Winnie Chan and Winson Chan are experienced real estate professionals, and have been part of the Tridel family for more than two decades.
Recently promoted to the VP, Sales Management and VP of Sales Development respectively, they have been recognized for their successes and industry leadership by the Building Industry and Land Development Association numerous times.
Beyond Winnie’s role as a Tridel spokesperson for media interviews on television and radio, speaking at forums and giving presentations, she is also a well-known emcee for large-scale charity events, among many other community involvements.
Winson has been a speaker at various conferences in both Canada and the U.S., and has held multiple senior leadership roles with a variety of organizations including the Real Estate Institute of Canada, Asian Real Estate Association of America and Canadian Real Estate Association.
Winnie and Winson work together to manage Tridel’s portfolio of more than 20 communities in the marketplace and more than 6,500 suites. They talked with Toronto Storeys about the unique aspects of selling for a developer, why virtual reality won’t replace physical presentation centres any time soon and what Torontonians really want from their condos in 2017.
How did you get into working for Tridel as part of Del Realty?
Winson Chan: I actually started off 23 years ago. After graduating, I found my first job as a real estate agent. When I was looking for the perfect home for my client during the first two or three years I was in the industry, I would always end up bringing them to a Tridel property. Eventually I was invited by a member of the Tridel management team to come and work with them. This was in 1994.
Winnie Chan: Winson and I have the same sort of mileage at Tridel. I’ve been here for over 20 years too. When I graduated university … I got an interview with Tridel and they offered me a job that was not related to what I originally did. They played around with the talent management and I was introduced to Jim Ritchie who is currently the Executive VP of sales and marketing. He saw that I was actually a good candidate for the sales and marketing department. Since then it has been a point of no return for me.
What is your assessment of the current Toronto condo market?
Winnie Chan: If you look back at the last six months, condo sales have been at a record high. However, this is a result of condos selling way faster than the normal speed. When you ask, can builders buy a piece of land today and open a new site tomorrow? The answer is no. It takes a lot of time to get a piece of land ready from zoning to marketing — we’re talking years. Right now, supply is at an all-time low. Take Tridel for example, Winson and I collectively manage about 20 communities in Toronto, which totals about 6,500 suites. Within that profile, 97 per cent of our inventory is already sold, which tells you how we’re lacking in supply. This is why we are consistently looking for new opportunities for land acquisitions and development partnerships, so that we can continue to bring new condo communities to our marketplace.
In other countries like China, people have started touring their future condo suites from home via virtual reality. Do you see the presentation centre becoming obsolete in Canada?
Winson Chan: I don’t think so. Virtual tours are one of the good tools that will help customers make decisions, but our market is a little bit different. Even in the China market, the virtual tour will get attention to the site, but when buyers want to make a purchasing decision, I don’t think they’re doing it online. Our business is emotional with lots of human touch to it, especially because this is one of the biggest purchases one can make in their life. Any purchaser would want the ability to interact with a person and touch the material. Will we see more virtual tours? Yes. I think that will enhance the experience, but … buildings are complicated and there are more things happening behind the scenes than can be conveyed by virtual reality right now.
What do Toronto condo buyers demand from their condos in 2017?
Winnie Chan: With condos, there are rules that don’t change over time. A location that’s close to transportation is a major key, whether that’s close to transit or close to the highway. Another thing I will mention is The Greenbelt Act of Ontario. This was legislated in 2005 to protect 1.8 million acres of environmentally-sensitive land in the Golden Horseshoe from urban development. For those who live and/or work in Toronto there are two choices, either you live outside the greenbelt and face a long drive into the city, or you live inside what we call the Toronto Virtual Island. Most Torontonians live inside the greenbelt, so with the city growing at such a rapid pace, the only way to accommodate that is to build up, since we cannot build out into the greenbelt. To build up takes density and a condominium is the right choice for that.
Right now we are tracking not just singles and empty-nesters, but a lot of families that are “smartsizing” into condos. For the last few years, we’ve been seeing this more and more, so if you look at the Bayside community and the Waterfront community with condo developments such as Aqualina, Aquavista and Aquabella, we have built more and more family-size condos in that community since feeling the market’s pulse from Phase One. In Phase One, about 25 per cent of the development had family-size condos and by Phase Two it was up to 37 per cent. Now, by Phase Three, over 70 per cent of the product is consisting of large homes and the market is absorbing it. This tells us that the market is definitely gravitating towards home-sized condos.
Winson Chan: What Winnie described should not be alarming because although Toronto is a great place to live, we are not a world-class city like New York or Hong Kong. We are getting there, but we are not there yet. And if you look at world-class cities, this family trend is precisely what’s happening in vertical development. You also have a fully integrated community where people live close to their work and a public transportation system. Toronto is heading this way and it should not be a surprise to see.
Winnie Chan: We’ve also been building condos with larger terrace spaces, because more condo owners want a private outdoor greenspace and a BBQ, to really extend their living area.