Immigration is the life blood of Canada. This country was built on immigration, from the early European settlers in the 16th century, right up to the recent influx of Syrian refugees.
For example, in the first quarter of 2016, Canada had more than 86,000 permanent and foreign residents listed in the Statistics Canada immigration database. An additional 116,000 were in various immigration programs, such the temporary foreign worker program, the work permit program and the international student program.
Seeing how there were more and more immigrants coming to Toronto, I decided to focus some of our business on foreign buyers, who are indeed driving growth in the real estate market, particularly in big cities in like Vancouver and Toronto. So I assembled a team of realtors with different backgrounds, including China and Europe.
In this article you can read interviews with three members of the Torontoism Team. They discuss their background, their move to Canada, and their unique perspective on the international real estate market.
Sales Representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Tracy may be one of the few immigrants to Canada who doesn’t complain about the weather here. That’s because she’s from northern China, where weather conditions are similar to Canada.
In 2000, Tracy and her family decided it was time for a change and started investigating various countries, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
We decided Canada was the best choice for us. The weather wasn’t an issue for us and it’s also very close to the United States, where there might be other opportunities.
But after being here for 14 years, the family has no intention of moving anywhere else in the world:
We knew Toronto was a diversified city and very multicultural, you can taste food from around the world in one city. This city is quite open minded I have to say, politically, and everybody respects other people’s background. In China, you don’t see that. Chinese people are not like that. Here you feel you are different, but you can stay here with respect.
Tracy says Canada’s immigration policy is open to people like her and her husband because ultimately, it’s a benefit to the country:
The bar to apply for immigration is quite high, you have to be well educated and in the professional category, and your English has to be quite proficient. As immigrants, we have skills to contribute to this country.
Tracy, who worked at a technology company as a marketing specialist in China, easily found a new job when she came to Canada. As did her husband, who is an engineer. But when her husband was laid off in 2006, they decided to start their own business, eventually opening two retail outlets.
But the long hours involved in running the business eventually became too much for the couple, who sold the two stores:
I went into real estate and my husband started a career in the investment industry. We are not afraid of taking risks, we are entrepreneurs and we want to take control of our own lives.
With a strong background in marketing, Tracy adds her experience with CMHC, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's International department, promoting housing around the world.
Tracy says working in real estate gives her flexible hours and she doesn’t have to worry about job security or income.
I do have to be available nights and weekends, but I have flexibility that others don’t have.
Sales Representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Sherille comes from the work hard, play hard environment of London, England, where Friday comes and you "go a bit crazy." But on her first visit in 1999, she was immediately attracted to Toronto.
People work hard but everyone doesn’t go wild on Friday. It’s not that sort of culture; it’s a little more laid back.
After their visit to Toronto, Sherille and her husband returned to London and wrote a pros and cons list for the two cities. The biggest – and only -- con on the list for Toronto was leaving their families behind.
The decision was made to relocate to Canada, a move that was ultimately delayed by 9/11. After that, it become a lot harder to enter Canada, but as their paperwork was complete, Sherille and her husband made it to Toronto in December 2001, staying with a cousin in Leslieville.
We had all this cash from the sale of our properties in London but we didn’t have jobs. We looked at a few really big houses but the real estate agent reined us in and we bought a little house in Leslieville.
Sherille was an international merchandise buyer in London, so she found a similar job in Toronto:
We took our time, got to know Toronto, enjoyed Toronto life and I started a buying job. But it was a very different way of doing business in Canada than what I was used to in London. We didn’t come here for more stress so I gave that job up after about five months, and I didn’t know what to do.
Sherille went to lunch with her real estate agent, who said people would love her negotiating skills perfected in the buying market, as well as her London accent. By then, her husband had a job, so she decided to get her real estate licence.
Soon after I teamed up with Richard Silver, who had been in the business for a long time and he asked if I would like to help him. So I hit the jackpot straight away. I didn’t have that network of university friends, so it was helpful being aligned with an established agent who needed help.
Since then, Sherille has focused on new immigrants, most of whom don’t fully understand the home buying process in Canada, which is different from country to country.
I’ve done a fair amount of work with people from the U.K. and Europe. It’s good that I’ve gone through the immigration process and I know what that means. Toronto is still a bit of a bargain compared to London or New York but for Torontonians, it’s looking expensive. That’s why we focus on the international markets as well.
Mandarin Speaking Assistant, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Vanessa, originally from Beijing, came to Canada as an international student. She studied economics at Carleton University in Ottawa and graduated last year. Vanessa studied English at an international high school in Beijing, coming to Canada five years ago.
I learned a bit about real estate because I wanted to find a condo in Toronto. I met Tracy An and she introduced me to the team, so I started working with them.
Vanessa is an assistant for Team Asia at Sotheby’s, translating property documents into Mandarin and posting them online. She also writes real estate articles for We Chat, a popular Chinese social media site similar to Facebook.
Vanessa enjoys the business focus in Toronto, as opposed to Beijing, which is more of a government centre.
I love Toronto, I like the food, the culture, it contains more western cultures; there are lots of immigrants here, not only from China. In Beijing there are foreigners, mostly from the U.S. and Europe, but not that many.
Vanessa moved to Toronto from Ottawa because she wanted to learn graphic design:
Toronto is a big city and has lots of opportunities.
She’s currently trying to get her permanent resident status so she can go back to school in Canada and study graphic design.
It’s really hard right now because a lot of people want to get permanent residence status. After a year I might go back to China. My status is not decided, I might stay here, I might not.
Vanessa’s parents sent her to Canada because they wanted her to learn more about the world. At first, it was a bit of a culture shock and she was homesick, but ultimately grew to like Canada.
It's not bad in China, but I can see more here and meet people from other countries. And I can develop my English.
As you can see, we, come from different backgrounds and bring worldwide expertise and experience to the table. Think of the Torontoism Team as your local "international" experts. Nothing would give us more pleasure than your success in the real estate market and being with you through major life changes. Do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions!