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Pivot Pointe
May 26, 2023

Career Transition With Serge Endinian

A licensed real estate agent at Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Serge is a Toronto-based real estate agent with a global reach, thanks to his previous international career as a leading classical ballet dancer for the past 15 years. Throughout those years of living and working abroad, he has established valuable partnerships worldwide, may it be in Toronto, Amsterdam, New York, Stockholm, Montreal, or Hong Kong, you can be sure that Serge is connected and works in close collaboration with local agents abroad to satisfy his client's needs wherever they may be.

Known for his warmth and empathy, Serge is a dedicated husband and father, with a boundless entrepreneurial spirit fostered by his successful personal Real Estate Investments. He entered the real estate market at an impressively early age of 19, purchasing his first property followed by several more since then. Serge is passionate about design, architecture, and all things contemporary, and that, combined with his experience supervising the construction and renovation of several homes, gives him an advantage in Toronto's competitive real estate market. His aesthetic sense and acute attention to detail, are absolute assets when preparing a home for sale and maximizing its price potential on the market.

Serge grew up in Montreal and lives in Toronto giving him a unique perspective on the varied lifestyles and culture of Canada's two greatest cities. He completed his schooling at the prestigious Paris Opera School followed by an International Career, in Montreal, Stockholm & Amsterdam.

Serge has traveled the world more than once. Having personally relocated between continents over 5 times makes him a Relocation expert.

To satisfy client needs, Serge is fluent in English, French, Russian, and Armenian and his dedication, professionalism, and enthusiasm toward his clients are unmatched.

Serge Edinian as Puck in Dutch National Ballet's Midsummer’s Nights Dream
Photo by Carl Thorborg

Q: You’ve had an incredible dance career spanning 15 years, having danced all over the world for renowned companies in North America and Europe. Was there a specific stage in your career when you realized that it was time to make a career change?

Serge Endinian: I was really lucky and blessed to be at the Dutch National Ballet as a soloist in the last five years of my career.

The Dutch National Ballet is one of the largest companies in the world, and without a doubt, one of the best companies in the world. But that comes with a huge workload. We did over a hundred shows a year and many evening stage rehearsals because we owned the theater.

Eventually, that just catches up with you, both physically and mentally. I was in Dutch National between the ages of 27 and 32. It was the best years of my career because I knew that it was gonna be over soon. I kind of pre-planned it, and hence I enjoyed it more than any other company I was in.

However, the workload overtook the passion. I was just tired of being tired all the time. I also had my real estate endeavors on the side as an investor. I was really taking pleasure in that and I knew I didn’t want to be in pain and tired for the rest of my life. As I passed 30, I also knew that I didn’t want to start something from scratch at 40. I wanted to be established in that new career at 40, not starting over again. I also saw a lot of dancers in their late thirties and early forties. They were in pain and injured. They were also being pushed out slowly, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to leave on my terms. My last year was going to be my best year, and I wanted to have fun–that's how I wanted to remember it.

Serge Endinian as Jester in the Royal Swedish Ballet's Swan Lake
Photo by Carl Thorborg

Q: Had you done prior career transition planning? How did the next steps unfold in your career transition journey?

Serge: I think every dancer should do this as they start professionally. I had a set goal, and I've always been obsessed with real estate.

I come from an immigrant family. My parents couldn't afford to buy a house, so they were renting for 25 years until my brother and I bought them a place. When I started in Montréal, after a couple of years in the company, I was making okay money and could afford something. I knew I was going to buy a place as an investment for my future.

Because if you're planning to dance for 15 to 20 years, that's a mortgage term. And it doesn’t matter whether you stay in that country going forward. You can still pay for it. You can sell it, you can rent it out, and there are tons of options. So that was the plan. I bought that place and then some more later in Europe. That was the transition planning for me, it was mostly financial.

The planning started quite early. I would strongly advise everyone to do that because you never know what might happen. I had financial discipline. I had to save up for my down payment. I even had a side gig in addition to dancing.

I was actually the company's photographer for several years. I was doing stage photography. So making a little bit of income on the side helped me offset the cost of the down payment because it is challenging to save money on a dancer’s salary.

Q: As a licensed real estate agent in Toronto, what were the steps you had to do to get your license? Did you have to pursue a formal degree?

