Meet the Agent: Toronto Storeys talks to David Fleming

david-fleming
David Fleming, real estate agent with Bosley Real Estate and Toronto Realty blogger.

David Fleming, representing Bosley Real Estate, has never been afraid to take sides and tell it like it is in Toronto’s ultra hot and ultra competitive real estate business. His blog, Toronto Realty Blog, began in 2007, before blogs were a thing and long before he says true real estate blogs existed that were solely dedicated to the Toronto scene.

Now, he has a rabid following and routinely appears among the top real estate bloggers in Canada. He attributes whatever attention he gets to his brutal honesty — something he says both his readers and his clients can always count on — whether they like it or not.

“Some don’t want to hear it. If I have a client that emails me a property listed at $799,000 — this is a million-dollar property and it’s under-listed — I’ll say, ‘Sorry guys, it’s a million bucks,’ and if they say, ‘We were thinking maybe we can offer $870,000,’ a lot of agents will string them along or say, ‘OK, maybe.’ I’m not here to commend their dreams and their hopes. I’m going to be honest and I’m going to say, ‘$870,000 doesn’t have a chance.’ It’s honest and sometimes it’s too honest for them.”

But it’s not too honest for Toronto Storeys. Fleming explained why he thinks all so-called experts, pundits and prognosticators in any field are full of it and how he plans to still work his regular 70-hour week even with a newborn baby at home.

What are you reading these days?
I’ve shied away from business books. You can’t take your work home with you. I’m reading history books now because the world is just so complicated. I’m trying to figure out how we got here, so anything history. I like World War stuff. I like the 1700s to 1800s and Napoleon, along with anything on the British Empire.

First album you bought?
The first album I bought would be Kris Kross in 1991 on cassette. That was at Edward’s Record World at Yonge and Eglinton. I’ll never forget it. I can’t believe I actually grabbed Kris Kross — that’s how long ago that was. One of those guys is actually dead now. It’s crazy to think two 13-year-old kids with their clothes on backwards would actually work, but it did. Remember “Jump?”

When you were a kid, you wanted to be a …
I wanted to be a Toronto Blue Jay until a babysitter told me you had to be picked by the team, like drafted, so that dream was up at about 5 years old. Then, I always assumed I’d be a lawyer because my dad was a prominent criminal lawyer and I came from a long line of lawyers and judges. There’s just a ton of law, so that’s what I thought I was going to be until I ended up in university.

Advice you would give the younger you:
I’d say don’t listen to the experts. When I was 19 years old I lost my life savings in the stock market because I put my faith in a 66-year-old stock broker who had been through three or four market cycles only to put all my money in one stock during the tech boom and subsequently lost it. I lost every penny I ever made at summer jobs pumping gas, making shish-kebabs and cleaning floors.

Cynically now, I think all these experts, critics, pundits and prognosticators don’t know what they’re talking about. Look at real estate and everything these supposed experts have predicted has been wrong. Sorry to say, but many of these experts know as little or less than we do. I would want to tell myself that you can only learn by doing, experiencing and putting together wins and losses of your own before coming to your own conclusions.

What sets you apart from all the other realtors in town?
This is a tough answer, I’ll say honesty. Every real estate agent says they’re honest. But my blog, Toronto Realty Blog, is a testament to my honesty. You can go on there and I just wrote a 2,300 word blog post about becoming a first-time father. You can’t get more honest, more open or more sharing than that. That is what I do on my blog. I am honest, open and have my outspoken nature on full display.

I will say whatever I think or feel about real estate, even if it rubs some people the wrong way, ruffles feathers in our industry or goes against the grain. This is how my blog started in 2007 and I took so much flack for it because people couldn’t believe what I was saying. I’ve always been honest to a fault if you ask a lot of people in this industry. This is how I’m known and that’s how I get all of the media appearances and people always say, “This guy’s honest. He’ll say anything.”

Any hot tips for homebuyers in this overheated market?
My best advice is don’t hope, don’t wish and don’t dream because many frustrated buyers end up becoming market bears. They’re in denial about what’s going on, they’re frustrated with what they could’ve spent for that same house two years ago, so don’t sit around and wish, hope or dream. Don’t dream about a 30 per cent correction because it’s not coming and don’t wish for the opinion that you want to hear — nine people tell you the market’s going up and one says it’s going down, but you listen to that one person — work in the market you’re in, not the market you want to be in.

What is Toronto’s most underrated neighbourhood?
Underrated is not underpriced. Usually the question is, underpriced. For underrated, I’d say where I live in the St. Lawrence Market area. We have more of Toronto’s original history than any other area. Every 30 feet you’re walking, you see a historical plaque that explains to you what was on that site or where that building came from. I think that’s so cool and it’s so unique.

King East is so much less busy than King West. It’s just calmer, it’s chiller and we have way more amenities. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, there’s a coffee shop on every corner. Different coffee shops like five Starbucks, three Tim Hortons, a few Second Cups and the organic ones. We’ve got the St. Lawrence Market itself, which is an amazing place to go and hang out. We’ve got the farmers’ market, the flea market, BuskerFest in the summer and Woofstock. There’s so much to do, but we’ve also got great transit. We’ve got great access to highways and we’ve got parks. I don’t think it’s the most underpriced, but I definitely think it’s the most underrated.

What’s your favourite architect or architectural style?
I love the red brick Georgian Tudor style — some houses in Rosedale, the odd house in Leaside — something that looks like it originated in South Carolina with Tudor-style at the front with maybe a big covered porch. I hate stone and stucco. I hate the so-called ultra-modern or the California style. I love red brick and I love that Georgian Tudor style.

What’s a moment you’re most proud of?
Probably three weeks ago when I had my first child.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
To be honest, I would invite my closest friends and family. I don’t believe in the concept of celebrity and I think that’s where that question’s intent was: to name some movie star who personally I couldn’t give the slightest crap who they are or what they’re doing. I’d rather talk to my friends about what they’re up to or my family member about what they’re doing.

What’s your next big goal in life is?
To be a father. I just had a daughter three weeks ago and in the last 12 years I’ve done nothing but work. To me a goal is supposed to be born out of a challenge and I think being a parent is a challenge.

For me, I think, working the hours that I do, the challenge is to balance that with a family life and from that challenge comes the goal of being successful at it.

How do you stay a top producer in this business?
Work. It’s that simple. You have to work long and hard and despite what a lot of young agents would like to think, it’s not an easy gig. It’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme and you cannot get to the top without working longer and harder than your competition. You probably get a lot of answers to that question, but at the end of the day, it’s work. If you’re willing to make sacrifices and dedicate yourself to this job and live and breathe it, that’s the only way to become a top producer.

How do you balance your work life and family or personal life?
Everyone has a different definition of balance, so people might think I’m crazy for wanting to work 70 hours a week. But as long as I continue to get everything out of life that I want — time with my wife, my newborn daughter and my dog, going to the gym, golfing in the summer and taking a couple vacations — I’m a happy camper. The balance to me is not someone else’s balance, it’s not an idea in a book of what balance should be — it’s what you want. If one person’s balance is working 80 per cent more than the next person, so long as they’re getting every single thing that they want out of life, their partner is happy and their children are happy, that’s work-life balance to me.

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