When you’re Michael Deak‘s client, class is in session.
The 36-year-old agent for Re/Max Performance Realty and partner in Deak and Jafri Real Estate, brands himself as Mike Deak — The Real Estate Geek — and it’s not just because geek rhymes with his last name.
He really is a geek for real estate — literally tutoring clients on every step of the buying and selling process before they team with him to look at properties.
“At the end of the hour, I give them a timeline of how everything will work, so they get a roadmap that they can refer to through the entire process,” says Deak.
His desire to teach and help people inspired his escape (with his childhood best friend) from the work-a-day world into real estate.
So Toronto Storeys had a one-on-one with Deak to find out what makes him The Real Estate Geek and how much money you really need to save if you want to be a first-time buyer in Toronto.
What made you enter the real estate business?
I was an audit manager at Sobeys. My parents said, “Go to school! Do something with a good foundation! Make a steady salary!” That was what was expected in my family.
I was this accountant, but I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was just monotonous for me. I was known as the guy at work that was never at my desk. I was always networking, socializing and people always said, “You don’t have the personality of an accountant. You should be in sales.”
My best friend growing up, Athar Jafri, was born into real estate and had been doing it since his early twenties. I saw that he had freedom, flexibility, he loved helping people and found it fulfilling, while my job was the nine-to-five grind and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
I loved real estate and I loved impacting people’s lives, so one day I said, “You know what? I’m going to jump into the real estate game.”
But I did not just jump overnight. I had a two-year succession plan with my chief auditor who fully supported me and said, “You can go, but if it doesn’t work out in two years, the door is always open.”
Over those two years, I planned, I made the switch and I have never looked back.
So what is most fulfilling about real estate these days?
I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted and more.
What keeps me getting up in the morning is the fact that there’s always people who need help. Even those buyers and sellers who think they know it all — and I know them all too well because I was one of them before I became a realtor — there’s a lot that they don’t know. When they actually have an open mind to sit down with me, I teach them from beginning to end.
Any client I have gets a one-hour tutorial right off the bat. From there, I don’t make them sign any papers locking them in with me. They genuinely come back saying, “You showed us so many different perspectives we didn’t think about before.”
Plus, having an accounting background, having a very methodical background, I present the information in a very coherent and detailed manner from different perspectives.
When you say “tutorial,” what kinds of things are you teaching?
For instance, if I have a first-time condo buyer, I have blank papers in front of me and I write notes and diagrams as we go and at the end I give it to them to take home.
But it starts with the buying process and what’s involved.
I teach them how to select a realtor. I advise them to not go selecting five different realtors to gain some kind of advantage. If they do that, no one will be working for them 100 per cent because a realtor will sense that they’re jumping around. If they choose one realtor, that person will get to know them and figure out what their likes and dislikes are.
The second step I walk them through is getting pre-approved because how can you shop for something if you have no idea what your budget is?
A lot of people will come into my office and say, “My budget is $600,000,” and I say, “How do you know that?” They look at me with a blank stare and usually we end up finding out it’s higher or lower, but it’s never what they tell me it is.
Thirdly, we’re going out and looking at properties that suit their needs and their budget, but if we have to, we will tweak certain parts of their criteria in order to have the most options available.
From there, I take them through the offer process. I teach them what a firm offer is versus what a conditional offer is and I break down what conditions there are: home inspection, financing, status certificate.
Many people have no idea what a status certificate is, so I teach them that as well along with how a condo is structured and how that structure works.
Wow, you definitely get geeky about this sort of thing. Is that where The Real Estate Geek moniker comes from?
Geek has always had a negative connotation, but I needed something catchy to rhyme with my last name Deak. I pretty much brought up a whole list of words and geek was on it, but you know what?
Geek is good.
Everyone was like, “No, no, no, no, geek is negative,” but then I looked up the definition in the dictionary and it said, “Someone who is extremely passionate, knowledgeable and really into something.”
That’s exactly what I am, what I strive to be every day: knowledgeable, passionate and really into real estate.
It’s just like someone who is into Star Wars and knows everything about it, including the universal language of Star Wars.
So are you geeky about other things or just real estate?
No. I’m definitely not a tech geek. I rely on my tech geek friends to help me out when I have a problem.
I’m passionate about soccer, but I’m not geeky about it. There’s guys on my team who can tell you what every player on Manchester United makes, how much they were transferred for and how long their contracts are.
I play pool in a league and I’d like to say I’m a very good billiards player, but I’m not geeky about that.
I’m definitely only geeky about real estate that’s my main focus and the one place I can be geeky.
Since you work with a lot of first-time buyers, what’s your advice to help make it easier for them to enter the expensive Toronto market?
They have to have savings. As a first-time buyer in the downtown market, you need $100,000. It’s crazy.
Let’s say your 25 and you’re making $70,000 out of university — which is really good — you still won’t qualify for a mortgage for a one-bedroom under 500 square feet without having 10 or 20 per cent down.