ramifications of these spaces. They certainly came into their own.

Then of course, within the venture capital landscape, there’s been a lot of investors that have either been in the area for a while or are starting to enter the area. Again, there’s just been this reckoning of understanding. Well, real estate is fundamentally changing as a result of the pandemic and technology can provide a lot of the solutions that we need.

Erin: Coming up, fun with Nikki, as she looks at advances in the world of architecture and digital construction design. First, we are super excited to share that Canada’s number one real estate platform, REALTOR.ca, now has a brand-new app Rebuilt from the Ground Up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s home buyers. The app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients, download it on the app store or get it at Google play.

Now back to our guest on REAL TIME, futurist and PropTech entrepreneur, Nikki Greenberg. Let’s talk about construction because this is one of your many wheelhouses, Nikki, as an architect. What can you tell us about advances to the design process?

Nikki: This is a fun one, and I honestly, I wish some of these tools were around when I was working as an architect some years ago, but there’s been a lot of advancements that have been happening especially in automating and generating designs. There’s a few tools that come to mind and I apologize to listeners, I don’t tend to mention companies by name. Often that come across as a recommendation and I don’t want to do a disservice to anyone because there are different companies working within the space.

There are certain tools for example where you can find a building site and then essentially plunk on digitally a model and then figure out, okay, well, what happens if there’s retail? What happens if there’s commercial? What happens if there’s apartments? You can start actually moving this model around within the envelope of what’s permitted by the building code to start getting actual feasibility studies.

As an architect, when I used to have to do these things, it would take hours and hours and hours and hours because one little change would affect everything. To be able to just do an automated model is fantastic. There’s other models that are out there that can look at a city, for example, and identify opportunities for investment sites, just realizing that they’re underutilized.

There’s tools that now can generate, for example, an office layout. You can just give the tool essentially a full plate and the parameters and then in the background, the robots do the work and before you know it, you can have different options of office layouts. There’s a lot that’s been happening in that regard. For me personally, I think it’s fantastic because what you’re doing is you’re taking out a lot of the repetitious work and you’re able to give more options quicker which is something that I think is very exciting and then essentially frees us architects out to do some of the more fun and creative stuff.

Erin: Well, as someone who can look at a layout for a house that’s going to be built or go and stand among the studs and the construction workers and not have a clue which room is the powder room, which room is the living room, I think that this has to be a really wonderful thing even for home buyers, quite apart from the commercial applications of this, just to help somebody like me recognize, okay, that’s where the master bedroom should definitely go.

Nikki: Yes, absolutely. There’s been fantastic 3D renderings and software to create 3D models of spaces that have been around for a while. The technology has always been there. It’s just been around adoption and just for there to be somewhat of an education around the developers, for example, on understanding why it is worth investing in these tools, but also a comfort level for our real estate agents and their clients to be able to look at digital models and to be able to read them.

We’re so used to, especially in residential real estate, for example, that you can go into a house or into a new development and I spent most of my career working in new developments off the plan. There was always this desire to go into a newly built building or a newly built apartment to get a sense of what it feels like, what it looks like to see the finished product, and that if you were looking at computer-generated images, that you couldn’t really get a sense because as people, we’re so tactile, we love being in spaces.

I think with the pandemic because we’ve gotten more used to doing things front of the computer that being able to watch a 3D tour or a video tour of a space, we’re starting to get more comfortable with understanding what it means or what it feels like and being able to interpret things in a video or in a digital way, and letting that at least be that first point of interaction.

I think even just over the past year, the changes that we’ve seen with 3D tours with more 3D models and that being widely adopted by residential real estate has been absolutely fantastic. I honestly think that it is going to continue on for quite a while because for customers there’s such a huge benefit in that being the first way to view a space before you get in your car or get on the subway and go over there.

Of course, also for the real estate agents to be able to get more qualified leads that understand the space, they’ve seen it before, and then you’re only taking somebody in for a walkthrough that already has a sense of, “Okay, this looks to be what I want.” There’s only a few factors that had really need to get a sense of. I think it’s really been a game-changer.

Erin: While we still have our virtual hard hats on here. Let’s stay with construction for a moment, Nikki, and I’ll ask you, are there new materials or processes that didn’t even exist 10 years ago?

Nikki: Yes, look, there’s technologies and processes that have been around but not adopted. One of the emerging areas that I’ve seen a lot bit of attention given to is around 3D printing. Now, 3D printing has actually been around for quite a long time and it’s been experimented within construction applications, but now what’s happened is that it’s been seen on some live projects around the world. That one’s getting a little bit of attention. Modular is getting a bit of attention, prefabrication, factory fabrication is getting some attention there as well. Now, again, these are technologies that have been around for a while, but the benefits and the cost-benefit of using them or the appetite for risk wasn’t quite there.

I think there’s certain things that we can definitely keep our eye on. Some of the processes have been changed around a little bit. I get quite excited about the number of companies that are now using drones to do building surveys and they can do site surveys so they can measure the site levels and they can actually also fly these drones around buildings looking for defects, seeing if they’re being built as per the drawings, being able to document these buildings in three dimensions all through an operator that’s sitting essentially with a joystick being able to do this. There’s incredible stuff that’s coming and I think it’s exciting that we are on this adoption curve to see where we might land up.

Erin: While you’re talking about 3D printing, just a little sideline here because I find it fascinating. What is the first thing comes to mind when you think of a construction site and something that has been 3D printed? What’s most common out there, Nikki?

Nikki: I’ve seen 3D printed buildings that have happened. Personally, I think that the buildings that I’ve seen, they’ve been single-family dwellings in low-cost situations. I’ve seen those popping up in little communities as test cases. Personally, I think in those applications, I don’t think that printing by a 3D printer is something that necessarily needed to happen. I think that those same dwellings could probably have been constructed at a lower cost, quite honestly, through traditional construction.

I think what’s more exciting though, is that you do see some 3D printing of different design objects and different ornaments, for example, because when it comes to 3D printing, it’s endless. As soon as you can create something in a CAD program or Rhino or whatever it might be, to be able to produce that straight away and let it come to life without having to think too much about the construction or the materiality of it is something that’s just can be rapidly prototyped and tested and come to life.

Erin: Oh, it’s fascinating and limitless really, which I hesitate to ask you this because everything has been growing so exponentially, Nikki, but what do you think is in store for the builders, planners and architects of tomorrow?

Nikki: That’s a good question. I think with building and construction, it is still a very traditional skill-based industry. Even with the advances that we’ve had with the internet age and with material science and everything else that’s come through, the way that we build hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s still very much manual process.

Also, because it’s often based on both skilled labor and also unskilled labor to an extent. There tends to be that cost trade off, which is something that’s looked at as an essential priority. I get excited about different processes that can be digitized or roboticized, I suppose you could say. One of the technologies that I heard about recently, it sounds so vanilla, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant is that again, it was a drone that could render and paint the outside of buildings.

The reason I find this quite interesting is that one of my next-door neighbours went through the exact same process these past couple of weeks. I just saw how the how the trades people had to put up scaffolding and then they had to come in and they had to do put the first layer of render, then they had to scrape it then two days later, come in and do the second layer and then they had to come in and do some painting.

They were there for about two weeks doing a very simple process and, of course, constructing and dismantling the scaffolding around and then the cost associated with that. To be able to just have a robot that can come in and is using its “laser beams” to be able to assess and measure the building surface and where there were defects and where it needs to go next to actually analyze it and essentially do so in a very robotic manner without being burdened by scaffolding or by gravity is something that I think is absolutely brilliant.

I think we’ll start probably seeing more chunks taken out of the building process that are very labor intensive or have safety concerns. In terms of the whole construction process, being completely overhauled is something that I think we’re not going to see for quite a few generations if at all.

Erin: There is no place like home and there have been incredible advances that Nikki looks at in a moment. Want the latest scoop from news and stats to trends and happenings in the industry? Well, make your way to CREACafe.ca, a cozy place for REALTORS® to connect on the latest info and industry developments. That’s CREACafe.ca. 

Now back to PropTech, entrepreneur and futurist, Nikki Greenberg on REAL TIME. Let’s bring it on home here for a little bit and talk about home ownership. What technologies, Nikki, have significantly impacted the way we interact with our homes?

Nikki: Look with technology in the home, it’s something that’s really evolved through the ages. Let’s not forget, electricity hasn’t actually been around all that long. There’s many people ordinarily live in New York. The building that I lived in for quite some time predates electricity. You have to remember that even that it was an advancement. Of course, then we’re coming into having the internet. The changes that we have in the home haven’t been all that significant even though the opportunities are there. There’s some people in the home, all of us we have appliances and we have TVs. We might have a clicker for our garage, if you’re in a detached dwelling. That’s all commonplace.

The next generation then it becomes okay, well what about automated blinds for an example or what if I can start to control my lights from my phone or voice command? The adoptions haven’t been that significant in our homes themselves, but there are few exceptions.

First exception obviously is with the cloud and all of that information being stored there, we’re now able to work from home, we’re now able to access everything from anywhere, our photos, no matter where we are in the house, for example, for us being able to, if we wanted to do everything from our phones. There is a whole generation of IOT, the internet of things, different appliances that you can control through your phone. Again, being able to control your stereo or control the lights or being able to change channel on the TV. You can do everything from your phone.

The next generation that we’re already moving into, is voice control. This is, again, increasing on the adoption curve. Anything from, I can’t say its name aloud or you’ll hear my phone responding on an apple device. Hey, S… These smart hubs that let us control our smart appliances by using voice such as asking for a timer to go on or a TV to go off, a light to go on or light to go off and so on and so forth.

This is very rudimentary in the way that most of us use it if at all and this is where it starts getting exciting, it’s when we start moving up that adoption curve and where the technology is heading. With voice command, and this is something that I find to be incredibly exciting is that the way it’s moving is that at the moment, it’s a little bit in our face. We know if there’s a Google home or something to that extent in the room, and we’re very self-conscious of it. We’re worried if it might be recording us or listening in on private conversations.

What’s going to start happening with a lot of this technology is that it’s just going to be omnipresent and it’s going to be part of our lives. You won’t be thinking when you walk into a room, you won’t be searching for light switch anymore. You’ll just know to give that command of turn on the lights. You won’t expect to interact with switches, you’ll expect to interact with technology in our most natural way, which is through a conversation. The technology is there and again, it’s about the adoption.

The next step after that is about our home starting to learn from us. Rather than me coming home every day at the same time, turning on the lights, my home will know that I tend to come home at a certain time and come in with the settings and the music and the scents or having dinner ready for me just intuitively. That butler service that you always wanted to have, that invisible helping hand that’s there for us. When that starts to happen, we start seeing this ease of use and this incredible level of dare I say, customer service, that’s being provided by the technology and that benefit, then there’s going to be a greater comfort in us.

As I mentioned, at the moment, there is a little bit of a fear factor around giving up some of the privacy to some of these devices and them listening in our conversations. When we start getting the benefits back, then we’re going to start living in a dare I say, a more seamless, integrated way with the technology that we talk to or the technology that’s just there for us in the background, just being part of our daily lives in our homes.

Erin: It seems to me that what we’re heading into now is far less passive than what we’ve been through before. We’ve all got the devices that we talk to and give us timers and the song and the time and the weather and all of that stuff that we want. Now, if you want things that are going to bring the lights on or do the things that these devices can also do, you have to go out to your local high-tech store and buy the parts and learn how they operate.

Is that holding us back at all do you think, Nikki, because it’s like, I’m going to have to spend some money, I’m going to have to figure out how this works and it’s not just like suddenly having your home connected to the internet.

Nikki: I think yes and no. Yes because as you’ve described let’s use smart lights as an example, you do need to go out to the hardware store and you need to make some changes and learn to use your light in a different way. The reason I say no is that so much of this technology is designed to be incredibly user friendly and consumer friendly. If I just use the example of the light bulb, what’s happening now is that if you want to have a light that you can control from your phone, you’re not having to go there and buy a fixture to go into a ceiling, take out your existing fixture, put it in, rewire it, get the electrician in and lo and behold, you have a new setup.

All you’re doing is you’re going into just any store that has consumer goods and you can just buy a smart bulb and you just put it into existing fixtures. There’s an understanding about making it easy and working with what’s there already.

Now, what we tend to see a lot when we have technology improvements coming along and we see it on our phones, is that when something comes, then it’s already built in, you start using the features. An example is the health trackers on our phones. I never needed a pedometer, I’ve never wanted a pedometer, but there’s a pedometer on there now that I know it’s there, I actually do every day I go and I check how many steps I’ve done. Some of the stuff’s going to be increasingly commonplace and it’s just going to essentially slip into our lives.

Erin: That’s more of the passive that I’m talking about. That if it’s there we’ll go, yes, okay, maybe I’ll try this. Let’s talk about embracing and adopting PropTech. Do you think that the real estate industry truly has embraced PropTech, Nikki?

Nikki: I think it’s still early days and there’s a lot more that can and will be happening but real estate hasn’t changed that much. Buildings are buildings and the way that we use buildings hasn’t changed very much. If you look at photos from the 1920s, you’ll see people coming into office buildings in suits and ties and sitting down at desks. There might be the typists pool, meeting rooms, boss has his corner office, that hasn’t changed all that much until recently.

What’s happening is that even though the way that we live and the way that we work and the types of activities that we do, even though that is changing and becoming more technology first and the way that we shop is another example, the way that we order food, the way that we cook, the way that we work out, we can work out or using Pelotons or doing a yoga session with an instructor in San Diego, live and working out at home.

Now, the way that we live has changed much and we’ve been very accepting of our spaces very much being the same as they’ve always been but what’s happened now is especially with the lockdowns and people having to work remotely and our way of living being so fundamentally different, there is going to be a larger push from the consumers for the real estate industry to engage more with technology. It’s going to go from a nice to have add-on to something that’s being essential.

Erin: Nikki’s traveled and worked worldwide but how do countries compare when it comes to grabbing on to and implementing property technology? We’ll find out in a moment. 

We’re all looking for connection these days and I don’t just mean a great Wi-Fi signal when you’re working, but real heart connection. REALTORS® across Canada are committed to supporting the causes and charities closest to their hearts. Get inspired by incredible stories and follow REALTORS Care® on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and by sharing your own using #realtorscare. Thank you for what you do for us all. Now back to our chat with architect, entrepreneur and real estate futurist, Nikki Greenberg.

You’ve lived and worked around the world. Right now, as we’ve said, we’re speaking to you in Sydney, Australia, you’ve been everywhere, you’ve lived in Manhattan and many more stamps on your passport, Nikki, how does adoption vary globally?

Nikki: It’s a good question. Look, I do believe that across geographies, there are differences some of them cultural differences. We know that Asia has always had a reputation for being very technology first — Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Shanghai, there have been these cities that are just very techie by nature. The general population has just always had this great embrace of technology. Those countries tend to be the leaders.

Now, China is quite interesting. There’s a lot of technology that’s coming out of there as they become entrepreneurs and huge companies that are coming out from there. Hong Kong has always relied on technology to a huge extent but then when you look towards the other extreme such as Africa, I actually, I was born in and grew up in South Africa. I can definitely speak to their context as well. When you’re looking at developing countries where people are working very hard just to put food on the table and a roof on their heads but yet everybody has a mobile phone.

There’s a lot of what we refer to as leapfrog technology, where it’s technologies that may have been invented in developed countries, and then over time, as it becomes more accessible and less expensive, is then available to these emerging economies, that the adoption rate is incredibly high because the technology’s there to solve problems. At that end of the spectrum, there’s an expectation from consumers, again, just in line that the properties and the offering is in line with technology. Then in between, we have Europe, you have the US, and the technology, adoption in real estate is now increasing, increasing and increasing.

Now, having said that, of course, there’s certain personalities from different ages, different demographics, different locations, et cetera, that do tend to embrace technology earlier than others. There’s always been a product adoption cycle, and that’s still there but what we’re seeing now is that the comfort level around what technology is and as the technology evolves also to be easier to use, and a lower adoption curve.

We’ve now removed the barriers or some of the barriers or perceived barriers rather, to the adoption, which means that the use of it is broader and more commonplace. We’ll see that increasing and increasing across the globe, wherever there’s internet and there’s greater internet at greater speeds being offered to more and more people everywhere.

Erin: What do you see as technological and socio-economic trends that are forming today, Nikki, that are going to impact our living and working spaces over say, the next decade?

Nikki: This one trend that I love to talk about, and it just summarizes a lot in a very simple statistic. What we’re finding is that by 2030, 75% of the workforce will consist of millennials and Gen-Z. What you’re seeing here is that it’s a group of people that really embrace technology and expect technology to be part of the way that they live and that they work and are uncompromising.

They expect that the physical in-person experience and the digital experience will work together. What we’re really going to see and what we need to realize is that, as we’re looking at workplace as an example is that we need to be designing for them, we can’t be designing for generations gone past or ways of working gone past because that has fundamentally changed.

My advice to anybody that’s in commercial real estate, for an example, is to if you have kids or if you have grandkids or friends or whoever it might be that all between the ages of 9 and 25, just get a sense of what matters to them and get a sense of how they’re using technology and what attributes are they looking at in places? You might find, for example, that they sit on the sofa and that’s where they do their work. I’ve definitely seen that if you’re doing homework with a friend, that even if the friend’s in the same room, that they’re still communicating with them through their computers, which is just something that comes naturally to them.

Definitely keep an eye on what they’re doing and how they’re thinking about technology and also some of the attributes. Another status power that I also like to throw in and trying to think about is that within the group of Generation Z, I believe the statistic is that 46% of them plan to become entrepreneurs and 57% of them, if I’m not mistaken, plan to invent something that will change the world. This is really who we need to be thinking about as our future customers and also our future workforce that is going to be changing the way that our spaces operate.

Erin: That is fascinating. When we think of the younger generations like Gen-Z and millennials, we think of more eco-conscious, are we becoming so as homeowners and buyers that you’ve seen, Nikki?

Nikki: I’d like to think so. We’re definitely seeing in consumer goods that there’s more that appeals to the eco-conscious and sometimes it falls into the category of greenwashing, that it’s presented as being better for the environment, but isn’t necessarily such. It’s a tricky one because by nature, a lot of us do care about the environment and say that we care about the environment. However, the sad thing is that on the flip side, and I’ve definitely seen this through my career is that consumers aren’t necessarily willing to pay more for a greener solution, which becomes one of those tricky obstacles to get around.

One of the exceptions is again, coming back to Generation Z, and they are these like eco-conscious climate warriors, we saw them definitely with the climate protests is that they see global warming as something that is very real and something that is affecting them directly because the consequences are happening within their lifetime.

For them, you’ll find a lot of them will actually come and they will ask about the sourcing of materials, they will ask where the electricity is coming through. They will actually look at the origins of certain things. They do want to have vegetable patches and sustainable materials and it’s something that’s not a passing fad, but something that is really important to them and their livelihoods.

In terms of attracting and appealing to Generation Z renters and buyers, this is something that does interest them, does appeal to them, but they’re also pretty savvy and they understand when something is just being used as a marketing ploy or when it’s something that really is ingrained and is something that is of benefit to the environment.

Erin: Savvy, is the key word there. How about life in dense urban cities where smaller homes are more affordable? Are you seeing people using PropTech to live simpler or with less? The Marie Kondo idea has been around now for probably, I guess about five years, is PropTech in line with that idea of minimalism?

Nikki: Absolutely. There’s a few different ways that it’s been done and where there have been benefits that I’ve seen. One of them that I absolutely love and it’s basically is the shared economy and the idea of as a service, you don’t need to own, you can share. Obvious examples of this being, we all know Uber, you don’t need to own a car, you can just call an Uber to get around. There’s basically and especially in New York, there’s a service for everything.

As I described earlier in my apartment, I don’t have a washing machine, so I send my laundry out, somebody else does it for me. There’s rent the runway, I don’t need to keep buying beautiful outfits, I can loan an outfit. There’s solutions where I can actually store my winter clothes somewhere else and then on my app, I can order my clothes back into my apartment when I need to change between my summer and winter gear, for example.

There’s on-demand cleaning services, there’s on-demand pet walkers, there’s on-demand toolboxes so that you don’t need to own your own tool collection for something that you only use maybe once or twice a year. There’s on-demand everything, so very much this getting away from needing to own things and instead being able to share and just pay for things as a service and as you need it.

One of the other things that I quite like is going essentially to another extreme is that there’s been a resurgence of robotic interiors that let you reconfigure spaces such as having a bed fall down from the ceiling and it’s stored up in the ceiling during the day so that you have more usable space during the day or being able to slide wardrobes backwards and forwards to change the configuration of a space in a small setup.

There’s a lot of different things that are coming or rather they’re already here, but the adoption is increasing or what it means is that we can own less, have more space, be able to be more mobile. If you’re renting and you’re moving fairly often to be able to come into furnished apartments, for example, or there’s services that you can hire furniture packages that are pre-styled instead of going out of buying every single item. There’s this wonderful rise of there being a service for everything and whatever your heart desires, there’s a technology that’s there to just make your life simpler.

Erin: Of course, commercial properties have kept up with this evolution too, haven’t they?

Nikki: Oh, yes absolutely. Co-working spaces or flexible offices being a prime example, tenants apps, where you can order every single amenity, ghost kitchens where you can have food being delivered up to your office from restaurants that don’t even exist, everything just done on the click of an app. Now that’s really where things are heading is app first, own less.

Erin: Did you catch that? App first, own less. Back to Nikki in a moment about repurposing buildings, mall meet school and more. 

Speaking of apps, we are so excited to share with you that Canada’s number one real estate platform, REALTOR.ca now has a new app, Rebuilt From the Ground Up and designed to reflect the needs of today’s home buyers. The app helps REALTORS® get connected to more potential clients. Download it on the app store or get it on Google Play. 

Back to, Nikki Greenberg, now. She’s been incredibly enlightening as a real estate futurist, entrepreneur and architect. Here’s the rest of our talk. Are there opportunities to repurpose these spaces beyond traditional work environments?

Nikki: Yes. This is something that’s been discussed at length in New York especially. With the pandemic that’s been happening, the occupancy in Manhattan has really dropped. The statistic that I heard is that the peak of 2020 saw office occupancy sitting at around 15%, which is very concerning for great industry. There’s been talk about for office buildings that haven’t been developed having a change of use to residential. There’s a housing shortage in Manhattan, so that being an option. There’s been talk around repurposing offices to again, residential or to logistics centers.

It extends beyond offices as well. I’ve recently heard about some shopping malls that were being repurposed as schools, which I thought was actually quite a nice idea because you still have a public space for the community to gather and in a shared space and also some of them being repurposed to as logistic centers for e-commerce.

There’s discussion around repurposing and changing spaces for use. I’m absolutely a big believer in it. It’s easier said than done. There are zoning requirements, there are building codes, you do have fixed infrastructure and mechanical workings, piping, et cetera that’s not that simple to move, but there is opportunity, I think by just putting on a bit of a creative lens and having a sense of simple supply and demand.

If you have falling demand for something, but you have a rise in demand for something else, then wouldn’t you want to shift over to the area that’s in higher demand if it’s at all possible?

Erin: Your vision and your excitement and your enthusiasm for everything PropTech is really contagious. I’d like if you could, Nikki, offer any advice to REALTORS® to help them better understand new PropTech trends.

Nikki: I will say that it’s a journey. Technology and especially PropTech, it’s new to everybody. None of us were born knowing about PropTech. It’s only something that’s emerged in the past few years and it’s changing constantly. If you’re coming into it fresh and this is very new to you, don’t worry, we’ve all had to learn. Right at the start I said when it comes to PropTech, we’re really talking about these three communities or real estate, investors and technology coming together.

Now, the technology crowd didn’t know anything about real estate either when they came in. It’s learning process. I think the first thing is realize, if this is new to you and you don’t quite get it, you’re not alone. It’s been the exact same thing for everyone.

The second thing I’d suggest is go out there, look on Google, subscribe to different newsletters. You can always go onto my website, nikkigreenberg.com, keeping it very simple, I have some fun ideas there. There’s great conferences that happen, there’s a lot of webinars and just start getting a sense of what’s out there and what’s the conversation that’s happening? Very soon, you’ll start to notice some of the patterns and the trends that emerge. You’ll start being able to piece together an understanding of the ecosystem.

If you do have particular needs that you’re trying to solve and you know what they are, go on to Google, see who’s providing those solutions and hop on the phone or organize a meeting with some of the technology providers. The sales reps, they’re fantastic, they’re very happy, a lot of them, to give up their time and expertise to really explain not just their own technology but why the technology is needed and the benefits to you.

They’re there as a resource, they’re very interested in adoption of their products and a lot of them, they’re very patient because they do have the enthusiasm to get their products being used. They also do have an understanding that there is a learning curve for the users of their products as well. Use them as a resource and just be okay with taking a risk. Try something out. You might find, for example, if you’re using a technology in your office operations, if there’s something that you want to try, test it, see if it works.

A lot of the technology that’s out there, they’re done on subscription models, which means that you’re paying month to month, so you’re paying a small amount every month instead of investing tens of thousand dollars in setting something up and then being locked into it.

In summary, it’s new to everyone, don’t be scared of it, start educating yourself, familiarize yourself with some of the products and be okay speaking to the sales reps to help them bring you on this journey. Then finally, just be okay testing stuff. That’s the way that you learn. If it’s not the right thing for you, try something else. It’s not a one size fits all. It’s a process and the technology keeps changing and it keeps getting better. It’s designed more and more to be more user-friendly and easy for both you and for your customers.

Erin: Oh, thank goodness. I’m glad to hear that. Just a tip or two, if you have them, Nikki, on how REALTORS® can educate their clients on what to expect.

Nikki: I think what I’d say is my top tip would be to let them know that the technologies that are coming out are designed to be user-friendly and to be useful. I like to use the example of the butler that’s there in the background just attending to every need.

Secondly, again is just letting them know that sometimes there is a learning curve and that even if something is a little bit clunky at the most because it’s an emerging technology, it will get better in time, but it’s fun to just test something out and learn from it. It’s all a growth process. The beautiful thing about the technologies coming out now is that you’re not necessarily locked into it. You don’t have to put in a whole new light fixture to get a smart light, you can put in a light bulb. You can have a subscription service to a software instead of buying a whole enterprise package. There is flexibility to just try things out and let your customers know that it’s just better to just start dabbling and learning. It’s exciting too, to get a sense of where the technology is, where it’s headed and how it can be helpful to us.

Erin: You have been amazing because coming into this, PropTech, I thought were some kind of EDM, Electronic Dance Music or something. This has been absolutely fascinating and it’s opened all kinds of doors and windows to opportunity to just look and see what’s next and give it a try, be like a toddler with an iPhone and push all the buttons and see what happens. We did and we reached Sydney, Australia. Look at that, but before we let you go, you’ve done all this looking into the future, Nikki, we’re going to ask you to take one look ahead a little bit and think how you would like to describe 2021 when all is said and done.

Nikki: That’s a good question. I think when all is said and done because our world has been so fundamentally disrupted by the pandemic, we have an opportunity right now to build back better. I think 2020 was about dismantling and 2021 is about repairing in a better way. I just hope that we, as an industry, do seize upon this opportunity because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do things in a better way.

Erin: That is a great metaphor for all of us in all ways, the dismantling and the rebuilding. What did you want your life to be? Because here you’ve got a chance to start again from the ground up. Nikki, thank you so much. This has been wonderful, and we are so grateful to you for taking the time and sharing your wisdom with us here today on REAL TIME.

Nikki: Thank you so much for having me as a guest. I love talking about technology and I hope that your listeners and yourself will have found my insights useful and that you’ll just go out and buy some smart bulbs and just start dabbling in your time off. It’s a lot of fun, there’s so much we can do and it’s been an absolute delight joining you. Thank you so much for having me as a guest.

Erin: Thank you to Nikki Greenberg and to you for making time for REAL TIME. Join us on Episode 16, when we’ll talk about the psychology of real estate with Dr. Winnie Shen. She’s got a lot of great information and ideas to implement in your work and home lives.

CREA REAL TIME podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead and Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. We invite you to our previous episodes. Thanks for sharing these REAL TIME podcasts with your coworkers, your friends and fellow REALTORS®. I’m Erin Davis.


Episode 14: Sandra Rinomato – A Practical (and Personal) Guide to First-Time Home Buying

Erin Davis: Hi there. Welcome to REAL TIME. I’m your host, Erin Davis, and I promise, you’re in not just for some REAL TIME, but a great time with our guests today, Sandra Rinomato. This is the podcast for REALTORS®, and it’s brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. Here, we talk about ideas surrounding Canadian real estate, and topics that impact you as a REALTOR®.

Buying your first home can be equal parts, exciting and intimidating, but for some, it can feel like a distant dream. In episode 14 of REAL TIME, we sit down with REALTOR®, author and TV, host Sandra Rinomato, to discuss the process on both a practical and personal level, to give first-time homebuyers more knowledge and confidence, and to help REALTORS® bring more value to their clients.

What a pleasure it is to have you talking with us today, Sandra. Longtime fan, and you’ve got a new book, and we’ve got so much to dive into, so let’s do it. What do you say?

Sandra Rinomato: Awesome. I’m ready, Erin.

Erin: Okay. What makes the experience of buying a home so different for a first-time buyer?

Sandra: Wow. Well, there’s so much culture shock, if you’ll allow me to use that expression, because they’re considering taking on what they consider to be enormous debt with a mortgage, and they’ve never owned a place before, so there’s a lot of things to take into consideration: if the roof caves in, I have to fix it, or if the furnace breaks, I have to fix it. There’s all of that to worry about as well. Plus, they don’t really know how they’re going to use the space. They’ve never owned before, they don’t know the responsibilities, they aren’t really familiar with the ongoing costs associated with homeownership, and it’s pretty scary. Especially if nobody in their family has ever purchased before, never been a homeowner, there’s a lot to consider. There are a lot of emotions involved in this, and false beliefs come up, and all kinds of stuff, like especially– Like I’m the baby of the family, so it was like, “Well, you can’t do that, you’re not old enough to do that,” I’m not 30, but you’re going, “I’m 30 years old, guys, it’s time.”

There’s a whole lot of things that are unknown, they’re afraid of the unknown, as we are as human beings.

Erin: We don’t know what we don’t know until you do it, right?

Sandra: Yes.

Erin: Yes. Now, homeownership isn’t right for everyone, but in your new book, Home Worthy, you talk about exploring your values, beliefs and goals before investing in real estate. Finding out if it is right for you. What does that mean to you, Sandra?

Sandra: There’s a whole lot of psychology behind this. First of all, is it the right time of your life? Is your family growing? Are you prepared to do this? Why are you doing this? Then that whole why exercise, going seven levels deep into the reasons why you want to become a homeowner, or invest in real estate, for that matter, you need to do that exercise because you’re going to learn a lot about yourself, and you’re going to uncover a lot of things. You’re going to become aware of some of your beliefs, and those beliefs are going to crop up at certain times of the home buying journey to either hold you back or propel you forward. It’s best to shine the light on them, awareness of what you truly believe will help you overcome obstacles.

When you say, “Well, I want to buy a home because of this reason,” it’s probably a nice reason, but it’s probably superficial. When you start asking yourself, “Well, why is that important to me?” Or if your REALTOR® helps you do this, “Why is that important to you?” Then you go down to level two and you start thinking about it. By the time you’re at level five, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, by the time you’re at level five, you’re emotional, you’re a sobbing mess. If you’re doing it right, you will be, and you’re connecting to something really powerful within you, and that is your driving force. That is the true you. These are the reasons why you want to become a homeowner, and these reasons can vary. It’s not just about building wealth or keeping up with the Joneses.

I’ve worked with some REALTORS® exploring their reasons why, but also just homeowners understanding what’s really driving their purchase, is really fascinating.

Erin: It sounds like that a buyer’s belief will either stump them, trip them up, or push them forward. What I’m hearing you say is that connecting with a REALTOR® early on sounds like a really good idea, because it’s going to take time to do that digging, to get to the tear level.

Sandra: Well, I don’t want REALTORS® around the country to be making people cry. 

I think, yes, you’re nailing it. Your belief system, understanding what do you believe about homeownership. Homeownership is only for rich people. I’ve heard that one. I’m a woman, I can’t buy a home on my own. I hear that all the time. Understanding what is driving your belief will help you uncover some truths about yourself and your goals, understanding what your true goal is will help you overcome obstacles.

When you’re buying in a busy city like Vancouver, Toronto, other places in Ontario, when you’re buying in those busy cities, you have to overcome an objection a day, it seems, or an obstacle a day. When you drill down to the reasons why, and you understand yourself, and you connect with that emotion, you’re going to be able to burst through that objection. You’re going to be able to burst through that obstacle, you’re going to find a way over it, under it, around it or just through it. It’s going to be one after another sometimes. It’s not always as easy as, “Oh, I qualify for this much mortgage, let’s go look at a few places and buy one.” It’s rarely that easy because of all the obstacles.

Erin: You mentioned women homebuyers and first buyers. You do pinpoint that in your book. I promise, we’ll get to that a little later in the interview as well, Sandra, but let’s go back to the emotions. the emotional experience of home buying. How does it differ for a first-time buyer other than the fears, for example? What about second, third, fourth-time buyers, how do the emotions differ there?

Sandra: For a second-time buyer, or let’s say a downsizer, or perhaps someone looking for their forever home, sure, there are a ton of emotions involved in that as well, and they’re different. Now you’ve already been a homeowner. Now perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve overcome that fear. Now I know what it’s like.” It’s easy to be a homeowner for you, if you had a good experience, and I’m not worried about the maintenance. I know I have to pay for maintenance, whether it’s in condo fees, or if I own a freehold, I’m going to have to save money for a new furnace and all those things. 

As you’ve overcome all of those unknowns, now you’re familiar with that, those are put aside. You still may, however, have some fears because now you’re increasing your mortgage. And over the last 10 years, or a number of years, you’ve watched your mortgage principal go down because you’ve paid it off quickly, in 15 years, let’s say, and you haven’t had a mortgage, or you only have a small, small mortgage left, and now you’re going to be increasing that again. You look at your lifestyle, and you say, “Am I ready to do that again?” It’s almost like getting a new puppy, “Am I really ready to take that on? They have to go out every hour, and all the crying and the sharp teeth and everything.”

You really have to understand what you’re doing, and those emotions come into play. Quite often, if you’re buying with someone else or family, you have those considerations now. Now it’s like, what do the kids want? Where do the kids want to live? Are the kids going to want to leave school? They each need their own room, or we need space for this activity, and that activity is going to be close to the skating or the hockey or the soccer or the ballet or whatever it is, right?

Erin: Yes. Well, how far into the future, Sandra, do you think that we should look when we’re deciding what we need or want to buy? The last year has taught us that life can change in a moment, and we shouldn’t wait, and we shouldn’t expect, we can always hope, but how far ahead do you think realistically we should look?

Sandra: That’s a really interesting question. Some people who are starting to plan a family, obviously they can’t buy a one-bedroom. You have to look at your immediate future, certainly, but if you don’t have the budget, let’s say you’re just a single person and you don’t have the budget for a three-bedroom home, but you can afford a two-bedroom condo or a one-bedroom condo, and you want to become a homeowner, it’s the right time of your life, you’ve planned for this, you know why you want to become a homeowner, then get what you can afford.

In my city, Toronto, very expensive, Vancouver, very expensive, other cities across Canada also becoming very expensive. Sometimes your budget will dictate what you can buy and where you can buy. If you’re thinking, “Well, at some point, I’m going to have a family and I’m going to need a three-bedroom home,” but right now, you can use the space in a one-bedroom or perhaps a one-bedroom plus den condo, then go for it. I don’t think you should hold back for what you project your life to be 5, 10, 20 years down the road. As you said, look at what has happened to us in the last year. Nobody saw this coming, and it has changed everybody’s life.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, so deal with what you have going on today. What can you afford? Where do you want to live? I talk to a lot of people who are 50 and over, and they want to invest in a little investment property, maybe a condo, “Maybe we’ll buy a condo downtown somewhere so that when we sell our house and retire, we’ll move into it, but for now, I’m going to rent it out.” I say, “Well, when do you think you’re going to retire?” They say, “I don’t know, maybe 5, 10 years from now.” Okay. Well, worry about it then, because you don’t know what your lifestyle will be 5 or 10 years from now. Maybe you won’t want to live in this city at all. Maybe you want to live somewhere else in Canada or somewhere else in the world. Maybe you won’t like condos. Maybe you won’t like where that condo is located. Strictly focus on the investment part of it. Treat it like a business and put the tenants in it. Also, because you aren’t emotionally attached to it, you’re not going to get that upset when the tenant has chipped the Corian counter or something like that. Don’t buy now for what you project your lifestyle to be 10 years from now, make it work for you now.

Erin: As you’ve said, the bottom line is owning real estate, and that gives you options.

Sandra: You don’t want to be stuck. I remember watching a judge on TV. I was folding laundry. I was multitasking. She was yelling at this woman for allowing herself to get stuck. She had painted herself into a corner. She had no options in life, and then she lightened up and she said, but it’s never too late. You can start building options. Owning real estate gives you options. You’ll have options at any point in your life.

I remember working with a woman who was in her late 50s, and she started asking me what it was like to be a REALTOR®. She had a great job. She was running this company for this guy. I said, “Why? Are you thinking of leaving this job?” She said, “Well, he’s closing down the company, and they’re moving outside of Toronto. I live in Toronto. I own a home, and I’m not going to commute an hour and a half every day, and I’m certainly not leaving my neighbourhood and my family and friends to go live in a new city for a job.” I said, “Wow, aren’t you worried? How are you going to support yourself?” She goes, “No, I’m not worried. I only have two mortgage payments left, and then I own my house outright.” She had options.

