How one broker is coping as COVID upends urban-suburban real estate markets

In an unusual year, one co-founder has focused on his partners

How one broker is coping as COVID upends urban-suburban real estate markets

When Alex Shein (pictured) co-founded Peak Mortgage, he and his partner sought to be location agnostic. Based in the Lower Mainland of B.C., they chose to open their primary office in South Burnaby, accessible in 20-30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, Coquitlam and South Surrey alike. Shein built his partnerships accordingly, working with real estate agents from across the wider region, even as Metro Vancouver’s housing market became increasingly concentrated in downtown condos where so much new development was happening.

As the pandemic has shifted gears and moved market activity out to suburbs, Shein’s business has benefitted. He’s seen significant upticks in volume from across the lower mainland as he’s worked to deepen his relationship with existing referral partners and forge new ones with formerly downtown-exclusive real estate agents now ranging far and wide into the ‘burbs.

“There is a lot more activity in Coquitlam, Langley, and a lot of the suburbs. Our office being halfway between downtown and Langley means you can tap into any market you want, really,” Shein said. “But ultimately, it also comes down to your relationships with the people in the industry. Your accountants, lawyers, your real estate agents. By having an office here, it makes it a little bit easier for those referral partners to work with us.”

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Even as many business operations have gone remote, having such a central point within that suburban market matrix has helped Shein and his team stay on top of a shifting market. Being closer to the territory of now extremely busy suburban real estate agents has allowed Shein to strengthen his relationships. At the same time, as downtown agents follow the money into the ‘burbs, Peak’s established presence in those markets makes forging a new relationship all the easier.

It’s those relationships, Shein said, that allow his company to compete in these hot markets. He maintains regular correspondence and offers regular gestures to the agents, lawyers, and notaries crucial to getting deals done. He and his team press hard to ensure rapid loan turnaround times to ensure those referral partners are happy.

Shein’s biggest selling point to those partners is the depth of financial conversations he and his team can have with clients. Peak sells itself as offering an advisory service, and in these highly competitive multi-offer markets a depth of knowledge and education is key.

Shein cited the example of one prospective client who was offering an Eastside home in Vancouver proper with a March 31 closing date. In a tight turnaround ahead of multiple offers, Shein was able to secure a subject-free situation for the borrower because of the in-depth discussion they had upfront. The client was happy, and the real estate agent was happy.

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Shein stressed that arguably the most important thing to keep in mind, from a broker’s perspective, is as beneficial as these relationships can be to you, they should never be seen as extractive. The relationship with a notary or a real estate agent is a two-way street, and as markets shift under our feet it’s important to ensure that you’re supporting them as much as they’re supporting you. That comes in service levels and closing times, and it comes in handwritten notes and gift baskets.

That approach, a focus on new and old partners with less regard to location, is one that Shein believes will work in any real estate market that’s seen its traditional geography upended by COVID.

“Treat everybody as a true partner rather than a transaction,” Shein said. “Try to make their business easier and next time your files will be the ones they pick out, your deals are going to be looked at faster. In this type of market, more than just the best rate, the most important thing is leveraging the relationships you’ve created and supporting the partners that have been supporting you all this time.”