August 16, 2023
By Coldwell Banker Canada
Realtors Crystal Blezard, Tré Folkes and Josh Singh have joined the club of Coldwell Banker 30 Under 30 winners from Canada. That’s a big deal. Congrats to each of them! Congrats also to their families, their support teams and the brokerages where their talents in philanthropy, leadership and sales have a place to grow. 30 Under 30 winners are chosen from across 2,700 offices and 39 countries and territories in Coldwell Banker’s international network. In 1906, Colbert Coldwell and Arthur Banker were 24 and 28 years old, respectively, when they started the real estate company in San Francisco that still bears their name. Zoom wasn’t a thing back then, but it let us bring Crystal, Tré and Josh together recently to get their thoughts on the award and other things. Gotta say, lots of insight, lots of laughter, lots of hope.
Q: Okay, your honest first thoughts when you heard that you had won?
Crystal: I have a five-month-old daughter and I’m a realtor! My world is all babies and real estate right now. I didn’t check my email or go on social media, so the owner of Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Centre called me and said, oh, I hear congratulations are in order. I’m, like, for what?! I was shocked and surprised.
Josh: My heart sank, but in a good way. I was in front of the computer. I was dealing with a client’s situation. The email notification popped up. This isn’t legit, I thought. No way, no way, no way! I went to my broker and asked is this legit? Should I be happy right now?! A lot of emotions came at me at once. I almost cried.
Tré: I wasn’t on social media that morning. I had gotten my workout in and was heading for the office when our Broker of Record gave me a shout. I was super shocked and humbled. This was a silent goal that I had. I knew people from other real estate companies, and I always wondered, whaddya gotta do to get on that list?!
Q: Okay, Tré, whaddya gotta do to get on this list?
Tré: Try to be a good person. Be kind. Have empathy. Good people will then gravitate towards you and those are the people you really want to work with.
Q: Oppenheimer or Barbie?
Crystal: Between real estate and the five-month-old, I am planning to see Barbie, but it’ll be when it’s out of theatres!
Q: In what ways do you belong to your generation, and in what ways not?
Josh (Gen Z): I do use social media a lot because it’s what you have to do in today’s world to get your name and your branding out there. I can reach people around the world. But I’m very old school, too. I would rather meet you in person. Let’s go for a coffee, let’s go for lunch, let’s go for nine or 18 holes of golf. Talking business and playing golf is a perfect day.
Tré (Millennial): I love using social media. Being a digital native is millennial of me. But there are ways I’m not a millennial, too. I love my routine. Some people call me a grandpa. I go to bed early. I wake up early. I’m into self-care. That makes me appear older to my peers sometimes.
Crystal (Millennial): I think that part of being a millennial is being progressive, and I do consider myself progressive. I think I’m not so much of a millennial because I had to look up on Google what a millennial is supposed to be.
Q: Why real estate?
Josh: My father is a big influence in my life, and he’s my business partner, too. He’s also a civil engineer. He’s a Broker with Coldwell Banker. Growing up, I was always around blueprints and construction sites and real estate portfolios. He’s the reason I chose real estate.
Tré: My father is also a Broker with Coldwell Banker. We’re an athletic family. My brother Liam just finished up playing hockey in the American Hockey League, my dad ran at the Olympics and my mother was a long-distance marathon runner, so, sports taught us a lot about working hard and aiming for a goal. Real estate lets me help others achieve their goals, too.
Crystal: I have a different story. Real estate picked me. Real estate was never really on my mind. In my family, no one ever owned homes. Real estate was unobtainable. Self-employment was unobtainable. I was one of the first people in my family other than my mom to go to university. I got my degree. I was going to be a social worker. I had it all planned out. Then I saw a job posting for a real estate admin. I got the job and I’ve been in the business ever since.
Q: What is the most important quality for a realtor? How do you acquire it? How do you maintain it?
Josh: The most important quality is to not work for yourself. Don’t work for your own benefits, don’t work for your commission. Work for the people. Listen to people. Understand their situations. Every person is in a different situation. They confide in you. They tell you their whole world. If you are really going to help them with buying or selling their home, you have to listen.
I believe money is a byproduct of success. If you do good for people, good will happen for you. Have purity in your heart.
Q: Nice poetic turn there. Tré?
