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Things are looking up for real estate markets heading into 2020 – Financial Post



After a disappointing 2018, when housing prices and sales declined, 2019 has been a year of resilience for housing markets across most of Canada. Not only did sales numbers stabilize and resume an upward climb, but prices also demonstrated some strength.

As we move closer to 2020, those involved with the real estate industry and the million-plus Canadian households who are likely to buy or sell a residential property in the next year are wondering whether things will continue to improve in the year ahead, or if there is more trouble in store.

The good news is that a review of the forecasts by leading real estate experts in Canada points to a recovery in 2020. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) estimates the national home sales to reach 530,000 units in 2020, an 8.9 per cent increase over the total expected for 2019. CREA also expects the national average price to hit $531,000 in 2020, a 6.2 per cent increase.

Royal LePage, meanwhile, is predicting a 3.2 per cent year-over-year increase in housing prices next year with RE/MAX a little more optimistic at 3.7 per cent. Though their benchmark prices are different from CREA, they see the market moving in the same direction.

Likewise, a poll of 18 economists, conducted by Reuters in November, also saw gains ahead, predicting Canadian housing prices would rise by 3 per cent in 2020 and 2.9 per cent in 2021.

The positive forecast for housing markets in 2020 is supported by strong immigration numbers that are likely to maintain a sustained demand for housing in Canada’s most populous housing markets. A Royal LePage survey reported in October 2019 that “newcomers to Canada are expected to purchase one in every five homes on the market over the next five years.”

At the same time, CREA notes that the Bank of Canada is unlikely to raise interest rates in 2020, which will drive demand for mortgage finance.

While most market watchers are optimistic about housing, there are some causes for concern. For starters, not everyone expects a three-plus per cent jump in prices. Fitch Ratings, a debt assessment firm, is forecasting a mere 1 per cent growth in housing prices in 2020. When adjusted for 2 per cent inflation, Fitch is forecasting a decline in real house prices for the next year.

Another concern is that listings are not keeping pace with sales. An increase in new listings, when sales are climbing, is needed to restrict inflationary pressures. Royal LePage, in its forecast for 2020, is also mindful of a lack of growth in listings. “The story in 2020 will be lack of supply,” warns the real estate firm.

Accompanying the tightened supply is growth in mortgage credit. This has caught the attention of the Bank of Canada. In a recent address, Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank, noted that a drop in mortgage rates had “boosted” the markets. “Many of the same ingredients that were present in some housing markets three years ago — namely strong underlying demand, tight supply and low-interest rates — are present again,” she noted.

Despite the concerns, markets are better equipped to deal with the determinants of inflationary pressures. The Bank of Canada expects “the regulatory and other measures in place will support the quality of new credit and mitigate the buildup of imbalances in the housing market.”

The regulatory measure credited the most with addressing housing price inflation is the stress test, which was expanded in January 2018 to include uninsured mortgages and required borrowers to qualify at a higher rate than the negotiated rate with the lender to address the possibility of a future rate hike.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has directed his finance minister, Bill Morneau, to review the tests and potentially make them more dynamic, it is not certain if or precisely how that will happen. Any changes will have to balance the needs of Alberta and the Prairies, where housing markets have been struggling, with those of regions where demand has already started to pick up.

All told, a vibrant labour market, vigorous demand for housing and low interest rates suggest conditions will be favourable for housing in 2020. The federal government’s initiative to help new homebuyers with shared equity mortgages and a possible review of the stress test are also positive signs. But as always in real estate, there are plenty of unknowns that could disrupt that positive picture.

Murtaza Haider is a professor of Real Estate Management at Ryerson University. Stephen Moranis is a real estate industry veteran. They can be reached at

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Open House: How to survive B.C.'s red hot real-estate market | Watch News Videos Online –



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Open House: How to survive B.C.’s red hot real-estate market | Watch News Videos Online

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Latest Mile End Real Estate Listing Reignites Discussions of Gentrification – Eater Montreal



An “à louer” (for rent) sign from notorious Montreal real estate firm Shiller Lavy spotted in the window of beloved second-hand bookshop S.W. Welch on St-Viateur Street has reinvigorated concerns about the impact of gentrification on the Mile End neighbourhood and its dining scene.

