Photography by Ashley Champagne, styling by Sandy Joe Karpetz hair and makeup by Jasmine Ming-Wai Ma, shot on location at Dwell Modern / LightForm
Sara Jones’s first big break selling real estate around the Capital Region came just a few months after she finished college. She left her hometown of Slave Lake right after she graduated high school in 2000 and went into the public relations program at MacEwan University (then Grant MacEwan Community College). She worked briefly as an intern with the Edmonton Oilers before being offered the opportunity to work with CCMI Developers on a new Leduc neighbourhood called Bridgeport Manor. This started the ball rolling on Jones’s real-estate career.
In 2006, she was approached by Vancouver’s Rennie Marketing Systems to work on what was, at the time, a new neighbourhood on the far south end of Edmonton. It eventually became Century Park – a neighbourhood that, although it sold well, has been the centre of a recent dispute between the City of Edmonton and developers over the LRT park-and-ride proposed for the area. She worked with Rennie Marketing Systems and local Edmonton developer ProCura for six years before partnering with long-time friend Jessie McCracken and starting their own company: Sara Jessie Real Estate Services.
“I love what I do now because I get to be my own boss,” Jones says. “We get to make our own rules, get to make our own decisions, and call all the shots. And we’ve seen a lot of success from that.”
Wilfred tank and Babaton trousers from Aritzia; necklace from Urban Outfitters; shoes from Zara; bracelets from Stella & Dot; Vintage rope bracelet from Tiffany & Co.; Blazer from H&M; watch from Tag Heuer
Thanks to Bridgeport Manor – which was almost entirely townhouses – and Century Park, Jones has become an expert in condominium sales. And she brought that expertise to Symphony Tower in Edmonton’s downtown, overlooking the river valley. Through their work with Symphony Tower, Jones and McCracken now hold the record for most expensive condo sold using the Multiple Listing Service in Edmonton for a 3,125-square-foot unit on the 26th of 27 floors with 1,500 square feet of outdoor space, which sold for $2.65 million. (A 4,000-square-foot unit on the top floor actually sold for $3 million, but the tower’s developer, Allen Wasnea, bought that suite in a private sale.)
When you go to sell a condo, what’s the first thing you look for as a selling point?
Right away, I’m looking at how much space there is. People who are buying condos are usually downsizers, so they’re used to having a lot more space. I’m right away checking out closet space, storage space, and making sure that whoever moves here is going to make the most of the space they have.
What do you find is the first thing people look for when looking for a condo?
The first thing for buyers tends to always be location. When you’re living in a taller building, you want a nice view, and people will pay a premium for a view over the river valley.
What demographics do you find are buying condos versus buying single-family homes?
I was actually really surprised to find that a lot of retirees are buying the majority of condos right now. It makes sense, though. They want to downsize and they have the money to pay for the executive suites. You still see a lot of single people and couples buying condos, but most young people who are having families are buying the houses, and they actually tend to like buying brand new.
What neighbourhoods do you see as up-and-coming in Edmonton?
There’s has been a lot more interest in the central areas of Edmonton, like Glenora, Ritchie and King Edward Park. These older neighbourhoods have great lots and a lot of character, and trendy young couples really love them. I think this trend is actually going to move northward, and I think people should start investing properties in some of these north-central neighbourhoods now. Can’t expect a quick turnaround in these areas, though. There’s still some work to be done but, in 10 years, these neighbourhoods are going to be great.
Necklace from Club Monaco; blazer from H&M; dress from Loft 82; slip from Noul; shoes from Zigi Soho in Las Vegas; watch from Michael Kors; hand chain from Boutique Fawn
Neighbourhood to Shop: 124th Street
Lesser Known Edmonton Gem: Ichiban Restaurant Japanese Cuisine
Place to Shop Outside of Edmonton: The Marina District and Ocean Beach in San Francisco
High-end Brand: Stella McCartney
Piece of Clothing in Your Closet: Sheer floral dress bought in an independent San Francisco boutique
Accessory Vintage pearl watch from the 1970s
Fashion Role Model Rachel Zoe
Vacation Spot: Kauai, Hawaii
Winter Activity: Downhill skiing
Summer Activity: Golf
Golf Course: The Ranch Golf and Country Club
Your style is a healthy mix of professional and casual. Do you think your style helps put your clients at ease when buying properties?
I’ve seen both ends of the style spectrum be successful in real estate, be it the T-shirts-and-jeans type sellers or the business suit sellers. It’s just knowing who you’re dealing with and what people are going to respond to. I’m a classic and clean type of dresser and it’s important for me to be professional, but I like being a bit fashion-forward as well. I’m always aware of how I dress and it’s important for me to be myself, because it gives me that extra confidence, and confidence is very important.
Do you have a go-to outfit for when you have a big meeting or you’re closing a deal?
I actually do. I plan my outfits out in the second room of my condo. Jessie [McCracken] and I set up some metal piping through the room so I can spread out all of my clothes and see everything when I’m planning out my outfits. When I know I have something big coming up, I always wear the same thing. It’s a dress from Club Monaco, a blazer from Aritzia, and some pump stiletto shoes from Michael Kors.
Dress from Forever 21; shoes from Zara; Honey Punch Kimono and rings from Boutique Fawn; vintage watch from Misaki; vintage rope bracelet from Tiffany & Co.
How does fun Sara out for a night on the town dress compared to professional Sara?
Actually, not all that different. I like keeping things light and airy and fresh. I’m always in heels. A lot of my clients are now my friends, and I spend maybe five to seven days a week visiting new and old clients. We’re often visiting hotspots here in town, and it’s nice that I can pretty much go right from the office to seeing friends and still be comfortable.
What do you do to help maintain those interpersonal relationships required to be successful in real estate?
Like in any business, first impressions are very important. Be it a first impression with me or a first impression in the home I’m showing, those are so important. And I pride myself in being friendly and a real people person. Lastly, I treat every client like an executive client… We do little advertising, we are entirely built on word-of-mouth, and being honest and trustworthy is what is going to get us those new referrals. It’s those extra steps that resonate with people and leave a good impression.