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Opportunistic real estate buyers step to the stage as prices decline

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A home for sale on Woodfield Rd. in Toronto’ east end near Toronto’s Little India neighbourhood.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

The real estate market in Toronto and surrounding areas is heading into October in a state of calm, but buyers and sellers appear to have some angst about the weeks to come.

October often marks the peak of the fall market: September’s whirl of events has settled down and the traditional winter retreat in real estate is several weeks away.

Ira Jelinek, real estate agent with Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., is seeing an increasing number of “opportunistic” buyers emerge after prices fell from their February peak.

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Some have been looking at properties for years and years and years, he says.

“They see the market has shifted and they’re finally ready to step in,” he says.

Mr. Jelinek describes the opportunistic buyers as those who are firm with their offer but less aggressive than the extreme low ballers.

On a property with an asking price of $1.5-million, for example, an opportunistic buyer might offer $1.275-million. When Mr. Jelinek says he’ll take the offer to the seller, the buyer emphasizes that he or she is not willing to negotiate and that the offer is firm.

Listing agents often snub an unacceptable offer with a dismissive, “I don’t think this property is for them.”

New properties landed on the market in September, but inventory was light compared with some previous years.

Mr. Jelinek notes that parents were busy getting children back to school and signed up for fall activities. In some areas of midtown, he expects more listings to land on the market following the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanan and Yom Kippur.

“A lot of people wait until the holidays are over,” he says. “I have clients that are holding off until October.”

When the time comes to set an asking price, Mr. Jelinek shows sellers recent sale prices for comparable properties, he says. In a declining market, they should not expect to exceed those recent benchmarks.

Unrealistic sellers, however, face the risk of the property becoming stale if they go through a series of reductions, he points out.

“It can sometimes lead to death by 1,000 slashes. It’s not fun to go down that path,” Mr. Jelinek says.

In an unforgiving market, by the time the sellers realize they’re not getting the $1.5-million they were aiming for, they may find the $1.3-million they could have received has slipped to $1.2-million, he points out.

Farah Omran, economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, says the national market – heavily tilted in favour of sellers in the past – is now in balanced territory. The recalibration in the housing market has so far been a reasonably orderly and welcome process, in Ms. Omran’s opinion.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the national average sale price in August stood at $637,673 after hitting a high water mark of $816,720 in February.

Higher mortgage rates and other factors have led to less demand for homes, Ms. Omran says, pointing to buyers who advanced their plans to buy in 2021.

She expects housing markets across the country to continue to moderate into next year.

“The speed at which the moderation is occurring might seem alarming right now,” she says, but once attitudes adjust, she predicts a less disquieting pace of adjustment.

Tanya Rocca, agent with Royal LePage Burloak Real Estate Services, says an increase in inventory is giving buyers more selection in the Burlington, Ont., area, but many are still hesitant.

A flurry of sales at the end of August gave way to a more steady pace in September, she says.

According to the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, sales increased 11.7 per cent in August from July. Compared with August, 2021, sales fell 24 per cent.

The average price in the region was $858,405 in August, which marks a 2.3-per-cent dip from July and a 2-per-cent increase from the same month last year.

Ms. Rocca says many of the transactions in August came as buyers tried to use their pre-approved mortgage agreements before they expired and interest rates continued to rise.

Early in September, the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 3.25 per cent. Bay Street economists are forecasting another hike this month.

Ms. Rocca says some buyers are waiting for a further reduction in prices but she doesn’t anticipate a large crash. So far the decrease in prices has not offset the increase in rates for most people.

“It’s not like if you wait you’re going to get some massive deal,” she says. “The problem is whether you have the ability anymore.”

Ms. Rocca points out that many buyers who purchased homes in recent years did so with gifts from family.

Some aspiring first-time buyers today may have help, but also anxiety about making mortgage payments.

“It’s one thing to have the down payment. It’s a whole other thing to carry the home,” Ms. Rocca says.

Another cohort is worried about renewing a mortgage at a higher rate when the current term is up.

“It’s a scary notion for some people.”

Ms. Rocca says many potential sellers have a negative mindset when they hear that prices have dropped between 25 and 30 per cent over the past six months. But the market had an unsustainable run-up with a gain of about 60 per cent in some areas over the past couple of years.

Many sellers are accepting that giving up some of the gain isn’t so bad given the longer-term appreciation, she says.

“They’re calling because they want to talk. They want to understand what’s going on,” she says. “They are making plans.”

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Inside Neymar’s International Real Estate Portfolio

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Currently participating at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Brazilian soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (more widely known simply as Neymar) has made a prodigious name for himself as one of the best footballers in the world. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that this year Forbes placed him in the number four spot on their annual ranking of the world’s highest-paid athletes—his estimated $95 million earnings in 2022 put him behind only Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, legendary basketball player Lebron James, and his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi, who took the number one spot. Neymar—who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil’s national team and formerly played for Brazilian football club Santos—has naturally racked up an extremely expensive roster of luxury properties. Below, we look at some of his most prolific real estate dealings.