Well-documented — and massive — rent hikes have over the past several years brought on the exodus of places like queer café and performance space Le Cagibi (now in Little Italy) and patisserie Chez de Gaulle (now in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), both at the hands of Shiller Lavy.

Reacting to the news that the same may happen to an institution like S.W. Welch, former Montreal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman took to Twitter to share her insight into what a future overrun by Shiller Lavy ownership might look like: “Their idea of a great business is Five Guys. I know that because Lavy told me as much,” she posted yesterday. Meanwhile, Montreal community page @FNoMTL reminded followers of the 55 percent rent hike that squeezed the aforementioned Chez Gaulle into vacating its St-Viateur location.

While Shiller Lavy is by no means the sole real estate developer scooping up lots on St-Viateur and elsewhere in the neighbourhood, its purple signs etched in yellow font have become somewhat of a harbinger of more loss — and more retail chains like yoga-pant brand Lululemon and fancy soap dispenser Aesop. (For the record, other popular St-Viateur restaurants, such as Falafel Yoni and Bishop and Bagg, also rent from Shiller Lavy.) Below is a list of some of the major restaurant-related real estate controversies the neighbourhood has seen since May 2015:

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October 2020: The St-Laurent location that once housed celebrated restaurant Hôtel Herman — is taken over by a shop called Sugar Mamie, which sells make-your-own cake pop kits. It had sat empty, clad in graffiti, for over three years.

September 2020: Old Montreal Mexican restaurant La Catrina opens its second location in what was once home to revered café and performance space Le Cagibi. The prime-time location on the corner of St-Viateur and St-Laurent sat empty for nearly two years, presumably until a tenant with deeper pockets came around.

September 2019: Korean-Japanese lunch spot Sushi Jinjin at 29 St-Viateur West closes after taking over the space that previously belonged to Boulangerie Clarke. The space now houses sustainable clothing apparel store Kotn.

July 2019: St-Viateur Street patisserie Chez de Gaulle calls it quits after 13 years. Shiller Lavy had hit it with a monthly rent hike of about 55 percent, from $4,200 per month to $6,500.

November 2018: Le Cagibi closes its doors after new building owners — Jeremy Kornbluth and Brandon Shiller, son of Stephen Shiller, of Shiller Lavy realtors (which now own the property) — raised the coffee shop’s rent by more than 100 percent, from about $3,400 to $7,500 a month.

February 2017: Hôtel Herman is evicted after landlord Katerina Protopapas declined the restaurant’s offer of a substantial rent increase.

August 2015: Thirty-five-year-old Mile End landmark Boulangerie Clarke closes due in part to a rent hike from landlords Shiller Lavy. Sushi restaurant Jinjin took over the space a couple months later, in November 2015. (Frank Servedio, son of Clarke’s founders, revived the name in June 2018 with a café in Pointe St-Charles.)

May 2015: Colombian restaurant Gracias Corazón closes shortly after Danny Lavy and Stephen Shiller purchase the St-Viateur building in 2014. It passes hands a couple times, and is now home to Portuguese chicken restaurant Emilia.

While commercial vacancies have become increasingly ubiquitous in the area for some time, the pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the issue (cue this compilation of vacant Mile End storefronts posted by @FNoMTL onto Instagram yesterday). By the looks of it, however, “something is brewing” to stave off the wave of gentrification: Anonymous Montreal eviction satire Twitter account Shitter La Vie — whose name is an obvious gibe at the contentious realtors — is planning a campaign to push back against rent hikes with the help of others who were saddened by the news that another Mile End institution has been “given a death sentence.”

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Greek-Canadian businessman saw opportunity in undervalued Detroit real estate – The Globe and Mail



Andreas Apostolopoulos.

