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Real-estate investors Shiller Lavy selling five buildings in Mile End

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“They’re not people who loved the neighbourhood for what it was,” says Mile End councillor Marie Sterlin.

Shiller Lavy Realties is packing its bags and leaving Mile End — or starting to, at least.

The real-estate investment duo of Stephen Shiller and Danny Lavy, who stirred up controversy in the neighbourhood over the past decade with their astronomical rent hikes that forced the departure of several beloved local businesses, have put five of their buildings along St-Viateur St. up for sale.

Tenants in those buildings include S.W. Welch used bookstore, Bishop & Bagg Pub, La Catrina restaurant and Lululemon.

“I guess I’m not that happy about it,” said S.W. Welch owner Stephen Welch, who fought a hefty Shiller Lavy rent increase in 2021 and won, with help from outraged Mile End residents.

“They bought (this building) as well as other buildings and turfed out other businesses, now they’re selling. It’s due to the market climate, I guess. They’re business people, that’s what they do. It’s kind of lousy, but …”

The building in which S.W. Welch is located, at 221 to 231 St-Viateur St. W., is home to other businesses including the recently closed Laurier BBQ. It was bought by Shilller Lavy in 2015 for $2.7 million and is now on the market for nearly twice that amount at $4.9 million.

Welch’s battle earned him a two-year lease extension, which comes to an end this summer. He doesn’t expect to be offered another renewal from either Shiller Lavy or the new owners.

“I’m leaving at the end of July,” Welch said. “I’ll contact them, as I have done in the past, and ask if they want to extend it; but they’re not going to want to. Any time you sell a building, it’s better if the property is as empty as possible.”

Welch would like to stay, “but that’s pie in the sky stuff,” he said. If it doesn’t work out, he will sell his remaining wares and retire.

It will be a bittersweet ending to a 15-year run in that location for his shop, which operated in three other locations before that. To Welch, Shiller Lavy’s departure is emblematic of the rise and fall of Mile End as a commodity.

“When I moved in, it was pretty sleepy around here,” he said. “It’s funny to think, but there were no parking meters on the street. It was a very different place. I sometimes wonder if stores like mine take advantage of an area gentrifying, move in when the rents are still low and help gentrify it.

“Now it’s on the downswing, in my view. Tour groups come by and pause in front of the store, where they probably talk about my fight and the way the community came together to help me stay a while. It’s all very interesting, but once I’m gone it will be: ‘This is where so-and-so used to be. This is where Cagibi used to be.’ Come on. It’s kind of dumb. So what is the street now? Where is the coolness that it used to be? It’s pretty well gone, expect for the cafés and a few other things. It’s not cool anymore. I guess that’s the way it goes.”

Stephen Welch, seen here in December 2021, was supported by the public when a rent increase threatened the survival of his beloved bookstore.
Stephen Welch, seen here in December 2021, was supported by the public when a rent increase threatened the survival of his beloved bookstore. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

A two-storey building across the street at 210 to 212 St-Viateur St. W., of which the ground floor is rented by QDC Burger, was bought by Shiller Lavy in 2016 for $374,000. It’s now selling for $1.475 million.

Over at the corner of Clark St., the complex housing Bishop & Bagg Pub and Falafel Yoni is going for $4.9 million. It was purchased in 2012 for $1.25 million. Bishop & Bagg owners did not respond to a request for comment.

A block away, the building at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. that was once home to queer-friendly café-resto Le Cagibi is now rented by Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar La Catrina, after sitting empty for a couple years. Bought by Stephen Shiller’s son Brandon Shiller and partner Jeremy Kornbluth for $1.3 million in 2015 and sold to Shiller Lavy for $1.5 million in 2019, it’s now going for $3.5 million.

On the other end of the strip, at 266 St-Viateur St. W., is a storefront rented by Lululemon. The yoga and athletic apparel company that to many is a symbol of the neighbourhood’s gentrification arrived after the building was bought by Kornbluth and Brandon Shiller for $700,000 in 2014. The building was passed on to Shiller Lavy for $898,000 in 2015 and is now going for $2.5 million.

Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Danny Lavy was not willing to discuss his company’s apparent exodus from Mile End.

“You think I’m going to make a comment?” he said. “No. I appreciate it. Goodbye.”

