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GTA homebuilders upbeat, foresee post-COVID-19 recovery

GTA homebuilders upbeat about post-COVID-19 recovery

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GTA homebuilders upbeat about post-COVID-19 recovery

The beginning of 2020 was looking especially bright in the new and resale home markets in and around the GTA. The economy was sailing along, interest rates were low, homebuyer appetite looked insatiable and everything that was built or put up for sale seemingly was snapped up in an instant.

Then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed.

Here we are now, mid-year and a few months into the pandemic, and while some insecurity remains, there are growing reasons for optimism.

The Conference Board of Canada, for example, reports that while major metropolitan economies may contract in 2020, assuming the virus’ spread is contained and companies can return to normal operations over the summer months, a recovery should begin in the second half of the year. Sharp rebounds should follow, and in the case of Toronto, GDP growth of 3.2 per cent from 2021 to 2024 could lead the country.

Another source, Altus Group, points out that the unique nature of this economic slowdown means the impact on housing markets will likely be mild and short lasting.

Altus Group Vice-President and Chief Economist Peter Norman says a relaxing of containment measures through early summer should bring a sharp resumption in new home sales activity.

Later in the year, home prices will likely return to their upward path, and expectations are for a five- to 10-per-cent year-over-year gain, nationally, by year-end.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for the homebuilding industry, an important economic driver. Construction was halted for a period, and though now allowed to resume, there is still some uncertainty in the market. Builders, however, remain largely upbeat.

Here’s how GTA area homebuilders are feeling:

Altree Developments

Jordan Debrincat
Director of Operations

We are very excited that construction can now continue on our sites. For our Thirty Six Zorra project in Etobicoke, we were at the point in our construction where we were just about to begin shoring and excavation before the shutdown took place, and we have to make some adjustments to our daily operations for this site. Now that construction is back up and running, we are ready to begin – full steam ahead. We were already ahead of schedule, so the provincial shutdowns didn’t affect our timing at all.

Construction resuming has put a lot of people at ease. This has allowed a number of people to return to work, developers to continue their operations, and purchasers the comfort that their home is going to be delivered on time.

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Aoyuan International

Vince Santino
Senior Vice-President of Development

M2M in North York is actively under construction. We’ve learned some great lessons about best practices and how to interact with each other when it comes to social distancing and providing a safe, informative sales experience. Part of that is adopting virtual sales tools, and leaning a little more on digital technology. We’re optimistic, and have plans to release a collection of townhomes and upper tower suites at M2M as part of M2M Spaces. These will be larger, more livable units, with a variety of outdoor spaces depending on the suite. There is a real emphasis on wellness, and pairing more spacious suites with the urban setting at Yonge and Finch.

The 8.6-acre M2M development will be one of Aoyuan’s largest master-planned communities in Canada and really gives us the opportunity to bring our healthy lifestyle vision to life. Everything from our amenity package, which includes a yoga and fitness area, indoor and outdoor kids play area and infinity pool, to our urban location, is geared around promoting healthy, active lifestyles. This corporate-wide focus on health and wellness positions us well in our collective, new reality. We’re thinking about the people who will be living at M2M, offering a range of suites sizes to accommodate a diverse cross-section of residents. We’re even providing homes for multi-generational families. I think space is going to be a cherished amenity for a lot of buyers, and we’re proud to be bringing a range of options to market.

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Carriage Gate Homes

Nick Carnicelli
President

Construction continues at Gallery Condos + Lofts in Burlington, with occupancy scheduled for 2022.

We moved the launch date for the first phase of our new large masterplanned community in Hamilton – Roxboro – from spring to the fall. Like many builders, we are continuing to plan for our launch, and may begin to change the way we launch projects in future. More virtual technology, no large crowds, with all appropriate COVID-19 measures in place.

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Flato Developments

Shakir Rehmatullah
President

We are very optimistic, as we’re already witnessing renewed confidence from homebuyers. We’re increasing our use of technology, as meeting virtually will become the new norm. For us, it’s business as usual. Our sites are under construction as planned, and more sites are beginning construction as per the government’s direction. We have been active in marketing, even though we couldn’t do physical sales events, and we have been conducting online webinars with good results. For new launches, we’ll likely adopt new technologies such as virtual openings for certain projects, to make sure vulnerable groups such as seniors are safe.

We believe the demand for lowrise homes and small buildings will increase as people embrace social distancing. And since more people will be working from home, many will invest more in their homes. Home offices will be a must.

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Menkes Highrise

Jared Menkes
Executive Vice-President

We are seeing signs of pent-up demand and positive sentiments among buyers, with the number of inquiries and people resuming their housing research growing every week. We expect that as the economy continues to reopen, buyers will regain confidence in their financial stability and capacity to buy.

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NATIONAL HOMES

Deena Pantalone
Principal

We have taken the COVID-19 situation very seriously, with offices open only via video or telephone. Now that the provincial government has opened up construction, we will continue to put the safety of our employees and our buyers first with strict protocols and social distancing.

Construction servicing is beginning at The Forest in Bradford, and in Brampton at Three Rivers Claireville. We are also beginning to book design studio appointments for this summer, with an even more personal, one-on-one approach to keep us all safe and healthy.

The demand is clearly still there for real estate. If anything positive can be said to have come from COVID-19, it’s that this virus has refocused our attention on the importance of our families, and the homes we live in.

Many people just need more from their residence; more space, different features, or even a different neighbourhood. That’s why we expect to see a strong market come back later this summer and fall. In fact, we have two new communities we are working towards launching, in Burlington and in Courtice, and we are incorporating unique features and technology that we believe people will want post-pandemic. So, homebuyers should look forward to not just new launches, but new innovations.

