By Susan Doran
Ottawa ‘condo queen’ Marnie Bennett, an admitted workaholic who’s in the top one per cent of salespeople in North America, says she’s thrilled to have been named the No. 1 broker worldwide for Keller Williams Realty International for 2010.
Bennett, 57, is the first female Canadian broker to achieve that distinction, having sold – along with her team of 31 agents and support staff – over 600 properties in a year that was not only sketchy economy-wise but was also hindered by the introduction of the HST and changes to mortgage regulations.
That’s “one home every 12 hours,” Bennett says. “That’s a lot.”
She says, “We dominate the new home industry – 25 per cent of all new condos sold in Ottawa are by my team. That’s gynormous.”
Okay, you’re thinking it might be easy to hate her. It is clear that Bennett, who’s with Keller Williams VIP Realty in Ottawa and is team leader of Bennett Real Estate Professionals, has always been driven. She bested more than 80,000 other Keller Williams’ sales reps worldwide. She has a degree in law and economics, and even back in 1981, in her first year of real estate, she was one of the top agents in Canada. She’s been director of the Ottawa Board of Trade, and of … well, you name it.
But here’s the thing – she’s down to earth and recognizes she has weaknesses as well as strengths. (“I’m not a detail person, more a ‘macro’ thinker,” she says.) She acknowledges that the formula to her success is teamwork.
Bennett comes across as remarkably relaxed, good-naturedly tossing off stories about getting stuck in an elevator for an hour with a terrified client who had never been in one before; about chasing a seller’s escaped basset hound (“be careful – they get a scent and they’re gone!”); and about her great annoyance with how difficult it is to open frozen lockboxes in the dead of an Ottawa winter.
Now a grandmother, she’s big on family (her three children, her husband and a son-in-law all work with her) and on relationship building with clients, making full use of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“You have to go with the times, be part of the ‘new’ school of real estate,” she says. “My team is cutting edge.”
Ironically, her reputation for innovative marketing skills started snowballing when she left real estate for awhile and before long was executive vice-president of a market-leading custom home builder, and later, of her own boutique real estate marketing firm, Bennett & Company.
She has been the recipient of dozens of housing awards for her progressive marketing/strategist techniques, and is recognized as a leader in Ottawa’s new home construction industry.
Bennett says she has never failed to meet sales projections, no matter how aggressive.
In 2007, she decided to include a resale division in the company, and the Bennett Real Estate Professionals (BREP) was born, a part of Keller Williams, where the busy Bennett had returned to work as a broker.
She propelled her team to the top by offering a full complement of integrated services – one-stop-shopping – that runs the gamut from advice on wealth management (“We’ll guide you through the process of researching a property, acquiring it, developing a winning exit strategy and eventually liquidating it.”) to home staging, lawyers and insurance.
Her current ‘condo queen’ status in Ottawa points to the fact that condos and townhouses are hot commodities in that city these days, thanks to demographics.
“The market in Ottawa is a bit insulated from the rest of the country,” says Bennett. “We don’t have the peaks and valleys of other Canadian cities. We have the highest baby boom population per capita in Canada. Seventy per cent of our work force is in government-related jobs. In the next year or so a lot of them will be eligible for retirement.”
So people are looking at downsizing and new workers are coming in, thus helping to boost condo sales, which now account for over 20 per cent of the real estate market in Ottawa, compared to less than five per cent a decade ago, Bennett says.
It hasn’t always been the most progressive city, but “Ottawa is starting to find itself as a world class national capital,” she says.
Bennett, considered world-class herself, has some advice for people wanting to make a go of it in real estate. “I have what I call ‘Marnie’s big five,’” she says. Her tips are:
1) Have a business plan. Respect the business.
2) Educate and train yourself continually.
3) Embrace technology. We’re in a technological revolution. Be a ‘new school’ Realtor.
4) Know what your unique selling proposition is and whether it is working. Understand that you can’t be everything to everyone.
5) Recognize your weaknesses and hire other people to compensate for them. Work smartly.
“You have to be professional in this business,” says Bennett. “Then you’ll get a reputation for being at a higher level.
“Real estate is serious business. When people buy a property it sets them on a course for life. I would not sell a house I wouldn’t sell to my family or friends. You’ve got to have integrity,” she says. “We’re involved in relationship building with clients and not a one-night stand.”
Photos by Ryan Parent