2013

In 2013, Neymar signed with Barcelona’s football club and reportedly began paying around $18,000 per month to rent a contemporary-style mansion nestled on a 10,764-square-foot lot in the quiet and upscale neighborhood of Pedralbes, where Shakira and her ex, Neymar’s former Barça teammate Gerard Piqué, also called home. Just a short distance away from the Barcelona arena Spotify Camp Nou, the modern five-bedroom and five-bathroom structure had a landscaped garden decorated with sculptures, a large pool, and 5,382 square feet of living space across three floors with coastline and city views. The owner of the property, a businessman with ties to the Barcelona football club’s board of directors, offered to rent the home to Neymar after the athlete initially struggled to find a satisfactory permanent home in the area and needed to begin training and playing with his new team. During his stay there, the soccer player had access to a top-floor bedroom suite with panoramic views. Other highlights of the luxe property included an extra large dining area and an underground eight-car garage.

2016

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Neymar found a Barcelona home to call his own in 2016 when he paid $5.2 million for a 7,879-square-foot mansion in the Castelldefels neighborhood, where Messi also resided. The contemporary-style three-bedroom house sat alongside a 10,764-square-foot garden and a swimming pool, situated on a hill with picturesque views of the Mediterranean Sea. The home, which also featured a gym and two living rooms, formerly belonged to fellow Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho.

That summer, Neymar also caught some media attention when he posted Instagram pictures of him hanging out with Justin Bieber and other friends at an $8,496-a-night Airbnb mansion modeled after an 18th-century Versailles château. The palatial seven-bedroom and 12-bathroom dwelling sprawled 22,000 square feet and was decked out with crystal chandeliers and intricate millwork. Highlights included a grand staircase, a private movie theater with leather recliners and wood-paneled walls, a wine cellar, a gym, multiple tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a spa, all located on a five-acre lot.

That same year, the athlete also paid $8.5 million for a house in Mangaratiba, Rio de Janeiro—the same area of the seaside city where the Sylvester Stallone movie The Expendables was shot. Neymar spent the early days of the pandemic quarantining at the home with a group of friends. Set on a two-and-a-half-acre lot, the deluxe six-bedroom property is certainly a great home to be stuck in: It has an open-plan living and dining area that seats up to 14 people for dinner, a sauna, a massage room, a 3,000-bottle wine cellar, a gym, a billiards table, and even an underground disco club that the party-loving footballer later built while stuck at home due to an ankle injury. The contemporary home has sleekly decorated interiors, with an eye-catching floating staircase in the living room and a modern kitchen with a breakfast bar. Outside, numerous patios for lounging and alfresco dining, a swimming pool, an oceanside jacuzzi, a tennis court, a beach volleyball court, a helipad, and a jetty where Neymar docks his 15-foot yacht are found. It seems that the athlete still maintains this home.

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Exploring How to Help Homebuyers Compete with Real Estate Investors

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In the summer of 2021, Lauren Brunner and her colleagues at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority came across an article in The Wall Street Journal that talked about the influx of out-of-town investors to Ohio’s real estate market. The article startled Brunner and her team, and they quickly did some digging. The Port, as it is called, discovered that 4,100 homes in the county were owned by just five landlords.

“We were, like, hair on fire–we had no idea this was an issue,” said Brunner, CEO and president of The Port, at a panel hosted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research this week.

These out-of-state investment firms were making it harder for local residents to buy homes, especially low- and middle-income buyers. With sky-high mortgage rates and a tight supply, it’s already been a tough year for new homebuyers across the country. Now communities are mobilizing to make it more difficult for investors to rent out the properties they purchase.

In Cincinnati, The Port was able to acquire nearly 200 properties that it is now working to sell to the tenants at an affordable price. This is just one approach governments are using to combat the issue. Panelists at the HUD event say there are several strategies governments can try to prevent investors from dominating the market.

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A complex issue like this warrants a multifaceted approach, and one place to start is before investors even bid on a property, according to Laurie Goodman, an Urban Institute Fellow for the Housing Policy Finance Center.

“Rather than saying, ‘Bad investor, you shouldn’t be buying these properties, you should be leaving them for homeowners,’ we should be looking to improve the financing process so individuals can compete with institutional investors,” she said at the HUD panel.

When it comes to financing a property, according to Goodman, investors have several advantages that make it difficult for owner-occupants to compete with them.

