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Richard Silver: Bill Risser’s The Real Estate Sessions

Richard Silver: Bill Risser’s The Real Estate Sessions

Richard was featured in the 95 episode of Bill Risser's The Real Estate Sessions podcast.

Bill: Welcome to the Real Estate Sessions, a little podcast experiment I started in August 2015, when I interviewed J. Thompson of Zillow, not even knowing if I'd have an episode 2. I love finding out where leaders in our industry come from, and that leads me up to episode 95 and I'm delighted to chat with Richard Silver, Senior Vice President-Sales at SIRC and founder and leader of the Torontoism team, in Toronto, Ontario. I had a real great time with Richard, we were able to attend Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, with you, Richard and a few other industry types a few years ago, and I've closely followed what you do, and what you do on your site, with video and your content and it's just been amazing. I'm so excited to talk to you. So Richard, welcome to the podcast!

Richard: Thanks, Bill, happy Friday to you and I look forward to our chat.

Bill: Thank you. I start at the beginning with most of the guests, and I know that you've been in Toronto a long time, but I don't think you were born there?

Richard: No, I was raised out in Alberta and in the interim, I went to university in the United States, Eugene, Oregon. After that I went over to Montreal, I worked there for three years. And then 40 years ago, I ended up in Toronto. I didn't know anybody there and three years later I got into real estate.. The difficult thing at that point was that I really didn't have the influence that a lot of agents would start off with. I didn't know much about Toronto, I had to get out and see as much real estate as I could and I also didn't have friends and family out here. So it was an interesting progression.

Bill: You mentioned Eugene, so you're a Duck?

Richard: Yes, I'm a Duck. I graduated from there. They let me out.

Bill: That's great, that's awesome. I didn't realize you went to school in the States, so that's great.

Richard: Yes, they let me out of Oregon.

Bill: I'm going to guess that you've been in real estate close to, pushing four decades, am I right?

Richard: Yes, 37 years, it is.

Bill: I find that for most people when they're in school, they weren't really dreaming of becoming a realtor, they had some other passion. What was yours? Or was it real estate?

Richard: You know what, I had been sort of a song and dance person, mostly into the dance. I used to do a lot of television, variety shows and things like that. So I was used to being a bit of a performer, but I had always had a love of architecture. I think, while others were reading Playboy, I was probably reading Architecture Digest, so... I was always very, very interested in people's homes, what they did with them, the yard, etc. So that was more my background.

Bill: When you were in Toronto, what was the trigger that got you into real estate?

Richard: I bought a house. I was working with one agent and in those days they basically, they didn't have buyer representation, they didn't have a lot of other things that they do now, this was in 1979. And I was working with one agent I met and he was taking me out and showing a lot of different properties, none were a fit.

And I went to a dinner party, met another person who had a very good reputation and he took us out, he showed us more properties, and one of those properties we bought that same day. I was just so impressed, He continues to be my best friend forty years later, and he also was a wonderful agent, he really had a good sense of the creative part of looking at people, talking to them and then deciding or trying to figure out what is was they would be attracted to. So he's one of these people,  he'll take you out, he'll show you three or four houses and you'll buy because he has a good sense of finding out what is it that is important to you. He has a really good sense of that, that's the creative part of real estate, getting to know people and then trying to make a fit for them.

Bill: So you started in 1980 and technology in 1980 was, we'll call it low-tech in the world of real estate.

Richard: Oh my god, can you imagine a realtor without a cell phone? That was me. I actually bought my first cellphone before the system was even up and running in Toronto.

Bill: You were gonna be ready.

Richard: I was gonna be ready. My friends looked at me and said 'are you crazy, what are you going to do with that thing?' And it was huge at the time, it was, you know you run around with a little case and everything and it was quite something.

Bill: I gathered from just when I met you in NY and followed you online, that you really embrace technology, and you just mentioned it just there - the first guy with a bag phone. So let's fast forward into the 90s when the Internet starts to come around. I'm assuming you were really early in that game too.

Richard: You know, let's go back even farther than that where we had Commodore 64's if you remember those days, Commodore 64's and the very first Apple. So I had one of those and I was very, very lucky. I had a nephew who was fascinated by it and he still continues to work in the computer industry and after a little while of being in real estate, and having a computer or just getting a computer, he turned to me and said - "you know, uncle Richard, I know you keep this little folder and it's got all these names and numbers, addresses and why don't I try and see if I can make a system for you?". so he created me a very, very crude CRM and it was amazing.

And then, of course, I went on to things like Top Producer, and the other ones that are now around for connecting with clients. But this was very, very early on. And then, yes I got involved with the Internet, I just thought that's funny I've always been one of those people who, you know I like to try things so if I see a thing out there and I think it might be helpful to the business, I will give it a try. And certainly, I like anything that is going to save me time and give me more time with clients, family - those I think are the benefits of the Internet and a lot of technology that's out there.

Bill: You embrace learning. Talk about the importance of for you, of keeping current the way you do. You've been in the business for forty years, there are people you're age who are just getting started..

Richard: I just think you have to be engaged. The people who are not engaged in real estate, no matter what at what age, if you're not engaged through the technology in a business that's so based on technology, I just think you're not going to progress. I've always been one of those people looking for the next new toy. I'm a typical guy, I want a bigger television and I want a bigger computer, and in an essence, that's strange, because everything is getting smaller and smaller.

But I've just always been one of those people who love to look at new things and I've just been very, very, very lucky. I was into the Internet early and had one of the first websites in the city, and my business and real estate and then I got into social media early on, you know as you did. And we just, I think we had a lot of fun. It's funny how now people will come and try and sell us things that we were doing ten years ago.

Bill: That's true. It's fun to watch the stuff you do. Hopefully, you don't get upset with me, but I show your stuff to a lot of people down here. I tell them: "This is the guy to mimic because this is working."

Richard: Especially for an old guy. I'm 68 years old right now, I'll be open and tell everybody that's the age. But you know, I just don't feel like it. I keep myself engaged, I keep myself busy, I'm always out on appointments with clients and I like the technology, and if there is something that I want to develop more, I will go out and I'll push myself to go to an event, to go to a course, join a group. I've been to India twice in the past six months because I know that there is a market there for people who want to buy in a gateway city like Toronto. So I've been to India, I've been to China. Hopefully, the aeroplanes will be taking my walker as I go and progress, I'll just keep going at it.

Bill: That's great. You mentioned just a second ago about being engaged. When it comes to voluntarism, you are right up there with some of the people I see that are very involved, local level, I guess in Canada there'd be a provincial level. What compelled you to do that, and why is it so important?

Richard: I think I got to the point where I never thought I would be a realtor, never thought I would be successful as a realtor and have the kind of life that that's given me and so I thought that more and more it was time for me to give back. So I got involved in the local board, I was on the committee and eventually, I became a president of that board and I went on to the National board and I've also done some work with NAR in the States, and it's just a matter of I think getting out and back.

I did get to the point, about a year and a half ago, when I said "you know one of these days I'm gonna have to retire and I better get out of this, I better focus on my business a 100 per cent rather than 75 per cent," so what I did is I after 15 years in organized real estate, I said "ok, it's time, just focus on your team and get that up and running and going well."

Bill: I first met you through the world of Inman Connect, and I had a lot of guests on the podcast, so many people we've connected with. So you've attended, and presented at events all over Canada, the US, let's call it the world. I assume these are a part of that ongoing engagement and education you talk about.

Richard: I'm one of these people that get up in the morning and I'm great, I'm good to go. I'm not so good at night, but in the morning I want to go, I want to get out and I want to meet people and do things. So I've been told, that I would go to the opening of an envelope and that's pretty much true.

I will go to lots of events, I like connecting with people, I like learning and I guess I'm a lobbyist in many ways. I find that a lot of these events, yes you learn a lot, there is a lot of education, and hearing how people do things... But you also learn a lot from your time with people, getting caught up and talking to them in the lobbies of these events. I mean, how many great conversations have you and I had, waiting to go in to hear a speaker or sit next to each other, during the break. And that's where you really pick up a lot of information and learn new things. And I'm always happy to learn.

Bill: You're in the phase of your career, where you're thinking about retiring and so, it makes perfect sense that Torontoism came about, the team and so. talk about your process with the team, and how it was formed because want to hear these stories.

Richard: I guess I noticed at least 10-15 years ago, that the team thing might be the way to go, and I had a partner at one point, I had a partner and an assistant at one point, but there's a lot of reasons for me to have created Torontoism. My friend in Miami, Inez, she had a group called Miamism, so she did Miamism and I asked her if she would mind if I borrowed Torontoism and now we have a friend in Oregon, and I don't know what his going to call his... That's a little -ism humour 😀

But about Torontoism... Here's some of my thoughts on teams. I heard some people who are team leaders talk about what they want in their team...I decided that there were things that I could do well and things that I didn't do well, that I didn't really want to do or I didn't have that urge to do them, so I thought the best team for me would be a team of people who are not mini-me's, a team of people who had absolutely different goals or aspirations. We wanted to have the same moral code, that was very very important, but if they were better in condominiums than they were in freehold, or if they were better with seller than they were with buyers, those are the people I wanted, I didn't want people who were generalists, I wanted them to be a little bit more specific.

