Business Women Who Lead

Cara Hirsch is Helping Torontonians Find Their Dream Home With Hirsch + Associates

Hirsch

In something of an inherited birth right Real Estate genius Cara Hirsch is making the Toronto housing market her playground. The daughter of a realtor herself, Hirsch has combined her father’s thirty plus years of experience with her own personal flair to found Hirsch + Associates, Toronto’s newest realty firm.

As an eager 10- year old Hirsch sealed her first deal, impressing prospective homeowners when she would accompany her father on the job.  

“I would be so excited about going to work with my dad, who has been a realtor in Winnipeg since I was born,” says Hirsch, “we closed quite a few deals together, as clients came in with a different perspective when greeted by an excited 10 year old at the door to take them on a tour.” 

With more experience under her belt at 10 than most will have at 25, Hirsch moved to Toronto at age 20 and was investing and buying homes by age 24. Now with 10 years of experience in the bank, Hirsch is at the helm of her own operation creating a housing market that values the buyer just as much as making the sale.

With a projected revenue value of 1 billion in the first year of operation, it is safe to say that Hirsch and her team are optimizing every opportunity, all while celebrating and amplifying the great attributes of Toronto . 

For this week’s Women Who Lead feature, we chatted with Cara Hirsch about her early introduction into real estate, what the key points of a great investment are and what young  prospective homeowners should do when looking to buy. 

You began investing and buying homes at 24. For 24 year olds today, home ownership can feel far off. What advice would you give young Torontonians who are looking to be home owners?

At that time, homeownership also felt very far off. I remember thinking, “Is this the right decision? Will the value of the property appreciate? What if prices don’t increase?” Looking back now, although all my fears were understandable, taking that leap of faith was the best decision I ever made. It has allowed me to grow my portfolio and has given me the confidence to invest again. Despite my apprehension, the market has consistently appreciated. 

I won’t sugar coat it — your first home purchase is always scary, whether you are buying it for personal use or as an investment. It truly is the toughest one. However, my advice is to be creative and think outside the box. Don’t be ashamed if you have to borrow money (whether from family or the bank) in order to get there. Educate yourself on the market and know what you are looking for. If you make an informed decision, you cannot go wrong. I have never looked back.

You left your job of almost 10 years to found Hirsch + Associates. What motivated you to brand out on your own? 

I learned so much in those 10 amazing years at my previous company. I am incredibly grateful for the time I spent there as I wouldn’t be where I am now without that experience. I was motivated to branch out on my own because I wanted more growth – both professionally and personally. I wanted to face new challenges and I wasn’t getting this working for someone else. I felt compelled to take a leap of faith with hopes to make an additional mark on the real estate world, but this time, on my own.

Pivoting in your career is a difficult thing to do. How was the shift from associate to boss and how has your 10 years in the game helped you navigate your role as a business owner now?  

I have worked in management since I was a teenager working in hospitality. When I was an associate, I honed the leadership skills I learned there and refined them to suit the real estate industry and to better work with my team. This was the easiest part of pivoting in my career. However, being a business owner is a whole different thing. I had to learn more about running the back end of the business. I am a people person, I enjoy being at the forefront of the company and interacting with my colleagues and clients, but that’s only half the battle. 

The back end of a company is equally as important and if you don’t have proper systems and procedures in place, it’s nearly impossible for the company to function. Our Chief Operating Officer, Mia Ladha, has been a huge blessing for Hirsch + Associates. We are two peas in a pod! Her strength is running logistics and operations, which allows me to focus on what I am best at. We have done so much together in the last six months and it’s only the beginning. Being a young entrepreneur, I learned very quickly that you cannot do everything alone. Find the right people to work with you and your business will flourish.

HirschWhat can clients expect from Hirsch + Associates that they would not get elsewhere? How have you built your company to disrupt the Toronto market? 

