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Sky High Deals, Sky High Success: Realtor Harp Khela

Darpan News Desk Darpan, 31 Jan, 2023
  • Sky High Deals, Sky High Success: Realtor Harp Khela

“The City of Surrey is delivering on its promise to attract investment, employment, and education. These are key to ensure that we can in fact ‘live and play’ in the region, and meet the needs of a growing community.”- Harp Khela, Realtor, Century 21.

What does it take to become the #1 Century21 agent in Canada? You might think the answer is to just sell lots of real estate. According to Harp Khela, you would be wrong as he is the best at what he does and he knows that is not the answer and rightly so. 

Congratulations to Harp Khela of Surrey, BC for being ranked the #1 agent worldwide for Century 21!! Century 21 published their global rankings for 2022 yesterday, spanning 86 countries, represengting 14,000 offices with 147,000 agents around the world. Harp has not only worked within Century 21 for almost two decades, but he has been recognized globally as a leading performer. 

Buying or selling property is a significant financial decision, carrying implications to multiple facets of one’s livelihood and professional life. The complexities, potential risks, and pitfalls, as well as skill required to navigate massive, commercial real estate deals become exponentially more difficult. It’s an area with few players and high stakes, where trust and relationships are often worth far more than the millions at stake in financial transactions. Commitment to people and commitment to relationships is what Harp credits as the source of his success.

In commercial real estate, it is critical to work with someone who looks beyond the bottom line and believes in fostering genuine connections. Such is the approach of Century 21’s, Harp Khela. His experience, expertise, and extensive connections in the market have been leveraged by massive players to transact hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate deals.

One of Harp’s clients, Qualico’s Vice President, Kevin Anderson notes, “In an ever evolving and competitive real estate land market, Harp has established himself as one of the top executors in the Fraser Valley. The patient, yet relentless focus he applies in his approach to any transaction is what has allowed him to deliver on some very complicated deals for Qualico. We are appreciative of our relationship with Harp and look forward to its continuation into the future.”

Growing up in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, Harp lived in Abbotsford and Langley for his childhood years. Harp’s parents were hardworking and humble – his father worked as a farmer with land between Surrey and Chilliwack, and also as a home builder and developer with a background in construction. Harp recalls, “As a young kid growing up on residential home sites, I’ve always had that connection to real estate. I’d travel with my dad and learn so much about the industry, and how to build long-lasting relationships with business and industry partners.” After high school, Harp began his undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Obtaining his real estate license soon after, Harp was 19 when he first started selling homes and condos. 

A few years later, Harp moved to the small town of Vermillion, Alberta, in order to take over the family’s business interests. Here, he redeveloped a much-neglected 26-year old shopping center and turned it into a thriving hub for the community. During his time in Vermillion, Harp launched a grocery store under the “Harp’s Family Foods” brand, as well as “Harp’s Beer & Liquor”. It was during this time that Harp started to appreciate the unique needs of the community and issues facing businesses  and the public. Recognizing the lack of large-scale development and land use expertise on the Municipal Council in Vermillion, Harp decided to run for election and offer his time and wisdom in public service. Despite a low population of South Asians in small-town Alberta, Harp earned the second highest votes in the election and was sworn in as Councillor of the Township of Vermilion — and all of this by the age of 24. 

During his time in Vermillion, Harp sat on the Planning and Development Committee and Economic Development Committee, and attended numerous Provincial and Federal meetings, such as those with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA). During this time, Harp continued to serve on a British Columbia (BC) provincial board, called the BC Student Aid Appeal committee, which governed all funding appeals for student loans. By his mid-20s, Harp was running a significant commercial real estate property, growing, and managing a grocery store, serving on a municipal council, and engaging in committee work that required collaboration with Mayors and Councilors across the country.  Harp reflects, “These experiences were invaluable and I’m grateful I got to spend these years absorbing a wealth of knowledge in urban development, city planning, transportation, roads, and community engagement.”  

Towards the end of his term on Vermillion Council in early 2015, Harp transitioned back to British Columbia and married his wife, a lawyer at Hamilton Duncan Law Corporation. Harp’s return to the Lower Mainland saw the rapid acceleration of his real estate career, starting with residential sales, including farms in the Abbotsford area. As his performance grew, Harp began recognizing his specialized skills in larger commercial development, industrial, townhome, and high-rise properties. He remarks, “As affordability issues took hold in BC, the market shifted where young families and immigrants could only afford condos and townhouses. My clients were large-scale developers that needed land to meet the demand. So, I began brokering land that would then be developed into large-scale housing projects, from townhomes to high rises.”

