The Making of a Nanaimo Real Estate Agent
I was born and raised near Nanaimo, in Port Alberni, British Columbia. In the beginning, Nanaimo was the place where I went to do big shopping trips, eat at more interesting restaurants, visit friends and compete in things like music competitions for kids.
Port Alberni is a fairly small town that has historically been supported by the logging industry. I was raised by a father who was native to London, England that had moved to Canada in the 70’s and gotten a job working at a wood products mill in Port Alberni. My mother, a Port Alberni native who had gone and done some of her own travelling before bringing home a husband, worked at the local branch of a national bank CIBC. She was there for over 34 years mostly handling mortgages but later on, financial planning. She eventually retired and now works as a Realtor in Port Alberni and working as a team, we share Port Alberni real estate listings. You can see her website at www.albernivalleyrealtor.com
Were you to list a property in Port Alberni with her, you would be receiving the benefit of our combined efforts as we share listings in Port Alberni.
Since my earliest years I’ve had a passion for eating and making good food. I have spent an awful lot of my life’s free time in the kitchen. Making good food and sharing it with good people has always made me happy. Back in the day I cooked professionally at a wide variety of restaurants including fine dining and ethnic.
I also came to appreciate the arts in my teen years, especially music. I have spent a lot of time practicing and improving my skills at classical and jazz piano. For a time, I had planned to become a high school music teacher because there were some troubled years in my youth that I got through because of the unconditional positive regard of certain teachers. They inspired me with the idea that I too could help be a positive force in the lives of others who have not yet found their own potential. During my travels (which we’ll get to next) I came to know myself better and realized that my personality would be better suited to and fulfilled by running my own business with a similar spirit.
I’ve been out there and I came back to Nanaimo for a reason. Actually, a lot of reasons.
While growing up, like many people, I dreamed of far of places where more interesting things and people were. There is truth in that there are so many amazing things out there to experience in the broader world but my travels and basically living on the road for many years made me realize what so very many travellers visiting Vancouver Island had passionately been trying to tell me in my youth: That I am lucky to live here. This helps me believe in what I do. I don’t need to glamourize anything to peddle local real estate. I just have to show people what it is and they will, as a rule, want it.
I just wanted to show you here that when I say that living in Nanaimo is great, it’s not like I’m saying that without having compared it to other options. Not at all. I came back because after “shopping around” this is the place I most wanted to be. Also worth noting is how these experiences shaped me and created a foundation which my perspective as a Realtor has grown.
After surviving my teen years, I started my college years in Nanaimo. I had done some travelling around Canada, the US and Europe while growing up, but I hadn’t yet lived elsewhere so I hadn’t yet to learned how to appreciate the West Coast for the jewel that it is. Like most young people, I found my own corner of the world pretty dull and imagined most anywhere else to have more to offer. Needless to say, this eventually changed. In retrospect it should have been easier to see. I grew up cooking with an endless supply of salmon, home raised beef and eggs from our own chickens. I was able to go run in the forests and mountains on a whim, go whale watching, meet wildlife up close and I also spent a ridiculous amount of time at the beaches in Qualicum, Parksville and Tofino. Life growing up wasn’t all roses of course, but there was certainly a lot of positive things like this that came from my environs.
Eventually my experiences elsewhere would make me see with clarity and conviction that I had been born in an awesome corner of the world and could not think of a better place to settle down. With so much nature on my doorstep, a wide variety of outdoor activities that are easily accessible and at a world class level such as hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, mountaineering, mountain biking, skiing and so on all right there why wouldn’t I at least consider staying for life? It took time away for me to see that the west coast is beautiful and unique.
There are a range of options to choose from when living on the west coast. There is everything from communities so small that they’re centred around “the store” and “the gas station” to the Vancouver option with its population of 2.3 million. None of these options are really all that far from another so you can experience everything from true wilderness to being in an active city’s downtown all in one day if you want to. These are all things I knew, but had not yet the broader perspective to appreciate how great this is.
During my college years in Nanaimo, I also spent some summers and semesters living elsewhere on the west coast. I lived in Victoria and The Queen Charlotte Islands each of which had their own distinct charm. I later also spent time living/working in Strathcona park (a must see if you haven’t) which is close to Campbell River, north of Nanaimo. I had yet to finish my degree, and no universities on the west coast offered the program I needed to finish my degree in jazz music which would lead me towards my (then) goal of becoming a high school music teacher. I could have continued with classical music and deepened my knowledge there, but I wanted something cooler. I was hooked on funky jazz.