Serge: It is different in every country and in every province. In Toronto, I think it's a one-year course, and it's broken into five parts, but it will take you about a year full-time to get your license. It’s a lot of content that you have to know. You're responsible for someone's biggest investment or purchase.

All of a sudden, you’re going from having to worry about your pirouette to worrying about someone's $5 million sale. It’s a different sense of responsibility.

I was part of an amazing program in Amsterdam, which is the Dancer's Retraining Program, so my studies were paid for by them.

Q: Thanks to the boost in shows about real estate, it’s more popular than ever! For those dancers who are interested in walking a similar path, what is the best way for them to get a feel of the industry or to get their foot in the door?

Serge: One can become an unlicensed assistant to an agent, or even an intern,  to kind of get a feel for how things work.

I learned through my own transactions. I would hire agents, I would fire agents, and I would hire financial advisors and builders. So through my own projects, I learned the skill.

Q: It takes a unique type of individual to thrive in real estate, particularly one that can sell. How did you cultivate your charisma and communication skills–seeing as it’s quite the opposite of dance and movement?

Serge: Firstly, I don't think real estate is about selling. It's much more of an integrity-based and relationship-based business where you know your knowledge and expertise. Although it will eventually lead to a sale, it's not all about the sale immediately.

It’s because no one likes to be sold. If someone's going to trust you with their biggest purchase ever, then you have to have a lot of knowledge and a lot of expertise in what you do. It's a lot about that feeling of integrity and trust rather than that kind of sales energy.

You have to be an excellent negotiator, and I felt I had to do that when I was a dancer too. Dance is not just physical; dancers are much smarter than they think they are.

Serge Endinian as Lensky in the Royal Swedish Ballet production of Onegin
Serge Endinian as Lensky in the Royal Swedish Ballet's Onegin

Q: What other dancer skills have translated well into your real estate profession and helped you stand out from other professionals in your industry?

Serge: I mean this cliché, but obviously the discipline, punctuality, and relentlessness. It’s that capacity to be on it and trust the process.

In ballet, you have to trust the process as it might take you two years to become a soloist or ten or never. You have to keep working hard, and it's the same in real estate. I have to trust the process and be disciplined, punctual, and able to take rejection.

In dance, we all know that's part of the job. You learn to deal with that and cope with it at an early age.

Q: Not only do you sell real estate, but you are part of Chestnut Park, which is one of Ontario’s leading luxury real estate companies and an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. How did this opportunity to work with them come about?

Serge: It's a very prestigious firm. I interviewed with them as I was starting in real estate before I was even fully licensed. They liked my story. I’d just moved here from Amsterdam, and one of the vice presidents was actually Dutch. So we connected on that level. And surprisingly, only a few years later, my boss, the CEO of the company, and I realized that he once saw me dance in Amsterdam.

The leadership thought I would do well given my background and previous career, and I told them about what I had done in real estate with my own projects, so it was a good fit.

One of the reasons I chose to be a Christie's affiliate is because when I started in real estate, one of my deep wishes was to connect my ex-colleagues, friends, and clients with agents all over the world.

Christie's is an international firm. I’ve helped friends in New York, London, Amsterdam, California, etc. It's part of the business and part of the fun.

Photo portrait of Serge Endinian

Q: I understand that it must have taken time and effort to build trust, reputation, and network. I think it’s important to ground dancers with realistic expectations. How long had you invested in your career before you were getting million-dollar listings?

Serge: It will take a few years for sure unless you get lucky. I don't think it really matters the value of the house. What matters is how are you going to present yourself as someone who is an expert in what you do and gain the trust of clients.

I had a client who I had met because of a listing. They ended up buying the apartment, and then they called me six months later to sell their mother's apartment. Then after that, the mother called me to buy an apartment for her son. Then I sold that first apartment that they had bought, and then they bought a house with me six months later.

So within the span of two years, we did five transactions together. Sometimes it takes longer to do several transactions with the same client. But if you do your best, you're hopeful that the client will be happy and come back to you or refer you. That's how you build your business.

Q: What advice do you have for dancers thinking about career transition or going on the journey?

Serge: Don't wait until it's time to transition. You have to have that plan and be realistic early in your career if you want to be financially comfortable later on.

As a dancer, you can start by buying a small studio apartment wherever you are working. It's not a lot, but over the years it will be paid off, and you'll be paying that instead of paying rent.

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