Tré: Empathy and kindness. First and foremost, you need to be a good person. With those qualities, you can build relationships and keep relationships. How do you build empathy? Go out and connect with people in a different setting than you’re familiar with. Hear people’s stories. The more people you talk to, the more you will see that not everyone comes from a privileged background. That puts things into perspective. That’s where you can learn to build empathy. You shouldn’t lose it if it’s engrained in you. The successful realtors and brokers I have come across are all kind people.
Crystal: What’s brought me to where I am in my career is being authentic. I am authentic to a fault. I am myself and I bring my full self into every situation I’m in. In real estate, you need to be authentic. Don’t try to be the same, don’t be a cookie cutter. We’re in a people business. It’s easy to get caught up and want to change to be other things. I’m Crystal Blezard. I’m a realtor, I’m a mom, I’m a human being.
Tré: I really like that.
Q: If someone had to describe what you do in a sentence, but not use your job title or any corporate jargon, what would they say?
Tré: Helping people believe in themselves and spreading positivity to get people to build a healthy and happy life with their families or partners.
Josh: Oooh, I like that.
Crystal: I’ll take this in a funny direction. I go through people’s homes when they’re not there! I’m a matchmaker.
Josh: Same! I’m available 24/7!
Q: What does home mean to each of you? Home, that four-letter word that we all chase, frame, market, write songs about, dream about, lose, cry over, move away from, return to, celebrate. What does home mean to each of you?
Josh: Two words: safe space. I can put my worries and stresses at the door. It’s where my loved ones are. I can sit there and relax and stay forever.
Tré: Somewhere where you’re happy and comfortable and, hopefully, stress-free at the end of the day.
Crystal: Home for me doesn’t necessarily mean a place. It’s security. Home is my family. Home is people, and my people are in my house, so house and home and people are all interconnected for me. Home is a place, yes, but it’s also people. It’s an environment you create. As realtors, we’re helping people create a new home, a place where you have your people through all of life’s changes.
Home is about my dogs, too. Chewie and Mookie. Chihuahua yorkies. They’re so needy. They sleep in bed with me. But I love them.
Tré: My parents said no dogs when we were growing up, but then my brother and I moved away from home at 18 to play hockey and they were, like, okay, now we’ve got to get a dog! I think they were a little bored when we were gone.
Crystal: You got replaced by the dog!
Josh: I still live with my parents. My mom, my brother, my sister-in-law we all want a dog, but my dad is, like, no chance! When I move out, I can get a dog. He’s, like, I’ve already raised you two, I’m not looking to raise another.
Crystal: Tough question, I’ve had so many. I’d say my mom. She was a single mom. She went to university, worked really hard, got herself into an amazing position later in life. I strive to work hard and do good for my kids.
Tré: My grandparents. I have one left on either side. They’re made it to 80 on one side and 92 on the other. Just to be happy and positive every single day right now means they’ve done something right. I want to be like them.
Josh: My father. My family moved to Canada in 2014 from India. He was one of the top engineers in the state and he went to work in warehouses just to support his family. I have seen him be happy with a smile on his face no matter what situation he might be in or what mood he might be in. That has inspired me.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle faced by young home shoppers? Do young people still want to be homeowners?
Crystal: The biggest struggle right now is interest rates and affordability. Everyone dreams of owning a home, but it somewhat feels unobtainable for young people, and that is super unfortunate. I like to try to educate people on options—co-signers, use those parents for good! It’s hard. Not everyone’s parents have a cheque waiting to help them buy a house. I think it is something that all young people want.
Tré: The biggest obstacle is affordability. If you don’t come from a fortunate family… I tell everybody in the market I serve, which is Toronto, which is expensive, you can look first at a condo and muster up some savings in a couple of years, invest with a partner. There are ways into the market, but affordability makes it hard for young people. Everybody I am around still has high hopes of owning property one day.
Josh: It’s lack of knowledge, too. A lot of first-time homebuyers need direction and proper guidance. Real estate is a deep world. It can be overwhelming. People are dealing with their life savings. That’s where we come in. Guiding them, listening to their wants and needs and making sure they’re more focused on the needs. I believe in long-term relationships and in nurturing that relationship over the years. Knowing what the right time is to refinance, based on the market.
It’s not just about the real estate you can buy in a month. It’s more a case of understanding this is what you should do for the next two or three months, this is how to get there, and then in six or seven months, we’ll start looking and get you to the perfect place you’re looking for.
Crystal: I think this is kind of what sets the three of us apart. We’re realizing that this is a long-term game. You don’t want to help just the one client get a house. You want to help all their family members to get a house, and to help them upgrade in two or three years as their life changes, as they’re having kids, when their kids are moving out. I think it’s just staying with them long-term.
