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Investing in the Booming Downtown East Side with Elliott Taube

Elliott Taube is President of International Home Marketing Group and has sold over 2000 condos in 2016 alone. Elliott is now representing Great Gulf Homes on their new project Home Condos in the booming downtown east side. Elliott discusses what is fueling the surge of new interest in the Downtown East as well as the unique opportunity it represents to condo investors.


1:01 How did you get started in real estate?
2:35 What are some of the projects that you have sold in the last 8, 12 months or so?
4:24 What’s going on in this market right now?
6:39 We can’t keep up with demand? It’s just a supply shortage?
7:49 Are we in a bubble?
8:33 What are you seeing with the new mortgage rule changes.
11:51 What’s your take on the whole foreign buyer equation here in our market?
13:41 What would you say is the true foreign body, what % would you say you’re seeing?
14:22 Do you see a jump at all in the past 60 days since the Vancouver rule.
18:25 How is the rental market? What can you share with us about the rental market.
20:59 What can you tell us about the developers, Great Gulf and Hallmark?
24:20 Anything else we need to know about Home Condos?

Click Here for Interview Transcript

Speaker 1: Welcome to the True Condos podcast with Andrew la Fleur, the place to get the truth on the Toronto condo market and condo investing in Toronto.
Andrew la Fleur: All right. It’s my pleasure to welcome to the show for the first time, hard to believe, but this is Elliott Taube. Elliott is the president of International Home Marketing group and Elliott’s been responsible for the sales and marketing of many, many high-profile condo projects across the GTA and low-rise housing projects as well. Elliott, it’s great to finally have you on the show.
Elliott Taube: Thanks Andrew. It’s an absolute pleasure. I also can’t believe it’s been this long, God we’ve known each other for years now so thanks for finally having me.
Andrew la Fleur: Absolutely, absolutely. Glad to have you on. Of course, we want to talk about Home Condos, which is a new project that you are responsible for and going to be launching soon. First, why don’t we just get to know you a little bit and tell everyone about yourself. How did you get started in real estate?
Elliott Taube: Well, it actually goes back about 25 years. I came out of school, had an education in computer science, started working in the field and quickly discovered I did not enjoy just sitting in a cubicle, I liked being with people, talking to people, just being out more in a social environment. I realized that I had to something else and what could I do without going back to school for a long period of time and I chose the route of real estate then. I started in resale for a few years and then moved into the new home side and spent ten years with one of the largest low-rise developers at that time in the GTA Tribute Communities. After a 10-year stint with them decided it was time for a change and that’s how I ended up at International Home Marketing Group and kind of went through the ranks here from sales manager to vice president and president of the company for the last three years.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely and as president at International Home Marketing group, and a lot of condo investors listening might not know the name International Home Marketing Group per se, but anybody in the industry, in the business, knows you guys because you’re responsible for so many amazing projects. What are some of the projects that you have sold in the last 8, 12 months or so? I know you’ve done so many high-profile ones.
Elliott Taube: First off, International … Yeah, we are kind of that company that sits in the background because you walk into a sales office for Great Gulf, for Madison or Field Gate and you think you’re meeting them but you’re actually meeting people who work through our company. We’ve been around 25 years but if you want to kind of just track the last 12 or 15 months, some of the projects that we’ve brought to market … Two from Metropia, one called AYC at 181 Bedford, The Rocket up at Wilson and The Allen road. We’ve done a low-rise project for Madison the other week called Real Towns up in Thornhill. We’ve continued our work with CanAlfa down at Liberty Village. The Citizen in Fieldgate, we’ve done a lot of work for. Pier 27 and St. Lawrence at 158 Front. Conservatory Group in Etobicoke on the waterfront. There’s a lot of projects that we’ve been either releasing this year or just finishing up sales with.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great to speak to you. You certainly are somebody at the top of the industry, so to speak, and somebody with a wealth of experience, somebody who has sold hundreds and probably thousands of condos over the years, I’m sure.