She could sell and downsize. She could rent out her basement. She could renovate and flip and then buy something more affordable for her. She says, “All I have to pay for are the utilities and some maintenance.” She said, “I’ll get a part-time job and be more than fine.” I thought, wow, that is amazing. That is a great testimony to what homeownership can do for you. She had options. She will never be stuck.

Erin: Coming up. How a buyer’s why helps you both decide the where and managing reality versus wish list, as our chat with Sandra continues. I hope you’re enjoying this Episode 14 of our REAL TIME podcast. Why not check out some of our other discussions with award-winning author, Jesse Thistle, TV icon, Sarah Richardson, marketing genius, Terry Riley, and his timeless advice on how you can connect with clients and build your business. So much to explore, and it’s all on REAL TIME on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, or visit CREA.ca/podcast for more.

Knowing you want to own a home, making that decision and saying that you’re ready to do it, that’s one thing, but how do you decide how much home to own, Sandra, and, of course, location, location, location, where to buy?

Sandra: You really have to do your soul searching there. What kind of location are you envisioning yourself in? What’s important to you in your lifestyle? Working with various buyers, they want to buy downtown because that’s where they spend their leisure time, but they don’t work in the city. That’s fine. They want to hang out, go to clubs or fancy restaurants or wonderful theater and opera and whatever. They want to be downtown for their leisure time, but for work, they don’t mind a little bit of a commute, and there’s others that I do not want to commute. I want to live where I work, and then if I want to go to restaurants, I will commute to that. It really depends on your lifestyle for location, but also what the neighbourhood offers. Is it safe? Is it historically a safe investment? Is it gentrifying? What people live there? Your personal preferences and desires.

I’ve had people buying a certain area because there was a particular coffee shop in the neighbourhood, and that made them happy. It’s not the one you think.

When it comes to lifestyle, you have to understand yourself very well, and understand your why again, and that will help you choose location. Now, how much house to buy, or how much property to buy, again, will be dictated very much by your budget, but if money is no object, then it just comes down to, what’s going to make you happy? What is going to fulfill you? How do you envision your life in that space? Will it provide the ultimate result that you are after?

Erin: You mentioned budget, so let’s go there. How should a first-time buyer, Sandra, manage expectations around budget versus wish list? We all have this idea of our forever home the first time we buy, and that may not be realistic, is it?

Sandra: No, definitely not. I truly believe that you work your way up the property ladder, especially now that prices are so high. To think that you’re going to live there for the next 30 years, is unrealistic anyway, especially as a first-time buyer, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe you’re going to get a job transfer. Maybe you’re going to get tired of the weather or other things that are happening in your city, and you’re going to want to move to a different part of the country or outside of the country. So many unknown factors that will determine your life 5, 10, 30 years from now.

Your budget could determine not only are you buying a big home or a small home, but are you buying a condominium versus a freehold? Is this something you want to work up to? Because some people do not want to own a freehold because of the work that goes along with it.

These are considerations that you should take into your thought and your planning before you make a decision. Sometimes it’s just a matter of your REALTOR® pointing things out to you, or touring properties with the eyes of a potential buyer, because that’s the difference. Especially when it comes to unrealistic expectations of first-time buyers, you’ve never gone through a property with the eyes of a buyer. Now you’re looking at things differently because you’re paying for it, and you are looking at what you can comfortably afford. Then you start thinking about other things, well, where is this located? What can I buy? Does that suit me?

I will never say to someone, just get into the market because you’re getting priced out. I don’t believe that. I believe when you’re ready, you will find a way to make it work. Again, if you are attached to and aligned with your reasons why you want to become a homeowner, the options become available to you. You will start to see opportunities, and a professional REALTOR® will always be able to help you sort of find another way to get there. If you have an idea that you want to live in this address and you want that kind of a house, and right now you just can’t afford that, that’s way beyond your affordability, no problem. We’re going to find another way to get you those feelings, those feelings of pride of home ownership, or the independence, or whatever it is that you’re after, we can achieve that in this neighbourhood or this type of dwelling.

Erin: Are starter homes still a relevant concept in today’s market?

Sandra: Probably more than ever.

Erin: Really?

Sandra: Yes. I remember hearing stories, elderly aunts telling me they bought their first house and they lived there forever. That doesn’t happen very much anymore because the cost of real estate is higher in many places. The availability of affordable housing can be a one-bedroom condo. How are you going to have three kids there, and two great Danes and four cats?

Erin: Of course.

Sandra: Realistically, again, you don’t know what your lifestyle will be 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Just look at what your lifestyle is today, what do you want today, what’s going to make you happy, what’s going to give you all of those good feelings, what can you afford, and what will prove to be a solid investment for you. Don’t just buy real estate for the sake of buying real estate. You make your money when you buy, not when you sell. That means buy wisely. Take your time, understand, ask your REALTOR® if you don’t understand. If you are the REALTOR®, keep explaining it to them, why this is not a good purchase, or why this is a good purchase.

For example, I love to explain to people why purchasing a stigmatized property will make them sad in the end, because when you go to sell it, if you had bought property A, which is stigmatized, versus property B, which is not stigmatized, property A will not appreciate at the same rate as property B. That might annoy you. You make your money when you buy, buy wisely. Buy with the guidance of your professional REALTOR®.

Erin: Explain to me what stigmatized is in this case?

Sandra: Stigmatized would be something like a property backing out onto a very busy, noisy highway, or hydro towers that some people believe have negative effect on your health. Things like that, or stigmatize a property could be one where people think it’s haunted, or even perhaps a violent death that could be a stigmatized property.

Erin: Something you could be able to Google and find a news story about it, for example.

Sandra: Oh, and trust me, your neighbors will tell you the day you move in. “Hey, did you know?” 

Erin: Great. That’s so good. Okay. What about, Sandra, a move-in ready home versus one that needs work? I guess that all depends on the buyer?

Sandra: Yes. You would think that everybody wants move in ready magazine quality, but it’s not necessarily true because some people are afraid that the work wasn’t done properly, it wasn’t done to code. We can’t see how the plumbing was done, or a lot of these places are renovated without the proper building permits, so all that glitters is not gold. You don’t want to buy this pay top dollar and then find out that everything’s breaking down.

Then there are the people that don’t have the time or the resources to do any renovations. They put their entire savings into the down-payment, and they don’t even have $10,000 to renovate a small kitchen or something like that. They want it done for them. Quite often working with buyers, they realize that they can’t get that shiny new object, and that they may be better off getting to what they can afford in the same neighbourhood that will make them happy and deliver the results that they want. They will have to look at a property that will not be recently renovated with expensive quality stuff.

You’re walking into a house that hasn’t been renovated in 30 years or longer. You’ve got that 1970s or 1990s kitchen that you really don’t like, but you start to think, “Gee, but the reality is, I could paint the cupboards, change the laminate countertop to something stone, put in some stainless-steel appliances, paint the walls, change the light fixtures, put in nicer baseboards, change the doors and the hardware. You know what, I think will be very comfortable here.”

A lot of people opt for that because then down the road, and I think it’s a great idea actually to live in a house for a little while before you renovate because now you know how you use the space, and when you think you would like the kitchen to look like this, actually, when we’re both in here cooking and the kids are running around at our feet, we need the kitchen to look like this instead. Rather than doing it before you move in or as soon as you move in, you might make a mistake. You see that happen quite often.

Erin: Knowing a couple who moved into a home that they are the second owners of this home and they’re thinking, “You know what, we’d like to paint this so that these colours reflect our personality,” as per our last podcast with Tiffany Pratt, but realizing too, they’ve got a toddler and a six-year-old, “We’re going to wait. We’re going to take our time. Let the kids scuff up these walls and do it later. You can always, always wait.”

Sandra: My friend built a house. She has a young daughter, and they had a birthday party shortly after they moved in. One of the kids found a pen and wrote on their freshly painted wall. 

Erin: Oh, no. Great. That child turned out to be Banksy.

Back to REALTOR®, author of the book, Home Worthy, and TV host, Sandra Rinomato, in a moment, talking about the bones of a potential property and a project she recommends for people budgeting for a house. Honestly, it’s like your own reality show. When it comes to your audiences, whether you’re looking to connect with local leads, grow your network, or find valuable content, REALTOR.ca has you covered. Just visit REALTOR.ca today. Reliable real estate resources, all under one roof. 

Now back to Sandra Rinomato, Peeling back the layers on REAL TIME.

Now, we’ve talked about maybe some of the skeletons in the closet. On a more positive note, let’s talk about bones. What do the bones of a house mean to you? You hear this so often. How important is it to you as you’re showing a first-time buyer a place, Sandra?

Sandra: I like to think of it as the structure. Is there structural integrity? Is it a solid foundation? Is the wiring and the mechanicals, are they up to date or good enough? Those are the bones. Also, I like to think of the flow of the property, because although many people think, “Oh, we’ll just tear down this wall, and we’ll build out an addition,” it’s not as easy as you may think because inside that wall that you think you’re going to tear down, maybe it’s a load-bearing wall. That’s extra cost. Maybe it has the air duct venting in there and you need to remove that and reposition it. That creates a whole other problem.

It’s not as easy as you think to just tear down a wall or add on to the property. When it comes to the flow, you want to see, “Does this make sense for my lifestyle? When we walk in here, do I feel like, “Yes, we would use the space like this.”? It really helps with real estate staging, to have one purpose per room. If it’s the dining room, just make it a dining room. Don’t put the piano in there and a treadmill. It’s just a dining room, people, so that the buyers coming through can see the flow of the property. Oh yes, this makes perfectly good sense. It’s not an eat-in kitchen so you want to obviously right beside the kitchen and there’s a nice flow there. Or when you walk in, there’s this weird wall obstructing or, for some people walking from the outside right into their living room is an issue. Those are the things that cannot easily be changed, and I would look at that. When I say good bones, it’s like “You know what, this is a good solid home, and it’s got a decent flow. I like it.”

Erin: Although you can’t always look behind the walls, especially the ones that maybe were fixed up a little bit in preparation for sale, there are things you can look for in terms of the structural integrity. Ideally buy a home inspector, but we’re talking about do things look like there’s been some flooding or some leaking or any number of those things. You just have to have an eye for, right?

Sandra: Exactly, a trip up to the attic, and looking at the rafters. Maybe there was a bad leak for years, and they never replaced the roof in time, and now it’s affected the structural integrity of those rafters, or it was a grow-op and they’re warped, or one thing after another can be seen through the attic. If the basement is finished, it’s okay. There’s usually a portion of the basement that’s not finished, maybe a furnace room. You can still see, is there water coming in, is there efflorescence, which is a residue on the cinderblock, that shows that moisture is coming in. You can do an exterior walk around to see places where perhaps the grading dips towards the house that could be problematic or other issues, the neighbor’s driveway. Asphalt is right up to your window well, that could be a problem. You can certainly do some due diligence just by inspecting it with your eyes. I recommend to get a home inspection report done for yourself as a buyer.

Erin: Sandra, you have an amazing idea, and it could be some really tough medicine. I wouldn’t want to do it, but you go for it, about budgets and tracking for one month. What is it?

Sandra: I did this years and years ago, and I was floored. People who are budgeting for a house, this is what I recommend to you. For one month, track every dollar you spend. It’s really easy to do it with a debit card or a credit card, because you can see, at the end of the month, where your money went, because I don’t know about you, but I open up my credit card bill and I go, “What? I don’t remember shopping there. Oh, yes, it’s that thing.” You can see where you’re spending your money, and that’s important.

Also, you have to track the annual expenses, as well as your monthly expenses, let’s say a car loan or a loan repayment that you pay every month. Those are static. Those you know you can add those in. Don’t forget the annual stuff, including insurance, or perhaps travel or gifts. You don’t want to underestimate how much you truly spend. When you look at and you say, “I spend that much money every month,” I guarantee, nobody who’s ever done this experiment has ever come out and say, “Yes, I knew that.” No, they’re all floored. It’s really eye-opening, and you go, “Wow, I have to earn that much money. That’s how much money I really spend?”

You don’t do it so that you chastise yourself and say, “Okay, that’s it. I am never going to spend money on entertainment again because I spend so much money every month on entertainment.” That’s not realistic. When you’re budgeting for a home, you can look at your lifestyle and say, “Well, no, I really enjoy that. That makes me happy, and I am going to continue to do that.” If you don’t do that, that’s where that expression house poor comes in because you can’t do the things you love doing anymore, because you didn’t do this exercise. Because when the lender qualifies you, they will look at your overall expenses and say, “Okay, you qualify for this much mortgage loan.”

Taking that information, plus your spending habits, only changing something if you really want to. If you look at it and say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m spending that much money on x.” Then stop it. Maybe pare it down by 10%, something very realistic, then you can plan going forward and know exactly what your spending habits are, how much money you need to earn every month, and how much you’re already carrying.

For many of the first-time buyers, they say, “You know what, I’m already spending all that money anyway.” When the guy said the mortgage is going to be this much, and your property’s just going to be this much, and your utility is going to be this much, I freaked out, but I’m spending that anyway. It really is a good exercise. I really recommend people doing it. Just for 30 days, track it and understand where your money’s going.

Erin: It doesn’t have to be punitive, just in enlightening.

Sandra: Exactly.

Erin: When we return with author, REALTOR®, TV host, Sandra Rinomato, digging into hidden costs your clients need to know about, and rising to the top in a bidding war. The win may be in the details. 

Looking for the latest news and stats legal matters and advocacy updates, we have just the place. It’s CREA Cafe. Stay connected to the world of Canadian Real Estate on CREACafe.ca. 

Now, back to our inspiring and just delightful guest, REALTOR® Sandra Rinomato on REAL TIME. 

What are some of the hidden costs? Now, these are the things that when we look at the price of a house we go, okay, I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve crunched this and this and this, but there’s so much more that happens on closing date or thereabouts, and we’re talking about like land transfer taxes and so on. This comes under the purview of the REALTOR® and informing their client customer, doesn’t it?

Sandra: Yes, absolutely. I think your REALTOR® should be a great advisor to you, and especially when you’re working with first-time buyers, I think REALTORS® really need to be an expert in that field and know all things real estate, and explain them in a way to the customer, that they will understand it. Even if you have to say it over and over again and find a different way to explain it to them, make sure that they truly understand it.

Land transfer tax, for example, in the province of Ontario, you pay land transfer tax, but as a first-time buyer, you get a rebate, which means you’re forgiven a portion of it, but only up to a certain amount.

Then if you’re fortunate enough to live in the city of Toronto, which is the only city in the country that has a second land transfer tax, a municipal land transfer tax, you have to take that in consideration, and those are paid on the day of closing. You can’t add that to your mortgage loan. The way you can add the CMHC fee, if that is in fact a situation that you’re in, if you have less than 20% down, you may be subject to CMHC fee, which is the loan insurer. If you have 5% down, your insurance is going to be higher than if you have 10, 15, 20, it’s on a graduated scale, so it becomes less and less as you get closer to the 20%.

Those are expenses that you need to be aware of. Also, your mortgage lender will talk to you about this, because they’re going to ask you about your down payment, and your down payment is immediately eroded by the land transfer taxes that you have to pay, because, again, those are paid in cash on the day of closing.

You think you have $50,000, but it ends up, after paying your land transfer taxes, you really only have $45,000. That could affect how much loan you get, mortgage loan, that could affect your rate, if it’s significant. Those are things to really take into consideration.

When you work with a professional REALTOR®, we do have a network of trusted professionals, like a good mortgage lender, who will explain this stuff to you, and a lawyer who will explain things. You’ve got lawyers’ fees, and they vary from lawyer to lawyer, so you want to ask about those, including all of the disbursements. For example, if you’ve never had utilities in your name, you might have to put down a deposit of a certain amount of money until you’ve proven that you are credit worthy for two years, and then they give that back to you, but you have to put that out.

All those little expenses, maybe an appraisal, the cost of an appraisal, depending on who your lender is. Maybe the cost of the home inspection, maybe even you bought the house without the home inspection because you were in a fierce bidding war, and then you think, you know what, I really want to know about my house, so I am going to hire a home inspector to come through, show me all the things. If you buy an older home, there might be things that are not to code that you might want to address as a homeowner over the period of time that you own the property, especially if they are things like plumbing or electrical issues.

Maybe you want the home inspection. Those are some of the hidden costs that perhaps you’re not aware of, so you do you have to budget for those because that’s cash out of pocket.

Erin: Sandra, you’ve raised the specter of home inspections, and it’s something that’s happening more and more often that in the flurry of activity and the heat of the moment and the competition, if you want to move yourself up from number eight to number two in a bidding war, you may let that home inspection go, and it’s something of course that is never ever, ever recommended, but it’s happening, and it’s a nerve-racking tactic for many, many buyers. What do you recommend to your clients in this case, or to anybody who’s listening, because we know how vitally important home inspections are.

Sandra: Right now, it’s happening that they are going in with no conditions whatsoever, so there’s no financing condition, there’s no home inspection condition, there’s no pool inspection condition. There’s no condition on insurability, so for example, if you are in a floodplain in Toronto, there are areas that the insurers are not too happy to insure you. That could be an issue. People are buying these properties because they have to. In order to be competitive, you have to go in with what we call a firm offer.

Now, a firm offer means you buy it today, you own it. There’s no condition. You can’t think about it and back out tomorrow, or find out your financing fell through, you can’t back out, and you have a hefty deposit with your offer. You stand at risk of losing that money, and of course being sued because a contract is a contract, and contract law in Canada is very serious.

Should you go in without a home inspection condition? You want to avoid it as much as possible, especially a first-time buyer who isn’t particularly savvy with even how to take care of their home. A home inspection report can have something in it like, just move this downspout so that it’s further away and discharges further away from your home to prevent future water in your basement. It could be little things like that, that are $10 to fix, you want that stuff. Where’s my water shut off? Where’s my water meter? You want to drain the water so that the pipes don’t freeze with your garden hose, that sort of stuff. You may want to do that anyways, but in many cases, with multiple offers, the buyer doesn’t have the opportunity to bring in a home inspector because it’s $600 or $700 in some places, or more.

In many cases, buyers are bidding on a house and not getting it. If you knew you’re getting it for sure, you don’t mind paying the $600, but tomorrow night, you’re going on another bidding war and you lose that one and it’s several offers before you actually get the house, they can get pretty costly and time consuming and disheartening.

My recommendation to every home seller out there, and the listing agents, please consider getting a pre-sale home inspection report done before you list the house, because you are serving as a REALTOR®, as a listing agent, you are serving your client’s best interest. How? You have a seller, and now your seller is providing a home inspection report from a reputable company that knows the area and people know them in that area, and you can hand it out to the potential buyers to review. The buyers have an idea of what they’re getting into. Now, it could have all kinds of unsavory things in it, and then a really strong seller’s market, that’s not going to stop them, but they’re going to know what they’re dealing with. The seller might say, “Well, I don’t want to find out things are wrong with my property, then I have to fix them.” No, you don’t necessarily have to fix them at all, you’re just disclosing, and it’s better to disclose those deficiencies in writing, and offer it to the buyer so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you. Then maybe things that you weren’t aware of.

Erin: In a field of say, 10, how do you recommend that your client move up that line? If all things are played out equal or seem to be in terms of this bidding war, how does your client rise to the top?

Sandra: Well, you know what’s funny, Erin, is that I sit on both sides of the table. I sit on the seller’s side, and I sit on the buyer’s side. Quite often as a seller’s agent, I see offers come in that have issues in their offers that the seller will never accept. As a buyer, don’t put anything in there that isn’t on the listing. As a listing agent, make sure that the information on the listing, on the MLS listing, is complete and accurate. If the closing date, preferred closing date is June 15th, put that in there. Because we call ahead. If it just says June TBA, we call ahead and we say. “What’s the preferred closing date for your seller?” They say, “Well, anytime in June.” Then you get to the table and they say, “Well, actually June 1st or July 15th.” Now it’s a problem.

As a buyer’s representative, you want to make sure that you are giving them everything they’re asking for, and sometimes, yes, you’re right, there are multiple offers that have exactly what is on the listing, and then a variety of prices. One thing you can do is increase your deposit, and why that’s important to a seller, is that when somebody has more money, more skin in the game, they’re less likely to back out.

Let’s say something bad happens, they don’t get their financing, well, when there’s 100 grand or 200 grand on the line, that’s their deposit, they’re going to work really hard to make sure that they get some kind of mortgage funding, even if they have to sell it the next day after closing on it, because they don’t want to walk away from their 100 grand or 200 grand, and the other thing is, have it there at offer time. Go convince your buyers to go get the bank draft.

I’ve heard many REALTORS® say, well, they don’t want to because then if they don’t get the house, then what? Well, then you take the bank draft back. I know many banks will say, “Are you trying to buy a house?” “Yes.” “Okay, well, I’m not going to charge you for this next bank draft, or I’m not going to charge you to deposit that money again,” because they know, they’re going through it themselves when they see it every day.

That small inconvenience could win you the deal, because if I’m representing a seller, and as I see two beautiful offers, and they’re identical, and one of them has the deposit cheque and the other does not, if we accept the one that does not have the deposit bank draft, guess what? That’s a conditional offer. That person may never show up with that cheque, and then you’re sitting there and you have not, in fact, sold your house, and you have to go through it again.

Having $100,000 paying draft versus zero, I know which offer I’m going for.

Erin: It’ll always save so much more than that heart-string letter that you were considering writing.

Sandra: Yes, in rare occasions, I have seen the letter work. For example, in a situation where the home seller is still emotionally tied to the property, and they don’t want a builder to come in and tear it down. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational because you are going to get your $2 million and move on. Let go with the memories here, you’ve made the decision to move on, so move on. Let go. Then they get a letter from a young family that says, “We’re not going to tear the house down. We’re going to move in.” They go, “Oh, that’s nice. I want to sell it to them.” That might happen.

Especially if they have an aversion to builders, for some reason. Maybe they’ve been hounding them, pounding on their door, sell me your house, sell me your house, or whatever. It might just help to sway them in your direction. At that point, if you don’t have the most money, the seller might say, “Okay, well, that other offer is higher than yours. I tell you what, I want to work with your offer, but you have to increase it, and increase it by this amount.” They can say that. The seller can actually sign it back to you. That doesn’t happen very often.

The seller will instruct their agent to say, “You know what, go back and ask them for 25 grand. If they increase their offer by 25 grand, we’ll sell it to them.” The seller doesn’t necessarily have to send all of the offers back. That is misinformation. The seller can do whatever they want. If the seller has 10 offers, they don’t have to send all 10 offers back to improve. As a matter of fact, in most cases, the seller will just take the highest and best offer. If there’s an outlier, there’s one that’s way above the crowd, it’s a beautiful offer. There’s nothing weird in it. You warrant that the pool is going to be in good working order for 17 years. Some other warranty in there that they don’t want to take on. It’s a beautiful clean offer, they might just take it. Other REALTORS® and buyers are like, “Well, I thought they were going to send us back.” No, nobody ever promised you that.

When I’m training my agents, I say, “Go in with your highest and your best offer, and then walk away.” If you’re asked to improve, you can revisit it at that moment. Just go on the premise that you will not be given a second chance.

Erin: Lots more with Sandra Rinomato to come, including some fascinating and surprising stats in her book, looking at women versus men in buyers numbers, and shaking off the past in terms of our limitations. Writing the book of you, we’ll talk about that too. Everything you and your clients need have served up to you all in one place, at REALTOR.ca Living Room. Share the latest insights from your go-to source for content, timely articles, inspiring design tutorials, and everything you and your clients need to make that dream home a reality. Visit REALTOR.ca Living Room today. Now back to author, TV host, and of course REALTOR®, Sandra Rinomato, on REAL TIME.

Let’s talk about an interesting stat we referred to earlier from your book, Home Worthy. You note, Sandra, that one in four buyers, 25%, are single women compared to only 10% being single men. Why?

Sandra: First of all, isn’t that an amazing statistic, and would probably shock a lot of people when they hear it. I like that, because society has changed so much. I grew up with an aunt who was a very forward-thinking woman. She had a career, and she worked for the airline. She was out in Honolulu and she walked into a builder site. They were building condos, and condos were a little bit untested at that time. Lenders weren’t that crazy about funding a condo. They were a new thing. She walked into the builder’s office and she wanted to invest in a condo in Honolulu. Imagine how much money she would have made? Oh my gosh, anyway.

Erin: Honestly.

Sandra: The builder said, “Well, we’re not going to sell it to you unless you have a male cosigner.” That was that time. Women couldn’t get a credit card on their own. Women were not really buying cars on their own. Things have changed. Women are not getting married at 18, fresh out of high school. A lot of us are never getting married. A lot of us are pursuing careers. Then we wake up one morning, and we’re way far from 18 and we think, “You know what, I want to buy my own place. What am I waiting for?” You start to explore your own false beliefs and thought, “I should have bought 10 years ago or whatever number of years ago.” Now you start to seriously consider this.

Women are not getting married as young, if ever. Some women are not getting married at all, and they’re not having children, and they’re pursuing careers. They’re very happy living a life on their own or with a partner, but not being married. All of these things coming into play, society has changed greatly. Women are saying, “I don’t need to have that 1950s lifestyle to be able to own my own property. I can buy it on my own.” I think it’s so beautiful because by doing that, by realizing that, they change their destiny.

You don’t have to live that 1950s lifestyle. You don’t have to live that prescribed life. You are going to control your own destiny. I love it, and I love the wealth-building through homeownership. I think it’s very, very powerful. I think everybody should own real estate somewhere in their portfolio, even if you don’t live in your own home if you own an investment property, because actually, I talk to a lot of people who cannot afford to buy in their city. I say, “Well, what about buying an investment property in a less expensive place?” and they go, “Well, what do you mean?” I say, “Well, now your tenant is paying down your mortgage. You can buy a place. It doesn’t have to be your dream home because you’re not living in it. You become a landlord.” Now, there are a lot of things to know about being a landlord. It’s not as easy as you may think it is. There are some things you have to be aware of, educate yourself, contact your REALTOR® to help you understand the ins and outs. You can become a landlord, have your tenant pay down your mortgage, so you’re building equity two ways.

One, the tenant’s paying your mortgage down. Two, the property will go up in value over an extended period of time. Nobody’s telling you you’re going to make a million bucks in an hour, but over a long period of time, if you can buy real estate for the long-term, then I think you will see gains. If you’re never in a position where you have to sell it now, then you will always have options, and you can sell at the right time.

Erin: You’re all about empowering, and especially first-time buyers, and focusing on allowing women to create and change their own destinies, change the dream, and then just go from there. That’s fantastic.

On the flip side, what advice do you have for REALTORS® who are working with new homebuyers? It sounds like there are a lot of things, and being a great listener seems to be the first part of it.

Sandra: Oh, it’s so important. I remember shooting Property Virgins, and when I saw one of the first episodes where somebody was crying and I wasn’t around, they were talking to the director. The interview’s after we toured a property and she’s crying. I’m like, “What?” I was like, “Tom Hanks, there’s no crying in real estate.” I was shocked because quite often, the buyer won’t communicate honestly with you. As you’re touring the property, you have to be in tune with their body language. You have to ask them why they don’t like this one, or why they do like this one, and then bring them back to their why, their reason why they’re buying a home, and make sure that it is in fact aligned, and they’re not being swayed by beautiful furniture or pictures of the family on the wall and they see their lifestyle, and you really are a psychologist. You’re using a lot of psychology in real estate. You really have to open up the lines of communication. You have to work hard. Some people are way more verbose and open to sharing, and others are not.

Others may not share, especially you’re working with a couple, they may not want to share in front of you because they don’t know what their partner’s thinking. They want to go and discuss it in privacy. What happens, in that case, is they’ve gone away, they’ve talked about it overnight, and then tomorrow they say, “Okay, we want to look over here instead.” Now you have to uncover the reasons why. Talk to me guys, what happened? I don’t mind. If you tell me you hate the homes I’ve been showing you, I’m not going to be offended. I’m here to help you. Give me the information so that I can put it into my data bank of information which is in my head, and then I can try to solve your real estate problem. I can see where you want to go, and I can help you get there, but you need to have this flow of communication, and it’s sometimes more difficult than other times.

The other thing is when you’re working with first time buyers, you have to explain things in a feature advantage benefit. Don’t just give the features. Sometimes a real estate just gives the features. Well, it’s got this. In your head you’re saying, like you said, you wanted, but you have to explain. This delivers that thing you wanted. You said you wanted this, here it is. This is the feature and this is the benefit to you

Erin: That goes into your book of you at the end of the day too. Tell us about that.

Sandra: I mentor my agents, and I tell them, especially the new ones, every day you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn for the first five years. First three years, you’re learning multiple things every day. At the end of the day, just take some time to pause and reflect. Open up a book of you, just a notebook, and you can keep a series of them because you will go through a lot of them if you’d like to write.

Journaling is always good. Just reflect. “You know what, I nailed today. I said this, and then this happened, and oh my gosh, I solved that problem because we couldn’t find this. I found that, oh my gosh, I’m so proud of myself, or I don’t like the way I did that. I could do better. Instead of saying that or doing that, I should have does this. And you write it down, and you grow from that. When you go back and you read that stuff six months from now, I guarantee, there’s going to be some stuff in that book of you that you’re going to say, “Oh, my goodness. I was so smart back then. How did I forget that?” I’ve kept some from the beginning of my career. I have so many. I’m on my third one already this year. I love to write anything I learn. Really important stuff goes in there. I always have, and then I date it. On the front of the book, it will have like, it goes from January 1 to February 15, or whatever the dates are. And then I’ll read through them.

If you were running a billion-dollar corporation, you would have these reports prepared for you. They would come at you with explanations, but you are an entrepreneur. You’re running your own business as a REALTOR®. Don’t rob yourself of this beautiful experience. This is data about you. It is just about you. It’s amazing, amazing information. Any new REALTORS® out there, even if you’ve been doing it a couple of years, start writing in your book of you. It is so wonderful to review it. I go back a few years and I read it, yes, I forgot I wanted to do that to my website or whatever.

Because you do come up with these inspired thoughts and brilliant ideas and wonderful knowledge that you sometimes tend to forget because we get so busy working at the business. We’re so busy running here. We’re tending to this. We’re making sure we go through our checklist and do a good job, that we forget to work on our business. When those ideas come to you, it’s in your book of you. When you have time to stop and work on your business, the information is there. You don’t have to guess.

Erin: When we return, how to turn what you or your client may see as the impossible dream of homeownership into concrete steps towards reality? Grow your business on REALTOR.ca. Canada’s resource for all things real estate. Now, back to REALTOR®, author, TV host, Sandra Rinomato on REAL TIME.

What would you say to someone who wants to own a home but is struggling to see their dream being anything other than just a dream?

Sandra: There are some people that won’t even allow themselves to dream. I think that’s really sad. If you think it’s just pie in the sky, there’s a couple of things that could be holding you back. It’s either a lack of clarity, you don’t know what to do next. Call a professional REALTOR®. Maybe get some recommendations from friends or family that have used one, or when we can go to open houses, go into some open houses and meet one that you connect with. Talk to that REALTOR®, and ask them the questions. What do I do next? I’ve never bought a place. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to. I don’t even know if I should buy a place.

Listen, you want clarity. What’s my first step? You may think your first step is looking at houses. That’s not even on the list of the first five things you need to do. Hire a professional right away, and one who is patient. One who knows this may not happen for two years, or six years. I don’t care, ask me now. If you don’t have clarity or focus, you don’t know what to do next, that could be a really big stumbling block for many, many people and they will never get started. Just knowing one tiny step, one action you can take that will propel you closer towards your dream, will work miracles. That’s one thing that could be holding people back.

The other thing is, some event is holding them back. I know with working with a lot of single women, sometimes it is things like, in our community, women don’t buy their own properties. That can be something that you can become aware of, shed light on, and realize that maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be true for you. Maybe that worked 50 or 100 years ago, and maybe that worked in the old country. Here, I was raised by Italian immigrants, and they brought a veritable time capsule from small town, Southern Italy 1950. They raised their three daughters using that set of mores, and know how.

This is how we do things because it’s always been done this way, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even some of the things they told me like, I remember my mom told me I should be a wife and mother and I thought, oh, well. She knows me better than I know myself. No, that’s not true. That is not true. Then I took on these other things myself. Maybe nobody ever said to me, Sandra, you can’t buy a home on your own, or you can’t have a career, but I took it on myself. I took those beliefs on their false beliefs, but I took them on, and working through them takes wisdom. It takes awareness.

You need to know who you truly really are. What are your beliefs? For example, homeownership isn’t for me. That’s only for rich people. Or, I’ve heard single women say this one. Well, I would buy my own place, but I’m just so worried, what if I buy a place and then I meet Mr. Right? I’m like, what’s the rest of the sentence? I don’t understand. What’s the problem? You can still date when you own real estate. I’m going to start rapping about it, but it was just such a bizarre belief. Why would you have such a limiting belief? Let’s shed awareness on it. Then they go, yes, you’re right. I just have options.

So what? The guy can move in with me or the person can move in with me, or I can rent that place out, move in with them, or we rent a place together, try out our relationship, see if it’s going to stick, and then we decide to sell our properties. Here’s the question to women. Why would you want to shrink yourself for someone you’ve never even met? Let alone for someone you have met. Why would you want to say my dream partner does not want me to have my act together? Let your light shine brightly. Achieve all that you want to achieve, all that you can achieve, because your shining light will be the beacon of hope for the young girls today, or perhaps another woman who never allowed themselves to dream of that lifestyle of owning her own property, of being independent, of maybe having a career earning her own money. These false beliefs go really, really deep. As soon as you shed light on them, as soon as you become aware, they disappear. Most of them just disappear. Others, you need to work on a little bit, but I’m telling you, everyone, not just women, when you are working on improving yourself, self-development, introspection, analyzing those false beliefs, becoming aware of who you truly are, you have to do this daily. This is daily work.

Erin: I can’t let you go. We’re a third through 2021. Tell me, Sandra, how are you hoping to describe this year when it’s said and done?

Sandra: You know what? I hope that people find the opportunity to grow, to find joy in the small things. Right now, the sun is shining. That is enough to make me happy, to feel the happiness that already resides in me. I’m one of those optimistic crazy people, I know. Really, I want you to connect with your joy. I hope that everybody out there can find it because, as you say, we’ve gone through a lot in the last 12 months. We’ve seen a lot of things change. There’s so many opportunities. Industries have changed. New millionaires are coming up. There’s a shift in the disbursement of wealth. You can’t take anything for granted now.

Small business owners, I know there’s one near my place, she’s doing tremendous business online because she was able to pivot her business. I guess what I want 2021 to be is a year of growth, and us connecting to our inner joy and peace. Love ourselves and love each other.

Erin: Sandra, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your time with us today. It has been wonderful.

Sandra: Thanks, Erin. You know me. I hate to talk about real estate. It’s been a joy speaking with you, Erin. Thank you.

Erin: Thank you. Just a reminder, Sandra Rinomato has a book called Home Worthy. A great read, gift and source of inspiration and information, just like Sandra herself. 

Thinking about buying your first home, REALTOR.ca has everything you need to feel ready. Discover our tips for first time homebuyers. These helpful checklists, resources and tools cover everything from mortgage options to putting in an offer to the value of a professional REALTOR®. Be fully prepared to buy. Visit REALTOR.ca to learn more. Before we say goodbye for now, don’t forget to subscribe to our REAL TIME channels on Spotify, Apple and Stitcher, or just go to CREA.ca/podcast for more.

In the meantime, I hope you plan to join us for Episode 15 when we sit down with Nikki Greenberg, founder, Real Estate of the Future, and Founder, Women in PropTech. She’s a futurist and thought leader, and promises to have a lot of fascinating ideas to share. 

This podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and Alphabet Creative. I’m Erin Davis, and we’ll talk to you next time on REAL TIME.

Episode 13: Tiffany Pratt – Wellness by Design: Creating a Home that Brings Joy

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, a podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association, where we’re all about sparking conversations with inspiring people about all things Canadian real estate, and topics that impact REALTORS®, and all of us. I’m your host, Erin Davis, and this is going to be an enlightening, uplifting, and fun edition, this episode 13 of REAL TIME.

As we spend more time at home than we ever have before, what can we learn about the relationship between our homes and our wellbeing? Are there changes we can make to support our physical and mental health without sacrificing resale value, and what’s the best approach to beautifying our homes on a budget? All good questions and we have just the guest to answer them.

Tiffany Pratt is known as the queen of colour, and can’t we all use a little of that in our lives right now. She is a spark, with a passion for interior, commercial, and product design, writing, painting, and lucky for us, speaking. You can see Tiffany Pratt on HGTV on Home to Win and Buy it, Fix It, Sell It, and she’s with us here today on REAL TIME. Well, what a treat to have you on REAL TIME and also to learn that you got your start with REALTORS®, Tiffany. Tell us about that.

Tiffany Pratt: It was when I moved to Toronto. I had closed my art studio and I was just a creative woman on the loose, doing all sorts of wild creative jobs. A local agent came up to me in a panic because his stager had quit on the job. He said, “I think you can make a room look pretty, right? You can do that?” I said, “Yes, sure. Why not?” I started to home-stage without any formal training for interior design. I tell anybody who wants a career in interior design, become a home stager, because you truly learn on the fly, you have a certain amount of time, you work with lots of different houses, different configurations, ages, and you really learn what moves on the market. It was a really valuable experience for me.

