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Pandemic-proof B.C. real estate industry charms new agents looking to start a fresh career – The Georgia Straight



As a new realtor in British Columbia, Irene Querubin got down to business quickly.

Shortly after receiving her licence last December, Querubin wrote her first offer on a property early this January.

She represented a family in New Westminster. The husband and wife want to move from their condo to a detached home so their three young kids will get more space.

By appointment, Querubin and her clients viewed a four-bedroom, three-bath residence in Pitt Meadows on January 2. Then they made an offer.

As it turned out, the home got a total of 22 offers. Listed for below a million dollars, it sold for $1,052,500, $150,000 over the asking price. In addition, the successful buyer took the property without conditions.

Querubin’s clients did not get the home, and the RE/MAX Crest Realty agent continues to look for other properties.

Although her first offer did not succeed, it served as a valuable learning experience for the new realtor.

“Oh, my goodness, it just tells you how hot the market is. It’s crazy,” Querubin told the Straight in a phone interview.

What’s more, she feels encouraged at the start of her new career.

“People want to buy. People want to sell. And they need realtors,” Querubin said. “So, to me, that’s promising. There are a lot of opportunities.”

Querubin is one of 1,346 people who were newly licensed last year by the Real Estate Council of B.C., the provincial Crown agency that regulates realtors.

As of December 2020, there were a total of 25,632 licensed realtors in the province. Most of them are in trading or sales. Thousands also work in rental and strata property management.

Pamela Skinner is vice president with RECBC for education and licensing.

“People who are successful in the career tend to be those who have the passion for helping their clients and developing those strong long-term relationships with their clients,” Skinner told the Straight by phone.

In addition to commitment to clients, Skinner said, education and professionalism are all a big part of being in real estate.

According to her, a good proportion of new licensees have postsecondary education.

The first step to become a realtor is to register for and complete a licensing course and exam.

The real estate division of UBC’s Sauder School of Business offers a real-estate trading-services licensing course for those who want to go into sales.

“While that is a self-paced course, people generally take around six months to do that or they can take up to a year,” Skinner explained.

Aspiring realtors also have to complete a separate course, which is an applied-practice course that builds on the earlier licensing course.

“The reality is that a real estate professional is a trusted advisor with specialized expertise, and that doesn’t come easily and people have to work at that,” Skinner said.

Realtors have to renew their licences every two years, and they have to fulfill continuing-education requirements to do that.

“People need to have that long-term commitment before they get into the business,” Skinner said.

Querubin, a mother to two young children, knew she was ready to start a new career when her youngest kid started kindergarten last year.

She also understands firsthand the value of homeownership.

In a period of five years, she and her husband saw their previous condo in New Westminster almost double in worth.

“We changed the carpet. We painted before selling it, but that’s it: no major renovation,” Querubin related.

With their equity, Querubin and her husband bought a detached home in Port Coquitlam, where the family now resides.

According to her, a common misconception about being a realtor is that it is no different from another sales job.

“That is not true at all. After going through the real estate course at UBC, I understood that being a real estate agent bears a huge responsibility to the client and the public,” Querubin said.

She counts RE/MAX Crest Realty’s Jerome Deis, a long-time realtor, as a mentor.
“When your clients are repeat clients,” Querubin said about Deis, “that’s living proof that you do a great job at helping them.”

Before becoming a realtor, Querubin did a lot of interesting things. Until 2018, she hosted a weekly radio show for more than five years at Red FM. She did sales for Shaw Communications. She scheduled advertisements for Bell Media and Rogers Communications.

Querubin, who trained in broadcast journalism at BCIT, also worked as a host for a local Filipino community TV news program and wrote stories for community publications.

Now she has a front seat in a business that she considers a powerful tool for building wealth.

“I want to live it, and I want to share the knowledge. That’s how I see myself as a real estate agent,” Querubin said.

She should expect a busy year in 2021.

In its latest housing forecast, the B.C. Real Estate Association projects “strong momentum” from the robust 2020 market heading into this new year.

The BCREA predicted that sales in 2021 could total 99,240 homes, or more than the anticipated total for 2020. Final sales figures across B.C. for 2020 had not been released at deadline.


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Medicine Hat's real estate market holds steady in 2020 – CHAT News Today



But as far as sales go, it’s very close to the city’s standard and is comparable to the 10-year average.

House prices have even gone up a little bit. Devine says the 6 percent increase is due to the cost of the new and bigger houses being built.

Meantime, the average residential home price is almost $300,000 for homes in Crescent Heights, Crestwood, and Ross Glen.

Relatively speaking, Devine says our city has been fairly stable during COVID-19 in the housing market and it hasn’t changed a whole lot.

“I think overall, people that have money still have money. COVID doesn’t affect those people too much. Working people, obviously the interest rate makes a big difference. For young people buying their first homes, interest rates make a big difference. I think due to the diversity of Medicine Hat and the economy here I think that’s why there are so many people buying and getting into starter homes.”

Devine expects 2021 to be a busy year for Medicine Hat in the real estate market

“I think the biggest factor is going to be probably people wanting to get out of cities and to a city of our size that has a lot to offer and has room to basically spread out and people aren’t so congested. I think it will be a very good thing for the city a size of Medicine Hat.”

For the December 2020 market trend summary from the Alberta Real Estate Association visit this link.

And as far as real estate goes, Devine says Medicine Hat is probably one of the most stable places in the country.

“Due to the diversity of the city. Obviously, the oil patch has an effect on us, but the size of the city is very good, farming and ranching community, manufacturing community, we have a lot of different things going for us in this area, so it works really good for the real estate market and keeps it very stable.”

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Neuberger Arm Commits $320 Million to Asia Capital Real Estate – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Almanac Realty Investors, an arm of Neuberger Berman, has committed $320 million to Asia Capital Real Estate, a private equity firm focused on workforce housing.