Avi Breitman, the real-estate agent for the buildings rented by Lululemon and QDC Burger, wouldn’t say why Shiller Lavy decided to sell.

“I don’t think I can share this with you,” he said.

Breitman said there has been interest since the buildings went on the market just before the holidays, and he expects them to sell without trouble.

“We’ve had good traffic,” he said. “We’ve had some offers. I’m not worried.”

Even once all five buildings sell, Shiller Lavy won’t be completely gone from Mile End. The company still owns at least three buildings along the street, home to businesses including Cantina Emilia and Bar Le Waverly.

Marie Sterlin, Projet Montreal councillor for Mile End, says Shiller Lavy’s departure signals the end of a difficult decade for the neighbourhood.

“Shiller Lavy had a devastating effect not only on the commercial fabric but on the social fabric of Mile End,” she said. “They’re not people who loved the neighbourhood for what it was.”

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Former B.C. Realtor has licence cancelled, $130K in penalties for role in mortgage fraud

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The provincial regulator responsible for policing B.C.’s real estate industry has ordered a former Realtor to pay $130,000 and cancelled her licence after determining that she committed a variety of professional misconduct.

Rashin Rohani surrendered her licence in December 2023, but the BC Financial Services Authority’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray determined that it should nevertheless be cancelled as a signal to other licensees that “repetitive participation in deceptive schemes” will result in “significant” punishment.

He also ordered her to pay a $40,000 administrative penalty and $90,000 in enforcement expenses. Pendray explained his rationale for the penalties in a sanctions decision issued on May 17. The decision was published on the BCFSA website Wednesday.

Rohani’s misconduct occurred over a period of several years, and came in two distinct flavours, according to the decision.

Pendray found she had submitted mortgage applications for five different properties that she either owned or was purchasing, providing falsified income information on each one.

Each of these applications was submitted using a person referred to in the decision as “Individual 1” as a mortgage broker. Individual 1 was not a registered mortgage broker and – by the later applications – Rohani either knew or ought to have known this was the case, according to the decision.

All of that constituted “conduct unbecoming” under B.C.’s Real Estate Services Act, Pendray concluded.

Separately, Rohani also referred six clients to Individual 1 when she knew or ought to have known he wasn’t a registered mortgage broker, and she received or anticipated receiving a referral fee from Individual 1 for doing so, according to the decision. Rohani did not disclose this financial interest in the referrals to her clients.

Pendray found all of that to constitute professional misconduct under the act.

‘Deceptive’ scheme

The penalties the chief hearing officer chose to impose for this behaviour were less severe than those sought by the BCFSA in the case, but more significant than those Rohani argued she should face.

Rohani submitted that the appropriate penalty for her conduct would be a six-month licence suspension or a $15,000 discipline penalty, plus $20,000 in enforcement expenses.

For its part, the BCFSA asked Pendray to cancel Rohani’s licence and impose a $100,000 discipline penalty plus more than $116,000 in enforcement expenses.

Pendray’s ultimate decision to cancel the licence and impose penalties and expenses totalling $130,000 reflected his assessment of the severity of Rohani’s misconduct.

Unlike other cases referenced by the parties in their submissions, Rohani’s misconduct was not limited to a single transaction involving falsified documents or a series of such transactions during a brief period of time, according to the decision.

“Rather, in this case Ms. Rohani repetitively, over the course of a number of years, elected to personally participate in a deceptive mortgage application scheme for her own benefit, and subsequently, arranged for her clients to participate in the same deceptive mortgage application scheme,” the decision reads.

Pendray further noted that, although Rohani had been licensed for “a significant period of time,” she had only completed a small handful of transactions, according to records from her brokerage.

There were just six transactions on which her brokerage recorded earnings for her between December 2015 and February 2020, according to the decision. Of those six, four were transactions that were found to have involved misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

“In sum, Ms. Rohani’s minimal participation in the real estate industry as a licensee has, for the majority of that minimal participation, involved her engaging in conduct unbecoming involving deceptive practices and professional misconduct,” the decision reads.

According to the decision, Rohani must pay the $40,000 discipline penalty within 90 days of the date it was issued.

 

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Should you wait to buy or sell your home?

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The Bank of Canada is expected to announce its key interest rate decision in less than two weeks. Last month, the bank lowered its key interest rate to 4.7 per cent, marking its first rate cut since March 2020.