And also, because we have such a high diversity in the Toronto area, we have so many different nationalities, so many different cultures, so many different languages, I also wanted to make sure that we were represented, so we have people who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, English, French, Portuguese, so we try and keep the variety there, so we can answer people's requests in different languages and offer information in different languages.

Bill: How do you add someone to the team today? If someone wanted to join Torontoism, how would it work?

Richard: Sure, right now, here's the buildup of our team right now. We're 5 realtors, including me, and I have no intention of having a huge team, but what I wanted is to find another administration person. Because I think and I heard this from other people who are team people, for every three realtors you need one person in the background doing all the technology and all the CMA's and the things for adding to the database etc, because we have a huge database that we keep running.

So we have that one person, she's overworked and we're all working as hard as we can to help her fill in. So right now, what I'm looking for is a bit of a team management, someone who can basically take over more of the day-to-day and a little bit of the technology. And luckily if they had a license, that would be absolutely a blessing, because in Ontario there's a lot of things that you can do if you're not licensed, but there's also a lot of things that you cannot do - any discussions with clients, any presentation at all with clients, you have to be licensed.

And then if I was looking for somebody it would probably be somebody who spoke Persian, you know an Arabic language. I have been looking at somebody now, who speaks Arabic and she's Egyptian and is licensed, so she would be able to fill both of those roles, little bit of organizing us more and the second part would be if we had to translate anything. Right now we can translate into Chinese, to Mandarin, and into Hindi and Punjabi, etc.

Bill: Your website, Torontoism.com, is just spectacular. The local content in there, I show this to people all the time, I go right to the Cabbagetown community page and the images, the photos are spectacular, and the video is just crazy good, that's you talking about where you live because you live in that community.

Richard: That's really important, a lot of the realtors they see these videos and they're talking about themselves and there's always this story to tell and I love hearing the stories, but I think there's also, you know what is it that you like about the area that you're working in, what is it that drives you to that area, I think those videos are really important.

So basically, each of our team members has only a personality video, we also have a video about the area that they like to work in and what kind of clients they like to work with and they also have that on their signature in their emails, so that anytime anyone connects with them, the reply email they get back has these videos to look at, and I think that's really good. And I think the community ones and community events are, they say a lot about you. I do kid and say I'd go to the opening of an envelope, but anything to do with the community, I'm there, I'm there trying to help, I'm there as a volunteer or I'm just there kissing hands and shaking babies 😀

Bill: The buzzword came out a while ago, being hyper-local, but you've been living that for a long time.

Richard: You have to. People want to know this stuff, they want you to be educated in terms of real estate, but they also want to know where the best place to eat is, what are the best schools. Especially with a lot foreign buyers, they want the schools. It's all about raising their children, getting their children's education to a high degree. So you have to know a lot about the schools a lot about the universities, about certain places where you can get foods that might be pertinent to a community, whether it's a Chinese community or an Indian community, so where all those services are. It's also quite fun, it's also good business for you... One of the things I like to do is I'd go out and I'd visit a store and I'd do a story about it and then I would tell the person who owns the store that I had done the story about them and then they tell their friends, and it just went back and back and back and it was amazing..

Bill: Let's talk about what you do with video. You have nearly a hundred videos on Torontoism Youtube channel. It's obvious, you were way early on the video game, as a medium to reach out to customers. Talk about the kind of success you had with that.

Richard: It has been wonderful, we get a lot of leads from it. I think a lot of realtors have to understand what their brand is. And then really be true to their brands. If you're going to do a video, make sure it's high definition, don't make it 'here's me and my cell phone,' get a professional out there to do it. I know that it's costly and luckily I work in a high-end marketplace, where the commissions are substantial and I can go ahead and pay for a video for each property or a drone. Certainly, with a country property or any property even in the city, the whole drone thing is absolutely wonderful and I've been a very early adopter of that. A very early adopter of the Matterport.

People are very visual these days, I think people want to see inside the property and have a look around and sometimes it's not physically possible. Sometimes they're in a different country or the husband's at the other side of the country and the wife is there looking at the property and we just facilitate the great photos, great video , and it's a part of the brand that we provide with Torontoism. Even with a house that would need renovations we'll go in and we'll do the video, we'll go in and take the photos. It could be an absolute mess, but I think people need to know what it is they're getting into. Some people would find the fact that it is a mess very attractive. I think video is the way to go and I'm looking to the next shiny object as well.

Bill: It's been the year of video in real estate last six years.

Richard: It has been. It's been at least that since we've been doing videos, at least 6 or 7 years and started the community videos, long time ago. And they've paid off.

Bill: I want to talk about those community videos for a second. They're exquisitely shot. I'm not going to ask for you to tell me how much you pay, but those are not cheap.

Richard: I'll tell you. I work with a guy, he's absolutely great, love him to death, hard to sometimes pin him down. He charges about 1500 for each of those videos. I can tell you that they have been excellent for my business.

Bill: Anyone listening, it's Torontoism.com Go to those community pages and check them out, they're spectacular, they're kind of like the Gold Standard if that's what you're trying to achieve.

Richard: You need to answer the questions that buyers certainly would have - the great restaurants, is there a place where I could take my dog for a walk and not have to worry about having him on a leash. What are the streets, the shops like.. And I think just, what we always have to do is, oftentimes we have to take ourselves back to what it was like before we knew the city or before we knew the real estate business and we have to look at the terminology we use, we have to look at the things, we have to approach it as if we were the shoppers.

It's very very important that we allow people to experience the city, country, the housing market as if they had no knowledge of real estate, they had no knowledge of the city and we're the tour leaders. Don't make the assumptions that they know exactly what's going on, what the area is like.. Approach it as they would, or pretend you are the person coming to the town for the first time, and you want to know everything there is to know about a certain area, about the restaurants and shopping, all of that..

And the same thing, when we go to present the agreement of purchase and sale, I think it's very important for us to not assume that the person has been buying and selling houses the way we have for a number of years. They may have a complete other terminology, they don't understand what it is we're talking about, we assume that they do.

Bill: Focus on the customer, not how great of a realtor you are.

Richard: And don't talk about yourself, talk about the area. And you know what, strangely a lot of people say to me, I'm not very good on camera and I go, yeah, but you will be if you're talking about the area not about yourself. Because it's just one of those things that we do every day, we meet people, we tell them about the area, what we like about the area, or even what we don't like about the area. But that sort of honesty is something that all you're doing, you're now doing it in the video, in the writing, that's the way to go with it. It's very important.

Bill: I've had you here for a half an hour and I'll wrap up with the same question I ask every guest. If you can give one piece of advice to an agent just getting started, what would it be?

Richard: My advice would be and has always been - Don't worry about what everybody else is doing, put your head down, work really hard, learn as much as you can, experience as much as you can, do what you do well and what you don't do well, see if you can outsource it. And that would be my thing. I think a lot of agents start in the business and they're very focused on the other people who are the newbies. And my first couple of years, I was always watching did somebody else get a listing, did somebody else sell, don't worry about it, just keep your head down and work hard, and you will do very, very well. Learn as much as you can and again if you find your niche, just keep building on it, because that niche will be your business.

Richard makes #2 of the Top 20 Toronto Realtors On Social Media

Richard makes #2 of the Top 20 Toronto Realtors On Social Media

PropertySpark.com have put together a list of 20 Toronto Real Estate Agents On Social Media and Richard Silver was named number 2. You can find the whole story here.

The Toronto real estate market is booming and so are these Realtors. The use of social media by Toronto real estate agents is growing every day. But, these Toronto Realtors have taken it to a whole other level.

Whether it's with beautiful Instagram pictures of new condos in the city or amazing pictures of homes in the suburbs, these Realtors are winning on social media!

We've gone through hundreds of Toronto real estate agent's social media accounts looking for the best of the best. 

Here is what PropertySpark.com wrote about Richard:

Richard Silver is the leader behind the incredible Torontoism Facebook page and website. This team doesn't only post about real estate, they also share inspiring messages with thousands of their fans. Richard also has a popular Twitter account from which he shares more real estate and inspiring messages. The truly incredible part about Torontoism and Richard is that a lot of their content is actually helpful to other Realtors. They don't just do great work but they share how they do it!

