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RENX’s 2020 summer commercial real estate review | RENX

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A street-level view of the 87-storey tower proposed at Toronto’s downtown Bay and Bloor intersection. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron)

Labour Day has passed and fall looms. That means it’s time for us to play catch-up on the commercial real estate scene across Canada.

If you’ve been out of the office during the summer (we mean that in the figurative sense considering how many folks are working from home these days), and are wondering if you’ve missed any major Canadian commercial real estate news, then read on.

We present the 2020 version of RENX’s annual Summer Commercial Real Estate Review.

We’ve included a selection of the most-read and most significant stories written for RENX since June, followed by a few of the most insightful submissions from our Columnist Contributors.

As with previous summer reviews, these stories are not listed in order of importance, because depending on your sector(s) and market(s) of interest, what’s vital for one CRE professional to know might not be relevant to others.

So welcome back to work . . . and read on . . .

Dutch firms plan 87-storey downtown Toronto high-rise

Dutch developers Kroonenberg Groep and ProWinko are proposing an 87-storey, mixed-use high-rise which would tower over the downtown Toronto intersection of Bay and Bloor Streets. If approved and built as proposed, it would be Canada’s tallest building. Read the full story

WalMart plans new GTA warehouse, part of $3.5B investment

WalMart will build a fifth distribution centre in the GTA as part of a $3.5-billion commitment to its Canadian operations during the next five years. The centre will join another 300,000-square-foot facility under construction in Surrey, B.C.; and major upgrades to a third facility in Cornwall, Ont. Read the full story

ELAD Canada acquisition talks ‘progressing well’

Shortly after word of the sale of an interest in ELAD Canada to Plaza Partners and Argent Ventures became public, the CEO of ELAD Canada confirmed talks were “progressing well.” The transaction involves an initial payment of $225 million for 37 per cent of ELAD Canada as well as two U.S. properties. Read the full story

RioCan sells 50% interests in Toronto, Ottawa developments

RioCan REIT continued its trend of bringing in partners on major developments, selling 50 per cent interests in two of its residential-based projects to Maplelands Development Inc. (Dufferin Plaza in Toronto) and Killam Apartment REIT (Luma at Elmvale Acres in Ottawa). Read the full story

See also: RioCan continues to develop heavy slate of projects  Read the full story

Dream launches $2.5B Calgary Alpine Park

Calgary’s ongoing economic challenges didn’t deter the construction launch of the massive $2.5-billion Alpine Park mixed-use development by Dream Unlimited. The 646-acre master-planned community will be home to about 10,000 residents, plus retail/commercial space, parks and amenities. Read the full story

498 housing construction projects delayed in GTA: BILD

Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) survey found 498 residential construction projects by its members in the Greater Toronto Area had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Toronto itself, 65 per cent of these projects were delayed three to six months and 32 per cent faced delays of greater than six months. Read the full story

Coquitlam plans dense, vibrant new downtown core

Coquitlam is embarking on a major urban planning mission that will take decades to realize: the transformation of 1970s suburban strip malls and parking lots into a rich, diverse and walkable urban core. Read the full story

Canderel buys Montreal office building, plans new build

Canderel purchased 6600 Saint-Urbain in Montreal from Olymbec in a move by the developer to expand its presence in the Mile-Ex neighbourhood, an increasingly popular hub for artificial intelligence firms. The developer also plans a 250,000- to 500,000-square-foot office development at 155 Beaubien Street West in Mile-Ex. Read the full story

Choice buys Toronto West Block, Weston Centre for $206M

Just a week after reiterating it was in the market for acquisitions, Choice Properties REIT (CHP-UN-T) said it would spend $206 million to acquire two Toronto mixed-use office and retail properties from Wittington Properties Ltd. Read the full story

Signet sells 7 Toronto apartment buildings to Starlight, Timbercreek

IMAGE: 2050 Keele St., in Toronto is part of two apartment portfolios sold by Signet Group to Starlight and Timbercreek. (Google Street View)