CTV Morning Live asked Jason Pilon, broker of Record Pilon Group, whether now is the right time to buy or sell your home.

When it comes to the next interest rate announcement, Pilon says the bank might either lower it further, or just keep it as is.

“The best case scenario we’re seeing is obviously a quarter point. I think more just because of the job numbers that just came out, I think more people are just leading on the fact that they probably just gonna do it in September,” he said. “Either way, what we saw in June, didn’t make a big difference.”

Here are the pros of buying/ selling now:

Pilon suggests locking in the rate right now, if you don’t want to take a risk with interest rates going up in the future.

He says the environment is more predictable right now, noting that the home values are transparent, which is one of the benefits for home sellers.

“Do you want to risk looking at what that looks like down the road? Or do you want to have the comfort in knowing what your house is worth right now?” Pilon said.

And when it comes to buyers, he notes, the competition is not so fierce right now, noting that there are options to choose from.

“You’re in the driver seat right now,” he said while noting the benefits for buyers.

Here are the cons of buying/ selling now:

He says one of the cons would be locking in the rate right now, then seeing a rate cut in the future.

The competition could potentially become fierce, if the bank decides to cut the rate further more, he explained.

He notes that if that happens, the housing crisis will become even worse, as Canada is still dealing with low housing inventory.

An increase in competition would increase the prices of houses, he adds.

Selling or buying too quickly isn’t the best practice, he notes, suggesting that you should take your time and put some thought into it.

Despite all the pros and cons, Pilon says, real estate remains a good investment.

According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey for the second quarter of this year, the average home price in Canada is $824,300. That’s up 1.9 per cent from the same time last year, and up 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2024.

In the Ottawa Housing Market Report for June 2024, the average price of a home was up 2.4 per cent from this time last year to $686,535, but down 0.6 per cent from May 2024.

Experts believe many potential buyers are still hesitant of jumping into the housing market and waiting for another interest rate cut of 50 to 100 basis points.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the rush that we see in the past, because people are used to more of a conservative approach right now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “I think there’s still a bit of a hold back, but I definitely do think with another rate cut, we’ll probably see a very positive fall market.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Kimberly Fowler

 

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Real estate stocks soar to best day of year on rate cut bets

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(Bloomberg) — The stock market’s worst group notched its best day of the year as a cooler-than-expected inflation report stoked bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in September.

Shares of real estate companies jumped 2.7% Thursday for their biggest gain of 2024, climbing to their highest level since March as investors snapped up homebuilder, digital and commercial real estate stocks alike. Real estate also was the best-performing group in the S&P 500 Index Thursday, with volume that was around 30% higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Arguably the most significant news to come from the latest consumer price index reading was a pullback in housing-related inflation. Shelter costs rose just 0.2% for the slowest monthly increase in three years. Homebuilders, which have risen 7.1% this year, were up 7.3% for the session, the most since 2022. Shares of D.R. Horton Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings next Thursday, gained 7.3%.

“Housing has really been the last shoe to drop in terms of winning the battle against high inflation,” Preston Caldwell, chief U.S. economist at Morningstar wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Leading-edge data has strongly indicated for some time now that a fall in housing inflation was in the works.”

A rally in real estate stocks is bad news for short sellers who have been piling into the group, which is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year. To start the week, short interest as a percentage of float hovered near 49% in the SPDR Homebuilders ETF, the highest level since February for the exchange-traded fund, according to data from S3 Partners.

Property owners are rallying as well. Real estate investment trusts, which were brutally penalized during the two-year run up in borrowing costs, advanced by as much as 3%. And the outlook for the group appears to have turned a corner, according Rich Hill, senior vice president and head of real estate strategy and research at Cohen & Steers Capital Management.

“We think this is a compelling backdrop for listed REITs especially as fundamental growth remains on solid footing,” he said, referencing the latest inflation data and rate outlook. “The rally that started in October of 2023 pushing returns more than 20% above their trough looks set to continue if inflation cools and interest rates continue to decline.”

Shares of industrial REIT Prologis Inc., which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, rose 3.3% to hit their highest level since April. U.S. Treasury yields tumbled, with the 10-year bond falling to 4.2% and the policy-sensitive two-year note slipping to 4.5%.

(Updates indexes and stock prices for market close.)

 

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