Richard Silver for TorontoStoreys.com: Realtors are here for the long term

Richard Silver for TorontoStoreys.com: Realtors are here for the long term

Richard was interviewed by Aaron Broverman of TorontoStoreys.com about his career as a real estate agent and government intervention in Toronto real estate market. You can find the whole story here.

Richard Silver, former president of the Toronto Real Estate Board and senior vice-president at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, was named one of the top 100 most influential people in real estate — oh, and he once danced with Ginger Rogers.

Richard Silver is the senior vice-president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and a former president of the Toronto Real Estate Board in 2011. An expert in international real estate as a certified international real estate specialist, he is the former founding president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America – Toronto Chapter and was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Real Estate” by Inman News in 2013.

A former song and dance man who once performed with Ginger Rogers, now Silver lends his expertise to leading Sotheby’s Torontoism team. On his mind? How Toronto will never be a world-class city as long as its infrastructure doesn’t grow with its population, and why rent control doesn’t really work to reel in housing prices.

How did you get involved with real estate?

Back in 1979, I bought my first house. I was working with an agent who was OK, but then I met an agent who was dynamite and showed me what I wanted in the first afternoon. I was very, very impressed. I was in a career that was very physical. I was a performer, but that same month I hurt my hip, so I couldn’t really do shows. I just decided that in the next break between performances I would take the real estate course. I eventually got my license and in the first month of selling real estate, I made the same money I had made as a performer for the whole year.

What attracted you to the industry?

I’ve always liked houses and I like the fact that you need to be self-motivated.

A lot of people think they won’t have any boss, but the reality is, the number of bosses you have is the number of clients you have. Everybody wants your time, so you have to be there, but you have to provide for everybody.

You have to be very disciplined, you have to be out there connecting with people and it’s all about your relationship with them. It’s a great business to be in.

As the president of the Toronto Real Estate Board in 2011, what was it like getting such a big picture of the city’s real estate market?

You learn a lot. That’s the wonderful thing about being on the Toronto Real Estate Board and about being a director. You learn a ton of stuff about what’s happening in the marketplace. You’re the first one to see the statistics before anybody, you notice the changes and you also get a view of the whole city. Even though it’s called the Toronto Real Estate Board, it’s basically responsible for a lot of sales in the whole GTA.

Can you recommend changes to the city’s municipal government if you’re noticing negative real estate impacts?

You can and they’re very political and it doesn’t mean they’re going to listen to you. You’re always wondering what they want. Part of the problem with the city we’re in right now is there’s a lot of “not in my backyard.” Everyone wants a world-class city. They all want world-class restaurants, sports and entertainment, but they want it to take place in a city that existed 10 or 15 years ago.

We need better transportation and an easier way of approving buildings. Right now, the process in Toronto as it stands is way too long. From the minute a developer buys a property and works through development until it’s actually finished, you go through a lot of stuff that’s redundant.

In Toronto you have the Committee of Adjustment, but you also have the Municipal Board, so it’s like having a mom and a dad. If you can’t get what you want from the mom, you go to the dad.

So the process is too wrapped up in bureaucracy?

It is and longer. They should set some guidelines for each year. Right now, what happens is there are guidelines, but the parents are the perfect analogy. You can go to the mom and the mom says, “No, no we can get you a little bit bigger,” so it keeps on setting new goals.

I know there are a lot of misconceptions about working with a realtor, why do you think that is?

Part of the problem is, just like any field, you’re always judged by your weakest link, so a lot of people judge realtors based on bad experiences with agents who did not act properly. It’s like anything. If I was getting someone to work on my house, I would make sure I did my due diligence, I checked and saw whether they had good references, I would ask people who worked with them before what their reaction was and I would search online. These days you can go online and find out a lot of information. You want a realtor who’s going to act in your best interest. Often times, I’ve blown people away because I say, “I don’t think you should be doing this.” I don’t think you should be buying right now, I think you should be renting right now and in the future.”

You can’t be afraid to tell people your thoughts and it’s important for clients to realize, realtors are there for the long term.

What do you think are the issues that will have the biggest impact on Toronto’s real estate industry in the future?

I think one of the biggest things is always net immigration. In other words, there’s always the drive for people to sell out and move to another area that’s less expensive. But, at the end of the day, the question is are there more people moving to the city than leaving it? You also have the issue of mortgage rates and do prices, because of financing, get out of whack? It’s difficult enough as it is with mortgage rates at two to three and a half percent, but can you imagine those rates going up to five or six percent? How would people be able to afford it? Those are the things that are most concerning. The other thing is

if we want to be a world-class city, we have to invest in things like transportation: subways, roads and bridges. The reality is we’re in this place, there’s not a lot of space — we can go up, but there’s not a lot of space to go out and all the services we have need to be improved.

Aren’t more and more people moving back to the city these days anyway?

Yeah because they don’t want to have to drive into the city all the time. They want to be able to work downtown and have their family downtown. I think we’re going to start seeing larger apartments and more rentals. It will be like New York where people rent in the city and buy in the country because they can’t afford the city. I think you’re going to start seeing larger apartments or smaller ones with three bedrooms rather than just the one.

You’ve been at this a long time. How can realtors become one of the top producers you hear about like yourself?

You have to be prepared to make changes and not stay static with any of your business goals. There are times when there’s new technology, so you have to try the new technology and see if you can make your business more efficient. With the influx of foreign buyers are you going to stay in a very restricted world or are you going to reach out to the foreign buyers? Are you going to have people on your team that speak multiple languages? Are you going to make changes? I think that’s really important. I speak English and French and now I am taking classes in Mandarin. I’ll never speak it, but at least I’ll be able to understand more just to get by. Also, it’s just a sign of respect.

Do you think the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto are doing enough to control housing prices?

I don’t know that you can control housing prices. We were already seeing a lot of people backing off from multiple offers and becoming afraid of the high prices. I get concerned whenever I see government intervention. We had rent controls once before and rent controls have a tendency to stop builders from building rental properties and then you end up with a shortage of rental properties, which drives the rents really high. It’s very popular and everybody likes that they can now get low rents, but what they don’t realize is down the road if rents are not increasing but every other cost is, people who own rental properties are going to go, “This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this? I’m not even covering my costs.” This stops people from building purpose-filled rentals. What they should’ve done is incentivize builders to build purpose-filled rentals.

SK00SK

Richard for WealthBar: How First Time Buyers Can Get Into the Housing Market

Richard for WealthBar: How First Time Buyers Can Get Into the Housing Market

Richard was interviewed for WealthBar’s Life & Money section, which offers practical advice for Canadians at every stage of their financial journey. The topic was how first time buyers can enter the housing market.

When it comes to preparing yourself to enter the housing market, a lot of it is about creativity. You need to be creative with your money, if you're a first-time buyer, you need to be imaginative, when it comes to choosing the neighbourhood that fits your needs and you need to able to look ahead when it comes to choosing the property. The latter might be the most important. 

Are you handy? Be prepared to put in some sweat equity

"When you are new to the market, try and look for properties where you can add value," said Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Senior VP of Sales Richard Silver, past president of the Toronto Real Estate Board. "Stop searching for the perfect house and buy the imperfect house."

Put those DIY skills to good use, or get a reliable contractor who can help you fix up your property cost-effectively. "Finish the basement, add a third floor, or make other improvements. Buy under what you can afford and add value."

Read the whole article by Jonathon Narvey here.

SK00SK

Richard for the Globe and Mail: Ontario’s lack of foreign-buyer data sparks concern about a Toronto housing crisis

Richard for the Globe and Mail: Ontario’s lack of foreign-buyer data sparks concern about a Toronto housing crisis

 ‘Up! Up! Up!”

That’s where Toronto’s real estate market is heading, according to a Chinese-language promotional article posted last month on Fang.com, a Beijing-based web portal that lists thousands of homes for sale in countries around the world.

“You will really cry if you still don’t buy,” the same posting blares.

Toronto has become the “dark horse” of the Canadian real estate market, asserts Haifangbest.com, another site jammed with Canadian home listings. It contrasts Vancouver’s continuing drop in prices with a prediction that Toronto-area homes will rise 8 per cent in value this year.

In the months since British Columbia began taxing international buyers 15-per-cent extra on homes in and around Vancouver, those marketing Canadian real estate overseas have shifted their focus to Toronto. Last year, Toronto overtook Vancouver to become the most sought-after Canadian city for Chinese home buyers searching the property listing service Juwai.com, peaking in August just after British Columbia announced the tax aimed at curbing the public outrage over skyrocketing prices. Searches for properties in Toronto proper now surpass the total inquiries for Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa combined.

Richard Silver, a Sotheby’s realtor and past president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, estimates close to 20 per cent of his clients are international buyers – from China, India and the Middle East – interested in the luxury condos and houses he sells in and around the downtown core.

Prospective clients he talked to on his latest business trip to East Asia, just over a year ago, were curious to learn more about the city.

