Just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean you can’t do it your way instead.
Just ask sales reps Elliot McCabe-Lokos, Julian Scott and Chris Deru of the new Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty Brokerage in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood in Toronto.
They say they are breaking the mould and tossing aside the classic brokerage vibe to provide a less rigid, more friendly and relaxed real estate office that caters to the vibrant community in which they all live.
There are no fancy cars – the trio rides their bikes to showings when possible – and the office is based in a former café.
McCabe-Lokos, who worked in film production design for several years and is the junior member of the team, was tasked with designing the new workspace and visual material for The Roncy Group, a full-service boutique brokerage.
The office has three desks at the front and a bar behind, complete with a coffee machine from the original café. There are also a couple of private meeting rooms.
The space retains its original café feel, but McCabe-Lokos also added a boxing vibe because the three sales representatives are boxers. “The space has a boxing esthetic, playful and casual, something the younger demographic especially likes,” he says.
Their Roncy Group branding is also more colourful and playful, and less corporate looking in the hopes of getting people who are turned off by rigid branding styling, he says.
At least one team member is on site whenever possible so the community knows there is always someone available to answer questions. The idea is to become a fixture in the community and to secure clients organically, by word of mouth and community events. McCabe-Lokos says organic growth will create a strong core of clientele, “as opposed to the broad strokes of digital marketing” campaigns.
Instead of bus ads, they create partnerships with local businesses. They paid for a local bagel shop to pass out free cookies on their behalf. Another recent event was coffee and donut day.
Chris Deru came up with the plan to work together, but McCabe-Lokos says, “The idea that we grow organically, stay local in our scope and stay community focused is something we all agreed upon from the beginning…. Existing relationships give common ground to work from…. It’s a big advantage when that trust is already there.”
The Roncy Group was also formed from existing relationships. Scott is McCabe-Lokos’ brother-in-law and Scott and Deru were friends. Together they have a diverse skill set.
Deru has been in real estate sales for a decade and has overseen more than 50 transactions and over $32 million in sales in his first three years as a full-time real estate consultant. He has extensive knowledge of the city’s west end and is a condo pro.
Scott has been buying and selling property as an investor for over 20 years. That experience makes him the group’s source of information for investment opportunities and advice.
McCabe-Lokos got his license at the beginning of August but finished his courses a year before. “I didn’t find an opportunity that I felt I would enjoy until this summer.”
He grew up on constructions sites with his contractor father, and that trades experience has given him a discerning eye to a property’s value. He also has a range of contacts, from plumbers to electricians to handymen.
The sales reps hope the Roncy Group’s casual office atmosphere will encourage other agents to pop in if they’re looking for a place to eat lunch or if they need a satellite office for a day. When it’s safe to do so, they hope their space will become a community gathering spot and that passers-by will pop in for a free coffee and a chat.
They also value work/life balance so they don’t burn out and are able to provide top-quality service for their clients in the long term.
Connie Adair is a contributing writer for REM.