Is Toronto Becoming a Playground for the Rich?
Prices and rents have both risen dramatically in the last 2-3 years in Toronto. Many are starting to say that Toronto is becoming a playground for the rich, where only the top 1% can afford to rent here, let alone buy here. Is this true? Should real estate investors be worried about this trend? Find out what Andrew la Fleur has to say about this as he just returned from checking out some real estate in one of the hottest real estate playgrounds in the world – Miami.
Is Toronto becoming a playground for the rich? Find out, in today’s episode.
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.
Hey there, welcome back to the show. Thanks for listening in. As always Andrew la Fleur here, from truecondos.com. If you haven’t already, make sure you do hit the subscribe button to subscribe this podcast, whatever devise or service you’re listening to your podcast on. And make sure that you’re receiving my weekly email updates by signing up anywhere at truecondos.com with your name and email.
So, as I said in the intro to this episode, I wanna talk today about the question of, “Is Toronto becoming a playground for the rich?” So obviously condo prices and real estate prices in general in this city have risen dramatically over the last couple of years in particular. And the question … And rents have risen a lot as well. While incomes have gone up only marginally, if at all for most people.
So the question is starting to be asked is some circles, “Is Toronto becoming one of these world type cities, a playground for the rich, type of cities as other places in the world seem to be? Where you can only really afford to live here, to buy here, even to rent here, if you’re extremely wealthy in the 1% or even less than that kind of a thing.” So I wanted to sort of answer this question and look at this question a little bit today on this podcast by taking a comparison to another city which can be argued, is a playground for the rich. And it was a city that I recently visited myself and took a little bit of a gander and a look at the condo market and the real estate market there, and that is Miami.
So I had the chance to go down to Miami for a few days for a quick getaway. I have four kids, so my life is very crazy and any chance that I get to do that with my wife, we certainly take it. In this case, we did have the smallest one with us. We have a one year old. But we were able to leave the other three animals behind and it was a much needed break and it was great for us to do that and we try to do that whenever we can. And we’re very fortunate to be able to do that. And one of the reasons why, is because of real estate and what real estate has provided to us as a real estate investor.
So yeah, another great reminder, “Why are we doing this at all? Why are we investing in real estate?” Is to be able to really live life on your terms and to do things that the reality is, most people don’t have the opportunity to do and that’s because of real estate and because of investments and the decisions that we’ve made in the past, reaping benefits today in the present. And hopefully that’s the mentality you have as well is, making decisions today to invest in real estate today, that will benefit the future version of you down the road.
Anyways, that’s a bit of a side note, tangent there. But getting back to the story. So we head down to Miami for a few days, love Miami, love Florida in general. But really starting to appreciate and enjoy Miami more and more these days it seems. And so we were staying in Miami Beach, if you’re familiar. You have Miami City and then Miami Beach, is sort of separate from the city. But that’s really where when people talk about Miami, and visiting Miami, nine times out of 10, they’re really talking about Miami Beach as opposed to the city of Miami or the downtown Miami sort of area.
So we’re staying in this hotel, one of these hotels that also has condominiums available for sale. You can buy a condo in the hotel as well and you can sort of enjoy the amenities of the hotel and that sort of hotel lifestyle in the building.
So I took a look at what was available there. I went to the sales office, checked out, did some research there. And the first thing that you notice right away, the biggest thing you take away from this is, Toronto is very cheap. Toronto is very cheap. Yes, prices have risen dramatically in the last couple of years but it’s still very cheap compared to other places around the world, and Miami being one of those places. Again, the downtown average for condos right now is about a $1,000 per square foot. That’s bringing you right into the core of downtown. A very high quality lifestyle you can get for around 1000 bucks a square foot downtown.
Which works out to, you do the conversion to US dollars of course. Canadian dollars are very cheap for anybody who is earning money in not Canadian dollars, basically any other currency out there. Canadian dollars are very cheap and so if you convert it to U.S. 750 bucks roughly, U.S. per square foot you’re getting into downtown Toronto, 750 U.S..
Conversely, down in Miami right on the beach in this property we were at, units are starting from, starting from, lowest, cheapest price units without a clear view of the ocean, starting from $1500 per square foot. $1,500 U.S. per square foot, is the starting from price for a low floor unit. We’re talking like ninth floor type of a unit without a direct water view. The only way you see the water in a unit like this at 1,500 bucks U.S. per square foot is if you stand out on your balcony and you kinda turn your head, then you can see the water. But when you’re just in the unit, which you are 98% of the time, you’re just staring across at another building across from you. And you don’t even have that amazing, million dollar beautiful Miami Beach water sort of view that people associate with being in Miami and being on the beach.
So 1500 bucks U.S. for that. The building itself, obviously it’s sort of a five star type of a building and a lifestyle with all the hotel amenities and everything like that, but of course you pay for it. Maintenance fees there are very high. I was surprised to hear the maintenance fees are $1.60 per square foot, $1.60, 1.6 per square foot. Compare that to Toronto where really, anything in Toronto over 80 cents a square foot is considered high. Even the luxury buildings, high end hotel type buildings, you’re usually around $1 a square foot or so.
