There are a lot of lessons to be learned in a real estate career that has spanned four decades. But the philosophy for Century 21 Realtor Alex Palmer has always been the same: put in the time.
It’s something anyone starting out in the profession could take heed of. After all, it’s coming from the man who sold the most units in the world for Century 21 last year. Palmer also snuck in enough time to rank third in production worldwide as well.
“It was a major surprise. I have been at this thing a long time. It’s fun, but I never dreamed (this would happen),” Palmer said before boarding a flight to pick up his award in Washington, D.C., in February.
Palmer has spent years consistently near or at the top of the Canadian rankings for Century 21, but in 2014 everything came together.
“Lloydminster is healthy. In my opinion, is the healthiest city in Canada,” he said. “I had just everything happen - busiest year, record year. I couldn’t do it if Lloydminster wasn’t running on all these cylinders. No matter what you’re doing, you need a city that can produce behind you.”
He called it the perfect storm.
“You need perfect health, perfect city, the perfect province, perfect country - it’s a ladder. One of these falls apart and I don’t get there, they all help me.”
That’s not the only assistance he receives. Palmer was quick to point out Century 21 colleagues Deb Kent and Linda Regular, who provide much-needed assistance.
“Those two are my pillars. Doesn’t matter what I do, there’s a lot of things that have to get done when you make a sale and those two save my neck. They’re just as much a part of what I have done this year. When I talk to people, I never say, ‘I,’ it’s ‘we’ because I couldn’t do it all,” said Palmer, who was also sure to mention the six builders he works with.
“I’m proud of my builders. I couldn’t do the numbers without them because they are all good builders. They sure allow me to sell more just because of their reputations,” he said.
That allows Palmer the time to focus on what he said is the most vital aspect of a successful real estate career - developing relationships with customers. It’s what he attributed to his remarkable consistency, which has seen him named a Grand Centurion Producer with Century 21 every year since 2002.
“I think 96 per cent of my business was repeat/referral business, so that made my job easier,” he said. “If I have to go out and look for something, that takes away from production. If they’re coming to me, that speeds up the process.
“We’re always taught how to go out and get customers and I haven’t done that in a while. If I did, the production wouldn’t be as good.”
Of course, there is also his very understanding wife, Linda, he attributed a great deal of his success to.
Palmer said there are a number of keys to maintaining those relationships over the years with clients, including some who have been with him since the beginning, essentially. He said he is always accessible and returns missed phone calls as soon as possible.
He is also a big believer in meeting challenges head on, rather than letting problems compound. And most important, treat people fairly. Although it could really be any number of things.
“I have a hard time figuring out what I do right because a lot of the time you focus on what you do wrong,” he said with a laugh.
Whatever the combination was it works and it led to what will probably rank up as the greatest phone call Palmer has received in his career.
“I was speechless,” he said. “The first phone call came from the owner of Century 21 Canada (telling him about finishing third in production), which I never received before - which I understand. That was the first shock. They didn’t even know that I got first in the world in units. Century 21 International phoned me and they had tied in with Vancouver (Century 21 Canada main office) with a conference call and they told Vancouver and me at the same time. And I’m saying, ‘Wow’ and Vancouver is saying, ‘Wow, that’s our boy,’ at the same time. It was nice to hear because I got Vancouver’s reaction, which was nice of them.”
You can hear the pride in his voice as he recalls that conversation. Palmer, who specializes in commercial properties, new construction, acreages, and existing residential homes, said he was always proud to be one of the top 8,500 in Canada - being at the top of 100,000 in the world is almost hard to get your mind around.
“This one is just beyond shock,” he said.
And it’s something he’ll take great joy in, remembering where he came from. He began his career in 1970 and moved to Lloydminster to start practising in 1977. He said there have been more good times than bad in the industry - the 1984 oil crash being the only time there hasn’t been some form of growth. He said he expects commercial building to take a step back in 2015, as supply has finally caught up with demand. That doesn’t mean he’s likely to take a step back from his most basic philosophy.
“I always tell beginners now, you have to work at getting business. The remainder is growing and keeping business for the first five years. You’ll be very successful if you keep the business you have during that first five years. If you’re getting new customers all the time and not repeat customers, you’re not going to make it in the long run. It has to sustain. People that have been in it a long time, that seems to be one of the things they do well,” he said.
“There’s only so much you can do (in 40 hours) and if you only want to work part time, you’re never going to do it.”
In other words, put in the time.