The Backbone of Oakwyn: Arlene Chiang, Partner & Managing Broker
Creating, championing, uplifting, and leading a real estate agency takes work. Doing all of this for an agency that treats its realtors like family takes a special kind of person.
Arlene Chiang is one of those people.
We sat down with Arlene Chiang to find out a bit more about the backbone of Oakwyn. She’s an accomplished family-woman who brings her values to work. She puts people first, believes in the power of the human connection, and is the physical embodiment of Oakwyn’s mantra, “Work Hard, Stay Humble”.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into real estate and your role within Oakwyn?
Arlene Chiang: I grew up being surrounded by Real Estate, we grew up in a Vancouver Special where our Uncle ran a real estate business in the lower suite. My mom was a Realtor and our Dad was a developer. I never wanted to be in real estate because I wanted to do my own thing… Which should have been a clue that I should be in real estate.
I have my degree in Human Kinetics, a diploma in Coaching and Instruction, and a diploma in Professional Real Estate. I always put myself through school by working 2-3 jobs in the restaurant industry. And by the time I was in my third institution, Michael, my brother, had entered into real estate and said that he thought I would be really good at it. I had not thought of myself as a salesperson, but I knew that I was good with people. So I dove right in and got my license.
I started building a resale real estate business and did well, however, never fully felt satisfied. Michael and I decided to start a brokerage and that I would be the managing broker. I got licensed and essentially figured out brokering along the way. Now, there’s a big need in the real estate industry for younger managing brokers. In the next 3 to 5 years, many of the existing managing brokers in the industry will be retiring and there is no succession plan. There is no real training for managing brokers.
At Oakwyn, a pillar of our growth plan is dedicated to growing strong managing brokers for the industry — we provide mentorship and we’re using different training methods for them. We believe that it’s one of the most important parts of how we’ve been able to grow and instill Oakwyn’s values in future industry leaders.
My role at Oakwyn now is to take care of everyone. I work with our internal team to ensure they receive the support and training to help our agents. And I work with our agents to ensure they have the professional development that they need, be proactive in solving issues that they may face in the industry, and be their shoulder to cry on or their champion.
What was the motivation behind Oakwyn?
AC: When I first started I felt alone and intimidated to ask for help. We wanted to create an environment where people openly shared and that there was a collective mentality that together we could all do better. And together, we can change the industry for the better.
In looking at other options available, there was no brokerage that offered the culture of collaboration.
How do you feel Human Connection fits into the Real Estate Industry?
AC: I think it is everything. Real Estate may, to some, be a commodity or a product, just a thing you buy but it is more than that. Everything that goes into Real Estate requires human connection and collaboration from the buying and selling process, to the development and building. There is no part of the real estate industry that is not made better by human connection. We need to talk, we need to share ideas, we need to connect in order to make the best decisions, to be able to help one another whether it is moving from one stage of the building process or moving from one stage of life to another.
Real Estate does not happen in a silo. It happens because of all the human connections that are made to culminate to a result. You don’t just buy real estate… It’s an experience.
What do you find gratifying about the work that you do?
That I get a chance to be a small part of our team’s journey. That I get to see the wins and how people grow and learn from mistakes. At the end of the day, I hope that we are able to impact the industry in a positive way.
Do you remember buying your first house?
AC: I was actually looking for a client of mine but I found this house that they wouldn’t have wanted regardless. Even though we weren’t looking, I took my husband to the open house. When we got there, there was a lineup of shoes out the door. I knew I wanted this house — while I was there I was calling my brother-in-law and my mom, telling him how much I liked this house.
Offers were on the next Monday and so, I decided to do a pre-inspection. I went back with my inspector and I met the owners and tried to make a good impression. I told them I loved their dog, even though that wasn’t exactly true. We put in the deal on Monday and I had Michael representing me.
Michael ended up knowing the realtor — he was Michael’s elementary school teacher’s son. He had had her for grade three. There were five other offers on the house but since I had met the owners, there was a human connection there — they liked me and they liked our offer, so they chose us. The human connection is huge.
31 Questions Answered by Arlene Chiang:
What does ‘the best day’ look like for you?
Waking up early by myself, making pancakes for the kids, a nice breakfast and instant coffee for myself. Getting to the office, attacking the day getting things done. Getting home and cooking dinner and enjoying a movie/show with the family. Bedtime – reading with kids, going over curious questions and thankful things. Saying I love you.
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Baskin Robbins – Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
What is your current state of mind?
If you could have dinner with anyone — alive or dead — who would it be?
My dad. He passed when I was 23, and you have a different idea of what your parents are then and you ask different versions of questions you would ask when you are older. I think would have been interesting to hear his perspective at this stage of my life.
What are some words you live by?
Work Hard, Stay Humble
Who is your hero?
My Mom. She instilled very strong family values and a sense that you could whoever you want to be in us. We all have a strong sense of ourselves. She put family in front of everything else so that her children could succeed more than she could have in her lifetime. She sacrificed a lot for us.
Where do you find inspiration?
In other people
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Here is my suggestion… But make sure you get legal advice!
What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I used to play collegiate Volleyball
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Be less addicted to my phone
Who is your favourite author?
What is your favourite restaurant?
HK Cafes – everyone has a deal!
What is your go-to karaoke song?
The Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston
Have you ever had a nickname?
Ar. We had 5 kids [in our family] so you can safely say every child had a short name.
List two pet-peeves:
1. Photos of bathrooms with toilet seats up
2. Computer monitors that are not turned off at the end of the day
What takes up too much of your time?
If you had to give a 40-minute presentation with no preparation, what topic would you talk about?
Lessons my son has taught me
If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance of winning the gold medal at?
Who is your favourite musician?
Is there a musician or band that you would be embarrassed for people to find out you listened to?
If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would you be?
What is your favourite thing about your career?
If there was one job that you would be terrible at, what would it be?
What is one quality you appreciate the most in a person?
What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?
Where did you grow up?
Where would your dream home be?
Anywhere with my family
What is the one thing you can’t live without in your home?
A dishwasher. I just got one after not having one for 6 years.
What is your favourite thing to cook?
Soups. I think the idea of putting different flavours together to make something taste really good can be fun. And you know, the more you nurture the soup, the better it gets. It’s always different, even if you have the same recipe, it’s slightly different every single time.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to begin a career in the real estate industry?
Be prepared to work hard and treat it as your own business
What are you looking forward to?
Seeing Oakwyn signs on every other home
Watching realtors gain the respect and trust of the general public and having the industry regarded as a true professional designation
Arlene Chiang was a rock for me when I started in real estate and at Oakwyn, in 2015. There are a lot of questions when you are working through deals for the first time, or even on your 20th, and Arlene was always super helpful and patient. She really does put people first, especially those on her team! – Jeff Appelbe, Realtor
Arlene is like family. She is someone I unconditionally trust – her responsiveness and proficiency in real estate allows me to be more confident in my interactions as I know I always have someone on my team. She also keeps me out of “real estate jail” which is pretty sweet. – Andrew Wan, Realtor
I met Arlene Chiang before Oakwyn was born and my first interaction with her showed her professionalism and work ethics. Fast forward a couple of years later we crossed paths again and I had the opportunity to witness her dedication and strive to making a change in the real estate industry. Her unwavering commitment to pushing for higher standards, education and growth makes her a natural leader. – Jessica Chen, Realtor