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Real estate association says it won't target individual candidates in pre-election campaign

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The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) says it has no plans to back away from its campaign promoting home ownership to parties and candidates in the upcoming provincial election.

But OREA won’t be moving ahead with billboards supporting or criticizing individual political candidates, a spokesperson said Monday.

That clarification comes in the wake of reports of industry squabbling between OREA and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). On Sunday, The Canadian Press reported that TREB president Tim Syrianos sent OREA a letter telling it to step back from a “misguided and ill-advised” campaign that could negatively affect Toronto-area realtors by highlighting the home affordability challenges in the region, which has had a slow start in some areas this year.

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The campaign called “Keep the Dream Alive” urges politicians to help make home ownership affordable to millennials. “Rising home prices have pushed home ownership out of reach,” says the material on the association’s website.

Syrianos also suggested that endorsing or undermining certain politicians violated OREA’s mission to promote policies rather than people.

Targeted billboard advertising was only “one element of an election plan” OREA circulated to its board, of which Syrianos is a member, said Matthew Thornton, association vice-president of public affairs.

“Our board decided not to move forward with the program. It was a pilot initiative they were considering, and upon further review they decided not to move forward,” he said.

That decision was made before Syrianos’s letter leaked to the press, he said.

In it, the Toronto board president warned OREA against trying “to supplant TREB and overtake our expertise and well-respected voice.”

Syrianos also objected to OREA’s plan to use an “Ontario Realtor Party” as part of its campaign. The Ontario Realtor Party is the profession’s voice promoting the dream of home ownership and protecting the real estate profession, according to the association’s website.

TREB refused Monday to comment on the letter. It referred to a previous joint statement with OREA saying that “the letter is not reflective of the long-standing and positive relationship between OREA and TREB who jointly remain committed to helping create a new generation of homeowners.”

OREA represents 39 Ontario real estate boards, but about 50,000 of its 70,000 members belong to the Toronto board.

Thornton stressed that political campaigns aren’t new to OREA. He said the association successfully lobbied the province against allowing municipalities outside Toronto to levy their own land transfer tax.

The “Keep the Dream Live” campaign will move into a second phase in September through November, he said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to continue to promote this message that young people are struggling to afford a home, and policy-makers need to take this issue seriously,” said Thornton.

OREA CEO Tim Hudak is the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party. Last year, OREA lost its main function and key revenue source as the training provider for new realtors in the province, and it announced it would rebrand itself as the voice of the real estate industry and an advocate for home ownership.

The internal strife is typical of industry associations that have different tentacles or sometimes local, provincial and national arms, said James McKeller at the Brookfield Centre in Real Estate & Infrastructure at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“It’s hard to figure out the motives of both of these organizations. They pretend they’re representing the public, but they’ve never given any evidence of that in the past,” he said.

Meantime, Bosley real estate agent David Fleming said he would be happier if TREB represented the interests of active agents, rather than the 50,000, who are licensed to practice, many of whom help transact one or fewer sales each year. But the board is dependent on its large membership for revenue.

Meantime, he said, OREA is “trying to figure out what is our purpose and they don’t even really know.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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Foreign buyers all but disappeared from Metro Vancouver real estate market: data

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The latest property transfer data from the B.C. Ministry of Finance, released at the end of July, indicates that foreign buyers have all but disappeared from the Lower Mainland.

The numbers show that just one per cent of all real estate transactions in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District during the first six months of this year involved foreign nationals, down from three per cent in the same period a year ago.

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Burnaby, Coquitlam and Richmond were the top destinations for foreigners buying property in the first half of 2018, with three per cent of transactions in Burnaby and two per cent in each of the other two municipalities involving foreign nationals. The sole municipality to see an increase in the proportion of foreign nationals making purchases was the City of North Vancouver, where foreign buyers were involved in one per cent of deals in the first six months of 2018.

Those concerned about foreign nationals purchasing agricultural properties will be reassured to know that foreign buyers of Lower Mainland rural properties have fallen from 14 per cent of the total in the first six months of 2017 to zilch in the first half of this year.

Nevertheless, a recent Insights West poll found foreign homebuyers are the most commonly identified contributor to the region’s housing crisis, with 84 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents naming them – more than the proportion that identified population growth or that other bête noire, shadow flipping.

Bold moves

While foreign buyers are the favourite scapegoat for the housing crisis, lower foreign participation in local real estate markets this year has barely budged housing prices in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s jurisdiction.

Sales statistics from the board through the end of June pegged the benchmark price for a residential property in Greater Vancouver at $1,093,600, or 10 per cent higher than a year earlier. The board’s latest statistics through the end of July indicate a flattening in prices with the benchmark price now $6,100 lower than a month ago.

