Realty Life

“The Greatest Impact on the Value of Real Estate Will be Solving Homelessness” – Marcus Plowright

July 25, 2023 Stories and Strategies Season 2 Episode 32
Realty Life
“The Greatest Impact on the Value of Real Estate Will be Solving Homelessness” – Marcus Plowright
Show Notes Transcript

It was a career that began as an entrepreneur for Marcus Plowright. By the time his partner recruited him to real estate, he’d already been involved in seven start up businesses, including a renovation company, so the migration to real estate wasn’t too much of a reach.   

One of the first things he and his partner initiated was sharing commissions from all team transactions with all team members, rather than the old real estate axiom of “you eat what you kill”. This led to a stronger sense of “team” which in turn helped deepen brand appreciation and support which translated into greater customer service for clients.


Clients come first has always been a key tenet for Marcus. Another deep belief is in community and in London, Ontario a rapidly growing issue is homelessness. Exacerbated by 40 years of low investment in social housing, the homeless problem in London has worsened, especially over the last 5 years.


Marcus and his team, known as the A-Team, were in a unique position to land the largest donation in the history of the City.  Concurrently, the City of London has been working to develop and build 15 specialized hubs, 8,000 sq foot facilities around the city. Each hub would have food, emergency medical care, addiction and mental health counselling, food, laundry, bathrooms and resting space, all operating 24/7.  The next step of course is to help people transition to supportive housing and that’s going to need senior level government investment.


RE/MAX Hallmark is committed to getting involved with the A-Team to help make this happen, and to broaden this response to other communities across Ontario and Canada.


Guest: Marcus Plowright


Ken can be reached at:

Marcus Plowright (00:00):

So we partnered only on the belief. I got into it on the belief that there was an opportunity in our market for a brand that could have more resonance than just a husband and wife team environment, which was all that existed in the London market six years ago.

Ken McLachlan (00:28):

Hey everyone, it's Ken McLachlan. Welcome to my podcast called Realty Life. I get to talk to people in and out of our industry of real estate, about their journey in life, the background to it, how they get through things that happen every day in our lives, all of us to all of us really, and what their passions are. We will talk a bit about the journey, what they are in their real estate career, but I'm really interested in finding out coping, how we get through things. So today we have, I have a really wonderful friend of mine, someone I met, I can't remember how long it's been, but five years ago, three years ago. That is in my company out of London, Ontario. His name is Marcus Plowright. He runs and is partnered with a team in London, Ontario. Marcus, welcome to my podcast.

Marcus Plowright (01:20):

Good morning. My pleasure.

Ken McLachlan (01:21):

It's so great to have you here and I had the privilege of seeing you four or five days ago at my forearm on your motorcycle, which I didn't know you drove a motorcycle. You just don't, don't drive a motorcycle. You go on these nine day journeys of driving a motorcycle, which is really tremendous. The stories you told me about that are incredible. I don't have the strength to do that stuff or the commitment because I'm a scared scaredy cat as my wife would say, and she would kill me if I did that, but it looked pretty good. What you were doing looked like a lot of fun. Do you have fun doing that?

Marcus Plowright (01:54):

Very much so. You know, talk about getting through life, but it's quite an escape because when you're on a motorcycle you're completely engaged. You don't have really the opportunity for your mind to wander. So when you do a nine day motorcycle trip, it's nine days about thinking about riding, not thinking about anything but being safe.

Ken McLachlan (02:14):

It's funny you say that because I have a good friend of mine that's a drummer and I envy him because I said to him, I says, when you're up there drumming and you're hitting whatever the beat you, the steps and the timing you're doing, you're not thinking about, oh, did I take the dishes out of the dishwasher? You're not thinking about that. I phone that person back. You're actually thinking about the drumming and my guess would be when you're driving that motorcycle, you probably have to zero in on the ability that you have to drive that motorcycle. You can't be thinking about all these death deaths and other things, though you might drift a bit on the conversation in your head, hitting your head, but it's a focus that you have to have and that's a really great thing to have diversion, I guess it's called.

