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Toronto Loft Conversions

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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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Tag Archives: sales and marketing

International buyers undergird Toronto’s condo market

Ryan Starr –

Scott McClellan recognizes the vital role new Canadian buyers have played in the sale of his company’s downtown Toronto condo projects.

“They’ve driven our success, without question,” says the vice president of sales and marketing for Plaza (formerly Plaza Corp.).

McLellan claims his firm has sold more condos downtown in the past two years than any other developer — over 3,000 — and a significant portion of the buyers have been immigrants, a market which his company actively courts.

“A lot of affluent new Canadians come to our city and that’s fuelling our economy,” McClellan says, citing RealNet Canada Inc. statistics that indicate between 80,000 to 100,000 newcomers arrive in the GTA each year. “So we’ve made it our mission to build relationships with those groups.”

When it launched the York Harbour Club on Fort York Blvd., for example, Plaza didn’t advertise the project. The company teamed up with locally based brokers who market and sell directly to foreign buyers and new Canadians, making use of community connections here and in places such as mainland China, Hong Kong, South Asia and the Middle East.

The strategy worked: 441 of Harbour Club’s 502 condos sold in four weeks, with an estimated 60% going to new Canadians and international buyers.

Plaza took a similar approach at its King West and The Tower projects in Liberty Village, and at Edge and Epic on West Queen West; again, roughly 60% of the condos were snapped up by new Canadians and international buyers.

Toronto’s draw? Condos here are reasonably priced compared to cities like Hong Kong or Shanghai, explains Tony Ma, owner of HomeLife Landmark Realty, whose brokerage brought a large number of Chinese purchasers to Plaza’s projects.

Toronto has other attractive attributes: “It’s an amazing city in terms of multiculturalism and tolerance,” Ma says. “Every culture or ethnic group can work here and study here, the job market is strong and our economy and politics are very stable. Plus, we have a world-class university.”

Plaza is certainly not alone in reaching out to immigrants and international buyers. Most GTA developers and brokers regard foreign investors and new Canadian purchasers as essential to the success of their condo projects, and they pursue these markets vigorously.

Just ask Barbara Lawlor. Her firm, Baker Real Estate, constantly deals with foreign buyers and new Canadians, selling them on the virtues of Toronto and its hot condo market.

“Toronto has become truly international, and it’s because people are coming here from all over the world,” Lawlor says. “The one unifying thread on our sales floors is that all of these people are newcomers and their backgrounds are diverse, both culturally and geographically.”

Toronto projects that have sold particularly well with immigrants and international buyers, according to Lawlor, include Cinema Tower (sister project of the Festival Tower/TIFF Bell Lightbox); Exhibit on Bloor; The Yorkville; and Pace Condos at Dundas St. E. and Jarvis St..

Ma says that One Bloor, Hullmark Centre and the Concord megaprojects Park Place and CityPlace have been popular with his Chinese clients.

Who are these buyers? They might be end-users; affluent new Canadians who want to live in the thick of the downtown action, close to where they work and play.

Given how expensive condos are in the 416, however, end-users tend to be wealthier buyers who can afford larger suites. “The higher end of the market is not what attracts most of the investment (in Toronto),” Lawlor says. “The investor isn’t rushing to buy the larger product. That tends to be for the end user.”

Foreign investors prefer buying smaller units and renting them out, she notes. While this creates concerns that some condos could become “rental buildings,” the fact is condos are filling a big void in the housing market. “There’s no new rental stock being built in Toronto,” Lawlor says. “Brand new condos are the rental stock of the future.”

Oftentimes foreign investors will purchase suites for a family member who’s planning to move to the city for work or school. “We’ve seen huge numbers of people buying for kids who will be coming to school here,” says Debbie Cosic, a principal with In2ition Realty, a brokerage that specializes in marketing and selling GTA projects to foreign investors and new Canadians.

Downtown Toronto is the first-choice destination for many international buyers, Cosic says, but high prices in the core often mean that new Canadians who plan to purchase a first home will rent for several years to save up the down payment, then purchase a condo in the 905 region to get a foothold in the market.

“We hear constantly (from new immigrants) who have been working here two or three years in an entry-level job and they’re renting and saving every single penny to be able to afford to get into that real estate market,” she says. “It’s the ultimate dream.”

Cosic and Lawlor often hit the road — or the skies, as it were — travelling to Asia and Europe to market and sell Toronto condos to global purchasers.

Cosic’s firm In2ition has set up satellite offices in the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Karachi in the past, and they’ve taken travelling real estate road shows to India, Abu Dhabi, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Baker Real Estate has an office in Singapore and has sold Toronto projects in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Moscow and around Europe. “The spotlight is shining on Toronto nowadays because we are conservative and safe,” Lawlor says.

Newcomers to Canada are generally hard-wired for condo living, she adds. “They don’t come with the expectation of a detached house with a picket fence. They come from thriving cities where space is limited, and they’re used to small spaces.”

Most important to McLellan at Plaza, new Canadians and international buyers recognize the inherent value of real estate and believe in condos as a stable investment. “It’s tangible,” he says. “A stock can go away, but you can always go and touch your front door.”

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.