How to Invest Like a Condo Insider With Matthew Slutsky
Andrew la Fleur of TrueCondos.com talks to Matthew Slutsky, Co-Founder of BuzzBuzzHome.com, about his own personal condo investments, his outlook on the current Toronto condo market, and tips for both beginner and seasoned Toronto condo investors.
00:55 First iTunes Review of The True Condos Podcast
1:42 Who is Matthew Slutsky?
3:10 How and Why Matthew Started BuzzBuzzHome
4:45 What Options Were Available Before BuzzBuzzHome?
6:54 What Attracted Matthew to Real Estate and Land Development?
8:15 What Is Matthew Most Proud Of?
9:37 A BuzzBuzzHome User Case Study
11:34 How Does the Toronto Condo Market Differ from Other North American Cities?
13:34 By-Product of the Current Toronto Condo Market & Future Investor Tip
17:00 Where Will The Developer Dollar Go Towards In the Future?
17:35 Is There a Condo Bubble in Toronto?
19:34 What Condos Has Matthew Invested In & Why?
21:25 What is Matthew’s Long Term Condo Investment Strategy
22:30 How Can Condo Investors Get the Most Out of BuzzBuzzHome?
24:00 What He Wishes His Friends and Family Would Ask Him
25:20 How to Reach Matthew Slutsky
Follow Matthew Slutsky on Twitter
Follow Buzzbuzzhome on Twitter
Andrew: Hello and welcome to The True Condos Podcast. I’m your host, Andrew la Fleur. You may know me from truecondos.com or maybe you’ve read some of my articles in New Condo Guide Magazine or maybe you’ve never heard of me and that’s fine. The point is that if you’re interested in learning more about the Toronto Condo Market or investing in condos then you’ve come to the right place. The True Condos Podcast is a chance to hear from industry experts and insiders about what’s really going on in the condo market and we also fight to find out where these insiders and experts are putting their own money when it comes to condo investing. If you like what you hear, please show your support for the show by leaving a review on iTunes. It really helps a lot.
Speaking of which, we did get a review this week so I’d like to thank ayolly for leaving our very first review. Ayoli says, “I’ve been wanting to get into the real estate investing game for a bit now and I like to listen to podcasts in my car, but there are hardly any real estate investing ones on iTunes let alone Canadian ones so I’m pretty excited to subscribe to this one and give it a try. The first episode was great already. I’m looking forward to the rest.” Thank you very much for that review ayolly. I really appreciate it. If you do leave a review like ayolly did then we will be reading them out on the show, so go ahead and do that on iTunes.
For this episode of The True Condos Podcast, I am excited to have on our show Matthew Slutsky. Matthew is one of the co-founders of buzzbuzzhome.com which is basically like the MLS except it’s for new homes and condos in Canada. Now they’re also expanding across North America. Matthew, he’s really a great guy to talk to about the condo market because his business and what he does every day basically gives him a direct connection to pretty much every single condo developer in the city. If there’s something going on interesting or something happening in the condo world, condo industry in Toronto especially, he’s usually the first one to know about it before anyone else.
I talked to Matthew about how and why he started BuzzBuzzHome, what his thoughts are on the Toronto Condo Market and I found out about where he is personally investing his own money in the condo market which I think you’ll be very interested to hear and to find out what building he’s purchasing in. Check it out. Here it is, my interview with Matthew Slutsky of BuzzBuzzzHome.
All right, great. Thanks Matthew for joining us here on the podcast today.
Matthew: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: That’s great. Yeah, we really appreciate your time. A lot of people listening are of course familiar with your company and your website, buzzbuzzhome.com. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, how you got started in the real estate and then also how did BuzzBuzzHome come to be, how it was a genesis of your company BuzzBuzzHome?
Matthew: My background is land development, most recently as a VP of development for Diamante which is a luxury condo builder in Toronto. While there, I saw a huge gap of information like every other entrepreneur in the world that I decided either I’m going to fill it or somebody else is going to fill it. We were spending or the entire industry was spending huge amounts of money on print advertising, on A-Frames, on magazine ads, you name it, but 9 out of 10 purchasers were starting to find new homes online before even contacting an agent, so I decided either I’m going to fill this huge void or someone’s going to be into it.
I left my job, started what’s become BuzzBuzzHome. We started it in downtown Toronto and spread across Canada. Now we’re across the United States. Basically, we’re MLS for new construction. We’re North America’s largest listing of new construction. We pride ourselves on having the best new home sourcing tool available to purchasers where they go in, type in anything from a city to a neighborhood to a developer, they’ll find all the information they want. In addition to just having a lot of information, we also really pride ourselves on us having the most up-to-date information, making sure that our information is as real time as possible.
Andrew: What existed before you invented or came up with BuzzBuzzHome? What was out there? Give us an idea of what- what were developers’ options before BuzzBuzzHome? What was the gap exactly that you saw? What was this big missing thing that you’ve filled?
Matthew: The gap before was no centralized source of information. Are you asking about what the developers do? They were putting a full-page ad in-
Andrew: How much does that cost?
Matthew: It’s always a bit different, but anywhere $15,000 to $45,000.
Andrew: For one single ad on one single day.
Matthew: Correct. Now, that’s different if you’re in New York and you’re putting an ad in the New York Times, it’s double that. If you’re in Vancouver, it’s a bit less, but that’s been the traditional way. You go to the real estate section and you put in a big ad in the real estate section. A few years ago, it started to switch. Some developers started to put a full-page ad in the front section just to shuffle up. Then there are the magazines, so a full-page ad in local magazines. A-Frames, those are the sandwich boards you see around town saying “new condo” with an arrow pointing one day, still doing that these days. Hoarding, so the actual construction hoarding around the site, letting people know where they are.
There was never an actual centralized source. When I say that I mean if you see an advertisement in the newspaper and you’re thinking okay, I’m going to spend between $400,000 and $800,000. Seeing on ad does not alleviate the problem of what else is in the area? What else is there out there? What could I be buying? Is there a new condo launching next door to that one that you just didn’t see an ad for or is there a new housing development at the farm next door that’s going to be launching? That’s really the void that we were trying to solve is to let people see a completely unbiased view of everything that’s launching or currently launched.
Andrew: Right, right. What was it about real estate, going back to yourself and getting into real estate before BuzzBuzzzHome, what was it about real estate that attracted you to this industry, into this business? Did you always know that you want to be real estate? What was the thing about land development that excited you?
Matthew: I love seeing cities grow. It’s always interested me from when I was a young age, so I did my undergraduate at U of T in urban studies and I did my Master of Science in Scotland in environmental sustainability but with a land development twist because the way that cities grow has been of interest. Again, BuzzBuzzzHome is a listing of everything whether you’re high-rise or low-rise, but my personal preference was in the high-rise sector and how can you get more density, how can you get more people living downtown and providing the best possible options for a city to grow whether it be along transit lines and how to actually develop a city and transform a city, so that’s been always my goal.
I thought I wanted to go into development itself, which I still may get to one day, but through that process with working for developers I saw this other opportunity that has become BuzzBuzzHome. I’m pretty sure in the future I will get back into land development as well on the side. It’s definitely something that’s always interested me.
Andrew: What are you most proud of when it comes to BuzzBuzzHome? You’ve created now this pretty big company, very successful company, growing crazy. I don’t know if you can share some of your growth numbers, but through the success that you’ve had so far, what are you most proud of?
Matthew: I think there are a few things or a few different ways to look at it. From my own entrepreneurial background, I’d say most proud of actually creating something that has never existed before. Before BuzzBuzzHome launched, people didn’t really advertise very much online. We’ve created an entire market that had never existed before, so that on the entrepreneurship side I find that the most exciting and most proud of actually creating an entire new market within the industry that it was never available before.
From more of a personal side and on the real estate side, I’m most proud of the fact that I know that people have made better purchasing decisions, I’ve helped people purchase homes. Some people are investing and they’re making some money on the side, but for a lot of people it’s their actual home and they’re taking the majority of their money looking at huge loans to buy these. There has always been a lot of uncertainty of where they should buy, so we’re really proud that we’re really helping people make the best purchasing decision possible.
Andrew: Hundreds, probably thousands people have used BuzzBuzzHome information to make purchase as you said. Do you have an example of- maybe a story of one person that stands out that you’ve helped that really was that moment where you felt really good about what you’ve created and how you helped somebody?
Matthew: Yeah. It was actually a while ago, but most memorable experience with that was there was somebody who was trying to find a new condo. They’re actually buying this as an investment and they were really looking all over the place. Through BuzzBuzzHome, it really helped narrow down where they wanted to purchase. They ended up purchasing a condo. What I didn’t know was that he also owned a lot of Tim Hortons Restaurant franchises. One day this guy, who we really didn’t know, showed up at our door with an industrial-sized Tim Hortons machine coffee- the works.
This was three offices ago. We had this little office that this guy showed up and it was really at that point that I realized that we are really helping people. This is a big businessman, investing in a lot of things. I think he had six Tim Hortons franchises and we helped him make better investment decisions.
Andrew: He was bringing all this bread to you just to say thank you?
Matthew: To say thank you. To say thanks for helping. Thanks for letting me pick the best place. I still keep in touch with him. Their children actually recently moved into the condo and love it, thought it was a great place. All in all, it was probably the most memorable experience of really helping someone and actually seeing-
Andrew: The fruits of your labor.
Matthew: The fruits of our labor. Seeing they appreciate the help so much that they [inaudible 00:11:23] office and brought us a lot of delicious- we actually still use the coffee machine to this date.
Andrew: That’s great. Now, BuzzBuzzHome has expanded. You’re international now. You’ve got offices in Toronto, correct me if I’m wrong, Toronto, Vancouver and New York.
Andrew: The actual site itself is in many more cities across just North America or-
Matthew: Yeah. We’re now North America’s largest listing. As you mentioned, our offices are in Toronto, Vancouver and New York. Toronto is our headquarters. The majority of our staff works out of our Toronto office. All of our engineering is out of our Toronto office. Our product development is out of Toronto office, but we do have these other satellite offices, but we are across North America. We’re in pretty much every city now across North America. We’re across all of Canada and we’re rolling out some really cool new features as we’re expanding further into the United States just developing more and more features custom for the US.
Andrew: Having to travel to these different markets and talking to land development people in the different markets, how do you see the Toronto Condo Market as being unique or different compared to all these other cities that you’ve been to in North America?
Matthew: I think the Toronto market is unique in a lot of ways. The most relative I think is the fact that so much of our product needs to be purchased in preconstruction before the developer even gets financing. The reason why that’s really unique is one as you saw in the United States over the last eight years, they’ve gone through a major slump because they oversold which obviously wasn’t good. Canada was protected because of the way that we do our preconstruction.
Andrew: You’re saying part of the reason why the big problems in the US for the past eight years is because they had speculative building where they could build these big towers especially without having presold all these units unlike we do here in Toronto?
Andrew: Is that a good summary of what you’re talking about?
Matthew: Exactly, much better worded than I said.
Matthew: On the other hand, our market is unique because we do this, we’re building different product types that I think the real end users want. What we’re seeing is-
Andrew: I heard you talk about this before. This is I think a really important point, so let’s flash this out a bit.
Matthew: Yeah. Using the Toronto market as an example, a lot of investors purchasing here, not necessarily foreign investors but local investors who buy these units, when the units are completed, they either rent it out to somebody or sell it to an end user. Because it’s so geared towards the investors, a lot of the units are actually smaller units between the sweet spot is 450 to 750 square feet I’d say, you’d be able to-
Matthew: -the sweet spot, but that really isn’t the livable space for a lot of people. Maybe livable for one person or a young couple but if you’ve got two kids, it’s not very livable. One of the issues is if you’re buying one of these places and it’s not going to be ready in four years, three or four years, maybe five years, you may not know that in five years from now you’re going to be married, have a kid, have a dog, all these things that when you bought it, five years is a long time for a young person. You need a different product, so these people are either forced to sell it. If they sell it, where are they going to move into because everything that’s being purchased is for the smaller units.
You now have a kid or two and a dog, there are not that many units there that have been built to actually accommodate your need and take into account family living. I think that going forward it’s going to be an issue. I think a smart play is buying up larger units. It’s always what I tell people.
Andrew: Take note investors. Matthew Slutsky says buy larger units, okay.
Matthew: With parking. Remember, I’m not realtor, so you can’t come after me if I’m wrong. I’d say that in the future as there’s no more land, the low-rise houses, the number of low-rise houses being built is shrinking, people are moving into these higher density places, the large units that are going to do well over time. I think that’s another major difference in the market.
Another major difference is the fact that we really- our builders really pander to realtors, so really I’m finding more and more Toronto centric- I mean there are a lot of markets that obviously there are realtors that sell new construction, but nobody panders to the realtor like the Toronto market does.
