Photo: Garlin Louie, vice president of strategic partnerships at The Condo Store (TCS)

Toronto’s new construction industry is a close-knit world, one that is forged by creating and nurturing partnerships amongst stakeholders. There are many real estate experts dedicated to making those connections happen, like Garlin Louie, who recently joined the team at The Condo Store (TCS) as the vice president of strategic partnerships.

With over 20 years of experience working with some of the country’s most notable developers, Louie brings a varied background in new construction sales, marketing and management to the table. His new role at TCS will entail making and growing partnerships within the development industry, as well as sharing his knowledge with fellow brokers.

Livabl chatted with Louie to learn more about his new position at TCS and his plans for the future.

Livabl: You have an extensive background working with big-name developers, specifically master planned community projects. How did you become involved in the real estate sector? What attracted you to the sales and marketing side of the industry?

Garlin Louie: My real estate career started in 1998 helping a small developer launch a loft conversion project in downtown Toronto. At that time, it was interesting to see the different types of buyers and learn about their backgrounds and why they were buying. I felt so much satisfaction in helping people successfully make this major decision, which has a huge impact on their lives, that I continued on with real estate.

Since the start of my real estate career, I have worked on projects as small as 120 units to master-planned communities with over 12,000 units. I was fortunate enough through the years to have a chance to work in all aspects in the condo development lifecycle, from conceptualizing the building design and programming the amenities, to innovating features and finishes, to pricing the units and marketing the project.

Although there are many moving parts and many sides to a condo project, the most exciting and dynamic part is the sales and marketing side. Building productive relationships and partnerships, in addition to working proactively and collaboratively with others, is what makes sales and marketing so attractive to me.

Did you know that a loft bought back in 1998 and sold today, it would have realized a return of up to 2,000 per cent?

Photo: James Bombales

L: The height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and early 2021 was an unprecedented time for the real estate industry. What were some of the biggest challenges you overcame and the most meaningful lessons you learned during that period? Did you feel that the market was on course for a major correction as reports pointed to an exodus from the downtown core for the suburbs?

GL: The biggest challenge during the pandemic was trying to see through the fog to help colleagues and clients navigate the best path and forecast the real estate market.

The media printed doom-and-gloom statistics and numbers, which made it hard for anyone to think optimistically. With the hindsight of the challenging times the real estate market suffered during the 2009 world financial crisis and the 2013 soft landing, I had faith that real estate would overcome the pandemic. If there was any action to be taken, it would be buying and holding real estate, not selling.

I feel the word “consolidate” is more appropriate than “correction” to describe the real estate market during the pandemic. I didn’t see much of a price correction. However, I did see some clients divesting some weaker performing investments in their portfolio and keeping the stronger ones.

As the province was shutting down at the beginning of the pandemic, I made a prediction that offices would be in more demand later as companies would need more space to accommodate all of their staff with proper social-distancing measures.

I also believed that people leaving the downtown core for the suburbs would be temporary because it is hard to reverse the urbanization trend that’s happening here and all around the world. The UN World Urbanization Prospects projects that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population — approximately 6.7 billion people — will live in urban areas. The City of Toronto is a world-class, great city that is very important to Canada and North America, and I only see it growing more in the future.

L: Tell us a little bit about your new role as the vice president of strategic partnerships that you started recently with The Condo Store (TCS) and its ownership group. What does that job entail? How far does your relationship go with Simon S. Mass, John Mehlenbacher and others at TCS?

GL: I have known Simon, John and TCS for about 15 years, and during those years, they have been professional and wonderful to work with.

They also have high-quality clients that have been loyal to TCS. Over the many years of knowing Simon and John, I have always admired their creativity and innovation when marketing and selling projects to their clients. I’m hoping to add to their success by unlocking additional channels with my broker relationships and have parallel success with their offerings.

One word comes to mind when I think about this role with TCS, and that word is “scale”. In the real estate business, you only get the best deals if you have a big enough scale and, in this role, I’m excited to add to the scale of what TCS generates. Scale matters.

