For Rizwan Malik, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s youngest senior vice president of sales, the love of sales started with his passion for animals.
When he was 15, he begged his parents to let him get a part-time job. They agreed to let him work Friday nights and weekends so he could focus on schoolwork the rest of the week. He excelled in his job at a pet store, helping people navigate their needs and wants to match them with the perfect pet. He still uses those sales lessons today.
“I loved going to work,” Malik says. He sold high-ticket exotic birds and later dogs because he liked puppies. “I had $63,000 in sales over the period of a month while working three days a week and going to high school full-time. I made six-per-cent commission alone on that – $3,700 plus!”
However he says he “ruffled a few feathers” by outselling more senior and full-time staff, so it was time to move on.
He knew he loved working with people and he loved sales. At 17 (he skipped a grade) he started his business degree at Ryerson University. During his last year of school, he got his real estate license. He joined HomeLife Realty One, a brokerage in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood, and made the President’s List his first year. He was 20.
From there, opportunity called and he went to work in a sales office with a large downtown condo developer. “I launched 14 high-rise developments totaling 2,500-plus units and almost $2-billion in value.”
Despite his success, he realized this type of sales wasn’t why he got into real estate. He says there were allocated appointments throughout the day and no time for conversation and no relationship building – he’d sit in the office all day and people would cycle through. “The personal touch was gone,” he says.
Opportunity called again, this time when he was recruited by someone at Sotheby’s. “It was a natural fit – getting to meet and know people is why I got into real estate.”
However at first things weren’t all roses. He noticed some of his former clients were listing with other agents. “They saw I was with Sotheby’s and thought their home wasn’t good enough. So I changed the conversation. People assume we are a luxury brokerage but we are bearers of luxury service at all price points….
“We’re an international brokerage. It doesn’t matter what the price tag is. Whether it’s someone who is a multi millionaire or of modest means, it’s the single most expensive (asset) and we take it seriously and with the same level of respect.”
In 2018, Malik was approached by television production company that was making a show with Corus. “They said they wanted to create a luxury real estate reality show and asked if it was something I’d be interested (in). I thought it was a joke.”
Malik is one of five agents on the HGTV series Hot Market, which was filmed in Toronto and other southern Ontario locations.
“All of the houses I featured on the show (for sale) belong to my clients.”
A testament to the type of relationship he has with clients, Malik says he asked clients, “Do you want to be on TV? No. Do you want your home to be on TV? No. Will you do it for me? Yes.”
He says two people who were absolutely against the idea agreed, and as the production team was leaving their house following filming, Malik saw them in the driveway talking to the team. “They were inviting them back for a barbecue. It was a pleasant experience.”
He says he didn’t know what to expect either, but because he went with a legitimate company and knew it would be aired on HGTV, he felt more at ease.
“You have to know where you’re going to end up. I take pride in the reputation I built up by selling for 14 years. Corus and HGTV have a clean approach. They’re making TV for an audience who likes to look at beautiful homes, not salacious drama,” he says.
He says the response was unexpected. There was a huge outpouring from viewers, who said they love his energy and approach. “It felt great, people reaching out.”
One woman called about a property that her mother wanted to sell. Malik got the contract for that $6.3-million property. Another viewer resulted in a listing for a $4.4-million property.
“The show’s been excellent from a business perspective, but also a personal perspective,” he says.
A woman contacted Malik to say she was going for a chemo treatment but would tape a news segment he was going to be featured on so she wouldn’t miss seeing him. Later, she posted a video on her Instagram ringing the bell to signify her last chemo treatment, and right beside it was a screen shot of Malik and the news show’s anchor. He says the woman came home, watched the show, then posted that if anyone was looking to buy or sell a home they should “contact her friend Rizwan.”
A teary Malik says it’s these personal moments, “moments like these when people call to let you know you made them smile through difficult times” that are truly special.
When spare time can be found, Malik enjoys riding. He says he made a lot of money at the pet store and trained as a show jumper. His “over-achieving personality” made him want to go to the Olympics. Those dreams were put on pause when he was 24.
Another childhood passion was airplanes. After a Grade 9 careers project about becoming an airline pilot, “I would make my father drive to Pearson (airport) and we’d watch the planes land for hours. “A young me thought it would be a wonderful career.”
But he decided he preferred a career that kept him closer to home. He is now working to get his private pilot’s licence.
His future plans? To accept his blessings and to continue excelling and “doing the best I can,” he says. He also says now that he has had a taste of television, he would like to do more shows.