Meet Cristina Cuscuna, Residential & Commercial Real Estate Broker with Remax, business woman, philanthropist. She started her career in real estate seven years ago and has amassed an incredible amount of clients and a vast network since. Coming from a big Italian family she understood at a young age the value of money, and worked from a very young age, becoming a figure skater teacher at age twelve. “I’ve always had a job throughout my teenage years, I was always a go-ghetter”. Her decision to leave college and enter a real estate course was deemed to have paid off in the long run. Today working with a teammate, Giovanni Frenda, she is renowned for her leadership skills, consulting for the best investments on the market and excellent customer service. What makes her a great business woman is her determination, her compassion, and her values of giving back to her community. She is an example of a true success story.
Tell me about the journey that brought you into the real estate game?
I was in social sciences in college, and I was thinking of going into psychology. Dedicating myself to those years of schooling set me back. I wanted to go into a trade, and real estate always intrigued me so I decided to go for it. Although I was quite young at the time, I was 20 when I started to work in the career field, I found it quite difficult. I didn’t have any contacts that wanted to purchase at the time or sell. I was hitting the phones and it set me back. I ended up leaving real estate. I went back to school for childhood education and also did a few other jobs. Long story short, in 2015 I decided to go back into real estate and I redid my course at Collège de l’immobilier du Québec.
I did [the course] full-time during the day. The evening courses are six months long. Daytime courses for me at the time were possible therefore I decided to speed up the process. I was very determined to finish the course and I was committed to kick start my career. In 2015 I got my license and I started my journey with Royal Lepage Cite in Laval. I decided to work with a team as I knew it would provide a hands-on learning experience and I learnt a lot. Eventually, I wanted to venture out on my own and work for myself. I decided to change banners and go with Remax. Remax is a worldwide company and has always been a leader in the real estate industry. I had my now director Mr. Campisi at the time who was very persistent and wanted me to be a part of the team. I had many colleagues, also friends of mine that were a part of the office and it was an easy decision for me to make. Familiar faces, a new venture at a new office and only a few minutes away from my home. The idea of buying, selling a building and owning a building as a tangible investment opportunity always intrigued me. Real estate also seemed like an entrepreneurial industry, especially as you gain experience and knowledge in having a strong network of professionals. In the summer of 2019 I decided to go back to school to get my commercial license, so now I’m a commercial and residential real estate broker.
What is something you know now that you wish you knew when you first started back in your 20’s?
I wish I stuck to it when I first took my course back in 2005. Imagine the knowledge and the contacts I would have today in the business. In real estate every single transaction is different therefore you are forever learning. That’s what I love about this business. It’s competitive — yes, but you just learn so much about the industry. You learn so much about people and clients. It’s forever growing. When you choose real estate as a career path, you’re choosing to work in an industry where a wide range of skills is vital for success. My passion for the industry is honestly educating myself everyday, and my commitment to my client’s needs is number one.
As you said before, wanting to go into psychology, don’t you find that today you’re doing so much of psychology?
Absolutely! I call myself a therapist. You’re dealing with the public, so you meet all different types of people. Yes, not only are you helping them purchase real estate, but the majority of my clients have become friends. Relationships are everything in this business. We connect people to their homes and their communities. Selling a home can be a very emotional procedure no matter what the circumstances are. Hiring the right agent to help guide you through the process is extremely helpful.
I would love to know more about how you learned the aspect of negotiating in real estate and as a woman?
Today in our present market, well priced homes in great condition are selling in days, sometimes leaving very little or no room for negotiation. Although throughout my career having a positive attitude while negotiating is a must. I always find a common ground and provide solid evidence. I always end the negotiations on a good note. Relationships are based on energy. When the energy is good, more good happens. In a negotiation you should decide in advance what minor concessions you can give away in order to get your counterpart’s agreement-ball rolling.
Would you say the same about commercial?
Yes I would say the same for commercial properties. Negotiating is a huge tool in our industry. What I love to do is present my offer in person and not submit it by email. In the case that it was impossible to meet in person I would offer to present over a FaceTime or voice call. I want the sellers and the selling broker to be informed of who my buyer is and why they want to purchase their property. You build a relationship. It’s all about relationships in this business. You can’t sit behind a computer and sell real estate. This is still an in-person, handshake business.
Where do you think the residential real estate market is heading now?
Last year we had a phenomenal year, although the news outlets were suggesting that the pandemic might affect the real estate market and that we might hit a crash. It did quite the opposite. It was one of our busiest years. It carried forward throughout the first and second quarter of 2021. We are in a seller’s market, and the continued low inventory and the low interest rates are supportive of the whole price wars in 2021. I expect the extreme seller’s market to moderate some time in 2022. This is just my opinion. We really don’t know. Although for the remainder of 2021 I see continuous growth.
