Claudine Montano is fluent in three languages: English, French and Business. In her third language, especially, Claudine the Penthouse Queen, is as memorable as her brand.
Even among the top 1% of real estate brokers in Canada, Claudine stands out as the specialist in Toronto’s penthouses and luxury real estate market.
“At the beginning of my career I used to work in pre-sales for developers and I knew there was a market for this. People would come in and immediately say, ‘I want your penthouse or your largest floor plan.’ The largest floor plan is either a penthouse, or a town house, and the penthouses have the best views, so why wouldn’t you take that over any other piece of property? Penthouses really are the crown jewels of any building.”
Penthouses have the WOW factor Claudine’s clients are looking for.
“For our clients, it’s not about the money, it’s about what tickles them,” Claudine says. “’What tickles you?’ is the question I am always asking my clients.”
Across the board, the answer to the tickle question is completely unique to each personality.
“The tickle is about where clients are in their lives,” says Claudine. For some people, it’s an eternal view reaching across the city or the lake, for some it’s needing to have a hot tub on the terrace, some people just want to be in the financial district while another client doesn’t care about anything else as long as he has 6 parking spots!”
Understanding “the tickle” though, is essential to understanding the market.
“The only market segment projected to go up significantly in the GTA over the next year is condo sales,” Claudine says. “Penthouses are the penultimate of that condo market in the downtown core. When you get into the $1.5 to $2 million price point, it’s not about the money. It’s about the tickle. The latest mortgage regulation news doesn’t faze these clients. Condo sales will continue to go up and the market is not soft in downtown Toronto.”
Tickles aside, Claudine does not slouch on numbers.
“Facts and stats don’t lie, you can’t make them up,” Claudine says. “For each area of the city, we calculate the price per foot and the year-over-year changes. From there, my clients can predict the ROI, if their investment is all about the numbers. Downsizing from a big home in Forest Hill to a downtown penthouse, then the numbers matter less. Those clients are looking for a forever home and they just want the property. Every presentation we prepare, though, needs to express what the client is getting into. The nice thing is that the people I deal with know exactly what they want.”
Finding clients exactly what they want, among a population where privacy and discretion are of the highest value, can depend on Claudine’s access to a “secret inventory” of properties.
“I have a list of properties not on MLS that I can sell privately, but that availability comes in waves with seasonal changes,” Claudine says. “Some people don’t want to be on MLS because it does show your property all over the internet. I am also sure to attend all the builder functions and to maintain close relationships with developers because they know I have dedicated platform for selling their penthouse properties. Secret inventory exists in all industries, but in real estate access is all about on-going relationships based on the trust and confidence we’ve built.”
Claudine’s market analysis is based on a combination of experience and education that reaches back to her early life. Both of her parents were real estate brokers and Claudine worked as a receptionist in her parents’ brokerage from the age of 13. Part of the desire to specialize came, in part, to differentiate herself from her parents. The first part of that differentiation? Moving from the suburbs, where she grew up, into the city.
“Toronto is young, it’s hip and it’s vibrant,” Claudine says. “My husband and I love this city and our clients. Our office has 40 % market share in the city we live in. We like doing deals, we love doing a good job and being recognized for that. Really, what better career can you have than to build those kinds of relationships in your own city? If I’m up in the middle of the night, I am on MLS, to see just what beautiful property can we look at now.”
That constant awareness of what is happening comes from hard lessons learned early on.
“When I was a rookie agent, I was losing listings and clients to other more-established agents. Being competitive, having played varsity sports, I hate losing. One of my mentors at that time, said then I should do something about it. They told me to put as many letters behind my name as I could, so for a good two years that is all I did.”
As a result, Claudine is now a Certified International Property Specialist, a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, an Accredited Buyer Representative and Senior Residential Estate Specialist. Claudine is certified by the Canadian School of Fengshui, is New Home Sales Certified and holds a certificate from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in TV hosting. She is also a member of the Million Dollar Guild.
Toronto is also one of the most multicultural cities in the world, a quality Claudine fully embraces in her love for the city and in her business.
“Being aware of competitive city markets and knowing where we stand in relation to New York, Miami, London and Hong Kong is essential,” she says. “Potential clients call me from Russia and Japan and Singapore and everywhere! We have completely open arms about expanding the business to accommodate everyone.”
Learning about the practices of other cultures has benefited Claudine both professionally and personally.
“Gaining the certification in Fengshui has been incredibly helpful,” Claudine says. “We have such a huge Asian population in Toronto, so I know when we are staging that the property has to enable the most balanced flow of energy. It’s become instinctive to me now. I’ve Fengshui’d my whole house. On every issue, we’ve gone through extensive training. There are different challenges with all of the different segments of this market and we’ve taken the time to invest in this.”
Even with a plethora of certifications committed, Claudine remains committed to lifelong learning.
“I never assume I know everything, she says. “It’s impossible when this business is changing every single day. My mother is still licensed after 37 years in the business and still puts together deals. Even she says, ‘never assume you know everything.’”
The constant desire for information and knowledge about Toronto’s luxury real estate is central to the Penthouse Queen’s success.
“We are driven to stay on top of what is constantly changing in this market, from month-to-month, week-to-week, and day-to-day,” Claudine says. “In this city, the average agent does 4 or 5 deals a year and that is not indicative of staying on top of things.”
In contrast to “the average agent,” Claudine the Penthouse Queen, and the Montano Group team with Claudine at the helm, is ranked at the Chairman Level each year. That means they earn at least between $500,000-$750,000 in gross commissions. So far in her career, Claudine has personally transacted more than ¾ of a billion dollars in real estate.
A remarkable achievement for someone who just turned 40.
No wonder Claudine the Penthouse Queen focuses on the crown jewels of Toronto’s real estate.
Kate Baggott's technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review at MIT, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun, and on the Business to Business News Network
Kate is the author of two short story collections and twenty years of professional writing and publishing.
RE/MAX HALLMARKMONTANO GROUP
Re/Max Hallmark Montano Group Realty
785 Queen St East #201
Toronto, ON M4M 1H5