Elliott Taube: I’d say a couple thousand this year already so …
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, there you go, exactly. It adds up quick. What’s going on in this market right now? Everybody wants to know how is the market, of course. What’s your take on the condo market today as we’re nearing the end of 2016 as we’re having this recording now?
Elliott Taube: It’s been a fantastic year. We exceeded sales from last year and I’m not talking just about my company and our group, industry-wide. The projects that came out this year, and there’s been a lot of high profile ones, they’ve been snapped up where we used to see a 12-, 18-month cycle for these condos to get to even their pre-construction numbers, 70% sold, 75% sold. We’re seeing that happen in record times. Some overnight sell-outs at Cumberland, Halo, AYC, projects like that have been absolutely phenomenal successes.
Projects where we had inventory continuing to sell and we’re watching pricing escalate to new levels, and not unaffordable but it’s just … Where we watched things that went from 500 to 600 bucks a foot it took a while, now we’re watching things go from 600 to 700 very quick as far as the pace. People are still absorbing it. It’s affordable. I think it’s also the fact that the low-rise market has really become unattainable for a lot of people out there. The other week, I was just telling you about that Real Towns project, we sold 79 houses in a weekend, townhouses, for over a million dollars. The market has been exceptionally buoyant this year.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah. What do you think is driving it? You talk about the low-rise market just getting out of reach for a lot of people, do you think that’s the main factor that’s really driving record sales and rapid price increases in the condo market, in the high rise market, is there anything else going on with this story? Do we just … We can’t keep up with demand? It’s just a supply shortage?
Elliott Taube: I wouldn’t call it a supply shortage, it truly is on the low-rise side a real shortage, unless you want to go to the far reaches, The Sharons, The Berries, out to Oshawa, Bowmanville. The West End is completely filled up, Mississauga and Milton. There’s no low-rise land so anything that’s coming out is at such high demand. In the old days we sold more low-rise than we did the high-rise units. Now, it’s the complete opposite. The typical low-rise market used to be 20,000 units a year if not more and now if we can do five or six thousand then that’s just based on supply, available lots that are within the GTA or just outside of the GTA. There is no low-rise supply unless the government all of a sudden decides to open up the Oak Ridges Moraine or some of those areas, we’re going to see these prices continue to escalate in the low-rise.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, that’s my next question. Do you think … You get this all the time I’m sure, but do you think that we have a bubble, are we in a bubble right now and where do you see this market going over the next few years?
Elliott Taube: I don’t see it as a bubble. I think the low interest rate environment that we’ve enjoyed, and we’re seeing it going up a bit, has kind of fueled that portion. I really don’t think it’s a bubble. I would like to see things level off. I’m always a little concerned when I see such rapid escalation on pricing.
Andrew la Fleur: What role, or what are you seeing with the new mortgage rule changes … Everybody’s interested in that and talking about that and wondering if that’s going to impact the market. What’s your take on it? Have you seen it impacting the market at all and in what way?
Elliott Taube: Surprisingly I’ve seen little impact. I talk to a lot of people. I’m friendly with all the competitors and everybody out there because we all want to really kind of share information to make sure that we’re all up to speed. None of us are really seeing that. First off, in the condo side of business we’re all asking for 20% down so that real stress test is not applying as much to them. Where I think it’s going to have the biggest impact is the first-time buyer, like who was always trying to get into the market at 5% or 10% down, they’re being qualified at a much higher criteria. It’s going to knock down their ability to purchase a unit at market price or wherever it’s at, and probably keep them in the rental market a little bit longer.
I think what it’s done is it’s made the investor and the long-term investor who wants to hold rental property richer, quite honestly. It’s just going to be harder for that first-time buyer. It’s not really an investor portion of the market or somebody who’s established that’s going to suffer under these rules.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, we’ve been talking about a lot on the podcast lately and just the kind of irony of the government looking to make things better but really it seems like they’ve made things worse if you’re a first-time buyer. The way I’ve been saying it is the people who need help the most are suffering the most from these changes. The people who need help the least, investors, are probably in an indirect way actually benefiting from these changes so it’s actually better for the investors than it was before because, like you said, you’re going to have more renters, less people can afford, all signs are pointing to, like you said, the rich getting richer.
