Ryan Kubeska shares his experience on rising to the top of Vancouver’s real estate industry
“You can’t let things that have happened in the past affect your future,” Ryan Kubeska tells me. “All the negative things you’ve thought in your head, those are all interpretations. They are pre-conceived notions. You have to learn how to eliminate them so that all options are always open.”
As he sits across from me at a busy downtown coffee shop, his eyes look deeply into mine. Every word the 27-year-old realtor says is deliberate and sincere. He’s telling me about some of the things he’s done to achieve success in his career and life. And if anyone is qualified to offer this type of advice, it’s Ryan. During the past seven years he’s shot up the ranks in Vancouver’s challenging real estate industry to become one of the most successful agents under the age of 30 in the city. But his stellar real estate career developed from very humble beginnings.
“When my parents split up at the age of 16, they had to sell the family house. So they hired a realtor,” recalls Ryan. “And so at that point I knew I wanted to be a realtor…and I know that’s really unusual for a 16-year-old kid. But I was fascinated by the process. From that day, I knew that real estate was in my blood.”
“What fascinated me most was the entrepreneurial aspect. Back then, even though there was internet, people still searched for homes in the newspaper. Every Wednesday, there was something called Real Estate weekly that was dropped off at all the homes in Greater Vancouver and I would religiously read through every page and dream about having my own page. So that was the beginning of my passion towards real estate.”
Ryan grew up in South Delta, just outside of Vancouver. At his high school, there was a requirement for all students to complete 200 hours of unpaid work experience. Knowing that he wanted to pursue real estate, he worked under the guidance of successful local realtor Teri Steele, becoming her right-hand man during that period. He helped her host open houses, as well as assisting with her marketing and website.
“That was my first exposure to working in the real estate world. I thought – this was for me. I was so excited.”
Post-high school years
But after graduating from high school, Ryan wasn’t able to jump into a real estate career right away. “I didn’t have the funds to get started,” says Ryan, “I would say you need about $30,000-$40,000 saved up to get into the business because you have to be able to sustain yourself for at least a year. Because you’re probably not going to make your first sale for 6-8 months. Plus you have the cost of getting licensed.”
Instead, Ryan took courses in the Marketing Management program at Kwantlen University while working full-time at Starbucks, where he quickly rose up the ranks from working as a barista to store manager. By the age of 19, Ryan had rented his first apartment in North Vancouver. His most recent title was “Manager Coach Mentor” where he was required to train externally-hired Starbucks store managers. He often had to travel to places like Whistler, Squamish and the Sunshine Coast for work and eventually the stress level became too much to handle. Ryan realized he wasn't on a path meant for him. He knew that real estate was his dream, and he finally admitted to himself that he needed to ask for help.
Ryan talked to his dad, who agreed to help finance him through his real estate licensing. Ryan also started serving at Cactus Club on Broadway and Granville to support himself and pay for his eventual real estate brokerage fees at RE/MAX.
“You have to pay a considerable fee every month to be with a real estate brokerage,” explains Ryan. “They don’t pay you. So the cheapest plan you can get is around $700 a month just to be at that company. And if you don’t sell anything not only do you get zero commission, but your credit card still gets charged $700 a month because that’s how they make their money. The reality of the business is brokerages don’t really care if you sell 0 or 50 homes per year. They still get their fee.”
“When you’re doing really well, $700 a month is a drop in the bucket. But when you’re starting out that’s a lot of money. And that doesn’t include your advertising, your printing, your insurance, etc.”
Fortunately for Ryan, it wasn’t long before he made his first real estate sale. “I made my first sale in my third month which is a little bit unusual because it takes most people a lot longer,” he recalls. “It was luck. I was on Grindr. And some guy was like, ‘Oh you’re cute. I’ll buy a place from you.’ He actually did and that was my first sale.”
Seeing my shocked expression, Ryan quickly adds, “I don’t do that now” and continued to laugh.
Ryan went on to sell 24 homes in his first year with RE/MAX and was consequently awarded the RE/MAX “Rookie of the Year” award. That year, he was also welcomed into the prestigious “MLS Medallion Club” which represents the top 10% of agents in sales.