Marcus Plowright (02:59):

Right? It's a lovely diversion. Yeah.

Ken McLachlan (03:01):

So I've met you a time ago. You've been in real estate for five years now out of London, Ontario. You co-own with your partner Alan, the A Team, RE/MAX Hallmark, A team London, Ontario, and you do a tremendous job there, but I, I'll get back to that in a minute. You've had quite a career prior to real estate. You told me a bit about it. You've been in the renovation business. Well, how many businesses have you been into?

Marcus Plowright (03:30):

I believe I've done seven startups, so plenty. And you're dating me.

Ken McLachlan (03:38):

Yeah. So what did you get that from? Where did you get that entrepreneurial spirit from?

Marcus Plowright (03:43):


Ken McLachlan (03:44):

Because it doesn't happen by

Marcus Plowright (03:45):

Itself. No, it was definitely a gene I picked up from my father who was a serial entrepreneur back started in 1961 and was in home improvements and car businesses and manufacturing and very, very diverse interests and basically he didn't get into anything. They didn't start a business around. He got into boating and he opened up a yacht brokerage business, whatever tax advantage way to proceed, he found

Ken McLachlan (04:15):

He was clever. Yep. Yeah. What was your first gig thing that you did?

Marcus Plowright (04:20):

Before I graduated from university, I was approached by a guy who wanted to sell elevator advertising, the glass displays and elevators. He had seen it in Toronto and wanted to bring it to London where you would sell ads and high capacity apartment buildings. So I got into that and partnered with him and started that before I finished my undergrad and turned that into an advertising business because all those small companies that wanted to place ads in those displays didn't have any marketing support or anyone to put those ads together. And we generated a marketing business that was still alive 30 years later. I sold it three years after starting it, but the person that bought it went on to great things.

Ken McLachlan (05:08):

So you got into real estate by kind of a backdoor way of doing it. You owned a renovation company or you own a renovation company called a renovation, is it called or what's it called? So you were renovating, you would go into, you'd be called in by different perhaps real estate people. That's how you met Al, your partner.

Marcus Plowright (05:30):

I was mostly dealing with love it or list it circumstances where people had to decide whether they were going to renovate or move and I got to know Al and started referring him to all these people when I thought moving was a better plan than then renovating.

Ken McLachlan (05:48):

And then you got into real estate.

Marcus Plowright (05:50):

Al convinced me after a couple of years of trying that he had watched me build one of my businesses, an irrigation business by acquiring a few and building it, and I bought my first one from him that he was representing the sale. He saw me doing that and thought I should bring that level of organization to the real estate business, which he was basically running out of his phone. So we partnered only on the belief. I got into it on the belief that there was an opportunity in our market for a brand that could have more resonance than just a husband and wife team environment, which is all that existed in the London market six years ago.

Ken McLachlan (06:33):

So when you became a realtor and you developed a real estate team, you just didn't create a team like everyone else. You actually created something that was very, and is very unique in our industry. You have a community of people that work for you. Do you want to roughly describe the difference your team is compared to the typical real estate team?

Marcus Plowright (06:58):

There's a saying in the real estate business that you eat what you kill. And a lot of team, a lot of team environments are where you only make earnings on your own transactions. We change that up not by design, but we fell into it naturally. Thankfully we brought, Al and I were really, really busy. We did about 80 transactions in about a six month period. In my first six months in real estate, we were overwhelmed. We brought on a support agent, but that support agent wasn't getting paid on our transactions. So we felt guilty involving them in anything that had to do with our transactions. So we extended them a piece of everything we did and thought it was a much more reasonable and fair way to do business. And then as we grew and added more agents, we just made them a part of every transaction. It helped those agents learn a lot faster if they were were getting a piece of every transaction than we were true, a true community working on behalf of our clients and we were able to put the clients first. The client matters more than anything. And if we have five agents, 10 agents working on behalf of that client, they're going to have a much better experience and the agents themselves are going to diversify their income over every transaction rather than just the few that they might do.