Erin: Well, that’s terrific because that synergy is going to come in great over the next little while as we talk here today. Tiffany, how significant is the link between our living spaces and our physical and mental wellbeing, which are just so important, now more than ever.

Tiffany: They’re intrinsically linked with one another, in my opinion. Having worked with homes the way I have, for as long as I have, in the quantity that I have, I can’t see a difference between the person, their choices, how they want to live, and the four walls that they choose to live them in. All the decisions that we make in that process, not just on the home itself but within the home, really make our lives, and that is our wellness effectively. We’re just going to dig into and tear apart all of the choices that we make and maybe some different little tweaks and twists we can do to our existing four walls to make ourselves feel better.

Erin: That really lays the groundwork for what we’re talking about today. Because you have a saying that everything is everything. It’s all interwoven.


Tiffany: That’s right. As a creative person, when you think of everything a human life touches, if it’s your home, if it’s the pets that you choose, the people you surround yourself with, the way that you write, the colours you choose, the car you drive, how you activate yourself in the world is all an expression of the life that you want to lead. When we go to bed, we’re closing our eyes on that life and within these four walls that we’ve chosen. What those four walls can do is serve us and keep us strong to do the service we’re supposed to do. Everything really is everything.

Erin: Now a lot of us have these creative sparks and ideas, but we’re held back by fear that what we want to do to, say, promote wellness might sacrifice the resale value of our home. How do you change that mindset so that we live in the now and where we are, literally and metaphorically, Tiffany?

Tiffany: Erin, you just said it perfectly. You live in the now. We’re always living for that future. What if, when I sell, when I don’t want to live here anymore, when I live somewhere else, or when I knock out this wall, or when this kitchen is redone. We all live in the what-ifs. As a designer, I’ve explored tearing homes down to putting a little lipstick on a pig.

In the end, it’s really not about the future. It’s about creating joy, happiness, and wellbeing in this moment, and there are so many ways to do it. Even if these changes that we make to bring our own joy to the present moment are temporary, it’s essential because to feel happy right now is way better than thinking of a future renovation or alternative place to live. We’re going to dig into why it’s important that, obviously, we don’t taint any resale value of the home, but certainly, we don’t want to devalue joy now.

Erin: Well, let’s look at the shades of the lipstick on that pig, so to speak. As the queen of colour, what can you tell us, Tiffany, about incorporating colour and specific palettes to improve our mood? We’ve all heard the tropes about this colour does this and this colour does that. What can we use to improve our mood, whether it’s to calm us or to inspire us?

Tiffany: I don’t know who coined me, the queen of colour, also many years ago, but I now hold that as a very, very important factor in my work. I always tell people that we live in a culture that’s very colour cautious. To be the queen of colour is sometimes very difficult because I’m teaching people a language that they’re scared to speak. In the end, we all have a palette. We all have a colour or colours that make us feel a certain way. Effectively, our homes should make us feel something. It’s not about the way something may look to an external party so much as the way that something makes us feel.

Everyone looks at colour in a different way because their retinas, the way that they’re made, they all transmute, look at, and understand colour in their own private way. My job as a designer, and the queen of colour, is to really, really, really invite people to be who they really are, to invite colour into their life, not to be different for the sake of being different but to invite colour into their life because it adds to their life energy and it makes them feel more like themselves.

I don’t really subscribe to common culture, blue calms us because it reminds us of the water. I think that everyone looks at colour very privately because of the way that history has made them, with experiences or childhood memories, and really uncovering what people love and what colours sing to them sometimes takes a little bit of investigation, like what colour is your cell phone case? What colour is your underwear? What’s your favourite lipstick colour? What colours are you drawn to?

When you really investigate in your grayish monochromatic world what you really love, sometimes it’s not just black, white, and gray. Sometimes it could be lime green. I implore people to really start to become an investigator to their choices and look at colour not as something that’s scary but as something that could really give something to their life.

Erin: And make us happy. Your colour is pink, right?

Tiffany: My colour, without question, is pink. If you look at my website, if you’re on my Instagram, you will– 100%, my hair is pink. I can’t put pink on enough surfaces. It’s my happy colour, and it always has. I’m unabashed with my just constant use for it, and every shade it comes in, but not everyone’s like me. In the end, I know that colour pink and the rainbow give me joy. For me, I know I have one precious life, and I want to do as many things as I can do to bring joy, and that one of the most powerful ways of doing it to me is through the use of colour.

Erin: Coming up Tiffany Pratt, and feeling colours, and how to put them to work for you. Immerse yourself in a world of colourful content, covering all of your client’s house and home needs, just by visiting REALTOR.ca. From informative articles on key market updates to fun design trends, REALTOR.ca Living Room has it all. 

Now back to Tiffany Pratt. I told you she was fun. Do you feel that colours have energies? Is there healing energy in colour, Tiffany?

Tiffany: 100%. I’m not going to get all historical on you right now, Erin, but we know that in the past colour wasn’t used as aesthetic. Colour was used as a message we were sending to the universe, the gods, or the powers that be, of what it is that that colour represents that we want to draw into our lives. You fast forward into families of affluence in the 1800s who had a family crest and family colours, and they would decorate their homes and dress in these colours because it meant something to their heritage to their family.

Colour wasn’t about aesthetic and being different or something to be scared of. You celebrated those colours because you were drawing in what they represented and what you wanted for your life. If you look at colour in that context, you can understand that it really does add healing energy. If you were to put yourself in front of an ever-changing coloured light, and you watch those colours shift in front of your eyes, you can honestly feel your emotions change based off of the colours that your eyes registering at that moment. I challenge anyone out there just to get a Pantone index and flip through it and not feel something.

Erin: If someone doesn’t have access to a colour conduit, or even a medium in a way that you are, of course, what is the best exercise that you could recommend, other than flipping through the Pantone or sitting in front of a changing colour spectrum? Do you just take a look around and say, “Okay, I love that red piece there or aqua makes me happy, or there’s that bit of yellow,” what’s a good exercise that we could do just in our own homes?

Tiffany: You could go through old photos of travel pictures that maybe you’ve blown up, and a picture that really resonates with you and why. Sometimes it could be that blue when you were in Greece, or it could be you you’re in some vineyard and all the green and the grapes or you can think of pictures of places you’ve been or things you’ve collected. People often collect things and colours that they like, but they don’t think to decorate or design in those colours.

You can be an investigator of your own life because often everything that we’re choosing is very subconscious. We’re working on that very deep connective layer when we’re purchasing something, especially if we’re far away, we’re just trying to bring something home with us, it makes us think of a happier time, or we’ve kept something from when we are a child or we always seem to be buying the same thing that is in this colour, or the sun is setting, the sun is rising, and it makes us feel a certain way. When we get really quiet and quite microscopic with how we look at the world and why we feel what we feel, colours attach to those experiences and those are clues.

Erin: Okay, the queen of colour has us talking about changing the colour of where we live to reflect and to imbue us with different energies in our lives. What if somebody is going, “Yes, but I don’t know. I’m not sure about painting my whole kitchen, say green, for example.” We can dip our toes in this, can’t we, Tiffany?

Tiffany: Well, I am also a designer and I want us to make wise purchases. If we’re dealing with a colour cautious person, not someone that’s as colour confident that would be so willing to spend big bucks to paint their kitchen green. I am a huge proponent for white on white on white because there is so much colour possibility when you frost colours on top of a fresh white space. Having worked in real estate, having staged plenty of homes, I know the power of a clean slate, the tabula rasa have a white space. When you frost in accessories, pillows, carpets, art, or even those hue bulbs that you can change the colour of your lamps that therefore can change the colour of the room.

You’ve got a fresh white space, you’ve invested in flooring in a kitchen, and big things in a fresh white that will effectively go with everything but it’s the colour touches for the more colour-conscious people that really can put those feelings in a room without feeling like you’re investing a lot of money or energy in a colour you’re not so sure of. Colour collecting takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s something that we discover through slow entry with certain objects and we let them live with us and then effectively they start to find friends and buddies that they want to work with and those friends and buddies can come in other colours and then before we know it, we have a bit of a technicolour dream all of our own.

Erin: I love that because a lot of people are cost-conscious now more than ever, so it can be just the accessories that it’s not going to break either your heart or your bank if you decide, “No, that didn’t work. That’s not for me. Let’s send that off for someone else to love.”

Tiffany: Yes, with colour, certainly the most inexpensive way to add colour to a space is by paint, but I don’t always subscribe to colours on walls, because that’s quite a commitment in some cases and it does divide a space or a room. If you paint a piece of furniture, if you paint a ceiling, if you paint an object in a room, you really could be adding that colour in a fun interesting way and then to repaint the ceiling or to move that piece of furniture or whatever it is, isn’t a big deal, you could gift it to a friend or send it off to Habitat for Humanity when you want to shift your shades.

There are lots of inexpensive interesting ways to bring colour into our life without feeling like we’ve done it. This is also something that people often do, which is they go to “decorate their space” and then they’ll do it once and think this is it forever. That’s not always the case. It’s an ever-evolving conversation you’re having with your home and your four walls and it’s changing just as you are.

Erin: If you’re enjoying our chat with queen of colour, Tiffany Pratt, and we have a new nickname for her in a sec, while also talking creating cozy through textures, art, and light, why not do a deeper dive? Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts for monthly episodes with guests such as TV icon Sarah Richardson, award-winning author Jessie Thistle, Canadian ad and marketing guru Terry O’Reilly and many more. Back to REAL TIME now with Tiffany Pratt.

Well, if you ever get tired of the moniker queen of colour, shade shifter is also a pretty good one, I think.

Not a shapeshifter, a shade shifter. Let’s talk to Tiffany about textures. We’ve talked about colours so far, and accessories, what about textures to help us?

Tiffany: Textures are essential to coziness and to that feeling of home. I think when we think of the word home, we think of something that envelops us like a hug. Texture often gives us that hug-like feeling. Textures can come in many formats. We’re talking about the ever-popular fabric choice that we’re using. I love using natural fibers in linens, things that can be washed, and things that are functional for an everyday home but you can do something a little bit more elaborate for throw pillows.

I always like doing double-wide draperies to really help with sound and trapping in heat or cold. I’m a big, big fan of art, wallpaper, how we’re layering in those textures in our life, really create those cozy elements but then the icing on the cake is always the little things. By human nature, we’re all effectively for the most part collectors. If it’s that collection of something we’ve inherited from our family, or if we just love collecting old National Geographic, whatever it is, those collections, if you know styled in mass can really add to that coziness as well.

Erin: Yes, and you mentioned art there rather in passing but as an artist, of course, you know more than anyone just how great the energy is to bring something into your home, whether it’s a small ceramic piece or a painting, or a mosaic, whatever that has been made by someone’s two hands and has their whole self in it.

Tiffany: There’s nothing that’s more powerful than that. Erin, you are bang on. I worked with children, I’ve painted my whole life. I’ve worked with artists of all kinds. To this day, I still support the arts here in Toronto and it’s because artists are special humans that spend their days making beautiful things. When you connect to something that an artist has created in whatever format, it speaks to you on a subconscious level, and that level is very healing and it’s joy-inducing. If you can get out to a market, go to a gallery, check out whatever you can where artists are, and it doesn’t have to be big money.

I always tell people this, you know, sometimes there are artists out there that are just happy to paint and want to have their work in the world. Having those beautiful pieces of someone’s soul hanging in your wall, it really adds something that no one else’s space could have. They’re often one of a kind and it’s always got a story to tell and it’s always a wonderful thing when you have someone in the home to share that story with so I can’t speak enough about art, it is truly the best.

Erin: It’s so subjective, like the things that you’re talking about, the National Geographics that are artfully arranged or whatever else it is in your home that brings you joy.

Tiffany: Well, you know what’s interesting too, is that this also becomes subjective too is lighting because how you light the home adds to coziness too and what type of light fixtures you hang and where it distributes light is a really powerful way to create coziness, but also to really make a room feel good. I’m a big fan of lamps everywhere lighting up all four corners. Then if we’re thinking about that centerpiece in the room, we’re thinking about the earrings on a really great outfit. You’re thinking of the room as your wardrobe and then the centerpiece that’s hanging in the middle on top of your dining room is that really great pair of chandelier earrings.

How we’re choosing to assemble things and how we’re implying our own emotional juxtapositions to the things we collect in our lives, based on how we respond to them and feel about them, really makes a home your own. That’s the stuff I always tell my clients. “Stop looking at Pinterest, stop looking at magazines because you really want your home to be an expression of who you are.”

Erin: Once again, you’re talking about something that doesn’t have to cost a mint.

Tiffany: Absolutely not. I’m known for my thriftiness and it’s not because I don’t like to spend on beautiful things. It’s that there are so many important places to spend on a home and with little things that become pretty items, those don’t always have to cost a mint, and we don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful life. As a designer, you get known that if you do what I do for a living, you have to have a lot of money to work with the designer to live that lifestyle and it’s not the case.

Erin: That always shied me away from calling in a decorator. I thought that I was going to have to buy an $8,000 urn or something to put in the front hall, but you’re saying, no, not so.

Tiffany: I walk into a space and I’m letting the space tell me what it wants to be and what it wants to have within it. We are all people that can’t see the forest from the trees. We hate our own living rooms. We think everything has to go. We have a closet full of clothes and we hate everything that’s in it, but my take on design and art in life is that we need to view what we have with fresh eyes and look at what we have is more of a shape versus something that we’ve sat on for a really long time.

If it can be repainted or reupholstered, or put in a different room and maybe serve a different purpose or have a different use, you can fall back in love with these things again and that’s how effectively as a designer, you start saving money because you’re not buying as much furniture. You’re just shifting it around.

Erin: Coming up, Tiffany Pratt talks working in a circle, clutter and staging, but here’s a reminder that there’s a way to shine a spotlight on the charities and causes closest to you and that’s through two words, REALTORS Care. Those words are a national guiding principles celebrating the great charitable work done by Canada’s realtor community. You help raise awareness by sharing your story using #REALTORSCare on your favourite social media platforms.

As a stager, you probably did have a few key pieces that you absolutely loved. First of all, let me ask you this. When you worked with REALTORS, did you generally stage using the furniture and the pieces that homeowners had, or did you have a couple of go-to pieces that you always brought in, Tiffany? What was your plan or was there never a plan you just went in and intuited it?

Tiffany: Erin, this is a great question because every home was very different and I did have to intuit every space because some homes needed lots of work. Some homes just needed a little sprinkling and some homes needed an overhaul because you’re trying to build a perception of a home. When someone comes in to buy it, they need to envision themselves there.

If things had too much of a particular style, it would deter certain people of a certain other style from buying it. My job was to create a home that spoke of the homes different time frame because it’s not always going to be a new build or an old home. You have to work with what the home actually is. I would keep key pieces. I would bring in some newer ones, but I have to tell you, there was one time I walked into a home, it was an older woman that lived there. She had been living there since the ’50s. She had redone the home between 1950 and 1975 and it had never been touched again. She took such great care of all of the fixtures, furnishings and the space that it looked like you were trapped in a museum and everything was original and it was spectacular. When I was told to stage this home, I said, “I’m absolutely not touching anything.”

Erin: Wow.

Tiffany: You bring someone in and they have to appreciate everything as it is. There’s no way of changing this. Every home has a message to share. I think my job and what I’ve learned over the years as a designer, my job is to listen and then to sometimes add or strip away in order for the space to be of best use for that particular couple, person or family.

Erin: You talk about possibly stripping away and that brings us to something that, of course, Marie Kondo became such a household name of just getting rid of stuff. Does it bring you joy? Pitch it. What impact can clutter have on our mental state, in your experience, Tiffany?

Tiffany: It’s huge. People don’t realize that everything we have, everything is everything, we’re coming back to it. When we have piles of something that just accumulate in certain corners or on our dining room table, it’s holding energy in that space, it’s unattended to energy. When I go over to someone’s house, they’ve feverishly been trying to clean up all the surfaces because guests are coming over and they slam things in drawers and in cupboards, that’s not cleaning.

Cleaning is literally pulling everything out, looking at what you have, witnessing it. If it serves a purpose or not, if it adds to your life or subtracts it, and that is the process of elimination. Then when you go to move back into that space we’ve redone or move to that new home, we’re not bringing old practices of not witnessing our old habits of collecting clutter and not tending to our things. We get really mindful of what comes in and what goes out and where it goes and building homes for the things that we have, because that is effectively the foundation of good design.

Erin: Tell me about the working in a circle that you say you like to do. Explain that for us, would you, Tiffany?

Tiffany: I work both commercially and residentially. When I’m working in a space, especially high-traffic areas in larger homes or homes with families, blended families or in a café or a space that people frequent, I want to make sure that there is very intuitive pathways for anyone who’s coming into the home to do what they need to do naturally. Those pathways often when they’re feeling good, appear in circles for me. An energetic pathway that goes in circles throughout the house means that people can get out in and around any one space or piece of furniture at any time effortlessly.

When I’m thinking of feng shui, we’re thinking of building a room with furniture that isn’t in the middle of doorways, where we’re stubbing toes or walking into the corners of furniture or knocking into things because all that spoils that circular chi that I’m talking about in a room. When I’m talking to my clients about furniture placement, or where things need to go, not only does it look aesthetically pleasing, but it feels good when you’re designing in the round.

Erin: Next up, Tiffany Pratt discusses getting rid of things in a way that’s gentle to the planet and her beef with TV. Spoiler alert it hampers connection. You can stay connected through CREACafe.ca, it’s your reliable source for all things real estate, from the latest news and stats to legal matters and advocacy updates. Stay connected to the world of Canadian real estate on CREACafe.ca.

You’re talking about natural and you mentioned that word there. Let’s go to the next step of natural and talk about green or natural materials and how they can play a role in boosting our well-being.

Tiffany: Natural is not only a big thing and super hype right now, but it actually becomes something when we strip it all down that makes us feel the best because it’s always those silent killers that we’re not thinking about. Killers of energy, killers of joy when we’re smelling things that aren’t making us feel happy, or we’re in an environment that we just can’t put our finger on that one thing that’s not right. When I’m thinking of green, I’m talking about as a designer, when we strip things out, are we doing it mindfully?

Are we mindful of how we’re stripping off wallpaper, old paint, tearing things down, what’s becoming airborne? What kind of paint are we using? Ventilation open windows. I can’t say enough about the power of just opening up your front door and your back door. Any windows to get circulation. Air purifiers are just the best. I have two of them rolling in my old place all the time.

Cleaning products for that beautiful furniture we’ve painted, or we purchased. Using something without a heavy chemical so that when we’re smelling it, it’s better for ourselves and our furry friends. It’s really just endless the amount of things we can do, even just with going down to the beach or going to a weird corner store and picking up a plant. We bring that rock from the beach home, or we bring that really beautiful spider plant, put it in the corner. All of these things imbue the home with an energetic energy. It’s a grounding force that we need to bring that really makes us feel alive and at home.

Erin: It’s also taking the next step, once the renovations have been completed, working with conscious trades people, making sure where this stuff is going when it leaves your home as well.

Tiffany: This is one of my favourite topics right now, because it’s a wasteful business that I’m in and it’s really wonderful when everything just magically disappears but the question is where is it going? It needs to be a diversified waste removal service that we’re calling upon province-to-province where we’re finding out who in the most effective and conscious way can remove whatever building materials, paints, old appliances, toilets, chemicals. There’s so much that we need to think about when we’re verging and we’re cleansing our home or we’re renovating, or we’re starting a new. It’s not just a matter of stripping it down and it’s good for us and see you later old stuff.

Oftentimes I’m really mindful if I’m ripping out old cabinetry or things I know someone could use again, it may not be my taste, but certainly if I tear it apart or take it out in a great way, someone can reuse it. This is all valuable stuff for anyone out there who’s looking to make small or large changes to their home is really make sure you’re doing your homework on the final step of where the stuff is going so it’s in the right hands and we’re being kind to our planet.

Erin: Speaking of the planet, the days are getting longer, we’re getting more light and it just shows in such a concrete way how much that means to our spirit. What can we do to bring more of that energetic light to us, literally, metaphorically, once again, in our homes, Tiffany?

Tiffany: We have really tuned into the things that bring us joy and it’s not always the stuff that appears in magazines or looks a certain way, but it’s the things in our life that make us feel a certain way. If it’s a music room or if it’s getting rid of that old armchair in the corner that’s not doing anything, and applying a new surface for ourselves or our spouse or our children to create on. In the end, it’s these creative urges, these places where we can go to get lost in something that we love to do outside of television and it could be anything really, but it’s to create space for creativity, for play and for joy. 

We can turn all the lights on in the house and really inspire some play because play is what makes us feel joy and so to almost restore ourselves to our childlike center is to then create spaces that help us let that part of ourselves emerge. In the end, yes, it is darker, but when the doors are shut and you’re surrounded by colours and tidiness and beautiful sounds and beautiful light, doing the things you love, you don’t really notice what’s going on outside.

Erin: You mentioned television there and I couldn’t help but remember the podcast we did to kick off 2021 and designer Steven Sabados told us that the sales of enormous screen TVs went through the roof in 2020, because so many people were at home, safe at home, not stuck at home and of course we’re turning to their televisions for diversion or entertainment or whatever. You’re not a big fan of the elephant in the room, are you?

Tiffany: I’m not, and it’s not the best thing to confess, may I say, Erin, as a television personality, but I have to tell you as a designer that loves colour in light bright spaces, when I’m trying to accommodate the gigantic black rectangle in the room, which is the television, it is like putting a deep, dark vortex in a space. Unless I can then in turn paint something else in a nice dark shade that offsets and gives that television a buddy, I tell anyone that will listen to me in all my wild ways that, okay, I understand the need for a little entertainment and a little reason to get lost.

We all love it, but put it in a place that’s not in a central high traffic area of the home. In a basement or in a small entertainment room where you go to for a few hours and then you reemerge and get back to your life because what I find is that television becomes that life suck that takes the time away from the day where you could be going through those piles of things or repainting that chair or tuning into your joy or playing that music or doing your cross-stitch. We just go for the– it’s like the lowest hanging fruit, which is turning on that clicker, watching something that’s going to make us feel better instantly. Anyone out there that’s listening to me, I don’t hate television, but I do think it needs to be used wisely.

Erin: Can I just tell you that when we had a cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe and it was all windows, we had a cheap fabric print on a frame that I would place in front of the TV screen for most of the day until the evening so that it didn’t own the room. I took a fair bit of ribbing about that, but I totally subscribed to what you’re saying and hear where we overlook the ocean here on Vancouver Island, my fantasy is to have a TV that drops down from the ceiling — ain’t going to happen. The people upstairs, know, I’m just kidding, but I would love that idea so that it’s only there when you need it. It’d be a wonderful luxury.

Tiffany: I’m a creative person and I moved into the space I’ve been living in now. I live down by Lake Ontario here in the beach in Toronto. I love being down by the water and listening to the wave and I love the old place that I live in. When I moved in, I listened to the building and its weird old bones and I never moved the television in and I haven’t had one sense and it’s been 13 years.

Erin: Wow. There’s this woman on HGTV named Tiffany Pratt. She’s really good. You should look for her.

Good, we can see you online.

Tiffany: Well, at least you know I don’t watch myself on TV.

Erin: Yes, okay. I believe you. We’re back to Tiffany in a moment. Flow, function at building a beautiful life piece by piece that’s yours alone. If you’re enjoying this episode, please be sure to subscribe to our channels on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher to stay up-to-date on future guests and stories. 

Once again, here’s Tiffany Pratt on REAL TIME. You’re in the beaches in Toronto, I’m on Vancouver Island. You have toured Canada numerous times. Is there a thread that you have been able to sow this great land together in terms of our design desires, if you will?

Tiffany: I think when I have done the home show tour, the multiple times that I have, I’ve been so lucky to speak province-to-province, person-to-person, and really discover what’s out there. What kind of homes people are living in, what kind of circumstances they’re living in, what snack bracket they live under with finances and it doesn’t matter where you live, how old you are, what your style is, what your capabilities are with DIY, how much money you make. Anybody can transform anything in their life with paint.

I really believe that there needs to be sustainable, easy, accessible ways for all of us to access a beautiful life and when we can do something so easy as painting something, our walls, our doors, our furniture, our floors, our ceilings, anything really with our own two hands. We’re imbuing that with our love, we’re taking time to do it, and we’re really transforming the space or the object and it makes us feel good. No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what space you live in there is really no end to the message I can share of the power of paint. The power of paint is truly endless.

Erin: I love that message and it doesn’t have to be expensive and if you don’t like the colour, you paint over it, nothing is permanent and it really does speak to the title of your book. This Can Be Beautiful, which really, Tiffany, needs to be re-upped because this message is more timely than ever and you share projects to help beautify your home, wardrobe, beauty routine, travel style, and more, how does it relate to our homes?

Tiffany: Why I wrote This Can Be Beautiful is because it was my love note to the world to say that anything that you can truly look at, touch, see, that you’ve collected in your life, this table, this light, this dress, this toilet paper, roll this newspaper, truly anything can be beautiful. If we re-imagine it and look at it, we have it all. We are a culture that thinks that we need to constantly buy and accumulate and everything we need is external and it’s not internal and the book is a call to action to basically say you have everything you need and stop looking at things for what they are and look at them for what they can be.

This Can Be Beautiful, was created as a lifestyle book, not just for the kids and for the crafters at heart, but for the everyday person, to understand that through the use of their own two hands, they can build a beautiful life piece by piece. When we create, we use our own two hands, we use what we’ve got. We’re not only saving money, we’re being imaginative. We’re accessing our creative spirit, but we’re also building a life that looks like only ours and no one else’s, and that is a true gift in this world. I’ve always felt that you didn’t need a lot of money to have a beautiful life and this book is an invitation to do that and to really appreciate what you have, and to celebrate it by making it better.

Erin: How important are things like flow and function now that our homes have just become everything is everything to quote you, they are all things to all people?

Tiffany: Homes have always needed to be hard-working, but never as hard-working as they need to be now. Space is truly at a minimum for a lot of families that are homeschooling or have ailing parents moving in or, you’re downsizing, whatever it is, everyone has found themselves in a new circumstance. With new circumstances, comes great change. One of the greatest tips of advice I’ve ever shared with anyone that’s looking for a way to accommodate more activity within one space is to take everything out of that room and look at it in a new way without everything you used to have and do in that room. Because when you strip it out, and you think, “Okay, I need a space for my children. I need a space for my parents. I need a space for me, I have to put a desk here.” You start to look at fun malleable ways to work four walls. 

That’s what I’m recommending to anyone out there right now is that it doesn’t all have to happen on the dining room table. That’s what everyone’s doing. Now the dining room has been taken and forsaken for all of these secondary purposes. I say, gone with the formal living room, gone with the formal anything, let’s have fun in our space and have the space work with us and not against us. It’s time to get rid of that old lumpy couch, bring in the fun big work table, bringing the ping pong table, whatever it’s got to be, and make the family feel like they fit.

Erin: One of my favourite things, I never did bring it into our lives, although my husband would have loved it is the pool table that converts into a dining room table. Talk about form, function and fun. Oh my gosh, what a great idea.

Tiffany: Why not? This is what I’m sick of seeing everything be so status quo, and to the letter and by the book and things we see because in the end, we’re all very different people. We all see this world very differently. Why should our homes all look the same?

Erin: Yes, why is all the fun stuff stuck in the basement?

Tiffany: Yes, I don’t understand it. I think the whole home should be fun and a reflection of the people within it. There are so many incredible, weird, wonderful things that each person in a home can bring to the table and bring to the overall design. Let’s celebrate the weird climbing equipment. Let’s stack up the weird collectible junk items that your wife loves. Let’s really celebrate the things that we love instead of tucking them away or throwing them in a garage. This is the thing about design, it’s not about having to go out and get high style stuff. It’s about looking at everything we do in our life as art.

Erin: Yes, and as you’ve said, instead of how things look more about how things feel. I also love that while you’re trying to stay within a budget too, customizing for a hard-working organizational investment, like Murphy Beds and that sort of thing too. You’re all in favor of that.

Tiffany: Yes, if I’m going to spend on anything, it’s always going to be on custom storage, cabinetry, anything that gives me more floor space. If I can have a hard working built in that has a flipped down top that becomes a desk or has a flip down screen that conceals a television, that also has another little spot that a bed pops out of I’m all about it even in a large space, because effectively floorspace is what we all need to play, to move effortlessly through our homes and to really make the space work for us. Anyone out there that’s looking for a place to spend, I can’t say enough, find a beautiful tradesman or a custom cabinetry person, and really see what you can do by putting really effective properly designed for what you have built-ins in the home.

Erin: You don’t have to have an entire meditation room or I remember the story of the billionaire’s wife in Los Angeles, Candy Spelling, who had her own wrapping paper room. That was just the ultimate, you can have your pocket, you can have your little place that is special to you. Even if it is just a tiny altar and a candle and a pillow for meditation and that sort of thing, right?

Tiffany: Yes, I think sometimes we stop doing the things that are good for us because we’ve built it in her head to be too complicated. If we don’t carve this Zen retreat for ourselves in some beautiful corner with crystals and incense burning, we’re not going to be able to meditate because we don’t have our special meditation corner. Or if we don’t have this perfect art room or this perfect music room or sports space. I often think the greatest things, the biggest a-has, our most wonderful moments of Zen occur in our everyday lives where we can access it at any time without anything fancy because that’s how we live. We’re not always going to be home, sitting on that meditation pillow.

If you find a spot on your sofa, by your dining room table, you don’t need the crystals, you just need a moment to yourself. That’s where when we can organize our homes and give everyone a space where they feel represented. They can be busy and we can have our moment to ourselves, just to close our eyes for 10 minutes and take a deep breath and listen to the thoughts that are running through our minds and find some peace. I’m all for creating beautiful nooks in the home but don’t let it stop you from having the thing you want to have. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be accessible.

Erin: I love this time that we’ve spent together today, Tiffany, and I know that everybody listening to this podcast has as well. There’s so many takeaways and the thing that resonated most clearly with me was clearing everything out and taking a look at the space. The status quo doesn’t have to be and if this is a year of change and growth, then it starts with us and it starts in our homes. I just love that.

Tiffany: Well, we have a lot, we can shop in our homes and put things in new places. We don’t have to go out there, we all have so much. I implore anybody out there just to celebrate what we have, be grateful for what we have, look at our four walls as brand new space and try to bring in the fun.

Erin: Yes, is that how you’re hoping to define 2021?

Tiffany: 2021, for me is going to– I’m all about the fun and the colour always because I think that’s always a personal mission for me is to always try to find the joy and the fun and what I’m doing, because I’m a human just like everybody else, trying to dig for the things that I love. This year is about inside out. I think it’s about feeling, less about what things look like more about what things feel like, vulnerability, being completely transparent, communication, treating others the way that we want to be treated. All of that really makes a life. Outside of the beautiful trimmings to our home, it’s the people around us in our homes outside of our homes that we are subject to, and we want to be as good as we can to our fellow man and to ourselves. That’s what this year is all about for me is to be as good to myself and others as I can.

Erin: Thank you for making our lives a little more colourful, certainly more joyful, so much to think about. I look forward to checking out your podcast The Love Jam, too.

Tiffany: Thank you, Erin.

Erin: My pleasure. Our pleasure. Thank you so much, Tiffany, for being with us here today.

Tiffany: An absolute treasure and a pleasure for me. I was so excited to be on this podcast and speak with you today. You are such a joy. Thank you again for having me on. I hope we can do it again.

Erin: Me too. Thank you to Tiffany at tiffanypratt.com for the great conversation and just adding a splash of pink to our podcast. 

Don’t miss Episode 14 when our guest will be realtor and TV host of Buy Herself and Property Virgins, Sandra Rinomato. She’s going to be great. Meantime, for more realtor resources, be sure to visit CREA.ca. This podcast is produced by Rob Whitehead for Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Talk to you next time on REAL TIME.

Episode 12: Dr. Hadiya Roderique – Working While Black: A Conversation About Race in the Workplace

Erin Davis: Welcome to Episode 12 of REAL TIME, a podcast for and about REALTORS®, and a presentation of the Canadian Real Estate Association. We are all about ideas surrounding topics that impact you as a REALTOR®, and really all of us. I’m your host Erin Davis, and today we’re discussing working while Black, a conversation about race in Canada that hits home and homes in far more ways than one.

No one should be demeaned or disadvantaged because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other particular characteristics of their identity. However, acknowledging a problem and resolving a problem are two completely different things. In this episode of REAL TIME, we’re opening up a much-needed conversation around confronting and addressing bias in our day to day lives, and we’re analyzing opportunities for improvement that exists for REALTORS®, leadership, and beyond. You’ll hear from three of your fellow CREA members sharing their experiences. In one case, one guest discloses something he’s never talked about publicly before. I promise you’ll be glad you listened today.

We begin with Dr. Hadiya Roderique. She is a lawyer, researcher, broadcast commentator, and an award-winning writer. She’s best known for her Globe and Mail piece Black on Bay Street, which outlined her experiences as a young Black woman working in a Bay Street law firm. She also has bylines in the Walrus, the National Post, Chatelaine, and Maclean’s. Dr. Roderique has a PhD in organizational behaviour from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. She also has an MA in criminology and a JD from the U of T. She’s a passionate advocate for representation and inclusion in the workplace, and she joins us today on REAL TIME. Dr. Roderique, welcome. It’s lovely to have you with us here today.

Dr. Hadiya Roderique: Thank you for having me, a pleasure to be here with the Erin Davis.

Erin: With the Dr. Hadiya Roderique, come on. Your essay, Black on Bay Street went viral in 2017. I’d urge anybody who’s listening who hasn’t read it yet to look it up. It was shining a light on the challenging experience of a Black woman working in a traditionally white male-dominated industry. Can you describe that experience and tell us why you chose to write about it?

Dr. Roderique: Initially, I never meant to write about myself. The piece was really supposed to just be about the Bay Street hiring process, which I frankly thought was quite ridiculous. My interviews for Swiss Chalet when I was 17 were harder than many of my Bay Street interviews. At Swiss Chalet, they asked me questions about math, and where I wanted to be five years from now, and what school I was planning on going to because they want to know if I’d be a long-term employee.

In one of my Bay Street interviews, we talked about Manolo Blahnik’s and hockey for 20 minutes, and then I got a call-back. I really didn’t understand how most of what I was asked would tell them what kind of student I was, what kind of person I was, and what kind of lawyer I’d be. I really sat down to write this more academic examination of the way that the Bay Street hiring process took place, but then when I sat down to write, it’s like a different story poured out of my fingertips, and it turned out to be the story of my experiences.

I was one of only five Black law students in my class of about 200. I was, when I joined the firm, one of two Black female lawyers, and when I left the firm, I was the only Black female lawyer. My firm had five Black lawyers, which to my knowledge, was the most of any firm on Bay Street. We were doing well, but I was still so alone.

Erin: How did this blow up the way that it did? Obviously, it was a message that resonated and needed to be heard, needed to be told, but tell us how it affected you and your life after this just caught fire.

Dr. Roderique: To be frank, came out on a Saturday, and I thought that everybody would forget about it by Monday. The news cycle is pretty quick. Things turn over. I was actually writing another piece for the National Post and doing a social media cleanse. I logged into Twitter and tweeted, “I wrote a thing,” and put a link to the piece, and then put my phone aside. Then about an hour later my phone just basically started vibrating. I think I was getting a new Twitter follower every minute. My piece was getting shared. It was going viral.

I think in the first week, it was shared on Facebook 13,000 times. There is a video that accompanied the peace that the Globe recorded, and that was watched, I believe, 250,000 times in the first week. I did not expect any of this. I didn’t think I was saying anything that was news to anybody. I didn’t think that people didn’t realize that it was harder for someone whose gender and race doesn’t match up with what we expect of a Bay Street lawyer, that that experience would be more difficult. It really shocked me that this was something that resonated with so many people.

It wasn’t just other people of colour. I got a lot of messages, and I still get messages from people who’ve read the piece, but I got messages from white men who didn’t feel like they belonged, who didn’t feel like they could belong into this boys’ club mentality, who felt they were a bit different. It was just really interesting to me how many different people were able to see themselves in my story, because I think, ultimately, it was just really a story about not belonging. I don’t think that there’s anybody who hasn’t at some point in their life felt like they didn’t belong.

Erin: Now, February, of course, is Black History Month in Canada, and most or many Canadians would be proud to say, “We’re not racist,” but you’ve noted how even well-meaning people often unconsciously perpetuate bias and racism in the workplace and other interpersonal settings. How would you define, Dr. Roderique, unconscious bias, and how we can recognize it in our own lives?

Dr. Roderique: I would define it as social stereotypes and patterns and thought processes that guide our decisions without us realizing it. I think a lot of people associate racism with there’s capital R racism and then there’s not being a racist. They associate capital R racism with hoods and people using slurs and violence, and you’re either that or you’re not racist, especially in Canada. We compare ourselves to the States a lot in this idea of Canadian exceptionalism.

People fail to recognize that there’s a lot of gray. It isn’t just Black or White, racist or not. There’s a lot of different actions and different things you can do that you might not realize are enacting on these prejudices or stereotypes that you hold. It’s not that you’re someone reviewing resumes, and you’re like, “Black resume, no, no, no, no,” but it’s the fact that maybe you didn’t notice that you were a harsher judge of their education or experience without realizing where that judgment was coming from, or you see a particular type of experience and you assume X about it, when you assume Y when it’s a White person having that same kind of experience.

