By Susan Doran
Read Hilton says that a typical morning often involves running down the driveway after his business partner and fiancée, Gail Crawford, shouting, “Gail, you forgot your phone!”
Hilton is the organized one in this duo, the source of many leads and much outside-the-box marketing. Crawford is the creative and tenacious salesperson, according to Hilton.
“I’m more anal and detail oriented,” he says.
“I’m more fun,” responds Crawford.
As a two-member team with Chestnut Park Real Estate’s office in Collingwood, Ont., in the picturesque southern Georgian Bay region, their combined skill sets have helped steer them to success, as evidenced by their sales record and their awards for outstanding performance.
“We both work hard to stay up to speed and ahead of the technology curve, and we strive to market uniquely,” says Hilton.
What really sets this diverse pair apart is their unique mobile office, Hilton’s black 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s tricked out with everything from a Wi-Fi device under the steering wheel to a police-style laptop stand/shelf bolted into the floor of the vehicle, not to mention a CB radio (for updates on the weather and accidents) and multiple outlets. It’s also possible to bring a remote printer into the car.
Thanks to this mobile setup (the result of six months of research and about $1,200 worth of retrofitting), Hilton and Crawford are able to pull over and “search out properties with a buyer on their Wi-Fi enabled laptop, then do the offer in the vehicle and have them DocuSign it on their mobile device, right then and there in the back seat of the Jeep, and then send it off to the listing agent,” says Hilton.
“Realtors tend to be tied to their desks, always waiting for something, signing something. We’re not,” says Crawford.
They recently completed an offer in 15 minutes in the driveway of the house for sale.
Says Hilton: “Here I am, 70-years-old, and as far as I know we are the only agents in the area who can do this. We are driving half the day to sales calls. It’s big geography that we cover. We wanted not to be tied to our home office – to be able to do an offer right in the vehicle. We see that clients want immediate action…
“What I’ve done in the Jeep is very unusual. The Bell-connected device comes with a separate cell phone number, so we get Wi-Fi in the vehicle, where most other people just use their cell phone, which is limited in what it can do.” (He says that some newer vehicles do now come equipped with Wi-Fi.)
Hilton has had his Jeep rigged up this way for about seven months. And even though the computer stand takes up so much room that no one can sit in the passenger seat, he’s thrilled with pretty much everything about the retrofit. However, he’s found it can give surrounding drivers quite a shock as they often mistake his vehicle for a police car.
“It does make other drivers slow down, that’s for sure,” he says with a laugh.
Hilton’s background is in sales for construction-related companies servicing the new home building markets. He also has a long-standing, part-time sales job as membership manager of Beaver Valley, a local private ski club. (There are several private ski clubs in the region, as well as the public Blue Mountain Resort, one of the largest resorts in Ontario and a major destination for southern Ontario skiers.)
Hilton’s part-time membership sales position, thanks to all the families he comes into contact with as a result, has fortuitously been a bountiful source of real estate leads throughout his eight years as a Realtor.
Crawford was a mortgage broker for many years and says she came to Collingwood for a weekend long ago “and never went home” to Toronto.
Like Hilton, she also has another job – she’s the owner of Maid in Collingwood, an established residential cleaning business. With that company running smoothly and covered off by an effective manager, Crawford says she is free to spend the majority of her time working in real estate.
As fate would have it, both Crawford and Hilton initially moved to the area with other partners. (“My boyfriend bought a timeshare here and dumped me. I never got to use it,” Crawford jokes.)
Crawford says she wasn’t especially athletic – in fact not at all apparently – when she met Hilton a decade ago. He convinced her to take up skiing. It worked out well; over time they’ve noticed that everyone wants to talk real estate on the chair lift. Together they’ve made the most of all the activities in their popular recreational region ever since, including tennis, hiking and biking.
Having established a niche market, a big portion of their clientele is young families from Toronto and other communities in widespread neighbouring vicinities looking for a ski chalet, a rural country property, or a cottage on nearby Lake Eugenia. Crawford also helps the 55+ demographic, who may be retiring from skiing and are in search of a retirement home close to small-town amenities.
Besides numerous recreational offerings, the Collingwood area has “beautiful restaurants, all sorts of little boutique shops, and is not far from Wasaga Beach,” says Crawford. “There is tons of new building. Whatever anyone could want is here.”
Crawford and Hilton say the listing-to-sales ratio in the community is low right now, so everybody is “fighting like mad” for listings.
Area agents better be on their toes. Chestnut Park’s Read Hilton and Gail Crawford Team and their cool mobile office could be beating you to the finish line.