Ken McLachlan (08:22):

So it offers the opportunity now for people that are away on holiday or their day off, that everybody will pick up the slack for them if necessary. They're one team, one face to the whole project that's going on. So anyone really has the ability to connect with that client under your leadership and Al's leadership to really push the project forward and what's going on. And so the client is really totally looked after is what you're saying, which is really neat. And also the agents that are, they're having a greater sense of community, which I noticed that the people that I have the privilege of dealing with from your company are really engaged with each other, which is really nice to see. There's not that other companies are cutthroat and all that, that's not what I'm saying, but there's is a real sense of really sense having that oneness about it. And that's a real compliment to what you're doing.

Marcus Plowright (09:18):

We went through the pandemic and for the real estate industry, which is largely individualistic to then not be able to go to the office per se, it becomes an even more lonely environment where we were truly a family working together. The other side of real estate is there are just basic things that agents should do to be successful, staying in touch with clients, following up with clients, doing mailings around listings, sort of the basics of real estate 1 0 1, which are a lot of agents neglect. And we wanted to take the responsibility for those day-to-day tasks away from the individual agents and put marketing teams in place to help some support the work of the group. So there is never a listing that doesn't have a hundred letters that go out around it because we have somebody dedicated to doing that. We're not hoping that an agent,

Ken McLachlan (10:20):

So there's a system in place for it.

Marcus Plowright (10:22):

There are lots of systems, there's always room for improvement,

Ken McLachlan (10:26):

And you genuinely care for these people. It's mean. It's nice to say that, oh, I want them to do well and all that, but you actually live it. What I know about you, Marcus, is that we were talking about someone the other day when you were at the farm and your comment about this person to me was that they are like a child to me. And that wasn't derogatory about being, but it was really indicated to me how much you cared for this person to help them, to mentor them, to help them grow in their life, not just real estate, but all aspects of your life. And that's how you demonstrate your team at all times like that. So it's commendable that you do that. It's commendable what you're developing. You're actually doing some stuff in Newfoundland as well, which was really exciting to hear from you on that. So it's really not being afraid of taking, living this journey of life and making a difference out there. But I want to talk to you a bit about a lot actually about what else we talked about at my deck overlooking my farm. So you started the conversation, now I want to tell you a story. And I thought, okay, this is nice. I want to hear a story. So tell me a story, Marcus.

Marcus Plowright (11:41):

Oh, I have a few but of late, the most significant thing that I've become involved with is I had a client last year who was referred to us. We did a transaction for, I'd never met this client before. I didn't know of them. We s, we sold their condo. They wanted to get out of high-rise living during the pandemic, an elderly couple in their late seventies. And we sold them a house, a bungalow, and then we support in our business, we made the decision to support an organization called Indwell and they support, they provide supportive housing to formally homeless people and they supply housing and we're in the housing business. So we made the decision to support them and then every time we do a transaction, we tell our client about that organization and we make a donation on behalf of that client in the name of that client.


When we did this with this client I referenced, they asked me about it and they had never heard of Indwell and they told me of their philanthropic efforts and asked for an introduction to end. Well, we made the introduction, we gave them a tour. They, during the tour offered up a 5 million donation to this organization, which would be five times their largest donation ever. Yeah, it's big. And it shocked them. And that turned into a more robust conversation between myself and the client about what their goals were philanthropically and as it relates to homelessness, because that is a passion of mine. I was able to get together with them, talk to them about what their goals were. They had given away 10 million over the previous four years since moving back to our city, all in support of the disadvantaged and had felt that they weren't really making an impact.


So I had recently been to the real estate conference called Reality and Bill Clinton was keynote and he made mention to the crowd that the successful people are the ones that asked for the business. And so sitting there as a representative of our city in front of this very wealthy gentleman, I decided to go out on a limb and he told me he had enormous wealth well beyond the 5 million and that he had a 70 million foundation that was set aside just to support this effort. So I quickly did the math, realized that he was making more money than he was giving away with just with the investment of that 70 million. So I told him that he should give the next five years of revenue away in one fell swoop to change the conversation in our market. I recommended to him in that meeting that he commit a donation of 25 million.


