John King is on his way to see some clients in a few hours – clients he first worked with more than two decades ago.
“I’m seeing them tonight,” he grins. “I helped them buy their current house maybe around 2001 or so, and we can’t wait to see each other.”
It’s these kinds of long-term relationships – many of his clients have become friends – that King says makes the real estate business worthwhile.
It’s also, he explains, a big part of what drove him to launch the Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central real estate brokerage in 2016.
“The relationships you build when you’re in our industry really are second to none, because it’s such a big purchase. As an agent you’re helping people navigate the biggest purchase of their lives.”
Bringing a premium real estate brand to Ottawa
The brokerage’s owner and managing broker got his start in local real estate more than a quarter-century ago, not long after he and his partner bought their first house. “And I remember saying at the time, ‘I think I could do that,’” he says with a laugh.
“I really enjoyed the experience of buying a home. And that’s really what launched me into the business.”
After working as a Realtor while receiving mentorship from Bill Renaud, a successful local real estate agent-turned-coach, King achieved broker status in 2004 – all while consistently achieving top-tier sales results.
His combination of top results and commitment to building and maintaining relationships eventually led him to Engel & Völkers, a globally recognized luxury real estate brand, less than a decade ago.
“I was really inspired by the brand,” he explains. “It was distinct and a differentiation in the Ottawa marketplace. Ottawa didn’t have a luxury real estate brand in the past.”
“And so to work under that brand in Ottawa, it was really a matter of opening up the company myself.”
Starting a business and building a brand
Since then, King has watched his once-fledgling business grow and become a major player in the Ottawa real estate market, particularly the local luxury market.
Not that it was easy, mind you – starting and operating a business rarely is. Along with educating the marketplace about the brand, King also needed to learn how to run a company from the ground up, something he’d never done before.
The first couple of years were difficult, he says. “I was the only employee,” he recalls, “and I had to convince other Realtors that it was the right brand and fit.
“But once we got a few agents that bought in, a lot of other real estate agents took note that we were something special,” says King, who hand-selects his real estate agents and often turns agents down if they’re not a good fit.
King’s emphasis on top-quality service meshed well with the Engel & Völkers brand, and after just a few years, he’s now grown the business into one with more than a dozen staff and 100-plus real estate agents – each with a relentless focus on providing the best service possible.
“It’s all about those relationships, and providing an above-average level of service. I want agents who have huge hearts, who are kind, that care about their clients, and that put their clients’ needs in front of theirs – because if they do that, then the service part comes easy.”
Ottawa real estate market turns a corner
King says he’s looking forward to an improved local real estate climate in the summer of 2023, with early spring signs already pointing to a turnaround from the market’s post-pandemic depths when prices dropped 23 percent between April and December of 2022.
He says prices are now up around eight percent from that December low, with a burst of spring activity reflecting a renewed optimism among sellers and buyers.
“This is the first time in almost a year that we’ve felt really good momentum,” says King, who predicts a more traditional real estate year in the city for 2023.
“Properties are selling fairly quickly, and we’re often seeing multiple offers – although at a lower price than we would’ve seen a year ago.”
Top Engel & Völkers office in North America
That bodes well for anyone in real estate in the Ottawa area, but especially so for clients of Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central – whose commitment to good service won the brokerage the company’s top honor, the Engel & Völkers Cup, in 2021.
The local office beat out several other North American offices – including Park City, UT; Atlanta, GA; Vancouver, BC; and Montreal, QC – to claim the prize.
King says he and his colleagues held a large event at the Westin, in downtown Ottawa, to celebrate. “And when I looked out at everybody in attendance, I said that we all have one thing in common: That we all really care about our clients.”