And when you say growth, do you see growth everywhere, is it in certain areas in Montreal?
I see growth everywhere. People have stopped looking in the big cities and have gone to the suburbs. This has created bidding wars even in the suburbs. Demand is now heavily concentrated in the suburbs, with buyers realizing high prices in the city and the need for more space over the course of the pandemic.
Where would be a worthwhile investment, in your opinion, to make during these times?
The island of Montreal is obviously my number one go-to. I think it’s interesting to consider investing in multi-unit properties. They can be more expensive but they are a lot easier to finance, owning a multi-unit property includes bigger cash flow. It’s a great way to grow your portfolio. These properties will extremely gain in value, there is no more land on the island and they aren’t building these types of properties anymore. The construction going up these days are condominium projects; therefore, I see a huge value in these types of properties.
Where do you see your business striving to and the goals you have in five years?
First and foremost, to sustain growth you have to have the mindset of risk. You need to overcome fear and failure. You need to learn to crash and maybe burn but always get back up! I inspire myself every day. My partner inspires me every day. Surrounding yourself with great colleagues and mentors inspires me every day. Ever since I started real estate year after year, my business has grown. Almost every business plan assumes growth in the future as long as you put in the work. The next 5 to 10 years I see the potential growth in my business. I want to build a consistent marketing plan and form enough volume to hire other agents and build a rockstar team.
Do you do the whole Greater Montreal area or do you have specific areas?
I represent my clients in the greater Montreal area. There are times when clients ask me to represent them out of the Montreal area or areas that I am not too familiar with but I love getting out of my comfort zone and I don’t engage in any transaction until I am sure that I did enough research for them. I love a challenge.
How do you balance your work schedule?
Cristina: Time management is so important. Personal time and work boundaries. As your own boss with a Type A personality like most real estate agents, taking time off can be an afterthought when you are focused on building your business. My clients know that I am always available, that’s for sure. Without taking the proper time off, it could lead you to some sort of burnout, so thankfully I do have a partner. If I need a day or two days off, he’ll come in and take over, and I’ll do the same for him.
How do you define success and what does it mean to you?
Success to me is doing something that makes you really happy, and something that you enjoy. It also means not taking the easy path in life, but opening yourself to new challenges that enable you to grow. I mean this mentally, spiritually, and professionally.
I wanted to know also because you seem like a go-getter, very A-type personality, did you have an entrepreneur in your life that mentored you and that you think you developed that from?
Having worked at such a young age and earned my very own paychecks was enough to begin my hustle journey. — I always inspired myself. I can honestly say I had it in me to push myself to thrive and to succeed. When I thought of real estate, I thought that everybody needs to buy real estate, everyone needs a place to live. It intrigued me so much that I pushed myself into it and it blew up. Did anybody mentor me? I don’t know. I kind of always told myself to do something you love and thrive for success and I pushed myself to the greatest measure. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do as a career. I didn’t want to look at it as a job. I wanted it to fit me. I always told myself keep searching for a career that you want to wake up to everyday excited and inspired to go to work.
I am so grateful for the continuous growth in my business, year after year. I can’t emphasize enough that a positive mindset is extremely important. If you think negatively, you’re always going to attract negativity. Being positive in this industry is not always easy, that’s why it’s important to surround yourself with great colleagues. I can’t thank my partner enough because we help each other grow in this business. Shout-out to my partner Giovanni Frenda. This year we’re going to focus on our goals and marketing. At the beginning of the year, I’ll write a number on a check and that would be the goal for my year. The first time I did it was last year, and I surpassed my goal. It was crazy. This year, I wrote another one. That’s the power of mindset. It works! Writing your goals down is so important. Building a structure and a plan to achieve it. Persistence is at the heart of every person. While it may seem difficult to stay on track, it’s important to stick with it and to see your hard work pay off.
Any future projects you can talk to us about?
My partner and I decided to give back last year and with our team at REMAX Excellence we hosted our first annual TOY DRIVE for the Montreal children’s hospital and the saint Justine’s hospital. Our event was a success! We raised over $150,000 in toys and gift cards that we donated to the hospitals. My partner and I (with the help of a moving company) delivered the toys ourselves. I also created a Montreal children’s hospital foundation in honor of my sweet nephew who passed away. This was emotional for me as I always wanted to honor his life by doing something special. “The Luca Cuscuna tribute fund” is a foundation created to help the sick children, we successfully raised over $25,000. This is an event that we will host again this year, stay tuned December 2021.
Cover Photo Credit : Anthony Ferla
Donate to the Luca Cuscuna Tribute Fund
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