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For the love of Hamilton: This regular feature highlights people from all walks of life who have embraced Hamilton as their new home. 

JEANNIE CRAWFORD is a realtor at Coldwell Banker and a Hamilton champion with She grew up in a small town just outside of Ottawa and came to Toronto to go to York University. A post-grad at a private IT school gave her the opportunity to move to Amsterdam for a job, but it was just as the dot-com bubble burst in 2001 so she came back to Toronto after six months. The next decade found her working in operations roles in the Toronto interior design world, until she met her husband Salar Madadi at a mutual friend's birthday party, and soon enough they found their way to Hamilton. Real estate takes up most of her time, but you'll find them checking out new restaurants locally and abroad, doing puzzles, watching all things BRAVO and going to Las Vegas as often as she possibly can.

What brought you to Hamilton?

Like for many, real estate prices did play a big part. In 2010, I had purchased my first home, a small condo at Front and Spadina in Toronto. It was just myself, my little dog Jack and my cat Xena. But shortly after moving in I met my now-husband Salar, who moved in during the spring of 2011 with his slightly larger dog Ozzy. And the story is that Ozzy HATED condo living, so we looked on MLS for our price range and all these little red dots appeared around Hamilton, we saw a handful of places over two weekends (that's as much patience as I have for the process when it's for myself) and the rest is history! Sold the condo for $13,000 more than I paid for it 14 months earlier and I thought I had hit the jackpot!

Tell us about your realty business (where you're located, how long in business, number of employees, etc.) 

When we moved here, I was working as a logistics manager for a furniture company in Toronto and ended up getting laid off in March 2012. We had also got engaged and were planning a wedding in Las Vegas, so I took that time to not only plan the wedding, but also to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Being 35, I had a few “careers” under my belt at that point – and at some point I decided it was going to be real estate. I really thought it was a special time in Hamilton and if I didn't do it then, I would regret not trying. So in January 2013 I started with Coldwell Banker after seeing an ad in the paper, and attending an info session. I've been there ever since, except for a very brief six-month hiatus in my second year at a start-up brokerage. Fast forward, and I'm entering my 12th year as a broker. I'm still technically a solo agent but I rely very heavily on my colleagues both at Coldwell and friends / contacts I've made across the local market – not just my brokerage specific.

Jeannie Crawford and her husband Salar Madadi moved to Hamilton in 2011. PHOTO: Ian Ross Pettigrew

What has it been like to be a realtor the last four years?

I am very grateful that I had the experience that I did before having to deal with the pandemic-fuelled market. I was able to start slow and learn, and experience inspections, conditions, getting to decide on your own terms, though still had some peaks of competition in 2017, though that was so short lived compared to what started in the summer of 2020 and didn't really stop until March/April 2022. It has been a rollercoaster to say the least. I focus primarily on residential real estate, and seeing the prices get out of reach, and houses sell, not just for such high prices, but in such a chaotic, unpredictable fashion, was and still is hard to navigate. 

What made you begin and what is your goal with it?

When you start any non-salaried work, you take in business wherever you can get it. And in my first year of real estate, which was our second year living here, I think I only did one or two transactions in Hamilton. I helped friends buy in Paris, in Brampton, Mississauga, listed my in-laws’ home in Mississauga. But I knew that I had no desire to sell houses just anywhere, I wanted to really help people discover the city that we had kind of stumbled into and were quickly falling in love with. I thought I needed a brokerage with a big "Hamilton" brand push because I didn't have my own local identity yet, which is why I made the move from Coldwell to the new kid on the block, new offices, all shiny and a message about being very focused on the city and its potential. But I quickly discovered that I just needed to be my own advocate and become my own brand. I asked Salar to help me build a website that was going to be like a guide to the city, to the things you can do and experience here, and the people here – from our perspective – all the things that we had fallen in love with when we moved here. 

It was never built to have a huge return of leads, leads, leads. It wasn't intended to be a site about the city with some sneaky hidden real estate plan behind it. It is very clear that the voice on it is me, who I am and what I do, but I'm not trying to snag your data, or sell you anything.

How much work have you put into MovetoHamOnt?

In some ways it felt like it was a very quick turnaround because I just put my head down and hammered it all out. I will tell you, I wrote every single word of that website. I emailed every person, uploaded every photo, so it was hours upon hours to get the content up and launched. And I am still so darn proud of it. As my business got busier, I found it harder to keep the content fresh. I'd go through phases of cleaning out stale info, putting new links to articles, getting new profiles up, updating when things closed or people moved away, etc. And then during the pandemic, I approached a client of mine who is an amazing designer to give the site a refresh. So she gave it a visual makeover, still keeping the original written content and layout features, and now between the two of us, we try to keep a bit of a closer eye on the content updates. It was really important that I didn't lose my voice in it, so we come up with the plans and ideas together. We are still a bit hot and cold with a consistent flow of updates but that's part of its charm. I like to think it is anyways!

What neighbourhood did you and your husband choose to live in and why?

We first lived in the North End, frankly because I had no patience to look for houses and we didn't see anything our first weekend out, and on the second weekend we both agreed the little two-storey on Simcoe East was the best option, so we kind of just fell into the North End. I miss it for sure, but we've been in Stipley now for seven years, which seems wild to me how much time has gone by! We honestly just kind of fell into this one, too. I saw a listing pop up that was pretty cheap, had a good layout for us and we went to see it on the way to the movies and I sent the offer in before the previews began. We didn't give it a ton of thought, but we also really love this area for its different elements and is where we ended up putting down Salar's business roots with Maipai, of course.

