By Sohini Bhattacharya

When James Milonas became a licensed Realtor at 22, he had a lot of things working against him. “I was Caucasian in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Middle Eastern, and I was gay in a community that wasn’t accepting of it,” says Milonas. He was also one of the youngest Realtors in Richmond Hill.

Not unlike others in their first year of business, Milonas hopped on to doing open houses and got his first lead from an agent who was involved in an $8 million sell-buy transaction. “I’d dress in boxy suits and ties to appear older and changed my voice on calls to sound more masculine and established than I was,” he says.



After four months, when the agent discovered that Milonas was gay, “he told me he didn’t want to work with me. He thought, because I’m gay, I automatically had AIDS,” says Milonas. As devastating as it was to watch a career-making transaction slip through his fingers due to petty ignorance, Milonas was determined to fight against the stereotypes stacked against him. Today at 29, as part of Royal LePage’s Johnston & Daniel division, Milonas is ranked in the top five per cent of Realtors in the Toronto Real Estate Board.*

“There’s a huge camp of LGBTQ+ Realtors in the industry, but even though they’re out there, they’re not out there,” says Milonas. He says in the real estate industry, even today being gay is scoffed upon. It has also earned him several speaking gigs at conferences and TV shows where he’s been invited to share his experiences as a gay Realtor, “but I don’t want to be chosen to speak at an event because I’m gay. That’s not my legacy,” says Milonas.

Since his first year in the business, Milonas has not returned to doing open houses because “I don’t believe in them. There are just too many agents in the city,” he says. Instead, being honest about his sexuality has made Milonas a social media influencer in Toronto with 12,000 followers and counting on Instagram, which is integral to his marketing.

After serving as a member of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) committee of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board and the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), early in 2020, Milonas set his sights on running for the board of director elections at OREA. “I was looking at organized real estate, as a whole,” says Milonas, and it struck him that “the majority of directors that have sat on these boards for the last hundred years have all been old, white, straight men. Everyone is so narrow-minded,” he says.

Looking to shake things up, Milonas’ appointment to the board has possibly made him the first OREA director under 30. This also makes him part of a new era of diverse leadership at the organization.

As a director on the OREA board, representing Realtors in the Brampton, Durham Region, Mississauga, Oakville-Milton, Orangeville and Toronto areas, Milonas’ goals are clear – to build the YPN, foster more volunteerism among younger Realtors and push for affordable housing in the city. As a child of immigrant grandparents who came to Canada from Greece with language barriers and few resources, but built a financial legacy over years of hard work, Milonas says “a lot of other immigrants from Europe, Asia and the Middle East come to Canada with the hope to do the same thing, and everybody should have the right to own a home, especially in a country like Canada.

“When I finish with my six-year term at OREA and move on to CREA, I want a thriving YPN to be my legacy,” he says.  “I want to build professionalism because as young people, we’re not always viewed as professionals because of our age. And I think that’s bullshit.”

Milonas says that even though he’s been heading an enviable business over the last seven years, he still has to fight for his name, reputation and respect.

His business savvy lies in his unique style of social media marketing. On Instagram, “you get to be your own boss. A lot of people don’t understand how that works,” he says. Gen Z Realtors like Milonas who are bringing social media and blogging into real estate embody the true essence of a “social Realtor,” he says. The majority of salespeople, Milonas says, post on social media about their listings, the neighbourhoods, their clients and their awards. “But I don’t like to be salesy on social media. If you look at my profile, it’s the complete opposite. I never post ‘just sold’, ‘coming soon’, ‘open house’. Everything about my social media is me.”

Milonas says that posting photos of himself in a hot pink leather jacket, rather than a listed house, is what’s going to grab his customer’s attention and set him apart from thousands of competitors in the market.

Despite trying to fit in “because I’m too masculine to be feminine, but too feminine to be masculine,” Milonas says, “I’m just me. I don’t hide behind masks.”

Milonas says he wants younger Realtors to understand that “it’s ok to be who you are,” in the industry.

 

*The original version of this story said Milonas was ranked in the top five per cent in the luxury niche market.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Who cares about your age or your sexuality. In a world that is striving for equal rights you label yourself?!?

    As for YPN that’s just another way allows for more exclusions. It should be OREPN (Ontario Real Estate Professional Network) but wait, that’s Orea right? What next mandatory retirement age? Maybe your young professionals should listen to the expertises of the older members. But again, most you g agents think us “Old Timers” should just get out of the way because of our “Old” ways.

    I’m glad your successful in what you do, just shows your training and dedication is working.