2050 Keele St., in Toronto is part of two apartment portfolios sold by Signet Group to Starlight and Timbercreek. (Google Street View)

Starlight and Timbercreek purchased seven Toronto apartment buildings from Signet Group for $193.7 million. The portfolios, which comprise 675 apartments located within the City of Toronto, range from a 187-apartment high-rise to an 18-apartment block. Read the full story

Rosefellow to build 3 Montreal, Ottawa-area industrial sites

Montreal developer Rosefellow and its financial partners will invest about $160 million to acquire and develop three industrial sites in Pointe-Claire in Montreal’s West Island; in Montréal-Est; and in Casselman, Ont., near Ottawa. Read the full story

Q2 2020 was RioCan’s ‘most unusual quarter’: Sonshine

Ed Sonshine called it “the most unusual quarter” of his 26 years as CEO of RioCan REIT. Q2 2020 will go down as one of the toughest financially for the trust, but both Sonshine and president/COO Jonathan Gitlin focused on restoring future value and growth during a financial results call with analysts. Read the full story

A sector-by-sector analysis of Canadian CRE: Altus

Accelerated evolution in all commercial real estate sectors, particularly in technology and work-from-home strategies, was a key theme as Altus Group offered a sector-by-sector breakdown on the impact of COVID-19. Read the full story

Office sublease market growing in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in sublease office space in major Canadian cities, particularly Vancouver and Toronto. Market experts expected the trend to continue and to expand to other cities as occupiers take stock of the coronavirus impact and future work habits. Read the full story

Rocky View County’s explosive growth continues

The recent announcement of a 1.23-million-square-foot Lowe’s Canada distribution centre in Balzac is the latest example of how the area just outside Calgary has become a magnet for huge commercial real estate developments and job growth. Read the full story

FROM OUR COLUMNISTS:

Can this many transit-oriented developers be wrong?

John Clark, Value, Weighed & Measured: Land values continue to rise. Real estate continues to sell. Developers continue to commit millions toward new developments where the emphasis is on intensification. Read the full column

Top-6 ways the workplace is changing post-COVID-19

David Bowden, CRE Matters: The “great work-from-home experiment” has resulted in changes and realizations. We have adjusted how, where and when we perform our duties. We have accelerated our adoption and use of technology. We might have shifted our views on how we would like to work and interact within our offices. Read the full column

If we want affordable housing, the numbers must work for everyone

Naama Blonder, Design, Policy and Canadian Cities: Earlier this summer, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the locations for Housing Now’s Phase II sites. They are part of Toronto’s initiative to increase the supply of new affordable rental housing within mixed-income, transit-oriented communities on city-owned lands. Read the full column

Investors should be parking cash in industrial CRE

Barry Stuart, Saskatchewan Edge: In spite of the negative economic impact of COVID-19, the sale and lease activity within our existing industrial market continues. Saskatoon’s vacancy rate rose marginally by 0.12 per cent, to 5.86 per cent, according to ICR Commercial’s recent Q2 report. Read the full column

The proven way to accumulate wealth

Greg Placidi, CRE Wealth Insights: Amassing a fortune doesn’t typically happen overnight. Building wealth takes time. Sure, you can make a quick buck . . . but we all know Aesop’s old fable: slow and steady wins the race. Read the full column

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Real estate sales, prices surge amid strong demand, low inventory; 'mobs' of buyers – Times Colonist

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“Mobs” of buyers are viewing homes for sale across the region, putting in offers well above asking prices and waiving inspections as the real estate market continues surging during the pandemic and traditional slower winter months.

Home sales of all types hit a record 863 during February, smashing the previous mark of 780 in 1992, and sailing past the 772 sales in 2016.

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And prices are climbing.

The average price of a ­single-family home in the capital region breezed past the $1-million mark in June as the inventory of available homes for sale withered.

February’s single-family home average price hit $1.16 million — up from $888,000 during the same month a year ago. Last month’s average was beefed up by the sale of 30 properties that sold for more than $2 million — with 12 of those selling for asking prices and above, said Dustin Miller of 8X Real Estate in Victoria.