So, what’s a first-time buyer trying to scrape together a down payment to do?

It’s hard not to recall condo marketer Bob Rennie’s advice to Woodward’s buyers a dozen years ago: “Be bold or move to suburbia.”

With sky-high housing prices this side of the Port Mann, many have chosen the latter option. According to B.C. Ministry of Finance data, Surrey registered 498 first-time home purchases in the first six months of 2018. Abbotsford was the second most popular choice, attracting 148 first-time homebuyers. Perhaps even more remarkable, sales in the far eastern reaches of the Fraser Valley accelerated, with Chilliwack attracting 121 first-time buyers. This positions it to overtake Richmond as the third most popular destination for first-time homebuyers. Richmond had 123 first-time buyers in the first half of 2018, but Chilliwack has outsold it in each of the past four months.

Looking ahead

Regardless of where prices land, there’s a clear yet consistent pullback in sales activity. Total residential sales in Metro Vancouver fell by 25 per cent in the first six months of this year compared with sales during the same period a year earlier. Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver commentary attempted to put July’s decline into perspective by saying housing sales “reached their lowest levels for that month since the year 2000.” While this point of fact was sobering, RBC Economics offered a more balanced perspective a couple of weeks earlier by saying that there was a greater balance between supply and demand in B.C. as policies within the province and at the Bank of Canada – read interest rates – were working to cool “persistently strong markets.”

Having forecast in March that house prices in the province would rise by six per cent this year, the B.C. Real Estate Association took a more cautious stance in its latest prognostication, simply anticipating “less upward pressure on home prices.”

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Real-Estate Magnate's NYC Townhouse Sale Is Among 2018's Priciest

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The 36-foot-wide townhouse measures about 15,000 square feet. The traditional design features marble, onyx and brass finishes.


Photo:

Brian Wittmuss

Real-estate investor

Joseph Chetrit

has sold a townhouse on New York’s Upper East Side for a price in the low-$40 million range, making it one of the priciest New York City townhouse deals to close so far this year, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.

Mr. Chetrit, a onetime owner of the

Sony

Building and Hotel Chelsea, listed the townhouse for $51 million in November 2017. It was part of a collection of three adjacent mansions Mr. Chetrit bought from Lenox Hill Hospital in 2007.

Mr. Chetrit paid a combined $26 million for six adjacent brownstones, then combined them into three. The properties are represented by Noble Black,

Richard Steinberg,

and

Roger Erickson

of Douglas Elliman. The agents declined to comment on the identity of the buyer, who purchased through a limited-liability company. The deal closed earlier this week.

The 36-foot-wide townhouse is the largest of the three. It measures about 15,000 square feet with eight bedrooms. The traditional design features marble, onyx and brass finishes. There’s a wall of glass on the ground floor overlooking the limestone-clad courtyard. A second townhouse is currently on the market for $39 million, while the third is not yet on the market.

One of the home’s eight bedrooms

One of the home’s eight bedrooms


Photo:

Brian Wittmuss

Mr. Chetrit could not be reached for comment.

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One person familiar with the deal said the buyer fell in love with the home, located at 110 East 76th St., while visiting it as part of the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House. The buyer reached a deal with some of the event’s interior designers to retain some of their design elements, that person said.

The largest townhouse deal so far of 2018 closed in February, when Chinese conglomerate HNA Group sold a property formerly owned by art heir

David Wildenstein

for $90 million, property records show.

Write to Katherine Clarke at katherine.clarke@wsj.com

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Heatwave slows real estate deals

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Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

While the summer heat has slowed down real estate deals, according to experts in the field, business is still faring better than the average over the last five years.

According to the Central Federation of Finnish Real Estate Agencies (KVKL), the slight drop in real estate transactions can be attributed to the unusually hot summer.

Sales of older apartments dropped during the first two quarters by two percent over the previous year, according to KVKL. For newer flats, sales dropped by 9 percent.

According to real estate agents surveyed by Yle, sales of older apartments was nevertheless 3 percent higher than the average for the previous year. New apartment sales were 22 percent above of the average for the last five years.

Only a slight slowdown

”Talk of the market slightly slowing down can be put down to the extreme heatwave this summer,” says Jockum Andersin, regional director at Aktia Kiinteistönvälitys realtors. "But sales are still very much in tune with the times," he adds.

During the first half of this year 33, 700 apartments were sold, which is 5.4 percent above the average of the previous five years.

”The volume of sales has varied this summer. It’s true that the trade could be more lively during the market upturn and during a time of low interest rates, but the overall figures don’t indicate any significant changes over the previous year," says Maria-Elena Cowell, chief executive officer at the Central Federation of Finnish Real Estate Agencies.

The prices of older flats continued to rise in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, price increases were less pronounced.

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