We are excited to welcome our first female guest to the Toronto Under Construction podcast, Ms. Barbara Lawlor. Barbara started her career in real estate in 1987 because of her fascination with architecture. It was around this time she met Pat Baker and joined her team in 1993. Now, 28 years later, Barbara is the CEO and President of Baker Real Estate, and is involved with the marketing and sales of pre-construction condominium developments in Canada and overseas and plays a key-consulting role with the development team. Barbara joins us to talk about the pre-construction condo market, and how it’s been affected by COVID restrictions over the last few months.
In 1993, new construction condos accounted for only 5% of the new construction market. At the time, it was still popular to take out 6 full-page ads in the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail, and record registrations through the phone by hand. Back then there was little to no broker participation, due to the lack of knowledge and insight provided to Brokers. Being predominantly resale, and closing deals in 60-90 days, it was hard for brokers to understand the 5-year timeline of new construction. Barbara was instrumental in getting brokers and developers on board, and today, new construction condos account for over 50% of the market, and is heavily investor driven. Today, Baker Realty works with over 12,000 brokers and Barbara has been there through it all. She sold through the recession in the 90’s, the banking crises in 08/09 and she still selling during COVID.
When it comes to new condo construction, the process is very investor driven, so the business model is very relevant during COVID – and Barbara says it’s the key to Baker’s success for continuing to sell during COVID. From a financing point of view, Steve mentions that Cameron Stephens Mortgage Capital looks very closely at the buyers and whether a building is investor or end user. Investors are more likely to walk on their deposits and investments, where as end-users are more likely to close. Barbara shared that most buildings are a mix, and that investors are usually first out of the gate to purchase and take the risk, and the end users show up later.
During this episode the team reflect on the CMHC report that expects prices to fall 9-12%. Barbara doesn’t agree with their position and states that the reality is “supply has dwindled, as we come out of COVID, but the demand has not been met. Immigration is still strong, and it won’t stop. In Canada 350K new comers are approved each year. If anything, we will see an increase in immigration.”
This episode’s HOT TAKE: Barbara has spoken to some CEO’s based in the US who are ahead of us coming out of the COVID crises, and they’ve mentioned that they’ve gone from lockdown to right back up to where they were previously in a matter of weeks. Barbara expects that we are going to see something similar. That we will come back out of this faster than there is a lot of press about.
When asked how is she advising her clients, Barbara said none of her clients have discounted product but they’ve been more lenient on the deposit structure, and are spreading them out a little more.
Where is Toronto Going?
Like many of our guests, Barbara concurs that Toronto is a young, great city. “We’re an immigration magnet due to our conservative politics, our economy, health care, and so many other great things. We’re really starting to become a great city – why would we be different to the other great cities of the world? New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. Toronto is on the path to become one of the great cities of the world!”
Toronto is so different from 20 years ago. You can’t compare this market to the 90’s – and the Internet was a game changer for how we do things.
Females In Real Estate
As our first female guest, we had to touch on females in real estate and Barbara has high hopes for where we’re going! Traditionally it was extremely rare to have females in boardrooms with developers, but we’re seeing it more and more!
According to Barbara, some hot markets to watch are projects launching outside of the city like Scarborough, which is underpriced with lots of room to grow, as well as the 905, which is around $800 ppsf.
Lastly we touched on how COVID will change the way we live, and Barbara believes it will impact our spaces in terms of home offices, multi use den space, and co-working amenities.