9 Neil Shopsowitz

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Dominion Lending Centres Commercial Capital

Carve out a niche

Years as a commercial broker: 9 
Loans closed in 2014: 33
Location: Vancouver

CMP: How did you get into the commercial space?

When I started out about 10 years ago, I was trying to do both residential and commercial. It’s very hard to differentiate yourself in residential, because everybody can get basically the same rates. There are a lot of people out there chasing the business, and if you’re not really well- networked, it’s hard. But commercial – there weren’t a lot of people in that space. There still really aren’t. And there aren’t a lot of people who are competent at it. So I think it’s easier to differentiate yourself and carve out a niche. I also have the advantage of having a business background. I started out life as a commercial and real estate lawyer, so I understand how to put deals together. That was a big advantage in getting into the commercial area.

CMP: How do you bring in new business?

It’s just really networking without being offensive. You want to make sure people know what you do, but you don’t want to be so aggressive that people cross the street when they see you. And then it’s just constantly networking, staying in touch with people you’ve done work for and following up with your referral base. If you get lazy, business dries up.

CMP: Is the commercial mortgage space a good fit for any broker?

I think it’s hard. You’ve got to really know your stuff. Similar to residential, the deals don’t close themselves. Getting a commitment from a lender is only half the work. You’ve got to really stay on top of things to make sure the deals close, and you’ve got to be organized – really well-organized.

CMP: As a commercial broker, how do you make yourself attractive to clients?

A lot of clients have the ability to go out and get loans on their own. What you can do as a commercial broker to really make the client’s life better and easier is maximize the loan amounts. We can certainly help them get the best rates, the best terms. We can make sure they get the money when they need it and offload the pressure of having to deal with lenders. 

Certain deals are hard to do, but we know where to go, whereas the clients may not. A lot of it is helping to match up the right deal and the right lender for the clients.

CMP: What’s the secret to building a successful business?

Everything’s referrals. First of all, I’m very fortunate to have ended up with David Beckingham. He’s a pretty confident, experi-enced guy, so learning from him – learning how to package deals properly – was very helpful. If you don’t put the stuff together properly, you’re not getting anywhere with the lenders. 

And you need to network and constantly work on your referral base. Within the Dominion Lending Centres group, there aren’t a lot of commercial offices. But once we moved over to Dominion, they were really supportive in helping us establish ourselves as a commercial office – and a resource to all the residential brokers in the network.

CMP: What trends have you noticed in the commercial space this year?

Certain markets are challenging right now. Lenders are cautious in markets like Alberta. But the other side of it is that we’re still in a really low-interest-rate environment. People want to do stuff while we’re in this environment. They want to buy things; they want to get those rates and lock them in for as long as they can.

CMP: What’s the most important thing a commercial broker can do to grow business?

Get good results for your existing clients. Because again, everything is referrals and repeat business.
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