By Penn Javdan
The relationship between builders and real estate professionals has not always been the greatest, as traditionally many of the larger builders used their own sales staff to sell homes and condominiums, offering limited co-operation with real estate sales reps.
But that has changed, and one of the leading examples is Baker Real Estate. With brokerages in Toronto and Montreal, it is an industry leader in Canada (and an influencer internationally) with nearly $2 billion in annual sales. Recently we caught up with Barbara Lawlor, president and CEO of the brokerage, to shed light on the evolving model of co-operation between brokerages and builders.
What makes Baker different from other brokerages in terms of how it works with builders and developers?
Lawlor: We become the developers’ (full service) in-house team. We are there for our clients from day one, often several months before the launch, and we manage sales to the end. In addition to meeting regularly with the development team, we work closely with architects, interior designers, ad agencies, public relations and legal firms to ensure sales strategies and goals are met to the highest standard of excellence.
Baker Real Estate also offers competitive analysis through our research department, providing clients with real-time sales and traffic data, as well as pricing, product, demographics and purchaser analytics. Builders and developers work with our network of over 6,000 international Baker Realty Partners.
What is Baker’s niche focus and how is that a strength in today’s ultra competitive real estate market?
Pat Baker founded this company in 1993 and with foresight established the focus on servicing the needs of high-rise condominium developers. I also felt that residential condominiums would be the way of the future in the GTA and I started in the industry in the mid-1980s. Back then, condominiums represented about five per cent of the market. Today, new condo sales often exceed 50 per cent of the market.
Canada continues to attract new residents from around the world, with 100,000 newcomers relocating in the Toronto CMA each year. As a result, we need 40,000 new units. The industry has only ever been able to construct between 15,000 and 16,000 condominium units in a year, so development has hardly reached capacity. The demand is phenomenal.
What is your marketing process like, and how would you say it helps translate into successful sales?
Our marketing process is based on the experience we have gained in more than two decades. We bring something to the table that cannot be intuited overnight. In addition, we rely on continually updated statistics to keep our finger on the pulse of an ever-changing marketplace.
Although we have a base procedure, our process is customized to reflect what their target markets will respond to at any given time. With our team approach that includes interacting with architects, designers, ad agencies, public relations firms and the like. We are able to have a say in such items as the floorplans and floorplan mix. This way, we are always on point with messaging to reach the broad audience required to fill a high-rise building.
What is Baker’s model like in terms of working with other brokerages to facilitate successful transactions?
Nearly 90 per cent of Baker Real Estate’s condominium sales come via the brokerage community. We have a unique program in place for working with these brokers and agents. We call it Baker Realty Partners (BRP) and we have over 6,000 of them around the world. We have set up MyBaker, a web portal through which our BRP members can access key elements of their developments. They receive the earliest access to our project launches, as well as our newsletters, eblasts and webinars bringing them up-to-the-minute development information, pricing, assets and work sheets.
In which ways do you work with foreign buyers and foreign brokerages?
We have strategic partnerships and have had successful sales programs in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, China, Thailand, Russia, India, Ireland and the USA. We have offices on the ground in Shanghai and affiliations in Singapore and Hong Kong. We work with brokerages in China and help them facilitate purchasers for their buyers who are hugely interested in Canada and Toronto in particular. They consider Canada a safe haven for their investments and many send their children here to be educated.
What do you want people out there to know about Baker Real Estate that they may not already know?
Although our livelihood involves real estate, we work from the basic premise that people are everything. My father taught me that a true leader understands this. As CEO, we focus on what I call the Three C’s: credibility, competence and caring. Like Pat, I engage people in teamwork and collaboration and I listen to the suggestions of our team members. I care about what they think.
We are truly passionate about real estate and the people we serve. Real passion in the business world is so rare today that it gives us a competitive advantage.