RE/MAX career and partnership
Shortly after making his first sale, Ryan crossed paths with experienced realtor, Adriaan Schipper, at the RE/MAX office. “Adriaan was always super busy. He would have 5-15 listings at any given time, and he worked by himself. One day in the lunchroom he saw me and he’s said ‘Hey, you’re new here right? Do you want to do an open house for me?’”
“In our business that’s normal in the sense you can do open houses for other realtors, and while you don’t get paid for them, they’re good opportunities for you. For example, if someone walks into an open house and they don’t have a realtor, you can pick them up as a client. So it’s a great way for new agents to get new leads and generate business.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ryan hosted an open house for Adriaan and was fortunate enough to score big. “These two gay guys walked in and said ‘We want to buy this’. And they didn’t have a realtor. I wrote it up and made a sale.”
Seeing Ryan’s talent and potential, Adriaan asked Ryan to take care of his business while he went on vacation with his husband for ten days. Ryan hit it off when Adriaan’s clients, who enjoyed working with him. When Adriaan returned, he proposed that he and Ryan do a three month trial business partnership. Six years later, they’re still together.
The arrangement works out well for both realtors. They have complete access to each other’s emails and client files, so they can cover for each other whenever necessary. This comes in handy especially during the summer months, when usually only one of them is in town at a time.
About 95 percent of the properties Ryan sells are condos. And even though he often focuses on selling within the downtown area, especially Yaletown, it’s all dependent on the client. “If I have a client who is motivated and has good communications skills, I’m willing to go further to do business with them, whether it’s in East Vancouver, Burnaby, North Vancouver, Surrey, Ladner. The list goes on.”
What keeps Ryan motivated? “For work, I’m motivated by the fact that I have really high expenses. In addition to my brokerage fees I also do a lot of direct mail marketing which I spend $2000/month on,” he says.
“And also, the franchise of RE/MAX sends a daily email out to everyone at the office. It will say who has sold what property that day and the sale price. So every agent in the office knows how much money everyone is making. If my name isn’t mentioned in that email often, I get a little bit insecure. Because everyone talks. So there’s a sense of urgency that’s been instilled within the corporation. So I would say being competitive also motivates me at work.”
“As for what keeps me motivated in life, I would say travel. That’s one of my biggest passions. So in order to travel I need to make enough money in order to justify it. LA is my favourite place to travel to. I had always dreamed of going to Barcelona – and I finally did that this summer. And my friends mean the world to me. I’m motivated by having a great time with friends.”
Overcoming inner challenges
While Ryan has come a long way from his early days in South Delta, he’s still questioned his life in Vancouver in recent years. “There was a period in my life from 2013-2015, where my goal was to get out of Vancouver, but I didn’t tell anyone,” he admits. “I thought the grass was greener on the other side. I thought I would make more money, or be happier or have a hotter boyfriend in LA. Because I travelled to LA and had seen all the glitz and the glam.”
“It wasn’t until two of my good friends from Vancouver moved to LA, and I saw where their lives were at, that I finally realized something. When things are not going well in your life, changing the setting isn’t going to fix the problem. You need to fix the problem. Whatever that is in your life.”
Thinking of an example, he says, “Let’s say you can’t find a boyfriend. It’s not the setting. It’s not any quality of Vancouver. It’s because you have your own interior issues that you need to fix. And so, it took me a long time to realize that Vancouver has a lot to offer and its home for me. And I’m lucky enough that if I work hard, I can travel and still come back to Vancouver. I don’t want to give up what I have. I worked hard to get to where I am. And not to mention my family and friends are here. So that’s the reason why I stay in Vancouver.”
And while Ryan describes himself as materialistic, he’s humble when it comes to his involvement and passion towards helping those in need. Each year, he holds a Pride fundraiser party. In 2017, his annual event raised over $5,000 for Rainbow Railroad, an organization that provides support for the LGBTQ community in Chechnya.
As for future goals, Ryan has set a couple of very clear goals within a short timeframe. “In the next year, I want to buy a dilapidated condo and flip it. Do a renovation project. And I want to go to Brazil for New Years. That’s my travel goal.”
And if anyone knows how achieve their goals, its Ryan Kubeska.
For more information on Ryan's services, visit Adriaan and Ryan's website.