Don Kottick Hopes Industry Can "Raise the Bar"

Oct 04, 2016

The real estate business and Hotel California have something in common. You can never leave either of them, says seasoned executive and Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) president Don Kottick.

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“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” is a famous phrase from the Eagles’ classic song Hotel California, fondly remembered by those of us who listened to it while lounging on bean-bag chairs and waterbeds in rooms lit by lava lamps.

Like most of us, Kottick did manage to escape the 1970s. He was never able to abandon the real estate business though. And for that he’s now grateful.

“When things weren’t going well in the past, I thought about leaving real estate. But something has always come up to prevent that,” be it the advent of then-innovations like the Internet or the launch of an exciting new venture, says Kottick.

“Real estate is embedded in me,” he says. “Life could not be better.”

For the past two years, Kottick – formerly president of Right at Home Realty and also a former vice president of Royal LePage – has been executive vice president of corporate development for Toronto-based Peerage Realty Partners (PRP), a partner-driven network of real estate brokerages and ancillary companies founded in 2007 by mega-wealthy entrepreneur Miles Nadal.

PRP is currently in growth mode. Partner companies now include Chestnut Park Real Estate; Baker Real Estate; the new StreetCity Realty; and Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing, as well as various asset management firms and a storage company aptly christened Peerage Storage. More acquisitions are expected soon.

Nadal has been quoted as saying that of the top Canadian industries, real estate is the one that provides the most opportunity and the greatest ability to build wealth. When he brought Kottick aboard PRP, Nadal knew he was hiring the pick of the litter – a senior executive with proven leadership skills and vast experience in real estate, web-based initiatives and business development.

Besides being REIC president and a certified Fellow of the Real Estate Institute (FRI), Kottick has received various awards for excellence from REIC. He is also a director with the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), FIABC and numerous other real-estate-related committees.
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Let’s not forget that as well, Kottick is a regular guest writer for REM and other real estate focused publications, wherein he gives readers advice on such topics as the importance of outstanding leadership (“It is rare to find a culture of success without a great leader”) and good real estate managers (“One of the few remaining management training programs is available through REIC, on behalf of NAR, called the Certified Real Estate Brokerage Management program.”)

The need for strong leadership is a common theme of Kottick’s. While making the standard pronouncement that networking, setting goals and believing in yourself are all critical to success, he also stresses that not all companies are created equal.

“Join a brokerage that has a great leader or leadership team…. You get what you pay for in this industry,” he says. (That said, he learned some of the best lessons – what not to do – from some of the worst leaders, he adds.)

Keep in mind as well that when you give back, good things come to you, Kottick says.

“Get out there and join a charity, a committee or an organization such as REIC, your local real estate board, CREA, your provincial organization or FIABCI.”

As REIC president, Kottick is committed to the institute’s mandate of embracing continuing education through such avenues as its numerous professional accreditation offerings, which include the FRI and CPM (Certified Property Manager).
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Accreditations are a “great way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace,” says Kottick. REIC also provides the opportunity to “network with like-minded individuals across the industry and get best practice information from various areas of the business.”

You are only as strong as your network, he says.

“I became president of REIC to assist this organization in responding to the need to increase awareness and work towards improving the level of professionalism in our industry through education and training… and accreditation…. I believe the real estate industry has suffered negatively through the actions of a few of its members and we need to regain the confidence of the consumer.”

In a nutshell, Kottick hopes to “raise the bar.”

Real estate wasn’t always his passion, although he has forever been a big believer in education, thanks largely to his mother, who worked at University of Toronto as a counselor.

Both of his parents wanted him to study business, but he “rebelled” and wound up taking a circuitous educational path that finally resulted in a degree in geology from U of T along with some “bizarre minors” that he now has difficulty recalling.

“My mother jokes about this,” he says.

His geology degree promptly proved useless – as soon as he graduated, the oil industry collapsed and took the job market with it, he says.

So he returned to school again, this time to become a computer programmer and systems analyst. When he finished, without much thought he joined a then-prominent Toronto real estate firm as an analyst, although he was not sure he would stay in the business.

“Real estate was not something I’d planned on,” he says.

Be that as it may, Kottick’s diverse business background has served him well.

“I have a broad view of the industry,” he says. “I am fortunate to have been with progressive operations. I’m a proponent of change. I find that usually when I take a risk it pays off.”

With his immersion in real estate both foreign and domestic, Kottick is optimistic about Canada’s real estate market. He is certain that Canada is positioned as one of the safer havens for international buyers.

“I don’t see the market collapsing, barring some unforeseen global event,” he says. “We are becoming one of the ultimate global destinations.”

But he has seen plenty of ups and downs in his years in the business.

“It’s been an interesting ride,” he says. “Real estate has been wonderful to me. Yes, it’s akin to the Eagles’Hotel California, but the difference here is that you don’t ever want to leave.”

Originally published in REM Online
Susan Doran

Written by Susan Doran