James Caicco
James Caicco

Every year, broker of record James Caicco of Century 21 Choice Realty in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. has a goal: give his agents more value. After all, he says, you’re “only as good as your agents.”

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Caicco invests in the company and offers education/training, events and services that provide a value proposition that’s better than what they can find elsewhere, he says. Morale is also key.

“Real estate is up and down and can be frustrating,” says the 25-year real estate veteran. He does anything he can to make the workplace environment better and improve morale, including “small things” to make agents’ jobs easier. He bought a moving trailer that agents can lend to their clients, has an in-house photographer so agents don’t have to go to the effort of finding and hiring one themselves and offers the services of an in-house Centum mortgage broker.

Century 21 Choice also offers a “huge training program” to ensure they can continue to grow and serve a market that’s been wildly busy and unprecedented, Caicco says.

There’s a certain discipline required to stay successful for a long period, he says. The market helps with certain aspects of the business, but he reminds his agents that the market won’t stay this way forever. He urges them to take care and keep in touch with clients and to continue with the fundamentals.

The market in Sault Ste. Marie is strong, which is good for sellers because prices are up but makes it difficult for some buyers, he says.

When the market is this good, he stresses the importance of using an agent. On the selling side, agents can maximize the process. When buying it is important to have an agent who is on top of the market, he says. The value of an agent is priceless.

“We’re seeing all sorts of buyers, which is a unique situation for Sault Ste. Marie,” Caicco says. The economy is strong and there is a good base of local buyers. “On top of that, outside investors are looking for income properties” from single-family homes to multi-unit buildings.

Prior to the pandemic, Sault Ste. Marie didn’t see a lot of interest from out-of-area buyers. Now there are a lot of people from other jurisdictions who want to move because they can work remotely or are planning to retire.

That’s why constant education for his team is crucial. Training programs help agents stay sharp and help them practice the basics.

Some training programs require a six or eight-week commitment, but 65 to 76 per cent of Caicco’s agents want to participate. They realize the importance of education, he says.

Century 21 Choice also offers support. From broker to admin, they’re accessible. “If we’re not present, they know where to find us,” he says.

Decades ago, agents got a licence, a desk and phone. Now it’s more complicated and harder to navigate. They need mentorship, guidance and support from the office, Caicco says.

One-on-one meetings are offered to help agents with marketing, as well as to ensure they have Century 21 tools at their fingertips. Caicco recently renewed his agreement with the brand for another 10 years. He says he is impressed with the technology Century 21 delivers for offices and agents.

“The new HUB21 platform is an outstanding addition as it allows our agents to stay organized and productive,” he says. “Plus, the vast array of tools it is equipped with can replace additional costly support, so we save time and money.”

Right after completing his university business degree, Caicco got into real estate, first working with his father-in-law doing appraisals. After he got his licence, he worked with a local commercial realty company. He says it was a great learning experience because it was just the broker and him. Then he joined Re/Max for about 10 years before buying Century 21 Choice Realty about a decade ago.

He says he researched Century 21, which didn’t have a large presence in Sault Ste. Marie at the time. He spoke to company executives to learn about its offerings and tools, and liked what he heard. He bought an office that had three agents.

He bought a bigger building and has grown the business steadily to its current 36 agents.

Drawing cards are Century 21 Choice’s good team and work environment, as well as business manager Patty Sutton, who has a background in banking.

“Patty is great with agents and is a key part of the team. As a broker of record who is selling too, it’s (great) to have good people around.”

Century 21 Choice has had one of the largest market shares in their community for the last five years. It’s still in growth mode (more agents allow for more resources to be put into the company).

Caicco says, “This is my passion. It has always been my passion and focus. When I wake up, even after 25 years, I feel the same. I can’t wait to get to the office and I’m often one of the last to leave. Every day is different. New agents may think I’m fluffing a bit but they soon find out. It never gets old and the opportunities are endless.”

He says he has a balanced life, travelling to recharge his batteries. “It’s healthy to get away.”

He’s also into sports and hobbies, but most importantly enjoys spending time with his spouse, two children and two grandchildren.

No one in the family is in real estate – he likes to keep family and work separate because he doesn’t want to talk real estate over dinner.

“I see all sides, how it could be beneficial to have generations in the business. There’s no right or wrong way. And never say never,” he says, adding that his two grandchildren have the personalities to become agents.

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