So this is $1.60. And the sales person there told me, that’s actually really cheap for Miami and this type of a property. Other neighboring properties she said are, 2 to $3 per square foot is normal. 2 to $3 per square foot, just for your maintenance fees. Wow. One of the reasons for that incidentally, which is something I had never really thought about but she pointed out to me was because of building insurance. So your condo fees cover building insurance that insures the entire building. And of course, if you’re on the beach in Florida, hurricanes. Right? You’ve got hurricanes to worry about so your insurance is very high in Miami.
I’m talking the market in general in Miami, from chatting with a few people and doing a little bit of research, it looks like there’s about two years worth of inventory in the market there. So it’s not … The market is slow. I don’t think the market’s in danger of having a major collapse and crash like it did ten years ago, they made a lot of changes to the condo market there and you can no longer buy condos there with five, 10% down. The deposits on these new projects are astronomical. You have to put … By the time the thing is … You put the installments over the constructions, by the time it’s built, a lot of these things, you’re putting like 50% down. So obviously right there, Miami is definitely a playground for the rich.
I wanted to just sort of … Like the dollars, it just makes no sense at all. Like I’m sort of looking casually at the market just saying, “Would it be a market to buy a property in for myself or some kind of an investment, just casually starting to look and think and look about that. Just again, loving Miami beach there. It just makes no sense. The numbers, you cannot stretch it, flex it, bend it. The numbers on this stuff, on the water, on the beach just makes no sense.
Just I wanna break down one example here for you. So when I walked into the open house incidentally, there was some real estate brokers in there and they had wine and champagne and hors d’oeuvres and cheese trays and I’m going, “Oh, what’s going on? I step into you guys celebrating something, what going … ” And said, “Yeah, actually we are. We just sold a $13 million unit last week,” or something they said. So they were getting together and celebrating that. The real estate agents who were involved in the deal there. And I got chatting with them and incidentally, one of their clients apparently also owns high end properties in Toronto as well as in Florida. But that’s another story.
So they just were celebrating this $13 million unit. So I just looked up some of the stats on this unit, 13 million bucks. So I said like, “What do you get for 13 million bucks and how do these numbers kind of stack up as an investment?” Spoiler alert, it doesn’t work, as an investment it makes no sense. It’s just astronomical. Like I told you that price, that were starting from 1,500 bucks a square foot. Well, this unit that sold, according to what I can tell, sold for over $4,000 per square foot. $4,000 per square foot, in Miami. This is not Hong Kong, this is not London, this is not New York City, this is Miami. Over $4,000 per square foot.
This is not on the 100th floor of some crazy … This is like 10th, 11th floor type of a unit. Nice building and everything, sure but the price is just shocking. 13 million bucks, it’s around just under 4,000 … Actually it’s only just over 3,000 square ft, about 3,200 square feet. When you do the math on just the maintenance fees alone, you’re looking at … I just roughly calculated about 5,000 bucks a month just on maintenance fees, 60,000 bucks a year, maintenance fees.
13 million bucks, I said to them, “Who’s buying that unit?” And she’s like, “The people that buying these units, they’re just wealthy people, mostly Americans, some from Latin America but mostly Americans,” she said. “And they’re only using it maybe a couple weeks a year.” I’m thinking like, “This is like insane. It’s just crazy the money that’s being thrown around using something for a couple weeks a year.”
Like I did the math on this, rough math here, 13 million bucks, what could you get instead of spending that 13 million bucks on this condo, what else could you do with that money? Well if you said, “I don’t wanna buy it. I love this hotel, I love this location, I wanna stay here a lot in the future. I wanna bring my family, friends here, whatever it might be, and I love this place.” I said, “Well, let’s see. Instead of buying that property, what if you just rented it as you needed it?”
So let’s say as she said, they’re just coming out for say two weeks a year. Well, how much would it cost to rent that same condo or something equivalent to that, in that property, per night? Well, I don’t know exactly how much it would be, but I’m sure it would probably be less than $10,000, maybe 5, $6,000 dollars a night, something like that for a big, huge massive suite there. Well I said, “Let’s say it’s not. Lets say it is $10,000 a night, which it’s probably way less than that, but let’s just say for arguments sake, that it’s $10,000 a night to rent a large unit like that. So the 13 million bucks, at 10,000 dollars a night, you could rent out that property for 1,300 nights approximately for the price you paid for it. 1,300 nights.
So 1,300 nights, lets say you wanted to rent it out as she said, two weeks a year. You could rent that place out for 92 years, for two weeks a year, assuming no inflation and of course this is kind of a ridiculous example, don’t look too much into my math here. But just to give you an idea of the numbers, you could rent it out for two weeks a year for 92 years if you wanted to.
Let’s say you really loved it even more and you wanted to go there for four weeks a year instead of two. Mostly people would never spend that much time there as a second or third or fourth home, but say you did. For four weeks a year you could rent that massive property out for 46 at four weeks a year for the $13 million that you spent to buy it. So obviously nobody’s gonna be living and renting a place for 92 or even 46 years, that’s never going to happen.