Q: What’s the metaphor for what you do? Are you gardeners, in a way?
Crystal: Yeah, you plant a seed, and you help that plant grow throughout its stages.
Tré: Crystal hit it on the head with that one. You plant seeds, you water them, you see it through. You never want to see a plant that’s not healthy. You check up on it, making sure it’s in good shape. That’s a great way to explain it.
Q: Is there a question that you’re tired of being asked, or wish, for a change, that you were asked?
Josh: Let me go first. Will you cut your commission? is the question I am tired of being asked! That is probably the most commonly asked question in our industry, along with, how much of a discount can I get?
Q: What do you say?
Josh: It depends on the situation, but, usually, I say no, but with an explanation. I try to point out that this is the value that I bring, these are the kinds of things that I will do for you. I like to compare it to law. We’re representing. We will represent you to the fullest and to the best of our abilities.
Tré: A question I wish I were asked more is: when would the right time for me to buy based on my specific situation? Someone who is interested in getting the full financial picture of their situation at their stage in life—that is the person with the question a lot more people should be asking.
Crystal: I just thought of a question while we were talking. It goes both ways. I want to be asked it and I don’t want to be asked it! The question is: what sets me apart?
Q: Okay, Crystal, what sets you apart?
Crystal: That’s an interesting question in this market because I’m not special, I’m not. I just work hard, and I care about people, and I want to make a difference in this business. I want to make a difference in an individual’s life. I’m not re-writing the wheel of real estate. I’m just doing my job to the best of my ability and doing everything I can for my clients.
Q: What is something you are watching or reading or listening to that you want to recommend to the rest of us?
Crystal: Mine is too predictable, I’ll let the guys go first.
Tré: What is it, Crystal?
Crystal: Selling Sunset, of course.
Tré: What?!! I can’t watch that show!
Josh: Me, neither!
Tré: It’s too, it’s too…I liked the first two episodes. I couldn’t get past the fact where they…oh, a billion, oh, okay, deal’s done, no stress.
Crystal: So good!
Tré: I think it makes the real estate industry look way easier than it is. It’s unrealistic! So, that’s probably why we have 5 trillion people wanting to be realtors!
Crystal: I hate-watch it! I love the unrealistic-ness of it. I binge it. I love the drama. I’m here for the drama.
Josh: I’m a huge fan of Suits on Netflix. I believe law and real estate go hand in hand. I love to say to my dad that I want to be the Harvey Specter of Sarnia real estate. I’ve watched every season. I’m re-watching it for the seventh time. I’ve learned a lot for my business from the show—his ethics, how Harvey carries himself and presents himself to his clients, no matter what level those clients are at, they are equal. It’s relatable.
Q: Seven times? Really? What’s with your fondness for repetition? I repeat, what’s your fondness for repetition?!
Josh: The first time you watch it, you see it for the first time. The second time you watch it you can either watch the exact same thing or you can focus on a different aspect of it. Don’t focus on the main character. Focus on the background, focus on the other characters, on what they’re doing, on what their body language says. There are a thousand new things to learn.
Tré: I just finished reading Will Smith’s biography. I’m also reading Scarborough, which is fiction, but I love reading biographies. It’s really cool to see how Will Smith climbed the world, made all this money. He wasn’t educated. He didn’t pay taxes. He kinda lost his mind a little bit and started going on the downhill. In biographies, you can find positive examples of these people working hard and living a life that they really wanted to build for themselves. I recommend that. I just finished watching Succession. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my brother got me on that one. It got a bit repetitive, but it was fun to watch.
Crystal: I should have lied about what I watch! The only other show I watch is 90 Day Fiancé! I’m a mother of a five-month-old and have two needy chihuahua yorkies, did I mention that?
Q: Do you three consider yourselves leaders?
Tré: I would say that I guess people would view us as leaders, probably. But it’s kind of funny to think about when your friends look up to you and say, keep doing what you’re doing, it’s awesome, when you’re the same age as them.
Q: What’s the most important quality of a leader?
Josh: Teamwork. Make sure you divide the roles accordingly, depending on the team, to bring the best out of people. If somebody has a specific skillset, make sure those skills are properly used, either in the market or the community.
Tré: Being able to listen. My father is a mentor in the business. Having him so close to me has been awesome. He’s good at listening.
Crystal: One of the most important parts of being a leader is kindness. A leader needs to be kind. If you are kind to people, and they trust and believe in you, then you can be a leader.