By Connie Adair
Her family always told her: “If you want it, go out and get it.” So Rachel Gagnon did – in a big way.
Five years ago, the Ottawa native got her real estate license and two years after that, her broker’s license. Last year she completed 52 transactions worth just less than $21 million in sales. Six months into 2020, despite the pandemic, she had already surpassed her 2019 volume, with the first week of the lockdown her busiest yet. Oh, and she’s only 24.
“I wish I could provide you with an exciting recipe for success, but it comes down to a crazy amount of hard work, honesty and making the best judgment call for your client,” says Gagnon, who is with Ian Charlebois & Associates Real Estate & Mortgages.
To say she’s a go-getter is an understatement. She grew up in the Ottawa suburb of Gloucester and later moved to nearby Orleans. She bought her first house at 18, sold that one and has since bought two more, she says “to get me closer to my service areas and to grow my rental portfolio.”
She says for the last few years she’s been moving at three- to four-times the average pace of a real estate agent. During the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown, it was so busy she only got a few hours of sleep. The busy market was unexpected, but somehow the lockdown motivated people to prepare their homes for sale, she says, adding that the Ottawa market is somewhat isolated from market swings because of the large percentage of government workers and their stable incomes.
Her clients, who include first-time home buyers, investors, high-profile athletes and public figures, all require a different approach, she says. “There’s no way around that being a massive workload that requires a significant amount of hours and energy invested. I’d like to think I’ve managed to keep a bit of a life outside of work, but there’s definitely some fine tuning in order to keep things sustainable…I’ve always been determined and ambitious, without fear of working for 20-hour days for weeks in a row just to get the job well done.”
She is also a competitive equestrian, a skier, runner and kayaker. However Gagnon has forced herself to slow down, taking 30-40 minute walks three times a day with Remi, her standard schnauzer.
She says being organized is crucial to getting everything done. “We rely heavily on our CRM (customer relationship management) for automated communications and have created follow-up templates for every scenario. This system notifies us of deadlines, handles general follow-ups and keeps our admins on the same page.”
Gagnon uses her personal social media platforms (friends and people who share hobbies and interests), adding business content when appropriate. “I have a combined reach of over 3,000 people and feel the response has been very positive to date. With COVID-19, I’ve worked on posting virtual tours, features of our listings, or quick videos/photos of homes I’m showing when I think they would appeal to my followers.”
As for investment of time and money versus return, she says, “The nice part about technology is that in most cases it’s a lot less expensive for a much larger reach. It’s important for anyone implementing new strategies to determine how many people they will reach, what they expect to get in return and make sure it’s worth the investment. What works in one market, whether due to location, property type or buyer demographic, may not work in another.”
She plans to continue to rely heavily on social media, virtual reality, video call showings and virtual preliminary listing appointments to help her grow her business. “I think these accomplish what the end consumer is looking for in most case: to save time, get the answers they’re looking for and feel confident that they’re in the hands of someone who can act fast when needed.”
Gagnon says finding ways to work smarter, not harder, allows her to take on more business.
She recommends that young agents take the time to find the right brokerage.
“I work and manage the small brokerage I started with over five years ago…The key is to surround yourself with individuals who believe in you and who will give you enough space to grow yet enough guidance to ensure you’re on the right track and don’t lose sight of what’s important.”
For her, that key individual is Ian Charlebois, broker of record at Ian Charlebois Real Estate & Mortgages. “I met Rachel when she was 18 and within 40 minutes offered her full-time employment based on what she was telling me about business,” he says.
“I sold Ian a pair of shoes,” says Gagnon. “I told him I was in the process of getting my license and had just bought my first house. I interviewed with other brokerages for due diligence, but I clicked with Ian. He is a hard-working young guy (in 2013 Charlebois was featured in a REM cover story about hitting the top at 26) who knows what it is like to put it all on the line. I chose Ian because I like how he works and that he was an owner when he was 25. He has the same ambition and drive.”
“Rachel is the smartest person I have ever worked with. In an industry where the individual creates their own success, one trait we share is the ability to seize opportunities….Rachel’s volume is in the highest ranks of top team Realtors in Canada and to see her do that with quality and ethics makes me excited to see what the next few years will bring.”
Gagnon says as the next generation in the industry, “it’s our responsibility to hold the highest standard of honesty, work ethic and modern service.”
She chose a real estate career for a few reasons. “I had an interest in working in an industry that affected people directly and had an involvement of math and construction. Also, since I have large-scale development plans in my future, I saw it as a good opportunity to not only work but also educate myself and make connections.
“However, probably the largest reason I went towards real estate: I have a significant drive to do quality work and I enjoy working a lot, a trait which I recognized as a child.”
Gagnon says a career in real estate is “one of the only ways I could see myself being able to keep my ambitious drive alive.”