Toronto’s most coveted area code is becoming a business in the city, with 10-digit 416 numbers selling for hundreds — even thousands — of dollars.
“All my advertisements are in the Yonge and Finch area, and in the North York papers, so 416 targets my clientele,” says Reza Esmaeili, a local residential and commercial real estate broker with Homelife/Victory Realty, who purchased his current phone number, 416-888-SOLD, for $500.
The 416 tells his customers he’s established, Esmaeili adds.
Launched in 1947, 416 is Toronto’s oldest area code. The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission has since introduced area codes 647 and 437, but born-and-bred Torontonians argue the city remains synonymous with 416.
Esmaeili dreamed up multiple real estate-themed phone numbers, called his desired lines and told the strangers on the other end that if they wanted to sell, he was ready to buy.
The person who once held Esmaeili’s current number was happy to make some money, the broker said. He had no trouble transferring ownership of the number to his name through his carrier, Fido.
“It was not a real estate agent, fortunately — it was just a regular person. They were more than happy. They said, ‘OK, I sell it for $500, I get another one for free.’ ”
Toronto is not the first city where residents yearn for a traditional area code. When New York swelled and the 212 area code designated for Manhattan dried up, the introduction of the new 646 area code caused such a stir that a spring 1998 episode of Seinfeld chronicled a New Yorker’s dismay when Elaine was designated a new code.
Being perceived as established is a common desire among customers looking to buy 416 numbers, said Georgios Pappas, a phone number vendor behind websites like vip416numbers.com and 416numbers.com END.
“They feel that a 647 number makes them feel like they’re not established. Let’s say you need a lawyer. If you call a 647 number, how credible is that lawyer, how many years has he been in business for?”
Pappas searches for creative 416 numbers through various carriers in the city. Once he is assigned a number, he makes the minimum payments on the account each month until someone buys the number from him. He then transfers responsibility of the account to the new owner.
Pappas charges a minimum of $99, but has previously sold the 10 digits for as much as $2,000.
Danyal Javaid is a managing partner with IMARK Development group, a local real estate developer, who has bought seven or eight 416 numbers through Pappas. All the numbers he has purchased end with the four digits 1000, an attempt to streamline his employees’ phone and fax numbers.
Javaid has never had any issues with the numbers from Pappas, and is looking to buy up to eight more from the local vendor.
Glen Brown, project manager with the Canadian Numbering Association, deals with assigning phone numbers to carriers. He said the association no longer hands out 416 numbers to Toronto carriers. There are, however, 2,010,000 647 numbers left to be assigned to the 13-year-old area code; 437 has only been assigned to 260,000 people since its inception in March 2013.
“It’s conceivable you could get a 416 number; it’s probably difficult,” he says. “It would be almost like old currency; it’s theoretically possible to pick up an old nickel or dime or quarter in your change, but the likelihood is greatly diminished.”
A carrier new to Toronto today could not offer 416 numbers to customers, Brown said. The last large batch of 416 numbers was assigned to Toronto carriers in 2006.
Telus spokesperson Chris Gerritsen said 416 numbers only become available to customers today if they are being reassigned.
“People don’t give up their numbers as often as they used to because of porting.”
Customers do call and request a 416 number but short of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for the elusive area code, Gerritsen said landing a 416 number is now luck of the draw.
“It’s what we have that comes available. If somebody calls in and asks for a 416 number, we’ll do our best to accommodate but can make no guarantees.”Please share this