For over 20 years RE/MAX has been the number one real estate organization in Canada, and continually has the number one market share in virtually every region. RE/MAX has always believed in staying on the forward edge of the real estate industry, adopting and adapting the latest technology and creating innovative marketing and productivity programs.
As a 35-year veteran of the real estate industry, Elton Ash began his Re/Max career as a Sales Associate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1984. Six years later, he became Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Penticton Realty in Penticton, BC. In 1994, he joined the RE/MAX Western Canada Region as Director of Broker Services, and later served as Management Consultant, Senior Management Consultant and Director of RE/MAX Commercial Canada. In 2000, shortly after RE/MAX, LLC acquired RE/MAX of Western Canada, he was promoted to Vice President and Regional Director. In 2005, Elton was appointed as the regional executive Vice President at RE/MAX of Western Canada, which includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Elton Ash joined RE/MAX for nearly 31 years. Now, he leads a network of 245 offices across western Canada from his regional headquarters in Kelowna, B.C, with 6260 sales associates working out of those offices. “The regional market share in Western Canada is 35%. That means one of every three homes that sales in Western Canada is represented by RE/MAX, which is a remarkable achievement”, Elton Ash said.
《Fortune World》: Mr. Ash, thank you for your time and participation. Can you give us a brief overview of the services RE/MAX provides to people?
Elton Ash: We are really a three-tiered organization. The services we provide follow those tiers. At the top, we have RE/MAX LLC, with global head office operation in Denver, Colorado. RE/MAX LLC provides services to our regions, like RE/MAX Western Canada, RE/MAX from Ontario-Atlantic Canada, RE/MAX Québec here in the country of Canada, the agents from the USA and around the world. Then, the next tier is about the regions working directly with the franchises. We take those services that RE/MAX LLC provides and personalize it to the area that we service. In other words, we take from a big global perspective and then bring it down to the Western Canada level. The brokers/owners are the next tier to provide services to the sale associates. They personalize those services directly to the realtors, the real estate agents themselves. The agents then take that and provide services to the consumer, home-seller, homebuyer, or commercial broker in leasing and selling offices, warehouses, and other commercial discipline where they are in. They provide a world-class superior service to the end-user and to the consumer. So, it all starts from the top in Denver Colorado, and filter down to the regions, then to the real estate offices, to the agents, and then to the consumer getting a superior level of service.
Because of the way we set up as an organization for the agents, we allow them to work as independent contactors and license to the brokerage. That independent agent is ultimately responsible for the services they provide to the consumer and they are ultimately responsible from a financial perspective. What ends up happening is, we only attract the top realtors in the business because they are the ones who can afford to belong to RE/MAX, as we are not a cheap organization. In other words, only the top agents in the business come to RE/MAX. Or, if they are brand new to the business, they end up being trained, educated, and mentored by the top realtors. They learn the best habits and provide a level of consumer service that’s unmatched by any of our competitors.
《Fortune World》: You’ve joined RE/MAX for nearly 31 years. What is your favorite thing about RE/MAX?
Elton Ash: We provide an environment for the sales agents to be a business for themselves but not by themselves. RE/MAX is the first international organization to really allow the realtors to truly be independent contractors to represent their customers in the best way they can and re-benefit personally from that. So RE/MAX has really revolutionized the entire real estate industry in North America and around the world. So, what my favorite thing about RE/MAX is our ability to make positive differences to people’s life.
《Fortune World》: When it comes to buying or selling property, no doubt that one of the most recognizable names in the real estate industry is RE/MAX. Why do people always consider using RE/MAX?
Elton Ash: I think it is difficult for people to really grasp how powerful our market share is. The way that I described to people or the way that I tell our agents to describe it to consumers is that WestJet Airline is a popular airline in Western Canada. It flies 737 aircraft. In 737 aircraft, we know that the center aisle is configured with three seats in each row in each those aisles. Just imagine, a row of seats, three on each side of the aisle. That means one person sitting in each of those rows has bought or sold their home through the RE/MAX organization. Then, think of the entire airplane. One person in each three seats configuration in each row in 30 rows of the aircraft has bought or sold their homes through RE/MAX. I think it is a pretty clear picture in you mind of just how strong we are.
There are several reasons for consumers to consider using RE/MAX. First is the quality of our realtors. The majority of our customers are repeat customers or referred customers. If you dealt with RE/MAX in the past, you had a good experience and you got a good deal, then you will consider using RE/MAX next time and would like to refer it to your friends. That is where a lot of our business comes from. About 70% of our customers come from repeat or referred customers. Be coupled that with our brand recognition, we spend more money advertising the RE/MAX brand in Canada than our next three competitors combined. Coming up in 2015, we will spend about 25 million dollars in Canada just advertising the brand. The hot air balloon of RE/MAX is one of the most recognized logos in the world. Through many surveys we did across the country in the past few years, in terms of the brand awareness, we are the top of mind recall. When you ask consumers, “Name me a real estate company without any hesitation”. They will say RE/MAX. Or if you give them few choices, 96% of the time is RE/MAX. That is because of the brand promotion we do. I think, in short, coupled with the brand promotion and with the realtors’ experience and skills and their own personal promotion, it is a huge partnership that is extremely successful.
