How Forest Hill Real Estate’s focus on family is turning a local reputation into a regional brand

In 1985, when Ronni Fingold launched Forest Hill Real Estate in a tiny 450 square foot space in the heart of Toronto’s Forest Hill Village, she had no idea that her vision of a boutique luxury family run brokerage would quickly become a formidable force in the area’s real estate market and beyond.  Today, with 31 offices established across southern Ontario, the idea of family is still one of the key driving forces behind the day to day business and ongoing expansion of the company.

“Forest Hill was born around a kitchen table in my home,” Ronni says. “Surrounded by family and loved ones, we imagined a brokerage that would offer greater sophistication and service while always offering the personal touch

Ronni maintains that real estate is most often about family, and that it’s a sacred trust to help families find the right home while passing their well-loved property on to new owners.

“The business is also a family,” says Ronni. “It’s a place where friends and associates can work in a supportive nurturing atmosphere to achieve prosperity and success.” In addition, Ronni’s children and grandchildren have also built their own careers around Forest Hill Real Estate. They recognize the unique and thriving atmosphere that their grandmother has developed and take pride in contributing to this legacy.

In fact, Ronni’s daughter, Catherine Himelfarb Borden, is the Branch Manager of the Yorkville office. Catherine’s son, Rich Himelfarb is a successful realtor and her daughter, Rebecca, serves as both the corporate Head of Recruitment and the Director of Operations for Forest Hill Real Estate Yorkville.

Early on, Ronni welcomed partners, David and Elie Wagman, who were integral to taking the company to an even greater heights. As experts in the Forest Hill marketplace, they understood real estate and the clientele in the area intuitively. Today, they are still a dynamic force and their son, Jeffrey Wagman is the Broker of Record for the entire company continuing the tradition of engaging the strength and talent of family members in expanding the business further.

Forest Hill’s offices stretch from Oakville to Muskoka and smaller centres including Peterborough and Gilmour to the east. Each office is looking to hire new, qualified agents at the same time as the company is open to establishing new branches. But the expansion has never been driven by growth for growth’s sake.

“Unlike many brokerages, we award new offices according to an attractive well thought-out business plan,” says David Fingold, Ronni’s husband and the company’s president. “Our focus is on attracting people who have demonstrated success in the business and are qualified to run their own shop. We look at sales history, new office location, the knowledge and integrity of the agents associated with the business and the applicant’s trajectory for growth. You don’t purchase a Forest Hill office—you’re asked to join us by demonstrating merit.”

There are a multitude of benefits that come from establishing a Forest Hill Real Estate branch that David reviews with all aspiring Managing Partners.

Ronni Fingold notes that the made-in-Toronto Forest Hill brand has developed solid traction outside the city. “The words ‘Forest Hill’ are associated with quality wherever they’re used,” she says. “Our distinctive brand emblem and signage announce our presence in every market we enter.”

“We’re seeing a lot of new offices established by motivated and qualified brokers,” she says. “But we’re particularly proud when someone decides to switch an existing brokerage to the Forest Hill name. They’re trading their success for the promise of greater success.”

Randy Drohan of the Mississauga suburb of Streetsville exemplifies that transition. His family has planted deep roots in the area. Following a successful real estate career, he launched Drohan Real Estate in 2014—along with the support of his mother’s accounting acumen.

But Drohan didn’t want to relinquish control of the business he’d founded. At the same time, he realized that a successful real estate brokerage needs to do more than simply buy and sell real estate. It also needs to grow its brand.

“In Streetsville, Forest Hill was already a well-known brand, synonymous with luxury and prestige. In our discussions, Forest Hill offered me what I needed to grow the brand without asking me to give up the company.”

Drohan unfurled the Forest Hill banner in January 2018. A dozen employees, including seven agents, made the transition.

“Six months later we’ve doubled the size of the company to 24 employees,” he says. “The Forest Hill name has made it significantly easier for us to attract and hire the type of quality agents we need to achieve sustainable growth..”

Drohan says he is proud to have the Forest Hill name on the sign over his brokerage door.  “Our family has now become part of Forest Hill’s family.”

Forest Hill Real Estate is now the fastest growing luxury brand in the country with more than 900 active agents across Ontario and plenty of room to grow within the province. Ronni, her partners, her own family and her business family have developed a unique formula for marketing, promoting and selling real estate in Ontario’s exciting housing market and for this privilege, they are extremely grateful and proud.

 

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Forest Hill Real Estate

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