by Chris Tiessen

I once asked a real estate broker friend of mine to describe a typical relationship between brokers. He began with a question: ‘Do you remember Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog?’, he asked, alluding to the animated cartoon characters in the Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes series from the ‘50s and ‘60s. ‘Those animated shorts describe brokers’ relationships precisely. We punch in our time cards each morning and then proceed to attempt to beat up on each others’ business all day long. And when the day’s done,’ he continued, ‘we punch out and go our separate ways ‘til the next morning when we do it all over again.’

It can be a cutthroat business for sure – running a real estate brokerage. And not one in which, over time, you can expect to make many close broker friends. And yet there are those few who manage to remain not only respected but also well liked by colleagues and competitors alike – even after many successes in the business. Karen Kessel, the founder and Broker of Record at Planet Realty Brokerage Inc, is one such individual. Over coffee at Robusta Café and Lounge (located on the ground floor of the River House luxury condo tower in downtown Guelph), our conversation casts light on why this is so.


‘Over the past several years,’ notes Karen, ‘our team has built the brokerage by focusing on relationship building and collaboration. With only myself, Matthew [LaFontaine] and Tyson [Hinschberger] working on the front lines with developer stakeholders and clients, our reputation and results are paramount.’ She takes a sip and says with a grin: ‘I think we’re doing a pretty good job.’

Pretty good might be a pretty substantial understatement. Consider this: since its inception seven years ago, Planet Realty has successfully managed over three hundress million dollars in real estate sales. ‘Our formula is simple,’ Karen observes, casually. ‘We focus primarily on two distinct audiences looking to buy or sell real estate – baby boomers looking to downsize and those engaging in condo lifestyle.’ In Guelph, this has amounted to Karen’s team driving sales at Village by the Arboretum, a gorgeous 55+ adult lifestyle community situated next to the University of Guelph, as well as at River House and River Mill luxury condos (by The Tricar Group), located next to the Speed River in Guelph’s downtown. In the case of River Mill Condos, Karen and her team managed to sell out the entire eighteen-storey building in less than a year.

Other developments that have been, or are being, marketed and sold by Planet Realty include Vista Hills in Waterloo, Belmont Village Condos (by Tricar) in Kitchener, Madison Lane Condos in Bowmanville and Coventry (by Earth Park Homes) in Stratford.

‘I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,’ notes Karen, who has more than thirty years of diverse experience behind her – including proficiencies in legal, marketing, sales, advertising, public relations and customer service. ‘ And I’m especially proud
of how we’ve been able to go about doing it.’ She continues: ‘In a region like ours, personal relationships mean a great deal. With developers. Builders. Clients. And, I’d say, competitors. We’re all in this together, after all – connected by a shared passion for this region. And we all have important roles to play to ensure that its continued growth is stewarded appropriately. And,’ she adds, ‘lovingly.’

We’ve finished our coffees, but chat a little longer. I know she’s busy, and I need to get to a photo shoot across town. But I am so fond of her company, and more so every time we meet – for interviews like these, photo shoots with her team, conversations about marketing and strategy and real estate. I think back to how that area broker described his relationship with other brokers – of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog – and wonder where Karen might fit into this analogy. But not for long, because I realize she doesn’t. And she doesn’t have to. Because, as it stands, what Karen – and Planet Realty – is doing is grounded in relationship building and collaboration. Which might be an uncommon, exceptional approach. It’s certainly highly successful.
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