Derek Gillette aims to shift real estate landscape
Words Sandra Jones
Photography Lia Crowe
In real estate sales, the motivating metrics of success are typically found in gross sales and number of units sold. But for Derek Gillette, a top Nanaimo-based realtor, his focus is firmly fixed on a different philosophy that has driven his business for more than 30 years.
“I am passionate about innovation. I’m always looking ahead and seeking ways to create a better experience for my clients,” says Derek. “If you’re not adapting constantly, you risk falling behind. You have to be comfortable with change and the pressure it brings.”
Early on in his career, Derek realized that real estate transactions had been done the same way for many years and that there was an opportunity to do things differently.
“When I started, the multiple listing service (MLS) printed catalogues for agents, and on the back of them was a disclaimer that we couldn’t give them out to clients. At night I would go into the office and photocopy hundreds of them, so that when I went to an open house, I could give customers specific sections that would help them in their search. Having that kind of information to share with my clients made more sense to me and, fortunately, MLS changed the rules shortly afterwards.”
It’s that access to information that Derek still believes is critical to both buyers and sellers in today’s market.
“I see myself as an advisor providing a boutique experience supported by analytics,” Derek says. “Without the metrics we are just listening to the noise, and I’d be guessing rather than offering genuine value to my clients. When we are armed with the data, I can be direct on what I believe is the best action to take. The client is always the boss, and they’ll make the final decision, but they’ll do it knowing the facts. When they are well-informed, I can help them make decisions that align with their long-term goals.”
Transparency is another motivator for Derek and his approach to sales.
“I believe in showing my clients what’s going on behind the scenes. So I’ve built in technology, and a client-focussed dashboard that allows them to see everything from the showing feedback, to their probability of selling. Now they are armed with the same real time information.”
For Derek, the advantage of data-driven information is clear.
“If I can give my clients an advantage by equipping them with market insights, they can make more informed decisions, such as ‘do we stand firm on price or adjust?’ Derek says “I have seen individuals lose money by not acting on market trends or by being influenced by market noise.. Neglecting to align a property’s price with current market conditions can lead to missed opportunities for sellers, while buyers benefit from a more transparent understanding of pricing dynamics.”
As Derek’s’s business expanded, so did his ability to pinpoint actions that would allow him to grow.
“It’s so easy to get focussed on reactive tasks—your head is down and you’re just churning away. We fail to look up and embrace innovations. Now I pick the top two or three crucial tasks and execute on those. That helps me and my team stay in the mode of growing and learning.”
Derek finds this focus on change invigorating: “Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is probably the most important thing that I strive to do.”
That approach will stand him in good stead as he forecasts the real estate industry is about to go through a dramatic shift.
“I think the next big disruptor in our industry will be artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. The rapid pace of innovation in this field is spiralling and it’s hard to keep up. I’ve been doing a lot of research about the topic, and figuring out how this will impact the world of real estate.”
Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach, Derek is looking to identify areas of his business in which he can utilize AI to help his customers and his team get better results.
“I’m working with an AI specialist in the US to help build technology for real estate and find innovative ways to create smoother, more efficient and transparent real estate experiences.”
As a growing and ever-changing field, it’s hard to predict how AI might impact the industry, Derek says, but its influence continues to create ripples of change in the business world.
“My knowledge level has gone up exponentially and while not all of the areas we’re looking at might come to fruition, I’m invested in the process.”
Derek sees the technology as a way to supplement the personalized service he provides to his clients and he recognizes the stakes are high.
“For most people, their home is the most significant investment and they want to get the best value they can. If anything, the technology helps ensure we’re not relying on old ways of doing things with the chance of missing something. Everything we do is crafted and customized, and I think it’s because of these innovations that customers will have a better experience and their success will be amplified.”
After three decades in the industry and over $1 billion in sales, and being named one of Canada’s leading realtors, Derek’s enthusiasm for the business has not waned.
“I really like people and learning about their stories and I’m excited that my daughter, Kyra, has entered the business bringing fresh insights to an industry that is constantly changing. Being at the forefront of those changes is exciting and I feel more creative than ever. If we can help reshape the industry to create a better experience then I’ll feel like that’s the best measure of success.”