He said an equestrian farm in Central Saanich listed for $6 million went $155,000 over asking and there were three ­condominium sales for more than $2 million each, including the penthouse at Hudson Place One, the tallest building in Victoria.

The Victoria Real Estate Board said the benchmark value — or median price without the high and low end of sales — for a single-family home in the region’s core municipalities during February increased year-over-year by 9% to $948,200, a 1.7% increase from the previous month.

The benchmark value for a condominium in the core remained close to last year’s value at $525,400.

Real estate board president David Langlois said the market is caught between constrained inventory and high demand.

“The good news is that we have seen some stabilization in listings and condo pricing between January and ­February, but we continue to see huge pressure on single family homes,” said Langlois. “New listings are snapped up as soon as they are listed.”

That’s resulted in pressure on single family homes, where there is significant competition for desirable homes. “And in our marketplace most homes are desirable … and people are ­competing for properties and pushing prices up.”

There were 1,318 active listings for sale on the board’s Multiple Listing Service at the end of February — 38% fewer than the same period a year ago.

Miller said there are fewer than 400 single-family homes available across the entire system right now. “In a typical year we will see the most amount of inventory go online in April and May, but if the current trend continues, we will see only around half of the number of new listings compared to what was normally seen in the past.”

Kevin Sing of DFH Realty listed a modest, three-bedroom no-step rancher in East Saanich on Thursday for $759,000 and has shown it to nearly 50 prospective buyers over four days. He’s scheduled appointments from dawn until dusk and has received several offers, some unconditional, and several well over the asking price.

Sing said although the federal government’s mortgage stress test has put many younger buyers out of the single-family-home market, empty nesters, older couples who are downsizing or families with students at nearby Camosun College and the University of Victoria are lining up for the East Saanich home.

The demand for real estate seems insatiable, said Sing, and it isn’t just Greater Victoria.

“It’s worldwide,” he said. “I get on regular Zoom calls and everyone is experiencing the same thing, from Manhattan to the Grand Caymans. Unless you’re in a war zone, the demand for housing right now is just ridiculous.

“It’s hard to explain … it seem we have collectively decided [during COVID] that nesting is what we want to do.”

Langlois said the theme for 2021 is going to be inventory — “where does it come from and how much new supply can be approved — so that this situation does not persist.”

“We’ve seen the government attempt to influence the housing market in hopes of dampening the demand for home ownership,” he said. “The foreign buyer tax has changed nothing … our market continues to zoom forward with almost no foreign buyers. The government adjusted mortgage qualification rules, those are absorbed by the market and buyers adjust.”

Langlois said concerns about housing prices and availability should be addressed by supporting new developments in municipalities. “Be vocal with your local council or neighbourhood association,” he said. “These stakeholders hold the power in these negotiations and help to make space in your community. Gentle density and the building of new homes are the only pathway to moderate housing prices in our area.”

Miller said buyers and sellers should expect a competitive trend, including “mob-like numbers of people” showing up to see new listings.

He noted “bully offers” being submitted within hours of a property being listed and the waiving of all buyer protection contingencies such as home inspections.

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SoftBank-Backed Compass Real Estate Brokerage Files for IPO – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Compass Inc., a SoftBank-backed company that’s among the largest real estate brokerages in the U.S., filed for an initial public offering, disclosing growing revenue and shrinking losses.

The New York-based startup in its filing Monday listed the size of the offering as $500 million, a placeholder that will change. Compass will disclose further details of the offering, including the size and target price range, in a later filing.

The company lost $270 million on revenue of $3.7 billion last year, compared with a loss of $388 million on revenue of $2.4 billion in 2019, according to its filing.

Compass was founded in 2012 by Robert Reffkin, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alumnus who was once Gary Cohn’s chief of staff at the bank, and by Ori Allon, an engineer who had sold previous startups to Google and Twitter Inc. After initially exploring different models, they wound up building a traditional brokerage that invested in tech designed to make agents better. They also spent liberally to poach agents from competitors and roll up smaller brokerages.

