Nobody has a better pulse on what’s happening in the Greater Toronto Area’s residential real estate market than Intercity Realty Inc., and according to the 45-year-old independent brokerage, millennials are driving the region’s market.
Millennials are by far and wide the most “plugged-in”—not to mention the largest—demographic in today’s market, and their purchasing power has already begun redefining the GTA’s residential market.
Alda Neves Dubé, director of sales and marketing at Intercity, told Epoch Times that, while keeping pace with such a demographic isn’t for the faint of heart, the 25-45 age cohort is the most essential demographic in the city right now. Their buying habits don’t parallel predecessor generations.
“They know everything about current topics because they’re so plugged into social media. Mobile buying is the way of the future,” said Dubé. “And they do have buying power. This group is less interested in buying cars, but they really do wrap their heads around investing in homes.”
Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that Intercity has its own in-house marketing department. As with most other industries, social media has permeated real estate and Intercity is using it as a unique opportunity to connect with its client base.
Intercity even tasked itself with marketing and social media responsibilities for some of its client builders.
“We find now social media is a way of life and people love to see company culture,” continued Dubé. “It’s not just about the product being great, they want to see what the company is all about. ‘Do you have a fun place to work? Will I enjoy the transaction process?’ This group isn’t only buying for themselves as end-users, they’re buying as investors too, so the rapport is more like friendship.”
A certain measure of nuance is in order, too.
“We did a little test to see ‘likes’ and conversions on some of our social media platforms, and we found that when we show people, the ‘likes’ just spike. When we show just the product, people will respond, but the minute we have a person in the shot with the product it just gets different attention.”
In addition to using Facebook and Twitter, Intercity interacts with the public through blog posts. One post titled “How Will You Market My Home?” elucidates the company’s multipronged approach to rousing interest in property listings. Another offers pertinent advice about how to nip problems in the bud at the outset for a more seamless transaction process.
Social media is playing a critical role in many of Intercity’s sales and marketing strategies. Falconcrest Homes’ Mulock Vistas in Newmarket is a 73-unit townhome community and has already attained over 1,800 registrants for its Feb. 6 sales launch. Social media has brought excellent exposure and registrations to The Residences at Pebble Creek, a private enclave of luxury townhomes in Vaughan by Falconcrest Homes and Graywood Developments.
An emerging trend in high-rise real estate is the eschewal of vehicle ownership, which Dubé attributes to ameliorating transit infrastructure.
“The market is not necessarily willing or caring to spend an extra $30,000 to $40,000 on a parking spot, so that speaks to transportation and infrastructure. As much as the TTC gets beaten up, when you’re living in the city it works,” she said.
Intercity broker and manager Lou Grossi added that the trend is filtering down to the intracity low-rise market and is, in part, attributable to tech-savvy millennials.
“With trains bringing us to the airport, there’s less reason now for people to buy cars and spend extra money. We even see this in resale,” he said. “People buying homes downtown with families are overlooking the fact there isn’t a parking garage or pad, and—if they even have cars—are okay parking on the street or being a one-car family. Those are the effects of this young group coming up.”
While cars remain staples of suburban life, a shift is slowly occurring. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project is tracking northerly to Vaughan, and even ride-sharing apps are affecting transportation habits.
“Uber has become another supporting factor to the home industry. You don’t really need a car anymore, so it’s not a huge demand. We can also see in the 905-area, like here in Vaughan, that infrastructure is improving with the subway coming up, so now we’re experiencing it in suburban life,” said Dubé.
“You don’t need the car and it’s becoming less important. You can even do car shares. There are so many alternatives right now.”
“There’s another trend where affordability makes you go further out” added Grossi. “I also think the subway in Vaughan will be helping those communities because it’s a shorter distance than it used to be. They won’t have to drive to Yorkdale (for the subway), they just have to drive to highways 400 and 7.”
Intercity represents developments all around the GTA, including its far-flung fringes, like Bowmanville and Alliston. But closer to home, Intercity oversaw sales for The Benchmark at Downtown Markham by Remington Homes, a sold-out project that held particular appeal for Chinese buyers.
“It was a definite Chinese-preferred market and product. The majority of our buyers were Chinese,” Grossi said of the luxury townhome component of a larger master-planned community called Downtown Markham.
The Chinese community is especially partial to luxury towns, as is the case in Thornhill with Remington Homes’ Luna Towns.
However, another Remington development, The Preserve in North Oakville, with capacious 50-ft lots as well as townhomes, is currently on sale and has garnered much attention within the Chinese community, added Grossi.
The Chinese aren’t just buying properties through Intercity; Chinese real estate agents are working with the brokerage now, too. A major reason is because the community is a major purchasing force in the GTA and there’s a nary a builder that neglects it from sales strategies.
“They’re willing and open to working with other brokerages,” Dubé said. “In the past few months, significant realtors in the Asian community have said we want to work with you and be part of your success, and it’s a two-way street. The Chinese market is very friendly, smart, and also a very welcoming community and for us that’s awesome.”
Neil Sharma is a Toronto-based freelance journalist.