Andrew: Pandering in a good way or a bad way?
Matthew: In an interesting way.
Andrew: I think what you mean is that unlike in a lot of other markets, the number of sales that go through a realtor is very high in Toronto. That developers market, a lot of their sale is directly to the realtor population as opposed to other cities where a lot of developers, they won’t even work with realtors at all.
Andrew: They just sell it 100% in-house.
Matthew: What I’m talking about pandering is because of that, you’re seeing much higher commissions going to realtors than in other markets. You’re seeing- I feel like every month another developer is flying another private jet to another city with a jet load of realtors trying to get them on board for the newest project. You see a lot of incentives going towards the realtors that you really don’t see in other markets. I find that really interesting. Obviously it’s a bad thing. It’s a different marketing process.
Andrew: Where do you see that- so the marketing dollars here in Toronto may be spent more on working with the realtors, in other cities where do you see those dollars then going to?
Matthew: Just more advertisings spend. Again, if you’re looking at New York, there are a lot more expensive units, the land is more expensive, but you see a lot more expensive advertising. That money could also be going just towards the actual unit itself, so less expensive units rather than more expensive units with more going to the realtor.
Andrew: Right. Interesting. Question that anybody likes to ask, I’d love you hear your take on it is, is there a condo bubble in Toronto?
Matthew: I’d say no. I’d say I don’t believe there’s a bubble here. In fact, I’ve purchased investment units in Toronto. I think that as I mentioned previously, we’re not building in more land. There’s a huge amount of legislation right now that’s been placed by all levels of government from the Oakridge & Marine, the Greenbelt that surrounds the city, Places to Grow Act and all of these policies have been put in place to increase intensification. Let’s start building on all these green fields. Actually, let’s create more dense livable cities.
Over the last 10 years, the government has been putting [inaudible 00:18:24] and we’re finally starting to see the results of that. We’re starting to see less low-rise being built and more high-rise being built, more higher density projects being built along trans lines. I don’t think that we’re seeing a bubble. I think we’re seeing policy working.
Andrew: Interesting. In combination to what you were saying before, the government policies are working to create to create this intensification, they’re getting what they wanted, but a lot of these towers perhaps there’s a disconnect between what’s being built in the intensification in terms of the unit sizes are getting smaller and smaller attracting a lot of investors versus what the end user market is actually looking for in terms of the bigger units?
Matthew: I think less so what the end user really wants. Obviously they’re not going to buy it. If there’s a small unit available, they’ll end up purchasing and living with it, but it may not be what they wanted or they may have been able to afford more in terms of shoving themselves into a smaller unit.
Andrew: Interesting, interesting. It’d be interesting to watch that trend develop over the next 10 years as you said. I think you just answered this question, but you’re a condo investor yourself.
Andrew: Can you tell us what have you bought for investment and why did you pick what you’ve picked?
Matthew: I purchased a small unit in downtown Toronto around King Street and Blue Jays Way, 505 square feet. My wife and I, we love the location of it. The prime reason we purchased it was location. Sorry, go ahead.
Andrew: Do you want to share with us the building?
Matthew: Yeah. It’s King Blue Condos.
Andrew: King Blue Condos, okay.
Matthew: [Inaudible 00:20:08] it’s a great layout, location is fantastic. You’re a quick walk to the downtown core. You’re also in the middle of the entertainment district, so I think it’s going to be a desirable unit to rent out when it’s built, nice finishes, all around solid building, solid design.
Andrew: You’re obviously very familiar with the location because you’re office is-
Matthew: Right next door.
Andrew: -is literally where we’re talking right now. It’s about 10 feet away from the-
Matthew: Very convenient.
Andrew: -site of your new condo.
Andrew: What do you think about this area? The entertainment district, King Street, there are a lot of buildings going up here, what are your thoughts on the area?
Matthew: A lot of buildings going up. There’s going to be a lot of supply. It’s a really hot neighborhood. You’ve got great amenities, local amenities from restaurants, hopefully there’ll be some more grocery stores in the near future, fantastic public transportation. They’ve also got work that’s right next door. We’re in an office building 10 doors away from there so in the day time, it’s great for workers. In the night time, it’s great for entertainment. You get a bit of best of both worlds. There are a lot of new buildings being built. There’s going to be a lot more population down here which is I think going to make life even better. I think it’s going to force more grocery stores and it supports more local amenities, more of a community feel.
