By Susan Doran
HomeLife Realty Services founder and CEO Andrew Cimerman recently received his 50-year pin from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, a marker of the passing years that has him jokingly reflecting on “whether it’s something to celebrate, or to be concerned about.”
Seems it will be the former, seeing as HomeLife too will soon be hitting a milestone – its 35th anniversary. There’s no way Cimerman is going to miss that. It will be marked by the company’s Starganza conference and awards ceremony being held at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ont. The event was initially scheduled for April, but due to coronavirus concerns, it’s been pushed forward to September 29.
“It’s a celebration of our innovation and growth. And we will be sharing our plans for the future,” says Cimerman. “We will continue to be ahead of the pack. We are positioned to be a global organization.”
The featured guest speaker at the conference is successful Hyundai dealer and Toronto Raptors supporter Nav Bhatia, who recently became one of the first honourees into a new “superfan gallery” at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Through hard work, Bhatia has reputedly achieved a net worth of $50 million.
His entrepreneurial spirit is a good fit for the HomeLife event, says Cimerman, who loves a success story, having also come from humble beginnings. Both Cimerman and the world of real estate have prospered since the day many decades ago when he arrived in Canada from Slovenia – “a young fellow with only $20 and one suit” – unable even to string a coherent sentence together in English.
After working in construction for awhile, Cimerman decided to get his real estate license. He was so determined to pass the licensing exam that he memorized the entire textbook. It was 1969, and he’d been drawn to the real estate industry by a newspaper ad promising he could make $250 a week.
But what kept him in the business was his passion for hard work and entrepreneurialism.
“The most exciting thing for me was that there was no limit on how many hours you could work and how much you could make. I like to work hard,” says Cimerman, today a father of two teenagers. “It’s the opposite for many others probably, but I wanted to work with no limits to be extremely successful.”
He holds this premise close to this day, so much so that he explains that he can often still be found in the office as midnight approaches. “I put in a lot of hours,” he says. “I have been blessed with tremendous energy. Going 14 hours a day is a breeze for me.”
After heading up independent brokerage Cimerman Real Estate for years, he started the HomeLife franchise in 1985. From a modest start with just a few agents, HomeLife, headquartered in Toronto, has now grown into a strong player with more than 10,000 sales reps and 150 offices across North America, as well as a presence in Europe.
Looking to stand out as a premium franchise with higher standards as its foundation, the brokerage is currently in the midst of what Cimerman refers to as a “killer” company-wide rebranding initiative. This is expected to take a year or two to complete and is being promoted via a costly advertising campaign.
But Cimerman isn’t letting all the cats out of the bag just yet. “We’ve been quiet with our rebranding,” he says. “We don’t want our competitors to start building fences.”
He is quick to point out though, that in a push to thrive in the current changing marketplace, virtually all HomeLife materials, tools, systems and services are being upgraded and revamped, from marketing/advertising, recruiting and community involvement to the core company pillars of education and technology.
“This is like gutting a house to four walls. It’s a huge process,” Cimerman says.
Even the corporate headquarters is being upgraded, thanks to an upcoming move to a larger (40,000-square-foot) office space.
“Andrew likes to carve our own path, not follow in others’ footprints. We want to be on the cutting edge…to deliver a ‘next generation experience,’” says Matt Dusenbury, HomeLife’s head of branding, brand marketing and communications.
Dusenbury says that “Higher Standards” has always been the company motto, and that 2020 seems like “a good time to come out swinging” and further deliver on that promise, especially with the 35th anniversary making it a milestone year.
He says the rebranding evolution started about a year ago, following a doubling down on quality with the launch of the Five Star Higher Standards Service Certification program. A rigorous course available either in-office, online or at one-day events, the training is designed to give HomeLife members the tools and strategies to provide a recognizably higher level of service. Dusenbury refers to this as the “crown jewel” of HomeLife’s comprehensive Five Star branding initiative and says that the response from member agents and brokers across the country has been terrific.
At the time of this writing, the company estimates that several thousand HomeLife members have now been “Higher Standards Certified.” Cimerman has been quoted as saying that he believes the inaugural graduation ceremony this past fall, attended by hundreds of graduates, set a “new bar” for education in real estate.
“When you see 700 agents graduating from one course, you know you’ve got support,” says Cimerman. “This is standing out and empowering through education. We are proving we are different.”
Another distinguishing factor he singles out is HomeLife’s multi-level earning/wealth sharing program. “We have tremendous collateral and can do deals in ways that are beneficial to both parties.”
Also setting HomeLife apart, he believes, is the company’s practice of continually researching, developing and introducing new resources. Among these is the Reallium Technology Pack, a suite of technology and digital tools in one package, which allows agents to jumpstart their digital marketing and online communication. Consumers can also take advantage of an array of HomeLife services, including help with property management needs.
“We’re recreating ourselves, taking things to the next level,” Cimerman says. “Why fight the competition when you can bypass them?”
Note: This story has been updated from the original version that appeared in our April issue to reflect the new, revised date for the HomeLife Starganza conference.