“When I’ve gone to China, people ask me the difference with Vancouver and I say, ‘Toronto’s where you make the money, Vancouver’s where you spend the money.’”

Anecdotes abound throughout the Greater Toronto Area, notably in places such as Markham, describing international buyers calling their realtors from overseas to bid tens of thousands of dollars over asking price to secure a new home.

Despite fears that foreign speculators are juicing the region’s already-booming real estate market, it is impossible to know what impact international capital is having because no official data are being collected.

Read the whole article here.

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Richard for Mansion Global: Toronto’s Healthy Luxury Real Estate Market Predicted to Carry Over to 2017

Richard for Mansion Global: Toronto’s Healthy Luxury Real Estate Market Predicted to Carry Over to 2017

Mansion Global quoted Richard Silver in one of their recent articles about Toronto's luxury housing market. Here are a few of the most important points from the article. And you can find the full version here. 

By Becky Strum. Originally posted on Mansion Global, February 15, 2017

Toronto's housing market has been experiencing a strong price growth over the last few years, thanks to tight inventory, population growth and low interest rate. According to TREB, Toronto saw the strongest sales increase of any other Canadian city in 2016. And while the average price was 20 per cent higher in December 2016 than the year before, the luxury market experienced a 32 per cent increase in prices. 

“We have a lack of inventory, and like a lot of cities, like New York and Chicago, there’s only so much space for new developments,” Richard said. “There are a lot more people coming into the market than there are people leaving the market.”

What neighbourhoods are considered to be Toronto's luxury market?  

Well, there C02, also known as Toronto's "posh" district, located north of Queen’s Park and the beautiful 19th-century building housing Toronto’s legislative assembly, and includes Yorkville. Then there is the Annex, Rosedale and Moore Park. And outside the city centre, you have

the C12 - the most expensive district in the Greater Toronto Area, with an average sales price of $2.5 million, according to TREB. It includes posh neighborhoods like Lawrence Park, Windfields and a collection of estate-lined blocks called the Bridle Path, residents of which have included late singer Prince and former newspaper mogul Conrad Black. The neighborhood was also used to film the home of “Mean Girls” queen bee Regina George. 

“In that area there are massive houses selling for huge prices. That seems to be very popular for those who want an acre or two-acre estates,” said Richard.

This is the district with the fastest growing prices. The average sale price has increased by 31 per cent since 2014, and the median sales price has jumped by 40 per cent, according to TREB.

Local buyers are fueling the growth 

Taimur Khan, a senior analyst at Knight Frank says that "local buyers have fueled most of the growth thus far, though foreign investors have played a role at the top of the market—particularly those taking advantage of the weaker Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar and dollar-backed currencies."

In 2016, 55 per cent of sales to non-resident foreign buyers in the GTA, including suburbs, were sales of a primary residence for a family member. A lot of parents from China or Saudi Arabia for example, invested in properties for their kids who attend universities in the GTA, or bought them as second homes for themselves.

However, the Mansion Global writes that "the significance of foreign buyers in Toronto is much more limited than in fellow cosmopolitan, luxury hubs like New York or London, experts said. Foreigners accounted for only 5% of the city’s home buyers in 2016, with the average home costing them just under $1 million, according to TREB."

When Vancouver's Foreigners' Tax was implemented at the end of 2016, some suggested it will bring more foreign investors to Toronto. TREB says there is no evidence to support these suggestions, but it's actually local buyers who have driven Toronto's strong price growth, thank's to city's strong economy, low levels of unemployment and low interest rates.

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Richard for CBC News: Foreign home buyers love Toronto for the schools

Richard for CBC News: Foreign home buyers love Toronto for the schools

Richard Silver, a Sotheby's realtor and past Toronto Real Estate Board president who works with foreign buyers, told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway that most of his foreign clients are coming to Toronto for educational and business opportunities, not just to park their money offshore, and that a foreign buyer tax would be a bad idea.

TREB is making a concerted effort to lobby against a possible foreign buyer tax on homes in Ontario, arguing that such a tax would be 'misguided' when just 4.9 per cent of its member agents acted on behalf a foreign buyer in 2016.

But Silver also said TREB's figure significantly understates the proportion of foreign buyers in the GTA, as it only captures home resales — not sales of new construction.

Matt Galloway: Who are the foreign buyers that you're working with?

Richard Silver: You know, it changes. Right now we have been doing a lot of business with Asia, with people from mainland China. What we've done is, we work for a very international company, we've gone out and added people to our team who speak Mandarin. We've gone to Asia three times, I'm about go to Delhi again for a weekend conference in a couple of weeks. You have to go out, you have to meet people, you have to understand their sensitivities, what's driving them to buy.

A lot of it focuses on the education. So having great education in the city of Toronto, both in the post-secondary and secondary, I think is very, very important, because that's what they're looking for.

MG: Language skills are one thing. Going there is something different. What do you learn about who the potential buyers are when you're actually on the ground in those countries?

RS: It's really from the questions. A lot of people have the questions about … they know about Toronto, they know about Vancouver, they want to know which is the city that you should buy in. They want to know mostly about education. Seriously, you have to have an idea of the ratings of all of the private schools, the public schools, the universities. And you can know that those are the locations that people are going to be looking in. It has to be accessible to a university or a private school or a very well-rated public school.

MG: So the belief that you're seeing is that people actually want to live here.

RS: Oh, definitely.

MG: Because in Vancouver, one of the huge problems that people pointed to is that this was essentially money that's being parked offshore, that people were coming, buying properties, the properties are empty, it led to empty neighbourhoods, empty buildings, we've seen this happening all around the world. That's not what you are seeing?

RS: I think that that is probably part of the case, not in the case that we deal with, we deal with people who are really coming here … you know, sometimes we have to decide, what is a foreign buyer? Is a foreign buyer somebody who's already applied for and got their permanent residency? And, is it because they want their children educated in Canada?

We see a lot of husbands continuing to work in mainland China, they send their wife and their children to Toronto so their kids can go to university here. And after university, there's an automatic three-year work permit that goes with being a foreign student in Canada. So that is an option that you wouldn't get in other countries.

MG: So based on that, and the business that you're doing, how much of a presence do you think foreign buyers are in this city's market right now?

RS: Well, remember that the statistic from the Toronto Real Estate Board is about five per cent — they say 4.9 per cent. And I wouldn't disagree with that, in that that is what the agents are dealing with who deal mostly with resale. Toronto Real Estate Board figures are resale buyers. They're not people who are buying new construction.

So I would think that there's also a lot of investment in the new construction. And in that new construction, the buildings that are being built, Toronto Real Estate Board doesn't get that information very much from the builders, it's not reported on the Toronto Real Estate Board. So, I would say there's probably another five to ten per cent there that's definitely foreign buyers.

READ MORE: LOCAL BUYERS OUTNUMBER FOREIGN BUYERS IN NEW CONDO CONSTRUCTIONS

MG: Now this is interesting, because it's a point of dispute. The real estate board in Greater Vancouver said that foreign buyers made up something like four per cent of transactions in that city. Sales have slowed dramatically since the foreign buyers tax came in. So how do you explain that, if it's only four per cent in Vancouver?

RS: Well, I don't think it's dissimilar in Toronto as well, from the board viewpoint, because the board deals with resales, they don't deal with builder projects.

MG: And that's the discrepancy?

RS: And that's the discrepancy, I think. I think if you were to add the two, you'd come up with a higher figure. But the ones the Toronto Real Estate Board deals with, the ones we deal with in our market place, are people who have come basically for schooling. They've come because Toronto is the centre of arts and culture, and they can speak their own language.

MG: What has it done to affordability in this city? Because in Vancouver, people pointed — and this led to accusations of xenophobia and more, but people point the finger and say, 'the market is being torqued because of offshore money coming in.'

RS: Part of the problem is, when you travel around the world and you look at the other G8 countries and you go to the main cities that those countries are led by economically, our prices are very, very low in comparison …

MG: That's cold comfort, though, to people who can't afford to get into our market.

RS: It is, but there's always … I remember buying my first house, I lived in a house and there were seven or eight people living in the house with me, and I bought that house, and they were paying me rent, and it was just one of those things that we did. You need to get into the marketplace at any point, and these days people are getting into the marketplace in condominiums, smaller condominiums.

MG: There have been calls for Ontario to introduce a foreign buyers tax like the one in British Columbia. What would that do to the people that you're working with?

RS: You know, it wouldn't do much, and I think that's the same problem in Vancouver. I think what it will do is, and I think what is happening is, Vancouver and B.C. are going to start feeling the effects of the tax more in terms of building, in terms of construction, in terms of lumber, in terms of finishing, carpentry and everything. I think that is really going to hurt their economy, and it's already starting, they're already starting to see that. I would really not suggest it in Ontario as well.

