Curt Najdzion’s mother told him that she couldn’t afford to waterproof their damp basement. So he grabbed a shovel, dug up a huge expanse of the yard along the front perimeter of the house, and got to work. It took him a month, but he completed the job all on his own.
He was 13.
“It built character,” asserts Najdzion, now a top-producing agent with Exit Realty in Sarnia and Lambton County along the shores of Lake Huron in southwest Ontario, where he grew up. “My mother told that story at my wedding.”
As a teenager whose father had moved out, Najdzion felt the need to “become the man of the house fast.” He realizes now that this led to taking on responsibilities that, in a perfect world, probably wouldn’t have been on his shoulders, such as “giving the money to my Mom for the hydro bill” that he’d earned cutting grass.
In high school, he worked a multitude of jobs simultaneously. Afterwards, he spent a decade as an insulator of thermal barriers in one of Sarnia’s ubiquitous petrochemical refineries, also working nights as a janitor in a government building.
“I worked a crap load,” he says. “It was just nuts. In the plants, you can rack up a lot of overtime.”
“There’s no elevator to the top. You have to take the stairs.”
– Curt Najdzion
Before long, with some help from his grandparents, he had enough to buy a house. He went on to purchase “a bunch of rental properties,” diving into the world of property management and development. Today, along with being one of the top realtors in the area, he owns 25 rental buildings, is a certified builder with a couple of subdivisions, and is the driving force behind an upcoming 30-unit affordable housing project.
With the petrochemical and emerging biochemical and clean energy industries being the mainstays of Sarnia’s economy, the area is an employment hub. And as a “smaller niche market,” it attracts people looking to sell in larger urban centres like Toronto and move somewhere more affordable, explains Najdzion.
When he got his real estate license six years ago, he continued on with his existing jobs for about six months until his career as a realtor started to take off. “I used to hand business cards out at the plant from my coverall pockets,” he recalls.
Last year he was among Exit’s top 10 in Ontario and top 100 in North America.
He racked up gross sales of over $30 million in 2022 and has averaged over 100 transactions annually over the past few years.
If you think he’s a workaholic, you’re correct.
“There’s no elevator to the top. You have to take the stairs. Go. Go. Go. You have to pay the price today so you can do what you want tomorrow. I’ve always had that mentality,” Najdzion states.
“Especially for realtors just starting out, if you really want to be at the top of the game, you have to outwork the person beside you. I watch people who just want to sell 10 houses per year, and that’s okay. But I want way more.”
“I maybe only have another few years of really going hard. Then I’ll retire. My dream is to retire at 38 to 40 and be finished.”
– Curt Najdzion
For him, it’s about having the means to afford to live life large. He points up the example of his wedding to wife, Justine, a financial planner. While dating, they visited Italy’s spectacular Amalfi Coast. He told her that if he ever made it big, he’d marry her there. Three years ago, he kept that promise. The wedding cost over $200,000.
“I’m a man of my word,” he says. “We rented a private villa that slept 20 guests, with a pool overlooking the entire coast and a private chef.”
But perks like these from overwork come at a cost beyond the financial, he admits. “It’s exhausting. I can’t really remember the past five or six years of my job. It’s flown by. I remember days of getting 100+ phone calls, constantly on the go, driving so much I’d fill up the gas tank at the beginning of the day and then later the same day would have to do it again.”
He describes himself as a “no-nonsense, no sugar-coating” kind of guy. “You’ll always get some unhappy clients at the volume I do, but you can lessen that by being honest,” he advises. If there’s something wrong with a house, for example, let clients know. It’s also important to respond quickly to calls and questions, he’s found.
Najdzion goes “above and beyond” for clients, asserts Shawn Fowler, one of his two support realtors. Another colleague describes him as “one of the hardest working realtors I know.”
“It’s been my enemy sometimes,” Najdzion concedes. “I don’t have a shutoff. I’m willing to go and burn myself out.”
Without travel—his “re-set” activity—he’d be in big trouble, he believes. “I probably would have died of a heart attack. The stress is killer. I maybe only have another few years of really going hard. Then I’ll retire. My dream is to retire at 38 to 40 and be finished. I hope I don’t kick the can before that!”
At the moment, though, he doesn’t seem ready even to admit that he’s starting to consider slowing down. “I don’t want to say that,” he reflects. “Call it a slow deceleration.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.
I’m happy that this story about his journey is on a public platform because youths need see what it takes to be successful