A lot of people who are hiring are trained in diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias, yet when we send out resumes with Black and White names, or we send out resumes where people have whitened the experience of the Black people, and the whitened resumes or the White resumes get 50% more callbacks or two and a half times more callbacks, that has to be explained by something. The only explanation can be racism and bias, if everything else on those resumes is identical.

One of the first studies sent out, I think, 2500 resumes with Black and White names, and the White names got 50% more callbacks. The experimenters wanted to know, what would it take for the Black person to get the same callback rate as that White individual? They had to add eight years of experience to Jamal’s resume for Jamal to get the same callback rate as Greg. That has to come from somewhere.

Erin: Wow. That’s startling when you hear it in empirical terms like that, laid down as data and not just feelings or conjecture. That is astounding. You yourself walked this path as you lay out in Black on Bay Street, where your father and mother, Joseph and Judith, and you could have been, Jody.

Dr. Roderique: Yes, Joe and Judy, making Jody.

Erin: Yes. They chose Hadiya, which means, the gift. It’s beautiful. Do you think that Jody would have gotten more callbacks than Hadiya did, looking at that data?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, I do think so. When I applied for my last round of jobs, I did not use Hadiya, I used HJ Roderique. I did that for a reason. Because I knew it would be more likely to get my foot in the door, to get my resume at least to the interview stage. They’re going to know I’m Black the minute I show up, but at least I want to get there and have the chance to prove my worth in person.

Erin: That’s stunning to me, because you laid this bare in this essay, and yet you’re still in this position where you’re hiding who you are until you can reveal, the gift, when you walk through the door.

Dr. Roderique: Yes.

Erin: Astounding. We’re going to hear a few stories a little later in this podcast from the people themselves. CREA members who are Black have shared stories about being followed around a house showing by a White seller, not having their offers accepted almost certainly, just because they’re Black. Can you talk about the opportunity gap faced by Black professionals?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, I’d say it generally stems from a failure to receive the resources and exposure that professionals need to be successful. Generally, not getting the same chances and not same opportunities, not getting the same benefit of the doubt as others get. That means you have to work so much harder to achieve the same level of success. Some researchers call this the prove it again bias. It’s where groups that are stereotyped as less competent, so women, people of colour, et cetera, may have to prove themselves over and over and over before they’re given the same opportunity that someone is just given from the jump. Thinking about, oh, he’ll crush it, versus, she’s not ready, I need to see her do X, Y, and Z first, whereas not having that same requirement or expectation of the other individual.

I heard Trevor Noah say this quite well. He was talking specifically about anti-Black racism. He said, “Black people are not asking you, asking companies to hire them because they are Black, they are asking you to stop not hiring them because they are Black.” I think that’s one of the crucial differences that people don’t seem to get. They think that Black people are asking for special opportunities. No, we’re just asking for the same opportunities that you already enjoy.

Erin: Is it doubled when you’re a woman?

Dr. Roderique: Yes. The intersectionality of race and gender or anything else, disability, et cetera, will definitely play a role. There’s research that shows that Black men and White women may have more similar experiences than Black men and Black women. Certainly, the maleness insulates Black men from some effects or gives them access to certain spaces that Black women wouldn’t have the same access to.

Erin: Conformity and belonging are at the root of your experience as a Black woman working in law, did the pressure to conform to a White male workplace culture negatively affect you professionally or personally?

Dr. Roderique: I certainly understood that I had to conform socially. I knew not to talk about the fact that my dad was a cab driver, but instead to talk about the fact that he had an engineering degree. I knew to talk about, Glenfiddich and my travel to Japan, or wherever I had gone and not, roti and park barbecues. There’s this expectation of conformity to this upper-middle-class standard. I think in the past a lot of companies wanted basically people of colour who were like White people, who came from the upper-middle class, spoke that language.

I was lucky that despite growing up in a lower SES category that I had a university-educated father, stressed the importance of being well-rounded. I had arts and music in my life, despite the fact that my dad didn’t buy a new coat for six years, but he made sure that he could pay for those lessons for us. I did dance lessons, I did gymnastics, I had movement classes when I was four, I had art classes when I was four. I grew up knowing how to speak the language. I think that made it easier for me to enter these spaces.

I did know that no matter what I would physically stand out, so I actually didn’t tone down my dress or my hair, I wore an afro for my interviews. I often wore an afro to work, I changed my hairstyle a lot. I rarely wore a suit because I hated suit jackets, I wore a lot of dresses, and I wore bright colours. I just figured I was already going to stand out in the room so I might as well dress the way I wanted to. That’s something I think I’ve carried forward, even more, I think now I have the benefit of hindsight and more years of experience and I’m going to be my best when I can be myself and being myself means usually big hair and big earrings and bright colours.

Erin: Phenomenal woman. It reminds me of the piece by Maya Angelou.

Dr. Roderique: I’m going to be phenomenally me.

Erin: Absolutely. You’ve also written about the burden of being first at work, the first Black woman to potentially be made partner, for example. This is something that we as a society celebrate, oh, look at this, she’s the first this this, this and this, as we did with the inauguration last month of Vice President Kamala Harris, but you say that it can be very isolating. Why is that?

Dr. Roderique: Well, I think, first of all, it’s great to celebrate the first, it’s great to celebrate someone who has done something that no one else has done. As soon as that celebration is over, we have to think about, how do we make sure that they stay and how do we make sure they’re not the only one? It can be isolating because there’s no one to look up to. There’s no one else that’s blazed that path, there’s no role model, there’s no one to go to bounce your experiences off of.

Often, you’re the most senior person that looks like you at the organization, you’re the one that’s expected to advise downwards, and there’s no one for you to go to often in your own workplace. You might be able to find those mentor or sponsorship opportunities elsewhere but there’s no one in your workplace who really gets what you’re going through. I think that can be pretty hard, and pretty isolating.

I know, I was choosing between two organizations recently. One didn’t have any Black people in their Canadian office, and the other did. The other put me in touch with other Black professionals, put me in touch with a senior leader in the organization who was Black. That was really meaningful to me. It was a huge part of my decision to choose that workplace over the other. It’s so much easier when you can join and look up and see someone who looks like you and know that someone who looks like you can do this.

Erin: Is it exhausting to even contemplate being the first Black woman in that first firm that you decided not to go with? It’s like, “Oh, do I have to kick this door open too?”

Dr. Roderique: I just knew it would be harder, it would be harder without that immediate support group. Having support, I think, is really crucially important. If I’m given the choice between two very excellent workplaces, but one has a more robust Black support network or a larger Black population, all things being equal, that’s where I’m going to go.

Erin: Oh, the place that she’s gone and is going, facing the phenomenon of the glass cliff, owning our unconscious bias and more with Dr. Roderique in a moment. 

Celebrate one year of REAL TIME by revisiting some of our most popular podcast episodes from season one, including our in-depth review of COVID-19’s effect on Canadians, REALTOR® and the industry. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Stitcher, or visit crea.ca/podcast for more details. 

Now, back to Dr. Roderique, speaker, writer, consultant, EDI Researcher, and our REAL TIME guest today.

You reference something called the glass cliff. Can you explain that to us, please?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, so the glass cliff is a phenomenon where you might have a company that’s struggling or is in a more risky position and that’s when the company will give a woman or a person of colour the leadership opportunity. I think about like Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, for example. They’re in this sink or swim environment, they’re given a very challenging situation and if they don’t succeed the company will be like, “Well, look, we tried, we tried a woman, we tried a person colour and it didn’t work.” Then so they can pivot back to hiring White men for that CEO position.

Sometimes it’s a position where you can’t convince a White man to come in and take it because it’s tenuous, or it’s going to be very difficult. That’s when you give the opportunity to the woman or to the person of colour, and they’re already dealing with a more challenging situation than anybody else would be dealing with. That’s the phenomenon of the glass cliff.

Erin: I keep thinking about the saying that I always went through my mind in a career in a male-dominated field. Of course, I don’t have the perspective or the experiences that you do, Dr. Roderique, but it is the old saying that Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in high heels. You’ve just added the element, yes and by the way to make sure that the dance floor is spinning at the same time.

Dr. Roderique: Only spending for Ginger and not spinning for-

Erin: Not spinning for Fred.

Dr. Roderique: Fred, yes.

Erin: That’s right. Dr. Roderique, how does unconscious bias affect our actions and decision making, for example, as a hiring manager or colleague? We’ve talked about the names and Jamal versus Greg, and which resumes get looked at, and which ones are considered, how does that unconscious bias affect our actions and decision making?

Dr. Roderique: What I want those populations to think about is changing processes that people can’t be biased within them. I don’t think three one-hour sessions of unconscious bias training is going to do much to solve our problems about racism. What you want to do is have a system so that someone cannot enact their racist ideals or thoughts within that system. Things like work allocation, what’s your work allocation process? How do managers give out work? Because often the kind and caliber of projects that you do are what sets you up for success and sets you up for ascension and promotion. If certain people are getting all of the good files, or in the past, as they were called the blue files and the pink files, the men got the blue files, the women got the administrative pink files, what are your Brown files and your White files? Thinking about that and thinking about ways you can change your processes to interrupt bias.

With resumes, making sure that you set out the screening criteria before people review resumes, and don’t just leave it up to their whim and their presumed good judgment. What qualities are you actually looking for? What are the metrics of these qualities? What are the different ways in which these qualities can show up? Do you have a rubric? Do you have a metric, something that people can actually use so they don’t lapse into biased patterns of thinking?

Same thing with work allocation, do you have a formal work allocation process? I remember speaking to one lawyer when he was saying, “I gave someone a piece of work, and I want to go back and give that person more work. They did a good job, why do I have to spread the wealth in a sense?” I said, “Well, first of all, what if that person leaves tomorrow, and you’ve only trained him and you haven’t given that same consideration to other people? That’s going to leave you in the lurch. You’re thinking short term, instead of thinking long term.” Then I asked him, “What made you go to him in the first place?” He couldn’t answer the question. Or maybe he didn’t want to answer the question.

But it’s, who do you think of first? Why are you thinking of them first? Why do you go to that person? It’s usually because there’s some similarity or something drawing you towards that person. Oh, they’re kind of like me, I was good, therefore they’ll be good and not discounting someone else’s potential or experience. Just making sure that you’re giving everybody the same opportunity to succeed, and different people will run with that opportunity in different ways, but if people are starting out from different starting points and not getting the same chances, of course you’re going to have different results at the end.

Erin: What advice would you give to Black, Indigenous, and people of colour who may be struggling professionally, or just feeling worn down by the bias and racism that they face?

Dr. Roderique: Have a support network. I have a Black woman’s book club where we read work by Black authors, and most of the time we don’t talk about the book. We just talk about work and we gripe about work. We talk about our experiences, our lived experiences as Black women in the world. I always leave those feeling heard and refreshed, and really grateful for that group of women.

Document everything, cover your butt. If someone gives you instructions, verbally, get back to your office write a confirmatory email saying, as I understand it you want me to do A, B, C, and D, but not E, so that later when E doesn’t get done and they actually wanted E to get done they can’t throw you under the bus. Documenting everything, just knowing that people will have it out for you more than they will have it out for others, and so you have to cover yourself, make sure that you’ve dotted your Is and cross your Ts.

Take notes. If you have a negative experience, go back to your office, send an email to yourself. You have a date-stamped receipt of your immediate recollections of what happened, because then, if 5, 6, 7 more incidents happen, and if there’s a harassment case or there’s an investigation when they’re asking about what happened you’re like, well, here are my immediate notes from the situation versus this person’s sketchy recall six months later. Just making sure that you’re protecting yourself in case something goes wrong. Hopefully you would never have to use any of those things but I’m a realist and so for me, those are the kinds of records that I would keep.

Erin: Have you had to use them?

Dr. Roderique: I actually have been working for myself for the past little while, so haven’t had to keep any records because it’s just me. I’m not going to tell on myself. Going forward that’s something that I would take with me.

Erin: I do love the idea of your quasi-book club because 25 years ago I wanted to start up a group called Broads in Broadcasting, something like that, just because I did feel so alone. As soon as you start talking with somebody, you know that they’ve got the same problems that you do, and it can only help to discuss, okay, well then what did you do?

Because there are so many restrictions and parameters and stuff that if you can just find a way that someone else saw that perhaps that you don’t, it can be invaluable. Sometimes just having that safe place to be vulnerable, to not have to be standing up and be the only and get worried about getting shoved off the glass cliff and all of that. It must be a tremendous sense or it is a tremendous sense of relief.

Dr. Roderique: Yes, I think too it can be really hard to express weakness or to express that you’re having trouble or challenges in the workplace because you’re worried that that will be held against you because sometimes it feels like they’re just waiting for you to mess up and expecting you to mess up and you don’t want them to be right. Having a place where you can go and be honest and talk through the challenges you’re experiencing, I think, is really important.

Erin: Coming up, we’re going to hear from three of your fellow REALTORS® about their experiences with racism, and Dr. Roderique has her three kinds of racism. That’s on the way. There is a place to discuss what you’re going through, tap into the knowledge and experiences of REALTORS® across Canada sharing your own lessons and insights by visiting REALTORS’ Quarter on CREA Cafe, a hub of content created by REALTORS® for REALTORS®. Back to Dr. Hadiya Roderique, who tells us that there are three kinds of racism.

Dr. Roderique: You can be actively racist, bad, passively racist, also bad, or you can be actively anti-racist, good. You cannot be passively anti-racist because the current system is biased and racist and so to do nothing, to be passive is to allow that current to continue. You have to be pushing back against that current to be anti-racist. I know there are some educators who put the four categories on the board and everything that people try and put in the passive anti-racist box, they’re like, no, that actually belongs there, that belongs there. There’s really nothing that fits in the passive anti-racism box.

You have to be taking action, you have to be doing something. It doesn’t have to be huge. Maybe, you notice that the curriculum of your kid’s eighth grade English class has no authors of colour on it. You’re a White mother, you’re a White father, you write to the teacher, you write to the school board asking for there to be more representation. As a White person who’s seen as not having anything invested in that you will be taken more seriously than if I write it and make that same request.

What are the small things you can do? Have you noticed that the parent groups seem to be excluding certain parents? Or some people are not getting invited to playdates? Have you noticed that your colleague isn’t getting the same opportunities that you are or when they try and talk in a meeting they’re being talked over? You can be like, “Hey, I think Anna was trying to say that.” Or if you notice that someone has sort of stolen someone else’s idea and getting credit for it and be like, “Oh, that sounds a lot like what Kamala was saying.

Do you want to repeat that? Let us know your thoughts again, maybe people didn’t hear,” and so calling attention, using your privilege for good. It can be a force for good, you just have to wield it in the right way.

Erin: My mind is blowing up right now with ideas because of what women have gotten to now in this position 20 to 30 years later. Okay, we’ve had that struggle, we’re up that ladder. Now reach down and pull somebody else up, because it’s not over for everybody.

Dr. Roderique: Yes, so much of the advances we’ve had for women in the workplace have really been advances on the part of White women, intersectionality piece has been lacking. We need to make sure when we’re talking about feminism, that our feminism includes all women and not just upper middle class White women. Think about, does your feminism include women who don’t look like you, women who inhabit a different socio-economic class than you?

Erin: Good question. Dr. Roderique, what steps can White allies take to genuinely support their Black and racialized colleagues, clients, and friends?

Dr. Roderique: I think one thing is to do your own research work in education. You don’t need to go up to your Black friend and ask them to explain microaggressions to you, you have fingertips and probably four different devices that connect to the internet, you can Google. You can Google basic terms, you can read books to get more familiar with the language, so making sure that you are up to date on your vernacular.

Then the second thing is to recognize how much power there is in your silence and in your action. The power in your silence is negative. When you see something happening and you say nothing, it comes across as tacit endorsement of what is happening. If someone says to me, do the carpet match the drapes, which is an actual thing that someone has said to me in the workplace, and you say nothing, you are approving that behaviour.

You are saying, yes, that is an acceptable thing that should be said and that is an acceptable thing that can be said to you.

I remember, I had one experience with a lawyer where the client pointed at me and said, “Where they’re mostly black,” and just stood there pointing at me and it was super awkward. People do dumb things all the time, but the thing that was actually the most hurtful was that she never said anything about it, that she pretended like it didn’t happen. It made me learn what my value was to her. It can be most hurtful when it’s the people you respect, when it’s your friends who stand by and say nothing.

I know a lot of people worry about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing but I promise you that doing anything is literally better than doing nothing. Even if you mess it up a bit you’ll learn, you’ll grow, the person will know that you supported them. Even though it was imperfect, that you recognize that what was happening was not okay, and you took action against it.

It shouldn’t always be on the person who’s insulted to have to be the one that stands up because if I do I’m seen as the angry Black woman or being too sensitive, or it’s going to affect my career and my prospect and I want to see White people putting themselves on the line, sticking their neck out and telling that person, yo, that’s not okay. Knowing that that person might be upset at them for calling them out on the thing they shouldn’t be doing but that’s okay, and that you’re more afraid of your Black colleague or friend being harmed and hurt than you are of saying the wrong thing or not saying it perfectly, because that’s what you should really fear. You should fear the racism, not standing up to the racism.

Erin: Does it behoove the people who have more power to have louder voices in this because I know if I was lower in the company, and I heard someone say something to you, I’d look around the room and go, okay, before I stand up for my friend, Hadiya, is this going to be a career limiting move for me?

Dr. Roderique: If you think that’s going to be a career limiting move for you I think you’re in the wrong organization. You want to be in an organization where there are consequences for bad behaviour and good consequences for good behaviour. If you feel like speaking up against injustice is going to get you in trouble at work, do you really want to work there? I know I would not want to work there. I would not want to grace that place with my presence.

You have to be part of changing the culture. If you want that kind of speech or actions to be unacceptable, you have to be one of the people saying it’s unacceptable. It’s not my ancestors who dehumanized Black people, it’s not my ancestors who kept them enslaved, and so it’s not supposed to be my job to undo racism. I didn’t make racism. My people didn’t make racism, all we did was exist and try and survive and try to live. It’s the people who are part of the system, who perpetuate the system, who continue the system, it’s their job to undo that. Yes it’s hard and yes it’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s going to help us all.

You think about rising tide lifts all ships, so why are we satisfied with a world where mediocre men get positions and power above other people that deserve it more? We have accepted mediocrity for a very long time, and I think it’s time for us to stop accepting mediocrity for us to give people opportunity, and to let people actually be the best that they can be. Therefore, then give positions and give those rewards to the people who truly deserve it.

All people of colour want is an actual meritocracy, but for you to believe that what we have now is a meritocracy, that would mean that you believe, for example, that intelligence is unequally distributed by race and by gender. I went to law school I can tell you that that is not true. Women get into university more than men. Right now, for them to keep university classes more gender balanced because they’re not, I think right now it’s about 57% women and 43% men in university because women actually do better in school.

They are more likely to be on the Dean’s list and so for you to go from that, to having 10% women partners, and for you to think that that’s okay and that actually represents the best of talent, that you think that somehow men get this magical injection of legal talent right after they graduate from law school that they just didn’t hold before. They didn’t have it in university. They didn’t have it in high school, but somehow it just magically appears. Do I have a timeshare in Florida to tell you about?

Erin: Tell us how professionals like real estate brokers and REALTORS® can encourage a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture in a real way Dr. Roderique?

Dr. Roderique: You can demand actions that don’t seem like they benefit you. If you’re a White broker pushing for a BIPOC, so a Black, Indigenous, People of Colour internship program, you’re not seen as having skin in the game or looking out for your own, you’re just saying, this is a thing that will benefit us all and I as a White person support this. I think also not tolerating intolerance and having actual consequences for negative behaviour.

The person who’s harmed should after be the one that’s supported, be the one that’s given opportunities, not the person that has harmed. But so often we see people who do bad things still getting rewards and still failing upwards. It’s how we got Harvey Weinstein. It’s how you get all of the men who, comes out, that they’ve repeatedly harassed women in the workplace, and yet have still been allowed to move up and move up and gain more and more power. Why is the consequence of bad behaviour rewards?

Erin: Because whistleblowers are not seen as team players, right?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, which you think about the police as well. They say it’s one bad apple but usually it’s actually more a lot of bad apples and one good apple, and then the gang up on the good apple, and then the good apple has to leave the force and is harassed by the police for the rest of their life. Making sure that if you have bad apples, you actually get rid of them. Or you put pressure on them to change into good apples, and not tolerate the bad apples.

What that is actually saying is that you do not believe in your HR department’s ability to get someone who can do the job without being a jerk. I’d like to think you trust your HR and hiring committees much more than that, and know that you don’t have to keep someone who is toxic around. Often we keep these person because maybe they sell 10% more than the other person, but we are forgetting about the negative impact that they have on everybody else around them. If they’re making everybody else around them sell 5% less, they’re a net negative on the organization and so, why are we keeping them? I think actual consequences for behaviour, not tolerating intolerance, and then making sure when you see something you say something and you do something.

Erin: Listening to the people who have left, why did they leave?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, exit interviews, very important.

Erin: You’ve also talked about giving equal opportunities to succeed and often they only get a break when they’ve repeatedly proved themselves, as well as revamping the hiring processes.

Dr. Roderique: Not just hiring. I think a lot of people think that if they hire a diverse slate then they can wipe their hands and have done their job, but if you hire people only for them to all leave six months after because the workplace culture is toxic, that’s not really doing much good. You can’t hire people into a place that is harmful or unsafe for them. So, making sure not only that you’re working on hiring, but you’re working on retention.

Erin: As we wrap up our conversation with Dr. Hadiya Roderique next, on our way to hearing from CREA members who faced racism themselves, here’s a reminder, REALTORS® Care is a national guiding principles celebrating the great charitable work done by the Canadian REALTOR® community. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to you by sharing your story using #REALTORSCare on your favourite social media platform.

In the three to four years since you wrote Black on Bay Street and it was published in the Globe and Mail, have you observed any significant movement on the issue of bias and racism in the workplace since then, any signs of hope that we’re headed in the right direction?

Dr. Roderique: Yes, I think some people have made some changes to their hiring processes. I know some firms have implemented some unique programs that give young BIPOC individuals opportunities to work the firm when they’re more junior in their tenure. I think that there’s the Black North Initiatives where now a lot of people are signing on to that and there’s targets associated with that. I think we’re seeing some changes. I think some people who are doing good work just aren’t blasting out on social media or using it for publicity or credit. They’re just doing good work behind the scenes. I think sometimes there’s an unwillingness to share best practices or put it out there, but I think we have to recognize that we’re all in this together, and we want everybody to be using these good practices. We don’t want anybody to be treated badly, even if they’re not at our organization.

I think there’s more of a culture of sharing and collaboration on EDI initiatives, which I am encouraged by, but what I don’t want to see is just performative action on Twitter or social media posts and then no action.

I know that there was something- there was a blow-up with Glossier, which is a makeup company, and there was a statement posted, but there hasn’t been any clarity on follow-up for whatnot, making sure that if you’re putting commitments out there, that you’re following up on those commitments and publicizing your action as well as your commitment to action. I think I want to see, and hopefully, we are seeing, some senior leadership EDI positions that have real teeth and have the ability to really implement change in an organization.

Erin: Black Lives Matter was huge in 2020. It really, truly came to the fore, and, of course, in Canada, many, many people were made aware of this movement that wasn’t just something fringe or only something that happened in the United States. What is your hope for the future and what is your take on the state of equality for Black people in Canada now?

Dr. Roderique: We still have a ways to go. I think we like to think we’re very different from the US, but the way that we treat Black people, the way that we treat indigenous people is very similar. We had slavery in Canada. There’s a lot of people who don’t know that. We had slaves in Canada. It’s just that our temperature wasn’t as warm. There weren’t as many people out in fields, but we had slaves doing things in Canada.

Robyn Maynard’s, Policing Black Lives is a really good book that canvasses the Black experience, especially, the Black experience in relation to the state. My hope for the future is that kids will look at us with puzzled faces when we say that this used to be a thing that people cared about, and they’d be like, “What? You cared what colour people were? You cared what gender people were? What? Why?” I just want the future generations to look back with incredulity that we differentiated people based on these characteristics that really don’t matter.

Erin: The work you’re doing, opening eyes and hearts, to the message that you’ve got, it has been incredible. We can only hope that you’ll continue to use your platform, use your voice, to make people aware of what we’re doing, whether consciously or unconsciously. Let’s look in a crystal ball to the rest of 2021 and get us to the end of it, if you will, Dr. Roderique.

Dr. Roderique: Please, please, fast forward.

Erin: How would you like to be able to describe this year when we’re all done?

Dr. Roderique: I’d like it to be pandemic-free. I’d like there to be fewer Black people being harmed and killed by the state. I’d like to see more accountability for people’s actions. I’d like to see us recognize the people who do the real work that sustains us, it is the cashier at the grocery store, it is the warehouse stalker. It is the front-line worker, and really rethink what we want our community and our province and our country and our city to look like.

Do we want it to look like a place that leaves certain people behind, or do we want it to look like something that supports and tries to get the best for everyone and from everyone? I hope that over this next year, we’ve really, truly, and deeply started to confront our history. I think we need to acknowledge the harms we’ve done in the past for us to move forward.

I think we need to acknowledge the harms that have been committed against indigenous people in this country, committed against Black people in this country, and other groups, and understand why, understand what we’re going to do about it and how we’re going to change that and move forward. I think there’s still so many people who deny that racism even exists or deny the genocide of indigenous people.

It’s going to be really hard, I think, for some of us to move forward if we still have these ideas out there, gripping and lingering. I feel like sometimes when I talk about this work, it sounds depressing. Sometimes I will quit when I’m giving a talk, “Now, that I have depressed you all, here’s the optimism.” I like to think that we can only get better from here. Let’s operate on the model or the idea that we’re going to get better, every day is going to be a little better.

I’m not expecting to solve racism tomorrow. I’m not even expecting to solve racism in my lifetime. It was hundreds of years in the making. It’s going to be a long time in the undoing, but the time for talking about it and platitudes is over. I think that people just aren’t going to get away with denying racism, or pretending it doesn’t exist, or saying that they had no idea.

If after this summer, you have no idea about racism, were you living under a rock? Were you living up North with no internet and no communication with any other humans? Then maybe I might be able to buy it, but if you have been able to look at what’s happening and still want to deny that the experience here is different for other people, then I don’t really know what to do, but hopefully, those kinds of attitudes are just not going to fly anymore.

The newer generation, the younger generation is watching, and they are not going to be satisfied with people saying something and doing nothing. They will call you out on it. They will make a bunch of TikToks about you. You had a bunch of 15-year-olds trolling the president of the United States, buying up tickets to his various rallies and leaving them empty. The young people, especially if you’re someone who has an organization, the young people are very conscious of this issue and they’re going to be looking at what you’re doing. Are you walking the walk, in addition to talking the talk?

They don’t have the same company loyalty that used to exist 30, 40, 50 years ago. If they come to your organization and you’re not doing enough for them, they’re going to leave. They’re going to have their own startup, or they’re going to go somewhere else that’s more progressive. It’s really a war for talent. For me, if you’re lagging behind on EDI, that’s going to really hurt you for the rest of your time, really. This is also about your own survival. If, as an organization, you’d like to stick around, you’re going to have to do better in this area.

Erin: We can’t thank you enough for the time you’ve spent with us today. It’s been enlightening in so many ways, and it’s just wonderful that an essay you wrote in 2017 continues to have a life of its own. We’ll keep sending people to that Globe and Mail, Black on Bay Street, 2017, Dr. Hadiya Roderique has been our guest here today. Thank you so much.

Dr. Roderique: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.


Erin: Okay. As we continue with the discussion of working while Black with Dr. Roderique, let’s turn our attention now on REAL TIME to the real estate context. We spoke with three Black REALTORS® who shared their experiences and insights on bias and racism. Here’s what Bethany King, a Broker REALTOR® from Brampton, Ontario, had to say about witnessing discrimination in her work environment.

Bethany King: We see racism or racial bias primarily in our rental markets, when certain ethnicities are denied offers to lease without any reason or explanation. If you have ever represented a minority tenant in at least transaction, then it’s apparent of the racism prevalent within our communities. Furthermore, certain races are often asked to provide additional supporting documentation to prove their worthiness when, in fact, they’ve already met all of the tenant requirements.

Now, this is primarily driven through stereotypes, and you and I both know that research and analysis shows that the Black to White gap in income is substantial, coupled with racial bias and law enforcement schooling and the jobs sector. Therefore, Black people are not seen as desirable tenants. They’re not seen as trustworthy or financially secure. The worst part about this is that our Black children are being raised in a system that is not welcoming to them, nor supports them.

Erin: Thank you, Bethany King, for sharing your insight. We’ll hear from her again in a moment. Beyond bias against clients, Chris Peters, who many of you know as the President of the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®s, shared for the first time publicly, a personal story of when he was directly targeted with racism.

Chris Peters: I’ve been blessed and fortunate that I haven’t faced a lot. I’m in a small community, Eastern Passage, one of the suburbs of Halifax, and I’ve always been very active in the community, so my face has been out in the community way before I ever started real estate, so people were always aware of my loud, outspoken character.

I think that probably softened the blow for me in this community. I haven’t shared this story with- actually, you might be the first one I have shared this story with, Erin. A few of my signs have racial slurs, both the swastika and KKK, written on them. I was fortunate that I had a couple of friends of mine in the community point them out to me, they were quickly removed and they were replaced.

In most cases, you’re never going to find out who did it or why it was done. Sometimes it’s people who are just ignorant and don’t even know the significance and meaning of those symbols and those letters. Sorry, it’s emotional talking about it.

Erin: I appreciate you sharing it. You don’t want to think that it could be something as nefarious as Proud Boys, you want to think it’s stupid boys, young boys.

Chris: Yes, it’s true, it’s true, but that stuff happens. I’ve had that stuff happen when I was a young kid in high school, I think that’s what one of the original conversations I had with CREA last summer, was about some of that stuff happening, and that would have been me living up in Sudbury.

Here I’m an adult in my 40s, in real estate, and it’s still happening. It took me by surprise, but at the same time, it also didn’t surprise me that much, knowing the demographics, knowing the history of this province, knowing the racial tensions that still exist to this day in this province. In some respects, it didn’t surprise me.

For me, it was a matter of taking those signs down, replacing them with new ones, and just going on, whether or not that was the right or wrong thing to do, I didn’t even mention it to my wife. It was just something I did, got the signs down, replaced them. Fortunately, the ones that I replaced them with never got vandalized. I never really thought much about it after that. It never happened to me again, that was probably about seven or eight years ago.

Erin: It’s obvious that bias and racism are still very much present in real estate, like so many other industries and systems in Canada. Jasmine Lee, a Broker RELATOR® in Toronto offers us some ideas on how we can work together to make real estate more inclusive and equitable for Black and racialized Canadians.

Jasmine Lee: I’m all about solution focus, so even for me spending my time and energy to do things like this, I’ve been talking about this, I’ve been approached by newspapers and by our boards about interviews and I spend my time and energy away from my business and my family to help with the solution.

There’s a lot of groups starting now, Black REALTORS® in Toronto, Black REALTORS®, even the brokers, I’m a part of, they have a Black REALTOR® association and its international, so there is a need, but we need support from our bodies here in Toronto, I would say. There’s groups that are already formed. We need support from our bodies here, Toronto real estate board, RECO, CREA, or they need to form something from the bodies that support REALTORS® of colour to, what are the opportunities?

A lot of them are first-generation in the business, what are things that they can do to help their peers? What are things that we can do to get more access into the builder connection? Things that we can help our community, things that we can help other REALTORS® that are coming into the business, so I think we need some more support from the bodies, for sure.

I would say for the bodies that govern our real estate business, they need to look at their online presence, they need to look, does it reflect our industry? Does it reflect an inclusive environment that they want to cultivate and create? Take a look at that. One of the things I talked about on my social media on Instagram, and you can find me there @thejasmineleeteam, is that I find that all the brokers that I’m with, all the bodies, they’d celebrate donut day, dog owner day, they wouldn’t celebrate Black history month ever, until I moved to this brokerage, eXp, I didn’t even know that they do, but at Black history month, they made a post and they celebrate it, and that was such a big thing for me.

It was such a small thing from what they thought they did, but it was huge, and once I shared that on social media, so many REALTORS® were like, “Wow, that is amazing,” because the brokerage I’m at never acknowledged even Black history month, and they celebrate Halloween, Leprechaun Day, so many different things, but they don’t acknowledge that, so that was a huge thing for myself and a lot of other REALTORS®.

Erin: As for Chris Peters of Nova Scotia, he’s working to reverse an almost 80-year history of under-representation among leadership in organized real estate.

Chris: In the summer, I put forward a motion, one of the great things about being president is, I can request to create a task force. I had unanimous support from our board of directors to create a task force on diversity and inclusion for NSAR to look at some of the issues and causes with regards to a lack of diversity and inclusion in not necessarily our membership, but in our committees and our board.

I think, when I look over our membership, we have pretty good representation, but it doesn’t appear that we have that at all when it comes to our committees and boards. It’s our committees and boards that govern where we’re going to go as an association. For me, it was important that we start to incorporate that as part of our philosophy, in order to do that, I thought that creating this task force, which we met for the first time in September, and we’ve met a few times since, is going to be our first step in recognizing what actions we as an association need to do to ensure that we are building and developing and fostering a community of inclusion, a sense of belonging for our members.

When you look at Canada as a whole, and Nova Scotia, some of our most socially and economically challenged neighborhoods tend to be racialized. If we’re not doing things to support those groups and a lot of those groups, because they’ve had such a negative history with people of non-colour with what you would say is your white person, you’ve got to be able to have people that they can associate to and relate to, by being able to see themselves for them to be able to hopefully respond in a positive way.

Erin: Bethany King, from Brampton, compiled for us key points of focus that she believes will help the real estate industry shift to being more inclusive and equitable.

Bethany: The five points that I always bring it back to is, number one, an acknowledgment that there’s an issue that Black people, Black children have always been treated as inferior and the presence of Black youth remains unwelcomed and undesirable, acknowledging that there is an issue as the first step in opening the conversations.

Number two, we request that ARIA, RECO, TREB, create a post or position of director of race relations, and this position should be occupied by a member of the Black community with an immediate mandate to create a task force. I do believe that ARIA is already working on something like this.

The third one is that we requested our boards start to begin to collect race-based data from both their members and their member clients. This vital information could help pinpoint some problems and address issues. We also request that the same boards analyze the effect of gentrification and racialized communities and have a mandate to protect said communities from unfair property tax hikes and predatory land assembly.

Finally, most importantly, and I believe CREA is already making steps towards this is immediately creating and implementing mandatory race, focus, education programs to help REALTORS® identify and navigate racial discrimination by clients and fellow REALTORS®, there’s far too many instances of a Black person or another person of colour being denied rent or financing options based solely off the colour of their skin. REALTORS® have a role to play in this discriminatory practice, and members should be educated and reminded of how to properly conduct their business in the community when it comes to these situations.

Erin: Lastly, we asked our real-time guests what advice they would give to Black and other racialized or underrepresented Canadians who might be interested in a career in real estate, and here’s what Jasmine had to say.

Jasmine: You are going to work harder as a minority, and you will definitely work harder as a minority and a female, it will be the best career and it’ll be so worth it as long as you align yourself and create your tribe in real estate, in terms of people that look like you, that have the same values, characteristics as you, and just build on that together.

Erin: Finally, we wrap up this edition of REAL TIME with passionate words from Bethany King.

Bethany: I would say to other members who are Black or from minority descent, and I try to be a little bit compelling here, but that I would tell them that you can break those generational curses that were imparted on them in the first place. One of the things that I love about being a REALTOR® is being able to choose the kind of people that I have to work with, minorities are not only discriminated against in real estate, but even in the corporate world as well. They’re hindered with prejudice and they often have to take a lower wage in some cases, and you don’t have to do that. You can take control of your career. You can live a very comfortable life. I’m Black, I’m a woman, I’m a single mom, and I’ve quite literally doubled down on the adversity. I’m changing the stereotype for my daughter and her future. I think that I love being a salesperson. I love working in real estate, and pressure creates diamonds. I would welcome more people of colour, more minority immigrants to pursue a career in real estate, because it’s been really great for me.

Erin: Thank you, Bethany, Chris Peters, and Jasmine Lee for sharing your insights and your experiences so that we may all see things a little more clearly as we celebrate Black History Month and move towards a future of compassion, empathy, and justice. If you’re interested, you can google Black on Bay Street in the Globe and Mail, no paywall, and read Dr. Roderique’s piece from last September on being a Black mother in a world that’s dangerous for Black children. It’s amazing. So is she, and we’re so glad to have shared her wisdom here today.

Just before we go, here’s another reason you’re going to want to subscribe to this podcast. Up next time, an uplifting and joyful conversation with Tiffany Pratt post of HGTV’s Home to Win, and Buy It, Fix It, Sell It, to name just a few of her projects. She’s dynamic. She’s got so much on the go and a lot of joy to share, and she’ll do it right here. You won’t want to miss it. 

REAL TIME is produced by Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Talk to you again soon and don’t forget to subscribe.


Episode 11: Steven Sabados – What Do We Want From Our Homes in 2021?

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, the Canadian Real Estate Association podcast for realtors, and we’re all about issues that impact Canadian real estate and you. I’m your host Erin Davis, nice to have you here and today we’re bringing it all home. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly underscored the importance of “home” as refuge, and we saw Canadians making their nests a larger priority shifts in the types of homes purchased and a boom and renos, realtors also responded and experienced the impact of this change in prioritization firsthand.

