Back in the 1980s and ’90s when it was one of the most economically depressed cities around, no one would have predicted that Brantford, Ont., would become the best place to buy real estate in Canada.
But now it is, according to recent online articles by both MoneySense and HGTV.ca., which credit Brantford’s affordable but steadily increasing house prices, diversified economy, fast-rising rents and low unemployment with helping the city leap to the pinnacle of Canadian real estate investment.
Currently the colossus astride that pinnacle appears to be Kate Broddick, the city’s long-standing No. 1 salesperson as well as the leader of its top team. Sutton Team Realty’s Kate Broddick Team, comprised of 10 agents and a handful of administrative staff, has ruled Brantford’s real estate market for more than four years, as has Broddick herself.
“According to the Brantford Regional Real Estate Association, we’ve had the largest number of transactions between 2015 and the present, and I’ve been the No. 1 agent,” Broddick says. “And I did it after moving to Brantford from Toronto and literally knowing no one.”
Additional grand slams for Broddick include being ranked among Canada’s leaders in social media marketing by various sources and being among a select group of Realtors chosen by HGTV’s Scott McGillivray for an exclusive endorsement deal.
As a result of the latter, the Kate Broddick Team not only has a promotional video but also a couple of commercials with McGillivray, one of which is shown at the local Cineplex right before the movie starts.
“Talk about a captive audience!” says Broddick. “And a celebrity endorsement by Scott – that’s different, outside-the-box marketing. No one else in Brantford has that. He was absolutely amazing, one of the most humble people I’ve met.”
McGillivray’s endorsement is the type of progressive marketing on which Broddick prides herself. Now entering her seventh year in real estate, she’s considered an industry trend setter. Before becoming a Realtor, Broddick was more likely to be found cleaning the teeth of celebrities than rubbing shoulders with them. She was working as a dental hygienist when she moved to Brantford. She decided to get her real estate license to facilitate the purchases she and her husband were making for their own real estate portfolio.
After that her career as a dental hygienist was soon in the rear-view mirror. But from it she’d learned how to “build trust and keep clients coming back,” a valuable lesson.
“It’s no different now except that with real estate, clients don’t start out hating me. Let’s face it, no one wants to be at the dentist,” she says, laughing.
Despite a talent and passion for real estate, she was “legitimately terrified” at the start.
Being new to Brantford and having no friends there (“We knew not one neighbour,” she says), she initially had trouble even finding her way around.
“My GPS was my best friend,” she says. “I was GPSing my way around the city. I’ve gone from that to this tremendous success, the sort that many people never experience their entire career.”
Success came fast. By her third year in real estate she was the top agent in Brantford. She started building a team when she realized she needed help.
“I had almost too many leads to serve. So, I brought on like-minded Realtors so there was a brand, a process and consistent client care.
“A lot of Realtors are lone wolves who do everything themselves. There are not enough hours in the day for that. The admins help us to be able to focus on clients. I think the biggest reason for our success is that we have a set system for agents and admins. Everyone has specific roles – the background stuff for admins, the forefront for agents. Our follow-up is bang-on and quick, so clients feel they are a priority. It’s good customer service. It sounds so simple but it’s paramount. Clients want to feel they matter.”
Initially the team was all female, a sisterhood of mothers. There are a couple of men on board now.
“Our team has a nurturing side,” says Broddick, who is pregnant with her third boy. “We keep family at the forefront of the decisions our clients make. For instance, if a family with kids and a dog likes a house in a high-traffic neighbourhood, we’ll say, ‘Maybe we can find you something on a side street.’ We open their eyes to different options, so they make the best decision, not just the quickest.”
The local lifestyle has come a long way since the 1980s, when the Massey Combines Corporation and other manufacturers closed their doors, leaving thousands out of work. Today Brantford, located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (an area stretching from Niagara to Peterborough) is thriving, combining a small-town lifestyle with the perks of city living. With prices tending to be more competitive than nearby Hamilton, Brantford attracts Toronto buyers willing to make the lengthy commute (although noticeably fewer now that Toronto prices have dropped somewhat, says Broddick).
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Brantford, and the city was also once home to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky (whose father Walter still lives there) and Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris. And now, thanks to the local Ferrero factory, those with a sweet tooth can celebrate World Nutella Day every February. (“I have no idea what goes on there,” laughs Broddick).
When she came to Brantford in 2012, Broddick and her husband bought a lovely detached home for $312,000. Today it has almost doubled in value, she estimates. The local real estate association puts the average house price in the city at around $450,000.
Broddick’s much-touted marketing, including videos of her team members talking about their lives outside the business, promote both the business and the city.
“We’re selling clients not just a home but a lifestyle,” she says. “We want people to connect with us on a personal level. We keep it intimate.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.