Long story semi short, I chose to continue my education, and complete my degree, at Saint Francis Xavier University waaaaay over in Nova Scotia.
The rest of Canada… almost.
During and after university I spent some time living and travelling between the west and east coasts of our giant nation. It looks huge on a map… but that’s nothing compared to driving from Cape Breton to Victoria.
Spoiler: It’s mostly trees and rocks. But there are interesting and beautiful towns and people interspersed within that too.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, there are two extremes that define the Canadian experience. It’s really big and, with the exception of the west coast, it’s really cold.
When I first arrived in Nova Scotia, I became acutely aware of the time zone difference. When it’s 4pm in Nova Scotia, it’s till only 12pm back home on Vancouver Island. A pretty good indication of how big the country is, especially when you consider that there is still that extra half hour time zone for Newfoundland. (I know, it confuses me too.) I realized I was roughly half way to England, which is 8 hours ahead of B.C., while still being in the same country. Many of the things you can buy at the store were the same but the landscape was different, the culture and local accent was different and the weather was really different.
I moved out there to attend St. Francis Xavier University and finish my degree. It is in a small town called Antigonish which is about 2 hours from Halifax and half an hour from Cape Breton.
When I talk about this period of my life I usually take the time to emphasize how cold it was. -20 Celsius was pretty common and often accompanied by snow and enough wind so that you had to lean forward deeply while walking into said wind. The first time I saw -30 I blew my top in front my friends who were all from other parts of Canada where -30 wasn’t a big deal. They looked at me like I was the crazy one so I tried to explain what it was like back home and how you mostly only get ice overnight once a while in the winter, how if it snows at all it’s usually all gone in a couple of days and how we don’t wear all these layers of clothing, ever, let alone just to get in your car and go to the grocery store. I tried to explain that concepts like having to dig out your car from under what just looks like a hill of snow, and having remote start buttons for the car so it could heat up before you went outside never entered my mind until they became a daily reality. No one understood where I was coming from so I eventually just stopped talking about it.
My three years in this remote and semi exotic to me location was when I started to really miss home. But I felt I wanted to experience more adventures before I settled down so it was off to Japan to teach English. What started as a plan to stay for a couple of years turned into four due to needing a better plan for coming home and having a career.
As a kid I did the usual set of family vacations up and down the west coast of America. Vacations, especially as a kid, don’t really give you a clear image of what life is like there but when I was in my University years I spent two summers studying in Louisiana which is when I managed to visit Texas a few times and I also spent much of a winter studying in upstate New York just after all the 9-11 things happened.
In 2002, I graduated from university in Nova Scotia, drove all the way across Canada, which according to my mini van was a 7,000 km trip, to spend a summer living in Victoria. I spent that summer working part time in a restaurant and looking for a job in Japan online. I found the work I was looking for. I was hired to teach ESL at a school in Osaka at a large company.
I spent a year in Osaka before spending three more in Tokyo. This is the part where I try to describe life in Japan. Honestly, if I were to write a book on the experience it would only scratch the surface so I won’t do a disservice to the topic by trying to sum anything up in this little blurb. There are so many things that are totally different over there but also so many things that are surprisingly familiar. Suffice to say that it is an amazing place, but I would much rather live in Canada. And given my choices and experiences in Canada, I knew where I wanted to live. Nanaimo.
One thing worth touching on for the sake of how it relates to my path towards real estate is Japan’s business culture. Tokyo is Japan’s economic and political capital with 35 million or so people in the broader area. It has businesses both massive and small crammed everywhere and thoughts of business, finance and economy are part of regular thought and conversation among locals. I worked at a language teaching company called Berlitz. This is a company that only the wealthier people could afford lessons at because of its one on one lesson structure with native English speakers like myself On a daily basis I spent my work day talking with professionals of all kinds. Doctors, Lawyers, middle and upper management of companies that are known around the world, engineers, research and development people, diplomats, television pundits, religious clergy, professors, people who worked in advertising, heads of large corporations and so on. I was just there to help them improve their English and really, after a few months experience it was not all that difficult of a job. I am, however of the nerdy disposition and I have this thing for always taking things to the next level. So, in order to give high quality lessons I thought it best to ask them to talk about their jobs. You see, most of them wanted to learn English to help with their profession. So, I would focus on customizing the lesson to fit their needs and get them talking about their field, their work life and whatever they were passionate enough about to walk to share it with people they might end up speaking in English with. This was obviously good for them, but it was also an opportunity for me because I now had a front row seat, or rather, an endless series of one on one interviews with heavy hitters in the world of business. I could learn as much as I wanted about the broader concepts of business, I just had to ask in a way that helped the people I was asking improve their English. So, I did my lessons in a way the benefited them in that they learned the English that they wanted to learn and it allowed me to get a sense of how business works in various fields. Suffice to say it was very interesting, to the point that it inspired me to go into business for myself.
