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This broker went from selling $200,000 handbags to the most sought-after real estate

From left to right, Karyn Filiatrault and Oral Karol of PSR Brokerage, Samantha Barone of the Lang Team. 

From left to right, Karyn Filiatrault and Oral Karol of PSR Brokerage, Samantha Barone of the Lang Team. 

Toronto real estate agent Oral Karol can recall the moment it became clear his talents in the realm of selling luxury retail could perhaps crossover to trading property in the city’s now-sizzling housing market.

“It was late January 2008—while I was with Hermès. The international economic climate was uncertain. I’d met a client that ultimately became one of the best the boutique had. The highlight of this relationship was the client's purchase of North America’s first Crocodile Birkin handbag, with 18-carat white gold and full cut diamond-encrusted hardware. Those aware of this iconic bag will know it was equivalent in price to many condos of the era. Once my close friend—PSR President and Broker of Record, Eric Kuzuian—heard about this, he encouraged me to consider a change of careers.”

“In his words, ‘If you can sell a $180,000 handbag, you can easily sell a $300,000 home.’”

Now a multi-award winning realtor, Karol identifies a direct correlation between the expertise he developed in his thirteen-year stint in the high-end goods sector with the abilities he’s constantly refining as a Toronto real estate sales representative.

“The fundamentals are quite similar,” according to Karol. “In fact, one of the keys to my relatively quick success in real estate has been the work ethic cultivated in retail. You learn to do what it takes to get things done, like working long hours on any day of the week. And the most obvious transferable skills come to building clientele. People like to work with those they feel comfortable with. Those who show them that their business is valuable and appreciated. So, whether you're selling software, handbags or houses, your longevity in sales is a reflection of the relationships you nurture and maintain, paired with the value of the services you provide.”

That’s not to strictly suggest however that a background in sales is the exclusive prerequisite to prosperity as a real estate professional. Today’s practitioners come from all walks of life and prior occupations. Take Karyn Filiatraut. Like Karol, she too is a recognized Toronto agent—although Filiatraut also moonlights as the resident ‘real estate expert’ on CTV’s The Social.

Previously, Filiatraut was a documentary television producer who spent almost a decade in the field. She started at Discovery Channel Canada on shows such as Daily Planet, Forensic Factor and Mega World, then moved over to independent companies, where she was involved in the likes of William Shatner’s Weird or What?, Inventions That Shook The World and many more. It was in TV that Filiatraut honed her negotiating prowess.

“I remember being the head researcher and assistant producer on a huge special featuring the five-year anniversary of September 11th. We needed to put together an exclusive that no other network could get, which was full access to the NYPD counter-terrorism unit. Through relationship and trust building, plus a supreme sell of Discovery’s Canadian chapter, I was able to secure the only international media coverage for them other than 60 Minutes. Getting that contract was like landing the winning offer amid a hundred other bids.”

Divergent as their respective journeys may have been, both Karol and Filiatraut’s roads led to Toronto’s PSR Brokerage. Progressive and modern, PSR has earned its reputation as a leading boutique real estate brokerage and dominant industry force—one of the few that trades within both the resale and pre-construction condominium markets.

For Karol, the choice of joining PSR in 2010 was a no-brainer. “It was a new brokerage growing each day with young and driven agents. It was also located in the heart of the up-and-coming, vibrant eighbourhood of King West, where my wife and I had just recently moved.” In addition, the aforementioned Kuzuian had been the one to initially encourage Karol to make the shift into real estate years earlier.

“Eric had described the brokerage culture at PSR and the types of realtors there that made up such an ambitious and entrepreneurial work environment. So the big draw for me was that I felt my personality and goals for my business aligned with the type of progressive organizational culture he was cultivating.”

In Filiatraut’s case, she’d met fellow agent and PSR partner, Corrie Hain, at a charitable event in 2016. “We hit it off and I was drawn to her as a mentor. She invited me into the office to speak with Eric and as clichéd as it sounds, the energy just clicked. I could tell it was the right fit for me.”

The meeting also dispelled a few of her earlier preconceptions about the brokerage. “Let’s just say PSR has some photogenic agents,” she laughs. “Obviously I wondered whether all these attractive people could actually sell or if it was all just a front. It’s not. The beauty at PSR not only comes from within, but these are some seriously smart professionals. My business began to soar as soon as I made the move over.”

PSR keeps an edge on the competition by encouraging its sales representatives to carve their niche in an oversaturated and traditionally old school racket. Individuality, personality and a forward-thinking mentality are all criteria that make up the PSR mould, where agents are emboldened to draw on their unique backgrounds and shape their personal brands—whether just starting out in the business or maintaining an established, senior presence.

“s is anything new in life, becoming a real estate agent—at PSR, no less—is full of excitement, enthusiasm and learning,” reflects Karol. “But the greatest part about doing what you truly love is that no matter how advanced you get, every year feels like your first.”