  2. This type of comment is exactly why James is the type of leader Real Estate needs right now. Your comment that James should “thank all the old white men for their service and for bringing our profession to were it is today.” is exactly the out of touch and pathetic suggestion that propagates your retort. Real Estate got to where it is today not because of those men you speak highly of, but rather in spite of them and their boys’ club exclusive behavior. You degrade the hard work that women and minorities did for Real Estate next to those men.

    Real Estate has never been more in danger of being “Ubered” and its the young, intelligent, hungry people in the YPN that will carry an inclusive and forward-thinking approach to the industry that will allow it to grow into the future.

    The bottom line is your entire reply to James screams of ‘All Lives Matter’, of course, all realtors matter, but today what is actually needed is a voice of inclusion which needs to make up for the years of exclusion.

    Good day to you Glenda.

    • Dear “Someone who cares”,

      If you care so much, why do you not identify yourself? Are your ideals not worth putting your name to them? It is just too easy to slam one whom is named from behind the anonymity of a moniker that suggests the named target does not care.

      I am sure that the respondents so far herein think James is a good guy. That is not the point of most of the criticisms. The point is that there seems to be a mindset that old white guys, and older folks in general, even those old straight dudes like me, are somehow not of the same caliber of professionalism, of the same caliber of forward-thinking strategic capabilities, of the same caliber of caring about the vocation etc. as folks like James…and you. That smacks of ageist, racist, sexist and, mental superiority discrimination. Your “…in spite of them and their boy’s club exclusive behaviour.” comment reveals your bias, aka as discriminatory attitude. Your “pathetic” description of Glenda’s reasoning again gives away your superiority complex. The question then becomes: Are you worthy of that complex?

      The nature of things has a way of evening things out over time in favour of what works without overt tactics being employed by force-feeders who think they know best because they are young and intelligent, implying that old and dumb is the enemy of their quest for power. And by the way, real estate sales is one of the most inclusive vocations that I can think of off hand. It must be. It let you in.

      Your comments are exactly why your ilk is not the type of leadership real estate needs right now. You do not reflect well the wishes of women and minorities. You are strident and vengeful. Take a pill. James does not need to be protected by a pissed-off mother figure. I am sure he will do just fine going forward. This little discussion will be good for him and his maturing process.

      Good day to you Mom.

  3. Hello James ,all the very best and thank you for volunteering, I am guessing the person who wrote this did not understand once elected you serve all of us on the board not just the region in which you were elected from.
    The fact you were so young getting into our profession is a great accomplishment.

    If you want to represent the ones who pay OREA dues , which is all Realtors in Ontario then perhaps you should rethink the YPN . What right does this group have to restrict a new Realtor that is over 40 when they start a second career or perhaps their first career. Do you think someone entering this profession at age 41 or older is not worthy of the good work you plan to do or the knowledge of how to help them get started in the profession.

    Do I think it is a good idea to have younger people being involved yes but not at the exclusion of anyone else .
    That’s why we have elections .Do I think we need more diversity yes I do but the way to get that is to be more inclusive not exclusive.
    It implies in your article that you have been discriminated against in your life time, for that I am sorry. I feel supporting the YPN in its current set up is doing the very same to Realtors, and what message does that give to our consumers.
    The fact the OREA has an age restriction on any thing is not right. Does OREA only collect dues from Realtors under 40 to pay for the YPN ? No they take monies out of the dues all Realtors pay yet restrict the access due to age.
    I am a member of The Ottawa Real Estate Board , when YPN began we were not happy with the restriction on age. The Board decided to rename it to Your Professional Network. When our board puts on an event all are invited regardless of their age. The committee at the board works very hard and the feed back I have heard is success, the age of the participants is any.
    I am a strong believer that every voice is important regardless of age, color of skin, or who they choose to love. This is called diversity .
    Your comment that over the past 100 years all directors have been old white men, I take offence to that. I have been involved on many boards in my 33 years as a Realtor and have had the privilege to work with woman, gay men ,straight men and many different cultures. I would suggest you look at your current board your immediate past President is a woman who did an amazing job being our President. Not sure how old she is but must tell you it would not have mattered if she was 18 or 88 her dedication and work was superb.

    What you are forgetting ,is to thank all the old white men for their service and for bringing our profession to were it is today. Is it perfect no ,can you as a Director at Orea help with progress for sure that is what you were elected to do.
    From what I read of this article I am sure you have no time for my opinion as I am over forty. Orea does great work and yes the idea of YPN came from the USA and it may work their with age restrictions however I hope it never does here in Ontario.
    Orea has stepped up their advocacy with government and so far has done a stellar job. In any of their asks from government has age ever been one?
    Please know I support the idea of a group set up to help Realtors but it must help all Realtors. If I am missing something here please let me know . This please know is not to offend it is to let Realtors know we work best when we include all.
    All the very best in your future endeavors.