Jeannie Crawford with husband Salar Madadi in the MeatVentures food truck. PHOTO: GreenAutumn Photography

What’s your take on Hamilton now that you've got some roots here?

It is a city that still feels like a small town. I am happiest to be able to walk into most places and see faces that I know, to be able to support people in their businesses. It's been hard to see the city struggle over the last couple of years, the rose-coloured glasses have come off a bit. But at its core, I still say to people moving here, if you want to make connections and friendships in this city, there are so many opportunities. It was a real surprise to us when we came here, and I try to really encourage all my clients that are new to the city to put themselves out there. I LOVE when I see them thriving!

Favourite hangout in Hamilton?

I don't have a ton of time these days, but I always enjoy popping into The Capital Bar on King. It's walking distance from our place, and we'll usually see familiar faces there or behind the bar with Derek and Sue. And the food is always great!

Aside from Maipai, what is your favourite meal in Hamilton?

So many, but what comes to my mind immediately is Berkley North, and specifically the avocado salad and the fresh cheese on sourdough. Probably my most ordered pick up during the lockdowns!

How would you describe this city as a place to live and work?

I think it is a city that is what you make it, and while you should allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by all it has to offer, you also have to remember that we are smaller than Toronto (I know, not everyone that moves here comes from Toronto). Sometimes there are expectations that come from people having lived in much larger cities with such a different scale of population, you have to give Hamilton a break sometimes, and you must support the things that you want to see continue! 

Are there Hamilton arts or cultural events you most look forward to attending?

We always look forward to the festivals in the warmer weather months, so Supercrawl of course, Because Beer, but also those first art crawls when the weather has just gotten good. I love the West Hamilton Artist Tour as well.  

Jeannie Crawford with the dearly departed Ozzy and Jack.

What do you like to do when you’re not working, on your personal time?

We are big on travel, so whether it be short getaways or longer vacations abroad, we try to take advantage of the fact that we really don't need to ask permission for vacation time, or find someone to take the kids. So we just go! But when I'm home, anyone that follows my Instagram will know that I'm all about puzzles. I'm always doing them and then giving them away on my stories – to share the puzzling love! When Salar and I are available at the same time, we will very often pop into King West Books to grab some books, chat with Stephen and Dave, grab a coffee at Vintage, catch a movie at Playhouse or in the comfy seats at Jackson Square. We have two new rescue pups that keep us entertained and my goal each year is to try and get our backyard space finished enough to welcome guests and gather, something we really loved doing in our earliest days in Hamilton and has become harder to prioritize.

What's Hamilton's best-kept secret that you've discovered?

I immediately think of restaurants, you know where my brain goes. And I'm not sure if these are a secret or not, but Apllada Greek on King East is some of the best Greek food I've ever had, and the French Revolution Bakery in Dundas is exceptional, too. If you haven't been, you must go, and of course, pop into Mickey McGuires a couple of doors down for some delicious cheese. 

On the splurge side, we just discovered a boutique inn just outside of Dundas on Harvest Road – The HighAcre – and honestly, while a total luxury, it is absolutely stunning, a real treat if you have a special occasion you want to celebrate with total relaxation in a beautiful environment.

What does Hamilton need more of?

It goes without saying, affordable housing. I realize some may think that’s rich coming from someone who earns a living in real estate. But I know we are all at a crossroads – not just local to Hamilton, of course. But there must be something we can do on the local level to answer some of the issues around people having to live outside, the houseless, and the struggles we see people going through. Everything has become so focused on profit, we're losing sight of the people. I really don't know what a realistic answer is, but systems must change. I think the Barton BIA is a great example of some really proactive, positive moves in an area of town that needs it. Having engaged communities, and people who want to come up with interesting ideas, keep at it and work within the system to bring change a bit at a time. The more people we have that don't give up, we should count ourselves lucky, because it's a hard gig.

Jeannie Crawford with Karen Ancheta at Theatre Aquarius.

What does Hamilton need less of?

Some of the obvious answers are red tape at City Hall, efficiencies with tax spending, fewer potholes (!!), but maybe overall we need to be less cynical. Less eye-rolling between the Mountain and the lower city and vice versa, maybe we embrace the building of new condos and apartments as investments into the city. That we look at the LRT with hope instead of waiting for the very first mistake to be made to say I told you so. The mistakes are inevitable! 

What's the one thing you brag about Hamilton to outsiders?

The support within the small business and specifically based on my most direct experiences, the local restaurant and hospitality community. Honestly, moving here truly changed our lives, and becoming a part of this community through Salar's adventures from MeatVentures, to Pokeh to Maipai, really showed us the strength of connections. I can't believe we've been here long enough now to be a part of providing the support and guidance to people that we so greatly benefitted from. There are people who entirely changed the trajectory of our lives here whether they know it or not, some by the simplest thing like a tweet sharing an idea or a name. You can have such support behind you if your spirit comes from the right place. And I wish some of the folks who are newer to the city had the chance to know Dave Hanley, one of the city’s greatest champions and gone far too soon.

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