THUNDER BAY -- A new business is changing up the real estate landscape in Thunder Bay. Kelly and Joe Rizzo’s iFind Thunder Bay helps people sell their homes by private sale, rather than through a real estate agent.
The Rizzos always had a great comfort level with real estate transactions themselves. From early on in their marriage, they purchased investment properties, renovated them, rented and sold properties, and their friends and colleagues would often come to them for advice concerning real estate.
“I was a nurse for 14 years,” says Joe, “working with doctors moving to Thunder Bay. They’d ask me about places to rent, they’d ask me about places to buy.”
The couple launched iFind Thunder Bay in July 2017 and have helped sell hundreds of homes. Recently, they were voted Thunder Bay’s best source for real estate in the Chronicle Journal, and came second in the Innovators category for Entrepreneur of the Year.
For a flat fee, Joe goes to meet the client and to take photos of the property. Kelly then does the write-up, trying to tell a story about the house in order to engage people. The key to their success is the tailored advertising they do. “We’re not just another company that takes photos and puts them on a website and it just sits there. We actively advertise,” says Joe.
They put listings on social media (“Over 70,000 people in Thunder Bay are on Facebook,” says Joe), on their website (which gets over 80,000 hits every two weeks) and take out targeted advertisements inside and outside the city. “We target age groups, salaries and professions. Kelly worked at RBC for 12 years, she knows who can afford what,” explains Joe.
They look at a home and decide who their audience would be - a highly-paid professional moving to town, a first-time home buyer, or perhaps a retired couple looking to downsize - and target their ads to these people. “We have our law school here, medical school, LU. We have foreign students’ parents purchasing homes instead of renting. We have many people from India interested in our properties,” Kelly says.
“It’s a local business but it doesn’t just stay local,” adds Joe. “There’s an influx of people coming here and spending money.”
With the success of the business, the Rizzos have fielded inquiries from people looking to franchise the business elsewhere, but they are cautious for now. “I work full time, Kelly works from home with flexible hours, we have three kids, so we’re busy. I don’t want to be away from my family. We’re happy doing what we’re doing right now, being a local business,” says Joe.
“When we started doing this, we had no idea where we were going with this,” Kelly says. “It’s really fun to get to know our community more and more, and help people.”