In this episode of REAL TIME, we’re going to dig into this change and look at how it’s affecting the way homes are designed, marketed, and experienced as a whole. We’re so grateful to have with us a man who’s best known to Canadians for his TV career spending over 20 years on HGTV life network and CBC TV, Steven Sabados, a household name paired with his late partner, Chris Hyndman.

Today, the S&C product line sales internationally, and now Steven Sabados with his very own highly personal and dynamic product line takes inspiration from his own artwork, sculpture, and photography, and he joins us to share those visions and his own perspective today. Steven, what a pleasure to start out a new year with you here. I know that you’ve been designing homes and spaces for nearly three decades. Pandemic aside, and we wish that was literal, have you ever witnessed anything like we did last year with such a collective emphasis on the whole idea of home?

Steven Sabados: Yes, Wow. Sadly, we have. I think after the devastating tragedy of 9/11, the world looked at travel through a whole new lens and then as a society, we started to look at our homes as becoming our place of sanctuary and that’s where the term ‘cocooning’ I think was embraced and even quiet from back then because I’ve never heard of the word cocooning before until then. We started really coming in and we really looked at our home as not only a place to live, but it was a place that we could escape to feel safe.

It was our sanctuary.

Instead of travel, I think, as a nation even, we were starting to put our hard-earned dollars into renovation. Maybe instead of going South, maybe we installed the pool in the backyard or recreation areas, entertaining areas, great rooms were becoming more and more popular at homes because we were entertaining a lot that we were having our friends or family over back then we could, and even, I think networks like HGTV were booming with programs so that we could help ourselves be more knowledgeable and educated on renovations and decorating and repair and that’s where that big DIY revolution was born. Everyone was DIY.

Erin: Yes, and you talk about swimming pools. My sister tried to buy a hot tub and it was like a waitlist forever. You think she wanted a custom-built Tesla or something, just crazy, cocooning indeed. Our homes had to be a lot of things for us last year. What does the home of 2021 look like to you, Steven?

Steven: I think, personally, we’re going to be dealing with COVID realities for quite some time and our homes will have to remain flexible to include a multitude of activities. We’re going to reevaluate how our house is being used. Things like those formal dining rooms, and I’m doing air quotes for that there’s “formal dining rooms”, which they’re going to be a thing of the past because they’re going to be converted into workspaces, play areas and especially, I think now even more important, those big dining rooms are going to become classrooms if you have a large family.

I think we’re going to become less focused on the aesthetics and we’re going to gravitate to function and the big word comfort. We’re in our homes. We want to be comfortable. That’s why comfort furniture, all that stuff is more and more popular. I think if we’re in our home, Erin, as well, I don’t know about you, but I think so many people that you’re in your homes, you start looking around and you start, what do you do? You start organizing because if our place is clean and organized, our head is clean and organized.

Personally, for me, as soon as we went into our first lockdown last year, I started opening cupboards, well I’ve got this time, why not do it? And it’s interesting because you see reflection and there was a big boom on the TV shows on Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and getting organized with the Home Matters. All these TV shows were grasping on it. That’d be like, hang on, wait a minute. We can then give you more inspiration to tidy and clean.

Erin: Absolutely. People were so shocked when they were clearing out all their closets and then finding out that the donation bins had been closed because of COVID too. Somewhere in a lot of garages and basements, there’s a lot of clothes we’re not wearing anymore. Just waiting for a chance to donate them, right?

Steven: Absolutely, yes.

Erin: Now, kitchens and bathrooms, they’ve always been the place to invest. Is this changing at all as far as you can see?

Steven: I don’t think so. If we start with kitchens, kitchens are becoming, I think, more and more important to ground us as a family. It’s where we’re going to nurture ourselves. We’re going to entertain our own family or our new bubbled family which is a new term. I think the kitchen’s always going to remain the heart of the home. It’s the place where we’re experimenting and cooking, but doing Zoom classes and things of that nature. There was a really interesting stat that I found that the Zoom app, whatever, was skyrocketing, it’s enormous, it’s now valued at $139 billion. There that’s more than Exxon. 

Erin: Oh, my gosh.

Steven: I didn’t even know what Zoom was.

Erin: While we’re on the topic of Zoom, Steven, you’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of Zoom calls and stuff. Maybe at some point, we can talk about some tips for simplifying your background if you’re going to be doing like a show or something where you’re going to be seen by other people because there’s even Rate my Room now, you’ve seen that, right? Where people on Zoom, they’re being judged by what’s on the wall behind them.

Steven: That’s so funny. It is very interesting because not only now are we being so conscious of what we’re wearing or maybe what our hair looks like and make sure our face is powdered, not shiny. Now we’re worried about, oh my God, what’s behind me. When it is true, I think there’s going to be this influx of staging what’s behind you so that you can have your real or fake diploma, whatever you proudly displayed or a piece of artwork or an environment that’s going to suit you.

I think that that’s going to be a bit of a weird phenomenon, but it’s going to be a thing. Also, while we’re on that point as well, there was a really interesting ad campaign that I found about dressing for success from the waist up and it wasn’t a great concept, because it was from TikTok. I found that really cool, it’s literally you’re going to have your fantastic strong business suit on male or female and look fantastic, but who cares what trousers does you have, what shoes you have? As long as from the waist up, you’re looking great, that’s all that matters. That’s funny, isn’t it?

Erin: It is and just between you and me, I actually did a Zoom meeting with a blazer over a nightgown and a necklace on. It was just, like, you don’t need to know that these are my sleep clothes. I’m looking okay with the jacket, the necklace. Thank you.

Steven: That’s brilliant.

Erin: More with Steven Sabados, Designer and Partner in the S&C product line in a moment. Enjoying REAL TIME? Well, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts for monthly episodes with amazing guests, such as TV icon, Sarah Richardson, award-winning author Jesse Thistle, Canadian broadcast and ad legend, Terry O’Reilly, and many more. They’re timely and timeless so dig in and enjoy. Back to the house, finished basements, defining spaces. What other changes are you seeing that as we move into, not just focusing on kitchens and bathrooms, where else are we going in the house, Steven?

Steven: Basements, I think, are the perfect place to define any activity. Obviously, if you have a basement and I’ve got a few friends right now that are looking to dig down their basement now to extend their home because they need more space for the family.

Basements, I think, are the most obvious and perfect place for like play areas for kids, gyms, exercise rooms but the big influx right now, you’re going to see in basements, not only just to gain more space, but it’s going to be a home theater and that’s going to be a big selling factor. Again, another really interesting staff stat I found, which was mind-boggling for me, large home theater, TV sales with a 65-inch port plus were up 77% since this time last year.

Erin: Oh, you’re kidding.

Steven: Yes, we’re sitting down, we’re getting comfy, we’re watching TV. We can’t go to the theater, right? Why not create one in our home and make it as luxurious as we can and that’s where we’re obviously our audiovisual set up is going to be key and then furniture sales from there. The only thing I did want to say when we’re talking about basements, because people say, “Oh, I’ve got a basement. I could just put my home office there.”

I personally don’t think that a basement is a place for a home office. You think about there and what you’re going to do. You’re getting ready in the morning, you’ve got all stuff, you’re feeling great, you’re all refreshed. Then you go downstairs, you’re burrowing. There’s maybe minimal windows, maybe no window, do you know what I mean? We’re now hibernating. We’re going underground.

It’s going to pull our energy down. If you can I think have your home office above ground with natural light but if you do have to go to a basement level to work, what have you, make sure you have either fantastic lighting. There’s a lot of lights that you can switch on to daylight, those energizing lights. We’ve all seen them. Really think of that because nothing’s worse than sitting beside a 25-watt bulb trying to be productive in the corner beside the washer and dryer.

Erin: Yes, definitely. Cocooning but not burrowing and hibernating. There is a definite difference. Thank you for pointing that out.

Steven: Huge difference.

Erin: Right. Okay. Outside space, it’s also key. How can we make a small yard or a balcony, which is a reality for so many people feel like a retreat, Steven?

Steven: Wow and I’d be looking forward to spring, we already. I would say plant as much you can. Surround yourself with greenery as much as possible. My big trick for even my patio what I do is I have large, large planters. My planters are 24 inches high, then you’re going to plant at least a 5-foot tree in there. Now, your tree is going to be seven feet. The reason I’m saying that is plant them in large part is because, subconsciously, you’re grounded when you’re under a tree or you’re under foliage. If you’re sitting in a lawn chair and you have a tree over top of you, it just gives you this comfort feel like that Mother Nature is giving you a hug.

I think that’s nice. We can all visualize what that may look like, Also, I don’t know about you but herb gardens. It’s so necessary. Because I think what you do have in your garden, you feel compelled to use them and cook for. If it’s sitting there, you’re like, wow, I’ve got a lot of basil there. Let’s maybe make some pesto today. It does inspire you. I think it’s just, again, a subconscious nod but it’s going to then give you the reason to cook more. Also, if we’re talking about Mother Nature like abundance of bird feeders. Flowers that attract butterflies. We’re nurturing mother earth.

Oh, other thing too, what I have on my patio which everyone loves is the water feature. You know what? The sound of running water greatly improves your psychological and physical health. That’s a study, that’s a stat, but also, I like it because I live downtown and it literally drowns out the hum of the city as just recycled water going through an urn but it bubbles and it makes all sorts of fantastic sounds. That’s all you really focus on, is the sound of water which is very, very good for you.

Erin: Nice, a different kind of white noise. Very, very nice, yes.

Steven: A very positive one. Sure, yes.

Erin: Renovations and reconfigurations aside. Now, Steven, how can we use things like decor to keep our homes fresh?

Steven: Very interesting. This one is really based on a big trend as well, biophilia. Biophilia started as a trend before 2020 and it’s going to be one of the number one trends for 2021 and moving into 2022. Biophilia, basically, If you use a dictionary term, is basic premise is to connect the natural environment to the built environment through the use of natural materials and nature. Now, that sounds all mumbo jumbo, but basically, what that means is that we’re using plants and design and decor to energize us. Things like architecture using living walls.

Erin: For those people who don’t know what a living wall is, Steven, can you describe that, give an example?

Steven: Living wall is fantastic. It used to be a thing where it was just mostly in commercial spaces. Basically, a living wall is a structure that you can put up and you can actually plant on a wall. The wall becomes actually alive. There’s pockets to hold dirt and the plants will actually grow. There are some retail places there that you can actually get them and hang them on your own wall or even on a patio. You can put plants in there and they will hold the soil and not leak all over your floor, obviously.

You can mist them and again, plants that maybe are easier or maintenance free in the sense that they don’t require a ton of water. It’s mostly, like I said, you see it in large commercial buildings and hotels and things like that, but bring it into your own home. It’s a great way to just supply your air with oxygen and really to energize a space and give it the fantastic organic uncontrolled chaos.

Erin: Well, what else can we do to create a more calm and organized environment?

Steven: Well, we touched on the cluttering. Donate is going to pass on good fortune as well. If we’re talking about good fortune as well, I think one of the biggest things to create an organized and calming environment is to do some research on the principles of Feng Shui. Feng Shui basically, is an ancient philosophy that seeks to find balance between elements. It’s about positive energy flow in your surroundings. It’s about moving Chi and Chi is energy. Everything has energy. Our home has energy. We have energy and in your home you don’t want the Chi to be too fast or you don’t want it to be stagnant. That’s stagnant Chi.

It’s about furniture placement and the configuration to optimize the positive energy and to keep it flowing in your home. I think it’s fun because if you do look at a lot of it, is very common sense in a way like putting this chair here or that. I think it’s one of those fun things that gets you research. It’s about north, west, east, south, and things like that but it’s also sometimes it makes sense. If you move your furniture around, just give it a try.

You can always move your furniture back. If you find there is a difference, maybe not even tell anyone. Maybe if you have a busy home, do this and just see how your house reacts to it. I don’t know, but again, I would say if it’s essentially old and it works like yoga. Yoga basically is about moving energy in our body. Why can’t we move energy in our home?

Erin: Right, why not? Try it for a New Year. Now, you mentioned the directions and it pulled my heart a little bit because I know I wanted a globe for Christmas. Travel, just spin it, find me a place I want to go there in my head. Travel may still be difficult for part of this year. Who knows how long? How can we bring the world home to us? Steven, you’ve been so great about bringing the outside in. How do we bring the great outside the rest of the world into our homes?

Steven: Well, I would say travel’s about escaping your everyday routine. That’s why we travel because we want our senses to be excited. We want to experience all of this. I think if we break down the senses and think about how to inject some of those into our environment. For me, personally, I don’t know about you, but I love traveling to exotic tropical places. If we’re going to break that down and that philosophy and again, you can plug this in, whatever tropical places. Brighter, vibrant colours. Maybe paint a room in a warm yellow. Bring in tropical-inspired pillows and vibrant colours even solid colours.

I also think that the textures as well like area rugs and jute, woven baskets or rattan accents, things like that. Again, visually, it’s going to give me the feeling of tropical. If we look at sound, sound is quite obvious. You can play your favourite music. I have a tabletop water feature in my house as well. In the wintertime, at least I can still hear the trickling water and again, it gives me maybe a mild feeling that there’s an ocean somewhere.

Erin: Yes, right. It’s a great backdrop for meditation or, as you say, for yoga as well. It’s so grounded.

Steven: Absolutely, yes. If we’re still talking senses then there’s some smell which is very easy. Personally, for me, I use a lot of aroma therapy. I have a lot of oil diffusers. If you’re burning scents like Vanilla, Jasmine, and Sandalwood, all you have to do is close your eyes and you can literally be projected anywhere because smell is one of the strongest sense, right?

Erin: Yes.

Steven: Also, never underestimate the joy of tropical flowers. Just a small injection of them in your home and flowers have a positive impact on emotional health. We all know that. If you think of touch or taste, you can combine them together. If I can’t travel, then I’m going to indulge in purchasing and cooking with fantastic tropical ingredients, coconuts, mangoes. Then doing a lot of really fantastic Caribbean curry recipes and the house is going to smell like fantastic curry. Even just plain tropical fruit in a bowl, that can already lift your spirits. Every time you walk in the kitchen, you can see gorgeous exotic dragon fruits. I just love how it looks. Simple things like that. Again, it’s like the senses.

Erin: We’re talking tech in just a moment. If Steven Sabados is writing your designing spark, check out realtor.ca Living Room. It’s got what you’re looking for. From market trends and home improvement to DIY hacks and design inspiration. Find everything you and your clients need in one place at realtor.ca/ Living Room. Now, back to our chats with Steven. How is technology going to continue to change the home of 2021? We’ve seen so many changes. You’ve talked about that ginormous TV that people have brought in so they can binge everything that they want. How do you see us moving forward into 2021?

Steven: I think technology is leaps and bounds. It’s going so quickly and as a reaction to obviously, of the situations with COVID, which I can become this mainstay in the home like clean technology or clean tech, is going to be just another norm in our homes. We’re not even going to ask for it, it’s going to be included, simple every day are already in place. Like the touchless faucets was in place years ago and that was just to help us in the kitchen. By the way, it was a little kitchen helper. Our hands are full of pastry dough so we touch the faucet with our elbow and it turns on and everyone’s happy.

Now we don’t want to touch the faucet because I don’t want to put germs on the faucet or vice versa. I would say touchless’ everything. We don’t have to touch anything anymore. Automatic sensors to flush toilets, that’s already in the marketplace now. You can install the suction to your toilet. Just wave your hand and the toilet flushes. That’s probably a lot of fun for kids. They’re going to be flushing just waving their hands over.

Doors that open, that they’re not going to have to touch the door handles and things of that nature. This one I found really interesting. It’s on the marketplace, these two things. One is a portable closet they can get. This is probably going to be a concept that you can now probably get installed into the closets in your front hall. After coming into your home and you hang your jacket up, you take shoes off, and you put it in a closet, you zip it up and it disinfects your clothing from whatever may have attached on it from the outside, which I find is like wild. It’s very George Jetson. Also, anti-microbial LED lighting that goes under your counter like undercounter lighting.

At night time, you turn on the, it’s almost like a black light and it disinfects your countertops while you sleep. Not to replace cleaning, but this technology again just helps fight against bacteria. Air purification, the ventilation system. I think with all of this technology, aren’t you seeing why we want to go back to biophilia and bring some plants and nature into our home? Because we’re becoming again living in these little bubbles these microcosms. We’re living in a little terrarium. Let’s make it green and don’t forget nature because we’re being bombarded by technology.

Erin: The flip side to that technology is, of course, tradition, and the things that we’ve carried through in our lives for centuries and even millennia. We’ve had to reinvent a lot of them in the last year to follow public health guidelines, stay home, stay safe. Do you see a potential, Steven, for new more virtual traditions to take root?

Steven: I definitely think so. These new traditions are going to be just again tradition. We’re inviting more and more people into our homes and oddly enough, we’re inviting them more virtually. It’s going to become a tradition that maybe you don’t need to socialize in big groups anymore because big groups are going to become these virtual groups and these dinners and whatnot. We’re going to be focusing on our space and what reflects us. A lot of things saw the changing but interestingly changing.

Erin: Well, let’s talk about design trends and what is standing out to you this year. Are we seeing big changes, more of the same? What are you seeing, Steven?

Steven: I think that the biggest and we all know the Pantone colour year like gray and bright yellow, which is I think an interesting concept but very hard to decorate around these two colours. Then there’s a lot of natural colours. There’s this projection saying the colour of the year for 2022 looks like it would be like an olive green. Again, colours found in nature. Even olive green is a very trendy colour right now. I think as a whole, we’re going to be embracing a lot of nature and all things natural. We’re going to really embrace everything artisanal. We want things that are made by humans for humans.

I think we’re going to enjoy the imperfections of life that we want to be surrounded by that. Like furniture that wasn’t made by a robot in a factory. Here’s where the carpenter was carving something and maybe it’s not perfect but we want it not to be perfect. We want to celebrate the human touch, that artisanal feel. Even things that you’re looking at, say flooring, for instance. A huge, huge trend now is to have blond light-coloured natural flooring where I can see the grain, I can see the wood knots, I can see the imperfections on the floor. We don’t want to have a floor that may look like wood, but it’s actually a laminated plastic. More than not, we are looking for things that humans have touched, which is great.

Erin: What are you seeing with the rise of home offices then?

Steven: I don’t know about you but my home office is my house, is everywhere. It’s anywhere you are with your laptop. The home office, it needs to be, obviously, flexible because we’re not really in an office anymore. The home office can be your sofa, could be anywhere but interesting enough, that convertible furniture is so on the rise. Convertible furniture for anyone that doesn’t know, it’s furniture that has multi-use. Fantastic things like a coffee table that has hydraulics that will lift up to a desk height. Fantastic things like work spaces and desk that completely fold away into a wall like a Murphy bed.

You can literally have a makeshift office anywhere. As we had mentioned before, I think the biggest thing is lighting because we need to make sure that we have appropriate and proper lighting for a workstation. If you are working from home I know, for me, personally, that you need a proper ergonomic chair. I would say invest in a chair. If you are going to be working from home, don’t try and prop yourself up on that wooden bar stool. You’re going to fidget and you’re going to be less productive. Get something that still feels like an office, but not necessarily. You don’t have to recreate your office.

Erin: That’s interesting.

Steven: Because you will be working from home more.

Erin: Yes, give your body the impression that yes, this is the work chair. This isn’t watching somebody make a lasagna. You’re working and this is the chair for it. Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that convertible coffee table as a desk. A lot of people use it for dining in front of the TV, which I think probably everybody does now but yes, as a desk and lots of room to spread out and two laptops if you need or whatever. Great idea.

Steven: Yes, for sure.

Erin: No matter what chair you’re sitting in right now, you can always find a spot at the CREA café. It’s a cozy place for realtors to connect, share thoughts, and stay up-to-date on the latest industry happenings over a virtual cup of coffee. Join the conversation at creacafe.ca. Now, back to our chat with Steven Sabados and back to bringing in nature and having nature surrounding us. Sounds good, right? How does nature and sustainability, how do they fit in?

Steven: Essentially, because we have been at home and we’ve become used to and accepting of recycling, upcycling things of that nature. We’re looking around the house and we’re like, okay, well, I’ve got this, this and that and maybe I can do X, Y, and Z with that. I know, personally, I was receiving a lot of requests and I did a lot of Internet shows and things on just ways to upcycle.

Look around things in your house and let’s see how can we rethink or reuse that? Upcycling is definitely one of the top 10 Pinterest searches. Before recycling, upcycling was, “It’s okay, we’re just on the side,” but now it’s being celebrated and it’s being accepted even more so. Which is really good again — sustainability.

Erin: Do you see it as a permanent change, Steven, or a temporary solution during an unprecedented time? Or is it like Zoom? It’s something we hadn’t given much thought to but guess what? It’s opened up the doors to a whole new lifestyle. How do you see it?

Steven: Yes, I believe this new importance and respect for home as a place or a sanctuary, is definitely here to stay, which is fantastic. We’re in our homes and we’re living in our homes. Not just living. TV lifestyle programming is booming. Consumers are looking to educate themselves not only for DIY repairs but renovation, cooking, decorating, you name it. I think a lot of people want to get it right or at least get it right for them.

Millennials are really driving the force on decor and design in that sense because they want to personalize it. There isn’t really– It’s very interesting when you go through the gamut of decorating and things like that, it’s personal. There really is no style. You can’t say the style of the ’80s, the style of the ’70s. We all know what they look like and they can immediately pop it into our heads and we get a visual.

What are you going to say the style that’s for 2020? Or even for just this last decade, it’s really personal. You’re having a mismatch of mid-century modern and maybe something that your grandma had and this old thing. I’m going to personalize that and I’m going to make a quirky but it’s my quirky and I’m going to own this. I think that’s cool because, again, this is my home and if you don’t like it, I don’t care but I love it and that represents me and my family in the way we like to live in our home.

Erin: Well, the time that you do care is when you’re marketing your home, of course. Do you foresee this shift affecting the way that we build and market our homes?

Steven: Well, interesting because if you look at the blueprints of a home, it’s like here’s the dining room, here’s bedroom number two. I think that we can create any room or any space because we had to and, now, I think our home and how we are marketing it, how it should be but here’s the space. Here’s what I did but here’s what you can do. Then recreate it as such because, I don’t know, I would find it hard when you’re seeing a space and it’s like here’s one-bedroom plus den. Well, why is that a den? Maybe it’s, I don’t know, my gym. It’s not necessarily the spare bedroom. I don’t need a spare bedroom. I want to make it this. Everyone talks about when they’re going for resale pick up the personality of the homeowner. I get it to a degree, but I think the personality inspires me. I would love to see how someone reflected their space.

Erin: What impact have these changes had on design experts like yourself? The importance of home in the last year or so? Or perhaps you’ve always had this mindset, Steven, but has that shifted anything in you as a creator?

Steven: For me, personally, because I design a lot of furniture, there was a time, there still is, a market for large furniture with a lot of bells and whistles. You know what I mean, and things of that nature that’s going to really make a big statement, I think, now because we have to be price-sensitive more so than ever, we’re paring back a lot of the details. We’re not really needing them as much anymore because we also know as a consumer and as a designer as well that that’s going to add extra cost. I think the biggest thing more than ever now, comfort is key.

Comfort is huge because we’re now living in our space and I do hope that we’re going to be less gravitating towards disposable things like disposable furniture, disposable whatever. We’re going to buy something that was handmade, that’s artisanal and that’s going to be in our homes for generations, hopefully, to come.

Erin: Yes, hopefully. While we’re talking about the future, we needn’t go as far as generations, but take us to the end of this year, Steven. Flash forward to December 2021, what words do you hope will describe this year?

Steven: I’m really hoping and I think one of the biggest ones for me that comes out is kindness. I think we were forced to be a little more patient, a little kinder, not so busy, not so hurried. Now it’s okay when you drive up and there’s a line at the grocery store. You’re like, yes, okay. Whereas before, I’d be like, “What’s going on? Well, I’m not going to wait. I don’t have time to wait. I can’t wait.” It’s like, “No, I’ll wait.” Optimism, for sure, as well because I think we need that. We all need to be optimistic like I’ll get through this. Everyone else says that. We’ll get through it.

Because of that, it gives us the faith. I think all those words go together, kindness, optimism, faith. The other one that I have that there is rebuild, which we’re rebuilding everything. We’re rebuilding how we think as a community, as a family, rebuilding everything around us even our homes. We can be optimistic and be positive and we can still have I think most importantly, a really good sense of humor because out of this, yes it was tough, but man, we got through it. There were some funny moments and obviously, not to underestimate the devastating moments and what have you but we have to remain optimistic.

Erin: Indeed, and what a beautiful optimistic note on which to end our chat and to begin our year here at CREA REAL TIME. I’m so grateful, we all are, to you, Steven, for sharing your insights and your wisdom and the comfort of talking to you. It’s been lovely. Thank you so much.

Steven: Thank you so much, Erin. It’s an absolute pleasure talking to you and sharing this. I hope this does give it a bit of a bright life for the year to come. It’s going to be a very, very positive good year.

Erin: Remember, you can catch up with Steven’s creations including his studio collection @stevensabados.com. Let’s make 2021 a year of success, comfort, good health, and great ideas. We’re here to help you with that wherever we can. REAL TIME is produced by Rob Whitehead and Real Family Productions and Alphabet Creative. I’m Erin Davis and we’ll talk to you again soon. Don’t forget to subscribe.

Episode 10: Hindsight is 2020

Erin Davis: Welcome to Episode 10 of REAL TIME. This is the podcast for REALTOR® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. This is where we talk about ideas surrounding Canadian real estate and topics that impact you as a REALTOR®

I’m your host, Erin Davis, and because this is our final REAL TIME of 2020, we’re taking a little more time to review a year defined by twists and turns, and the resulting consumer confidence. Three respective experts are going to shed light on the impact of COVID-19, how the Canadian economy and housing markets responded, how REALTORS® like you have adapted and what it all means as we move into the new year.

We’re going to start with David Coletto with Abacus Data. David heads up one of Canada’s leading polling and research firms, and he joins us for REAL TIME. David, welcome. It’s so good to have you with us here today as we look back, look ahead, and just have a great chat. Thank you.

David Coletto: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Erin: Here we are at the end of, well, we’re running out of adjectives for 2020 let’s be honest, I guess unprecedented would be the word. Can you remind us what Canada looked like pre-pandemic? I mean, without masks?

David: I think if you take a quick snapshot, pre-COVID, you saw unemployment at historic lows around 5.5%. You saw consumer confidence, not through the roof, but certainly, above water. When you ask Canadians is Canada in a recession, only 30% felt that it was particularly out in the West and 42% thought now’s a good time to make a major purchase. You fast forward to today, and you’ve got unemployment close to 9%. Consumer confidence may be at the lowest it’s been in a long time. Almost everybody knows, not believes, knows we are in a recession, one that we haven’t seen in a very long time.

The public mindset, the consumer mindset, is in a very different place. There’s broad understanding of the challenges we face. There’s both I think a defensive posture, people are waiting for the worst, for the shoe to almost drop. That being said, there’s also growing impatience and maybe optimism that the vaccine is coming and that light is at the end of the tunnel. Every day I think is different given what new cases come out and what the new stories are, but I think there’s a collective hope that the end is near. That I think is guiding how people are feeling.

Erin: Yes, the end is near in a good way. Let’s qualify that.

David: Yes. This long dark period is over and the light is coming.

Erin: Feelings and perceptions aside, from the beginning of 2020 what was the economic reality? How was our economy? Was it healthy?

David: It was very healthy. We were seeing record unemployment. It wasn’t the fastest-growing economy we’ve ever seen, but we were growing. Parts of the country there was, I think still the case, but certainly in Toronto for example, there were more cranes building condos and new offices than in any city in the world. That might be still the case, but that energy is not as strong as it was, but it was certainly a good time for Canada, and all of a sudden everything changed when this virus started to spread.

Erin: David, what do you think changed most drastically since January, if you could pinpoint one thing?

David: I think the country really– because this was a health crisis first and foremost, I think there was an immense focus on the capacity of our health system on our own health. Were we ready? Was our system ready to deal with a spike in cases? The early days of the pandemic if you remember were focused on, did we have enough ventilators and ICU beds and personal protective equipment? All of that stuff was something we always– Healthcare is always a top issue in this country, but it became real and acute. Also, many Canadians who never experienced a sense of insecurity around food or household goods for the first time experienced empty aisles. Toilet paper not there. Yeast being impossible to find.

That was, I think, brought new light to how our food system is. I think more recently, there was already a real focus and worry about housing affordability in Canada. Particularly younger generations in larger cities, there was a sense that it was just impossible to get into the housing market. Something I know that REALTORS® are living with day-to-day. That has become even more real as housing prices have gone up around the country. I think those three issues, our health system, our food, and supply chains, and now housing were always top issues, but they’ve become the focus of our attention in terms of national big issues.

Erin: We’re going to be speaking with an economist coming up about the housing market because it’s just been an unbelievable year in so many ways. Speaking of homes, how have Canadian’s perceptions of home shifted since the beginning of the year in your opinion, David?

David: I think before the pandemic, we had seen lots of consumer data suggesting home was becoming more important. We were spending more time at home. We were able to entertain ourselves. The rise of streaming services meant fewer of us were going to the movies. Fewer of us were going to sporting events. We could do it all at home. Home became so much more. Now, the pandemic forced us to be at home for much more. It became the place we worked. The place we taught our kids. Our kids learned, if you had kids. You saw pictures going around Instagram of people baking bread and learning how to do sourdough.

This was all part of an entrenchment of home, and so home became and is everything. It’s always been important, but now it’s become everything and it plays such an important life, so much so that I think many Canadians have become acutely aware of the faults in their homes because they’re spending so much time there. Which I think explains the rise of home renovations and home improvement that we’ve seen since the beginning, as evidence that home matters now. People are really focused on their home and are thinking about how to improve it and integrate it even more into their lives.

If we weren’t already home-bound, we’ve been forced to be home-bound and we’ve tried to adapt and deal with it and make it even more comfortable than it may already have been.

Erin: Part of that, of course, has been so many of us working from home. It’s become everything to us. It’s become the gym, the restaurant, the bakery, as you mentioned, and, of course, the office. How have Canadians adapted in terms of technology or new ways to carry about our day-to-day life?

David: I’ll give you an example. We’re just in the field now with a survey asking Canadians about their holiday shopping experience. I think it points to what we’ve seen that has been a rapid shift towards all things digital. I think we were seeing, again, that– I’m one who believes that the pandemic is not going to fundamentally change everything, but it’s going to accelerate so much of our lives, the things we would have been maybe five, six years from now are now only going to take a year to get there. I think that digital experience using technologies in new ways is one of them. That example I used of holiday shopping, when we asked Canadian adults last year, “How did you shop online versus in-store?”

Canadians are reporting that last year they spent about two-thirds of their shopping dollars in-store, only a third online. Then we say, “Well, what about this year? How do you think that’s going to split?” 60% online, 40% in-store. That’s just an example of the wholesale shift we’ve seen because we’ve been forced to, and even as we record this, many parts of the country are now locked down, stores are closed, we have no option. I also think it’s accelerated the shift that we were seeing with younger generations towards online grocery shopping, online food delivery, home meal kits, more and more of the things we buy being delivered to home.

I think the gaps between generations, I think of my parents who are in their mid-60s, who we describe sometimes as digital immigrants because they weren’t born with technology. I think we’re far more similar now in how we use technology to communicate and learn and entertain ourselves than we were at the start of this pandemic. That’s going to be one lasting legacy and it’s affected how we work, how we engage with people. Heck, over the Easter break, for years my family would get together on Good Friday. We’re Italian so Good Friday is a big fish dinner and we did it by Zoom this year.

The first time it was chaos, it was exhausting, but that’s an example of being forced into using technology and bringing actually more people into that dinner than would normally show up because we could connect people in Italy and all across the country.

Erin: Oh, you’re kidding. With Italy as well?

David: Yes, we never did that before. We never even thought of it but now we were all there. Actually, it changed the tradition a little bit and we were able to bring a global family together as opposed to just those in and around the GTA.

Erin: Isn’t it wonderful that something that has isolated so much has brought us together in so many ways too. What has surprised you about how Canadians have responded to the pandemic, David, or has the data laid this out to you and you could have said, “Yes, I would have expected this.” What surprised you?

David: I think one thing is just how much of rule followers we are. At least, we’ll see whether the second spike in infections maybe proves this point wrong. I was having a conversation with an ambassador from a European country last week, and we were talking about the experiences in her country and experience in Canada. She couldn’t help but just be amazed by how well Canadians just follow advice and are wearing masks and aren’t rising up against this kind of stuff. That I think, maybe surprised me just how different our culture is here in Canada. I studied political science, we were always told, Canada was built around peace, order, and good government. Americans were about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and you see those contrasts. 

The second thing that’s I think, important, and surprised me is the two Canada’s that really emerged out of this pandemic. It’s more of an economic consequence that we’ve talked a lot and we’ve put a lot of attention on about one out of four Canadian households that have been severely impacted by this pandemic. Then there’s a three-quarters who haven’t been affected. In fact, many of them say, they’re actually better off.

One of the things I think we just have to be mindful of, is this pandemic is likely going to continue to increase inequality but there’s also a lot of consumers who haven’t been able to travel, who haven’t been able to spend on other discretionary things. As we talked about earlier, the home is now more important. They’re investing money in their homes. For REALTORS® for the sector, there’s real upside there that not only is the home more important than ever, but there’s a lot of people who have a lot of money saved up that at some point, they’re going to open up and spend it again. That’s I think, the hopeful side, hopefully looking to 2021.

Erin: Hopefully more donations to charity too when you talk about the two Canada’s, and the inequality and the people with the discretionary spending that’s just sitting there, maybe reaching out and giving out. That might be an optimistic outcome from all of these too, the money not spent on cruises, given instead to a worthwhile charity.

David: Yes. I’m hearing, anecdotally, at least, from a number of charities we work with that they are seeing an uptick now in giving. That I think people as they enter the holiday season are realizing that many of us, I’m one of them have been incredibly fortunate. Giving to a food bank, or to a health charity, or others, you name it, whatever cause is important to you, I think is something that we can do, because we can’t forget that. Think about one, out of four Canadians have lost their job, lost hours, have put themselves in harm’s way for us. I think there is a chance for us to give back.

Erin: David, what lessons from 2020 do you think are going to be most important as Canadians head into 2021? There are a lot of unforgettable things about the year that was. What should we take with us to lead the way into a new year?

David: Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty much a glass half full kind of guy. I look at everything we’ve been put through. The learning for me is we as species, as people are incredibly resilient and incredibly creative. Not only are we likely to get a vaccine for this virus in record time, which in itself is an amazing feat of human ingenuity and science. If you look even at your local restaurateurs or retailers, many have gone out of business and have struggled, but others have also found new ways to make it and to figure out a way to serve their clients. I think we see it in retail. We see it in the real estate sector.

To me, it’s that resiliency of the human spirit, of the human ability that keeps me hopeful for 2021 and tells me that we’ve got other big challenges. Once we get through this pandemic, climate change, and other things but it’s at least given me hope that we can also tackle those challenges with optimism and ingenuity. To me, that’s the lesson. We are a resilient people and we will get through this.

Erin: How amazing has it been how exponentially everything has moved ahead? Talking about the vaccines as you have been, but the technology and the fact that now what we were doing in BC long before a lot of other provinces, getting virtual doctor’s appointments and taking some of the heat off the system in other ways has now become the norm. We have adapted and this adaptability as you say, this resilience really does bode well for the future, doesn’t it?

David: It does. I think we’ve also as much as the mental health challenges that this pandemic has created, it’s brought new focus to that. It’s I think, made us more self-aware of our weaknesses. In our research we do a lot of polling and focus groups, we’re seeing more and more people talking about looking to make their lives more simple. More appreciation for nature and the little things that matter in our lives. My sister had her second son last week and that’s such a joy. I think this whole episode has forced us to appreciate that. Also, to know that we can adapt and technology, I would say, imagine going through this 40, 50 years ago?

Imagine not having Zoom and high-speed internet and Netflix to get us through these days. I’m actually quite happy that I got to at least live through this pandemic today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago because it’s not easy for everybody, but it’s certainly been easier because of that technology and what we have access to.

Erin: We’ve gotten your picture of how you feel about 2020. How do you see Canadians feeling about this year, David? Are we generally optimistic for the future?

David: Well, there’s no doubt that when you look at public attitudes, Canadians are well aware of what this pandemic has meant and how it’s disrupted their lives. There’s a silver lining that we see in the polling and the public attitudes that we’ve actually had an increase in the percentage of people who feel the country’s headed in the right direction. It seems counterintuitive to everything we’ve gone through. I think it’s a reflection of, as much as it’s been a challenging period, a lot of things that we might have taken for granted, I think big things like our political system, our public institutions, our health system, which has been under stress, generally has worked really well. People have been quite impressed. 

Obviously, part of that is we’re always in comparison to the United States, which mostly means we’ll say seems chaotic, and a sideshow. I think general optimism that not only do we have it really good here in Canada, compared to others around the world, but that even when we’re through this challenging period, and we’ve got a vaccine, and we’re no longer worried about contracting this virus, that we are going to be stronger, and Canada will be the best place to live as a result. I see that optimism underlying all of the challenges and that I think, gives people hope for the future.

There’s no doubt that people are waiting for this vaccine and there’s an impatience there but one that I think will ultimately turn into optimism and that excitement to get back to doing all the things we love that we’d haven’t been able to do.

Erin: Well, as we raise your half-full glass to 2020, and 2021, David, do you have a– Uncle David, congratulations.

David: Thank you.

Erin: Do you have a New Year’s resolution?

