The Monday morning realtor Paul Germanese, founder of AW4U The Real Estate Group, sat down to talk with The Drive Magazine, he started the day doing what he has built a career and life doing: being of service to someone else. Paul could have been schmoozing in a warm, aromatic café or walking through a luxury home with clients. Instead, he was out in the rain, at a property, not only meeting a junk removal guy, but helping him lug stuff out of the house.
“I come from a place of service,” Paul says.
With sixteen years in the business, as a top seller with Royal LePage, year after year, this is not something Paul has to do to sell homes. It’s something he wants to do.
“The biggest compliment I receive, and hear it time and time again,” Paul continues, “is: ‘You haven’t changed!’ And my reaction is: ‘Why would I?’ I mean, you change in some certain respects, but your core values and who you are, and the cloth that you’re cut from never changes.”
Paul’s work ethic, his ideas of success, and the place of service he comes from were established early. At the age of fifteen, a self-confessed “skater kid”, Paul worked in the kitchen of Windsor’s venerable TBQ’s Other Place on Dougall Avenue, where he made bread baskets and filled butter ramekins.
“I worked my way up to doing brunches and buffets, and started bussing tables,” Paul recalls. “From there I went to Spago, and that’s part of my real estate story because it was there that I met the Monteleone brothers, and their father, Joe.”
It was genuinely that Zen moment of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Joe owned a real estate brokerage and one day said to Paul: “Why don’t you think about getting your real estate license?”
“And I did,” Paul says. “Struggled… and then figured out how to do it my way after a year or two.”
This is where the tidiness of stories could neatly sidestep the inherently human complexity of a guy in his twenties making the significant leap from one career into another. But Paul is about keeping it real and is candid in describing how he navigated the new terrain. This was in and around the years 2007/ ’08/’09—not a great time for real estate in the city of Windsor.
“A great asset I had was that I liked people,” Paul recalls. “Everybody gets into real estate for their own reasons. Whether they are right or wrong is to be determined as time goes on. But if you come from a place of service and you lead with your heart and you’re actually grateful for every single client, you’ll have a long-lasting career.”
Part of Paul’s learning process was realizing that real estate is not about sales, it is about building relationships.
“I remember looking at houses with a FOR SALE sign out front and thinking: ‘How am I going to sell this?’” he says. “It’s creating relationships and finding somebody who may need that property for that price.”
Frank Binder eventually absorbed Joe Monteleone’s company, and Paul along with it.
“I spent a few years trying to figure out real estate. Just enjoying my twenties,” Paul says. “I was at St. Clair College at the time and still working in the restaurant. Then I started to get some business. First year, I did one or two deals, but made sure the clients were very well taken care of. The next year did five or six deals.”
In year three of his real estate career, Paul was paired with Mike Coffin.
“That’s when I saw what a busy agent looked like,” Paul recalls. “To this day we have a fantastic relationship. Soon after, I quit everything else and gave real estate one hundred percent.”
It was a time of transition for Paul. He married his wife, Trisha, in 2009, in an effort to achieve his ultimate goal in life: to have a family. Today, he and Trish have three kids: Sienna, ten, Joseph “Joe Joe”, eight, named after Paul’s father, and Vincent, five years of age.
“During the building years,” Paul explains, “probably nine to twelve years ago, when I was building the book of business, it was nine-to-nine every day. By choice. I could be sitting on the couch at home in the evening and get an offer and have to run out and get some signatures. You hit a point, though, when you have kids and everything changes.”
Something Paul has learned about himself over the years is that he operates very well when surrounded by mayhem.
“I prefer it around me,” he says. “When I’m in the midst of the hurricane, I can find the eye, the calm, and I can step into that, and I can be good, I can be present. As long as I know I have the opportunity to get right back into it.”
When he is with his family, that’s the eye of the hurricane. When he attends one of his kids’ hockey tournaments, that’s the reprieve. It’s part of the cloth he is cut from.
“My dad worked at a car dealership, at one time, and he missed one of my Christmas concerts,” Paul remembers. “He quit the next day. He made sure that never happened again.”