And I thought, what the hell? Just ask for what you want. And he said yes on the pretense that I would lead the effort to garner further donations. And at the same time as this was happening, we had this wonderful organization led by our city that was coming together and they were holding summits, 250 people, 250 leaders in our community trying to figure out how to solve homelessness in London, Ontario. And so we aligned with what they were doing, we supported what their outcome, which was announced in February, and they have a very specific plan to solve the issue in London. And we are supporting that with the 25 million donation additional. We've raised another 2 million since then, and this donor has committed an additional 5 million of matching funds. So it's changed the conversation and we are confident that we are going to be an example for the rest of the country on how to solve this wow. Protracted issue.

Ken McLachlan (15:51):

And it starts from asking for what you want now, the passion of, actually, it's great to think about, I want to, we're in the business of how people buy in, sell real estate for their family homes and everything else. And it's a natural process to think of, well, doesn't it make sense that we actually help all aspects of people with homes, the homeless people. Now you said something to me the other day that I remember you grabbing part of your body and saying to me, tell me what you said.

Marcus Plowright (16:29):

The homeless people are largely dealing with mental health issues and addiction issues and they're trying to deal with those things while being homeless. And I made the point of the fact that fortunately the camera's above my belly, but I have a big belly and I have a successful business, I have a lovely family, I have a beautiful home and I have resources and I have all of that available to me and I still can't solve my problem of having a big belly. Imagine having no family, no home, no base of comfort and still trying to deal with complex issues like addiction and mental health. It's impossible. So the only way they can ever get better is by having a stable home life. And that means house. And so housing is healthcare and healthcare is housing. And the only way that we're ever going to help these people is to make sure they're housed so that they can get the help they need.

Ken McLachlan (17:35):

How do you model it? What's the example? You can give that? And we all have, I think we can all buy into that. Having a dwelling to live in. It matters to people and it will make a big difference with, but how do you provide that? What do you, you have these centers around cities, you have, what's the model for it?

Marcus Plowright (17:56):

The model's been broken for a lot of years and we, our city stepped out of the system and said, we need a new way forward, new path. They got together over three summits over the winter and they came up with a solution. And here's the solution as far as we're concerned. These are the experts in the field. This is not my plan. Yeah, the plan is we're going to build a dozen hubs, 8,000 square foot facilities around the city and we're going to bring the services to the community. So that's emergency care, healthcare, food, shelter, storage, laundry, bathrooms and showers and st a stable environment where they can get addiction counseling and health, mental health support and in a stable place that then they will transition from those hubs into permanent supportive housing. The only way you achieve this is you build the hubs, you staff them 50, 50 people per hub or is the capacity 600 people in the hubs at one time in this city would dramatically change the street life and for 600 individuals who are suffering on the street. And then at the same time we need to build the supportive housing. Supportive housing is a very unique product. It's a small apartment that has availability of counseling, staff support, food, laundry, et cetera so that they can transition successfully off the street. And that model, if it works here, I believe it will be the model for what works for the rest of the country.

Ken McLachlan (19:42):

So transition hubs throughout the city to get them to, yes, some sort of permanent housing, but having somewhere to live to be cared for, to get in off the streets so they can start making decisions that will help impact their future. Right now it's difficult as you just explain for them to anyone that's without shelter and a place to call their a safe place, I guess for lack of anything else to make decisions about going forward. It's a cycle that they're stuck with. And I know since we've had our talk, the awareness that's come to me about what's out there in our communities and the difference that we need to make as realtors that people that provide shelter or help provide shelter for people in our communities is important because we do need to make a difference and we're capable of making a difference for so many people. You have stepped up by asking that simple question, asking for what you want and realizing the passion that you have around it. Where did you get that passion for this, Marcus? Was it

Marcus Plowright (20:48):

Like most things in my life that have any value, it came from my wife. She was the one that became aware of End well and got me involved in this journey and just supporting what we thought was a fabulous organization doing good work. But ultimately it, it's just seeing the need and being in a position at a point in time. I didn't plan on this journey in December, on December the sixth, yeah, I had this meeting with this client. I had no idea I'd spend the next four months building a nonprofit charity to fund change in our community. But the most significant thing that's going to happen in our community for the next decade, we'll be solving homelessness. The the greatest impact on the value of commercial and residential real estate in our city would be solving homelessness and improving our livability for everyone.

