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‘Go back to real estate,’ Truro Iranian tells US President




As tensions mount between her birth country and the United States, Truro resident Flora Riyahi has a stark message for President Donald Trump.

“Go back to real estate. You are much better in business than politics,” said Riyahi via Facebook messenger Tuesday.

Hours after she spoke, Iranian missiles struck American military bases in Iraq. The government in Tehran says it is retaliation for the drone killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad Jan. 3.

Flora Riyahi, left, visited her niece Hedieh in Esfahan, one of Iran’s former capitals. The two visited Naqsh-e Jahan (Half the World) square, a World Heritage site home to two mosques and a former royal palace. FACEBOOK/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Riyahi left Iran nearly 40 years ago as revolution gripped her homeland, but like many Persian Canadians she still fears for her family in the old country.

“It is a very sad time for all of us,” said Riyahi.

Riyahi feels Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination on Jan. 3 to boost his popularity among American voters in an election year.

However, she did not believe the American president’s threat to bomb Iranian historical and cultural sites, some of which date back thousands of years. Riyahi said such a move may harm Trump’s popularity at home, while even breaking international law.

The Si-o-Seh Pol (33 Arches Bridge) is another architectural gem in Esfahan, which Truro’s Flora Riyahi visited when she travelled across Iran before Christmas. FACEBOOK/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Riyahi’s family is from Shiraz, where her sister Fereshteh still lives. The city is home to the tomb of the poet Hafiz, the centuries-old Regent’s Mosque with its stained-glass windows and the ruins of Persepolis, capital of the ancient Persian empire.

Her other sister Farah and niece Hedieh live in Esfahan, Iran’s former capital. The city is home to the famous Blue Mosque and Chehel Sotoun (Forty Columns) palace, built nearly 400 years ago, as well as several centuries-old stone bridges.

“They are all worried, although 40 years of uncertainty has made them strong and they have accepted the fact a military conflict could happen,” said Riyahi of her family. “There has never been a situation like this before.”

As a child in Iran, Riyahi enjoyed visiting Persepolis, whose stone walls are lined with carvings of soldiers and images of ancient Persian kings. At its height, the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India.

“Although we are Canadian, we still care about our birthplace,” said Riyahi. “The destruction of any historical site anywhere in the world is disturbing.”

No surprises, says local restaurant owner

Truro restauranteur Mehran Farrokhrouz is worried for his family as tensions between Iran and the United States threaten to escalate into full-scale war. He keeps a photo of the Persepolis ruins in his restaurant, but is not worried about Donald Trump’s threats to bomb Iranian cultural and historic sites. FRAM DINSHAW/TRURO NEWS

For Mehran Farrokhrouz, the prospect of an American-Iranian war came as no big surprise, given decades of poor relations between the two countries.

“This is the result of long-term conflict between Iran and the United states after the 1979 Revolution,” said Farrokhrouz at his restaurant in Truro. “From that time up to now, they’ve not had any opportunity to negotiate directly together and solve their problems.”

Farrokhrouz said his parents, together with those of his wife Foroozan, still live in Iran.

“If war comes, they are in danger and maybe some of our families and friends will be killed,” said Farrokhrouz. “Our hearts are in Iran and our bodies are in Canada and this is a bad situation for us.”

But he, like Flora Riyahi, was not too worried about Trump’s threat to bomb archaeological and cultural sites. Farrokhrouz said it was likely an attempt by Trump to warn Tehran not to hide missiles or other weapons in places like Persepolis.

“Destroying Persepolis or Esfahan is useless for the United States,” said Farrokhrouz.

Meantime, his son Aryana said customers at his parents’ Saffron restaurant were asking him what he thought of the situation in Iran after Soleimani’s death.

Just a few years ago, Aryana was more hopeful about his birth nation’s future. In 2013, moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani became Iran’s president. He promised to ease tensions with the West and improve the economy at home.

He concluded a deal with the Western powers in 2015 that lifted economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

“It was the worst situation in Iran and people were very angry and disappointed with the government, but we voted for Rouhani because he talked about peace,” said Aryana. “I’m ashamed of my government, but are Americans ashamed of their politicians?”