By 2019, Compass had raised more than $1.5 billion in capital, including hundreds of millions of dollars from SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund. The company, valued at $6.4 billion, had also grown into the third largest U.S. brokerage with more than $98 billion in deal volume, according to its filing.

Despite its fast growth, Compass’s critics argued it was a traditional real estate brokerage that’s valued like a tech company. Those voices were loud enough that the company’s chief financial officer sent an eight-point memo to employees and agents in October 2019 detailing the ways the company differed from WeWork.

“They say they’re a tech company, and they back it up in the sense that they have hired lots of engineers, who are building and releasing technology,” said Mike DelPrete, a real estate strategist who follows the company. “They’re talking the talk and walking the walk, no question about that. The question is, does it make a difference?”

Compass contends its technology offers agents better and more time-efficient ways to schedule meetings, design marketing materials and communicate with clients. The company has invested heavily in engineers to build artificial intelligence that pulls those tools together, arguing that its innovation is integration.

The offering is being led by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Plc. Compass plans for its shares to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol COMP.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Women and commercial real estate – The Globe and Mail

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Atlas Studio/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

A recent study on women in the commercial real estate industry has revealed a significant gender imbalance in the sector, in fields from investment to construction. The 2019 study, conducted by the U.S.-based Commercial Real Estate Women Network (CREW), shows that 15 per cent of the top management positions were held by women.

To mark International Women’s Day next Monday, March 8, we spoke to five Canadian women in the industry about their challenges, successes and what they dream of for the future.

Ouri Scott, Principal, Urban Arts Architecture Inc., Vancouver

Her background: Ouri Scott works with Indigenous communities across British Columbia, designing community buildings, health centres, cultural buildings, higher-education spaces and multifamily housing. Ms. Scott is Tlicho Dene and grew up in the Dehcho region and in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. She earned a master of architecture at the University of British Columbia and worked at architecture firms in Vancouver.

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An internship at UNESCO, researching traditional knowledge, contributed to her focus working on designs that made sense for Indigenous communities and culture, such as houses with storage space for gear for going out on the land or processing food, or meeting spaces for traditional celebrations or ceremonies.

Challenges for women: After graduating, Ms. Scott worked at a large architecture firm run predominantly by white men. Despite the desire to support women, in reality young white men were given more opportunities there, she says. As a result, Ms. Scott almost ran out of time to get the hours she needed to be registered as an architect.

Many women leave the industry when they have children, Ms. Scott notes. While on maternity leave, she tried to stay connected to the office so as not to fall behind. She also made an effort in workplaces not to be seen as a mother, as she had seen that women who were identified as mothers have less opportunities.

Advice for other women: Accept that you can’t do it all and do not feel guilty about that, Ms. Scott suggests. Lean on friends and families for support.

A dream for the future: “We say we value children and work-life balance, but we don’t model it as an industry,” she says. “Making that be real, we would all be healthier and happier.”

Karen Walker, Senior Director, Tenant Experience, Hullmark Developments Ltd., Toronto

Her background: Karen Walker started out as an executive assistant at a real estate development company in Mississauga more than a decade ago. When the company was looking for someone to manage a property, she figured, “Let me try this out.” That experience gave her the skills to work for a company that managed properties for Hullmark. Eventually, the company asked Ms. Walker to start an internal department, which now manages about 30 properties with about 115 tenants.

Challenges for women: “In property management, things have come a long way for women,” she says. There are still times, however, when people in trades or construction do not expect her to have solid knowledge of building components, or they gloss over important details.

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When it comes to executive roles, cultural diversity is even more of an issue in commercial real estate, she says. “It is a very white, male-dominated industry,” though the past several months has moved diversity, equity and inclusion efforts (DEI) further ahead, she adds.