Incidentally enough, with the condo fees being as they are, 60,000 bucks a year, over that 46 year period. Let’s say you wanted to rent it every year for a month, for 46 years, you could do that. You’d be saving $2.8 million, assuming the fees never go up, you’d be saving $2.8 million in condo fees over that 46 years, which if you put the 2.8 million into the rental, you could rent that place for a month for another 10 years, bringing you up to 56 years at four weeks a year for the amount of money that you spent.
Again, terrible math but you get the idea. The numbers are just astronomical. Like to pay $4000 a square foot, makes absolutely no sense. The person buying it, obviously is a multi, multi, multi, multi millionaire, possibly a billionaire. They don’t care, and they are not listening to this podcast either. They don’t care what my opinion is.
But I’m just giving you that example to illustrate just how Miami, it’s a playground for the rich, it is a city where there is just stupid money I call it, stupid money just flying around on a whim. The irony of all this is of course, they paid 13 million for it, it’s probably gonna appreciate in value, that type of a property, over time it’s probably gonna be worth more than $13 million in the future because there will be other crazy rich people who will wanna buy that from that person in the future. And they will probably pay more for it in the future, despite my pleading with them to look at the math and to just rent something instead. They’re not going to do that, they wanna own it, they wanna have a foothold there, and that’s just what they wanna do with their money. And they don’t give a crap what Andrew la Fleur thinks.
And again, my point is, what I’m leading up to here with this illustration is, Toronto is not such a city. Toronto has a long way to go before we are in that category of playground for the rich, stupid money type of a city. We’re nothing like that.
Miami’s filled with … This is one example but Miami Beach and Miami area there, and even other areas around Miami as well, is full of buildings and places like this and areas like this that are just in the stupid money category, money just flying into that area from all around the world. You look at the median income of the city of Miami, the people who actually live there, it’s … I don’t know what it is but I’m sure it is shockingly low for the real estate prices that exit there. And the reason for that is, again, all this money is coming into the city from elsewhere.
Toronto is not in such a category as a city, we’re not even close to getting there. Toronto real estate makes a ridiculous amount of sense still, even if you look at our five star type properties, they are ridiculously cheap compared to cities like Miami around the world. Toronto is an international finance center. We have massive immigration. We’re growing like crazy. People are coming to Toronto to live, to work, to build a family, to build businesses. They’re not coming here to throw money around and be ridiculous and stupid with their money.
Sure, a few people are. Sure, a couple of buildings, we have a couple of playground buildings in our city and in our downtown, and buildings and condos that don’t make any sense. But they’re the .001% of our overall market. Our market is strong, our market is stable, our market is attractive, our city is an attractive place to live and to actually invest, and to build a business, to grow a family, to have a life. This is not a playground type of a city.
So yeah. I just thought it was interesting, maybe you did too. Hopefully you found this little story and little analogy interesting and useful. But yeah, again my point here is, for myself, sort of where my head is at after looking a little bit closer at Miami, not super close but just doing a surface analysis of things there and the market there, and again, should I buy there or not. My thinking on the subject is basically, I’m gonna continue to invest and make my money in Toronto and grow my wealth here in Toronto, I think it’s the place to be, absolutely. I think our real estate market just makes so much sense for a large city compared to any other large city.
So I’m gonna continue to pour my money in here. And I’m going to take my profits and the wealth that I’m growing and gaining over a time, I’m gonna take that and that’s gonna be my play money that I take and rent hotel rooms in Miami or New York, or where else. I’m not gonna try to make my money in those markets so much as make my money in a market like Toronto and other markets that make sense. And take the profits from that and use it to fund my lifestyle, in terms of travel and other things in other areas.
And I think that’s sort of just a philosophical point that I wanted to bring home to you the listener, to you the investor, as … I get this question a lot as well, “Should I invest in these other markets, these sexy markets like Miami, should I buy there? Wouldn’t it be cool?” It’s like, “Well, not really.”
I think my analysis to this point … I’m open to being proven wrong on this by the way. If you have other information, please let me know. But I don’t think the numbers work. I think the numbers are on our side when we’re investing here, in our own backyard and we’re making our money here. And with that profit we can take it, we can take our families, and we can go enjoy vacations and trips and things in other places around the world and come back here. And it’s always great to come home.
Yeah. Even if you’re just crossing the border to the U.S. just something about coming back home to Canada, flying into Pearson and going through customs, there’s just something special about this place, this country. You can feel it when you’re here. I think most of you listening, if you’ve been anywhere else in the world, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And that is why you wanna continue to invest here, continue to put your money here. This is the place to be for real estate investment now and in the future. So let’s keep doing it. Let’s raise a glass to Toronto and we’ll keep going to Miami and hopefully, maybe next time I’ll see you there.
Okay. Until next time. Hope you enjoyed this one, a little bit different but hope you enjoyed it. Share it with somebody that you know if you did, and until next time, happy investing. Talk soon.
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