June 1, 2011
This week in Buzz Talk we catch up with Cam Good, the founder of The Key, a real estate marketing firm based in Vancouver that has a reputation for innovative and creative thinking. Cam tells us about how he jumped from high-tech to real estate, why Vancouver will stay hot, and why, exactly, he decided to open the first Canadian real estate office in China.
Enjoy!
 
BuzzBuzzHome: How did you come to work in the real estate industry?
 
Cam Good: Well, I started out in high-tech. I had my own successful business and dabbled in real estate investment on the side. But a friend had just started his own real estate business, MAC Marketing Solutions, and it took off. I went to work for him, starting out on the sales floor. I lit it up! Within months, I was head of sales and I grew the company over a few years to more than 75 employees and over $1 billion in sales. That was 2007.
The next year, the sky fell and, ever the optimist, I saw opportunity in real estate where others saw devastation. I left MAC and went to work for Onni. I helped them sell 400 condos in 90 days – a feat that was largely credited with saving the Vancouver market. Things turned around and people started talking about buying and selling real estate in Vancouver again. That’s when I started The Key.
 
BBH: Right, so tell us a little about The Key – What kind of work do you do?

CG: The Key is a full service sales and marketing company for developers. We have an international network of buyers and we’re the first company in Canada to have a sales office in China to cater directly to the Chinese market. We are just opening our second office there this month, and we plan to open several more this year. We have been the focus of a lot of media attention as we gather the expertise in selling real estate to the offshore (mainly Chinese) market.
We are also involved in some newsworthy and innovative ventures. In the next month, we are launching a new investment fund for buyers who want to invest in real estate in Phoenix but don’t know how. We’re also developing the first-ever private listing service that will offer a new way for people to sell their homes without realtors, without open houses and with a big increase in sales prices. And this month, we’re launching the Groupon of real estate for buyers who want great deals. It’s exciting times at The Key.

BBH: We’ve heard there’s some serious buzz surrounding your project, Central. What’s new or innovative about it?
 
CG: Central is a a new development in South East False Creek that reinvents the model of highrise condo living in Vancouver. Onni’s latest development promises to be one of the most significant architectural buildings in the city – a striking departure from the typical, cookie-cutter design of most residential towers.
The 300-unit mixed use development promises to play a key role in transforming this new waterfront community and will consist of two towers linked by an innovative and eye-catching skybridge. These will be iconic and affordable homes that buyers want to live in. Most iconic buildings are beyond reach financially. Central will be the city’s coolest building at the best possible prices.
 
BBH: Your firm has been at the forefront of bringing Chinese investors to the Canadian market – Can you talk a little about how and why you managed to do this?
 
CG: The demand from Chinese investors is the strongest it’s ever been in Canada. Right now, approximately 80% of all real estate sold in Vancouver is to Chinese and Hong Kong buyers and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down. The demand has been growing over the past few years, but the explosion has really come from media exposure and new rules in China that make it harder to own property there and easier to own property in Canada.
Also, there’s a growing middle class that is now aware of their ability to invest overseas and, often through word of mouth, they hear about what a wise investment owning property in Canada has been and they want to do the same. There is still a huge portion of the Chinese population that has the money and desire to buy in Canada. As the immigration policies are refined and streamlined, more and more Chinese investors will be able to have access to the market here. I believe a lot of people don’t understand the sheer amount of money and buyers that exist in China. We are just at the beginning of a wave of buyers.
 
BBH: On that note, we hear that you’ve recently opened the first Canadian office in China to sell real estate directly to the Chinese market. Can you please tell us how it came about and perhaps about some of the challenges you encountered getting it off the ground?
 
CG: We wanted to have our feet on the ground in China and we knew no one else was doing it. We’ve had our office in Beijing open for several months now and we’re doing so well that we’re opening a new office in Shenjen this week, with more to come. Having an office there makes it much easier for Chinese investors to buy. They don’t have to come to Canada to look around – we do the work for them and show them their options from the comforts of home.
There have been many challenges: understanding the cultural differences and learning how to operate within their cultural expectations; good staff has been hard to find; and, there is a lot of bureaucracy to overcome. But it’s nothing compared to the excitement of being the first company to do this kind of business in China.
 
BBH: What’s your take on the Vancouver real estate market at large? Is it possible for the kind of prices we’re seeing to hold or is there a correction around the corner?
 
CG: I’ve always been confident in the Vancouver real estate market and I don’t think it’s going anywhere but up. We are just at the beginning of the wave of Chinese buyers and it’s a strong, local market in the most liveable city in the world – and everyone knows it!
 
BBH: What’s your favourite thing about living in Vancouver?
 
CG: I love where I live, both the city and my home. My house is surrounded by ancient, old growth trees and a multi-million dollar view of the Pacific Ocean and if you’re going to work in real estate, this is the place to do it. It’s a sport in this city (second only to the Canucks) and if you’re going to be a realtor, there’s no better place in the world. Everyone talks about real estate here with passion and excitement. It’s amazing.
 
BBH: You’ve marketed projects in Toronto, too. Are there differences in the two marketplaces that manifest themselves in the way you market projects? In other words, do the same strategies generally work in both Toronto and Vancouver?
 
CG: There are some big differences in the markets of Vancouver and Toronto, but the same strategies tend to work in both places. Owners and brokers are more involved in the day to day operations in Toronto and there are higher commissions in Toronto, bigger projects, more money, in general. But both cities are attracting offshore buyers in equal numbers and strategies for selling real estate remain the same wherever you are. You have to be creative.
 
BBH: OK, last question, what’s your favourite thing about your job?
 
CG: It’s just so creative. Every project is different and I love to find creative solutions to outperform the competition.
Thanks to Cam for taking the time to chat!

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