Inverse career path

by Neil Sharma17 Jul 2019

Usually when real estate brokers switch sides, they start in residential and transition into commercial searching for a few big paydays.

Not Matt Smith.

“I was working for Cresa Partners, which stands for Commercial Real Estate Service Advisors,” said Smith, now an Engel & Völkers Toronto Central broker. “I was there for three years and then transitioned to residential real estate. I started at Forest Hill because they let me do commercial as well, but I slowly phased it out.”

Smith, who has a long history with commercial real estate, explains why he bucked the trend and transitioned in inverse fashion. As a university student, he’d return during summers and lease commercial spaces out on behalf of landlords in Mississauga and Brampton.

“Then, while I was doing my MBA at McMaster University, it made sense for me to go into commercial real estate because I was a natural at it and I had a commercial base to bring into the brokerage,” he said. “But three years in, it was a nine-to-five job and while the ups were great, the lows were very low, meaning there wasn’t much stability and opportunity for cash flow.

“You also can’t really get ahead unless somebody retires or somebody moves along, so I hit a corporate glass ceiling. In residential, you can do your own thing, you can be your own boss, and sky’s the limit. I’ve always enjoyed residential but never done it, so 10 years ago I made the switch over.”

Smith did about six commercial deals a year—which he says can range between $25,000 and $50,000—but on the residential side did 35 last year and over 45 in 2017.

However, Engel & Völkers, he says, has been his career’s game changer. A boutique luxury brand that adorns its listing in jewelry casings, Engel & Völkers is among the most recognized realty brands on the planet, but its ethos is what makes Smith feel right at home.

“Clients are treated equally, whether they’re buying something for $300,000 or $3 million, whether they’re leasing something for $1,500 or $15,000,” he said. “Because we’re boutique, we have the ability to service our clients well. Our market is also what sets us apart. We built our shops to look like jewelry stores because we take pride in what we’re selling. There’s a big retail commitment on our end that a lot of other brokerages don’t have.”


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