Ken McLachlan (21:47):

And you put a budget to it, federal budget to it. You, we've mentioned some numbers when we were talking about how there's a new plant in St. Thomas as an example, that's been billions of dollars have been contributed for it. If the federal government was to contribute the same amount of money to the homeless problem throughout Canada, a big solution would happened through that investment and that energy that's put forward to it.

Marcus Plowright (22:15):

The truth is it's going to be enormously expensive. And the other reality is we can't afford not to do it. The wonderful situation is we can't afford to do it as a country. So we have the resources and our country would be so much more fabulous as it's already a wonderful place to live. Imagine if it was the country in the western hemisphere, aside from Finland that solved the homeless issue, just how valuable that would be in the world stage for Canada to city by city, community by community have come up with a solution and a way of funding it. And these are assets we're building, this is housing. We're building buildings that house that disadvantaged our assets, that our community owns it. And it makes us all wealthier

Ken McLachlan (23:11):

And and I both know that our industry has the most generous people I believe in of any industry around the people that contribute for people that are in need and that actually help need help. So what do you think it would be, what would be the steps be like for someone that's listening that they want to make a difference and they have the ability to and time to do that. What do they do? I mean, where do we start on this?

Marcus Plowright (23:37):

Well, the pragmatic answer is to get in touch with me and let me make sure that we actually do something meaningful and educate you on what our experience has been in the last six months. But the reality is you simply need to make the decision and then you need to find a way to empower your community leaders, in our case, our mayor and council, to go advocate to the province and the feds that we have a solution. So we're modeling this. It is very complex. We had a group of 250 leaders from charities and hospitals and education and institutions, city government, all come together and come up with this plan. This is not some pie in the sky realtor who has no concept of what he's doing. I just was tangential to this as it was happening. And I was in a position to raise a lot of money very quickly that was like jet fuel to this plan. And so when they went to Ottawa and sat down with well-meaning ministers who want to do successful, proactive solutions to have a community had already invested 27 million and a council that was willing to get behind a plan that was developed by the whole of community. Our plan is called the whole of community system response. So if you want to help, you need a whole of community system response and we can help guide you on how to get there.

Ken McLachlan (25:11):

I think it's brilliant. I think it's important to do this stuff and I'm committed to it. I'm going to make a difference with it. I immediately wanted you on here to talk about it, to put the awareness out there so people could actually hear what you're doing to be inspired by what you're doing. And actually there will be people that want to step up and take the lead on this with us on this. I know that I'm going to be involved with you on this and committed to doing that. It matters to me that our company is involved with this, that we help become part of the solution for this, not just one of our things in our company is that we're not bystanders in our community. And this demonstrates the awareness that we are involved in our communities and we are making a difference.


It's so important to cause this to happen in every community that we work in right now. So our commitment as a company is to get involved with you, to help you grow this. Your inspiration is so infectious with us, Marcus, to do this. And I, I'm really grateful for that conversation we had in my farm listening to this and the abundance of listening, looking out this land and thinking, well, this is crazy. There's people that could be, that need our help that we need to do things with. And you've stepped up and done it just by asking questions and by having the passion to do this. So you're making a difference and I applaud you for that and I thank you for it as well. So we're, we're going to see what we can do from our end for sure with you on it. So my commitment for everybody to hear is that we are engaged with this with you and that we're going to be walking side by side with you on this to make a difference in every community that we work in. And we're going to take your lead on it. So there you go.