The poet Hafiz, whose verses are famous both in Iran and the west, is buried in Shiraz, where Truro resident Flora Riyahi’s family is from. FACEBOOK/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A timeline of tensions: U.S. – Iran relations

  • 1953: the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh is toppled by an American-backed coup, returning Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power. The Americans feared Mossadegh would allow the Soviet Union to gain a foothold in oil-rich Iran at the height of the Cold War.
  • 1979: the Islamic Revolution sweeps Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power and the pro-American Shah flees Iran. The country becomes a theocracy where personal and political freedoms are heavily curtailed.
  • 1979 – 1981: pro-Khomeini revolutionaries seize the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking diplomats hostage for 444 days. Diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran are severed and the Americans impose sanctions on Iran.
  • 1980: Ronald Reagan, a Republican, is elected President of the United States.
  • 1980 – 1988: Iran and Iraq go to war. The United States supports Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a bid to stop Khomeini spreading his revolution.
  • 1988: Republican George H.W. Bush elected as President of the United States.
  • The ruins of Persepolis, located just outside modern-day Shiraz, was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire some 2,500 years ago. The imperial palace was burned down by Alexander the Great and his Greek army. FRAM DINSHAW/FACEBOOK

    1989: Khomeini dies, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei takes over as Iran’s new ‘Supreme Leader’.

  • 1990 – 1991: Gulf War ejects neighbouring Iraq from Kuwait. Iran supports United Nations resolutions condemning Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
  • 1992: Democrat Bill Clinton elected president in Washington.
  • 1997: brief hopes of better relations between Iran and America as reformist cleric Mohammad Khatami becomes president.
  • 2000: Republican George W. Bush elected as President of the United States.
  • 2001: Iranian government provides covert support to the U.S. as it battles Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, who were also hostile towards Tehran.
  • 2002: President Bush labels Iran a member of the ‘Axis of Evil’. Tehran’s secret nuclear program is revealed to the world by an Iranian dissident group.
  • 2002 – 2015: Iran faces fresh United Nations and U.S. diplomatic pressure and sanctions over its nuclear program.
  • 2003: American forces invade Iraq and topple Iran’s old enemy Saddam Hussein.
  • 2005: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner, becomes Iran’s president.
  • 2008: Democrat Barack Obama wins the American presidency.
  • 2011 onward: Iran backs pro-Tehran factions and militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as these countries spiral into civil war.
  • 2013: Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric, becomes Iran’s president.
  • 2014: Iranian forces join the fight against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq.
  • 2015: Iran signs the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Western nations including the United States. In exchange for halting uranium enrichment and agreeing to inspections, Iran receives sanctions relief.
  • 2016: Republican Donald Trump is elected U.S. president. He condemns the JCPOA as a bad deal for America.
  • 2018: Trump Administration withdraws from the JCPOA.
  • 2019: Ayatollah Khamenei rules out negotiating a new nuclear deal with the Americans.
  • 2019, December 27: A rocket attack on an Iraqi airbase in Kirkuk province kills an American civilian contractor and injures four U.S. service members and two Iraqi security forces personnel. The U.S. blames the Iranian-baked Kata’ib Hezbollah militia.
  • 2019, December 29: The U.S. conducts retaliatory airstrikes against five Kata’ib Hezbollah locations in Iraq and Syria. 25 militia members are killed in the attacks and 55 are wounded.
  • 2019, December 31: Members and supporters of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in Iraq attack the US embassy compound in Baghdad expressing anger over the strikes. U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces use tear gas and stun grenades on the protesters.
  • 2020: Americans assassinate General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3. Iran fires missiles at American bases in Iraq on Jan. 8, after Trump threatens to bomb Iranian cultural sites.

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Equity in metrics: Women in commercial real estate | RENX – Real Estate News EXchange



Synthia Kloot is the senior vice president, operations at Colliers International in Canada.

As a data-driven individual, I know the value of metrics. They demonstrate performance. They tell a story. They make an impact. They prompt action. They propel change.

According to CREW Network’s 2015 Benchmark Study Report: Women in Commercial Real Estate, women constitute approximately 37 per cent of the commercial real estate workforce in Canada; nine per cent hold C-suite positions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today we welcome our newest contributed column, CRE Matters. The column, being provided by Colliers International (Canada), will explore a variety of commercial real estate issues and topics. Watch for future instalments approximately once per month.

Subsequent publications from CREW indicate 65 per cent of employees have experienced or witnessed gender bias against females in their commercial real estate workplace in the last five years (2011-2016), while 55 per cent of employees have experienced or witnessed gender bias against females outside of the physical workplace.

I recently celebrated my 10 years in the industry and with Colliers International. Upon reaching this milestone, I reflected on my journey, acknowledging my challenges and accomplishments, and the relationships I’ve forged along the way.

