They pine for pizza, love themselves a downward dog, watch Netflix and even enjoy the occasional cup of joe.
Indeed, there are realtors out there who are just like the rest of us.
That’s the portrait being painted by the Instagram account Realtors of Vancouver. Online since late last year, the account focuses exclusively on the personalities behind some of Vancouver’s real estate movers and shakers.
The Instagram feed is the product of UBC students Leo Chazalon, Daanyaal Sobani and Aditya Chinchure. Their goal is to promote what Chazalon calls “humane marketing,” which he describes as emphasizing personalities rather than professional pursuits.
“It’s about quitting all the commercial B.S. around what the real estate agent does for home buyers or home sellers,” Chazalon told the Courier. “It’s about going straight to the point as to who they are.”
THE ZEN AGENT . BACKGROUND I was born in Vietnam. My family was among the first to have fled Vietnam. We stayed in refugee camps in Hong Kong for about four years before moving to Canada . SAD VIBES During my time at SFU, I started feeling sad and depressed. I kind of fell into depression and started asking all kinds of questions. I finally stumbled upon a book that changed my life . READING Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Reading it made me contemplate my life. I felt shitty, I was not happy with my current situation. I wanted to go away somewhere . THE ORIGIN I was reading this book late at night and I got to part where the author was on the bathroom floor crying at 3am, and she was just praying for answers about what she should do when she heard a voice say ‘you should go’. I looked at my clock…it was exactly 3am. I closed the book immediately. A month later, I bought a ticket for Japan and headed there with no prep . ENTREPRENEUR I started my own little English Café in Japan. People would come and learn new languages . SUMMARY OF UR EDUCATION I learnt to be competitive . THAT ONE TIME I was 10 when I made noodles. I accidentally poured the hot water on myself when I was dumping the water out. They had to cast it and I was in crutches for like a week. I remember it like yesterday [Laughs] . NERD I love watching the Big Bang Theory . PASSION I really love meditation. It has helped me a lot in transforming who I am, from someone who is lost and confused to someone who knows her purpose and passion . PRO TIP Meditate. It should be the same as brushing your teeth. One or two minutes a day is enough . WHY REAL ESTATE I refer to myself as a lifestyle and real estate coach. My clients experience lots of stress. I teach them how to overcome their fears. I teach them how to deal with stress that comes with buying and selling a home . WEEK GOAL Launching my book . WANNA-HAVE PET? A baby. I could coach it to become just like me [Laughs] . FUN FACT I’m into Neurolinguistics . . @lindabuiii . @adityachinchure . #realtorsofinstagram #vancouverrealestate #vancouverrealtor
Only a few criteria must be met in order to make the grade: prospective realtors have to be on Instagram, concerned with things other than dollars and cents and be “interesting” in the eyes of the three-person team.
Candidates are sent a direct message with an interview request and then meet with the threesome at a coffee shop near UBC. Chazalon says interview subjects don’t get to vet questions in advance, nor does the group receive any money from the realtors who are interviewed.
“By interesting, we mean they post stuff that’s not commercial B.S.,” Chazalon said. “We’re not here to promote their businesses, we’re not here to bring them more customers. We’re here to find the real estate agents who put themselves forward on Instagram as human beings in the first place before real estate agents.”
Chazalon got the Instagram idea off the ground in December 2017. About 20 profiles have been completed and the page has close to 1,000 followers. A business student, Chazalon naturally takes care of the business end, while Chinchure, a computer sciences student, covers the photography and web design. Sobani’s background in electrical engineering lends itself to tech questions and marketing.
Oddly enough, none of them want to work in real estate once their time at UBC is over.
So, why the interest in realtors?
“The logic behind having 15,000 realtors in Metro Vancouver is very hard to understand to me,” Chazalon said. “So what we’re trying to do here is to filter through all of them and see who are the ones who are most worthy of being good real estate agents to work with.”
Another puzzling point is how topics specific to real estate — foreign ownership or the affordability crisis — are never touched upon. In fact, when realtors wade into those waters, Chazalon points them in other directions.
Their brand is about “entertainment” and “relatability” and crushing homeowner debt doesn’t fit in either of those categories.
“That’s a question that’s expected whenever you talk to real estate agents or whomever you talk in Vancouver — there’s always this problem of the affordability crisis,” Chazalon said. “It’s something that’s very recurrent and almost repetitive and almost boring. We’re always looking for an answer to that question, but in the end there is no really true scientific answer for it and nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future.”
The future for Chazalon and company is a bit more concrete. They plan on launching a “humane marketing” public relations firm. They also build websites, of which four have been sold to real estate agents after their Q/A was completed.
“We love listening to people, sitting over coffee and chatting with them. Not only do we network, we find interesting stories and we have fun,” Chazalon said.
The trio’s Instagram page is at www.instagram.com/realtorsofvancouver.