Elliott Taube: I agree. I completely agree with that. I think what it was meant to do which was to slow down the pace. We’ve not seen that, but the tale has yet to be told, it is really fresh in there. What we’ve just said with the rich getting richer and the investors, I think that’s what we’re going to see more so.
Andrew la Fleur: What about the foreign buyer question. We’ve seen Vancouver obviously put in this new rule for foreign buyers, new tax and cause and effect we don’t know, but shortly after this has been put into place the sales are dropping off dramatically it seems, in Vancouver at least, over the past couple months. I don’t know if you have any insight on the Vancouver market at all, if you track that at all, but do you think that we would see something similar in Toronto or what do you see? What’s your take on the whole foreign buyer equation here in our market?
Elliott Taube: The foreign buyer question, which has always been interesting because we know, we see the demographic of the people who come through the sales office. We look at the names going on these agreements and they’re definitely … What is a natural Canadian anymore? Is it Joe Smith? Is it … The names and everybody is very diverse. The people who tend to buy in the Toronto market, and whether that money is flowing in from overseas is always the harder question to answer, but they have local addresses, they’re landed immigrants here, they’re citizens of this country, they’re students here so we didn’t have as much on the true foreign buyer that Vancouver did.
The other thing that I always found is a major difference too from Vancouver to here is it was really a lights-off economy in Vancouver where people were buying the units over there, you’d look at whole apartment buildings and there’d be one or two lights on in these 20-, 30-story towers where in Toronto every unit is basically either occupied, rented out where Vancouver they were just buying this as a place to hold money and no one was even in those units. I think it is a different market as far as Toronto goes. We definitely see some foreign buyers.
Andrew la Fleur: What would, again, you in your position selling, like you said, 2000 condos just in the past year or less, from that pool of sales, what would you say is the true foreign body, what percentage would you say you’re seeing?
Elliott Taube: I’ve actually done the tracking. For the projects that we’ve done this year we’re under 10%. We hit about 8%. We track that because we know where they’re coming from and we have different criteria for their deposits. They’re giving us much more money. Where the local buyer is giving us 20% the foreign buyer is giving us 35%. In tracking that I’ve had about 8% as far as our entire portfolio sales this year.
Andrew la Fleur: About 8%, which is very in line with what everybody seems to be saying, less than 10%. Do you see a jump at all in the past 60 days since the Vancouver rule, like some people are saying there’s all this new interest in Toronto because they’re not buying in Vancouver so all that money’s going to flow over here. Are you seeing that at all, any signs of that?
Elliott Taube: No. I’ve seen that the market’s been buoyant here but I haven’t seen any … We do some business out from Vancouver and advertising for Toronto properties and I’ve seen no more uptake now than I did six months ago.
Andrew la Fleur: Right, so you’re not really seeing that. Interesting. Let’s shift gears. Let’s talk about Home Condos and get into that obviously, new project that is launching soon, King and Parliament area, east side of downtown. I know we talked about this recently but I’d love for you to share your thoughts with the condo investor out there listening. Why east side right now? What is it about the east side that you’re excited about?
Elliott Taube: I think it’s the whole change. When you look at location for the east and what’s in store in really that part of the city, that part of the world, it’s just filled with so many things that are about to happen there. We watched development that moved east and west of Young Street, which is always kind of that watermark, but as we’ve been going towards the east we’ve seen more and more things popping up. It is going to be the redevelopment of certain sites there that really excites. Great Gulf, who is doing this project with Home with Hallmark is also responsible through one of their other companies called First Gulf to the Unilever land. We’re going to be doing a whole redevelopment of that portion down there, which is essentially where the Don Valley Parkway kind of comes to an end before the water front, with multiple office towers going into there.