The industry and our company have evolved in the last decade – and there is still much opportunity to foster a truly diverse and inclusive workforce. Since CREW network’s benchmark report was released five years ago, circumstances remain largely unchanged in commercial real estate with regard to gender equity.

The early days

I joined Colliers as National Director of IT. A woman foraying into an industry with an “old school” composition and very few female leaders, I was ready to question status quo as I was used to more diverse workforces in my previous roles.

Adding more challenge, my first objective was to implement a company-wide system, which involved convincing our professionals to not only trade in their Rolodexes for a web-based tool, but also share the contents of said Rolodexes.

I met resistance. I experienced bias: I wasn’t heard. I’d present an idea without it landing. I learned to embrace the challenge and found allies.

I persevered, determined to deliver a robust product, advance IT within the business – and break through the barriers. And I hoped that circumstances would change: It would only be a matter of time before a shift occurred that would see gender equity and women not having to fight so hard for their rightful place.

Success, and breakthroughs

I also experienced bright spots: accolades for a breakthrough project, words of encouragement from colleagues who recognized my contributions, a fellow female professional making her mark in the business, to name a few.

My resolve for the next few years resulted in the creation and deployment of a robust CRM and globally aligned intranet, both of which continue to play a big part in our professionals’ day-to-day work and business pursuits.

I was ready for more. Fuelled by my desire to work more closely with people to drive change, I took on the position of vice president of operations for Western Canada. Two years later, I became senior vice president of operations for Canada.

During my tenure as head of brokerage operations, I have helped nearly double Colliers’ brokerage business – and been able to advocate for diversity and inclusion.

Knowing first-hand the impact of not having “a seat at the table”, I ensure individuals from various teams and with a range of expertise participate in conversations, initiatives and decision-making are included. When differing minds and opinions converge, it makes for richer dialogue and more creative solutions, not to mention a better experience for employees and clients.

I mentor female professionals within Colliers, using my knowledge and experiences to help them navigate the industry and company, and set and steer their own paths to professional success.

Changing times

As I had hoped, circumstances did begin to change.

Recognizing the obstacles women encounter within the industry and organization, including conscious and unconscious bias and lack of mentoring and sponsorship, Colliers launched its diversity and inclusion program in 2016. Colliers has since taken important steps to help identify and create opportunities for female employees, and provide the mentorship and tools we need to be successful experts and leaders.

In the last year, following discussions with people from all levels within our organization that made evident the need for our employees to be empowered to speak up, stand up and push back, I created Colliers’ Inclusive Workplace Workshop. A forum for our employees – male and female – to share their stories, seek and provide support, and learn practical ways to address challenges, the workshop tackles topics such as stepping up to be a leader, shutting down bullying and harassment in the workplace, and transitioning from being bystanders to upstanders.

I have held 12 Inclusive Workplace Workshops in five cities. The sessions have received overwhelmingly positive feedback and inspired desired behaviour. I have noticed a tangible difference in participants’ language and actions, and witnessed them holding one another accountable to their words and deeds.

There are proven business benefits to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce.

There’s a return on diversity

The same CREW report cited research conducted by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, demonstrating that “companies in the top 25 per cent for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, while those in the top 25 per cent for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have higher returns.”

Given these findings and the fact that striving for equality in the workplace is overdue and the right thing to do, how could one not work toward this goal?

At Colliers, we have work to do, and the positive steps we will continue to take will drive benefits for our professionals, company and clients. In early 2020, Colliers refined the vision for its diversity and inclusion program, moving the focus to inclusion, with the intent to “clear the path to further promote diversity”.

I am excited and honoured to continue championing inclusion and diversity within Colliers in Canada. And I look forward to sharing our progress, and seeing numbers telling a more promising story for women in commercial real estate.

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Commercial real estate will ‘hold up relatively well’ amidst coronavirus fears – Yahoo Canada Finance



<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Commercial real estate investments will fare well in the face of the coronavirus, which has sent equity markets plummeting to record lows.” data-reactid=”15″>Commercial real estate investments will fare well in the face of the coronavirus, which has sent equity markets plummeting to record lows.

Fears over the coronavirus will cause a short-term slowdown in commercial real estate transactions, but investments in office, retail and warehouse properties will be more resilient than other asset classes, say experts. 

Compared to other industries, like tech, commercial real estate investments will “hold up relatively well,” said Heidi Learner, chief economist at Savills, a global real estate services provider based in London, adding that real estate is less reactive to market conditions. 

