By Rob Blackstien
Less than one percent of Canadian contractors also hold real estate licenses. That’s surprising, given the advantages of being able to buy and sell your own.
We’ve all seen The Property Brothers — the television show featuring real estate agent Drew Scott and his twin brother Jonathan, the renovator, who team up to find homes they can buy, renovate and flip.
Oh sure, these handsome siblings bring in the ratings on the W Network, but opinions vary widely about how rooted in “reality” this show and others of its ilk are.
Still, the basic idea of a contractor and real estate agent combining forces — whether that means getting your own license, bringing a real estate agent on staff or simply teaming up with one in some form — has its allure, and there are those that have managed to differentiate themselves from the pack by implementing this strategy.
Take Ian Szabo, for instance. His career has taken the unlikely path of professional chef to renovator to author/TV personality to educator to real estate agent. His work as a renovator begat TV appearances, which begat videos about how to flip homes, which begat a book about flipping homes, and in turn led to him starting Flip School, which teaches contractors or laymen how to renovate homes for profit — in other words, create real life Property Brothers.
Szabo did all this before becoming a successful agent with Keller Williams Energy Real Estate, a Whitby, Ont.-based brokerage.
Now he uses his real estate acumen, renovation expertise and contractor partner and connections to help his clients get the best bang for their buck.
On the selling end, that means advice about what type of renovation work will pay off in terms of resale value and what won’t; on the buying end, that means helping spot issues that will come up on the home inspection and providing valuable insight to his clients about how much extra will need to be poured into any given home to meet the specific requirements of the buyer.
A typical real estate agent — while well versed in the resale value of specific reno projects — is not necessarily trained to provide any realistic advice about how much work needs to be done after the purchase, Szabo explains.
He explains that the transition from contracting into real estate makes sense under a couple of circumstances: contractors that are in their 40s, whose bodies are starting to break down and realize they can’t do this job physically forever. And there’s good money in real estate when you know what you’re doing.
“I think the big thing is you’re getting paid for what you know, and not what you can do,” Szabo says.
Yes, there are still negotiations on the real estate front, but Szabo insists he makes more money with less effort.
Let’s say in an average month, he sell five houses with a $10,000 commission each; that’s $50,000.
“For me to make $50,000 profit on a reno, I’d have to do five of those.”