“If your hair is not looking great, there’s a good chance you won’t get the deal,” says Tav Schembri, who hit the No. 1 spot on Re/Max’s list of the brand’s top 100 residential agents in Canada this year and was No. 1 world-wide in March.
There’s also this tagline, from Schembri’s self-published book, Million Dollar Agent: “Foil accent highlights with a metrosexual, current, clean cut, go a long way to success.”
If it seems that Re/Max’s top sales rep is hooked on hair (even though he laughingly admits he doesn’t have a lot of it himself), it’s probably because all-things-hair-related have been very, very good to him.
A former hair stylist who spent 25 years in that business running his own salons, Schembri, now broker of record with Re/Max Specialists Tavsells in affluent Caledon, Ont., got his start in real estate only eight years ago in his early 50s, after losing two fingers in a woodworking accident.
As he remembers it, the worst moment resulting from the injury was when a specialist at the hospital “seeded negativity” by asking him if he was depressed.
“Am I supposed to be?” he thought to himself. “I feel good.”
But there was no getting around the fact that hairdressing would be a challenge going forward. “The accident changed the trajectory of my life,” says Schembri. He looks back on it “almost fondly” now, he says, as it led to where he is today.
He headed into real estate determined to cultivate his former hairdressing clients (“Don’t let your old relationships fade away,” he advises), including one who was looking to sell a large farm. This resulted in a career launch of unprecedented distinction, although Schembri didn’t realize that immediately.
“Around Christmas I had a couple of developers come into my office. They bought the farm for $53 million. It was the largest single transaction in the history of the area at the time. I didn’t really think much about it. Being new to the business, I thought I’d be doing deals like that every day.”
That wasn’t to be, and Schembri says, “It’s still the largest deal I’ve done. I haven’t been able to do it again…Most people work their entire careers without a deal like that.”
He was among the fastest ever to receive Re/Max’s top sales awards, consistently leading the Caledon market. In his relatively short real estate career, Schembri has pretty much received every award he can possibly get for dollar volume. This is the first year that he’s reached Re/Max’s top spot globally.
“It feels great. I always thought that Re/Max’s number one agent must be something special,” he says. “It’s lots of hard work, lots of fun along the way. The market is hot with a lot of sales substantially over asking and a lot of Torontonians moving here in a push to leave the city. We’re having the best year ever.”
Re/Max Specialists Tavsells is a full-service boutique office, with one other (newly hired) licensed agent and a handful of support staff, including a social media wiz. As the office name infers, Schembri is the main show. He’s big on visibility, marketing and working with lead generation companies.
There’s one industry trend though that he’s bucked, and that’s Realtor teams.
In the second year of his career he’d formed one, hiring a handful of seasoned agents. They were forever telling him what to do, Schembri says. “That took the life out of me. I was insecure because I didn’t have the experience. I took their word for everything. It was my worst year in the business.”
Before long he went back to working solo. He’s happy with his current setup. “It’s the right blend,” he says.
Schembri believes that success in real estate is about service, not reinventing the wheel. He values education, but not the kind that comes strictly from sitting in front of a screen.
“New agents are used to being in front of a computer, but they get tripped up in the real world …You can miss out on the confidence level because you were educated in front of a computer but when you get to the real world you can’t close deals or bring in new business,” he says. “There are so many scripts in real estate. Clients start to see through that. Agents have to have confidence and be knowledgeable in the field.”
Needless to say, the familiarity that comes from living in the community where you work, as Schembri has for 35 years, can be a big plus.
Having a nice car and “being well groomed” doesn’t hurt either, he adds, once again allowing his inner stylist to check in.
From personal experience, there are mistakes he encourages new sales reps not to make. “Pay attention to contracts,” he says. “I’ve lost money and deals because contracts were not filled out properly.”
There’s also the frustration of dealing with the industry’s snowballing red tape. “One of the big distractions in this business is paperwork – more government regulations, more stuff online. You have to stay on top of things,” he says. “I think RECO (the Real Estate Council of Ontario) should have an ombudsman that agents can call…Often RECO doesn’t know the answers to Realtors’ questions.”
Having walked into homes where everything from S&M dungeons to taxidermy lions are on display, Schembri continues to find the real estate business “full of surprises.”
And now there’s the pandemic … with an extra wrinkle thrown in for him, because during lockdown, his past hairdressing clients were calling him up pleading for haircuts.
Says Schembri with a laugh, “I didn’t do it. I stayed strong.”