“It’s not something that’s going to be disrupted by intermediate products or lack of manufacturing capability in Asia,” said Learner. She noted that there is still demand for data centers even considering the virus’s impact on Microsoft and Apple’s supply chains.

Additionally, “it’s a little bit too early to see valuations be affected, but I would be shocked if we didn’t see a decrease in transaction volume,” said Learner.

The Chrysler Building stands next to One Vanderbilt on September 18, 2019 as it tops out at 1,401 feet, and becomes the tallest office building in Midtown, New York. - The building is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, and the tower is now Midtowns tallest office building and the fourth-tallest skyscraper in New York City. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
The Chrysler Building stands next to One Vanderbilt on September 18, 2019 as it tops out at 1,401 feet, and becomes the tallest office building in Midtown, New York. – The building is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, and the tower is now Midtowns tallest office building and the fourth-tallest skyscraper in New York City. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Some Chinese investors are trying to finish existing deals virtually, according to experts, but new transactions will likely be delayed to the second half of 2020, assuming travel bans and quarantines lift, according to Learner. 

“New commercial transactions will likely decline because of the preference of Chinese investors to visit a property in person at least once before a deal closes,” said Jacky He, CEO of DMG Investments, the U.S. subsidiary of DoThink Group, a Hangzhou, China-based developer.

Prices would only be impacted if the virus became a more “pronounced problem,” forcing investors to sell their real estate holdings, said Learner.

“It’s largely going to be a short-term reaction. I think if you think of real estate as a long-term asset, losing income… for the next six months shouldn’t really affect long-term valuations,” said Learner.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter” data-reactid=”35″>Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.” data-reactid=”37″>Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.

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CMHC sees Calgary's real estate moving toward balanced – Calgary Herald



Calgary’s real estate market is starting to approach balanced territory.

File / Postmedia

Home buyers remain in the driver’s seat in Calgary despite a recent report showing the market is showing more balance between sellers and buyers.

“The Calgary market still does favour buyers, but it really is on a track to a more balanced state,” says Eric Bond, housing and real estate economist with Canada Mortgage and Housing Agency (CMHC).

CMHC released its latest market assessment this month — based on data from the third quarter of 2019 — showing risks to the market were low.

This is a marked difference from 2018 when the market was considered high risk due to high inventory and low demand.

The recent report, however, showed little had changed from the previous assessment in this past November. It notes low risks for overheating, price acceleration and overvaluation. The one sore spot is overbuilding, which CMHC saw as a moderate risk, same as the November report.

Yet because conditions had improved in all categories, CMHC moved the overall assessment for the first quarter of 2020 to low risk from moderate risk from the fourth quarter of last year.

Realtor Tim Jones says the report accurately reflects improving conditions in the city.

“I feel we are out of the bottom of the market with sales volumes increasing and inventory decreasing,” says the broker/owner of Re/Max Prime in Calgary.

Still, he remains slightly wary after recent news the Teck Resources’ Frontier Mine — an oilsands development — had been shelved because the project was not economically viable.

Jones remains cautiously optimistic, particularly following recent announcement the federal mortgage stress test rules would loosen slightly, which would increase affordability for many buyers.

While Bond says it’s too early to determine what the changes’ impact will be, the health of Calgary’s economy remains the most critical piece of the puzzle.

To that end recent metrics for employment have improved. Unemployment fell to 7.1 per cent in the fall from 7.9 in April last year. And most recent Statistics Canada data points to the rate falling below seven per cent this year.

More people working means “a potentially larger pool of buyers,” Bond says.

And sales are rising on the resale side while inventory is falling. Together they are pushing the market into a more consistent balance between buyers and sellers. Bond notes the sales-to-new-listings ratio, for example, is now at about 55 per cent.

He adds the ratio has been in the 50 to 60 per cent range — considered a sign of balance — for about six months.

Despite improvement, the report notes prices continue to fall. Bond says this is partly a reflection of very strong activity in the low-priced segment. Rising sales for low-cost options have a dampening effect on average prices. As well, growing demand for affordability has led to falling inventories for condominiums —  typically less costly than single-detached homes. At the same time inventory for single-family detached resale homes has been rising, Bond notes.

Over-building in the new market also remains relatively high, meaning buyers are still seeing growing options even as the resale market tightens. Rising completions in the new market can lead sellers on the resale side to cut prices, he says.

Still, a more balanced market is a more predictable one. And that’s a good for everyone, Bond says.

“So sellers can expert to sell their home in a shorter time and, likewise, buyers can expect to still have a good number of choices.”

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