MG: Are you seeing buyers who are looking at Toronto because of what's happening in B.C.?

RS: Not as much … to me, Vancouver is a completely different city. I always say, Toronto is the place where you come and make your money, Vancouver's where you go and spend your money. You know, it's absolutely beautiful, there's lots of recreation around it. Toronto's a place very focused on business. And I think for certain groups, that's going to be very prominent for them. They want to be where the business is.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON CBC NEWS

Toronto Star Clarifies the Confusion Around Foreign Buyers

Toronto Star Clarifies the Confusion Around Foreign Buyers

The Toronto Real Estate Board says 4.9% of transactions involve foreign buyers. But some fear the number is low.

As Toronto area housing prices have soared, so too has conjecture about the role of foreign property buyers in driving up the market.

When the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) released data on Tuesday showing only 4.9 per cent of transactions in the region involved offshore buyers, it was presented as proof that a lack of housing supply — not foreign buyers — is behind the region's rocketing market.

But that hasn't stopped the sceptics from questioning the figure.

Those who doubt TREB's findings compare Toronto's situation to Vancouver where they say the real estate industry underestimated the level of foreign ownership until a crisis in housing affordability prompted the government to step in with a tax that appears to have had dramatic results.

Vancouver sales were down about 40 per cent in January, compared to the same month last year. They were 10 per cent below the region's 10-year January average.

Toronto's Realosophy president John Pasalis is among those who fear the Vancouver experience is happening here.

"Most agents' biggest concern is obviously not immigrants. It's the fact that when you have wealthy non-residents using homes as a safety deposit box it's not good,” he said. “It drives up house prices in Toronto and makes everything unaffordable."

If things don't settle down in another year, he fears that local buyers will feel completely cut out of the market because they can't afford to buy anything.

That could fuel the kind of emotional populist movement being seen in the U.S. with the election of President Donald Trump, said Pasalis.

He also doesn't set much store by TREB's Ipsos poll of about 3,500 member agents. That's fewer than 10 per cent of the 47,000 board members — 80 per cent of whom sell fewer than six properties a year, he said.

"What TREB sought to do was get the ball rolling in terms of getting actual information because to date we haven't had any actual empirical information," said Jason Mercer, the board's director of market analysis.

"If you look at the housing market in the GTA today and see the fact that active listings at the end of December 2016 were half of what they were at the end of December 2015, I think it's pretty difficult (not) to say that the real issue underlying price growth is the lack of inventory," Mercer said.

"Our hope is that the results of this survey can certainly provide a benchmark and we'd be happy to see other organizations undertake their own research," said Mercer.

But for now, TREB's 4.9 per cent is the only new number available. The federal government has budgeted $500,000 for Statistics Canada to develop methods for gathering data on foreign ownership. It has also convened a working group of government and the banking and housing sectors in Ontario and B.C.

But there's no word on when any hard numbers will be available. A government spokesperson would only say that the results of the work will be announced once it is finalized.

Property

Ipsos vice-president Sean Simpson isn't entirely surprised that his TREB poll findings are being questioned.

He cites an unrelated Ipsos study that tested the accuracy of Canadians' perceptions of their country. It showed Canadians believed 24 per cent of the population is Muslim. In reality, it is 3 per cent.

The finding that only 4.9 per cent of transactions involved foreign buyers "is in stark contrast to the conjecture and speculation that is out there," said Simpson.

"We build up in our mind that things are a certain way when, in reality, they simply aren't. I think that is the case here with the foreign buyers situation," he said.

He also doesn't believe that the respondents could have skewed their answers, even if they had an interest in keeping the number of foreign transactions low to ward off a potential Vancouver-style tax that might sideswipe the GTA housing market.

"Would they lowball it? I'm not necessarily sure they would know to what end we were asking the questions," he said.

The subject of foreign property investment has gained momentum for the same reason real estate discussions hijack dinner party conversation. It's the craziness of the market, said William Strange, professor of business economics at U of T's Rotman School of Management.

He is glad someone has finally started collecting numbers. But Strange says he has a lot of questions:

  • Would the realtors surveyed necessarily know whether the purchasers were actually overseas buyers, or people moving around the country or region? Would they know where a buyer is in the Canadian immigration process?
  • How many purchases don't involve agents? Many developers wouldn't necessarily use local realtors to market properties to foreign buyers.
  • How do you get a more accurate picture given privacy laws and the reality that many deals are cash, so even mortgage information wouldn't provide a full picture?

And Strange notes there's something contradictory in the real estate board's assertion that the 4.9 per cent is a relatively low number, at the same time it’s warning the number is high enough that a tax or policy intervention could distort the market by affecting communities outside the city or reducing the already scarce supply of Toronto rentals.

Pasalis says 4.9 per cent doesn't reflect what he sees and hears from busy Toronto agents.

One of those is Richard Silver, a Sotheby's agent, who has re-tooled his practice to go after the massive overseas market in China and India. He said that foreign transactions account for 20 to 30 per cent of his business.

His office has introduced Mandarin classes and he is preparing for a trip to India to attend an international real estate conference.

But Silver said the 4.9 per cent for foreign transactions sounds about right, given that most residential agents don't have the same kind of niche business. He stressed that he doesn't believe that foreign ownership will lead to streets of empty homes in the GTA.

"The people who normally come and buy, they're not people who flip. They come and reside in the property and hold it. They're not speculating," said Silver.

"Most of the people we deal with are coming here to live — they're coming here because they're putting their kids through school. It's all about education for the most part."

Originally published on TheStar.com - The Toronto Star website.

Written by Tess Kalinowski.

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Richard on the front page of the Globe and Mail

Richard on the front page of the Globe and Mail

B.C. Government's decision to implement a new 15 per cent tax on Vancouver area residential properties bought by people without permanent residency is the hot topic in Canadian real estate world these days. It's scary when government's get involved in the market and it's even scarier when they implement the decision in a week!

Richard has talked to Tamsin McMahon of The Globe and Mail and shared his views of the situation and what this could mean for the Toronto market. The article got featured on the home page!

Globe2Go  The Globe and Mail Metro Ontario Edition  5 Aug 2016  Page 1 1
Globe2Go The Globe and Mail Metro Ontario Edition 5 Aug 2016 Page 1 1

If Toronto does not go the way of the tax, yes you are going to get more people coming to Toronto.

Mr. Silver is monitoring a handful of deals involving sales of overseas buyers in the Toronto area that are not set to close until later in the fall.

My sellers who have sold their properties to offshore buyers are going to be nervous. I would suggest to any politician right now: Let’s see what happens with Vancouver because it doesn’t make sense to go down the road [of a foreign-buyers tax] and then all of a sudden have to completely turn and pull back on it.

Both Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa have said they will be closely watching the effects of B.C.’s tax, which came with little warning. In an effort to get ahead of the debate, the Toronto Real Estate Board, which opposes a tax, has said it plans to publish the results of a survey of its membership to gauge the extent of foreign investment in the Greater Toronto Area.

The increased focus on international investment in Canada’s housing market comes as prices for detached homes in the City of Toronto rose 20.7 per cent in July, to an average of more than $1.2-million. In the suburban “905” region, prices for average detached homes hit $888,565, up almost 22 per cent from last July.

The market frenzy was not limited to detached properties. Townhouses and semi-detached homes also saw double-digit annualized price gains in July. Condo prices rose more than 9 per cent from the same month last year, to $406,865. Average resale condo prices jumped 13 per cent in the 905 region and 8.2 per cent in the 416 area.

Even as the number of house sales rose slightly in July from the same month last year, resale listings fell almost 14 per cent in Toronto and dropped slightly more than 3 per cent in the suburbs. A severe shortage of listings in the face of strong demand has some industry observers urging local governments to increase housing supply rather than restrict foreign investment. “Housing policy is now top of mind for all levels of government,” said board president Larry Cerqua in a statement. “Policy-makers need to be focusing on solutions to the sustained lack of low-rise inventory throughout the GTA.”

Homeowners are cautious about selling and becoming buyers in Toronto’s hyper-competitive market, exacerbating the shortage of homes for sales, Mr. Silver said

There are not a lot of listings and part of the reason is prices are very high. If you don’t have to buy, then you don’t move. So even though prices have gone up, there’s a lot of people who are in a holding pattern.

Read the whole article here.  

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Richard talks about BC Tax for NextHome.yp.ca

Richard talks about BC Tax for NextHome.yp.ca

 Foreign buyers’ tax in Toronto? Please, no

In the light of the recent events in BC, Richard was approached by Wayne Karl of the Yellow Pages Next Home, to share his thoughts on the situation.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Now that BC has introduced a 15-per-cent foreign buyers’ tax intended to calm real estate purchases by non-Canadian residents, speculation is rampant that similar legislation is on its to Ontario – or more specifically, Toronto.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, part of the committee announced by Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau in June to look for ways to improve housing affordability in Canada’s hottest markets, has said he will be looking at the effectiveness of BC’s, as a possible measure to address eroding affordability in Toronto.

