By Susan Doran
Ironically, most television shows about real estate aren’t hitting home, say Mike Montague and Arif Khan, both based in Barrie, Ont.
As they see it, the issue is too much glitz and not enough substance.
“Offerings include shows on decorating and flipping properties, which make it look easy. But once you cut away the sparkle, what’s lacking are the nuts and bolts,” says Khan, principal/broker with Solid Ground Mortgage Solutions.
Adds Montague, a sales rep with Re/Max Crosstown Realty, “We felt the need was there for a television show that provided knowledge, insight and opinion on real estate and finance matters on a regional scale – a show for viewers who may be, or wish to be, home buyers, sellers and investors.”
The pair are long-time friends and business associates, and experienced community and industry advocates. Neither ever seems to be at a shortage for words.
“There’s no such thing as brevity with either one of us,” Montague says. “We knew we’d never run out of things to say.”
So, when he approached Khan about making a pitch together to the local Roger’s cable television channel for a real estate and mortgage financing themed community show, Khan was all for it.
It was a go. Hitting Home with Mike & Arif is now in its second season, with new shows airing Mondays at 6 p.m. Most guests on the show work in and around the local real estate and mortgage industries.
There is now a weekly podcast as well, on which Montague and Khan are able to self-promote (“blatantly,” they joke), something that isn’t allowed on the cable show. (Montague, in order to avoid any conflict of interest, says that although he frequently refers Khan to clients looking for mortgage financing, Khan’s name is only one of several provided.)
One happy outcome of the show for the pair is that it translates to instant credibility with clients.
“It doesn’t hurt to have it on your resume. I wouldn’t say it has caused the phone to ring off the hook though…and no one is asking for autographs,” says Montague, laughing.
“Setting oneself apart and standing out from the herd is an ongoing challenge,” he says. “Arif and I are managing to carve a bit of a niche through the opportunity.
“We have been venturing beyond the traditional conventions to expose our business services to the Barrie and area market, while at the same time providing a reliable local source for real estate and mortgage financing knowledge…The time and cost are minimal and the responsibility of hosting a TV show and a podcast has been a great source of encouragement to stay as informed and up to date as possible.”
The education component is important to them both.
Times have changed, says Montague. “It’s a multiple step process to buy a dream home now. You might have to be creative – rent out your basement, for instance. We can teach you ways to get involved in the market, to get mortgages and equity creatively, how to buy an income property, what to look for.”
Says Khan: “We’re taking away the fear that real estate is becoming beyond the reach of the average Canadian. Financial literacy is a huge part of the show.”
To this end, there have been appearances by local Realtors, home inspectors, stagers, developers, city planners and other experts. Guests have also included Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman (discussing affordability and availability; like much of the rest of Canada, Barrie has a shortage of affordable housing) and Ontario Real Estate Association CEO Tim Hudak (on market conditions, not to mention his passion for barbecuing).
Although Montague had some TV experience from a previous show he’d done with the station, there’s been a learning curve.
For starters, “We’ve had to learn how to re-vitalize a conversation,” says Khan. “We’ve talked to people on the street who we thought would make engaging guests. But then when we got them on the show, they froze.”
When doing the podcasts, the pair also has to remember that unlike the cable show, they’re streaming live. That was hammered home the hard way, after Khan accidentally swore on air.
Active in the community, both Montague and Khan previously ran for Barrie city council (Khan successfully, Montague not).
Montague has almost 20 years in real estate behind him (and a background as a commercial and industrial project manager) and is a director for the local real estate association.
Khan, a former cinematographer, became a licensed mortgage broker over a decade ago, determined to become financially literate following a disastrous personal experience with debt where he found himself “with more month than money, classically not opening the mail in case it was bad news.”
He recalls, “I had no idea I could have accessed equity in my home and addressed the issues I had, saving myself a ton of grief and interest.”
Besides stressing the importance of being informed on financial matters, he’s a proponent of “the daily tweak” – things that can be done to change habits and cut expenses.
Maybe buy one donut, not two, he says. Maybe you don’t need two packs of cigarettes or that new television.
“Those little changes don’t seem like much, but in the long term they can put you in a better situation.”
Khan’s lending advice for potential home buyers? “For starters, it’s important to find out what you qualify for long before you sign anything.”
No two clients are the same, he stresses. So, a good lender will get to know your situation, “including your three- to five-year outlook, in order to find you the product that best suits your needs.”
The current market is transitional, he and Montague agree. Neither is happy with the fallout from the mortgage stress test imposed by the government.
“It’s like hitting a thumbtack with a sledge hammer,” says Khan.
The changes around mortgages have downsized the purchasing power of the average homeowner, he says, and have also created a backlog on the rental market, which was already incapacitated.
But he and Montague remain hopeful in their message to viewers and clients.
There is opportunity in every market, they say, including this one.