Chris Fyvie is a Toronto-based Realtor with Colliers International who specializes in commercial office leasing in Toronto. He also runs the website CommercialOfficeLeasing.com and writes for multiple blogs that focus on the Toronto commercial real estate market.
How did you get involved in real estate?
I kind of fell into real estate and started due to financial desperation. I was straight out of university and was considering going into a post-graduate degree in marketing. I found myself at the end of the summer, without enough money to continue on that path. I started job hunting and found a position at Colliers as an assistant to two of the senior office leasing brokers. I’d love to say real estate was always my passion, but it wasn’t until now.
Did you think you’d be where you are now?
I gained lots of sales experience during summer jobs through university but always had more of a passion for marketing and advertising. That’s where I always thought I would end up (advertising industry) and had no idea I would find a career in real estate.
Why did you personally choose to focus on commercial leasing in Toronto?
Initially, I chose to focus on office leasing only because that was my first job in the industry and what I was exposed to. Only after a few years in the industry did I realize there was an incredible opportunity for someone with a passion for technology and marketing who doesn’t represent himself as your typical slippery “sales guy”. As for Toronto, that’s where I was born and where I live so that’s where I work.
What makes you different?
Other than my witty sense of humour? I have a significant interest and background in technology, marketing and social media. Not only do I leverage my negotiation skills, but I use my experience with technology to self-promote as a tenant representative and advertise my listings through social media and the Internet. I’m one of the very few commercial agents in Toronto doing this which perturbs me but I’m not about to start complaining! I also focus on the technology and media industries and help many start-ups find their first short term creative office space. Most agents focus on the whales while start-ups are the ones that need the most help!
What role does social media and/or your online presence play in your business?
Huge. Social media and my online presence significantly reinforce my brand. Social media offers an opportunity to consistently engage or remind both new and existing clients what I do as a professional and allows me to remain top of mind for additional referral business. It also helps me to be found on page one in Google organic searches, where most tenants start looking for office space and representation. More often than not, I’m one of the first agents to have an opportunity to connect with individuals starting their search online to find office space in Toronto both locally and from abroad.
What tips would you give to first-time office leasers?
First, start your search for office space early. Office leasing isn’t like finding an apartment. It can take as many as three to six months to find the right space and do a deal.
Second, meet with multiple agents that are specialized in the sector and market you are interested in, for instance, office investment or retail in downtown Toronto. Then hire an agent that you feel comfortable with. Someone whom you feel can represent you professionally, work with you as part of your team and in the best interests of your company.
What is some of the criticism you’ve received?
My diligence in keeping track of and reporting individual transactions. When I think of the market, I usually think of it as a whole and sometimes that’s not specific enough. When negotiating the best deal for a client, it should be taken on a case by case basis and I have to remind myself of that. When trying to compare two deals from an apples-to-apples perspective, every deal has its own motivations and idiosyncrasies that need to be understood before the full picture can be seen.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Meeting new smart, professional entrepreneurs and cool people on a daily basis. When I find a client or company I believe in that I can work with as a business partner, it makes my job and the whole process that much more satisfying. It makes me proud to represent cool clients like MTV Canada, Wattpad and HotDocs to the best of my ability.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’m a morning person. I find that the majority of my paperwork and emails are done first thing in the morning before 8 a.m., with a fresh cup of coffee. In the day, I’m usually touring or meeting new clients and by the end of it, I’m spent! It certainly is nice having a job where, typically, the more you are out of the office the more successful you are.
What is your most memorable client encounter?
Working with Mozilla Canada over a 10-year period, from their inception of 1,500 square feet here in Toronto, through four expansions and two relocations, to them taking 17,000 square feet and establishing their Canadian corporate headquarters at 366 Adelaide Street West.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People that treat me like a real estate agent. I like to consider myself a consultant or a business partner than a sales guy. I’d rather work “with” my clients to achieve the best possible outcome than be treated as a conduit to tenants’ unrealistic expectations of what the deal should be. I prefer to get on the same page quickly and work together to achieve a mutual goal.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of how we rebranded our listing at 365 Bloor Street East. Our team worked with the owners and designers to renovate the façade, the lobby, the common areas and re-establish the building’s brand in both the brokerage and tenant community and I’m very proud of our success. The building was upwards of 40 per cent vacant when we took it on and over a year’s process, it was completely renovated. We started both a model suite program and upgrading the tenancies as they expired. During the process we leased upcoming vacancies to amazing companies such as Post Media (National Post), Well.ca, APEX Public Relations and GWP Brand Engineering. We only have a few vacancies left!
What is the last book you read?
Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part 1 by Robert Kirkman. I hadn’t read a book in a long time as I consume most of my media through my RSS feed or tweeted articles on the Internet… I read that in one day while at the cottage. I’d recommend if it you like a little gore and you’re prepared to invest time in a series of novels.
Otherwise, from a business perspective, I’d recommend The Four-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I believe in a real work-life balance and that’s the essence of the book.
Any final thoughts?
Commercial and residential real estate are very different animals. I’ve worked in dual agency with many residential agents and their clients in the past to help satisfy their clients’ needs. If you’re a residential agent and don’t know where to start then consider the best interests of your client, perform your fiduciary duty and call an expert. I look forward to hearing from you