Clients can expect to hire a team that is passionate about what they do, hard-working, and motivated, while always looking out for the best interest of our clients and purchasers. My team members and I all value our integrity and it’s a big part of our company’s core values. We treat every project like it is our own. We provide a level of service to our clients, purchasers, and community that is second to none. Teamwork is also a very big element in our company’s core values. We believe in working together and with each other. This ultimately drives better results, helps with problem-solving and creates a very healthy work environment. 

It’s been just over a year for you and Hirsch + Associates, where would you like to see it in 5 years and how will you measure success? 

In our first year, we launched 1,000 units with total project revenue just shy of 1 billion dollars. Needless to say, it was a very busy year! We have taken this time during COVID-19 to focus on our company and setting ourselves up for growth. Our goal in the next 5 years is to continue to grow our portfolio with clients who have similar company values. We are working on quite a few things that we hope to launch in the next few years that we feel will revolutionize the real estate industry in Toronto. We strive to be innovators, coming up with different ideas to sell and promote our projects. We also have it in our plans to expand our practice outside the Canadian market. 

What are some common mistakes real estate investors make?

I think the biggest mistake investors make is that they’re always waiting for a better time to buy. If you look at the trajectory of our market, prices of homes both in the downtown core and the greater Toronto area have been steadily increasing over the last decade. I think the best time to buy is now. That being said, another common mistake I notice is that people overextend themselves, they buy things they really cannot afford. Your purchase always needs to make sense for your budget. It’s like the saying, “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” 

As an investor, it’s important to do your due diligence and research. If you’re buying a condo or home to rent out, I always look for things like proximity to transit, highways, and local conveniences. Then, of course, I look at the location – Is it up and coming? Established? Sought-after? One thing I don’t do — and encourage others not to do — is get too emotionally invested. If you are buying for investment, remember that you are not personally living there. It doesn’t have to look or feel like your dream home, but it needs to make sense financially. 

Lastly, I always remind my clients, colleagues, and friends that real estate investment is a long term game. Some of the most wealthy investors have had their properties for decades. You can make money in the short term, but you can make even more in the long term.

For Women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) finding housing can be very difficult and laden with biases. How does Hirsch + Associates work to help these communities? 

We have a very diverse team at Hirsch + Associates, which allows us to connect with our purchasers and broker community on a more personal level. When we’re launching a project and are in sales phases, we truly get to see just how multicultural our city is. At the outset, we ensure that brokers are able to connect with their respective communities and clients so that finding housing can be a seamless experience. Collectively, our team is focused on making sure every individual that walks through the doors of our sales centres are treated with respect. We always do our best to help those who are looking to purchase, no matter what their circumstances are. 

The world is still reeling from the outbreak of coronavirus. How has this impacted your work and what has the company been doing in support of the community?

It’s forced us to think outside the box in how we do business. Traditionally, selling and buying real estate is done in-person. However, with physical distancing measures in place, we have really come together as a team to brainstorm on how we can evolve our business. Most importantly, the pandemic has caused us to reflect inwards and find ways to use our platform to support our community.  From donations to Hand Up Toronto (An organization feeding families across the GTA), to purchasing merchandise from See you Soon Toronto (An organization feeding front line workers), to partnering with Altree Developments and Harlem Building Group to purchase PPE equipment that was donated to Scarborough General Hospital. We have continuously focused on drawing attention to various charities and local businesses on our social channels, and hosted virtual gatherings to bring us together (We did a wine tasting night and Live music entertainment night supporting local businesses we knew were impacted from COVID-19). 

What advice would you give other women looking to get into the housing industry? 

My advice would be to just do it!! It’s an industry that constantly keeps you on your toes, challenges you, and forces you to grow and learn. If you’re someone that is a self-starter, passionate about home buying, and interested in the housing market, it is very rewarding. The relationships you make along the way and the people you meet make every moment worth it. I am here to support anyone who is thinking about getting into this industry, whether for a career or to purchase.