By Susan Doran
Gurcharan (Garry) Bhaura’s busy term as president of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) is drawing to an end and there’s something he’s really looking forward to once it’s over.
“Relaxing,” he says.
Representing the largest organized real estate organization in the world apparently doesn’t leave much room for that, especially given the current local challenges around government regulation of the marketplace and housing affordability and supply.
“There’s a lot going on behind the curtain,” says Bhaura, laughing. “Never a dull moment.”
He knew going in that heading up TREB would mean he’d have limited time for his family and his brokerage, Century 21 President Realty in Brampton, Ont.
“I told them I needed a year to represent the membership, that I have the opportunity to do something for others and better the industry,” he says. “My team and family have been wonderful and supportive.”
His term as 2018/2019 TREB president finishes at the end of June. In the meantime, he’s preparing for Realtor Quest, Canada’s largest real estate conference and trade show, being held May 29 and 30 at the Toronto Congress Centre. With its networking and educational opportunities, Bhaura expects that hosting it will be a highlight of his year as president.
Born in India, he’s the first South Asian president in TREB’s almost 100-year history. At age 20, he arrived alone in Canada in search of opportunity with a B.A. under his belt. Once here, a diploma in microcomputer business applications and electronics soon followed. So did an unintentional name change. His given name is Gurcharan, but one of his teachers had trouble pronouncing it and dubbed him Garry, which stuck.
Although he says he never looked back after moving here, it’s clear he must have. He recalls “tough times and odd jobs,” including driving a taxi for awhile. But when he got into real estate he realized he’d found his calling. He’s been in the business almost 20 years now, the last half of those as broker of record for Century 21 President Realty.
When he was working as a top-producing agent, Bhaura told his broker that he had no intention of leaving… unless he opened his own brokerage one day.
Those words turned out to be prophetic. And this time Bhaura really didn’t look back.
“I am wired to have my own business,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur is in my family background. Business is a priority in my family.”
Even his former broker was pleased.
“He came to my grand opening and blessed me,” says Bhaura. “There’s a saying in Punjabi, ‘When the student is growing, the teacher is proud.’”
Bhaura has built Century 21 President Realty from scratch into one of the franchise’s top 30 offices in Canada, and while doing so he’s made a name for himself as an authentic leader.
Inman News stated: “Bhaura maintains excellent retention rates in a highly competitive marketplace due to the culture and esprit de corps resident in his brokerage.”
Due to his success and philanthropy, Bhaura is currently a nominee for the RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards. He says that in all things, business included, he does his best then “leaves the rest,” trusting that things will end positively.
It’s hard to believe he’s that laid back though, given his many achievements.
For starters there’s the workplace he’s created for his 150 agents – a state-of-the-art, open-concept ‘dream office’ brimming with amenities and natural light (because it’s been proven to boost productivity).
“I put my agents’ interests in front of everything. I provide better tools, better services and leadership. I am not profitable if they aren’t… I believe in communication and relationships, instead of just marketing.”
When recruiting, he looks for agents who are professional, honest, open minded, technologically savvy and entrepreneurial.
“I can groom many things, but you can’t teach entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.
A proponent of education (“the most important weapon we can have”), community service, volunteerism and organized real estate, Bhaura has held leadership positions at numerous non-profits as well as on the TREB board.
“I believe your time is the most important asset you can give,” he says. “When you give back, good things come to you too.”
Like Forrest Gump, Bhaura seems to have an endless supply of these personal mottos. Others include:
“Learn, engage and network to grow;” “Your network is your net worth;” and “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
The last seems particularly fitting in his role as president of TREB, which involves a great deal of travel, advocacy and engagement with Realtors, all levels of government, policy makers, industry leaders and stakeholders.
He says he believes the future of organized real estate is bright and that the Greater Toronto Area – despite concerns about housing supply and affordability – is on the right track with plenty of demand and “moderate growth in prices and sales.”
Among the biggest issues impacting Realtors as he sees it are “government interference and regulation.” This has led to such measures as the mortgage stress test on federally regulated lenders, he says, which has made it more difficult to obtain a mortgage, consequently slowing sales and “sidelining” many people from entering the market.
“It’s time for the stress test to be re-visited by the government,” says Bhaura, adding that this is a key TREB initiative. “I believe they are listening.”
Having pushed for positive change as president, he’s pleased to have received feedback from some members commending TREB on connecting more with its membership.
Those will be fond memories this summer, when he finally gets a chance to put his feet up.