Andrew: That’s great. What’s your personal investment strategy for the longer time? What do you plan on doing with that unit and do you plan on adding more units or what are you thinking in terms of the longer time?
Matthew: My wife and I haven’t really discussed long term. I imagine we’ll keep it, rent it out and purchase more. I think that’s our game. We don’t really have a number of how many we want to own in the future. One of the great things about-
Andrew: You’re not looking to flip.
Matthew: No, we’re not looking to flip. One of the great things about being in the industry and working with a VIP realtor is having access. I always tell people it’s not just location, location, location that’s marketed. It’s access, access, access. The earlier you can get in means the better pricing you can get, the better unit layouts you can get, the better deals you can get. All those make a difference to your bottom line, so being actually in the industry and working with all the developers in the city gives us great access to be first in line. I see us purchasing more and more as we move forward.
Andrew: That’s great. What are some ways that condo investors can get the most out of BuzzBuzzHome and what you’ve got to offer on the site?
Matthew: There are a bunch of different things. One is the basic level of knowing what’s going in, so you can go on to BuzzBuzzHome, you can type in a neighborhood, you can type in an intersection, you type in a developer’s name and see everything that’s selling in that area. If you were thinking about buying condo X, you may have not known that condo Y was right behind that had better pricing or had better floor plans, so you can do all your research on BuzzBuzzzHome. That’s step one.
Step two is our system called Market Snapshot. When you’re looking at that area, you can actually click on the Market Snapshot button, you could see what’s the average price per square foot, what’s the unit mix in that area, how many one bedrooms are available, how many two bedrooms are available, how many three bedrooms are available, what’s the actual breakdown of the area. Again, if you’re looking at a three bedroom, you might actually be looking downtown and say oh, such a small percentage of actually three bedrooms. This might actually be really desirable in the future.
Market Snapshot is the second way. Third way is our online forums. Our online chat is a great place where you can go ask questions, other realtors are there that are answering questions. We’ve got realtors always on- lawyers always on there answering questions, developers coming on answering questions. It’s a great community where you can ask questions and get answers.
Andrew: You’re on there too?
Matthew: I’m on there too. I’m on there too answering questions, so come on to our chat.
Andrew: That’s great. If you want to chat with Matthew, it’s a great spot to find him on the BuzzBuzzHome forums absolutely. Just a warp up question I like to ask a lot of people, it’s always interesting to hear the answer. As somebody who gets interviewed a lot by different media outlets and asked a lot of questions about the condo market and condos in general, is there one question that nobody has ever asked you but that you wish that somebody would about yourself or about the condo market or about your company?
Matthew: It’s interesting. Nobody ever asked me for my autograph. I don’t know why, but no one has ever come up to me and asked for my autograph.
Andrew: We’ll fix that right now.
Matthew: I’d say the thing that I’m always surprised least asked of me is by my friends and family for access to the best deals because again, I can get access to pretty much any building in the city and a lot of my friends are always looking for new places, always surprised by-
Andrew: You’re sort of like a platinum real estate agent without his license.
Matthew: Yeah, exactly and no way to monetize it.
Matthew: Yes. I’m always surprised by the lack of people coming to me and trying to get access which is kind of nice. I don’t have my phone ringing off the hook.
Andrew: Any of Matthew Slutsky’s friends and family listening to this podcast-
Matthew: Give me a ring.
Andrew: -give him a ring. [Crosstalk 00:25:15] That’s great. Well, thank you very much for your time today, Matthew, really appreciate it.
Matthew: Thank you.
Andrew: All the best with BuzzBuzzHome and everything you’ve got going on here. If anybody wants to reach you or find you online, where’s the best place to get a hold of you?
Matthew: Probably Twitter. Look up either BuzzBuzzHome or @iSlutsky or come on to the BuzzBuzzHome forum and ask some questions.
Andrew: Great. Okay, thanks very much and hopefully we’ll get you on the podcast again soon.
Matthew: Awesome. Thank you.
Andrew: Okay. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Matthew Slutsky, one of the co-founders of buzzbuzzhome.com. For all the show notes on this episode, just head on over to truecondos.com/Matthew. Once again, if you like the show, please leave me a review on iTunes. They are greatly appreciated. Until next time, thanks for listening. Bye.
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