And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeated that tackling affordable housing is on his agenda.

But like their counterparts in Vancouver, realtors in Toronto want nothing to do with such action.

I don’t know there was a need for it in Vancouver, as their market was already softening for the past three months,” Richard Silver, senior vice-president, sales, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, told YPNextHome. “If you were to do this in Toronto, people would move to the suburbs even more. We need to keep an eye on what will happen in Vancouver as it may not solve the problem but create others. What happens to the ancillary industries if the building market shuts down? My concern is that this was a knee-jerk reaction for a political agenda not enough research.”

....

“Knee-jerk” is also how the realty industry in Vancouver feels about the BC government’s action.

“Housing affordability concerns all of us who live in the region,” says the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. “Implementing a new real estate tax, however, with just eight days’ notice and no consultation with the professionals who serve home buyers and sellers every day, needlessly injects uncertainty into the market.”

Silver foresees similar challenges in Toronto, should a foreign buyers’ tax be implemented there.

“There could be major repercussion to builders who have sold units in buildings to offshore buyers, who will now have to pay 15 per cent more than they agreed upon. You could have floors of buildings walking from their deposits rather than closing. Very little good ever comes from knee-jerk political involvement in any marketplace. This ‘solution’ could cause a large number of unforeseen issues, and I don’t think enough research was done before implementing.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Richard featured in the Globe and Mail: Bidding Wars

Richard featured in the Globe and Mail: Bidding Wars

By Carolyn Ireland, published in the Globe and Mail, June 9th, 2016

Aspiring buyers in Toronto’s real estate market in May were contending with prices about 15 per cent higher than they were last year at this time.

No wonder bidding war fatigue is beginning to permeate the market.

Some agents and buyers are wilting, Richard Silver of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada says.

Multiple offers seem to be lessening – not due to lack of interest but due to a lack of desire to compete and push the price too high,

he says.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price jumped to $751,908 in the Greater Toronto Area in May to mark a 15.7-per-cent increase from the same period last year. Throughout the spring market, prices were inflated as the increasing amounts above asking seemed to swell each week.

In one jaw-dropping example, an east-end semi-detached, recently listed for $799,000, sold for more than $1.1-million after the buyer offered a premium of $313,212.

The average price of a detached house in the 416 area code jumped to $1.28-million last month.

Sales swelled 10.6 per cent to mark a record for the month of May. Listings, meanwhile, sank 6.4 per cent in May compared with May of 2015.

While some potential buyers are worn down, others are changing tactics.

Shawn Lackie of Coldwell Banker R.M.R. Real Estate says the game is changing on a regular basis. He recommends that buyers who expect they’ll face competition on offer night might try being first at the table instead of the last.

Many agents aim to be the last in because they want to suss out the number of rivals first. Often, they will tack more onto the offer with each additional party in the lineup.

Read the whole article HERE.

On the Cover of REM: Constant Reinvention Keeps Richard Silver on Top

On the Cover of REM: Constant Reinvention Keeps Richard Silver on Top

His enviable grasp of technology and social media has made Silver a sought-after speaker on the use of social media in real estate. “I welcome change,” he says. “In fact, the only constant in our real estate business is change.”

By Dennis McCloskey

richard silver cover rem

When Richard Silver walks into the boardroom at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s Toronto office, the veteran Realtor exudes confidence, charm and class. The casually but nattily attired agent immediately puts his visitor at ease.

No one would deign to call the former model, dancer and performer a show-off. But Elton John might disagree, because Sir Elton says, “Performers are all show offs; unless you show off, you’re not going to get noticed.”

Richard Silver is getting noticed!

Three years after joining Sotheby’s Canada, with its 400 agents and offices in 30 residential and resort markets, Silver is consistently among the top one per cent of salespeople in Toronto. He was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Real Estate for 2013 by San Francisco-based Inman News.

Born in Edmonton, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oregon by majoring in phys ed and kinesiology. A professional dancer and performer, he moved to Montreal 40 years ago before accepting a job at Toronto’s York University, teaching dance. Soon he returned to performing.

When he was interested in buying his first house he took a real estate course “to learn the process.” He was hooked. He obtained his licence in 1980 and knew he’d made the right decision to enter the business when he earned the same income in the first month as a real estate agent as he did working as a dancer the entire previous year. 

I gave up performing and became a patron of the arts,

he says with a smile. In early pre-technology days, he says everything was done by hand, phone, fax or in person. He laughs at the memory of buyers and sellers having to send him a telegram to confirm an Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Thanks to a tech-savvy pre-teen nephew, who is now in his 40s, Silver became an early adaptor of technology when his nephew wrote a rudimentary customer management system that allowed Silver to connect with clients and keep track of his business. Again, he was hooked!

Today, his enviable grasp of technology and social media has made Silver a sought-after speaker on the use of social media in real estate:

I welcome change. In fact, the only constant in our real estate business is change.

Before joining Sotheby’s, Silver worked with other real estate companies, including 15 years with the venerable Toronto firm, Bosley Real Estate, founded in 1928. He says he learned a lot from Tom Bosley, broker of record, and his wife Ann, but several years ago Silver felt the time had come to join an international franchise:

At first, I didn’t think foreign markets would be of interest to me, but I began seeing more and more showings and offerings from Chinese agents,

He knew there are five Chinese areas in the Greater Toronto Area (Gerrard, Spadina, Town of Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga) and took notice of a large influx of Mandarin- speaking people in the city, including Cantonese from Hong Kong. “China’s middle class has a population of 300 million and they have money to spend.”

He soon realized he needed an understanding of foreign markets, so he obtained his Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation.

Silver adheres to the axiom that happiness and success come from growth, not comfort. And since he loves nothing more than a challenge, he chose to reinvent himself and forge a new path, deliberately and with foresight. He formed a team of several specialists, including Jim Burtnick, broker and senior vice president, sales; Tracy An, who is Asian and serves as translator; and Sherille Layton, British by birth and a recent immigrant with full knowledge of the immigration process. Silver says his team concept is to find people who are not like him but who complement m:

Too many people look for mini-MEs.

He concedes there is much to learn when dealing with foreign markets and he recommends a book by Terri Morrison, titled Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, which is a guide to proper international business protocol and includes 60 country profiles.

Silver agrees it can be a cultural and technological shock marketing a property within China. He speaks only rudimentary Mandarin and Cantonese, mostly in the form of greetings and very light conversation. Silver says the most important challenge in dealing with a Chinese buyer or seller is patience:

It is important not to be shocked or insulted by an extremely low offer. Negotiation is uppermost in their mind and if a buyer likes a property, they’ll most likely buy it. Just be patient.

Sotheby’s is considered to be a “rarefied” brand and Silver likes to call it “a marketing company that sells real estate.” He estimates that 30 per cent of his sales are to the Chinese market. He says it is important to make at least one annual trip to China to create and maintain working relationships with people, but it’s a challenge to get through the Great Firewall of China via the Internet:

It takes an innovative approach and commitment to attract Asian buyers because China has no Google, Facebook or Twitter.

Among his “workarounds” (and keeping in mind the 12-hour time difference), his team uses China-based real estate website Juwai, and China’s most popular instant messaging app, WeChat.

At 67, Silver has no plans to retire just yet. While he does not rule out another re-invention at some point in his real estate career, he says:

My intention is to work as long as I can because I love it.

He and his partner of 18 years like to travel the world and spend time in Puerto Vallarta “for its bright, long, sunny days, the Mexican culture and the ocean.”

There is one thing he does not like and he states it unequivocally: “I don’t like Canadian winters!”

Originally published in REM, Issue #324, June 2016. 

Bidding Wars: Determining What’s True Value and What’s Ego Driven

Bidding Wars: Determining What’s True Value and What’s Ego Driven

 A century-old detached house in Toronto’s emerging Leslieville neighbourhood recently sold for $1.04-million, $140,000 more than the asking price of $899,999.

From these numbers alone, anyone who has recently tried buying real estate in Canada’s largest city will know why that happened: a bidding war.

With the Leslieville example just the tip of the iceberg, bidding wars are now common practice in Canada’s housing market and represent a significant challenge for house shoppers who are either entering home ownership or moving up.

“Like it or not, bidding wars have become a part of the real estate landscape in hot real-estate markets worldwide,” says Judith Hanley, a sales representative with Re/Max Realty Enterprises Inc. brokerage in Oakville, Ont. “They represent a high-drama, high-stakes game with only one buyer and a seller who wins.”

The Canadian Real Estate Association reports that sales of existing homes rose by 8 per cent in February compared to the same month a year earlier, while the national average home price soared 17 per cent.