If the future shows us anything, there should be 20 to 30 to 50 thousand people eventually working in that part of the city. That’s going to bring new transit options to that part of the world as well, we’re talking about the Relief Line and the subway. The subway has always been a big thing as far as investors go towards condos and that’s bringing something into that area, as well as new LRT lines, entertainment, shopping, destination. It is really an untapped portion down there and we’ve seen other things down there that have kind of buoyed that area … The whole Canary District, River City.
When I look a little bit further to the south and we’re bringing this project out at what I would consider a very reasonable cost in dollar per square foot, I look at one of the latest sales that has just happened to the south, the FedEx lands just around Queenskey, which is really not far from this site, the money that these guys paid is phenomenal, 166 million dollars for this site, which means that condos in that portion are going to have to sell for twice what Great Gulf and Home is doing. When I look at what’s going to happen in the future between all that employment, new office towers, new transit, future sites that are going to be twice the price, this just makes so much sense.
Also, when the current rent in that neighborhood, what they’re getting right now, also return on investment for the dollar per square foot that we’re going to be charging is fantastic. You would be in a positive position down there. It does excite me.
Andrew la Fleur: How is the rental market? What can you share with us about the rental market, east side, downtown, around that area, what are you seeing?
Elliott Taube: We used to always kind of categorize it in a dollar per square foot range but it’s becoming harder and harder because as we’ve been making units more efficient, size has kind of changed, but a typical 2-bedroom in that area is now fetching $2200, $2300 a month. It’s quite high. A 1-bedroom is at $1800, $1900, so really kind of escalated up there, which is close to downtown rents. You’re 10 minutes out of the core but you’re paying only slightly less than you would in a downtown location or a more core-type location.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely. These kind of … That’s something we talk about a lot with our investors here is these opportunities where you’re getting … Everybody wants to be on Young Street, sure, okay that’s fine. We all know that Young Street is super-prime downtown. We know that you’re going to pay a massive premium to be anywhere close to Young Street. We know that the rental market close to Young Street is very, very hot and the prices are highest. There are sort of sweet spots downtown like this spot here, as you go and maybe Liberty Village is a good example on the west side where you’re still in the downtown core but you’re off of Young Street, the prices are significantly lower than you’re paying for the property but the rental prices are only slightly lower so it ends up your ROI is a lot stronger when you’re buying in the edges of the downtown core, so to speak, but you’re still in the downtown.
Elliott Taube: Yeah, no I completely agree. Downtown, especially when we’ve seen some of the latest releases along Young Street in the corridor, these guys are getting 800, 850, 900 bucks a foot for condos there. The rents aren’t significantly different than these areas that are charging 600, 650 a foot right now.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, exactly, so you just do the math and the numbers are, from a rental perspective, from an income perspective you’re doing better in a location like this. What can you tell us about the developers, Great Gulf and Hallmark? What do we need to know about them?
Elliott Taube: If anybody’s followed the Toronto market, first off the name Great Gulf stands out. They’ve built so many marquis projects throughout the city. Hallmark, which has been more on the development finance side, is also no stranger. They’ve been around 60 years so both of these companies have been around multiple decades and doing this. Great Gulf is probably more so the face of this which people identify with when you take a look at some of their history, even this year 8 Cumberland, which was a massive success. 1 Bloor, which is going up right now is the dominant power in the skyline. Buildings like X and X2 and Monde and Young and Rich and Charlie, it goes back a long way.