Paul is quick to say how much he learned from his parents, Joe and Maria Germanese. Both instilled a powerful work ethic in him—through example.
“I do business like my father did business,” Paul continues. “He was a financial advisor, and my mom had the very serious job of staying home taking care of three boys.”
Paul still remembers the day his real estate career began to gel.
“I attended an offer presentation and landed the offer for my client,” he says. “From there, I went to a listing appointment and got the listing. It was a tough time in real estate, in 2008/2009, and I thought to myself: ‘If I can make it in this environment, I can make it anywhere.”
He continues: “Going home in my Nan’s Dodge Neon, I called my dad and said: ‘I’m doing it! It’s happening!’”
It was only through the strength of character Paul learned from his parents, and through the strength of his own family that he weathered the next challenge life placed in his path: In August 2011, Paul’s mother, Maria, passed away. Seven months later, his father, Joe, passed away.
In a Facebook post ten years later, Paul wrote, in part, remembering his parents: “My parents never met my children nor will they, but my children know exactly who they are and what they had meant to me… I will continue to be who I am to make them proud, and I will continue to set the same examples that they set for me with my children…” For this reason, Paul’s favourite movie is Coco, which he says reminds him to keep talking about the ones who are no longer with us. That is what keeps their spirit alive.
To honour his parents, Paul ran a charity golf tournament for ten years, which raised money for Transition to Betterness (T2B), which played a comforting role at the end of his parents’ lives. Interestingly enough, Paul’s father Joe was among the first donors to T2B when the organization began.
“My parents are a huge part of my story,” Paul says. “I’ve been approached at many events over the years and people have said to me: ‘I knew your parents. I miss your mom and dad.’ They have no idea what that does for me. I aspire to that.”
Paul lives in multiple timelines. It’s all part of the mayhem, all part of existing within a hurricane of activity and finding the eye.
“I have two teams: my crew here and my crew at home,” he says. “They do intertwine quite a bit. I wear two different hats here: team lead and agent. I’m proud to be an agent for AW4U. What we built with the operations team and the people we have around us is very special. These agents have a space to build their business. You won’t see my picture on someone else’s sign. We support the agents’ own careers and build them up as much as the brand.”
Each member of the AW4U team brings their own special superpowers: Christopher Toldo, Scott Innocente, Chantel Wasyluk, Katrina Wasyluk, Dan Marar, Khodr Habib, Luis Mendez, Rebecka Collison. And their efforts are supported by Andrea Bate, Operations Manager, and Eric Davidson, Creative Director, Anthony Nassar, Marketing Coordinator, and Shauna Hughes, Office Administrator.
“One of our big differentiators is having the media person inhouse. That was big for us,” Paul says. “We were among the first to bring a professional photographer to a house to get pictures, not just using the camera on our iPhones. And then, working with David Burman at Mister Style, staging homes.”
The AW4U office is another differentiator. At a glance, one could be forgiven for mistaking it for the headquarters of a cutting-edge media company—multiple rooms are equipped with lighting and cameras for the ongoing social media videos AW4U posts, particularly “Another Real Estate Podcast.”
The walls of Paul’s office are plastered with familiar logos ranging from Big-V, the NHL, the Los Angeles Lakers, Tim Hortons, and many others—except, there is something different about them. After doing a double take, one notices that the letters “AW4U” has been seamlessly integrated into each. It enhances the vibe that this outfit does things differently, it knows what it’s about.
“A boutique team needs to have its own office space. I wanted an office where people couldn’t wait to show up on Monday morning,” Paul explains.
Beyond the videos and social media posts, beyond the cool décor of the office, beyond the half court professional basketball standard out the back, AW4U remains steadfast to its core value: Always Working For You—the client.
“By the time they call us, I want people to feel like they know us,” Paul says. He also explains there is no such thing as a difficult client. “I like a challenge,” he says. “I don’t care if it’s a $60,000 listing or $6 million. I’m going to earn your business. To learn more about AW4U visit www.aw4u.ca.