Marcus Plowright (26:54):

That's very exciting. I knew I, I was talking to the right man when I

Ken McLachlan (26:58):

Stopped at the phone. Oh, it was a good story you told me. So it was really nice on that. So thank you. I want to ask you that. Let's get back to real estate for a minute. Cause I know that's important. We all have to make a living running the team as you do what? And is it, it's more of a community event that everybody shares and everything as most people would run a team that they hunt and kill on their own, that type of thing. So how many people do you have in your team now?

Marcus Plowright (27:29):

We have 10 licensed realtors that share equally, sorry, communally in the commissions that we generate. Yeah, we do 300 transactions in a year. You'll get 300 checks so to speak. And then we support that team with five or six support staff that are administrative in marketing that do videos and social media management and administrative support.

Ken McLachlan (27:57):

And you run rented out of an office in downtown London, Ontario, which is, you just took that over a year or so ago. You renovated it. It's sensational office space, isn't it?

Marcus Plowright (28:07):

We moved in October and I think it's fair to say we work in the most lovely office in London, Ontario. It's a pleasure to go to work every day. We made an enormous investment in that building and a million dollar renovation, but it's just a lovely space. A bunch of glass offices surrounding a communal area, a common kitchen, some living room and board meeting space. But it's an old century old home and we're really blessed to enjoy it. And also we're in the real estate business. We should be making these investments and supporting our downtown.

Ken McLachlan (28:47):

Yeah, absolutely. And that used to, what was it run as before? You told me when you bought, it was run as a hall, wasn't it? Or

Marcus Plowright (28:55):

It was a music club. It was called the London Music Club where small bands would get together and they had three stages in three parts of the building.

Ken McLachlan (29:03):

Beautiful. Everyone I think has a connection to London. There's somebody, if you mention London, there's somebody, oh my great uncle lived there and my family blah, blah, blah. Because Long London is a great financial hub for a lot of people in our province in our country. My father was born and raised there. I have that connection. So it's natural for me. You're born and raised in London, correct? Yeah, yeah. That type of thing. And it's an incredible city of vibrant medical university research, all that great stuff. It's a great place to be from and to live in right now. And it's for you, you and your team to be part of that and to represent with us. And Hallmark is a real gift for us to be involved with you, especially since you're impacting us in this community way right now, which I'm very, very grateful for. So Marcus, if people had to get ahold of you and to learn more about what's going on, how do they do that? What do they connect with?

Marcus Plowright (30:00):

You can find me at our website, which is aam, and my email is But if you look up A Team London, you find us through the RE/MAX network. Yeah, I do want to say, because Bill Clinton told me to that we are the answer for real estate between Woodstock and Chatham in Ontario. So if you're a RE/MAXa Max Hallmark agent, we are your solution in this market. We would love to work.

Ken McLachlan (30:31):

Yeah, you are. And you like guys, do a tremendous job always. And you back up what you're doing. Your team is calm, professional, courteous, and out there. I love that. And leave reflection on you buddy for sure. But one day you're going to get me on the back of your motorcycle. You're going to take me around. Okay, anytime. But don't tell Deb, just don't tell Deb. I'm afraid of that. Listen, Marcus, thank you for being here. I'm excited. The journey of real estate, frankly, I'm really excited about the working with you on the homeless issues and problems that we have in our communities because it needs to happen and the difference has to be made. So my friend, thank you for leading the cause on this and to being there and inspiring us on this. We look forward to seeing you more and more about this. Okay.

Marcus Plowright (31:18):

Thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss it. Okay.

Ken McLachlan (31:21):

Thanks to everybody for being here today with my guest, Marcus Plowright from the A team in London, Ontario. More information, just reach out to Marcus and his team will be able to provide you everything about real estate and that corridor from Woodstock West. And you know what to get involved with us on the homeless issue. And I don't mean to be blunt about it that way, but it's really something that we have to as a community and as a country and as our company to get involved with. It's natural for us. So Marcus, thanks for leading the charge on charge on that. If you like this podcast, subscribe to it. Tell your friends, share it, do all that great stuff. And Marcus, thanks very much for being here.