Sebastian Albrecht was recently named 2019’s A.E. LePage Realtor of the year for Canada. Albrecht received the award in recognition not just for his all-round productivity leadership and engagement as an agent with Royal LePage Westside in Vancouver, but also for giving back to The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, which is the largest public foundation in Canada dedicated entirely to ending violence against women and children.
Always ranked among the top two-to five-per-centers at Royal LePage, Albrecht’s star-studded career in real estate is one that is punctuated with gold, diamond and platinum awards. But his path to success came with its fair share of uncertainties.
After graduating from Mount Allison University with a degree in geography and a postgraduate diploma in geographic information systems, Albrecht was clueless about how he wanted to build his career, much to the consternation of his parents. He knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, but “I didn’t really have a plan for making a living, at the time. My parents weren’t entrepreneurs, they weren’t involved in real estate. Their expectation was for me to settle in a good government job, with good benefits, good vacations and retire early.” So straight out of university, he became an IT consultant.
It wasn’t long before Albrecht realized that an IT job did nothing to excite or inspire his entrepreneurial spirit. Between the late ’90s and early 2000s, he pivoted to flipping and renovating properties. Studying for his real estate license only made sense, but he says he quickly “gave up on it because it was boring, and I wasn’t able to focus enough on it.”
Once again, Albrecht shifted gears in his career. This time, he became the owner of a garment export business and ended up employing 40 staff members. A couple of years into the business, dependence on disloyal employees and stress began to take its toll on him. He went back to the drawing board.
“I knew I never really had a specific skill. I was never really good at any one thing. But I was a good generalist,” he says.
With a broad skill set and a personable disposition, real estate still felt like a good fit to Albrecht. This time around, he decided to give it an honest effort. With no friends in the industry and a scanty real estate background, Albrecht admits that he didn’t know what he was getting into. “I remember, my mother actually laughed at me when I told her that I was going to become a Realtor because in her mind I didn’t suit the stereotype of what she had thought a real estate agent might’ve been more about.”
But Albrecht was convinced he had something unique to offer in an industry that allowed him to be his own boss. To boot, he would be helping people find their dream homes. Initially, his days were a desperate struggle to survive. Albrecht clocked in 80 to 100-hour weeks. But it didn’t take him another long to realize that he needed to change his approach to the business to keep his head above the water. “I needed to focus on providing value to people and everything else would follow,” he says.
Albrecht says that being a salesperson didn’t come naturally to him, but at Royal LePage he found the perfect foothold where he could marry his real estate pursuits with his innate desire to make a difference in the community. Being a survivor of child abuse, Albrecht gravitated to Royal LePage’s Shelter Foundation, organically.
“In Vancouver, there’s a local mountain called Grouse Mountain. There’s a trail (the Grouse Grind) that goes up this mountain. It is difficult and challenging,” he says. Having hiked up the trail countless times, Albrecht stumbled upon the idea to see how many times he could go up that mountain in one day to try and raise money for the shelter foundation.
In 2010, he trekked up the Grouse Grind 14 times in a single day and set a new world record. He also raised almost $9,000 for the foundation.
“That kind of focus resulted in dividends that were unexpected down the road,” he says. Thereafter, when Albrecht walked into listing presentations, he received instant credibility and respect from clients and peers. The feat helped build his real estate brand. To this day, Albrecht matches up to $1,000 of donations made to the foundation.
Since then, Albrecht hasn’t swayed from his belief that “it’s important to be yourself in this business and, and you can’t be anybody else.” He worries about trainers in the industry promoting newcomers to blindly emulate others’ practices. But it’s important, he says, for Realtors to find how they can uniquely provide value to their clients, while picking up pointers from established others.
During the pandemic, Albrecht’s business has suffered, as has the entire industry. The silver lining for him is that “I’ve been trying to use this slower period as an opportunity to make changes in my business that I just didn’t have the time to do before,” he says. What that means for him is to concentrate on building his online marketing muscles. “I think a lot of Realtors are adapting to that. Where six months ago, maybe it felt a little gimmicky, today it feels like it’s a necessary tool.”
Today, Albrecht is “just comfortable with who I am and how I approach my business. One of the best parts about it is that I’m also able to sleep well at night, knowing that I’m making a difference.”