Driving the upward trend are Toronto and Vancouver, where bidding wars have sparked a buying frenzy that shows no signs of abating.

In Toronto, the average price of a detached house topped $1.2-million in February. In Metro Vancouver, the average selling price of a single-detached home rose to $1.83-million in January, a year-to-year increase of 40 per cent.

Bidding wars are responsible for pushing prices up, often above what a home is worth, experts say. They have turned buying a home in Canada into a game of nerves.

Canada has few checks and balances in place for regulating bidding wars. Often buyers don’t know who they are bidding against and if the other offers are legit. Phantom offers are a big enough problem that last summer the Ontario government instituted new rules requiring listing agents to keep on file written bids and counter bids in an effort to create more transparency around the the bidding war process.

“Sometimes a property is underpriced [intentionally] and will sell for more than asking, and that sadly has become a marketing tool, allowing the seller and agent to say that they got over asking,” says Richard Silver, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Toronto.

Buyers willing to enter the fray need to know that bidding wars are a lot like gambling: The odds are usually stacked against you.

“The outcome can be unpredictable,” says Leslie Cannon, a Vancouver realtor who has guided many clients through bidding wars in her city’s highly competitive housing market.

Among them is the would-be homeowner who last fall became entangled in an 11-way bidding war that ended up pushing a property $1-million over asking.

“The house was listed around $2-million and I advised my client to offer $2.3-million, which we thought was a pretty generous offer,” says Ms. Cannon. “But then someone, who obviously really wanted the house, went as high as a million over asking, a price that the seller found hard to resist.”

Moral of the story? Money really does talk.

Fortunately for house shoppers, there are other ways to come out on top that aren’t so dependent on the number of zeros at the end of the offer. Some sellers will choose a lower-priced bid over a higher one, for example, if they have a particularly strong emotional attachment to their home. That’s when having a strategy is key.

For Shawn Lackie, a broker in Ontario’s Durham region, that strategy involves often visiting the sellers to discover first-hand their history as it pertains to the home. “I make sure to at least have a chance to present [the offer] in person,” Mr. Lackie says. “I am trying to create a connection, to find out if the sale can go beyond money.”

He then shares that information with his client to use as fodder for winning a bidding war. The personal touch worked for a client wanting a house in Oshawa, Ont., with multiple bids. The seller chose him over other contenders who wanted to renovate because he had made it known that he loved the house as much as the seller did. He would live in it as is, which is what the homeowner had wanted to hear.

“Price is often the biggest motivator but anything we can do to make our offer stand out we’ll do,” adds Ms. Cannon, who similarly meets with sellers to gain information that might help her clients seal the deal.

In Toronto, Mr. Silver makes it his business to know the market and advice his clients accordingly.

When it comes to bidding wars, he says it is important to determine “what is true value and what is ego-driven.” If a client wants to buy a house just to win the contest then, in Mr. Silver’s opinion, that’s the wrong reason to stay locked in a bidding war.

“You will never overpay for a house that you love,” he says.

“If the value is there and you don’t put in your best offer, remember that the next time a similar house comes to the market, its price will be based on what you chose not to pay and you will have to pay even more for the next.”

As if buying real estate right now wasn’t emotional enough.

Originally published on theglobeandmail.com, on April 1st, 2016. By Deirdre Kelly.

Title photo: (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) 

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Richard Silver: Using technology to deliver real estate excellence

Richard Silver: Using technology to deliver real estate excellence

I was recently interviewed by Ray Wood for the Top Agents Playbook. It was a great opportunity to share some of my experiences with using technology in the real estate business. As many of you know, I'm a big fan of new technologies and I enjoy testing them and implementing to make our work more efficient and to often more enjoyable and fun.

richard silver ray wood

I have written about drones, apps and gadgets before and I plan to continue doing so, seeing how new stuff comes out every day and there is always something fresh and exciting to try out.

Meanwhile, you can check out Ray's website and listen to the interview here.

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Going International: An Interview With Richard Silver

Richard talking about marketing to international buyers and sellers and how to ask the right questions to set yourself up for success.

Nobu: Toronto is one of those cities - when it comes to marketing to these international buyers and sellers, what is the first step? People want to get into that, but don't know how to do it.

Richard: 

Well, the first is to go to conferences. That's a big help. I mean, coming here to this conference and meeting lots of people from around the world, I've made quite a few connections.

I have my CIPS, which has been very very good - the certified international property specialist. I think that's a great course to take and during the process of taking that course, you get to meet a lot of people. And they all have information to share about the countries they live in and it's just great ammunition when you're dealing with a foreign buyer. You have to know where they're coming from, how business is dealt with and it just helps you set up your business.

Nobu: So Power the Network, Power the People sort of thing.

Richard:

Yes exactly. And ask questions! Find out what's happening in your market place, how do people buy, are there property rates.. Most people are surprised to know that Canada and the US have wonderful property rates, that don't really exist outside of North America.

Nobu: And it's not only that. It's also the cultural differences.

Richard:

Yes, that's a lot of fun. Kiss, bow and shake hands is probably about the best buyable you can have for any person who wants to work with a foreign community. Because it explains the cultural things. And it's a real challenge. You need a lot of patience. But you also need to find out the information, you need to find out how properties are sold, whether they're sold with furniture, without furniture... How to greet somebody, how to offer them your card, what is the sign of respect.. Also, even when it comes to financing, there are certain countries where it is considered to be a sin to borrow money. You mention financing and they're horrified.

Nobu: And setting those expectations is important. Do you do that in marketing to those folks, or is more of a face-to-face kind of conversation you have with them?

Richard:

You know, little bit in my marketing. As you know I do a lot of video, so I make sure that my videos are transcribed and that they can be easily translated into different languages. And I do talk about the diversity and the cosmopolitan nature of the city that I'm working in.

We're very lucky in Toronto, it's like a lot of big cities, there are areas that are totally to one culture, to another culture and it's an absolute joy to be able to put a deal together when you're dealing with two opposites sides. Not only are you dealing with money issues, but you're dealing with things like how to win and what is a win for somebody in one culture, may not be a win for somebody in another culture. It's very interesting.

Nobu: How as an agent am I going to, asside from the network, asside from the Youtube, the videos, the transcripts, is there a first step for you? Do you have a website that speaks Chinese?

Richard:

No, but I have a website that's friendly with Google and can be translated. And I work for Sotheby's and Sotheby's is in about 16 different languages. Our website is totally translatable, you can view it in a number of languages. And I think, as things transpire in the next couple of years, I'll probably add landing pages to my website that are in different languages completely. So that somebody can get in, get the information translate and see.

Nobu: So really it's about knowing the power of your networks, powering your brand and connecting that with technology that's out there.

Richard:

Yeah. And also you know it's interesting, I treat a foreign buyer or seller, as if they're first timers. And I don't assume anything. I talk to them about what MLS is and how it works. And how Buyer Representation works, and you know what to do or how to deal with funds. I mean, funds are a big issue. And a lot of agents will go out and spend lots and lots of time working with people to find out that the funds are somewhere in the Far East and it's going to take them 6 months to get here.  So I always try to connect with my clients and say: "Please, first thing we got to do is we got to get your funds on shore. We've got to get them here, to North America. We've got to get them into a bank here." And that's a big step. That's one of the first things I would tell people. Make sure you have funds and also just see if there's option for them for financing, if they need it.

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Richard for Toronto Sun: Why the Toronto Real Estate Bubble Has Not Burst!

Richard for Toronto Sun: Why the Toronto Real Estate Bubble Has Not Burst!

Strong economy sees numbers boosted

August 26, 2011 -- As one of the world’s most diverse cities, Toronto welcomes nearly 100,000 newcomers to Canada each year. These people have chosen Toronto to begin building a better life. A report released recently by CIBC World Markets confirmed that the reasons for embracing Toronto are well founded.

The report assessed the performance of Canada’s largest cities in the first quarter of this year, and while Toronto didn’t come out on top in any individual category, the cumulative effect gave Toronto top position in the report’s ranking of Canadian cities.

The Toronto Real Estate Board’s figures on July’s resale housing market are testament to the strength of our local economy.

A total of 7,992 homes changed hands in July, representing a 23 per cent increase over the 6,564 sales from a year ago.  While sales were robust in July, it is important to note that the sharp increase is relative to July 2010, when higher lending rates, new mortgage regulations and misconceptions about the Harmonized Sales Tax dampened activity.

Including July transactions, there have been 55,863 transactions so far this year, within 1.3 per cent of last year’s performance.  Total sales for the year are expected to move above the 2010 total by the end of August.

