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Finding a niche in real estate

The Felt Lab, a community-based technology hub located in the Quarry building at 140 King St. in St. Jacobs, will host a series of collaborative art workshops through the spring and summer run by Isabella Stefanescu of the Inter Arts Matrix.

When it comes to the real estate business, Property Guys presents homeowners an alternative to conventional ways of selling property.

After six years in the region and two years in at the newest location in Breslau, serving Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, the company’s round signs can sometimes be seen on the lawns of local homeowners wishing to sell their houses without the help of an agent.

Mike Shanks holds up a signature Property Guys sign outside of his office on Victoria Street in Breslau. [ELENA MAYSTRUK / THE OBSERVER]
“We teach people how to sell their homes without the cost or need of a real estate agent. We walk them through the process … we guide them along the way as far as answering questions about the process and if it’s outside the scope of what we can answer we direct them to people that can,” said franchise owner Mike Shanks at his office in Breslau.

A business like Property Guys, Shanks explained, reflects the way technology has changed how people buy and sell their goods.

“It’s something that has been done for hundreds of years: people have been selling privately. With the changes in technology over the last 15 years, the internet has changed a lot of business … and real estate is now among them.”

Property Guys uses their online presence as well as home offices to help people lower the cost of selling their houses.

“A typical high-fee real estate agent charges around five per cent. The average house price in our area is about $300,000 so you’re looking at about $15,000 plus HST,” Shanks explained.

The average fee a customer may pay with Property Guys is approximately $1,000 to $1,500 for service packages but Shanks said a sale can be done for as little as $299.

“People can pick from a predetermined package based upon what we’ve found that people want and need in order to sell or they can custom build something specific to what they want.”

Customers can choose to include various services in their packages. Services include an appraisal, a listing on realtor.ca through a partner brokerage as well as photos and panoramic tours.

Aside from teaching people the process of selling a home, staff from Property Guys can direct customers to other legal and financial experts.

“If they have a question about marketing and how best to market their home, that’s where we come in,” he explained.

The company works with stagers who can come into a home and create visually appealing environments for prospective buyers, as well as appraisers who can give homeowners pricing advice.

Whether using a real estate agent or going it alone, the steps to selling a property are the same, Shanks said. The first step is making sure that the property is in good condition.

“You’ve evaluated both the interior and the exterior to make sure it’s in good shape and good working order; you don’t need a new roof, you don’t need a new furnace; that it’s decorated properly or staged properly for sale,” he explained.

The next step he says is getting the right information in order to handle the sale, looking at the both past and present states of the local real estate market in order to price their homes properly.

“‘Tell me how it works?’ is probably the most common question we get. It’s just educating as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. We walk them through the process and make them comfortable,” he said.

The company’s services are a viable alternative for homeowners willing to learn how to sell their own property and save money by not paying a commission to a realtor. At the same time many people are still unsure about how to deal with the sale on their own.

“I think everybody wants to, just not everyone is sure about it yet. Maybe they are not sure how it works so they don’t want to try something new. It’s really about finding people that are definitely conscious of their financial stability.”

Shanks runs the Breslau branch of the franchise and has dealt with everyone from first-time homeowners to retirees looking to downsize.

“We’re not your parent’s real estate company, that’s one of the things we like to say. We get a full range of people.”

Working in Waterloo Region gives the location in Breslau a strong advantage, according to Shanks.

“The technology of Waterloo Region has impacted our business. One of the reasons why we’re one of the more successful franchises across Canada is because people in the Waterloo Region recognize that we’re [the region] technology savvy. The power of the internet and the power of being able to do it yourself has changed a lot of things and there’s some great savings there,” he explained.

Though Property Guys is a national franchise, there’s plenty of room for the entrepreneurial spirit, he added.

“As a small business owner there is a really dynamic group of entrepreneurs in the area….that’s been a real benefit for me and for my business.”

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