  4. This article is a testament to how poor taste and lack of professionalism is taking the world by storm. The sign of times.

    As for the allegation made in this article, the Real Estate Council and possibly the Human Rights Commission must look into it and interview all parties involved.

  5. Well, I’m old and straight, and ready to shake up the real estate industry. Big difference is, I have no skin in the game since retiring nine years ago, and my ego is now, finally, very well under control. (But I do remember how easily inflated it became when success found me during my younger years) Plus, I’m not out to make a name for myself within the industry, or the public domain, based at least partially upon my sexual preferences.

    Sohini: You would have done well to have simply entitled your piece thus:

    “James Molinas is young and ready to shake up the real estate industry”.

    Then my response would have been: “Well, I’m old and ready to shake up the real estate industry”.

    I noticed the asterisked last line apparently appended by Jim. Sohini: Which is it?

    If my words herein thus far have offended anyone, no offense was intended. I have my opinions, and we still live in a country where stated opinions count for something, even if some don’t like them. Therefore, the cancel culture can go to hell, sit on this, and rotate, as far as I’m concerned. (Offense ‘is’ intended in that case) That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I’m old…and much wiser than when I was young.

  6. It seems that people are banking on their sexual orientation to promote their business … I think it’s in poor taste…
    We live in Canada in 2020 not 1950s, I do not believe our society is so backwards that they take things like sexual orientation against a person… If you are a professional and good at what you do nothing is going stop you…
    this article doesn’t reflect the reality … if it were true he would not be a board member of OREA … so stop hysteria and just do your best – you will be rewarded

  7. Thanks for volunteering in organized real estate James! We need people like you that care about our industry and want to make a difference for the betterment of all. Way to go!

      • Congratulations on your success James, but does your success have anything to do with being gay? When you introduce yourself to potential clients is this how it’s done ” Hello my name is James Milonas I’m a realtor with Royal LePage’s Johnston & Daniel and I’m gay”. I doubt it, because most people don’t care. if your a good realtor they will hire you.
        Your comment about being Caucasion & gay in a predominately Middle Eastern neighborhood is racist, because you are accusing that entire community of being prejudice. An apology by all party’s involved in this article is in order.

  8. Who really cares how he has sex?!!! I don’t care if he does it standing on his head or not at all. Real Estate is a high risk career (at least for women) so why promote sexuality in REM? Poor taste author! This forum is not a dating site to find like minded individuals.

    • I also found this article inappropriate. As you said, I don’t care what he does in his spare time as long as he is a responsible realtor. This is nothing more than to add to his sphere and broaden his persona as an influencer . Also the reference to “middle eastern neighbourhood’ strikes me as racist and attention seeking.

  9. All the Best James :). ““I want to build professionalism because as young people, we’re not always viewed as professionals because of our age. And I think that’s bullshit.” … I found this Quote is rather odd. Though I agree with your first statement, as I too started young, the last part however shows a lack of the first part especially in a media interview. Just my opinion.

    • My thought exactly. It’s time for people to stop making their sexual preferences their identity. I don’t care one way or another what you do in the bedroom as long as you know how to do your job.

      • Sabine,
        Comity (courtoisie) … an organization of mutual benefit… a concomitant; is that not what OREA and other like provincial associations stand for, not designed having subsets defining various age or sex-related apportionments? Maybe eugenics is next, a special human bred for the purpose of being a REALTOR(r)? in years to come. A sexless defined, non-religious, special personality designed robot that the public can hire to represent their buying and selling wants and needs. From the human perspective we are each and all different. Would it be helpful if we were all alike?

        It’s not for us to cast the first stone… so that is not the intent. But there is always the professional language issue … children of clients hopefully will not hear loose, unbecoming (BS), classless unprofessional language. Agents need to be cautious what they say because once in print it follows forever, the more so on social media.

        Has nothing to do with bedroom preference, immigration population reference acknowledgement, (likely referring to immigrants who unintentionally or intentionally do not assimilate but rather form cities within cities, replicating their homeland, producing agents who want to do real estate business the way it is done back home), or who supports what charities (to each of us his/her own worthy efforts).

        Even top producers rub shoulders with their own sphere of influence; it’s a natural leaning no different than the diaspora immigrant-generated groupings. In all age groups.

        Live and let live. Since no one is promised tomorrow it’s important we value what we have at hand at any given moment today. In a heartbeat it can all be over. Covid the world over showed how in less than 90 days the world as defined became a casket for many.

        Respectfully
        Carolyne L 🍁

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