Today, Harp continues to benefit from his unique capabilities of understanding both real estate development and municipality needs. Continuing to foster new relationships in the industry, Harp sits on the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association Board (DSBIA) and is also the Chair of the Nomination Committee. The DSBIA is an organization that builds partnerships for a future-ready, diverse, safe, and evolving downtown Surrey that is seen to be the place to invest, work, learn, live, and play. With the advent of the UBC campus, the long standing Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) presence in downtown Surrey, Harp highlights, “The City of Surrey is delivering on its promise to attract investment, employment, and education. These are key to ensure that we can in fact ‘live and play’ in the region, and meet the needs of a growing community.”

In 2021, Harp was ranked #1 in Canada for Century 21, and #7 in the entire world. Not one to rest on his laurels, Harp sold eight high rise sites in the Fleetwood and City Centre area last year, with others soon to come. He was also the deal-maker behind all of Allure Venture’s land acquisitions and acts as the company’s primary acquisitions agent. Allure Venture’s CEO, Garry Sangha, elaborates, “In business, you are always seeking partners that understand your objectives and work creatively with you towards achievement. I have always found that Harp was quick to understand where we wanted to go with the business and found us real estate solutions and opportunities that were attractive and actionable. It is unusual to find professionals like Harp who are so committed to your success and able to deliver the differentiating factor. His drive and experience ensures consistently exceptional outcomes.” 

Ultimately, Harp focuses on developing deep relationships with a limited number of clients, selectively inviting new partners into his portfolio every year. In fact, Harp’s growing team is currently serving a small group of exclusive clients, helping them make a massive impact by crafting growth strategies for the next decade and beyond. Taking into account every city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), Harp is able to pair municipal needs and land availability with developer interests and community opportunities. It’s because of this strategic and focused approach that all of Harp’s deals are transacted entirely off-market. According to Harp, “You don’t need to advertise it to the world if you can just bring the right people to the table and work out a deal.”

Harp’s relationships with his clients are not purely transactional, but have a long-term vision, based on trust that is earned over time. Harp’s client Todd Yuen, Industrial President of Beedie, has experienced firsthand the commitment to steer his clients in the right direction over multiple years, “Harp takes a lot of time to actually do his homework. When he brings you an opportunity he’s already researched all of the critical elements of the project and has applied a clear, unbiased and objective lens to his analysis. Harp doesn’t just try to find an angle to sell something to you. Instead, he makes his own determination as to whether or not the acquisition is worth pursuing and only then, does he bring it forward.”

Acting as a conduit for the Lower Mainland, Harp is currently expanding his network to the United States, Dubai, India, Hong Kong, and Singapore in order to showcase the opportunities in BC’s lucrative market. The Lower Mainland area, especially Surrey-Langley, is often overlooked internationally. However, accelerating immigration numbers and an increasingly constrained housing market is creating a huge gap in the region – a gap he intends to fill by developing relationships with the right people and even finding new, international partners to enter the market.

For 2023, Harp stresses the importance of investors having the right team, proper education, connections with trustworthy bankers, and consideration of information provided by cities. He suggests that having the right realtors helps investors navigate dynamic market trends, “There are always opportunities in the market. It’s all about uncovering what is best for each client. In 2023, the challenge is going to be interest rates and navigating the difficulties of accessing capital. However, the landscape is shifting from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Negotiations that once felt odd because of high demand will now be the norm, creating really favorable terms for buyers.” 

Harp further reveals that although there may be downward pressure on pricing and the market, the drive to purchase more land is largely driven by each developer’s specific needs and deal terms. Large scale projects coming online in 5, 10, or 20 years will continue to have persistent demand for land acquisition.

Looking to the future, Harp reaffirms his commitment to relationships above all else, “I never liked the idea of having a revolving door of low-value projects, and tense relationships with people who weren’t interested in mutual growth. I want everyone to win. I’m cultivating a garden, filled with the fruits of my work and relationships, where I can invite new partners in and find ways for everyone to succeed. I want to be known as the guy who brought billions of dollars of investments into the Lower Mainland and made his partners incredibly successful. That will feel like success to me. Having a small hand in shaping the future of our communities is the goal.”

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