What do you get when you cross a fast-paced, technologically aware Millennial sensibility with the relationship values of an earlier generation? As it turns out, you get the team of Lani Stern and Armin Yousefi.
The duo take you on a journey propelled by their enthusiasm, and so you may find yourself getting just as amped following along.
And once Stern and Yousefi have created a business relationship with you, they put in that little bit extra to show the relationship is not just transactional.
We sat down with the team to find out how they raise the bar and why they’re ready to talk clients out of a purchase. They also reveal what their generation wants in Toronto’s downtown core and how those demographics are changing to suit a changing lifestyle.
How did you get your start in the real estate business?
Lani: I had a strong sales background where I moved from retail giants like Nike, Club Monaco and Louis Vuitton.
I didn’t think that much of those jobs. I thought, was I benefitting people by selling $4,000-purses? Or was I able to effect greater change for people by selling houses and helping them to create a more stable environment for their family?
This is when I decided to go from my strong retail sales background to selling real estate.
Armin: I got into the business right after university.
It was a field I wanted to get into since I was a teenager. A lot of realtors say they are passionate about architecture and design, but for me what stood out is the fact I can’t sit still and can’t be in one spot on a daily basis.
I did have a taste of that during university because I used to work at three different banks during my school years. I realized I like the challenge of being in multiple places on the same day. I liked feeling needed and I just envisioned living a fast-paced lifestyle by being in real estate.
That was the first motivating factor and it just grew from there.
What was the impetus for your meeting and eventual business partnership?
Armin: I’ve been in the business for a little over 11 years now. Prior to working at Royal LePage, Johnston & Daniel, I worked at another high-end brokerage and I moved to Johnston & Daniel because I wanted a change of environment.
Lani and I met shortly after. We just built a friendship within the brokerage. We started discussing maybe working together about a year and a half ago. We casually got into the conversation that it may be a good idea for us to combine forces.
I was successful, but I was at a point where I needed another engine to help me keep going. I had made attempts to partner with other agents, but shortly after I would realize that the motivation and contribution levels were not at all equal.
Those attempts at partnership were very short-lived, but after meeting Lani, I started to really observe his personality and his work ethic and I realized that this could be a great combination because we’re both focussed and really service-oriented.
We also have a lot of repeat and referral business. So I figured if we were to collaborate — considering we resonate quite a bit as far as our personalities and work style go — this could be a winning combination. And it has been incredible so far.
How do you feel your strengths meld to give you an extra advantage when serving clients?
Lani: We’re both driven.
We’re both interested in growing our business. And I mean that in the best way. If we’re aiming towards providing the best service, we’re the younger, new fresh blood that’s working in the luxury market, as well as all other markets.
This allows us to go above and beyond for our clients in that we’re not just retaining clients, but we’re also getting repeat and referral clients. And that’s really how we’ve been able to grow our business together.
Armin: We’re both really laid back internally.
We’re both really goal-oriented and competitive even. I think you have to have some level of competitiveness when you’re in sales. But we don’t necessarily act with that mindset when it comes to managing a client’s needs and expectations.
We’re very respectful, we’re not sales-y, we don’t use scripts and both of our styles are geared towards building long-term relationships. And sometimes if you have to lose a sale to make sure the client makes the best decision, we do that with pleasure.
We don’t look at clients as a one transaction scenario. We look at being their voice of reason. And really being a vehicle for them to take their emotions out of the decision-making process and make more objective and logical decisions.
Besides your personalities and temperaments, in what other ways does your business stand out?
Lani: People are liking that we’ve had an opportunity to sell some of our listings for premium prices. And that’s because we’ve really got our hands dirty doing the last two per cent that people will shrug off or sweep under the rug.
And we’ll really get in there and prep houses for sale to make them shine and help people get top dollar.
What are you telling clients right now as we approach the late 2018 Toronto market?
Armin: There’s no equilibrium within the market.
Some areas are really robust, other areas suffered from a price drop and they’re gradually recovering.
We’re more or less central and downtown agents. A lot of people look for up-and-coming neighbourhoods, which we’re very open-minded towards.
However, what we tell clients is, central Toronto may be at a premium, but the tendency of the prices dropping in an economic recession are going to be a lot less. Because in the core you have everything within a short radius.
Not only do you have highly-rated public school districts, you’re also close to public transit and neighbouroods that give you lifestyle amenities versus just a big house and a big garden.
What we’re telling buyers and sellers is that the lifestyle and the dynamics of people that live within a metropolitan city have changed.
When our parents were growing up, a lot of them desired a big home, on a big lot and maybe a two or three car garage.
But now that life has become more fast-paced. People are also working longer hours. Most younger families tend to be happy with a more mid-size home with a smaller lot.
It enables them to have the urban lifestyle, have a lot of walking distance amenities and not have to spend thousands of dollars per year — or hours and hours on a weekly basis to maintain these homes.
Lani: I just want to throw in the caveat that we encourage our clients to purchase what they can afford.
It’s all well and good that this is an investment and people sometimes will stretch because they know the multiplier effect of investing in real estate can be very very good for their bottom line.
But if things happen and they’re unable to make payments, I don’t want to have any of my clients — that we care for on a personal level — ever in a situation where they’re unable to make a payment or have to decide between whether they should eat, make a payment or pay some other important bill.