Photo: James Bombales

L: What led to you the strategic partnerships opportunity at TCS? How do you think your career experience and TCS’ values were a good fit for one another?

GL: Over the past 23 years in new construction real estate, I have gotten to personally know many brokers and have sold thousands of units. With these long-term relationships, I feel that TCS and I could work well together to further their goals of bringing the best value in the market to their clients. Furthermore, my career has been built on teamwork, collaboration and a commitment to customer service, which I feel matches well with the core values of TCS.

L: You say that you have a ​​“strategic-coach leadership” style. What does that look and sound like? Will you take on a mentorship-style role to newly-licensed brokers who plan to make a long-standing career, and specifically work within their community to grow their client portfolio?

GL: What I mean by “strategic-coach leadership” is using data and available resources to execute strategies successfully in the current market while also planning for the future market, then collaborating with others by supporting and guiding them with the same strategies to success.

I have kind of been unofficially mentoring brokers for many years now in the nuances of new condo sales and marketing, and there are many brokers that have flourished under my guidance. I am always open to working with brokers to bring value to their clients.

L: What is your approach to building and fostering partnerships within the new construction industry? How do you plan to evolve TCS and move it forward? What plans do you have and what projects are you taking on?

GL: My approach to developing new relationships is really threefold — to ask questions, to listen to their needs and to keep my commitments to them.

I’m hoping to pass along my inside knowledge, tips and tricks from working for some of the largest condo developers in Toronto to further TCS’ mission. In this competitive environment, having an edge will help build a better real estate investment portfolio. I’m currently doing some outreach to brokers that I know, and I want to keep this initial circle tight before expanding it, as I am looking for quality over quantity.

Currently, I am working with the TCS team on a project to be released in Q1-2022, so stay tuned for more details.

Photo: Miltiadis Fragkidis / Unsplash

L: Why do you think the pre-construction sector is a growth market for investors who want to achieve significant return on investments (ROI) with little effort?

GL: With the average Toronto detached home price at $1.14 million as of September, it’s no wonder that condos have gained traction as the affordable alternative with an average price at $708,000.

Pre-construction condos also allow you time to save up for the deposits and build up your credit score over a period of time.

There are many other factors that make buying a Toronto pre-construction condo a good investment. Immigration, urbanization, limited land supply, rental demand and a growing list of large companies expanding into Toronto are just some factors.

Here’s are some numbers to keep in the back of your mind:

  • Canada is on track to accept 401,000 permanent residents in 2021. That is about 33,417 new immigrants every month.
  • Over 40 per cent of the 401,000 new immigrants will settle in Ontario
  • Ontario’s population is projected to be over 20 million by 2046.
  • At the end of 2020, 81,000 new condos were sold and in various stages of construction.
  • By the end of 2021, only 19,000 new condos will be completed and ready to move in.
  • The average time to rezone land to residential is 10 years.

When discussing ROI, some may want to compare investment in the stock market to investment in real estate, but they are not the same. When investing in pre-construction and real estate in general, the key difference when compared to investing in a stock is leverage. While I’m not saying that a stock investment is equivalent to a real estate investment, on a very basic level, the real estate investment will put the investor further ahead.

For example, let’s say you invest $100,000 each into a condo with a 20 per cent deposit, and a stock. Real estate has an average annual increase of about five per cent, and the stock of about 10 percent. You will assume the stock is a better investment. However, the actual ROI for both is quite different. Your real estate investment would have a 25 per cent ROI ($500,000 x five per cent = $25,000 ÷ $100,000 = 25 per cent) and the stock would have a 10 per cent ROI ($100,000 x 10 per cent = $10,000 ÷ $100,000 = 10 per cent). So, which ROI would you choose?

Photo: James Bombales

L: Are there any lessons you have learned over the past two decades in the real estate investment sector that you are willing to share with investors and the industry as a whole?

GL: I have definitely learned many lessons over the years and would love to share them with clients that are part of the TCS group. You can reach out to me to gain an advantage over your competition in the pre-construction condo market.

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