Robert Cimetta has lived a storied life. Professional hockey player, 9/11 survivor, and real estate developer are all titles that have been attached to Cimetta over the years.
The Toronto native first turned heads playing with the Toronto Marlboros in the Ontario Hockey League. In his third year with the team he led the league in goals. During the 1989 World Junior Championship in Alaska Cimetta led Team Canada in scoring with the team eventually finishing fourth overall. In 1988 he was a first round draft pick for the Boston Bruins. During his professional sporting career he played a total of 103 NHL games, 54 with the Bruins and 49 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent the final six years of his career playing in Germany before moving to Florida.
After his hockey career ended, Cimetta got a job working for Morgan Stanley. He was working for the company for four months when he was called to head office for training. Cimetta was in Tower II of the World Trade Centre when the second plane hit on September 11th. Fortunately, he made it out of the building before it collapsed. He eventually returned home to Toronto.
Now his title reads ‘Robert Cimetta, owner and principal, Cimetta Properties.’
"I realized my parents were aging and I wanted to be in Toronto in their twilight years," Cimetta said of his reasons for returning to the city. "There was also a business opportunity here for me, and certainly my network is here, and my relationships are all in Toronto. So it made a lot of sense from the perspective of what I do and who I know to be in this market place."
Cimetta Properties has become involved in a diverse range of real estate projects around the city. The company handles construction management, consulting, real estate development, and maintenance services. Cimetta says he’s been involved in ultra-high end homebuilding in the city for the past decade, often helping clients right from the beginning when they buy a property and going all the way through the construction process.
In whatever project he’s working on, Cimetta says it’s important for him to start with his clients right from the beginning of a purchase.
Rob's work on 308B Rose Park Drive
I think it’s a pretty involved process for a variety of reasons. If you get a builder/developer on your team, there’s a lot of value in looking at a project and saying what’s reasonable, what’s practical. And also taking on a bit of fiduciary responsibility as a partner to an owner, to make sure the proper decisions are being made,
I think a builder can have a lot of [impact].
Over the years, Cimetta has watched Toronto’s housing market grow increasingly vibrant. Any time a property comes up for sale Cimetta says there will be multiple bids, pushing prices higher. Add that to skyrocketing land values, increased costs from the city, development shortages and permit fees and building in Toronto becomes a very expensive prospect. And as the prices have increased it’s become more and more important for Cimetta to make sure his clients have a chance at seeing a return on their investment.
"When it comes to looking at a project in terms of its fiscal viability, you certainly want to make sure you understand, before purchasing a property, all of the cost ramifications that you or may not have been aware of," he says.
People notoriously underestimate what things will cost, and in an environment where costs are continually escalating that concern becomes a lot more real, for me at least.
Cimetta says it’s possible for costs to overrun. Unless there are architectural drawings and a definitive finishing schedule, only a high level budget can be produced. So he says aligning a client's expectations and reality is just the first step. If you overpay for land, or if you pay more than was expected for construction, then you end up with a project that exceeds market value. It comes down to needs versus wants, regardless of the property according to Cimetta.
"People may want a lot of bells and whistles. but it’s constantly a process where there’s potentially the need to make compromises and say ‘I’m willing to spend my money on these different items such as bathrooms, the front elevation of the home—how it looks from the street, etc. But you may decide ‘hey, I really don’t need that workout room in the basement’ or ‘I really don’t need that movie theatre down there’ because that’s really a novelty item,"
You have to be fiscally responsible. At the same time you may want to have the bells and whistles but you have to be smart about those decisions.
Cimetta always aims to give buyers a return on their investment, and staying up to date with the latest trends is an important aspect of that.
You always want to stay current. Whatever may be in vogue,
But as he says, it mostly depends on the motivation of the buyer.
"If I’m, as a builder and developer, looking to sell my property, I certainly want it to be relevant. I want it to be current. Whatever’s in and hot is important currently in Toronto," explains Cimmeta.
Rob's work on 308B Rose Park Drive
"Contemporary design is becoming more and more the mainstay. But if I’m working with a client, their taste may be very subjective and that’s their discretion and decision to build what they want. I think I always try to contribute and make people aware of things that are considered high value in the marketplace and making sure they’re trying to steer their decisions in that direction."
But finding a balance between what’s trendy and what appeals to a buyer’s personal aesthetics can be a difficult balancing act to pull off.
Cimetta says he always sits down and goes through the nuances of the project with whomever he’s working with. Establish a budget, deciding what’s necessary for the property and what are merely "bells and whistles," and then prioritize the list.
Rob's work on 308B Rose Park Drive
"It depends on the client, it depends on the motivation behind the project and what they’re building," says Cimetta.
If a person is planning on selling the property in five or ten years, there will be more emphasis placed on the exit strategy and making sure the seller is then in a position to not lose their money. Contrast that with someone who’s planning on living in the home for the rest of their life. According to Cimetta, that’s a different conversation.
"It really is a bit of an exploratory thing in terms of understanding the client's needs and wants, and their motivations, and making sure that they’re informed, and that you’re communicating to them the options properly," he explains.
"Ultimately the decision will fall on them," he says. "If it’s on me as the builder/developer to sell, I’m certainly looking at it in terms of my time horizons being 12 months to 24 months, where I need to know that I’m going to come out ahead."
For Cimetta, Toronto is the perfect place to conduct his business. Not only is the market exceedingly healthy, but it’s also his home. When he returned to the city to spend time with his family he began to build his company, and the market increased alongside him.
"People are not shy to invest in real estate in Toronto because it’s considered somewhat of a safe market. It’s continually a growing city,"
"The population is [adding] 150, 200-thousand new every year. [We’re in a] low interest rate environment, all of those factors... With the real estate market booming especially even today."
With the state of the Canadian economy right now, Cimetta sees Toronto real estate as a safe haven investment. He believes it’s especially attractive to anyone outside the country looking to invest in the country.
"We’ve seen a huge run in the marketplace the last ten years, but the reality is Canada, in terms of its economy, is not that strong. Our resource industry is suffering right now with oil prices and so forth, so when people are looking at investing in Canada, certainly real estate seems to be the logical place. It’s tangible—you can touch it and you can feel it."
It’s an investment that Cimetta plans to continue making for the foreseeable future. After all, Toronto’s real estate market may be a bastion of stability, even growth, in otherwise tumultuous times, but it’s also his home.