David: I do and it’s more of a state of mind. I think I found myself over the particularly the last few months, always reverting to the negative, “Oh, I miss traveling or no winter vacation this year to a warm place.” I’m going to stop doing that. I think for 2021, I’m going to really try to focus on the positive things I’m looking forward to despite the restrictions that are in place as opposed to dwelling on what I can’t do. I think if I do that, I’m going to feel better. I also think it’s going to make people around me feel better, too. That’s my resolution for 2021.

Erin: I love that. Thank you. Thank you, David, for your time, for your optimism, for your observations and hopefully, we’ll talk again in the new year.

David: My pleasure and all the best and stay safe.

Erin: As you enjoy this special podcast today with a coffee or your favourite beverage, here’s another spot you’re going to want to save of CREA Cafe. It’s a cozy place for REALTORS® to connect and share thoughts and ideas on the latest industry happenings. With insightful new content created weekly, join the conversation at CREACafe.ca. 

Joining our conversation now is Shaun Cathcart. Shaun’s a Senior Internal Economist with CREA and he’s here with us for this a year ending episode of REAL TIME for look ahead. First, Shaun takes a peek back at what housing across Canada looked like before COVID-19.

Shaun Cathcart: Well, that’s such an important place to start because it’s really hard to understand where we are now if you don’t understand where we were heading into this. It was only 10 months ago. When you do what we do for a living and look at this data going back 40 years, you can see these really long housing cycles and they aren’t really long. You can work an entire career doing this job and only see one of them but you really have to zoom out to see it. One big housing boom that we have in our database was 1984 to ’89, which I think a lot of people know about.

The next one wasn’t until 2002 to 2007 and then nothing safe for a few little flare-ups in Toronto, Vancouver until basically this March,

It was going to be another one of those years, and I think a lot of people didn’t see it coming. Pretty much the week we were going into that we went into lockdown. How do we get there? 2010 to 2015, we had a cyclical high for overall listings in Canada, that’s all of the homes for sale at any given point in time on every MLS system across the country. What happened around 2015? Well, the first thing was the oil price crash, which caused a lot of migration out of the oil patch, and to elsewhere in Canada.

You have a bit of a buildup in supply in the oil patch but you start to see places like Toronto or Vancouver, which we saw a rapid absorption of supply and really tight market conditions, which starts to affect prices. The bigger thing that happened was, that doesn’t get enough attention, in my view because it’s the biggest factor is a really big increase, a really big ramp-up in international immigration, which caused a major increase in population growth. Then under the surface of that population growth, even if that wasn’t happening, you’ve also got this really big cohort, arguably, maybe the biggest cohort in our society, known as the millennials. There’s a lot of them.

They all went from being in their late teens and 20s to being in their late 20s, and 30s, and now 40s. When you’ve got a ton of new Canadians coming on the scene, at the same time as a whole bunch of other people are going through that mechanical phase of life where household formation tends to happen in those years, you’ve got a lot of first-time homebuyers. First-time homebuyers absorb inventory, but they don’t put another unit of inventory back in the resale market, and so you get this big drawdown in the supply. Now, what happened was the government stepped in to try to cool that down at one point. There was the BC and Ontario governments, the federal government with a stress test.

That stalled things out, but it didn’t reverse the trend, it just stalled it out in 2017, ’18, right up until the spring of 2019. What happened was even that last spring was mediocre. Everyone has like, “The stress test.” Then everyone went on summer vacation, stopped paying attention, and right around that same time, sales started to go through the roof again. That trend resumed and supplies started dropping very quickly to the point that by this February, before COVID, supply across Canada was at a 13-year low. The number of months of inventory was about maybe 1/10th of 1% one decimal point away from being the tightest it had ever been.

While some people have said, “Well, what are the headwinds this year is there’s no immigration.” That’s been such a big driver, but in my view that immigration and millennial story have been building up behind a wall of short supply for so many years that that was ready to explode onto the scene this year. We locked down, but we opened up three months later, and guess what showed up on the scene, the same exact conditions that had taken years to build up beforehand.

Erin: Well, with the rebound are you explaining here why the housing market rebounded so quickly, Shaun, from that initial spring lockdown?

Shaun: Yes, that’s a big part of it, there’s more going on too. One of the reasons why the rebound was so surprising is because the numbers in April were basically the worst ever. That was mostly because nothing was going on for a while. It wasn’t that all the demand went away, it was just that no one was making deals at that point. You open things back up, and like I said, what shows up on the scene the same conditions that were there three months earlier. Now, clearly under the surface, what’s going on in 2020, in the housing market is different than what would have been going on in a non-COVID 2020.

You can’t really compare to that because it doesn’t exist. Why was the rebound so surprising? I think some of the headwinds initially were more obvious than the tailwinds. We’re in a major recession, we got major employment losses, uncertainty about the future, big declines in immigration, people can’t pay their rent, they can’t pay their mortgages, et cetera. The assumption initially was we’d see this big increase in supply and a big drop in demand. I think some of those assumptions were also coming from a place that was also assuming a neutral starting point for this year, the old Goldilocks market, not too hot, not too cold, when in fact, we were coming into 2020 screaming hot with our hair on fire.

Then, what about those tailwinds that didn’t get identified that are also very important? Well, COVID is a big shakeup to society and when you’ve got a big shakeup to society, the way that we live and work and commute and interact with our homes, a lot of people are going to pull up stakes and start moving. The million-strong overall housing stock, people that typically don’t move for years or decades are now all of a sudden moving around. That can cause a lot of activity in resale markets. On the supply side, you’ve also got a lot of people who may have been sellers in a normal year that said, “Are you out of your mind? I’m not going anywhere this year.”

On balance, we started off with very tight market conditions, and what’s happened is sales have gone up, even more, they haven’t gone down, and supply has gone down, even more, it hasn’t gone up.

Erin: Did any activity in any specific region stand out and surprise you in 2020, Shaun?

Shaun: If you look to Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, right now, they’ve got the tightest market conditions they’ve ever seen, but you know what they were before COVID? They were also the tightest market conditions they’ve ever seen. Yes, they’ve gotten even tighter so maybe that’s a bit of a surprise but it’s not all that different from the way things were. I think the bigger surprise would be places like Alberta, Saskatchewan, the oil patch that had really been laboring a little bit under a big overhang of supply, since around 2015, that hadn’t been causing prices to decline.

What’s happened with higher sales and lower supply everywhere, particularly there were there was a lot more excess supply to be pulled off the market and that’s what happened. I think in Alberta, over the last year, supply overall is down something like 20%. That’s a big decline in the stock variable of listings that have been hanging around for five years. Meanwhile, sales are on the verge of hitting a five-year high. What’s happened is, these places that were for five years, they’re known as the buyer’s markets of Canada, have suddenly gone right through that buyer’s market territory and now actually, right at the midpoint of balance, are the most balanced healthy markets in Canada, if you can believe that. We’re seeing prices from up there as well, whereas they had been falling for so many years.

Erin: What about property types?

Shaun: That was one of the predictions made early on that I think was one of the ones that it was hard to get wrong that at a time when we were working from home, working out from home, it was your kid’s school, you wanted to be away from other people and dense areas. You didn’t have to commute to downtown that the bigger detached homes further out would be the ones that people were really going after. That maybe the condo market with shared hallways and elevators and doorknobs and buttons would be maybe not as popular, and maybe the smaller property types, and you’re spending all your hours in your home, you might want to have a bit more space.

That’s definitely what we’re seeing, but again, it comes back to the same idea that you have to think about the starting point. All of these property types came into this year, red hot. Yes, the condo market is come off the boil, but it’s really only gone from red hot to a lukewarm bath. This is not a buyer’s market yet. In fact, we’re seeing lots of sales there because that’s one segment of the market that actually has listings that are for sale. Whereas the detached side of things, the prices just continue to accelerate because there are so few listings.

In fact, the sales numbers are actually starting to look underwhelming in the detached side of things because it’s starting to get reeled in by that lack of supply, even though the demand is obviously still there. I think this apartment story is probably going to see a reversal, give it a year or two. Once all these downtown areas and bars and restaurants and everything else are all open back up and we’re not so maybe nervous to be around other people when we’re all vaccinated, I could see that story reversing but for now that’s what we’re seeing this year.

Erin: Well, as we continue our look ahead now with interest rates remaining low into 2023 and low inventories in many markets, how do you see this playing out in 2021, Shaun?

Shaun: Well, the thing about interest rates or low-interest rates or medium interest rates or high-interest rates, is the thing that really affects housing markets as when they change and when they change quickly. When they shoot higher, that can really choke off the housing market, which had been adjusted to whatever level they were at before. They go down quickly it can really supercharge your market that had been adjusted to whatever they were before. I think interest rates are very low right now, but they’ve been low for a long time, and really the big story is they’re not expected to go anywhere.

I guess there’s positives that are supportive for the housing market that they’re low, but generally, they have a neutral effect if they don’t go anywhere for the next few years. That’s what the Bank of Canada is saying. What about the housing market in 2021 is a forecast? Well, the data that we’ve been publishing over the last four months has been the strongest ever, the tightest ever, and glancing obviously at the November numbers is looking equally strong. The new year is just a couple of weeks away at this point. These market conditions, like I said, they take years to develop, to have a drawdown in the overall supply of homes in Canada from 250,000 five years ago to just 140,000 now. That’s a huge decline in a very slow-moving metric. I don’t expect that these markets that we’re looking at right now is going to turn into a pumpkin on New Year’s Eve. 

I think that a lot of 2021 could very well look the same as it looks now. Like you say if things don’t really change and the economy is improving and all of the rest of it, we ramped immigration back up, I see no reason why this is going away. We missed last spring’s market when we were in lockdown. It was arguably going to be one of the wildest springs that I’ve seen in my career. Then it didn’t happen. Spring 2021 is only about four months away and we’re going to see a big rush of listings come out strategically at that time because that’s a good time to sell. I think there’s going to be a lot of demand for those properties. We’ll see what happens.

Erin: What lessons from 2020 do you think are going to be most important for us to hold onto? There’s a lot of the year we want to forget, but what should we hold on to, Shaun, as we head into 2021?

Shaun: A vibrant housing market is one where you’ve got a lot of demand and a lot of supply, and people that want to move around can move around. Right now, we’ve got a massively imbalanced housing market. I think as important as population growth is for Canada’s future and that’s going to be a big component going forward with an aging population for our social programs, that all of that at the same time, those population gains need to be timed out with gains in the housing options for people to live in. For anyone that’s looked at a chart of Canadian population growth over the last four years or so knows what I’m talking about. It’s been off the charts.

We haven’t seen the residential construction across the housing continuum to keep up with all those people who need to live somewhere. We see record tightness in the resale market and very strong price growth, arguably too strong. The same competition for new homes that become available, tight rental markets, and rising rents, not obviously rate at the moment, but just in general. I’m sure that will come back and issues with availability of affordable housing as well. Wherever you are on that housing continuum, it’s been a challenge to get into housing. What you need when you have a rising population of more people is more roofs for more heads to live under, right?

The government is looking to put the country back to work, that’s one place where we need a lot of work done. An issue has been a shortage in skilled trades, obviously, but I guess if you look across the employment spectrum right now, you’ve got one big group of people who are unemployed over here, and a shortage of workers over there. It seems like maybe a good case for retraining or vocational training as part of our recovery from this going forward.

Erin: All right, now I happen to know that you’re not really a resolution guy, New Year’s resolution. I’m going to ask you to step outside your comfort zone a little bit, Shaun, we won’t hold you to it. If you had a New Year’s resolution for all of us or for yourself for 2021, what would you like to share?

Shaun: Sure. While you’re right. I’m not a resolution guy. I do not like New Year’s Day. It’s arguably my most disliked day of the year when we go from warm family memories and vacation and gatherings and parties to instantly minus 30 and go back to work.

Erin: Let me just ease your mind because there’s no vacations. There are very few gatherings.

Shaun: That’s true.

Erin: All that being said.

Shaun: There’s less of contrast this year. You’re right.

Erin: It always does feel like first day of school though. I agree with you 100% New Year’s Day.

Shaun: It does with a windchill. Fair enough. There’s less of a contrast this year. Then I’ll compromise and I’ll offer something.

Erin: Good.

Shaun: It’s not a resolution. It’s a thought about 2021 that had occurred. When you listen to health officials saying, talking about vaccines and rollout and safety and all that it’s coming, but it’s going to take a while. We might be in this situation we’re in not normal for some time yet, maybe most of 2021. The COVID years, there’s the old, normal from 2019 before, there’s the new normal that will be in someday, which may be similar to the old normal, maybe not. Then there’s this middle period that we’re in right now when we’re dealing with this virus. If it spans 2020 and 2021, then I think that marks a New Year’s Day of 2021 is the midpoint of that. It reminded me of an old riddle. I don’t know if this one, but have you heard, how long can you walk into a forest?

Erin: Yes, I think so. Go ahead. Tell us.

Shaun: It goes, how long can you walk into a forest? The answer is halfway because after that you’re walking out. I think that would be my thought for 2021 after a year that we’d all like to forget. It’s been full of uncertainty and anxiety that at least we can say that it looks like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that we’re moving in that direction. I think that after the year we’ve had that something.

Erin: We’re not out of the woods, but you’re helping us see the forest for the trees. Is that it?

Shaun: Keep walking.

Erin: Amen. Amen. Bundle up. I hear you’ve got a minus 30 windchill coming, Shaun, thanks for your time today. We really appreciate it. All the best to you in 2021.

Shaun: Thanks, Erin. Same to you and it was my pleasure.

Erin: We’re going to round out this look back, look ahead episode of REAL TIME with the man who literally has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on around and within Reality in Canada. We’ll be talking about REALTOR.ca because in 2020, even more people turn to it, including our episode seven guest, Sarah Richardson, who searches out properties for a living parade, for HGTV and her shows there. She absolutely loves it. Remember this?

Sarah Richardson: What I find so interesting about the app now is it gives you this giant map view and you can zoom it out to be as broad as you want, or you can zoom it in. If you know you need to be on a specific street or in a specific neighbourhood, it gives you all that flexibility. On the large scale, it can seem like there is a myriad of possibilities, which there is, but one of my favourite elements is the filters and the search tools.

Erin: Go back to episode seven, to hear a fantastic chat with HGTV, Sarah Richardson here on REAL TIME. 

Ready to dive into real estate and technology, here’s VP of REALTOR.ca, Patrick Pichette. Hey, Patrick. Welcome. It’s good to be talking to you as we wrap up the year together and look ahead to 2021.

Patrick Pichette: Erin. Hi, very happy to be here. Hope you and your family are doing well.

Erin: We’re doing all right. We’re doing all right. Well, now that we’re well into the pandemic, have you seen a shift in the types of homes that people are looking for? What have you seen?

Patrick: That’s a great place to start, Erin. First off, it’s going to take a while to get some real hard numbers on the long-term impact of the pandemic, but REALTOR.ca does provide some early signals that people do want more space, right? They’re spending more time at home. Many of us are working remotely. We need that extra space. Some of the things we’re seeing with REALTOR.ca that point to that, first of all, since the start of the pandemic traffic overall, the REALTOR.ca is up about 35%. We’re getting record numbers and that increase in traffic is being led by searches for single-family homes.

On the flip side, we are seeing a 20% decrease in searches for condos, and we’re seeing an 11% decrease in multifamily units. The numbers are telling us that people are looking for more space.

Erin: Are they looking to accommodate external spaces into their homes now? The things that the outside world offered us, like offices, gyms, classrooms, even a bigger kitchen, so that you can get into your cooking and your inner chef as you’ve been doing, Patrick?

Patrick: Absolutely. Anecdotally, yes, people are doing that. They’re spending a lot of time in their homes, so that could lead them to, I need to add office space or I want to do more cooking now. I hate my kitchen. I need to do some renovation. It’s definitely had an impact across the board.

Erin: What about new build sales versus resale? What have you seen there?

Patrick: This one is really interesting. It’s important to note that the resale market is always quicker to adjust to any changing market condition. This makes sense because people can list their properties fairly quickly. In contrast, there’s a long pipeline to bring a new construction to market. This has meant that the resale market fell further in April and May, but bounced back more quickly that new constructions could. At the end of the day, Erin, both resale and new builds are both in situations of high demand and very tight supply. In fact, we’re seeing record lows when it comes to inventory of resell properties.

Erin: What about location? Are people looking outside of urban centers more? What are you seeing there, Patrick?

Patrick: We get this question often, Erin, and especially because we’re hearing the stories out of the US. People in masses are leaving cities like New York and Los Angeles. When it comes to Canada when we look at the REALTOR.ca search activity, we don’t see any significant changes in people looking within versus people looking outside of a large urban center. At the end of the day, traffic is up significantly on REALTOR.ca and it’s up across the board from urban to rural regions.

Erin: While we’re talking rural what about demand or sales for seasonal homes or cottages? What did you see this year, Patrick?

Patrick: There are lots of regions that are obviously further out from large city centers like Toronto and Vancouver. They’ve been performing very strongly. Regions that have strong seasonal and second home markets, for example, let’s take this Southern Georgian Bay area in Ontario, that kind of region has benefited the most from the pandemic. If we stick with that example, and if you were to look within a two-hour drive radius around Toronto, most areas have been quite strong for a number of years. We’ve all heard the saying drive until you qualify for a mortgage.

Now if we go back to pre-COVID, the one area within that radius that was somewhat, just somewhat underperforming had been cottage country. This is probably explained by the fact that a commute to get to Toronto just for a weekend is not very pleasant. Today in the wake of COVID, cottage country has gone crazy and it might be because people are looking to get away for longer than a weekend, and they can afford to do so because they can work remotely. All things considered, the commute doesn’t seem to be that big of a factor anymore.

Erin: There’s the discretionary spending that David mentioned. The money that people didn’t spend on things in 2020, that they can go, “Hey, you know what? We’ve got this money left over from the vacations or whatever that we didn’t take or do. Let’s put it toward something else.” That something else could be a seasonal property.

Patrick: Absolutely.

Erin: Patrick, who has been searching and buying and has that changed since 2019?

Patrick: The numbers on REALTOR.ca are pretty much up across the board from first-time home buyers to people looking to downsize, but I can highlight a couple interesting new trends. The proportion of 18-to-24-year-olds visiting REALTOR.ca has doubled. This younger demographic used to represent 5% of visitors. Now it’s 10%. This is actually good news, Erin, because this younger demographic wants to learn things like what is a specific neighbourhood like? Is it walkable? Is transit accessible? Is it vibrant or is it quiet? They’re curious about the real estate process. They have questions about affordability. What might they be able to afford in the future? 

The fact that they’re conducting this research on a site that is called REALTOR.ca where the REALTOR® value proposition is very prominent, is a great thing for our members. We’re building brand affinity and trust with this younger demographic who will one day need the services of a trusted advisor.

Erin: That’s fantastic. What’s the other trend you wanted to highlight?

Patrick: This one is actually, unfortunately, is a negative one. It’s a drop in the interest in commercial real estate. Since COVID, we’ve seen a decrease of 14% in the number of visitors who are searching for commercial real estate, and this is likely caused by the fact that companies, big and small, are rethinking their work environments, and what kind of physical footprint that they will need. This is a trend that we’re monitoring very closely.

Erin: Starting out 2020 most of us hadn’t heard of the word Zoom, except maybe in a Mazda commercial, you know, zoom, zoom. What are some of the virtual tools that REALTORS® have adapted to use in the pandemic? What do you think is here to stay as we move into 2021?

Patrick: I think a lot of it is here to stay, Erin. If we look at our membership, there’s actually a segment of our membership that they’ve excelled during COVID, and it’s because they already had adopted a digital first business. As an example, they were using digital signature software, virtual tours, 3D tours to promote listings. Those today who have embraced a “Zoom culture” over the last few months have taken their business further down the digital path. For example, we’re seeing a heavy adoption of live stream open houses on REALTOR.ca. Using Zoom or Facebook Live or Instagram Live, for example, to conduct open houses.

Currently, 25% of all listings on REALTOR.ca includes some sort of digital content. An interactive floor plan, a 3D tour, a YouTube video. Before COVID only 15% of listings had this kind of content. That’s a pretty big jump. In real numbers we’re looking at an extra 50,000 videos and interactive content on the website. This is great news for consumers because they crave this kind of content. Erin, I realized that I’m throwing a lot of stats at you, but if there’s one number that hopefully, REALTORS® will retain it’s the fact that when a consumer is on a listing on REALTOR.ca and they watch a video or a 3D tour, they are 50% more likely to contact that REALTOR®, email that REALTOR® or give them a call. In other words, a consumer that’s more engaged, better informed is more likely to contact a REALTOR®.

Erin: I have to tip my hat to everybody who has embraced the on-camera technology. As I moved from radio and into television and doing stuff online and video, and all of that, I had time to do that. This has been such a steep learning curve and so many REALTORS® that I’ve seen just rocket like they’ve been hosting shows for years. It really is incredible that massively done so well that your REALTORS® have accomplished.

Patrick: Absolutely. Hey, REALTORS® by nature are self-starters. I’m not surprised that many of them have adapted so quickly.

Erin: Amazing. Now research is saying that by the end of this year, which is just a very short time away, we will have moved up the technology ladder by a decade. What are some of the positive online behaviors and trends, Patrick that you think have resulted because of the pandemic?

Patrick: I would completely agree with that. You could find examples in every industry. Just look at the restaurant industry, for example, and the uptake in food delivery services. Municipalities and how they’re using platforms like Zoom to consult with citizens. Practically everyone now is transferring money electronically and that was not the case pre-COVID. I think COVID has shown us that we as companies, but also as individuals, are able to change and pivot our business practices much quicker than we had anticipated. You pointed out a few examples of REALTORS® becoming radio hosts and using Zoom and different technologies.

I’ve talked about digital signatures, and we’re seeing REALTORS® use end-to-end transaction management systems where the whole process can be managed at a distance. There are so many great examples of the way that our REALTOR® members have quickly embraced virtual tours, live streaming platforms. They literally did this days after the shutdown in order to keep their businesses going.

Erin: All right. We like to look back and think, what did we learn in 2020? What lessons do you think, Patrick will be the most important as REALTORS® head into the new year?

Patrick: Well, Erin COVID doesn’t stop January 1st, and how REALTORS® adapt their business practices will be ongoing and well beyond COVID. I think that the key takeaway from a business standpoint, spend more time looking forward and not looking back. The fundamentals of client relationships have not changed. It’s still about quality service and knowledge of the market, professionalism, being a trusted advisor, but what is quickly changing are the tools. REALTORS® need to adjust to the current reality and that means focusing on technology, making the right investments, and developing a strategy for this digital age that’s been accelerated over the last few months.

Most of all, it’s about the realization that if you start using the technology that’s available to compliment all the great things that you were doing before COVID, both you and your clients will win.

Erin: Absolutely. On that winning note as you get the last word in the last podcast of 2020, Patrick. Not a lot of pressure but I want to ask you if you have a New Year’s resolution heading into the new year, either as yourself in your role or as REALTOR.ca have at it, the floor is yours.

Patrick: I didn’t realize this was the last podcast of 2020, time flies.

Erin: It sure does. 2020 has it dragged or flown for you?

Patrick: It has flown. Absolutely. You could do a whole other interview on this. Absolutely. It has flown. I think most people would say that. Yes, great job by the way. I really enjoyed all the podcasts throughout the year.

Erin: Thank you.

Patrick: I didn’t realize I was the last one. In terms of New Year’s resolution, for our members, I would say take the time to learn. I know some of this stuff can sound scary, but a lot of it is very intuitive and we’re just at the beginning. We’re talking about Zoom, digital signature and so on. We’re just at the beginning. This stuff is going to get a lot easier to use. Take the time, learn it. It’s going to be so much better for you and your clients because we’re not going back. The train has left the station and this is the new reality. 

In terms of New Year’s resolution for me, I would say I’ve been doing a crazy amount of cooking. I’ve been trying all sorts of things, so I’d love to get a new kitchen but in terms of REALTOR.ca, if REALTOR.ca was a person, I think it would be like me. It wants to eat more and more different things. It wants to try new things. I don’t know if that analogy is making sense or not.

Erin: Well, sure. Throw all the spices in and see what tastes good.

Patrick: Yes, exactly. I would love to see REALTOR.ca just continue to have more of that digital content I talked about, more information for the consumer. Again, it comes back to a consumer that is better informed, better engaged, is more likely to become a future client for REALTORS®. Don’t be afraid to make the investment in digital content, and don’t be afraid to put as much information as you can about yourself and about your listings on REALTOR.ca.

Erin: Great advice. Patrick, thank you. Thank you and all the best to you in 2021.

Patrick: Same here, Erin. It was a lot of fun. Take care.

Erin: In our first podcast of the new year, we’re going to look into the most important factors as we make sure that our homes suit our needs. It promises to be enlightening, so don’t miss it. Be sure to subscribe, and thank you for being part of this year’s REAL TIME podcast. 

REAL TIME is produced by Real Family Productions and Rob Whitehead, along with Alphabet® Creative. I’m your host Erin Davis. I just want to wish you a safe, happy, and healthy 2021. May you be as busy as you want to be, may you find joy and fulfillment in what you do and those who surround you, and let’s meet back here soon. Bye for now.

Episode 9: Jesse Thistle – A Conversation About Homelessness in Canada

Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME. A podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. We’re all about sparking conversations with inspiring, informative people about all things Canadian Real Estate and topics that impact REALTORS® and really, all of us. I’m your host Erin Davis for what I hope will be a memorable episode nine. CREA’s annual REALTORS® Care Week is a chance to double down on all of our efforts to make a bigger collective impact on the homelessness situation in Canada.

Here in this country, more than 35,000 people experience homelessness every night. In recognition of this CREA’s annual REALTORS® Care Week 2020 this year, aims to raise awareness, initiate meaningful conversations, and advocate for change to help end and prevent homelessness once and for all on a national level. To support these efforts, episode nine of REAL TIME features Métis-Cree, best-selling author of From the Ashes and PhD candidate Jesse Thistle, who sheds light on his personal experience in and out of homelessness and what he hopes to accomplish through his work as a scholar.

Additionally, a little later, we’re joined by the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, liberal minister of families, children and social development to gain insight into the Canadian government’s position on helping ensure every Canadian has a safe, affordable place to live. First, though, Jessie Thistle. What an honour it is to have you sharing our REAL TIME podcast today. Thank you. Thank you so much, Jesse, it means a lot to us.

Jesse Thistle: It’s a pleasure to be here with you, Erin.

Erin: You’ve shed light on your personal experience in and out of homelessness. Now, you’re looking to the future at what you hope to accomplish through your work as a scholar for someone who has literally been there and done that. I know there’s no singular reason for why people experience homelessness. It is such a complex issue affecting everybody differently, Jesse. Let’s talk about you. Can you tell us about your own experience? And how you got to where you are today?

Jesse: Sure, yes. I guess I would say I’m a consumer-survivor of the streets. I lived off and on the streets from ’97 till I got off them in 2011. My homelessness was cyclical. I stayed in emergency shelters, slept on the streets. I had apartments in that time too for brief periods of time. What happened with me really was trauma from my early childhood experiences. I’m an indigenous person who comes from Northern Saskatchewan. I’m Métis-Cree and my family fell apart because of this something called intergenerational trauma.

We were lost to CAS through actions from my father. I ended up being raised in Brampton without any sense of myself as an indigenous person always searching around, getting in lots of fistfights as a frustrated young man. I eventually started using drugs and alcohol and then I ended up on the streets. My book really tracks my life from my earliest memory on the road allowances in northern Saskatchewan through to when I come out the other side, out of my cyclical homelessness in 2008, then I become a scholar, by going to university. That’s what I am now. I’m an assistant professor.

Erin: That’s a huge leap from where you go…and then I became a scholar by going to university. How did that happen?

Jesse: I had a wonderful wife that kicked my butt every day, that took me out of the– When I was finishing my rehab, when I went through the program, it was a year-long program called Harvest House. After I was court-ordered, I got in quite a bit of trouble with the law. My sentence was to go to this rehab and do one year instead of in lieu of my sentence, and at the end of it, my wife was there and she took me in and gave me a place to stay in Toronto.

She got me my first job cutting French fries, which I’m still very proud. I was the best French fry-cutter they ever had. Then I went on to work construction for a couple of years and all the while, I had made a promise to my grandmother that I would go to university and give it a shot and really, really learn to read and write properly at an academic level.

While I was there, I figured out I was pretty good at it. I just got really good grades.

I just continued doing what felt natural to me. The end of it was me winning a bunch of academic awards, then being asked to tender my application in for this assistant professorship which I got the job. I got the job in 2018.

Erin: Now, you taught Jesse about a promise you made to your grandmother that you were going to university. Were there other people in your family who had gone on to post-secondary learning?

Jesse: Not in my direct nuclear family. My grandparents never went. My mom didn’t go. My dad disappeared in 1982, he’s presumed to be murdered. He didn’t go. He had drug issues. My brother Josh was an RCMP. He didn’t go. I think he went to some sort of community college for work. My other brother Jerry, I think he dabbled in art school, but he never completed. I’m the first one to go and complete my degree.

Erin: How does one get from university to writing a book that ends up on a bestsellers’ list? For many authors, it’s a matter of writing a story and then shopping and having it rejected and rejected and rejected. I was one of the very fortunate few when Harper Collins came to me and said you’ve got a story. I was in my own experience, kissed by God. Did you also have that celestial kiss? How did you come to write a book, Jesse?

Jesse: I did. That’s a great way to put it, celestial kiss is how I would say it too. What happened was I was in university. First couple years are difficult, because I was just out of rehab, and I was just a blue-collar construction worker, I couldn’t read very well. I had to really put in a lot of work and effort. I get up at 4:30 like I was working construction and force the words in the journals that I was reading to make sense, that I’d have to read four and five times sometimes over and over and over.

I did this for the first two years of school and because I was so dedicated, and I put in the time, around the third year of university, I started to outclass the people that I was in school with who had always been in school because I just had a better work ethic, I guess. By the fourth year, I never got below an A. Most of my marks are A pluses. That qualified me for the Governor General’s Award in academics, finished the top student out of 50,000 at York University.

Then I applied for these two major doctoral awards. The Trudeau and the Vanier doctoral awards, they are the most prestigious in Canada. They’re like the Rhodes Scholarship for Canada. The way I won all three of these things, no one at York University had ever done that before so the Toronto Star came to do a story on my life. When I was talking with a reporter, he’s like, ” You’re a little bit older to be at school, and I know you have a life story. How did you get here?”

I said, “If you really want to know, my journey off the streets starts with me robbing a 7-Eleven. That’s really where my education starts in the prison system.” He’s just like, “That’s the story, Jesse.” He wrote the story about how I got off the streets and the awards. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from Simon & Schuster. They said, “We’re interested in publishing your story.”

When I went into that meeting, they asked me, “Do you have anything written about your life?” I said, “I kind of do.” I’ve been doing my AA steps since I got out of treatment in 2009. This is 2017 when they asked me. I sent that to them and they called me back right away and offered me a major book contract. I didn’t even have a book when I was offered a contract.

Erin: Wow. Now, Jesse, why do you think From the Ashes has resonated so loudly and been so successful?

Jesse: I think it has to do with that it’s a universal theme. I deal with homelessness is the primary theme. There’s also family dysfunction, there’s trauma, there’s addiction, there’s a lot of issues that resonate in the national consciousness around colonialism and indigenous peoples. All of these mashed together. I also wrote the book in a non-accusatory way. I wasn’t lecturing at people about these issues. I just presented my life as it happened.

That gives people a safe way to interact with these issues, then it’s relatable because I’m not lecturing at them. They’re like, “I can see my uncle’s story, or my father’s, or this is what our family went through.” In the way I told it, it’s got a broad reach. That’s not just for people who are interested in indigenous issues or even homeless issues. There’s broader issues like love, family love, brotherhood that are at play here.

Erin: Those are all issues that we’re going to be talking about in today’s very special episode with you, Jesse. When we return, Jesse Thistle is going to read from From the Ashes. 

This year, we’re encouraging REALTORS® to learn about homelessness in Canada, efforts to prevent it and to end it, and what the REALTOR® community is all about. Most of you already know by volunteering and raising funds, REALTORS® across this country of ours are playing meaningful roles in the communities where you work and live. 

Jesse, would you honour us with a reading from From the Ashes, and before you do, please set up the surrounding story to what you’re about to read. Would you?

Jesse: Sure. Yes. This is a story, dear, dear, to my heart. It’s about one of my friends who are one of the only people out there that looked out for me. “I’d been on the streets off and on for a few years at this point and I’m in a shelter in Brampton called Wilkinson Road. I had a friend there named Abdi and he was like a 65, 70-year-old Somalian man who developed an alcoholic problem when he came to this country because he didn’t fit in.

Every night before bed, he would look out for me and just protect me and make sure that nobody hurt me. I missed my friend and I think of him all the time. Abdi, if you’re out there listening, this is for you, buddy. The King of Somalia, “Goodnight, Abdi. You crusty, old bastard,” I said and rested my head on my pillow. “Abdi was a Somalian man of about 65. He was my buddy and always slept in the bed next to me at the homeless shelter. Samantha was off on the woman’s side.” That was my girlfriend then.

“Hey,” I said a minute later, “I’ve been meaning to ask you. You said you were the King of Somalia. Is that true?” As expected, Abdi’s face flushed and his eyes bulged. “Would I lie peasant, of course, I am the King of Somalia? How dare you question my royal blood?” Obviously, I knew he wasn’t Somali royalty. I like joking with Abdi to get them going and he’d do the same with me. It was our only form of entertainment in this horrible yet hospitable place.

Life hadn’t been good to Abdi. He’d fled Somalia with his family when civil war broke out in the early ’90s. Soon after, he’d become an alcoholic and his wife had left him for another man. Abdi would reminisce about his homeland, telling me how he used to shepherd massive herds of cattle between Kenya and Somalia and how he’d sit every night watching the orange-red African sunset.

By the way his eyes lit up, I could see it was something he missed dearly. I try to imagine how hard it must’ve been for him to be forced out of his homeland only to end up in a homeless shelter in a foreign country that seemingly didn’t want him or his problems. Hey, “Thistle,” Abdi said, as he leaned over, “You know how I know you’re a real Streeter like me?” “I don’t know. Maybe it’s in the way I drink the rest of the old English piss water.

He cringed. “No, that’s just disgusting. Dirty Canadian drinking dirty American beer. No, young blood. It’s in the way you sleep.” “How do you mean, and why are you watching me while I sleep?” “I always watch out for you,” he said, “when you sleep to make sure no one steals your stuff.” I thought about it and he was right. I watched out for him too. It was just what friends did in this place.

“Indian, you’ve had your shoes stolen so many times,” he said, “you sleep with them on. See,” he pulled up his blanket, exposing his grungy, muddy, black boots and smiled. “You see those other young guys?” Abdi pointed at two young men with their shoes placed under their cots, “They’re little puppies, down on their luck momentarily. One day, if they’re at it long enough, they’ll learn like we did, never take your shoes off.”

Having no shoes and homeless was the worst. It could take a day or two to find a new pair that fit from the donation box and that was if you were lucky. Other times you’d have to leave the shelter shoeless at 7:00 AM to go and wait at the chaplain’s office at 8:00 AM to get a voucher to take up to the Sally Ann up the street so they could outfit you with a new pair, or you had to go without for a few days or steal a pair from Zellers and risk your freedom.

When you were shoeless in winter, it was almost unbearable. I surveyed the shelter beds, only about a third of the guys had their shoes on like we did. I never noticed that about myself, but every night I tied my shoes on with triple even quadruple knots, just to give myself a chance of keeping thieves from stealing the shoes right off my feet, and even then, they even got them sometimes. “I guess I do sleep with my shoes on, Abdi,” I said and laughed.” That’s a story about my buddy, Abdi.

Erin: Ooh, wow. There is so much there. It’s heartbreaking, it’s heartwarming, it’s eye-opening. Shoes, it’s all it comes down to. We’re talking in such broad terms about homelessness and shelters and REALTORS® Care Week and all of these things that are such big picture things, but it comes down to shoes, to safety, to friendship, to dignity.

In a way, Jesse, I think so much of your story is about the importance of family and relationships and home. What has the family of a friend like Abdi or with your wife and where you are now, what has family come to mean to you and what should it mean to those of us looking in?

Jesse: Well, I learned on the streets through people like Abdi and my own experiences that we ultimately, newcomer, native, and Canadians, we walk in the same moccasins and that’s the moccasins of our families and our homes and our love. That’s everything, that’s who we are as people and that’s so important to recognize, to humanize, to understand. By telling my story and sharing a little bit of my friend Abdi, I have brought the reader to walk with me, to see how it actually feels to be homeless, to have a friend to watch out for you, to watch out for your shoes. My hope is that it humanizes the experience and gets people to care.

Erin: Yet, the dichotomy of you coming from the original inhabitants of this country and Abdi being here new to Canada, and yet being metaphorically in the same boat, wearing the same moccasins, as you say, and holding on to those for dear life every night as you sleep. It’s just, it’s dark.

Jesse: If you think about our paths though, we’re both impacted by colonialism. Ethiopia has a history of repelling colonial invasions and destabilization by invading Italians in the 1940s. My people have a history of colonial trauma because of the way we were displaced from our lands. We actually do walk very similar paths.

Erin: Jesse, what do you think Canadians need to know about homelessness? I’m sure there are just as many wrong ideas and false beliefs surrounding it as there are realities. Cutting through to what is true, what do you want us to know?

