Tag Archives: national association of home builders
Ryan Starr – Toronto Star
During a recent round table discussion among Toronto’s top real estate marketing executives, Joe Latobesi of Montana Steele Advertising offered up his view on this city’s creative talent.
“There’s nobody better,” he declared. “I’ve gone on housing tours in other places, only to come back and see that we do things better here than anywhere I’ve been.”
Sure, Latobesi was patting himself on the back.
But his assessment was borne out weeks later in Las Vegas when Montana Steele won a whopping nine gold sales and marketing awards from the National Association of Home Builders, the most ever by a single agency.
This record trophy haul included the NAHB’s top honour, Community of the Year, which Latobesi’s firm garnered for its work on Bazis International’s ill-fated 1 Bloor condo project.
The agency’s success did not go unnoticed by American developers in attendance at the Jan. 20 event, several of whom approached Latobesi to talk about enlisting his team’s services. (Great Gulf homes picked up the project, renaming it Number One Bloor.)
“We’ve had three or four inquiries,” he says. “They said, ‘we saw your work, took notice of your awards and we’d like you to look at this project.’ They think we could bring a different point of views.”
Montana Steele isn’t the only local firm attracting international attention these days.
Toronto’s real estate talents — whether they work in architecture and design or advertising and marketing — have become hot global commodities, lending expertise to projects around the world, from the U.S. to the Middle East, and from Central America to South Asia.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s brokers and developers are also fanning out across the globe, selling projects to foreign investors who are attracted to a real estate market that has come to be seen as one of the world’s safest in the wake of the economic meltdown.
“I used to say Toronto was the best-kept secret in the world,” says Dan Flomen, a broker with TFN Realty Inc., who helps local builders set up sales offices abroad. “The secret’s now out.”
Debbie Cosic’s knack for selling and marketing condos has resulted in a fair bit of international work for her Mississauga-based brokerage, In2ition Realty with her partner Mira Tmljenovic.
In2ition is currently managing sales for projects in Florida and Honduras. The company has also set up satellite offices in Pakistan to market Holiday Towers, a four-storey development in Etobicoke.
“The world is watching Toronto,” Cosic says. “We’re the No. 1 condo marketers. (Our team has) been to Europe, the U.S., Dubai and India — and Toronto is light years ahead in real estate sales and marketing.”
Flomen agrees. “Toronto is forward-looking,” he says. “There’s the expression, If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. But I’ve found our top design and marketing people say, ‘Okay, that worked, now how can we improve on it?’ “
“Toronto has had an amazing real estate run over the past 15 years, and with that activity come evolution and sophistication,” says Elaine Cecconi, co-owner of interior design firm Cecconi Simone, which has worked on projects in Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, China, Anguilla and Cuba.
“There’s a high degree of good design and good projects here, and the way Toronto markets those projects is unique. The rest of the world has come here, seen how it’s done and figure they can circumvent the learning curve by engaging our local people to do it for them.”
Gerry Ryan is a case in point. His marketing acumen has caught the eye of many an international client. In recent years his firm, Ryan Design, has had projects in Dubai, Kazakhstan, Turks & Caicos, Russia, Ukraine and Costa Rica.
These international connections came largely as a result of Toronto-based builders, architects or brokers who recommended him, Ryan says.
“Nobody from Kazakhstan or Dubai is going to just call us up and give us a job. There’s always a local connection.”
Toronto architects are also becoming well-known global quantities.
Core Architects, for example, has worked in the U.S., Caribbean, Turks & Caicos and St. Kitts. In the Middle East, the firm was contracted by Emaar Properties to do master planning and design for Dubai Marina, leading to other projects in Abu Dhabi, Oman and India.
“The nature of architecture is such that it’s a lot more global than other practices,” says Babak Eslahjou, one of the firm’s principals. “And the Internet has enabled us to work in different parts of the world and communicate far easier than before.”
Toronto’s brokers and developers are also deploying on global missions in an effort to attract international buyers for local projects.
Canderel Stoneridge, the developer of Aura at College Park — a 75-storey condo that’s being billed as the tallest in Canada — has marketed the tower in Pakistan, Dubai, Bahrain, India, Singapore, and China.
“Either we’ve been an exhibitor at real estate exhibitions, or we’ve teamed up with local brokerages and basically done a road show for their clientele,” says Riz Dhanji, Canderel’s vice-president of sales and marketing.
The firm decided to go global in order to target markets that had previously shown interest in Aura, he says.
“A number of sales for Aura were made to international buyers from Dubai, Pakistan, India and China. So we figured, why not go directly to these markets to talk about the project.
“Going abroad and physically meeting with people has worked pretty successfully for us.”
What’s Toronto’s appeal to international investors?
“They like that it’s a safe place to put their money,” Dhanji says, noting that luxury properties here are considerably cheaper than in other major centres.
What’s more, an iconic development like Aura has a particular cachet for foreign buyers.
“Because of its location, stature and height, Aura gets a lot of attention from the international community,” he says. “If I had a 10-storey building on the east side of Toronto and took that over to Dubai, it wouldn’t get the same interest.”
Working worldwide can bring certain advantages for Toronto firms.
“As an architect, it’s always good to travel and see different ways of doing things,” says Eslahjou. “It opens up your perspective and that feeds your work back in Toronto.”
And in a city that fancies itself world class, international work credentials can help set a local company apart.
“It’s a good selling point,” Ciccone says, “especially with new clients who haven’t worked with us before. It gives us an edge; there’s a credibility factor with working internationally.”
That said, it can present challenges — distance, for example.
“Not being on the ground every day means you have to rely on your (international) sales team to be your eyes and ears,” says Cosic. “Plus, every country has its own way of doing business. So we have to quickly adapt and that can be tough.”
Ultimately, though, such local insight is essential to international success.
“You have to understand where you’re marketing,” Ryan says. “The biggest mistake we can make as advertisers is to think we just did something in Toronto and now we can do it exactly the same in a place like Costa Rica.
“Well, each place is different, and you can’t market internationally unless you understand that market.”
Confidence among U.S. home builders fell more than forecast this month to the lowest since 1991, as cancellations and more restrictions on lending took a toll.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence declined to 22, from 24 in July, the Washington-based association said yesterday. A reading below 50 means most respondents view conditions as poor. The gauge has decreased for six consecutive months.
Mounting defaults on subprime mortgages are extending a slump in home building that is already the worst in 16 years, forcing real estate companies to slash prices and offer more incentives to buyers. Declines in residential construction will weigh on the economy until 2008, economists said.
“We’ve got further weakness to come,” said David Sloan, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, who accurately predicted the drop. “The subprime crisis has given fresh momentum to the downtrend in the housing market.”
This month’s reading is the second weakest since the survey’s inception in 1985. It reached a record low of 20 in January 1991, when the housing market and the economy were both in recession.
A separate report from the National Association of Realtors yesterday showed the median price for a single-family home in the second quarter fell in 50 of 149 metropolitan areas. Home sales, including condominiums, decreased 11 per cent.
“It’s not a terribly encouraging sign,” David Seiders, chief economist of NAHB, said in an interview. “The markets are highly suspicious of risk at this point. Builders know all of this and are reacting to it.”