Courtesy of the Family

Andreas Apostolopoulos arrived in Canada as a 17-year-old on a Friday in 1969 and started work at a Kentucky Fried Chicken factory the following Monday. All his life he remembered the nine parts of a chicken that had to be rendered before they could be shipped off to a KFC outlet to be fried and dumped into a bucket.

A man who only went as far as Grade 5 or 6 in Greece, he was worth billions when he died on Feb. 15 at home in Richmond Hill, Ont., at the age of 69.

One of his biggest coups was in 2009 when he bought the 80,311-seat Pontiac Silverdome for US$583,000, about 1 per cent of the US$55.7-million cost of building the domed stadium in 1975.

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Pontiac, Mich., is a separate city northwest of Detroit, but part of the Metro Detroit area. General Motors once built its Pontiac cars there, but like much of the Detroit area, it fell on hard times. The city of Pontiac built the stadium, home to the Detroit Lions of the National Football League, who played there until 2002, when they moved to the Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

That left Pontiac on the ropes. There was an offer on the stadium but the buyer reneged on the $250,000 deposit. There was an auction. The city was expecting US$17-million for its giant stadium sitting on 127 acres of land. Mr. Apostolopoulos was on vacation in Greece when one of his sons called him about the stadium sale. He made a stink bid of US$500,000. To his surprise he discovered he was one of the top three bidders. There was another auction and the auctioneer opened the bidding, over the phone, at US$20-million dollars. No one said a peep. Mr. Apostolopoulos won it for US$583,000.

For several years he and his three sons ran the Silverdome for everything from monster truck rallies to boxing matches. But a stadium that is one third larger than the Rogers Centre in Toronto can look a little empty with just 12,000 people in it. Then parts of the roof fell off, a problem with domed stadiums of the era.

One of Mr. Apostolopoulos’s biggest coups was in 2009 when he bought the 80,311-seat Pontiac Silverdome for US$583,000, about 1 per cent of the US$55.7-million cost of building the domed stadium in 1975.


Finally, the stadium was demolished in December, 2017, and in 2019 the Apostolopoulos family came to an agreement with Amazon over the property – a confidentiality agreement prevents them from saying whether it was an outright sale or a lease. The end result is that the 127-acre property, at the junction of major highways, including the Interstate I-75, is home to an Amazon distribution and fulfilment centre. Amazon spent upwards of US$250-million to build the facility.

“My father turned down a lot of offers for the Silverdome, including a waste transfer station, until he found one that was good for the community. The Amazon site will provide 2,500 jobs better than minimum wage,” Peter Apostolopoulos said.

In 2017, Canadian Business magazine listed the Apostolopoulos family as the 22nd-richest in Canada, with assets of $3.9-billion.

Andreas Apostolopoulos, was born on Sept. 25, 1952, in Messini, Greece, where his father, Dimitri, ran a small café. His sister, Anna, moved to Toronto and then he followed. A couple of years after he arrived, the siblings sent for their father and mother, Dimitra.

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Mr. Apostolopoulos, known as Andy in Canada, worked pulling chickens apart for a couple of years, so long that he met KFC’s Colonel Sanders on two occasions when the face of the company visited Toronto. In later life it was a bit of party trick that he could recite all the parts of the dismembered chicken.

He married Joanna Argiropoulos when he was 22. Her father, Peter, was a Toronto taxi driver and for a while Mr. Apostolopoulos drove cabs to the airport. He took on as many jobs as he could.

“He worked in his uncle’s fish and chips shop, he was an electrical apprentice and spent nights and weekends as an usher at the Titania theatre on the Danforth – which showed Greek movies – along with sweeping and mopping floors. He did it all,” his son Peter said.

Cleaning offices morphed into his first company when he landed his own contracts. His wife, Joanna, whose English was better than his, worked the phones lining up cleaning work.

“But he was the closer,” Jim said. “Our father was a very outgoing, friendly person.”

The links from one business to another seem obvious when looking back on his progress, but his first move up came when he thought he was paying too much for garbage bags. He decided to make them himself. Soon he was selling garbage bags to hospitals and other customers. He sold his cleaning contracts and started producing garbage bags full time.

