Awesomeness is… Near the Arctic Circle

Della Fraser, sales associate and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Northern Bestsellers in Yellowknife has helped lead her company to become the number one Coldwell Banker office in North America in both GCI and unit sales in its office size category. This achievement may seem surprising, given her location in Canada’s Northwest Territories, just 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Della’s amazing work ethic, teamed with Coldwell Banker resources, have created an awesome success story in a unique market.

‘I feel very blessed to live here in Yellowknife,’ says Della Fraser, ‘I’ve been here for over 30 years, first coming to the Territories as a nurse, and then moved into real estate.  After some time as an entrepreneur, I returned to my real estate roots.  I have close to twelve years total experience, all of it here in Yellowknife.  It’s a unique market, and our company is the market leader.’

Averaging more than 3 sales a week is an enviable track record, but even more so in a market with only 20,000 people and less than 10,000 houses.  Fraser, who has ranked as one of Coldwell Banker Canada’s leading sales representatives over the past five years, explains that Yellowknife’s sales activity comes from current residents moving within the market, and also a high number of new people coming in.  Newcomers are attracted by higher wages and transferees include the Canadian Forces military base, protecting Canada’s northern sovereignty across four million square kilometers, the RCMP, and the mining sector.  As the capital city of the Territories, Yellowknife houses both territorial and municipal government.  Founded as a gold mining town in the 1930’s, Yellowknife is experiencing a resurgence today following the discovery of diamonds north of the city.

‘Average earnings at the new diamond mine are over $100K.  The mines have put $12 Billion into the economy since 1996, and represent about 15% of our GDP,’ explains Della.  ‘When there’s so much government and wages are high, it creates a very stable economy, so the housing market here is very stable too.  We’ve never seen a big city downturn here, it’s like living in a protected area.’

In addition to a booming economy, there are other factors that can make home buying in one of Coldwell Banker’s northernmost locations an expensive proposition.  A short building season, expensive construction costs with building materials shipped over long distances, and limited availability of developable land, all combine to drive housing prices up in this high demand market.

‘There is definitely some ‘sticker shock’ for people coming here for the first time,’ confirms Fraser. ‘They’re often not prepared for the fact that a mobile home here can cost more than a condo in Toronto.’  

Despite what for some are surprisingly high prices, demand for homes remains brisk.  “We have a very low vacancy on rentals.  High demand combined with high wages results in high rents,” confirms Della.  In fact, Canada’s housing authority reports that Yellowknife tenants pay the highest rent in the country.

“Home ownership gives people the choice of what they want to do in their residence,” Fraser continues.  “With our challenging climate, modular housing is very popular, since construction is completed in a relatively short period of time.   Condos are especially popular with people just coming into the market who want to focus on their jobs, working long hours.”  

Marketing pre-fab housing is one of the secrets of the company’s success.  Coldwell Banker Northern Bestsellers has sold 1,000 units with one modular home developer they’ve been working with for the past 25 years.

“Another very successful project was a combination of 200 condos and townhomes that was completed in two phases over 3 years. Pre-sale projects of this scale were completely new to Yellowknife,” says Fraser, “You have to be willing to put in the time to look for new opportunity and that was how this came about.  I was looking at city postings, and saw it first when it was announced that these developers were coming into the city from BC.  We were first in, and won an exclusive that lasted for some years.”   

When blazing trails in new real estate territory, advance preparation is critical to success.  “As a Coldwell Banker company, we had a reputation to protect, and we did our due diligence,” confirms Della.  “It takes a lot of funding to do this kind of project, so we first needed to confirm the developer was well funded.  Pre-sale projects were completely new to Yellowknife.  Nobody had ever done anything like this before.  I talked to about 500 people to sell out phase one and advised the developer on pricing, based on where the market was expected to be into the next few years.  By the time the development launched, we had all our prospective buyers pre-qualified, and we sold out phase one in two days.”

Selling multi-family, pre-sale units requires a big commitment in terms of both time and resources, but the results justified the effort and earned even greater rewards.  The company’s next project with that developer was also an exclusive, and was even bigger than the first.  But Fraser was not content to just ride that wave of success.  “You need to always be looking down the road, and ask yourself ‘How am I going to replace the business I have now?’”

The solution was to leverage the company’s successful track record to begin working with other developers.  “When they saw the success we had achieved, it opened their eyes and brought local developers into the market,” confirms Della.  “This new business is coming to the forefront now.  We’re working with another 126 unit development that is exclusive to Coldwell Banker.”

As a brokerage owner along with partner Rod Stirling, Fraser knows it takes commitment and organization to develop future opportunities while managing the demands of day-to-day business.  “Dozens of people contact us about their real estate needs every day,” confirms Fraser.  “We have to deal with their questions while still looking for new opportunities.”  The solution was for Della to focus on getting a major developer’s project up and running, and then hand off the lead to another of her company’s realtors.  This move allowed Fraser to successfully develop new business.

Della’s entrepreneurial background includes experience in Marketing, and she heads that role for her company, utilizing innovative Coldwell Banker creative.  “We’re always looking for new ways to boost our company’s profile, so we love the Awesomeness campaign,” she confirms.  “Our new website will feature ‘This is Yellowknife.  This is where Awesomeness Happens.’ on our main page.’  

When asked what keeps her going with an incredibly busy schedule, the answer came quickly.  “I really, really, enjoy what I do,” confirms Della.  “Helping people, making them happy… When you enjoy what you do, it’s not work.”

(Note: 2017 Award standings, based on production to December 31, 2016.)