Joel Ives, real estate broker and owner of Century 21 Colonial Realty Inc. in Charlottetown, has a sales philosophy that is focused on people – know your customers, treat them fairly and understand what they want.
“Everything else will look after itself,” says Ives, who began his real estate career in 1991 working for his father John at Century 21. After leaving for a few years to work in the hospitality industry, Ives returned to real estate in 1998. Nine years later, he bought the business from his father.
Times have certainly changed on the Island since Ives sold his first house in 1991. As immigration increases, so too has the demand for housing while the supply lags behind. To make up the gap, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s high estimate for housing starts in 2019 is 610 – more than double the number in 2015. The average sale price is also forecasted to rise from $205,111 in 2015 to $290,000 in 2019.
Ives sat down with The Guardian this week to talk about the real estate industry and how it has changed over the years.
Q: Do you remember the first house you sold?
It was a house in Websters Corner (in 1991). I sold it to a couple who were moving here from Ontario. And, they paid $43,000. It was a little two-bedroom house. It wasn’t a lot of money then, it’s not a lot of money now. But it was a nice little home for them. I saw it come up for sale a couple of years ago. It was an interesting sale. I learned a lot on that one. Well, I learned a lot on every one. When you’re doing it for your first time, you don’t want people to think it is your first time. It’s the same with any job.
Q: What are the main differences in real estate now compared to when you got started?
I think the main difference would have to be technology and the ability for people to get information. When I started, we used to have a catalogue that came out every two weeks (with) four pictures of houses per page. With technology allowing people to go in, and if you hate white kitchens, you don’t go look at a house with a white kitchen. Before, we never had that ability. I think the consumer has a lot more ability to do their shopping. The internet has done that in every industry. But in ours, that’s probably the biggest change. We (also) purchased a camera that will do that 360-degree (virtual reality) tour. It gives people that ability to see more of the house than ever before. But, people still want to walk in and make sure it’s true.
Q: What are some of the issues you see around the supply and demand for housing in today’s market?
A: The supply is down, there’s no question, and demand is still strong. You have someone who wants to buy and now they can’t. Before it used to be the seller who would be wondering why their house isn’t selling. Now, you’ve got buyers who are going ‘I’ve got money, why can’t I buy?’ When you’re dealing with many offers, you want to make sure that everybody is treated fairly and everyone gives a shot. Because, you can only sell it once. So, I think we have some challenges because it’s nicer to have a balanced market than tipped the other way. You like there to be a nice, constant flow. As the supply does decrease, that pushes prices up, and sometimes greed comes into play and it goes a little bit higher. You know, I’ve been on both sides of this, I like this one better. But it’ll turn. It always does balance out.
Q: Where do you see the market going?
A: By the immigration policies or plans in place, I think we’re going to see more people coming in. They’re already a client ready to go. It’s not like a kid growing up and going from an apartment to a starter home to a couple of kids to a bigger house. They’re landing at the airport and buying a home right away. And, it could be a mid-level to an executive home. So, I think that’s going to continue on with the market. Retention is a big thing, it seems to be stronger now. You know, a few years ago, we were showing a lot more empty houses. Now, we’re not seeing that. So, that’s a good thing.
Q: Based on your experiences, what advice do you have for a new real estate salesperson or agent entering the market?
A: The big thing I always tell people is that it’s not really about the houses, it’s about the people. You’re inventory is your people. You have to have people who know you, like you, trust you and want to do business with you. The product is somewhat secondary. The product will sometimes sell itself. People know when they walk in right away. That’s just the magic touch. Increase your network of people and that will help you succeed, and get to know your product a bit, but your product is your people and understanding what people are looking for and how they want to be treated. That’s the sales game. You know, products come and go. But if you look after people, everything else will look after itself. It always does.