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Next he aimed to reduce the amount of rent he was paying for warehouse and manufacturing space for his garbage bags. He bought his first warehouse in East York, an old industrial area other companies had abandoned for Mexico, Vietnam or China. Right away he realized he had too much space for the garbage-bag business so he sub-divided the warehouse into units and rented them out.

The industrial rental business was much more lucrative than the garbage bag business, so he sold out and started Triple Properties, managing and developing industrial, commercial and retail space. He bought and sold one building after another. Because he used to rent warehouse space, he had a good idea what tenants wanted.

Like many immigrants, Mr. Apostolopoulos valued land and buildings more than other investments. Part of the reason was that in Greece, land was owned by the type of rich person he never thought he could aspire to be. “Buy bricks, not paper,” he told his three sons, who worked with him.

Though he had little formal education, he could work out a deal in his head in a hurry. “My father was very good with numbers. He was like a human calculator,” his son Peter said

The numbers on Detroit real estate looked good. In the early 2000s Mr. Apostolopoulos started looking at investing there. The city had been in a slump since the race riots of the summer of 1967 and again in April 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

While buying a warehouse in Toronto gave him a 5-per-cent return on his money, buying an industrial property in the Detroit area produced a 20-per-cent return, since many developers avoided the area.

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In 2012 Mr. Apostolopoulos bought the Penobscot office tower, a massive Empire State building lookalike in downtown Detroit for just US$5-million. Right away the annual rent brought in more than the purchase price. The 47-storey Art Deco Penobscot building has 1.25 million square feet of office space. By comparison, Scotia Plaza in downtown Toronto, at two million square feet, was valued at $1.5-billion in a sale in 2017.

In 2012 Mr. Apostolopoulos bought the Penobscot office tower, a massive Empire State building lookalike in downtown Detroit for just US$5-million.

Mandi Wright/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

“A lot of people were afraid to invest. My father wasn’t afraid. Also part of the time he was buying when the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S. dollar. At one point the Canadian was worth a bit more than the U.S. and that made buying in the United States even better,” Peter said. He added that there was negative press in the United States, critical of Canadians snapping up undervalued properties in the Detroit area.

One condescending article noted that Andreas Apostolopoulos spoke English with a Greek accent.

Mr. Apostolopoulos’s Triple Properties has faced criticism over the Penobscot’s state of disrepair. An article in the Detroit Free Press as recently as Feb. 8 noted the tenants in the building complained about a lack of water and elevator stoppages.

The City of Detroit issued 177 blight violation tickets and fines to Triple Properties for the Penobscot last year, according to the Free Press. Curbed Detroit magazine in a recent article, called Mr. Apostolopoulos “a controversial figure in Detroit real estate.”

The three brothers answered that the recent incident was caused by a power outage and failed water pump, which the brothers said was repaired within a day.

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“The building is almost 100 years old and the previous owner neglected it,” Peter Apostolopoulos said. “We have spent millions updating the building.”

His father was always looking for new business opportunities. When he bought the Pontiac Silverdome, he noticed a small cheque came in that he and his sons couldn’t place. He learned it was a payment for a billboard on the site. From then on he was always on the lookout for properties with billboards.

One of his latest deals was building a huge casino, called Durham Live, in Pickering, a Toronto suburb. Its opening has been stalled by the pandemic lockdown.

“Our father was smart, sharp, quick-witted and a caring man, even more so as he got older,” his son Steve said. From the start Andreas Apostolopoulos was a frugal man, always a saver. “He was not flashy, did not care for name brands or look at what people had or what they were wearing as a marker for their character or worth as a human being, He had no biases, and couldn’t care less about your skin colour, social status, net worth or religion.”

He had no outside interests, apart from work and family, and no bad habits – didn’t smoke and was a light drinker – though he occasionally liked to play cards with Greek friends on the Danforth in Toronto. He was proud of his success and had one piece of advice: “You can’t get to the top without starting from the bottom.”

Mr. Apostolopoulos leaves his wife, Joanna; three sons, Jim, Peter and Steve; and five grandchildren.

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