The investment, led by Almanac managing director Justin Hakimian, is set to anchor ACRE debt and equity funds that target multifamily properties catering to tenants who don’t qualify for subsidized housing but don’t earn enough to afford homes where they live and work.

It’s a corner of real estate that, unlike hotels and malls, hasn’t been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the firms said Tuesday.

“The uncertainty of the current economic climate has had acute effects for commercial real estate, which is causing many investors to seek out funds with a more secure risk-return profile,” ACRE founding partner Michael Van Der Poel said in a statement.

Since the onset of the pandemic, ACRE has made loans to borrowers such as City Club Apartments for properties in Detroit, Michigan and Cincinnati, Ohio, and to Sovereign Properties for a multifamily project in North Richland Hills, Texas. It has also sold buildings in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, to Fillmore Capital Partners, among other exits.

“Middle-market multifamily assets offer a more stable long-term outlook than many other areas of the market,” said Van Der Poel, who leads ACRE alongside founding partners Les Menkes and Blake Olafson.

ACRE, which manages more than $1.8 billion, has more than 20,000 apartments in its portfolio. Almanac will own a minority stake in ACRE and anchor its fourth equity fund, which will make bets on multifamily properties in the Southeast, Midwest and Texas.

Other institutional investors have also stepped up their bets on workforce housing. Bobby Turner’s Turner Impact Capital in December said it raised more than $350 million for its second fund, garnering backing from billionaire Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation, among others.

Neuberger last year acquired Almanac, which spun out of Rothschild in 2007, to bolster its real estate efforts. The firm has backed dozens of real estate owners and operators including Mack Real Estate Group, RXR Realty, Slate Asset Management and ReNew Senior Living.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Companies Are Shedding Their Real Estate Footprint In Droves – Forbes



The data does not lie. The great real estate contraction is upon us. 

Wherever you look on the planet, companies are shedding their real estate square footage. There is irrefutable proof that the pandemic is shifting the way of work right before our eyes.

Not only are downtown centers currently mimicking more of a ghost town than a bustling hive of entrepreneurialism, but they also won’t look anything like what they did pre-pandemic once the virus has been adequately neutralized.

We may never go back to the way it was. If that is the case, senior leaders should be preparing for dramatically different workplace practices post-pandemic.

Cast your eyes to Asia, and you’ll find a similar pattern to that of North America. In Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), grade A office buildings’ vacancy rate increased to over 18 percent by the end of 2020 from 4 percent pre-pandemic. Worse, rents have plummeted by roughly 50 percent in terms of the per square meter per month cost. According to reports, the Metro Manila office vacancy is forecast to increase to 14 percent this year. 

In the US, epicentres of high-tech are feeling the real estate pinch. The Greater Boston region has witnessed sublease space nearly double since the onset of the pandemic. More than 3.5 million square feet of prime office space has been put back on the market. Like Manila and Ho Chi Minh, the regional vacancy rate has also risen, from 12.3 percent to 15 percent across Boston. San Francisco—the hub of high-tech—is no better. That city’s office vacancy rate reached 16.7 percent by the end of 2020, with no signs of it letting up in 2021.

Cities across the US are feeling the hit, even if they’re not known for high-tech. In Phoenix, the vacancy rate has risen to 13 percent. In Salt Lake City, it’s 15.7 percent. And Manhattan? It’s somewhat nerve-wracking to know that the vacancy rate increased from 10 percent in 2019 to 14.2 percent in 2020, a 420-basis point surge. 

My home country of Canada has both bright spots and outright horror shows. Vancouver is in somewhat good shape with a modest vacancy rate increase to now sit at 5.7 percent. Toronto has seen its availability shift from 3 percent in 2018 to 4.7 percent in September, 2020 to 7.2 percent by the end of the year. 

But the real horror is in Alberta, where Calgary saw its vacancy rate balloon to 29.5 percent and the capital city of Edmonton to 20.1 percent. Across the country, Canada’s downtown average office vacancy increased to 13 percent in 2020, compared to 9.8 percent a year earlier.

There are at least two rather apparent reasons companies are shedding their square footage footprint. The first is depressingly sad; some firms let go of employees due to economic issues, so the space is no longer required in the short or long-term. 

Second, CFOs have taken the opportunity of the pandemic to sharpen their pencils and find significant cost savings from their real estate portfolios. If employees can work from home productively, many finance leaders are using it—and the fortuities of the pandemic—to trim millions off of existing leases. Some companies are even seeking to sell the buildings they own.

What to make of it all?

I see no reason for the real estate office space collapse to discontinue in 2021. I reckon that by the end of the year, the majority of big cities will witness vacancy rates in the high teens through the high 20’s.

That’s not the problem. Savings are a good thing for CFOs to commandeer off of their real estate portfolios.

The challenge that I’m concerned about, however, is not about square footage, rather a) what that square footage looks like post-pandemic, b) how the real estate footprint is used in a ‘new hybrid way of working,’ and c) how organizations are preparing now for a post-pandemic world of work.

Too many leaders are simply trying to survive. But what has to be happening in parallel is an all hands on deck approach to re-engineering how work will be performed once offices are once again safe to work from.

The culture is going to change. The way people collaborate is going to change. The manner in which we think, create, converse, meet, action, respond, and deliver will change.

The real estate footprint point from above is a harbinger; it’s the canary in the coalmine. 

My next few columns will tackle what organizations and leaders should be doing now to get ahead of the coming workplace and work-operations calamity. 


My 4th book, “Lead. Care. Win. How to Become a Leader Who Matters” recently published. Amy. C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School calls it “an invaluable roadmap.” 16+ hour, self-paced online leadership development program is also available.

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