If you want to own a condo in Toronto’s ultra-competitive real estate market, looking into buying pre-construction is a good way to increase your chances. What’s more, there is a way to get in on the ground floor of a condo development long before it is even open to the public for pre-construction purchase.
Serge Younan is part of a select few real estate brokers in the city who can get you a seat at that table.
The Century 21 Leading Edge Realty Brokerage real estate broker known for his CondoPromo brand is a platinum agent, which means he can secure access to those pre-construction condos. Not bad for a guy who had a hard time narrowing down his vocational interests before he found his true path.
Then again, he was always the idea man — figuring out ways to make money every summer. Now, his ideas go towards finding condo investors the best deal they can get for what they are looking for.
As an elite agent he revealed to Toronto Storeys some of the biggest trends in Toronto’s condo market, where he believes the market is going and why he is a born entrepreneur.
How did you initially get into real estate?
I officially became a licensed realtor when I was 23. Before that, I was in and out of school and I couldn’t find something interesting to take in school. I thought real estate would be interesting. I was always trying to do self-employed businesses growing up whether it was putting together a group of friends to do a project in the summer or just selling things to make money. I always had that entrepreneur background. That’s how I got into real estate. I thought it would be quite challenging. The funny thing is, when I started people were telling me all kinds of negative things because I was young. They were telling me, “Real estate’s a hot market right now, but it’s going to crash.” They were trying to point me in wrong directions, but I ended up going through with everything and here we are.
What compelled you toward entrepreneurship?
In general, I have a big personality, so if I have an idea, I always want to explore it in the biggest way possible. Let’s say a group of friends are sitting around a table talking about something. In that case, my mind goes a mile a minute and I start thinking about different ways of how to make it bigger and make it grow.
What made you focus on pre-construction instead of traditional home sales?
I started doing regular resale like every other agent and then I stumbled upon a construction site with people looking for a few agents to work with them. I stood in line for my shot and I had a few buyers that were looking for an investment property, so that’s what started the trend. Then just based on referrals and growing the business I became a “platinum agent.”
What does it take to be a platinum agent?
From a developer’s perspective, you have a track record, which means you have the network or the clientele, the investors or the referrals all in one place that can move X amount of product for them. They base it on your sales history and if you have enough sales where they feel confident you can bring a lot of buyers, they will give you and your clients access to purchase units in the building before anyone else gets a chance to.
What appeals to you about selling preconstruction over the resale market?
I like both. Regular home buying or regular condo buying I enjoy because it’s usually a regular client of mine or friends and family who are looking to buy into resale. I enjoy that time because I get to catch up with them and help them out with what is probably the biggest purchase of their life. What attracts me to pre-construction is I can have more of a financial advisor point of view. They are more investors who are buying these properties, as opposed to people who are going to live in them. There are some people who are treating a pre-construction purchase as a resale purchase and will actually move in in three to four years, but those are few compared to the bigger picture of investors buying units. What attracts me to that is getting them the best possible deal I can get them knowing what I know in the market.
For example, with condo A that launched, condo B that launched and condo C that launched, all the developers now are trying to gain that one investor’s business. That’s where I come in and say, ‘The one at this location should be priced at this much, this one is priced great, it’s at a better location and it’s going to get you higher returns compared to other properties.’ It’s more of a knowledge-based business and it’s about flooding you as the realtor with a lot of knowledge, so you can keep yourself and your clients up to date about the business.
What are some of the trends you are seeing in pre-construction as far as what buyers want in their condos?
There are a lot of condos that are coming and each of those are tailored to different people. For example, there might be a condo in Richmond Hill that investors may not jump at because it’s more geared towards an end user with higher-end finishes and higher pricing. Then there will be a downtown condo that’s more geared towards investors with a lower per-square-foot average compared to everything else. If someone comes into my office looking for a new condo, my job is to dissect exactly what they’re looking for so I can guide them to the right place. They may want a condo closing in 2022 or further because they’re mathematically lining themselves up for that time period. Right away I can start narrowing down their search.
I’m a firm believer that cities are built on public transport. As long as there’s a subway station or LRT line being built, that’s what developers build around and that’s when the higher rents come back to the investor. We saw this trend with Yonge and Eglinton. Before the Eglinton LRT was announced condos were being built along Yonge and as soon as you said you were close to Yonge Street, the rents got higher. Now, the LRT developers bought land all along Eglinton, all the way to Don Mills. The same thing happened with the Sheppard subway line all the way to Fairview Mall.
What are your impressions of the Toronto real estate market and what can be done to further support it?
Toronto has proven sustained growth. The market is still in a very, very great position and it’s a great time to purchase, especially pre-construction. I think Toronto is still in the middle of development and if you compare it to other major cities in the world, there’s still a long way to go. I still think Toronto will be completely different over the next decade.