For starters, most of the homes real estate investors purchase require renovations. From the get-go, many of those properties are out of reach for typical homeowners because taking out home improvement loans is much more difficult for homebuyers. While investors have teams of experts that can anticipate how much renovations will cost and use that information to inform their bids, most homeowners “have no idea” how much renovations cost, and therefore shy away from bidding at all, Goodman said. And because investors typically own hundreds or thousands of properties, they often work with vendors at discounted rates because of the scale.

Meanwhile, nearly 40% of homebuyers or potential homebuyers are denied renovation loans, Goodman noted. “Is it any wonder that a homeowner would prefer to sell to an all-cash bidder than someone who needs a mortgage and has a 39% denial rate in order to get renovation financing?”

In addition to rethinking how homebuyers can finance property purchases, governments need to have good tenant organizing policies, said Elin Zurbrigg, deputy director of Mi Casa, Inc., a housing advocacy group.

She pointed to Washington D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. If a building is up for sale, TOPA gives tenants the first opportunity to collectively purchase the property. Under the policy, thousands of people – including low-income families – have been able to purchase homes in one of the country’s fastest gentrifying cities, Zurbrigg said.

“Through purchasing their buildings directly or becoming a co-op or condominium owner, it’s a model that’s inclusive of everyone because you don’t need to obtain a mortgage by yourself. You don’t have to qualify individually,” Zurbrigg said.

She encouraged local leaders to work closely with tenant organizations and “channel the power of residents who want to remain in their homes in their neighborhoods.”

Bianca Motley Broom, Mayor of College Park, Georgia, also noted the importance of community engagement.

College Park has about 14,000 residents, 75% of which are renters. The city wants to provide more homeownership opportunities for its residents and was working with a developer to create 200 homes. But when the developer decided to rent those homes instead of sell them, residents spoke out. The city listened and stopped the project, Motley Broom said.

“What we’re trying to do … is let people know, this isn’t just about your house. This is about our entire community and the future of that community and also the future of individual families and their ability to generate wealth to pass on to the next generation.”

“It’s not the job of a market you know, to watch out for society – it’s the job of a market to be efficient and make money,” The Port’s Brunner said. “It’s our job, all the rest of our jobs, to follow behind the market and determine whether what the market is doing comports with our values. And if it doesn’t, we have to fight back.”

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Sale of $37M property could be biggest residential real estate deal in Kelowna history

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This is the view many residents could have if this property sells and has housing built on it.

 

This is the view many residents could have if this property sells and has housing built on it.

Image Credit: Submitted/ForSalebyOwner.ca

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A 90-acre parcel of land in the Rutland area of Kelowna has gone on the market for $37 million.

It’s not listed through any realtor but is posted on the For Sale by Owner Inc. website.

It’s 90.19 acres at 1151 McKenzie Rd., which is north of the Toovey Road subdivision and west of the Black Mountain Golf Course.

The land went on the market two to three weeks ago, according to the owners’ lawyer, Crystal Wariach.

“Over 90 acres of Kelowna’s finest future development land with spectacular panoramic views of the lake and city lights,” the real estate listing says.

The land is not in the agricultural land reserve and is designated for housing.

This outlines the property.

This outlines the property.

Image Credit: Submitted/ForSalebyOwner.ca

In 2019, when city council was looking at various growth scenarios, Wariach emailed councillors on behalf of the owners (cited as Balbir Wariache and Mrs. Prem Wariache).

She asked that this parcel retain is designation as future housing, which is what happened.

“Over the past two years, my clients have had professional development plans created for the property,” she wrote. “The plans provide for the build out of up to 320 lots for single-family homes on the property.”

The owners bought the property in 1999 and continue to own it, Wariach confirmed.

She wasn’t able to confirm, by publication time, whether development options had changed from the 320 lots envisioned in 2019.

The land is included in the Bell Mountain Area Structure Plan that was adopted by council in 2003.

Most of the land within that plan has been developed into single-family housing in subdivisions such as Blue Sky, Prospect Mountain and Lone Pine Estates, Wariach’s 2019 email says.

The largest sale through the MLS listing service that has been publicized to date was announced in January 2021 when the Kirschner Mountain housing development sold for $22 million.

It included 190 acres of land left from a larger parcel that was part of the Kirschner Mountain housing development.

 

If the McKenzie Avenue property sells for $37 million it will eclipse that sale in terms of residential property sold through the MLS system in the city.

Since the Kirschner Mountain sale, there have been bigger real estate deals in Kelowna.

Last December, the Mission Group paid $24 million for the former B.C. Tree Fruits plant near the North End of downtown.

Earlier this year, Victor Projects spent $33 million to buy the former Costco site near the Highway 33 and Highway 97 intersection.

The McKenzie Road listing can be seen here and Wariach can be contacted by email at cwariach@outlook.com.


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