Like father, like son ... in more ways than one.
Chris Zaharko is part of the real estate team at Royal LePage Foothills - the group where his father, Ted, is broker/owner.
“I was taught that if you want something, you do it yourself,” says Chris, 34.
“I love people, I love real estate, I love the negotiating and I love the challenge. There has to be excitement in what you do.”
“My ultimate goal is to build my own building - a high-rise,” says Chris. “That’s why I excel in real estate: I make it happen and it’s so neat to see something finished that you’ve actually created.”
Zaharko has just finished the first of what he hopes will be many projects in a new career - the conversion of an old four-storey walk-up apartment building to a high-end condo project with first-time-buyer pricing.
The Tropicana at 1811 18A St. S.W. in the innercity community of Bankview was built in 1968.
“The tenants were given free rein to do whatever they wanted, so we had everything from a Spanish motif in one unit — that included rough-plastered walls that had to be ripped out and re-drywalled — to lino that was glued down, to tile on cement,” says Zaharko. “The first thing I learned was that you have to be a problem-solver.”
He bought the apartment in March with a silent partner, during a year where the pace of resale housing is setting records at the same time that workers are in critical supply in the residential construction industry.
“The city is so busy now, it’s difficult to get things done.”
Although he knew “nothing” about construction, he had a plumber he had used in the past, “so that was a start,” says Zaharko.
“I got a referral for an electrician and got quotes. The rest I got from the Yellow Pages and started calling.”
Some tradespeople didn’t show when they were booked, others did poor jobs, and still others upped the amount they wanted to be paid to do the work.
“I had to finish certain things myself, and deal with hiccups all the time, but that’s part of the challenge,” he says. “Some trades, though, were great, and they did care about doing the best job they could.”
He learned “the mindset of the trades,” he says.
He learned “to have somewhat of a budget, but you have to know that everything is going to change.” And he learned “to be patient.”
All the while, the transformation of the project made it worthwhile, says Zaharko. He enlisted the help of interior designer Robert Gray, and the units started to shine.
“I picked out everything I would want in a property, and I left some money on the table on purpose, so it would show well for my first project,” says Zaharko. “I think the people who have already bought could make $20,000 to $30,000 per unit already.”
The idea was to create a high-end look for the smaller, starter budget, he says.
It’s obviously worked. “Thirteen of the 16 units sold before the show suite was even finished, even though they’re all modest one-bedroom models of just under 600 square feet,” he says.
Only one unit currently remains to be sold in the project.
Despite the compact size, the units each have high-quality finishing.
Look for features like solid oak cabinets, Grohe faucets, walnut or mahogany floors, a vessel sink in the bathroom, subway tile backsplash and granite countertops in the kitchen, stainless steel appliances, and a new washer and dryer combination unit in the laundry area.
The project is now open for viewing by appointment (call Zaharko at 249-4322) and it has been furnished and accented by Home Evolution.
“I enjoy putting in the good quality,” says Zaharko. “The consistency is here as well — there’s no difference in any of the suites.”
As the refurbishment of the remaining units takes place, Zaharko is looking for his next opportunity.
“I’d love to put my name to a larger building with larger two- and three bedroom units of 1,200 square feet or more,” he says.
“Now that I have good people behind me, I’d like to do another project, but not be the general contractor.
Rather, I’d like to focus more on the real estate end of things.”
People will be moving in to the building shortly.