Advice for other women: “Your network is everything. Every job I have ever gotten has been by being introduced,” she says. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone, she adds, and volunteer to do jobs outside of your description. “Expand your duties and gain as much knowledge and experience as you can.”

A dream for the future: Ms. Walker would like to see more DEI in the industry, so eventually “it doesn’t matter whether you are Black, white, male, female, or whatever culture you are from.”

Anna Murray, Managing director, global head of ESG, BentallGreenOak, Vancouver

Her background: Originally from Ontario, Anna Murray moved to Alberta, working in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in the oil and gas and mining sectors.

She had spent time at the United Nations Global Compact – an initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies – and has a master of business administration and a law degree.

Because buildings contribute so much to global greenhouse gas emissions, Ms. Murray brought her focus on ESG to real estate firm BentallGreenOak five years ago. She works with global investment management teams, asset managers, real estate services teams and property teams, assessing such ESG issues as the environmental and social impact of investments.

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Challenges for women: It can be hard for women to know whether a company is serious about diversity in leadership, Ms. Murray says. “Women and minorities have to navigate firms past what their mission statement says to fully understanding what practices are in play.”

The other challenge for women is work-life balance, she adds. Ms. Murray at one point was raising three girls, working full-time and finishing a law degree, as well as founding a not-for-profit.

Advice for other women: “Look up to look far” is one of Ms. Murray’s suggestions, meaning that women should research a potential employer’s diversity of leadership, or efforts to diversify.

“Carry as you climb” is another, meaning draw strength from collective, not just individual, successes.

A dream for the future: One of Ms. Murray’s dreams is that ESG becomes a required component in all investment criteria on a global scale, creating a more sustainable future for all.

Another is for equal representation and pay and that women should be equally supported in upper ranks as are men.

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Lara Murphy, Co-founder, Ryan Murphy Construction Inc., Calgary

Her background: Growing up in Saint John, Lara Murphy “became the neighbourhood kid who did odd jobs.”

She always had her own business, she says, knocking on doors and doing maintenance, then running construction businesses throughout her undergraduate schooling.

She came to Calgary in 2005 and started her own firm. During a commercial project she met Karen Ryan and in 2008 they founded Ryan Murphy Construction. Two weeks after that, the financial markets collapsed.

The company did what was necessary to survive, doing maintenance contracts, tiling washrooms and the like, and built up a successful commercial construction company.

The firm, with revenue just under $10-million, is 70 per cent female and 33 per cent LGBTQ, and is working on other aspects of diversity.

Challenges for women: Ms. Murphy and Ms. Ryan still sometimes feel like outsiders to the network of established players who often win the bids. “It is unusual for a commercial real estate construction firm to be run by women,” she says.

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Advice for other women: Find people who will elevate you, she suggests, adding that it is important to be willing to fail, push your comfort level and try new things.

A dream for the future: Ms. Murphy looks forward to a day when “we wouldn’t have to have an article focused on women doing what we are doing. I want it to be just the norm.”

Joanne Chua, Investment Manager, Grosvenor Americas, Vancouver

Her background: Joanne Chua joined Grosvenor Americas, a subsidiary of Grosvenor Group, as an executive assistant to the company’s chief investment officer and a senior vice-president of investment in Vancouver in 2012.

“I was brand new to commercial real estate,” she says, but the property investment and development company encouraged her to follow her interests. So, she tried her hand at asset management.

She learned on the job and became an investment manager, growing her portfolio.

Challenges for women: “As an industry overall, there are still some areas where men dominate,” she says, adding she was lucky to be insulated from that where she works.

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Ms. Chua currently sits on the board of Commercial Real Estate Women Vancouver as director of education and outreach, working to build the pipeline of women entering the industry.

Advice for other women: “Get out there and really build your connections,” she says, adding that a strong support network helps women learn the industry and get exposure to the opportunities available to them.

A dream for the future: “I really hope our industry globally can reflect the communities we serve,” she says. “I hope all builders take the approach … to make sure cities are reflective of the people there and are able to support those people.”

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