paul@pauljohnston.com 416.897.5480
Salesperson, right at home realty inc. 416.391.3232

Agent has found a niche with “One of a Kind” homes.

Dec 15, 2008 by Paul

Paul Johnston is featured in Sun Media

Paul Johnston chose a wildly ambitious professional niche when he began selling real estate in the Toronto market about three years ago. Back then, the scene was sizzling. Today, a global economic meltdown is scaring nearly everyone in the real estate community. But Johnston is more convinced than ever that he made the right choice, not only for his own career but for the benefit of current and potential clients. What is Johnston’s exclusive focus? It’s what he terms “unique urban homes” and defines as “the approximately 2% of Toronto houses, condos and lofts that, in terms of their sophistication, their intriguing architecture or offbeat design, are literally one-of-a-kind.”

Johnston sees this professional strategy as “a bit of a paradigm shift. The traditional pattern is for agents to become experts in a certain area or neighbourhood, as in ‘Call Greg when you want to buy or sell in the Beach,’” he explains. “I decided not to do that but instead to handle properties throughout the city, as long as they’re what I consider unique.” So he has sold everywhere from the Beach to High Park. “It makes the job a lot harder because I need to know a lot more,” he says, “but it also makes it way more interesting and engaging for me, whether it’s a $300,000 condo or a $2 million detached house.” That he considers his clients “every bit as unique as the homes that interest them” is a bonus for Johnston, who says he represents “many creative people whose lives are informed by fashion or architecture or design. So their taste and aspirations for their own homes demand a milieu that reflects elements of their own individuality.” Okay, but exactly what silver lining in the current downturn does Johnston see for these particular home seekers? “Right now, there are exciting opportunities for younger buyers, first-time buyers and the budget-minded] to get in on properties theywouldn’t have been able to afford six months ago. Certainly, it’s a distressing time, but it’s truly a spectacular time for people who’ve been waiting for the right unique home.”

A prime example of the unique properties in Johnston’s portfolio for discriminating clients is a recently sold, strikingly unusual house in the Trinity-Bellwoods area that’s the first one he actually designed himself. “Together with the builder [Toronto’s Cityspace Urban Developments], the goal was to do something unabashedly and unequivocally modern,” he explains. “And the overall response was astounding, in large measure because the house fulfills a growing appetite for modern design that really isn’t met in Toronto except at the very high end.” Asked how a real estate agent ends up designing an entire house, Johnston chuckles and offers, “I’d previously designed condo interiors and a couple of interiors in houses and I also had the privilege of working with [prestigious Toronto architectural firm] Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg on full interior redesigns for two of my clients.” But long before that happened, Johnston says he’d been designing his own after-hours nightclubs in Montreal. That’s the city he moved to from his native Toronto to study film and communication at McGill University. While still a student, he worked as an entrepreneur specializing in club and DJ promotion and was one of the first rave promoters in Canada. “I was always on the lookout for venues — warehouses and other buildings — and I often completely redesigned and decorated them.”

After returning to Toronto, Johnston worked in event promotion, mostly fund-raising events for the not-for-profit sector, which he describes as “everything from golf tournaments to black-tie galas. “But then it dawned on me that the combination of my three passions — design and architecture, working with people and marketing — would best be served in real estate, so I got my license and got off to a running start after deciding to specifically concentrate on unique properties. “Three years later, I’ve managed to become the go-to guy for unique properties in Toronto.”

by Terry Poulton, Sun Media