Today, at long last, we’re buzzing with the famed “Dean of Toronto Condos”, Hunter Milborne.

Hunter leads Milborne Real Estate Inc, a dominant force in Toronto real estate sales, specializing in residential, hotel and commercial condominiums. Well into his fourth decade in the industry, Hunter has plenty of wisdom to share.

We chat with him about the differences between the Toronto and New York markets, the nature of price appreciation and the best vegetarian restaurant in the Toronto.

BuzzBuzzHome: How long have you been in the condo sales business?

Hunter Milborne: 36 years.

BBH: Do you remember a specific moment when you realized real estate sales was the right industry for you?

HM: I always wanted to own real estate and figured the best way to end up owning it was to learn how to sell it. That way I’d become an expert buyer by default.

BBH: What’s the most important thing you learned about the industry over those three and a half decades?

HM: That’s a good question. When I started, I didn’t think of it as an industry, I just thought of it like “here’s a couple buildings to sell”. I might have just had a bigger outlook on it if I realized that some years we’d be selling 20 or 25,000 units instead of the whole industry supporting 1,000 and not selling 500.

BBH: What do you find so exciting about the Toronto market?

HM: Buying a home is a huge investment and it’s great to help someone with that. It’s also great to help an investor secure their capital and keep them away from the stock market where thing are more dangerous. In the long term, real estate is really a safe investment.

There’s only two things you need to know about real estate and they’re quite interrelated. Number one is don’t buy more than you can afford. Number two is don’t sell at the wrong time. If you follow those two rules then you’re going to make money.

BBH: You’re currently selling the penthouses in Camrost’s Imperial Plaza. Can you tell us what makes the penthouses such an attractive buy for purchasers?

HM: One of the things that we’ve followed over the last 35 years is the New York market. Obviously, New York is a much bigger and more sophisticated city than Toronto, but we’re about 17 or 18 yeas behind New York in terms of pricing. The average price of a condo in New York today is about triple what it is Toronto. If you analyze 15 or 20 apartments of the best apartments in New York, they’ve appreciated much faster than typical New York apartments. They’re rare and unique.

When a wealthy person is buying a penthouse they need to think about making money and one of the reasons they’re wealthy in the first place is because they’re prudent with their money. I think it’s comforting to know that when you’re buying a rare commodity, it will hold its value and appreciate faster than the average suite.

BBH: Why do you like working with Camrost? Where do you see eye-to-eye?

HM: Camrost started their business pretty much when we did. We’ve worked together for 30 years on different projects. They have a great brand and they’re very capable of finding great deals and executing them.

BBH: Where do you see the Toronto market a year from now? What, if anything, will change?

HM: Year to year sometimes things don’t change that much. Volumes are off from last year, but last year was a record year so you can’t go on having record years and record quarters forever. If you look over the last ten years, we’ve had pretty consistent volume increases and price increases. It hasn’t been crazy. Your annual price increases have been 3 per cent, 5 per cent, 7 per cent — nice, steady appreciation. I think that appreciation will slow down a bit over the next year or two and that may slow some projects coming to the market. There’s still big demand for Toronto condominiums and you’ve got a very significant absence of supply in the low-rise market.

BBH: Let’s talk a bit about your persona within the Toronto condo market. You’ve been called the “Dean of Toronto Condos”. What are your thoughts on having that auspicious title?

HM: The first publication that gave me that nickname was Canadian Business. It was referring to myself and a competitor at the time. We had a bit more of an academic approach and tried to carry reason through what we were doing and not just hype our way through. So he got the “king” moniker and I got the “dean” moniker. I think dean is a lot more meaningful than king.

BBH: What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?

HM: I would say Live. It’s a vegetarian restaurant at Dupont and Spadina. It’s a really short walk from our office.

Thanks for buzzing with us Hunter!

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