Laurin Jeffrey is a team of one and given his incredibly gregarious and opinionated personality, one seems like all you really need to get the job done.
He sells real estate for Century 21 Regal Realty Inc. under the brand Jeffrey Team, which once included his wife Natalie, but she took a step back to raise their children and only maintains her real estate license “in case I break my leg or something,” says Jeffrey.
Jeffrey is a character. Funny, boisterous and unafraid to tell anyone what he really thinks about a given topic, especially if it involves buying and selling property, he spoke to Toronto Storeys about everything from his circuitous route into real estate to how Toronto should solve its residential housing supply problem.
What initially attracted you to real estate?
My wife got started in real estate 20 years ago now. I worked in the dot-com industry, working on various contracts here and there. A couple of times she asked me to come out with her, just because creepy guy, weird vibe, that sort of thing and I liked it. I decided I should probably get my license so I could legally help more. I started hating what I was doing and liking real estate more, so right around the time my wife was pregnant with our first child I had some dot-com contracts and said, “Forget it, I’m going to do that full time.” And that was 11 and a half years ago.
What did you like about real estate personally?
Compared to what I had been doing previously, every day is different. It’s not like you go into the office, sit down and do exactly what you did yesterday. You’re constantly meeting new people, you’re going to different places, every client has their own set of challenges. It’s just interesting that way: who they are, where they’re from, what they do and what led them to where they are. There’s always a unique story there.
What does it take to be a top producer in your industry?
More than anything, it’s time. You have to stick it out. The first few years are going to be painful, but once you get past that, it’s just about putting in the time and effort. I remember way back, someone my wife worked with said, “There’s three ways to succeed in real estate” — one was pay for it, but when you start blowing 10 grand a month on advertising you better get a lot of action. Secondly is to earn it, so you go knock on doors, make phone calls, hand deliver things and put more of your time in. The third way was to wait for it — sit and do nothing — but nobody comes to you. One of those ways doesn’t really work and the other two do. It’s just a matter of being good to people, being nice to people and in time, if you put in the effort to get your name out, people will remember you, they will come back to you …
If you weren’t a real estate agent, what other profession would you take on?
If I had to pick right now, I think I’d be an architect or historian or an architectural historian. This is what has piqued my interest over the past 10 or 20 years. When I was a teenager I wanted to be an engineer because I had cars. At one point I went through school for journalism, believe it or not. Then I fluked into the dot-com world and fluked into real estate. I quite enjoy real estate. Would I have chosen this 30 years ago? Probably not — it never would have occurred to me.
How do you assess Toronto as a market?
Well, anything underrated is anything that’s affordable. People said Parkdale was shit 10 years ago. I grew up at Broadview and Gerrard, not that far up from Jilly’s (strip club) and The Hell’s Angels or weird guys trying to sell starter pistols on the corner. Would that be a great area to live? Now it is. Was it then? No. Even areas around Moss Park where a house is $1 million and you’re a block from a soup kitchen. Where’s good? Where’s bad? It’s all so subjective. There’s overly trendy areas like Riverdale, Leslieville or Queen West. These days things are completely insane. It used to bother me when people complained they couldn’t afford anything. I used to say, “Sure, you can’t afford to live near Trinity Bellwoods, but have you tried Scarborough or Jane and St. Clair? There are perfectly affordable places there.” I can’t really say anything like that now. Now, it’s not a choice anymore, it’s either a condo or it’s Barrie. It’s crappy that people have to make housing decisions because they’re forced to, not because they want to.
What is your greatest contribution to your community as a realtor?
I spend a lot of time agitating for solutions online for what Toronto is going through right now. Foreign buyer taxes and capital gains taxes aren’t going to solve the problem. It’s not a demand problem and they are knee-jerk reactions to problems that don’t exist. No one’s addressing the supply side of the issue and that’s where things need to be done. There is a group of people that is becoming more vocal saying, “Here are the things you can and should do,” so let’s do it.
So what are those things to help the Toronto market?
One of the biggest things would just be some zoning changes. So much of Toronto is stuck with this single-family residential zoning, so getting a triplex or duplex is impossible and adding a second unit to your house means hundreds of dollars in permits and fees. It’s so hard to add the missing middle. I’d rather have five 10-storey buildings than one 50-storey building, as would many people. You could line all of our main streets with five-storey residential and add so much density to the city and so much more housing units without putting up skyscrapers or putting subdivisions in Curtis, Ontario.
There are ways to do these things. You want walkable cities? That’s fine and dandy but if there’s no one to walk, it doesn’t matter. You want kids to learn how to ride their bikes on the street, but if there’s no kids, it doesn’t matter. You need ways to get more people in. Go to Leaside and how many houses per hectare are there? Two? Half of them are owned by empty-nesters because no one else can afford them. Beautiful neighbourhoods with nobody living in them. There are so many ways you could increase density in those areas if you wanted to. You want to create a sustainable city? Well, along with the transportation and everything, you need the people first and foremost.