Much of my last year in Tokyo was spent doing my usual one hour and fifteen minute commute each way on Tokyo’s packed trains (or as my friend put it ‘the sardine express’ ) studying for my real estate license in British Columbia. Between teaching classes I would study real estate. I didn’t just want to go back to Canada. I wanted to go back to Nanaimo with a good career ahead of me. I had seen enough of the world and been gone more than long enough to terribly miss the area I grew up in and I felt it was time to settle down somewhere that was worth spending the rest of my life in. I have dual citizenship (UK) and could live anywhere in Europe, Canada or could have stayed in Japan but after much thought I settled on Nanaimo for reasons I explore elsewhere on this site.
And so I became a Nanaimo Realtor
Borrowing inspiration from the Tokyo businessmen I had encountered so many of, and the fact that my mother had been doing mortgages just about my whole life real estate seemed like a natural fit. I believe in the product, I have the motivation and the organization skills and so it became the plan to put in motion.
2006 was just about the end of the last real estate boom. What I didn’t know about at the time was that we were towards the end of the typical 6-7 year cycle of real estate markets. That is, there is typically 6 or 7 years of up market and 6 or 7 years of slow times. When I was still green, it was good times for Realtors. Then, things changed. Many Realtors had started in the business with high hopes around the same time as me, but as the slow market went on, there was a thinning of the herd and even long time veterans were retiring earlier than I thought they would. I’ve always been the sort to try to do things better and a little differently than the crowd and one of my attempts to do that paid off. My blog at www.movetonanaimo.com is what got me noticed enough to survive this tough period. I was the first to do a real etsate blog in my area and I have always done it with a client/reader centered spirit of sharing useful information rather than the commercial sounding chest pounding I see most other Realtors doing.
These days, a bigger online presence than a blog is needed to get noticed which is why I have been expanding upon this site and others.
It started with a Nanaimo Real Estate Blog
Pretty quickly after starting in real estate, I realized I needed a website. That’s this one. Like website for most Realtors, this website is about Nanaimo real estate, me, me and me. For a Realtor, their main website generally doubles as a sort of expanded resume and a venue to advertise their listings.
But I wanted to do more than just the basics.
I had done a lot of essays about a wide variety of topics during my university years which I had to be able to provide sources for or otherwise back up my statements. I had also gotten used to answering questions regarding the myriad of points associated with conducting a real estate transaction.Writing about my profession seemed quite natural.
Something that had been irking me since my early days was the fairly long list of common misconceptions firmly ingrained in people’s minds when it comes to real estate. Most people’s conceptions of how it works and what goes on is based upon a combination of reality television and mainstream media reports and saying “Location, location, location” a lot. I found all this troubling. I had also noticed from dealing with various people that there are a lot of questions people don’t ask me about but really should. Many people don’t seem to know what they don’t know and it’s often important stuff that’s best learned ahead of time rather than while on the fly while stressed out about their own real estate transaction.
And so, with the spirit of giving people a source for honest, reliable, field tested real estate information my blog was born.
It has sent me on an interesting path. Not only did my real estate blog help give my business the boost it needed to get through the slow market years, but it helped me attract clients who were better informed, and be more able to appreciate why I was coaching them the way I was.
Another factor was that websites can, by and large, be just as easily seen by people around the world as they can from Nanaimo. So, I noticed that I was getting an awful lot of international deals. Canadian ex-pats and people who are currently in country x but want to buy a home in Canada. Lots of those. I have heard lots of amazing stories from those clients about what goes on around the world.
Port Alberni Real Estate too.
As you may have read earlier in this ‘about me’ section of this website, I now share business with my mother in Port Alberni. She is a Port Alberni native who worked at a local branch of a national bank, CIBC. She was there for over 34 years mostly handling mortgages but later on, financial planning. Suffice to say, that before becoming a Realtor she had built quite the network in Port Alberni and moving to real estate is really just a new application for existing skills and talents. Her and I share Port Alberni real estate listings. You can see her website at www.albernivalleyrealtor.com
Between the two of us we cover the Port Alberni area, the Nanaimo area and Ladysmith and do sometimes get convinced to do neighbouring areas as well.
Perhaps also worth mentioning is that I have inside contacts and info access across Canada and if you are looking for a Realtor elsewhere in the country I can most likely connect you with one who I have vetted for having quality skills and integrity.