Jesse: I want Canadians to know that homelessness is not an individual choice and it’s not a product of addiction or mental health or bad choices. It’s really a policy choice of bad governance over time. We’re not building the right amount of housing, public housing on par with the way that the population has grown for the last 40 years. The lower rungs of society who don’t own homes, who have been renting at high cost are now being pushed into homelessness.

That’s really, really important to understand because you see things like tent cities all across the country now where this didn’t exist 10 years ago. The problem, through this lens, you have to understand all those people didn’t make that choice. There’s larger socioeconomic pushes from bad governance over time that are creating this problem. We need to change our policy, vote in people that are going to change some of these things and start looking to creative solutions in governance to fix the issues.

Erin: Jesse, what would you say to those who say that the– let’s say the tent cities and parks. This is a situation that has ramped up, as you say, exponentially here in my home city of Victoria, British Columbia. I’m hearing and reading a lot of thoughts on this. Address this one for me, if you would, those who say that the bad governance is the governance that has allowed this to happen. What bad governance are you talking about?

Jesse: I’m talking about 30, 40 years of successive parties, kind of doing the same thing over time. This is municipal governments. This is provincial, federal and they’re of all different stripes. They’ve all not focused on homelessness and housing and made it a priority. A culmination of their decisions has created this. You can’t really place it on one particular party or our strata of government. All levels of governance have created this issue. It’s going to take all of them to get out of this.

Erin: Jesse, tell me what are some of the biggest obstacles preventing Canadians who really desperately want to …with overcoming homelessness?

Jesse: I think that we need to realize that we need to have a government, a federal government that works with the provinces and cities to commit to ending homelessness. I think a critical first step is found in that federal leadership. I’m on the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and they’ve developed a six-point plan called Recovery for All. I’ll just go through a little bit of that because I think people need to understand what this program is and then start to maybe put a little pressure on the governments to try and implement it.

We need a federal commitment with timelines and targets to the prevention and elimination of homelessness and this has to be a priority. With expanded federal investments in community-based homelessness responses. 

Number two, a national guaranteed minimum income to ensure those in greatest need have minimum financial resources to help them meet their basic needs and prevent homelessness when times are tough like we’re seeing all around us now.

Number three, construction of 300,000 new permanently affordable and supportive housing units and enhance rental supports for low-income Canadians to address Canada’s housing and homelessness crisis. 

Number four, meaningful implementation of the right to housing. This is to resolve surface inequalities and systemic structural breakdowns that contribute to homelessness and housing needs. 

Number five, an implementation to curtail the impacts of financialization of rental housing markets. The building of condominiums, we got to start re-zoning and building co-op housing all across our major cities.

Lastly, we need a realistic implementation of an urban and rural indigenous housing and homelessness strategy. This was supposed to come in June 2017. It just wasn’t launched. 

This strategy, indigenous housing strategy, I believe must be developed and implemented by urban, rural, and Northern indigenous peoples themselves and their housing and service providers. That’s a Recovery for All and this is a really clear path that I think Canadians should be made aware of to start pressuring our governments to implement.

Erin: Where can people find that list, Recovery for All?

Jesse: That’s at www.caeh.ca.

Erin: As far as you know, has that been seen by anyone in Ottawa or in provincial government or even in city councils? Do you know if this message is landing in the right laps these days?

Jesse: Yes, there are places like Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray, Guelph, Chatham, Dufferin County that are moving towards making this a reality. You can see their numbers in homelessness already starting to drop by this positive action towards ending homelessness.

Erin: How much has COVID mitigated steps forward? Just before we sat down for our interview today, I read an article on cbc.ca, about a man in Toronto who is now starting to build little houses on caster wheels that have insulation and he’s doing what he can with meager resources to try and help those who are facing a winter where shelters may not even be available because of COVID. The numbers are just overwhelming everyone and everything in the system. What do you think COVID has done in terms of 2020 and helping the homelessness situation, Jesse?

Jesse: It’s certainly made it more visible. We were seeing tent cities in places like here in Hamilton, Toronto, Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton is another one. These places, the homelessness has become so visible all of a sudden. We’re not really sure if it’s an increase in homelessness or if it’s a decrease in rentable space. It’s too early to say definitively. I would say personally, yes. Definitely, COVID has exposed the cracks and there’s a lot more people falling in between them. Addictions have gone up, rates of overdose have gone up. Certainly, I believe housing has become more of an issue, but we just don’t know if that’s really actually increased homelessness.

Erin: Okay. As you know Jesse, this episode complements REALTORS® Care Week 2020, which aims to raise awareness of homelessness in Canada. Even as we are seeing it with our own eyes as you mention, the proliferation of tent cities and people being forced out now who were just living on the financial edge and have lost their jobs because of shutdowns and because of the pandemic. We’re talking about the REALTORS® who are listening right now, what can Canadians do to make a difference?

Jesse: Donate. I think donation to orgs where you live is critical. Volunteer. These places are always short-staffed. There’s nothing that can replace human power, human caring, just like that guy who’s building those shelters. Then on the political side, I would say talk to your officials and find out if they’re committed to something like Recovery for All, or Housing First, or any of these programs that have been proven to work. What are they actually doing about the issue?

Erin: From the individual to the large organizations, how can they use their voice and influence to help, Jesse?

Jesse: I would say vote. Voting for who has a platform on housing is critical and who’s made it a center-stage issue because it is one of the most critical issues in Canada today. It doesn’t get the platform that it deserves. Then beyond that, as an indigenous person, I would always ask voters to look and see if the people that they’re voting for who have these housing platforms are they making the truth and reconciliation recommendations or the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls calls to action.

Are they making those important issues because they’re interlinked, the homelessness and these issues are interlinked. They go back through our colonial history and they need to be addressed. If we just leave them, they’re going to keep getting worse and worse.

Erin: Certainly, before we sat down for this conversation, it probably crossed your mind you were going to be talking to Canadian Real Estate Association members. What went through your mind? If there was one message you could just say, “Hey, listen, this is what we need from you.” You’ve got the microphone, you’ve got the podium, Jesse, what do you want our members to hear?

Jesse: Well, you guys are part of the apparatus that gets families into homes, and so help the orgs that you see out there that are working on the ground with people that are coming out of homelessness and try to make housing accessible for them. Be that by donating, be that by helping people into their first homes or volunteering at soup kitchens or whatever, just like help out. You guys are like an army of people that have the power to do this. For me to you guys, we need help and we’d love it if you threw in a hand.

Erin: We started out talking today about family, about Abdi in the shelter watching over you, about the importance of family to us all, as individuals, as a society. What does that come down to for you as we wrap up, what is your family to you now, and what are you trying to show them, to surround them with as you live out the rest of your life, Jesse, this meaningful life that you have taken on?

Jesse: What I realized most is that home is love. Home is love, and you get that love from your family and from those around you. That’s the most important message, and so getting people housed is also about making people feel loved. To me, those two issues are intertwined. They’re braided together. That’s what I want people to know most.

Erin: We will be watching you, Jesse. We’ll be listening for you, but more importantly, I think we will be helping to spread your word for you. Thank you so much for your time today, for sharing your message, and hopefully, opening some eyes and some ears to what the homeless in Canada really truly want.

Jesse: Thank you, Erin. This has been a dream of mine. I listened to you growing up and here I am on the podcast. The world is a wild place sometimes. Thank you very much.

Erin: Amen to that, brother. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story with us today, allowing us to untie those triple knots and walk in your shoes just for a little bit. It’s such an honour, it really truly is. Congratulations.

Jesse: Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you.

Erin: That is award-winning scholar, best-selling author, Jesse Thistle, From the Ashes is an amazing read. We’re so lucky to have had him here with us today to tell his story. You heard Jesse speak in this episode of REAL TIME about the role and responsibility of government at all levels for ending homelessness in Canada. 

Recently, CREA CEO, Michael Bourque sat down with Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. The Honourable Ahmed Hussen shared with Michael his government’s plan to address homelessness, including targets for eliminating it, increasing the supply of different types of housing, supporting the National Housing Strategy and funding.

We’d like to share some of that discussion with you now. Michael asked the minister about something that really caught all of our attention back in September, the Speech from the Throne, which laid out an ambitious plan to tackle homelessness and affordable housing. The Honourable Ahmed Hussen was asked how the government plans to deliver on those committees?

Ahmed Hussen: The Speech from the Throne is a statement of intent, it’s broad outlines. Of course, in the late fall we will have a fiscal update that will provide a little bit more detail in terms of the money and then fiscal projections into the future. A couple of things I’ll say about that. Speech from the Throne recognized as a government, because of the National Housing Strategy, we’ve made a lot of progress in reducing chronic homelessness.

The previous target that we had was to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%. The Speech from the Throne has now indicated that as a government, our government, the Trudeau government will eliminate chronic homelessness entirely. I think we can do that. We have the resources; we have the political will. We have the collaboration with provinces and territories and municipal leaders that can be seen as a result of our national response to COVID-19. Now’s the time to do it. We will do whatever we can in terms of providing the leadership and the resources to eliminate chronic homelessness from Canada. We can do it, it’s long overdue and we will be the government that does that. 

The second thing we committed to doing is to reinforce the elements of the National Housing Strategy that are working very well. The Rental Construction Financing initiative, The National Housing Strategy Co-Investment Fund. Those housing streams of funding are working really, really well. They’re very good government policy because we get the money back, most of it anyway. We’re providing high-quality housing with energy efficiency standards, as well as accessibility standards.

Erin: For REALTORS®, increasing the supply of housing is a top priority. To that end, CREA has been encouraging the federal government to use its infrastructure agreements with provinces and municipalities to reduce the barriers in the supply of housing. Minister Hussen was asked for insight into his discussions with minister of infrastructure and communities, Catherine McKenna, and other colleagues in this regard.

Ahmed: Minister McKenna and I work really, really closely. There’s hardly a week that goes by without us having a very in-depth conversation of either her file or my file. We are intimately involved in making sure that housing and infrastructure go hand in hand. As your members would know, the more we invest in infrastructure, the more housing becomes available. Transport infrastructure, other forms of community infrastructure, enables housing, we all know that.

You’ll be excited to know that our government’s commitment to investing in infrastructure in communities, in transit, in other regional transportation links, as well as green infrastructure. All of those things, water, wastewater, green initiatives, all of that is there, in fact, we’re increasing those investments. I strongly believe that there is a very strong link between the two. The more we invest in infrastructure, the more housing we can build in this country and the more available housing stock becomes available to Canadians.

You’ve seen that during COVID-19, for example, what is raising the prices in some urban centers in Canada is not so much the market in terms of the demand, it’s the supply. The supply is tightening because of the disruption of COVID-19. When you have limited supply, you also have price appreciation, and so less and less people can afford a home.

We’re very concerned about the supply, but you can unlock more supply and incentivize more supply when you build more transit, when you invest in more regional transportation infrastructure, and so on.

Minister Mckenna and I work very hard, together we collaborate closely. I am one of her biggest supporters in cabinet when it comes to investing more in infrastructure. 

The second point I wanted to make is leadership from the municipal leaders. For us to get housing right, it can just be federal leadership. Yes, we will bring the lion’s share of the resources under the National Housing Strategy. We’ll bring the leadership back into the housing game, which we have since 2017 but municipal leaders can do a lot.

They can provide more land for housing; they can speed up the permitting and approvals process. They can also do a lot to unlock money as part of the National Housing Strategy. I’ve been one of the biggest champions of the National Housing Strategy when it comes to municipal leaders. I engage with them almost on a weekly basis to really encourage them to move forward on housing innovation, on being more ambitious in terms of increasing the housing stock.

There is some tools in their hands that they can exercise, and I’ve been working with them to exercise those tools more. Last but not least, just two days before the Speech from the Throne, I announced a very interesting new funding stream called the Rapid Housing Initiative, $1 billion to permanently house the most vulnerable people in our communities. When I say rapid housing, it is only for modular housing and other forms of housing that can be built really quickly in months not years, and enabling municipal leaders to purchase hotels and motels and convert it into housing.

It’s a very unique funding stream to house people who are now housed temporarily or who are on the street to house them permanently. That fund will at the minimum build 3,000 new affordable housing units, and hopefully more if there’s other contributions.

Erin: CREA CEO, Michael Bourque asked in their discussion, how the minister’s thoughts on housing have changed in the amount of time he spent with the portfolio. REALTORS®, he said, are interested in the whole spectrum from rentals through to homeownership.

Ahmed: The Rental Construction Financing Initiative, it’s $13.75 billion fund and it’s 100% financing, so we get all the money back. Through that process, we lend that money to private developers to build rental housing, mixed housing. A portion of it is subsidized but the rest are market rent. By sheer numbers, by putting more rental stock on the market, we’re stabilizing the rental market. We’re enabling more people to have access to high-quality rental units. As part of our CFI, there’s also conditions to access that money.

The developer has to build close to transit, close to workplaces and community centers, and schools and they have to meet minimum energy efficiency and accessibility standards. You have this program, $13.75 billion, 100% financing, so we get all the money back, but we have these great outcomes, we’re building communities. We’re building huge communities. We’re not talking about one building, in some of these projects is like four or five different towers.

One of the projects I unveiled in London, Ontario, is two towers side-by-side, Rental Construction Financing Initiative built that. They will be the two tallest towers between Mississauga and Calgary. We’re building density, we’re building communities. Rent is a huge part. We can’t forget about the rental market. 

The second thing that I’m really excited about is the Canada Housing Benefit. This is a portable rental supplement that goes directly to individuals, it’s not connected to our housing unit. If you receive it and you move, it moves with you. It is cost matched and cost-shared by provinces. We’ve signed that agreement with a number of provinces now. In the case of Ontario, for example, The Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit is up and running and it is to enable people to exit shelters and get rental housing or to go from being under-housed to being adequately housed.

Let me give you an example, like a family of five living in a one-bedroom. They would be able to get the Canada housing benefit to then access a three-bedroom or whatever. 

The Canada Housing Benefit is another one and then more investments as part of the bilateral agreements. We have bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. We’re in a situation where now the government of Canada assigned housing agreements with each and every province and territory and as part of those agreements, billions of dollars are flowing to build and sustain community housing, co-ops, co-op units, subsidized units, and rental supplements.

As I said, since 2017, we’ve really come back into the housing game and we’re providing not only that federal leadership but tremendous amounts of resources but also enabling more Canadians to get their first home.

Erin: That’s the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development in conversation recently with CREA CEO, Michael Bourque. 

Well, this has been what I hope was an enlightening episode of REAL TIME with author of the astounding and unforgettable From the Ashes scholar, Métis-Cree, social activist, Jesse Thistle on his life from high school dropout to rising indigenous scholar and professor of Métis studies at York University. I can’t wait to read the next chapter in his life. Our sincere thanks to Minister Hussen for taking time to talk with our CREA members. 

Hey, speaking of which we love to hear from you, and thanks for calling our line to leave the best advice you’ve received as a REALTOR®. Let’s listen in.

Participant: Hi, this is Georg Boucher from Montreal. My advice is the following. When I first started in sales, my boss told me there were three types of employees. Basically, the ones who didn’t do their job and those were pretty easy to deal with because they were all just sent on their merry way. Then there were the ones who were doing their job, and those were basically the ones who were just staying there and doing the job. Then there were the ones who did their job and more than what the client expected. Those actually got the referrals, they got the promotions, they got more money, they got bonuses.

It was true actually as a sales rep back in the ’80s. Well, guess what? It is the same thing with brokers and real estate agents. The ones who don’t do the job, they’re not referred, and basically, they have no clients. The ones who just do the job but no more, they just go along and get business but they don’t really thrive. The ones that actually deliver more than the order, well, those actually get ahead of everybody and get referrals, they get more business and they actually, I think, have more fun in the business.

Erin: Thank you, merci to Georg Boucher from Montreal and reminding us all to go the extra mile or kilometer. Got some wisdom you want to share? Just call this number and leave us a message. 1888-768-6793. That’s 1888-768-6793. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Hey, just before we go, here’s another reason you’re going to want to subscribe to this podcast because our 10th REAL TIME is a look back at 2020. The twists and turns and why for some, especially REALTORS®, buying that day planner was not a waste of time after all.

Plus, like everyone else, we’ll be looking ahead at the year to come. Thank you for taking some time to listen to episode nine of REAL TIME. Then a lot personally, to get to talk to Jesse and to hear from Minister Hussen himself about what our government is doing as we move into the new year. 

REAL TIME is a Real Family Production produced by Rob Whitehead and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. We’ll talk with you again soon and don’t forget to subscribe.

Episode 8: Kelley Keehn – Making Sense of Money and Real Estate in Today’s Economic Climate

Erin: Welcome to episode eight of REAL TIME, a podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. We’re all about ideas surrounding Canadian real estate and topics that impact you as a REALTOR® and really, all of us. There’s some great family advice here today too. 

I’m your host, Erin Davis and we’re sitting down today with Kelley Keehn, best-selling author, 10 books, personal finance educator, guest from CTVs Marilyn Denis Show, BNN and on FP Canada to name a few platforms where she shares her wisdom. She’s an advisor who confesses to having a buy bias, which is definitely good news for you. Here we go.

Oh, Kelley, what a pleasure it is to have you with us here today, as we make our way through a year that has been so full of surprises. What’s the first thing I’m going to ask you to do? Make a prediction.

Something nobody wanted to do as this year has gone on, but jeez, if we start with some context, in 2016, about two-thirds of Canadian families owned their own homes and that was up from 60% in 1999. Do you expect these numbers to continue to increase or to decrease? What do you foresee for the future, if anybody could dare have any predictions this year?

Kelley: Erin, it’s so great to be with you and that is the burning question, isn’t it? What is going to happen with housing? Now, I’m not an economist, so I’m just making some very humble guesstimates here. It’s so tough because this isn’t just a recession, or a typical crisis like we went through with the financial crisis. This is so different. We’re all done with the unprecedented term that we hear every single day, every single hour, but it really is. When we were listening to all the news reports in March, in April, there was all these forecasts for housing to drop, different economists talking about different percentages, but it was in the low double digits and we’ve seen anything but.

We’ve seen July housing sales soar, Toronto housing soar. What is going to happen in the next quarter? What is going to happen next year is anyone’s guess. Some of the big question marks are once the government assistance dries up, when will it dry up, it keeps getting extended? We don’t know, but when that does dry up, how will Canadians handle their housing payments? Will we see delinquencies rise and people actually having to sell their house? With borders still shut, we’re not seeing the immigration that’s needed for increased sales. I don’t know, it’s certainly going to be the thing to watch.

Then also with the other question mark of how many renters actually want to become homeowners. A new survey revealed that 14% say that because of COVID, they want to purchase a home in the next year. That’s double the 7% reported last year. A lot of unknowns and we’ll all be watching very closely.

Erin: Kelley, with the August numbers just out of the GTA, for example, the only segment that wasn’t on fire, so to speak, was in condos. Now, do you think that what you just spoke to and that is the 14% of renters who say, “Yes, it’s time to stop renting, I want to start buying.” Do you think that that could be the catalyst in the condo market, that that might be the next big thing?

Kelley: It could be. That could go both ways, Erin, is a lot of homeowners, a lot of people wanting to ensure that they have the safety of having a home. I hear from so many young folks that, now, this was pre-COVID, that were being ousted from– They would sign a six-month lease, then their property was wanting to be converted to an Airbnb, they were kicked out. Then they kept facing increased rents every time they moved and of course, all the expenses with it. Now, some of the other younger folks that I’m talking to and just those in condos period in Toronto, are now during COVID have been isolated in this small box in the sky, their offices are closed, they don’t have that yard to get out there.

They have elevators that they’re navigating being in the same small space with other humans. They’re considering moving out of town or getting a home that’s out of the GTA, which they never would have had that conversation pre-COVID. Certainly, I think almost all of us are reexamining our housing issues and what makes sense moving forward probably in a way that we never have ever before.

Erin: Yes, you’re so right. Sarah Richardson told us in our most recent podcast that our homes have had to multitask as everything, our gym, our restaurant, our office, of course, our asylum, our classroom for so many and we are all reexamining our living space. Now you are, I would say, an expert in this. Kelley Keehn has written the best-selling book, Talk Money to Me and Save Well, Spend Some, and Feel Good About Your Money, Simon & Schuster. You must have a lot of millennials asking you the question, is real estate still a wise financial investment as it was for their parents and their grandparents?

Kelley: That is such a question on so many people’s minds. Let’s unpack that a little bit, especially when we use the word investment because an investment is something that you are purchasing with the hope that it’s going to appreciate that you are going to liquidate for your retirement. I know it sounds a little pedantic that I would go into that because an asset is something very different, an asset is something that you hope will appreciate. Erin, it’s a very important question. Let’s unpack it this way, if you are looking at real estate as your primary residence and then let’s unpack it as an investment, it’s something that you’re looking at something to appreciate as opposed to going into the stock market or ETFs or something like that.

Let’s first look at it as your principal residence. There are so many benefits to homeownership that I think a lot of millennials just said, “Hey, I’m never going to be able to afford it. It’s too expensive. It’s not for me.” Now we’re saying, “Whoa, if this is perhaps the new trend, the work at home trend and even when things get back to normal–” A lot of companies are saying they’re not going to require their employees to be in full-time in the office. It might just be two days a week. Now that’s a whole different conversation of, is it a good idea? Let’s just strip the investment question off because you need somewhere to live.

If you can get in and it’s a reasonable parallel to what your rent would be, it’s forced savings. Now, the theory my friend, Rob Carrick at The Globe and Mail, he has often presented the case that renting can actually be better than buying. I get where he’s coming from. I do have a buy bias. I do, I’ve always been interested in real estate. If it appreciates, that’s great, but even if it just stays at status quo when you– Because if you sell, you still have to buy at the higher price and theoretically you’re going to retire in a home. I think if you strip away the investment side of it, real estate can really make sense if you look at all those pros and cons.

Now, if we’re talking investment-wise, I think you have to do a lot more research. You need to do your due diligence because now you’ve got leverage that isn’t your principal residence. That means that you’re borrowing money for an investment. Are you able to be a property manager? Are you able to be a landlord? Now, if we’re even just talking about a cottage, you want to crunch the numbers, make sure that you’re using it enough, all that type of stuff. Then again, if I can just quickly go back to the principal residents, if and when you do sell, if let’s say, then you decide to, I don’t know, go into a retirement community or rent or something of that sort, it is tax-free of what your increase was.

I think there are a lot of compelling cases for homeownership, regardless of COVID, but I certainly think that COVID is going to– The pendulum is going to swing for a lot of people to figure out how can they get in the market even if it still is expensive for a lot of young folks.

Erin: Back with financial expert, Kelley Keehn, in just a second and the best advice she’s got for newbies just entering the market as a buyer. This is so worth sharing with prospective buyers, so please do. Oh, and we mentioned Sarah Richardson there in our chat. If you missed podcast episode seven with the HGTV design goddess, it’s easy to find. I promise you’ll be glad you did. Just make sure you subscribed to our REAL TIME podcast series. Don’t miss an episode, click to subscribe. Back to author, speaker and our REAL TIME guest, Kelley Keehn. Guess what? She’s got her own amazing website, kelleykeehn.com. That’s Kelley, K-E-L-L-E-Y, Keehn, K-E-E-H-N.com.

She’s the author of 10 books, but she’s just found one of our favourite apps plus more great tips. Let’s talk about the people who are deciding to come out of self-isolation and dip their toes into purchasing then. Kelley, what advice would you give to somebody who’s just starting to look at maybe stepping on that first rung of the property ladder? How do they do so responsibly?

Kelley: That’s such an important question, Erin, because a lot of people feel that, first of all, if they’re renting, I just hear these myths, it’s just so expensive, millennials can’t get into a home. Those things are not necessarily true. Maybe you have to tweak where your ideal home is. Maybe it’s getting a roommate to get started with, maybe you need an income suite to help get approved. The most important thing is to get started. If you really do have this inkling and this goal of homeownership, unpack it, start to do the simplest thing, go to the neighbourhood that you would love, reach out to a REALTOR® to help you narrow down to say, “Okay, this is my ideal, what is it going to cost?”

I can’t tell you how many people are like, they’ve already dismissed the idea of homeownership, they don’t even know really how much it costs, they haven’t really looked at their budget. Figure out where you want to be, what are your non-negotiables for a home? A great starting point. Then what you want to do is you want to do some financial legwork. I got to tell you, I flipped over on the CREA site crea.ca, REALTOR.ca, I can’t believe that I haven’t seen these resources before. They’re incredible. Seriously, I was playing around and their calculators are so intuitive. They really answer the questions that a lot of people wouldn’t even think to ask.

For example, there’s some great, decent preapproval calculators on a lot of websites. Another resource I really like is the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. I know that’s a mouthful, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada if you just Google them and then add the word calculator, they have a lot of great calculators, like how to pay down your credit card debt, all that type of stuff that you may need to do before you’re even thinking about buying a home. Let’s say you’re close, you’re close to getting a home, these calculators were so fantastic. You can figure out exactly what you need for a down payment, you punch in your income, you punch in what you think your property taxes are going to be, some of those details, it spits out what you can afford.

Erin, what I love the most is it also shows you the impact of your down payment. If you’re coming in with less than 20%, it’s going to show you approximately how much those insurance fees are going to be if it’s CMHC, or it’s other insurers like Genworth that you’re going to have to pay and you can be like, “Wow, maybe I need to wait a few more years, maybe I need to save up a little bit more.” Or you might say, “No, it’s worth it to get right in.” That definitely is your best first step. I’d say, find out where you want to live, reach out to a REALTOR® to get some help, get online, get your calculator, maybe sit down with someone like a certified financial planner, or a nonprofit credit counselor to help you get out of any high-interest rate debt.

Then very lastly is working with your banker or your mortgage broker, once you’re ready to actually give you a rate guarantee. You don’t want to miss out on that in case interest rates go up. Definitely, I know there’s a lot of steps there to unpack, but if you just start with the first one or two, it’s real easy to get that momentum going.

Erin: How important is credit score in Canada? I know when you’re online, the credit score app comes up and check your credit score, check your credit score. That’s a US thing. Where does credit score come in when you’re looking at figuring out, okay, I want to make the biggest down payment that I can, looking at those interest rates. How big is that in terms of a Canadian who is planning to make a big purchase? Is that something that a bank or lender would be looking at pretty closely before they put a stamp on our mortgage application?

Kelley: Yes, Erin, and I’m so happy you brought that up because that is also something you really want to be on top of well in advance of your home buying goal setting. If you have a spouse, this may be tough Erin, a lot of people have not revealed their credit scores to each other. I don’t have a Canadian stat, but just anecdotally, 43% of Americans don’t even know what their spouse earns. They don’t know exactly what their– I know, I’m hoping that is not the same in Canada. When you hear a number like that, it wouldn’t be uncommon that a couple could be together for years or decades and they’ve never checked their credit score together or shared that.

You definitely want to look at this well in advance. Now, it is obviously not the only criteria, but it’s a big component to the lending process. Your credit report, you can get for free right now during COVID as often as you want online because, of course, the Equifax and TransUnion, they don’t have their doors open. You can get it online, but it doesn’t tell you your magic score. Your score should be the same with TransUnion and Equifax. Those are the two Canadian reporting agencies. You, unfortunately, have to pay for your score if you want it from them, but you’re right, Erin, you can get it for free. Your bank often will have that option for you to check your score, maybe your credit card company.

There’s some third-party companies out there that will give you your score for free. Just make sure you read the terms and conditions because maybe you’re giving away some privacy to get it for free. Anyhow, your score is anywhere from 300 to 900, 720 is probably a decent score for lending. It can be as low as 680 to get approved for a mortgage. That’s just one criteria. That’s just a little snapshot saying, how have you managed paying your debt? Now your credit could really be hurt because of COVID. Maybe you missed a few payments, things of that sort and you’re going to need 6 months to 12 months to get that back up.

I have to tell you that when I was in the financial industry, I dealt with a lot of high-net-worth clients. Especially maybe one spouse when their partner passed away and they had no income, they could have had a high net worth, but they had no credit and the bank was not very willing to lend to them because they had no credit history. You can be in this situation. I’ve actually talked to young folks that they thought they were doing everything right, paying their cars for cash, never using a credit card, not going into any student loan debt and then came time to get approved, they’ve got a down payment, all of this, they’ve got great income, they have no credit score or they don’t have a good one because they weren’t building credit.

It’s a great opportunity for REALTORS® to talk with prospective buyers or maybe buyers like parents that their adult children want to get into the market to be like, “Hey, maybe one of your first steps is checking that credit score, making sure it’s accurate, making sure something isn’t on there that’s pulling your score down that shouldn’t be and making sure that you’ve got the time to repair it because it doesn’t get repaired overnight that’s for sure.”

Erin: Once you found that house of your dreams and then you find out that your spouse has student loans or anything that went sideways that they either forgot about or just chose to put aside, that’s not the time to have the fight in the driveway.

Kelley: 100%.

Erin: Speaking of 100% and giving credit where credit is due, here’s to you if you’re an inspiration to others, why not share the good news? All you do is go to REALTORSCARE.ca. REALTORS® Care is the national brand that celebrates great charitable work by the REALTOR® community in Canada. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to you by sharing your story at REALTORSCARE.ca. Back to Kelley Keehn on REAL TIME with more advice for first-time buyers. It never hurts to get into a potential client’s head just a little more. So, let’s do that. Plus, Kelley’s anti-budget idea for all of us.

Is there a time, Kelley, that’s too early to talk to a REALTOR® about your hopes and dreams? We’ve been discussing the nuts and bolts of financial institutions and online roadmaps. What about just sitting down over a coffee or Zoom, I guess today, to talk with a REALTOR® about where it is you want to go?

Kelley: Oh, absolutely. Here’s the thing. If you don’t touch the dream, Erin, it’s not going to happen. If you never go to the neighbourhood, if you never call up a REALTOR® to understand maybe some blind spots about home buying, neighbourhoods that are up and coming. I’m usually in Toronto, but I’m back home in Edmonton and there’s a major LRT being built four blocks away. What does that mean? Does that mean that that will increase my property value, decrease it? If I would’ve known this a number of years ago and I probably did, I should have picked up the phone to a REALTOR® and said, “Hey, should I stay? Should I sell? What does this mean?” I have no idea.

These are professionals that have a pulse of what neighbourhoods are up and coming, which ones maybe you can get a really great deal in and in 10 years you can actually see that appreciation. Maybe some that are overvalued. They definitely have that inside information that it would be pretty difficult to find on your own. They’re going to offer that for you for free. Why not take them up on it?

Erin: Sure. It may not be an investment that pays off for the REALTOR® at that moment, but down the road, you remember who helped you and, hopefully, you’re able to get in touch and say, “Hey, I’m back and I’m ready.” Here we go.

Kelley: Do you know what, Erin, every time, and I’ve been in my house, this one house that I’ve had, I’ve had it for like 25 years and I’ve called REALTORS® a couple of times to be like, “Should I renovate? Should I sell? What should I do?” I was a terrible client. I didn’t buy once, but you know what I did? Every single time, I was like, “Oh, you know what, I bet my neighbor over there, they’re thinking about selling.” Every time the REALTOR® came and invested time with me, even though they didn’t make any money with me and they didn’t get the sale, they got a sale from someone that I referred them to because it was top of mind.

It’s just that, like you said, it’s that human element, it’s that reciprocity. You did something for me, I can’t pay you, I’m not going to be your client, but I’m going to work my best to help find someone because you provided me such incredible value that was worth a lot.

Erin: Yes. It’s like when we were talking with the folks who founded RankMyAgent, there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth and someone you trust endorsing something or someone.

Kelley: Absolutely. If I call you, if you’re my mom, my sister, my friend and say, “This REALTOR® went above and beyond.” How easy is that? I think a lot of people will go above and beyond when someone really came to help solve a problem that they just couldn’t figure out on their own. Erin, everyone, our housing needs have changed so rapidly that we’re all looking at our homes going, “Oh my goodness.” We’ve never examined them so closely and if they fit our needs and I don’t think there’s ever a time that is more ripe for opportunities than REALTORS® to just get out there, if it’s a webinar, if it’s conversations, if it’s, like you said, Zoom, just like, “Hey, let’s just have a chat about your home needs. What’s going on for you?”

Maybe you need a place with a rental suite, maybe the kids moved back home. I can’t tell you how many people had their kids move back home that their housing needs rapidly are not working for them anymore. University is happening for a lot of people virtually and the kids aren’t leaving this fall.

Erin: Yes. Soundproofing is the first step and then you go from there.

Kelley: Indeed.

Erin: Yes. Well, this year, 2020, we’ve seen, what is it, 4 in 10 Canadians now, 40% of us are saying, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our financial stress levels.” Half of us are losing sleep over financial worries. Do you have any tips? I know, 10 books. How many tips do you have that you could share to help us alleviate financial stress due to COVID-19, Kelley?

Kelley: Erin, it’s so essential. There’s three things that I think Canadians really need to take away from that. There’s such a cognitive load right now that’s just causing so much financial friction. Actually, studies have shown that when you have financial stress, your IQ is temporarily reduced. You can’t even see that there’s opportunities. The most important thing is just to get real back to basics, know what income you have and see if you can increase it, know what expenses you have and see if you can cut them. I’ll get into that in a second. Then number three is building that buffer, building that emergency savings account.

That survey that you were quoting, that was from FP Canada, those are the people that certify financial planners in Canada. The Canadian Payroll Association also came out with a very interesting survey this spring right when COVID was happening. Their survey revealed that it wasn’t what you make, even people making $150,000 a year, there’s been lots of studies saying your level of happiness increases to a certain amount of income and then you’re no more happy. What their survey revealed was, the sleep at night factor was having that buffer, having that emergency savings account. A lot of people didn’t have it. 

Before COVID, 50% of Canadians were $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. The reality is, we went into this crisis without the buffer. I know a lot of people are coming out of it going, “Never again.” Going to make sure that you’ve got that emergency savings no matter what. What do you do? One of the things in my book and I talk about a lot is something I call my 30-day anti-budget. I don’t like the B-word, it doesn’t work for me, it’s like the D-word, diet. Anyone can go on a diet, lose weight, it’s can you stick to it? Most people can’t.

The anti-budget, it’s something I do with my husband every single– We do it twice a year and all you have to do for 30 days is track your spending. Sounds super simple, lots of apps out there, you can use your own bank apps, but you need to dig in a little bit more. Pennies and cents make a difference when you’re trying to get that buffer. It’s calling up your cell phone provider seeing if you can get a better deal. If you’ve got high interest rate credit card debt, that’s costing you an astronomical amount of money every month. I just looked at even just some stuff that people might be spending their money on like weed and booze and gambling and unused subscriptions, we actually spend a lot of those.

If you add that up, that actually comes for the average Canadian to over $4,800 a year. If you could just slash that in half, just in half, that could very quickly find a decent emergency savings account. It’s not all about sacrifice, it’s about choice and awareness. Maybe you can even bump it up more if saving for that down payment is really important. If you do nothing more than just dig into your own finances, track your spending for 30 days, see where your money is going and then see where you can trim the fat, I think it’s a lot more sustainable than trying to stick to a budget.

Erin: $4,800 a year. Did you hear that? Maybe one of the kids called you. Go back and listen. Wow. 

Coming up on REAL TIME, Kelley talks about forced savings and her idea for an app and warnings for us about others. Have you checked out REALTOR.ca Living Room yet? Come on in. It’s the source for all things home. From articles on market trends and developments in real estate, to DIYs and all things design, we’ve got just the inspiration you need in one place on Living Room. 

Kelley Keehn is bestselling author and personal finance educator, consumer advocate. No wonder her latest book is called Talk Money to Me, which is exactly what we are doing here today.

You talked about the extraneous expenses, the weed, the booze, the gambling, the trips for fast food or coffee or whatever that just add up exponentially. Movie theater tickets, not so much these days, but the things we subscribe to and they just sit there. Is there, in your experience, an app or a program, besides your anti-budget idea which sounds great, that would– Let’s just use for an example the forced savings that our paychecks would give us, when they took off a chunk and you never saw it, you never missed it and then at the end, you either get a pension or you get some stock in your company or whatever. Is there something, Kelley, that can offer that forced saving of money that you never saw?

Kelley: I wish there were. There are some workarounds, but is there an actual app? Now, there are some fantastic apps out there. There’s some apps that will round up your spending so you can set the parameters. Here’s the fact, unfortunately, right now in Canada, we do not have something called open banking, or what Canada is calling consumer-driven finance.

What that means is, there isn’t an app or a way that you can look at all of your financial information and, let’s say, automatically do forced savings from all your financial information or track your spending or what have you, so much so that I’m actually working on a FinTech solution for that right now. 

Here’s the thing to note, is because there’s so many fantastic apps out there and Canadians are divulging their information, you need to be very careful because if you’re using a financial app that is linking into your credit card or your investments or your bank accounts and it’s not your bank app, you actually can nullify the fraud protection that you have when using your debit or your credit card. You want to be super, super careful that you’re very aware of that, but what can you do? 

If you were an employee, go to your employer. They probably have a savings program, a pay-yourself-first program that you may or may not be aware of. There’s probably matching programs with RSPs and other incentives, maybe stock purchase plans and matching plans. If you are not an employee, you’re on your own, you’re part of the gig economy, small business owner, you can do it yourself. You can just set up a forced savings plan that, unfortunately, doesn’t come from your paycheck because you’re paying yourself, but it comes out every month like a bill.

