At over $120 million in sales for 2018 and with a core team of only six agents, Nerses Sraidarian, broker of record and owner of Big City Realty in Markham, Ontario is Toronto Storeys’ realtor of the year.
“We always strive to do a deal a day,” says Sraidarian. “We do at least 300 deals a year with 16 agents in the office and about six agents on the core team. All of them really work.”
That’s because they’re following Sraidarian’s example. Growing up an Armenian in Syria, Sraidarian spent his off time watching his father work day and night at the family furniture-making business.
The Value of Hard Work
“Nothing was ever given to my family, so, I saw my dad really work. Back then, nothing was ever built-in for your standard condo, so he would leave the house at 5 a.m. and sometimes not return until 11 p.m,” says Sraidarian.
“Once I turned five or six, I would go to his workshop and I would see that. On my days off, he would jab me and say, ‘Do you want to come to work with me?’ There I saw what it really takes to make it and when I came to Canada, this country gave me the opportunity.”
In 2005, at the age of 18, Sraidarian immigrated to Canada with his family and although his father’s love of furniture was not passed down, his drive and tenacity was.
Sraidarian took on every job he could find while re-attending high school (his Syrian diploma wasn’t recognized). The money he earned allowed him to purchase his first home with his family at the age of 19 – less than a year after immigrating.
“My dad was like, ‘If you stayed in Syria, you had [the furniture business]. If you want to leave for Canada go ahead, but you’re on your own.’ I’m glad he did that actually,” says Sraidarian.
After attending Seneca College for accounting and finance, Sraidarian found his way into a career in real estate where his unprecedented work ethic allowed him to out-perform the full-time agents.
At a brokerage Christmas party, he was the only part-timer amongst his table of 12. And yet, he was the only agent called for a sales award.
“As a part-time agent, what confused me was that all these full-timers who were talking the money talk hadn’t reached what I reached as a part-timer – that’s when I realized the large brokerage model wasn’t for me,” says Sraidarian.
Big City Takes Care of its Own
So, in 2012, he started Big City Realty. The boutique brokerage takes care of the business development for its agents, so, 95 per cent of the deals are generated in-house. Sraidarian says Big City agents are provided with everything: the leads, the contacts, the tools and the training.
“[Nerses] takes care of the marketing for all of his agents so we don’t have that cost or burden to bear. And with all the leads generated in-house it makes our job that much easier,” says Seb Polatian, a broker at Big City.
In fact, when Toronto Storeys called him, Sraidarian was driving all over Markham hand-delivering flyers on behalf of his team — something he could easily hire someone to do.
“I don’t know another broker of record you can call at 9 p.m. to ask a question and just make sure you’re doing something right,” adds Polatian.
In addition to providing his agents with everything they need to be successful, another thing that sets Big City Realty apart is how carefully Sraidarian and his team select the properties for their clients and how much analysis goes into each one.
With 80 per cent of Big City’s business in pre-construction and a number of high profile cancellations in the pre-construction industry over the last two years, Sraidarian and his team make sure everything is zoned and their clients are educated on every potential risk.
They only take on the projects that make sense for their clients and before every transaction is signed, they go through the Tarion Addendum, which talks about the deposit protection, the Tarion warranty on the unit, whether the building is zoned and when the construction will start, so their clients can assess their potential investments honestly.
“One thing we do that is different than other brokerages is we always have analytics; we don’t just throw a dart in the dark and hope it sticks,” says Sraidarian.
“Our motto is: if I wouldn’t buy it, I’m not going to present it to you. Because if I sell it to you today and you end up losing money because of something I would have known if I did my research, then you aren’t going to come back to buy the next one. We want that retention. Our goal is to build your portfolio.”
Big City Realty will do an ROI sweep on every unit and price point in a building, making sure the investor will be able to make a profit at whatever point they choose to sell it. They also look into things like transportation and what large centres are coming into the area, such as shopping malls, a tech industry hub or a new university, while also vetting the developer to ensure the project will go through.
“We support projects exclusively based on research as opposed to selling what’s given to us. That’s why we have clients that do this time and time again because if we didn’t serve them right the first time around, they’d never come back to us,” says Sraidarian.
Knowledge and Convenience Keeps’em Coming Back
One of Big City’s clients that comes back time and time again is Aren Astourian. He’s Sraidarian’s childhood friend and long-time client. At 32, he just did his ninth deal with Big City at the end of 2018.
He did the first deal because Sraidarian was in the business and was his friend, but after that, it was the knowledge and the convenience Sraidarian provided in handling each transaction that won him over.
“Right before I did the second deal and before every deal after that, Nerses drew up exactly how much I should pay, how much I could rent the property for and how I could leverage that equity to buy more properties down the road. He even told me how much my property would appreciate after three years and five years and when I should renovate to maximize my return. He has been exactly right every time,” says Astourian.
As a busy car salesman with so many transactions to his name, Astourian doesn’t have time to prepare things for sale. So Sraidarian takes care of absolutely everything to the point where all Astourian needs to do is sign the paperwork.
“It’s a one-stop shop. When I buy a place and sell a place I really don’t want to worry about anything and he takes care of everything. I’ve literally done nothing, so everything from advice to convenience has been on point,” he says.
Thanks to Sraidarian and Big City Realty, Astourian has been able to afford his next property at a much faster rate than he anticipated. Meanwhile, the money to buy his next property doesn’t come out of his pocket, but purely from the equity built from the previous property.
“With his advice, I went from a $190,000 condo to almost a $1 million home without paying anything from my own pocket. The property did the work,” says Astourian.
Growing and Giving Back
That’s the type of thing Sraidarian is able to do for all of his clients and the future looks brighter than ever. Sraidarian plans to give back a lot more, both to the hospitals in his community and eventually to hospitals in Syria. As for Big City Realty, he doesn’t want to expand the company with more people, but with the impact that it has.
“We want to be looked upon as leaders in the pre-construction industry and we want to be seen as a shining example in the way we put our client’s interests ahead of our own,” confirms Sraidarian.
Not bad for a boy from Syria who simply made his dream come true by outworking everyone else and treating his clients and employees like family. He notes that he couldn’t have done it anywhere else but Canada.
“The difference in Canada is if you really want something, and you push for it every which way possible, you will achieve it. You don’t have that in third world countries or where I was from,” says Sraidarian.