Trish Bongard Godfrey

Wither the Market?

18 May 2016
Trish Bongard Godfrey

WITHER THE MARKET?

One of the reasons I moved my business to Chestnut Park was because of the affiliation with Christie's International. This relationship means I get international research and gain a better global perspective on the Toronto market. Chestnut Park deals in all segments of the real estate market in Toronto and with residential and recreational properties in Southern Ontario, but they are also known for excellence in dealing in the luxury portfolio market. And to my mind, that segment is increasing daily.

Recently, I have had several investor buyers. These are local people who want to increase their exposure to Toronto real estate for the long term – often with their children’s inheritance in mind – and international buyers also looking to balance their global investment portfolio, and have a peid-a-terre in one of the best cities in the world.

Christie's recently released their report on global luxury real estate. The first question is: how do you define luxury?

In Toronto, it is $3,000,000+.
New York: $5,000,000+.
Miami: $2,000,000+.
Monaco: 10,000,000+.
Sydney: $8,000,000+
(All pirces in USD)

World-wide, Toronto ranks:

  • 10th among "most luxurious cities for prime property"
  • 2nd “hottest’ market behind Aukland, NZ, indicated by a 48% year-on-year increase in luxury home sales
  • #1 growth in the number of year-on-year $1 million-plus homes sales (by percentage), 2013-2015

According to the survey of 100 markets, luxury homes took on average about 195 days to sell. In Toronto in 2015, it was 28 days. Now we have only about 15 days of inventory!

Prices

International buyers may be less shocked at the price increases of properties than locals. On page 13 of the Christie's report, you’ll see the average Luxury Home Prices (Per Square Foot). Toronto ranks 11th, but the chart shows that prices in that mid-range seem to be close, until one compares the most expensive cities – Monaco, Hong Kong, London, New York – which appear to be much higher.

Another way of looking at it: the top real estate sale prices worldwide in 2015 were in Hong Kong – $194 million for a single family home. In Toronto, the record was $23 million in 2015.

Even the least interested will perhaps draw the conclusion that, as a truly culturally diverse city in a welcoming and democratic country with low barriers to acquiring real estate, Toronto will continue to appeal to local investors as well as international buyers. International buyers see what even we may not always see: what a great city and country this is compared to so many places in the world.

Ugly Urbancorp

I have to admit that I have never represented a buyer client who has purchased new construction from blueprints from a builder. I like seeing what I am getting. Builders often offer great commissions to entice us to bring buyers into their pretty sales offices and to park their money for years while a project is developed. It can take years – and clearly the contracts are all written for the benefit of the developer. As we have heard recently, it doesn’t always go well. There are several media reports about Urbancorp’s failure to deliver. Here are a couple of articles both on what happened, and whom they owe.

I predict that the provincial government will be called on to balance the interests between developers who, from the get-go, are favoured by city counsellors and the Ontario Municipal Board, which has the power to overturn local planning objectives and decisions and thus negate the interests and voices of local citizens.

I believe in urban density. It's how we can all take advantage of costly infrastructure. But I also believe in good planning.

Last fall, I tried to slow, or at least have revised, an Urbancorp project in my neighbourhood. I feel that the project application was bending the rules on the intent of the Official Plan, and was going to be highly invasive to the neighbours – stealing light and offering an unimaginative, in-your-face design, mostly resembling a cruise ship. In addition to trying to rally support to get representation at the committee of adjustment, I attended the Committee of Adjustment meeting.

Lest anyone feel sorry for the plight of Urbancorp – which has lost the support of Tarion, which will no longer warrant their properties due to poor quality – I can assure you that they were lawyered-up and extremely well represented. In my opinion, they cared not a bit for the neighbourhood. It's real people who will suffer.

As a citizen, and an advocate for my real estate clients, I think it is important we all stay aware of developments, applaud good design and planning, and speak out against bad development. We must advocate for more balanced rules governing the sale of new construction.