Their buildings have all done exceptionally well. People have bought into those projects and have all seemed to have made money. One of the other nice things about Great Gulf is it’s a massive company, they’re vertically integrated. They also control a company called Tucker Construction. Not only are they developing it, selling it, marketing, but they’re also building it so there’s something inherent in building your own product and it goes into quality. Anything in my due diligence when I’ve looked at these companies, people are always pleased with the customer service level on what they’ve got. They build a tremendous product. They build an absolutely tremendous product.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely. It just seems that any Great Gulf, all the list that you just mentioned there, 1 Bloor or 8 Cumberland, going back in time to buildings like Charlie, King and Spadina there, the Hudson, King and Spadina, 18 Yorkville, Young and Bloor, whatever it is the Great Gulf building, whatever neighborhood it’s in it seems to be sort of the standard, the high bar for the neighborhood, the sort of blue chip building for the pocket that it’s in. It seems like King and Parliament area the Home Condos is poised to probably become the standard in that pocket. As you mentioned, in the east side gets built out I think we’ll see more buildings popping up around there. You just look at Great Gulf’s history if you’re buying in that building most likely it’s going to be that blue chip building for many years to come.
Elliott Taube: Yeah, I would agree, totally agree. The other thing with Great Gulf is they operate in so many different markets and they’re not just Toronto-based. They build in Texas and Washington and Florida, right throughout the United States, so they borrow a lot of what they’ve learned from different parts of the industry and brought it back here. Whether it’s efficiency, design, just new cutting-edge technologies, it’s a great hive of activity. The mindset there is really tremendous in what they bring to the table.
Andrew la Fleur: Anything else we need to know about Home Condos and why we should be looking at investing in this building now?
Elliott Taube: First off, to describe that neighborhood, we’ve used the Power Street address, Power is probably the least known of the streets that it borders on. This project has evolved tremendously over the last five years since it really kind of started. It passed going from what was going to be a single tower on the location. They were able to purchase the other portions of the land there to really create a two-tower with a really masterful podium. It’s a little over 500 units. When we get to a building of that size as well you’re able to kind of put in some great amenities that you can’t afford in a smaller building. A beautiful fitness facility with change rooms, steam. An outdoor pool that has spectacular views of the city skyline when we look towards the west there. Chef’s kitchens, guest suites.
One of the other incredible things that we have to take a look at this building is we’ve carved out a huge retail portion, that grade there. We don’t have anything that we can tell you firm when we’re just going in, but we really designed it to fit a food store, so to have that convenience in the building as well, to be able to come home, go downstairs, get groceries, take it up, that is … In buildings that I’ve seen that it’s had that aspect have always done exceptionally well.
You border onto Adelaide on one side and Richmond on the other, so two key routes whether you’re trying to get in and out of the the core. Parliament is your north-south so whether you want to get onto the King Streetcar or the King Streetcar, you want to get down to the distillery district down to the lake shore or as an access to what’s going to be East Harbor, you’re really at the forefront there. If you have a car and you want to jump on the Gardiner or the Don Valley it’s also a stone’s throw away.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely. Again, one of the advantages of the east side of downtown is the accessibility, like you said, and just the ability to get in and out of the city or in and out of downtown very quickly as opposed to the west side, which is a little bit more challenging to just move around. That’s one of the reasons why I think a lot of buyers and renters are looking east more so now. You’ve got a lot more options and access to transit and transportation to move around easier.
Elliott, is there anything else that I didn’t ask you about your self or about Home Condos that we should cover?
Elliott Taube: No, I think we’ve got a big part of it done. It is an exciting project. It is going to be available. I know your listeners will be able to contact you for further details if it’s something that they’re looking to invest in. Like I said, dollar per square foot pricing is fantastic. It’s a beautiful building by a marquis builder and development team. I really appreciate the chance to get on here and talk to you about this.
Andrew la Fleur: Awesome. Great. Well thank you very much, Elliott, for your time. Thank you for your insights. Look forward to working with you and my investors on this project. If people want to get a hold of you or learn more about International Home Marketing Group what’s the best way to do that?
Elliott Taube: To see what we do check out our website. It’s, so just like our name International Home Marketing Group,
Andrew la Fleur: Perfect. Okay, thanks a lot Elliott.
Elliott Taube: My pleasure. Thanks Andrew.
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