Sales activity in the 905 Region outpaced that of the City of Toronto last month, with year-over-year increases of nearly 25 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

The amount of time it took to sell a home, on average, declined compared to last year.  Homes that sold this past July were on the market for an average of 26 days – down by 21 per cent from an average of 33 days a year ago.  This decline in selling time is largely due to a dip in listings in comparison to last year.  Less supply has led to more competition amongst home buyers, which has decreased the decision time for offers.

Tighter market conditions continued to drive strong annual growth in the average selling price.  The average price of a resale home in the GTA increased by almost 10 per cent year-over-year to $459,122.  Gains were slightly stronger in the city’s surrounding area, with the 905 average price climbing 11 per cent to $448,612.  The average price in Toronto increased seven per cent to $475,717.

Jason Mercer, the Toronto Real Estate Board’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis suggested that market may become more balanced in the second half of the year: “We did see some year-over-year improvement in new listings in July, but sales continued to grow at a faster clip.  As we move toward the end of 2011 and into 2012, expect more households to list their home for sale, prompted by the strong price growth reported during the first half of 2011.”

Homeownership remains affordable in the Greater Toronto Area.  Low mortgage rates and steady income growth have kept homebuyers confident in their ability to purchase and pay for a home over the long term.  This is why the number of transactions and the average selling price has continued to grow.  However, some of our REALTOR® Members serve consumers in the City of Toronto putting their clients at a disadvantage. Consumers could be doing even better with the repeal of the backbreaking and unfair upfront costs brought about by Toronto’s additional land transfer tax.  Mayor Rob Ford has promised to do away with the tax.  All Members of the Toronto Real Estate Board, especially residents in the 416 area code, look forward to the fulfillment of this promise.

With the recent volatility of the financial markets, the strength of home ownership has become a great topic for discussion. Variations can occur but your home is where you enjoy your family and friends. Living in the Greater Toronto Area is a very wise long term investment with lots of options in terms of housing type and neighborhoods.

Richard Silver is President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 32,000 REALTORS® in the Greater Toronto Area.

Reprinted from the Toronto Sun.

Richard for Toronto Sun: Toronto Real Estate: Taking the sting out of unfair taxes

Richard for Toronto Sun: Toronto Real Estate: Taking the sting out of unfair taxes

When it comes to government policy, business people and the general public don’t always see eye-to-eye; but when they do, there is even more reason for politicians to take notice.  That is why GTA municipal representatives would be well advised to pay close attention to the results of a recent public opinion poll, conducted for the Toronto Real Estate Board, on municipal finance issues. 

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, found broad public support for numerous issues that have long been supported by the business community, including reduced taxation, better fiscal management of taxpayer dollars, prioritizing municipal services and innovative options to deliver these services. 

It is not a surprise that the poll found support for reduced taxation. After all, there are not many people, or businesses, that like to pay more taxes; but, on specific taxes, the poll did find some interesting results, especially with regard to the Toronto Land Transfer Tax, which Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has promised to repeal.   According to the poll, an overwhelming majority of Torontonians, 75 per cent, support the Mayor’s commitment to repeal this tax.   Interestingly, the public’s support to repeal this tax remains strong, at 68 per cent, even when they were asked to consider this pledge in the face of the City’s expected, and large, budget shortfall. 

As business people, REALTORS® understand that the Toronto Land Transfer Tax is an unfair tax that hurts the economy.  This tax is paid by homebuyers and businesses when they purchase a property, and is charged on top of the provincial Land Transfer Tax. It costs the average Toronto home buyer over $7,000, and when added to the Provincial Land Transfer Tax, average Toronto homebuyers face almost $14,000 in land transfer taxes.  

The housing industry is a key creator of jobs and spending. In fact, a recent study conducted by Altus Group Economic Consulting for the Canadian Real Estate Association found that the average housing transaction in Ontario generates over $40,000 in spin off spending on things like furniture, appliances, renovations and financial and legal services. 

Unfortunately, Toronto’s Land Transfer Tax threatens the economic stimulus that comes from a vibrant real estate market. A study conducted by the C.D. Howe Institute found that Toronto’s Land Transfer Tax caused a 16 per cent reduction in re-sale housing transactions when it was first implemented, which, at the time was estimated to cost Toronto’s economy approximately $200 million in consumer spending. 

For these reasons, REALTORS® are encouraged that the Ipsos poll showed such strong support for Mayor Ford’s commitment to eliminate this tax. 

REALTORS® were also encouraged that the poll showed public support for numerous other municipal finance issues that have long been a focus of the business community, namely better municipal fiscal management, prioritizing municipal services, and considering innovative options to deliver these services.  In this regard, the poll found an interesting contrast between the City of Toronto and the rest of the Greater Toronto Area.  According to the poll, only 45 per cent of Torontonians believe that their municipal tax dollars are being spent efficiently.  In the rest of the GTA, satisfaction is much higher at 72 per cent. 

Interestingly, the City of Toronto has begun a review of its services which could go a long way to addressing these public concerns, which have also been shared by the business community for years.   Undoubtedly, this process will require some difficult decisions by Toronto City Council.  According to the Ipsos poll, the public appears to be ready for some of these decisions. Specifically, the poll found that, 

  • 79 per cent agreed that downsizing of City staff through attrition should be considered;
  • 79 per cent agreed that more public-private partnerships should be considered;
  • 77 per cent agreed that contracting out selected services should be considered;
  • 76 per cent agreed that pulling out of or eliminating some City agencies should be considered;
  • 68 per cent agreed that imposing or increasing user fees should be considered; and,
  • 59 per cent agreed that reductions and/or discontinuation of some services should be considered. 

As business people, when it comes to government policy, we can sometimes find ourselves trying to convince not only the government of our viewpoints, but also the public.  So, it is extremely encouraging when we see eye-to-eye with the public on government policy.  Clearly, when it comes to municipal finance issues in the GTA, businesses and the public are speaking with one voice.

Repreinted from the Toronto Sun 05.08.2011

Richard for the Globe and Mail: The Toronto Real Estate Board Moves to Neighborhood Searches

Richard for the Globe and Mail: The Toronto Real Estate Board Moves to Neighborhood Searches

Over the past three years the Toronto Real Estate Board has been involved in a major rewite of our database to provide for Neighborhoods instead of alpha numeric designations. This was launched on July 5th. Here is an article by CAROLYN IRELAND of the Globe and Mail. Please note: there is a mistake in her report. Cabbagetown does exist as one of the neighborhoods.

Toronto— From Friday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jul. 28, 2011 11:27AM EDT

TREB move to neighbourhood names draws flak

Toronto area house hunters conducting their search online can now search for neighbourhoods by name, as in Roncesvalles or Rosedale.

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Richard for Toronto Sun: The First Time Buyer Land Transfer Tax Rebate

Richard for Toronto Sun: The First Time Buyer Land Transfer Tax Rebate

I am excited to begin my term as President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, and so I would like to take the opportunity to discuss with you the issue of home ownership.

The first time home buyer land transfer tax (LTT) rebate is out of date. Due to increasing home prices, the rebate no longer covers the average LTT bill for first time home buyers. Instead, they pay almost $1,500 in LTT after receiving the rebate.

The provincial LTT is a significant tax: it costs the average Toronto home buyer almost $7,000, and when added to the Toronto Land Transfer Tax, average Toronto homebuyers face almost $14,000 in land transfer taxes.

REALTORS® believe that the first time buyers of today should not have to bear a heavier tax burden then previous generations. We believe that affordable home ownership is as important in 2011 as it was in 1996 when the LTT rebate program was first introduced.

From 1996 to 2010, the average price of a resale home in Ontario went up 120 per cent from $155,725 to $ 342,245. During the same period, the provincial government increased the LTT rebate by $275 or just 16 per cent. As a result, a first time home buyer today in Ontario pays $1,500 in LTT more than the previous generation on an average priced home after receiving the rebate.

REALTORS® are therefore urging all candidates running in the 2011 Ontario Election to support increasing the LTT rebate for first time home buyers from $2,000 to $3,500. This would return fairness to the LTT rebate program and allow present day first time home buyers to enjoy the same tax savings as buyers in previous years.

The Ontario LTT is paid on top of other closing costs such as legal fees, moving expenses, home inspection fees and mortgage insurance. Together, these closing costs eat away at a purchaser’s down payment, increasing the size of their mortgage principal.

The tax punishes young first time home buyers in particular because they pay the majority of their closing costs out of their own pocket, not from the proceeds of a previous home sale. As a result, closing costs, such as LTT, prevent some first time home buyers from entering the market altogether.

As a working REALTOR® I know the dream of home ownership among young Ontarians is as strong as it has ever been. Returning fairness to the LTT rebate program will go a long way towards ensuring that dream continues to flourish.

I look forward to providing knowledge and insight on important real estate subject throughout my term.

Richard Silver, President Toronto Real Estate Board

Reposted from The Toronto Sun