《Fortune World》: How many homes have you listed in the past year? How many homes did you sell last year? What is your goal for 2015?
Elton Ash: So far (Jan. 06), I don’t have the exactly number yet, because we are still working on that. In 2013, we sold over 324,000 homes in Canada, which equated to over 113 billion dollars worth in the real estate market. In 2014, we sold nearly 312,000 homes in Canada at the end of November, and there is still one month to go. We will definitely beat the 2013 overall home sales number. For 2015, we are predicting an increase in our sales volume about 2.5% to 2.7%.
《Fortune World》: What is the price range of most of the homes RE/MAX has sold last year? How high can the price go in 2015?
Elton Ash: In 2014, the average price is $406,000 in Canada. In Western Canada, it will be a little higher than that. Because Vancouver is higher priced. The average price in Vancouver now is $838,000. We know that for 2015, that will increase to $863,000, about 3% increase.
《Fortune World》: Home buying or selling can be an exciting and sometimes frustrating experience. Are you able to give some essential tips for our readers， especially those people who plan to buy or sell their home in BC?
Elton Ash: The first, I think, if you are from outside the country, is to work with a realtor who has a lot of experience in dealing with new people coming into the country. The No.1 thing is to ask question of the realtor: what experience they personally have in dealing with other similar situations? And that is absolutely critical. It is important for the consumer or the customer to take an interview with the realtor. Even though they have been referred, you still want to basically interview them to get your business. It is just like hiring someone to do a job for you. So, we always strongly recommend people to talk to two or three different realtors. Then you will understand their experience, like how many homes they’ve successfully sold before, or how many buyers they’ve represented in the same situation. Their answers can really determine your own mind on who can best service you and who will negotiate the best for you. If they have never sold any home or have never represented anyone similar to your own circumstance that will be a big warning sign. After that is the personal relationship. It means trusting each other and developing a close relationship. When I was a realtor, some of my customers and clients became very good friends. As an agent, you have the responsibility to the customer to represent their best interests and to negotiate in their best interests. During that process, you end up developing a very close bond over the transaction period. But it all starts with that very first interview of making sure that they will represent you properly.
《Fortune World》: Where will be the most popular area for real estate in BC in 2015? Still Vancouver?
Elton Ash: Certainly Vancouver is. There is no question that downtown Vancouver, Westside Vancouver, West End of Vancouver, Northshore, West Vancouver, Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, all of those neighborhoods will be extremely popular. And that is represented in the average price in those areas. The average price in Greater Vancouver right now is $838,000. The price on the West Vancouver and Northshore will be about 1.4 to 1.6 million dollars range. But when you look at the Lower Mainland and go down to White Rock, Surrey, Abbotsford or Burnaby, the home prices become cheaper but they are still very popular with people.
《Fortune World》: In 2015, when is the best time to buy a home and sell a home?
Elton Ash: In Vancouver, from January through until April, even though the Chinese New Year will be on February in 2015 and it does have a positive affect on the market, because the market is so big, you know, with buyers from all over the world and locally buyers in BC, the market stays strong right through until May typically. When you asking what is the best time to buy a home, that is really a personal choice depending on when you want to be moving by. Also, the pricing stays very stable thoroughly year. You will not see big high or big low on a month-to-month basis. You will see kind of stable bell curve through the spring, peaking in March typically with home sales, and then softening through to July, and peaking up again in September and October, and then going down through December. It likes a soft wave. From the selection point of view, the best time to be buying is in March and April. From negotiation point of view, the best time to buy is in October.
《Fortune World》: Some people believe real estate is no longer a good investment. What do you think?
Elton Ash: Briefly speaking, I think real estate is absolutely a good investment. I have been in real estate business for nearly 35 years, and I have seen ups and downs. Over the 35 years, personally real estate is very good for me. Because I always buy a long term holds. But some sort short-term speculations have done well as well. So, my philosophy is that real estate investment is always a long-term hold. Over that long-term hold, it will be a very successful investment for you.
《Fortune World》: How would you describe the current state of the real estate market in BC?
Elton Ash: Currently, the BC real estate market is in a balanced market condition. In other words, home inventory equals home demand. So, pricing is stabilizing now. That is where I will see a smaller increase in 2015. In Vancouver, the condominium market is very strong, because of its first-time buyers, segment of the market for young couples, as an example, to buy their first home. Condominium is very popular. Then, we get into single family detached. Prior to 2013 and early 2014, we didn’t have enough inventory. So, it was a more seller market. But that is changing now. Pretty balanced through out BC and Vancouver property.