Canadians are fantastic with paying their bills. We just aren’t very good with savings. We used to be and fair enough, in the 1980s when interest rates were in the double-digits, there was a lot more incentive to save than there is now, but doing it every single month, having that habit, even if you just start with $25 or $50 a month and just keep increasing it, those dollars add up super, super fast.

Erin: Let’s talk about parents, the buffer zone between their offspring and possible financial ruin with the uncertainty, the debt, the low interest rates, everything that we talked about, how many parents are you finding are now the bank of mommy and daddy, as we used to call ourselves, how much are you seeing that change now in the whole financial puzzle?

Kelley: There’s a lot. Now, FP Canada had a survey a year ago and we followed it up from a couple of years ago as well. It was called Failure to Launch, it was how many adult children are actually, as you said, relying on the bank of mom and dad to either help them out with schooling, with housing, with all of that type of stuff. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it was a large number of parents could not retire when they wanted to or pay off their own debt because they were actually helping their adult kids. Now, that survey hasn’t been updated through COVID, but I dare say, anecdotally from the Canadians I’ve been talking to throughout this crisis, so many of them are helping out their children.

Then the sandwich generation, Erin, maybe even helping out their parents with delivery services and things of that sort just to help them get through COVID. They’re in the sandwich generation squish. It’s really important to make sure that if you are helping your children out financially, that there’s clear communication, that there’s documentation. If you’re giving a child a large amount of money for schooling, for helping with a down payment, if you’re co-signing for something, please consult a professional like a lawyer or a charter professional accountant or certified financial planner because there’s bigger questions to be had such as, is this a gift or is it a loan?

If you have more than one child and you’re only helping one child out, how does that affect the other children? Is that going to come off of their inheritance? Are you going to be open about that with the family? This is where a lot of very uncomfortable things start to manifest with families, it comes out at Christmas dinner and Thanksgiving dinner and things of that sort, a lot of resentment, one child keeps getting help. If you can’t have the conversations on your own, again, get that professional to help. Sometimes it’s like it needs to be a heavy hand, maybe you need to send your adult child to a nonprofit credit counselor and get them to really look at their finances because they keep coming back to the bank of mom and dad. Again, not easy conversations, but you want to make sure you really dig into all those details.

Erin: Absolutely. Making a child feel awkward because you’re getting them to sign a note that says you gave them this money is going to probably save a whole lot of heartache and not to mention the legal problems down the road. It’s a little bit of temporary pain for a whole lot of peace in the future, I would guess.

Kelley: Absolutely, Erin. What if, especially as we see more and more people going into the gig economy, especially younger folks opening their own little companies or being an entrepreneur, what if you give this large gift for a down payment or even help them pay their home more than a down payment or co-sign and they now maybe marry someone that goes bankrupt, maybe they go bankrupt because that industry was lost because of COVID or what have you. When you have these conversations like, “Hey, look adult child, it’s not just about my belief in you, it’s about what may happen to you through marriage, through uncertainty, through lawsuits, through what have you. We want to make sure that we protect this pot of money that mom and dad may be work decades or a half a century to earn, that it’s done properly.”

Then the other question too is, how are you going to help the kids? Are you cashing in investments? When is the best time to cash those in? Are you taking a line of credit? What is the best way for you to fund it? You can see how it becomes complex very quickly. What seems like a very simple decision, we’re going to help Johnny or Jenny out, can have a lot of layers that need to be explored.

Erin: Have you heard the saying, never waste a crisis? Well, you’re about to when Kelley returns, plus what surprised her most about 2020? Here’s a hint, it’s about slowing it down. Before we do, here’s an espresso reminder about CREA Café, it’s created for REALTORS® and includes insightful new content created hot and fresh weekly. Join the conversation at CREACafe.ca. You might just say thanks a latte or not, that’s okay. Just check it out. 

I hope you’re enjoying our conversation with Kelley Keehn, just the latest guest in the REAL TIME podcast series if you subscribed. Now, back to very special guest Kelley Keehn on REAL TIME.

Let’s turn it back to REALTORS® as we get set to wrap up here, Kelley and we could talk forever. I can see why you’ve got 10 books and I look forward to watching you on season 11 of The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV as well this year. Lots more of Kelley everywhere fortunately for us. I love your saying that you borrowed, ‘never waste a crisis’. This applies so perfectly to REALTORS® for 2020 and beyond. Do you want to extrapolate on that a little bit?

Kelley: Yes, and thank you for your kind words, Erin. I do appreciate it. It’s so great to be with you. People are suffering. They’re at home with their spouse and their cats and their kids and like you said, something as simple as soundproofing, maybe recommending that somebody get an interior wood door, doing an in-home assessment for someone, of course, with masks and social distancing and all of that sort. There’s so many opportunities for REALTORS®. I’ll just give you this anecdote. I met with my social media girl; she now has a team. This was few years ago and I remember there was a class of hers I couldn’t attend and I said, “Can I hire you individually just to walk me through how to do Instagram and Twitter and all that type of stuff?” She said, “Sure.”

She sat down and went through all of this with me, Erin. All sounded great. Six months later, I did none of that. I came to her and said, “Can I please hire you?” She’s been my social media team for three years now. You might not get the sale as we talked about earlier. You might not get the sale. You might put this extra effort out. It might not seem like it was worth it, but when you position yourself as a REALTOR® to be their real estate authority regardless, you have no idea what you could spark in the next week or next month to be like, “Wow, you came and gave us all these ideas and we realize it’s going to cost way too much. We would rather buy a new house with you or something of that sort.”

On the flip side, there are a lot of people that have saved money over COVID. They may be saved childcare cost, or not going out as much, they’re not traveling. Maybe they’re interested in buying a rental property, maybe they’re interested in a real estate as an investment. So many conversations to be heard and it’s not just about that transaction. It’s about that relationship and now more than ever people are looking at their homes with fresh eyes. I just think that a REALTOR® can provide such reassurance, help them make complex decisions and, as you said, be part of that coveted referral process that guarantees to sell a lot more, I think, than any other form of marketing or effort does.

Erin: Kelley, we usually wrap up the show with something fast or an open house or something, but I’m going to slow it down based on something you told me surprised you most about 2020. Want to share that with us?

Kelley: Love it, Erin, yes. COVID I renamed the slowVID. What do I mean by that? I was part of a local slow food movement decades ago where it was all about, let’s get back to sitting at the dining room table and farm-to-table and going to farmers’ market knowing about your food. I’ve been wanting a slow-money movement for a long time. I think that COVID, if we look at it as this slowVID, we’ve been forced to slow down. It’s been awful, awful for so many people absolutely, but I think the silver lining is in that slowness, we’ve been able to hopefully appreciate what money doesn’t buy, that if you go to the store and there’s toilet paper and food on the shelf, that that is a very exciting thing.

A hug from your parent, just being able to have a coffee out in public with someone, even if you have to wear a mask. Things that as a 45-year-old, my mom told me about the depression I didn’t get, but just that real appreciation of what’s important today. As I sit in my home talking to you, my home has never been more appreciated than ever before. I just think that it’s been such an honour to be on this podcast with you. I have great admiration for CREA and what REALTORS® do to provide this literal and metaphorical roof over your head is, I think, a very noble profession and industry.

Erin: I couldn’t end it any better than that. We’ll wrap it up for this time. Thank you, thank you, Kelley. We look forward, as I say, to seeing you on season 11 with Marilyn Denis. Okay, 10 books, is there an 11 coming for you or you’re just kicking back with all this going on?

Kelley: There’s 11 and 12. By the way, Erin, it’s such a pleasure to be with you. You are such an inspiration. I hope everyone listening googles you and gets your book, which I will be doing the second I get off of this conversation with you, but yes, Talk Money to Me is actually being updated and re-released with the COVID edition in January, which I’m really excited about. We’re rushing that book as quickly as possible because Canadians really need help with their deferrals and everything else. Yes, and stay tuned in 2021. There’s another one coming as well with Simon & Schuster.

Erin: Great. Well, can I suggest a re-up for your title Talk Money to Me but Do It From Over There?

Kelley: Love that.

Oh, you’re so brilliant.

Erin: Thank you, Kelley.

Kelley: Thank you, Erin.

Erin: Thanks to Kelley Keehn for her time and her insight and for sharing both with us here today. Don’t forget you can learn so much more about her books, upcoming appearances and more at kelleykeehn, K-E-L-L-E-Y K-E-E-H-N.com. 

Before we wrap up, I’ve got a question for you. What is the best piece of real estate advice you’ve received during your career? Has someone shared bulletproof marketing insights or profound thoughts on managing client relationships? We want to hear about advice you’ve received that had a positive impact on your career. Just call 1-888-768-6793. That’s 1-888-768-6793 and leave us a message. Hopefully, it’ll be shared in our next episode, maybe like this call.

Toni: Hi Erin, my name is Toni Sing. I am a REALTOR® at Bel-Air Realty Group in Vancouver. I just finished listening to your last podcast. It was very, very informative. I wanted to call in. To be honest, the best piece of advice that I found has worked for me is, listen to your client. The reason why it’s been such amazing advice is because it relates directly to knowing your client, knowing what’s important to them and client care. These are all essential in finding them either the right property and screening out the ones that would not be a fit based on what the client said and if you listened to the client and also really making their dream or plan happen and coming up with the proper way to support them. I look forward to your next episode. Thanks so much. Keep up the great work.

Erin: Thank you for that call. We love to hear from you. If you have some advice you want to share with everybody, don’t be shy. Just call this number and leave a message. 1-888-768-6793. Again, 1-888-768-6793. Thanks. Just before we go, here’s another reason you’re going to want to subscribe to this podcast. Up next time an in-depth discussion about the importance of home with award-winning Canadian author of From the Ashes, Jesse Thistle. You won’t want to miss it. 

REAL TIME is produced by Real Family Productions and Alphabet® Creative. I’m Erin Davis. Talk to you again soon and don’t forget to subscribe.

Episode 7: Sarah Richardson – Buying and Designing: Lessons Learned in Real Estate

Erin: Welcome to REAL TIME. A podcast for REALTORS® brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association. We are all about sparking conversations with really inspiring people about all things Canadian real estate plus topics that impact REALTORS®, really all of us. I’m your host Erin Davis. I’m so glad to be here especially for our very special guest for episode seven of REAL TIME. 

Let’s just say if the name Sarah Richardson, I don’t need to go into an introduction but maybe you’re not yet a follower of home improvement and design shows. You will be. Here we go. Sarah Richardson has been a key fixture of the Canadian design world for two decades carving a niche in the world of design TV by sharing her practical, endearing and inspiring approach to decor and design with viewers.

She launched her first TV series for HGTV in 2000, Room Service. All these years later Sarah is the host co-creator and co-producer of way over 250 episodes of design television that span seven hit HGTV series and they’re targeted directly to the needs of a contemporary audience. We are so lucky to have her so let’s go. Sarah, welcome, it is such a pleasure to have you here on REAL TIME. I can tell you that you’ve been on our wish list here for all of 2020 and to have you to be able to sit down with you virtually and at a safe distance is just a joy so thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done to make our lives more beautiful and for helping us here today to make this podcast a little more beautiful too. We are so grateful to you.

Sarah: I’m so excited to be here chatting with you. Both of us from the comfort of our own homes.

Erin: Yes, but yours is more comfortable than mine. Let’s not lie.

Sarah: Well, you never know. You never know.

Erin: You are Sarah Richardson. Come on, it’s got to be better than mine. Now, I do have to say we hear you have a small addiction and that is to the REALTOR.ca app. We had a chat a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been reflecting on everything we talked about over and over but first and foremost, you talked about the REALTOR.ca app. Let’s just dive in with A’s and the app and there what do you think?

Sarah: Well, you’re right. I think of it more as my most fun and my most expensive hobby but fortunately, to this day, the REALTOR.ca app has never led me astray. It’s never led me down the wrong garden path, but I will say that it has set me off on some really great adventures. It’s funny because I’ve been using it for a really long time. I probably open it at least a few times a week and I find it to be such a fun, exploratory tool. It really gets my creative juices running.

Erin: It also has expanded your horizons in taking you to places that you hadn’t previously considered, thanks to the app.

Sarah: That’s absolutely true. I think one of the most interesting things for me is that if I’m traveling, if I’m in a different location, if I’m driving, if we happen to be — my husband flies a small floatplane and if we happen to be flying over and I think, “Oh, that looks like a pretty area down below.” I can open up the REALTOR.ca app and I can zoom in and see what’s available for sale in the area that I am. That’s probably one of my favourite things about it because I think in the old days you used to have to look in the newspaper or you had to know exactly what your search criteria was, where exactly do you want to be?

What I find so interesting about the app now is it gives you this giant map view and you can zoom it in. You can zoom it out to be as broad as you want or you can zoom it in. If you need to be on a specific street or in a specific neighbourhood or maybe you just know that you want to be somewhere in a district, in a township, it gives you all that flexibility. On the large scale it can it can seem like there is a myriad of possibilities which there is but one of my favourite elements is the filters and the search tools.

Interestingly, on my most recent project which I just did for my YouTube series which was our retro ranch reno, I knew that I wanted to tackle a new project and I knew I wanted to buy a property, but I also knew that we wanted to be careful about the price point. The area in the country where we spend a lot of time prices had started really rising up. I thought, “Well, what if I set a price limit, and what if I lowered the limit and expanded the search area that I was looking for?” Sure enough, it led me to an area that I never would have normally put within the map area of where I was looking. Based on the price point I was looking at, it introduced me to a terrific property on a beautiful country gravel road that is quiet, that is minutes away from all the local amenities that we love, and literally minutes away from our own farm. Without that app there’s not a chance I ever would have found that property. Yet it ended up being just a fantastic spot and exactly what I wanted.

Erin: I find it incredible that in these days when we feel so locked in, cooped up and that we’re safe at home or staying at home, so many of us still that this allows you to not even needing a floatplane, you can soar just by using your fingertips. It’s an incredible thing.

Sarah: That’s absolutely true. That is the thing is that you can — I always say when I think about when people ask me where I find inspiration, so often I will say that I find it in social media. I love being able to tour and see where people are and what they’re seeing and what’s inspiring them whether it’s being on Instagram or being on Pinterest. What’s really interesting about the REALTOR.ca app is you can almost do that same thing where you can just dare to dream. You can look and say, “Oh, I’ve always thought it would be nice to consider, maybe we should consider living on the water. ” You can zoom around. Exactly as you’ve just described it Erin, you can fly like a bird and zoom in on whatever property you want. You can swipe through, you can see the photos, you can get the information, you can forward it to a friend. If I’m not looking for me, I make myself feel better by thinking that maybe I’m looking for a friend.

Erin: That’s wonderful. I just love it. I would love to have a friend like you who was always keeping an eye out for great properties or fixer uppers or the next forever home.

Sarah: Yes.

Erin: Coming up we’re going to land that plane and look at what home means to us in this year of huge uncertainty. Plus, the many demands that we are making on our homes in 2020. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of all of those clicks on the REALTOR.ca app, many of them from Sarah it seems, what are you waiting for? There were 1.6 million searches for REALTORS® on REALTOR.ca last year alone. REALTORS® make the most of those visits with the REALTOR.ca tools provided as part of your CREA membership. 

Now, back to our chat on REAL TIME with HGTV Sarah Richardson as we land that floatplane and head towards home. Let’s cozy down into the nest here and take a look at what home has come to mean in 2020. It’s always been where the heart is. It’s always there’s no place like home and all of that but home has really, really taken on a new meaning in 2020, hasn’t it, Sarah?

Sarah: Oh, I think it absolutely has. I think that I have a career that’s based on people having a shared goal and a desire to live in style and love their home. That is the passion behind the work that I get to do every day. It is what fuels me and inspires me and excites me. I think that for all the challenges that as a global community we faced in 2020, I hope that one of the silver linings can be that people embrace the importance of home and realize that this isn’t just a place to throw in some furniture and toss a few pillows on, this is your safety zone. This is your nest. This is really the only place that you can control and right now the only place that you don’t have to wear a mask and you get to decide who comes in and you get to decide what it looks like and what it feels like. I think that people are realizing now more than ever how important that investment is to make sure that you surround yourself with things that make you feel calm, that make you feel comfortable, that make you feel welcome, and that really help you feel safe and happy.

Erin: Something that you’ve said in an earlier conversation that has just been on my mind ever since is that suddenly our homes have taken on all of this multitasking. Like you mentioned, it’s not just a place to throw your furniture and your pillows and just live in it but now it is your restaurant, your gym, your office, your asylum, it’s all of these things. People I think are now asking their homes to step it up a little bit and what can we do for our homes to fulfill all of those needs that we’re asking from them?

Sarah: It’s a tall order definitely and I think that if money were no object and space was unlimited, then everybody could have everything they want but we all know that that’s not a reality and I think one of the greatest challenges is how you balance space, the space you have available with the needs you have. I think the demands we’re putting on our home have never been greater. That’s potentially a bit of a puzzle for people to try and work out in this newfound approach to how we live at home and work from home and try to relax at home and share the space. I think that it’s taking it all up a notch and making us re-examine it.

One of the biggest elements is looking at it and if you’re feeling that there’s elements of your home that are not working, it’s time to get rid of everything that isn’t useful, that isn’t beautiful, that isn’t helpful and bring into your space only things that help you and make you feel good. There’s a quote that I’ve always loved for years and years and years and I’ve probably repeated this quote a thousand times. It’s from William Morris who was the founder of the arts and crafts movement in the ‘1900s who said, “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I think that’s a really good guiding principle for us all to follow right now.

Erin: We’re talking with Sarah Richardson and we’re focusing on the inside of the house for a moment but getting back at looking at location, COVID-19 has changed the way we think about where we want to live as well. Do you think that it served as a catalyst for homeowners to decide that, you know what, maybe this isn’t even the neighbourhood for me, that maybe we do need to spread out or move on? It’s amazing what this virus has done in terms of making us stop and think, isn’t it?

Sarah: I think it is. It is truly amazing and I think it has been eye-opening for thousands if not millions of people to look at it and say, “I always thought.” When I did my Sarah’s House series in 2006 which went to air in 2007, we said, “You can change everything but location and location is everything.” That was at a time when it was really important for people if– I live in the city of Toronto so if you live in the city, being in the city was important, it was important for your business, it was important for seeing clients, it was important for access to retailers.

If I think from just a personal perspective how much the world has changed since then, how much is now available online so you can hopefully still support your favourite local merchants but also you don’t have to be in an epicenter, you don’t have to be in a major urban center in order to have access to the best in the world of design, of style, of anything you could imagine because we now live in an online world. Even more fundamental in that is that when it used to be more important for school districts or opportunities for work because of proximity to an office, what we have now had proven to us in such a demonstrative way through COVID is that people can work from anywhere and I think we will see a large exodus from major urban centers to go a little further afield, to get a little bit more land, a little more space, a little more freedom, a little more flexibility and then juggle that work-life balance. For so many years we’ve talked about work-life balance but maybe that balance has still, for so many of us, been skewed more to work and less to life.

Erin: Back with Sarah Richardson in a moment. Don’t you just let that William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” My new mantra and I’m putting it on a coffee mug in my head right now. What a great way to remind us all about CREA Café, it’s created for REALTORS® and includes insightful new content put together weekly. Join the conversation at CREACafe.ca. I hope you’re enjoying our conversation with Sarah Richardson. Really, she was such a pleasure to talk with and just the latest guest in the REAL TIME Podcast series. Don’t miss an episode, click to subscribe, okay? 

Back to Sarah on the thrill of the hunt. Designing according to a frame of mind. Jamaica anyone? Sarah’s cleaning snits for real. Real talk on REAL TIME. For those folks for whom moving, actually picking up, or relocating is not a practicality right now or maybe they just don’t want to move, I think you get some inspiration from Ralph Lauren in terms of creating the home that you want by simply living in it. Can you share that philosophy just a little bit?

Sarah: Sure. Let’s be honest and say there are tons of people who would love to make huge changes at home and it’s not in the budget and so I believe that living in style, loving your home, it should be attainable for everyone. I also think budget and style are not mutually exclusive and I think that you can achieve great results on a small budget. I’ve always said, it’s not about where you shop, it is about what you choose to introduce into your home. I think you always should focus on quality and buying things that are made of natural materials, that have intrinsic value because they were well-made.

I have always supported artisans and craftspeople and anybody who’s ever watched one of my shows will know that one of my favourite things is the thrill of the hunt and finding vintage elements that are affordable and re-imagining them. If you said to me, “Sarah, I have absolutely nothing to spend, what could I do?” I would say, “The first thing you need to do is edit.” You need to empty out that room, you need to clean out the clutter, the old stacks of magazines, the newspapers, the books that nobody’s going to read, the junk that’s collecting, just the stuff. When was the last time you actually had a good old fashion as I call it cleaning snit where you sort of–

Erin: No. 

Sarah: That’s why they got called in my office years and years ago. People always say, “Oh boy, she’s having a cleaning snit.” The best results come from it. The funniest thing was we were visiting friends at a cottage, not that long ago and I said, “The funny thing is you have some good ingredients in this room but it just doesn’t quite work as well as it could.” My friend said, “Great, what do you think we should do?” I said, “I think we should rearrange all the furniture.” We moved things from here to there and literally we didn’t introduce a single new thing, we just rearranged what was there.

At the end of it, they said, “I can’t believe this. It feels bigger, it feels brand new.” Literally, we didn’t change a thing in terms of– We didn’t bring one new piece in, we just moved it all along and we refreshed it. I think that that’s a fabulous tactic for people who want to stay rooted where they are but they feel a bit stuck. Maybe because of COVID you’re working from home, maybe you’re not using your dining room but everybody’s using the dining room like a home office, maybe it’s time to just turn that space on its head and let it be what you want it to be and what you need it to be to help you succeed.

At the very beginning of this you mentioned Ralph Lauren and I’m sure people thought, “Huh? What’s she talking about a fashion designer for?” I’ve grown up admiring Ralph Lauren styles since I was a preppy kid, wearing a shirt with the polo horse on it. One of the things that I once learned about how he approached his process of design and style was he would say, “It’s six o’clock in Jamaica, how do I feel?” To think about making sure that you– Listening to that, helped me realize how I feel about when I’m designing a home. That is, I always want it to feel connected to its surroundings, to feel like it’s in the right place, to feel like the outdoors and the indoors connect flawlessly and cohesively.

People might talk about the way I approach cottage style and for me, that’s because it’s on the water. For me, that means it’s the blues, the greens, the grays, it’s soft. You probably won’t see me injecting a lot of red into a cottage because that’s not the way I feel there and I’m always really wanting to dive in and think about the architecture of the home, the personality of the homeowner, and what they’re trying to achieve and how they want to feel. That’s where that’s, “It’s Jamaica. How do I want to feel?” How do you want to feel in your home? Then I want to think about the surroundings and think about how we can draw the outside in, bring in some nature and just make it feel like it all connects cohesively together.

Erin: Beautiful. I love the thought of that, but you do give me pause just for a moment. If I’m lucky enough to be Sarah Richardson’s friend, do you find yourself like a doctor at a cocktail party where somebody will come up and say, “Doctor, I’m a little worried about this growth on my finger, what do you think?”

Any place you go, do you feel that people are thinking, A, “Oh my God, Sarah Richardson is judging my room.” Or B, “I wonder if I can ask her if this colour would go here?” How do you approach being such a design and style maven and just living your regular life? Sarah, I’m fascinated to know.

Sarah: Well, I think the most important thing is that if you invite me to your home, I’m not coming to judge. I think that nobody should be afraid of entertaining. I always want people to feel comfortable having people over. If you invite me over and order-in pizza, I’m going to be happy because I didn’t have to make it. There’s nothing more joyful to me than having that opportunity to be a guest in somebody else’s home and it’s not something I take lightly. I think it’s important that everybody have different style and everybody should have their own personal and unique style. Your style might be completely different than my style but that doesn’t mean that mine is right and yours is wrong.

Erin: Amen.

Sarah: It’s about who you are. What is your story? Where have you come from? Where are you headed? Where have you traveled? What mementos have you brought home? What are the influences? What makes me feel calm and happy at home is a very light palette, which everybody knows, that’s no secret but that isn’t necessarily what other people like rich dark colours. I like light, airy, fresh, and bright and crisp but that doesn’t mean that rich and dark and textural and ornate is wrong. It literally is if you go to a restaurant and you look at the menu, you may choose something wildly different than what I choose. That is what makes us who we are. That is what makes us individuals. I always want people to strive to create their personal best and something that is a reflection of them.

I would rather have somebody decorate and design a home that has nothing to do with trend and is completely unique and different rather than have it looked like a cookie cutter version of the latest trend. I guess in terms of if people ask me questions, there’s lots of easy questions. I can answer favourite pink colour. What would you do here? Would you paint that? What do you think about that? Always happy to answer those questions. It is what I do is truly my passion so I never mind. Fortunately, the advice I give isn’t nearly as important as what the doctor will tell you. I can’t go at your peril, take my advice and I may be thinking the question you have, I may already be thinking about.

Erin: The passion that you talk about, you can see it on your shows and on YouTube and on the page, of course, and I’m holding in front of me, a beautiful, I don’t even want to call it a magazine. What do we call it because this is–

Sarah: It’s a book.

Erin: It is a book.

Sarah: It is a book series.

Erin: It’s gorgeous.

Sarah: Thank you.

Erin: It’s softcover and it’s just beautiful to touch and to look at, and it’s something that you can tuck away and carry with you if you’re lucky enough to travel. It’s called Collected by Sarah Richardson. This is City and Country, fresh rooms and new ideas for the best of both worlds, Simon and Schuster. Where can other people pick it up?

Sarah: You can get it through any online retailer or you can get it through your local bookseller if you’re popping on your mask and heading out to shop and you can get autographed copies through my website.

Erin: That’s sarahrichardsondesign.com. It really is a lovely book. I’d share it with everybody, but I don’t want to let it out of my hands and I know I wouldn’t get it back. There’s so much more with Sarah to come, including the importance of loyalty, to and trust with a REALTOR® and to stage or not to stage. Her answer might surprise you. 

A lot of us love to watch Sarah’s shows for inspiration, but here’s another place to find people who inspire realtorscare.ca. REALTORS® Care is the national brand that celebrates the great charitable work by the realty community in Canada. Help raise awareness for the charities and causes closest to you by sharing your story @realtorscare.ca. 

I’m Erin Davis. Good to have you with us today. Now, back to Sarah Richardson on REAL TIME. Sarah, what about staging? What do you feel about staging a home before selling it?

Sarah: I think there’s tremendous value in staging because everybody can imagine. Personally, I love walking into a cluttering mess ’cause I think, “Oh, this is so good. I’m going to get a deal on this one, ’cause nobody else is going to want it.” Which really underlines the importance of staging, the value of staging. I guess the question is, do you need– you can hire a professional to do it. You can count on your REALTOR® to do it or you can do the hard work first, do the purging, do the cleaning out, do the touch-ups, get it as clean and streamlined, as clutter-free, and as functional as you possibly can because you’ll get paid. You will be rewarded for that service. If you have to hire a professional, you’re going to pay that professional. Yes, they are a professional and they should do a great job for you. The question is, if you’re trying to save money, you should be able to do it yourself. 

I think that when it comes to making choices I would say, try and keep it as simple as possible, try to make those choices that will appeal to the greatest number of people. If you’re about to sell your house, should you put super bold wallpaper in the powder room and make that decision for the next purchaser? Maybe not. Maybe this is a time to try and create spaces that feel light, airy, open, and allow the potential homeowner to come in and imagine themselves in that home and think about what they would do, what personal tweaks and changes they would make to enable them to feel like it’s going to be theirs.

Erin: I love that. You have said that staging, isn’t hiding, it’s creating a world of possibility and it’s so true.

Sarah: That’s the whole goal is the reason I think homes are an emotional purchase. I think if you are in the process of working with your REALTOR® and you are out there house hunting as challenging as it can be during COVID, it’s that moment of stepping across the threshold and there is you really can’t describe that feeling when you can imagine yourself living in that home and it feels like you need to be there and you can cast an eye across a room and either think, “Oh, this is perfect. I want to live in it just like this or I know what I would do if this was mine.” It’s chemical. It’s really buying a house is about chemistry. It’s about feeling, it’s about energy. I am always so drawn to buying houses that make me feel happy. I’ll never forget the first time walking into all of the houses that I ever bought. There was something about the way they made me feel. It was about the light. It was about the sunshine. It was about the happy vibe that I could just sense in the home that made me feel like I needed to be there.

Erin: Well, let’s get back to talking about REALTORS®. We started talking about REALTOR.ca and I happened to know that you are an extremely loyal person and you continue to work with REALTORS® both professionally and personally. What is it that keeps you coming back?

Sarah: Oh my gosh. It’s no secret that I love to buy a diamond in the rough and fix it up and either keep it forever or move on and that journey for me, I guess it really started in 1996. My mom’s sold the family home that I’d grown up in for 26 years. That started a really interesting journey for her and for me, where we renovated a bunch of houses as we explored new locations and new ideas. What I have learned and maybe not what I’ve learned, what I’ve appreciated, time and time and time again is the value of having a trusted ally in any real estate transaction. I could fill a full podcast with stories on each of the purchases of many different homes and really why I like to think of myself as a loyal person in terms of the tradespeople I work with, the team members but the same holds true for REALTORS®.

In the city of Toronto, I’ve worked with the same REALTOR® since I sold my first house in 1999. My REALTOR® has become an ally and a confidant and a friend. Amazingly, I remember seeing when services were popping up of, “Sell your own home.” All I could think is why would you want to do that? The role of your REALTOR® is to be in the know. They are an expert in the same way that I can be an expert about what fabric you should put on your sofa and tell you all the stories of all the different experiences I’ve had. Your REALTOR®— and obviously in a much more important way, because sofa fabric versus the price of a house– let’s talk about two opposite ends of the spectrum there.

Erin: Unless you’re buying a really expensive sofa.

Sarah: Unless you’re buying a really expensive sofa which I’ll advise you not to do. Anyway, the thing is your REALTOR® it is their passion, it is their profession, it is their expertise. Most REALTORS® specialize in an area. They literally know everything about all of the listings that have come up. They know which sold, what has sold for what, which one’s been flipped too many times, which one has a leaky basement. There is so much information that they hold that I really believe that you need to craft a relationship that’s built on trust.

I guess it’s different if you’re a serial purchaser, like my husband and I are so that you have that opportunity to do multiple transactions, versus if you’re only taking one shot and it’s one home and it’s done and it’s forever. It is such an important relationship to feel that you have a foundation that’s built on trust and respect and feeling like they have your best interest at heart because, ultimately, they’re going to lobby for you, negotiate for you, advocate for you. When the going gets tough, if there’s a snag along the way, they’re going to make sure it gets done.

Erin: Coming up on REAL TIME because inquiring minds, okay, mind want to know is Sarah Richardson a secret shopper when it comes to finding her next project? The emotions that come into play when we’re buying property and when you should look for the worst house? Really. Have you checked out REALTOR.ca Living Room yet? Come on in. It’s the source for all things home, from articles on market trends and developments in real estate to DIY and all things design right in Sarah Richardson’s wheelhouse.

We’ve got the inspiration you need in one place on Living Room. Oh, don’t miss our open house, fast questions and answers with Sarah Richardson. It’s on the way too on REAL TIME. Just before we get to that though, REALTOR.ca is the most popular and trusted real estate website in Canada, connecting local REALTORS® with Canadians to help with the biggest purchase of their life. Visit REALTOR.ca to meet a REALTOR® near you. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a relationship with your REALTOR® like Sarah has for all these years. 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m going to guess that when you’re purchasing a home, let’s say a farm in Picton that the people owning it don’t know that Sarah Richardson is coming in, or you run the risk of them adding another zero or something to the end, would that be correct?

Sarah: It depends. I’ve bought stuff under my own name with my husband and also not but I think that– I hope nobody would add. They can’t really ask for more later and one of my specialties is I don’t really roll in hot on a bidding war. I’m not looking for the house that’s picture-perfect, all done, just move in. I’m looking for the ugliest duckling with good bones and hidden potential that I can work some magic on. The other thing is that I try not to get too emotionally invested and it’s so hard because anybody who’s ever tried to buy something, emotions run high, it is a passionate purchase, sometimes we’re at risk of being slightly irrational if you really, really, really want it. I try to find projects that I can take it or leave it because there’s no joy in feeling like you paid too much. That’s where your REALTOR® comes in to say “I wouldn’t go higher than that.” I tend to try and find that that place that’s been overlooked or has sat on the market for too long and really give it a fresh chance.

Erin: I love that your advice is to buy the worst house on the best street.

Sarah: Well, yes, that’s always a good strategy is if you can buy– if you’re thinking about neighbourhood and you’re thinking about school district, and you’re thinking about all of the benefits that come along with being in that place you want to be, absolutely try and find the worst house on the best street because then you get all the lift and all the upside of what everybody else around you has already done. That right there just makes good sense. That always makes good financial sense and I think that the important thing for people to remember is when you’re looking at real estate this is the largest investment you’ll likely ever make. This is always why I say it’s important to trust in a professional. It’s important to use a licensed REALTOR® who really knows because every single penny counts, every thousand dollars counts because that’s the money you’re going to need later to do what you want to do, and to be able to create the results you want to create and the changes you want.

Erin: Sarah, we could talk for hours, but I’m going to give you an open house here and just hit you with a couple of really quick questions here, okay? Tell us about your splurge/save approach.

Sarah: I always think I’m a practical person by nature. I always think that it makes sense to save every step of the way. To examine every purchase from the first purchase to the last purchase and make sure you feel good about it, make sure you feel comfortable. Because if you spend wisely throughout the process, by the time you get to the end there will still be something leftover that you can splurge on, something that really is important to you. Whether it’s a piece of art or a beautiful accessory, a little finishing touch. I’ve always said that there is no glory in overspending on the first thing you buy.

Erin: Should you live in your house during a renovation?

Sarah: You should never live in your house during a renovation. Not, if I’m your designer, you shouldn’t. I think it’s a terrible idea. I know people want to do it, they think they’ll save money. I can just describe it this way, dust is like gas. It goes everywhere. It takes longer. It costs more. It is a strain on your relationship. Your contractor, none of the trades want to meet you in your bathrobe every morning nor do you want to have them greet you. If you can afford to renovate, you need to figure out how to be organized, be efficient, manage what the workload is, manage your budget and go find somewhere else to live for the sake of your relationship. Please.

Erin: Yes. We’ve got this beautiful house we renovated and unfortunately, we’re going to be fighting over it in the divorce.

Sarah: Right. Exactly.

Erin: Your favourite design inspirations, you touched on them briefly, but they’re right at your fingertips. What do you like to open?

Sarah: Oh, I’ve too many inspirations. I’m such a tactile person. For me, there’s so much I love about the digital world about finding inspiration online, but I still love the glory and that tactile feel of books and magazines and just being able to dive in a printed page. Also, what inspires me is anything that is handmade, crafted with purpose and soul and passion. That always means something to me and natural materials.

Erin: Okay. Finally, your favourite design project, Sarah.

Sarah: Oh, my favourite design project is always the next one. I would always say, I don’t think I’ve ever done my best work. I don’t look back and say that was the best thing I’ll ever do. The next thing is always going to be the best thing because I learn and grow and get challenged and inspired every single day and I love what I do.

Erin: Wonderful. There’s a way to take a bit of this home with you today, other than the podcast, of course, and that is Collected by Sarah Richardson, City and Country, a beautiful book, Simon and Schuster. I’ve got volume one in front of me, fresh rooms and new ideas for the best of both worlds, city, and country. Of course, if COVID has taught us anything and it’s taught us a lot, we can blend a whole bunch of things in our lives. Now we don’t have to be in those literal and metaphorical cubicles anymore.

Sarah: Absolutely not. It is a world that is inspiring us to, it’s challenging us and it’s inspiring us, to figure out how to really create comfort and style and happiness at home.

Erin: Thank you. Thank you for sharing this with us and making staying home just a little more beautiful. Thank you, Sarah. We appreciate it.

Sarah: Thank you. I loved chatting with you today.

Erin: Don’t forget if you want to spend more time with Sarah Richardson, just go to sarahrichardsondesign.com. We want to thank her again for her time and her insight and sharing both of those here with us today. 

Now, just before we go, I need to ask you a question. What is the best piece of real estate advice you’ve received during your career? Has somebody shared the most brilliant marketing insights or profound thoughts on managing client relationships? We want to hear about advice you’ve received that had a positive impact on your career. Here’s the number to do it. Jot it down: 1888-768-6793, 1888-768-6793, and leave us a message. Hopefully, it’ll be shared in our next episode. Maybe a call like this one from Vivian in Markham, Ontario.

Vivian: Hi, I’m Vivian Reese from Royal Lepage Your Community. My best advice I ever got was ‘own real estate’. When you work, you make a living. When you buy real estate, you can make a fortune. I believe in this so much. I write about it in my book, Yes, you can. How my little piece of real estate saved me during a very challenging time. Advice: own real estate, guaranteed equity.

Erin: Lovely to hear from you, Vivian, and full disclosure I, narrated her audiobook, Yes, you can. Yes, I did. 

Hey, and if you have some advice you want to share with everyone, call this number, leave a message. 1888-768-6793. Thanks. Just before we go, here’s another reason you’re going to want to subscribe to this podcast. Up next, episode eight, Kelley Keehn, author, personal finance educator, guests from CTVs, Maryland Dennis Show, speaker, and REAL TIME guest. You won’t want to miss it. 

REAL TIME podcast comes to you from Real Family Productions and Rob Whitehead and Alphabet® Creative I’m Erin Davis, talk to you again soon, and don’t forget to subscribe.