From recycling to renewable materials to energy-efficient features and Green products, to innovative new prefabricated wall systems, National is helping our buyers reduce their “Greenprint.

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Pinnacle International

Anson Kwok
Vice-President, Sales & Marketing

The market definitely took a quick pause to look both ways but people are now back to crossing the street, which is positive for the marketplace. Our construction teams were active and our projects continue to rise.

Pinnacle has a diverse offering of projects that can suit any prospective homebuyer. We have four active constructions sites and pre-construction developments, so there are opportunities to move in as early as this fall to the next five years. These master-planned communities are located in desirable neighbourhoods in Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga.

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Regal Crest Homes

Art Rubino
Contracts Manager/Marketing Manager

Construction has never stopped for us since the province declared residential construction as an essential service. New construction starts only follow up last year’s sales. The real story will be the coming weeks, as we slowly open up sales offices.

We are here to fulfill homebuyers’ dreams, and with interest rates still so low, it’s an excellent time to buy.

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Solmar Development Corp.

Angela Marotta
Director of Marketing and Sales

We are fortunate that our current projects are more than 80 per cent sold, as we launched well before COVID-19. The other projects we have coming up are still in preliminary stages, however they have been pushed back as consultants and city officials have yet to resume full-time scheduling. We are focusing on the planning process for Park Avenue Tower 3, and Bellaria Phase 2 in Vaughan, as they’ve been delayed.

We are continuing with the construction of Edge and Oro towers in Mississauga and Park Avenue towers 1 and 2. Our goal is to catch up and get our purchasers moved in. Many of them are renting, so this investment is giving them something to look forward to. It’s evident that as other markets show so many variables and uncertainties given the current climate, real estate remains a secure investment.

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Tridel

Samson Fung
Vice-President, Marketing

We were fortunate to be able to continue construction and delivering homes to our homeowners. We implemented strict enhancements to our health and safety protocols on our construction sites to help safeguard the well-being of our employees and the communities we’re building, and these will remain in place as things begin to open up. Generally, we remain optimistic and see the industry as a whole preparing to adopt new measures and stabilize within this new environment. We’re proud of our efforts over the last few months, and our resilience as we come back stronger as leaders in both real estate and construction, and we’re looking forward to a strong finish in 2020.

As we move into the second half of 2020, we’re eagerly preparing to bring new communities to the marketplace. In the meantime, our design appointments and pre-delivery inspections with homeowners have continued through the spring and we’re looking forward to welcoming our homeowners back when we can. This new era forced us to be innovative in a different way. We are putting new safety measures in place for all of our customer-facing environments and discovering new ways to connect with our audiences. Our new digital experience, called Tridel Live, brings more information directly to the consumer; from a live chat with our sales team and virtual tours of our model suites, to access to more digital assets for our sales team, and more. This is just the beginning of a new way of meeting our clients’ needs and finding new ways to meet them.

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Outlook 2020 – Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

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Outlook 2020 – Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

Part of our series of Outlook 2020 Q&As with building industry executives

Condo Life: What is the outlook for the new home industry in 2020?

Marotta: We’re very optimistic, as national averages increase together with market demand and population growth, especially as employment opportunities increase. We see growth in the outer cores of Toronto, namely Mississauga, Vaughan and Scarborough, as price surges in Toronto make it unaffordable for some to own. We see an increase in lower density housing, as condo prices continue to increase, making a townhouse, semi or detached in some municipalities more affordable and desirable to own.

Angela Marotta
Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing Solmar Development Corp

CL: And for Solmar?

Marotta: We have almost 1,000 units across two highrise projects hitting the market this spring – Oro at Edge Towers in Mississauga, and our final tower at Park Avenue in Vaughan. The first two towers at each of these projects are sold out, so these new towers at each project are the final ones. We’re planning new mixed lowrise density developments for 2021 and into 2024 in various areas across the GTA, including Niagara on the Lake, Caledon and Erin – all of them master- planned communities.

CL: What is your company doing to address the issues facing the homebuilding industry – namely, affordability and new home supply?

Marotta: We are building in various parts of the GTA and surrounding areas, which allows us to plan and build various types of housing at various price points. Master-planned communities are in preliminary stages in Caledon and Erin, which sees us building mixed lowrise, together with employment lands which will continue to attract new homebuyers. Some of our other lands within the GTA will be designated highrise density, as we foresee this continuing to be a growing market.

It will be interesting to see how the First-Time Buyer Incentive program impacts the market, as most properties in the GTA cost more than $525,000 and with a minimum required income of $120,000, I’m not sure if these homebuyers can afford to carry the property, even with the assisted down payment of 10 per cent. It would require a lot of lifestyle changes that perhaps most people are not willing to make. Increasing the RRSP withdrawal cap to $35,000 is a great incentive for first-time homebuyers, as down payment is an issue even if qualifying for a mortgage isn’t.

Solmar will continue to promote homeownership, as it remains a stable investment opportunity for all and gives great sense of pride.

CL: What more could the industry do to address these issues?

Marotta: It’s difficult because there are a lot of regulatory costs, increased development levies and other costs that are not unique to us as a developer and builder. The end consumer will ultimately be affected by growing end costs, and this results in increased prices across all housing types, regardless if they’re high- or lowrise.

At Solmar, we try to be as efficient as possible during the planning stages of development, but we are all at the mercy of regulatory and political authorities. As an industry, we also need to look at providing more product that is more “affordable” to encourage homeownership across all sectors. This would push development out of the city core, so municipalities need to focus on infrastructure and transit to allow for this expansion, which in turn could allow for growth of more affordable product.

CL: What should prospective new-home buyers know about your company for 2020?

Marotta: Oro, the third and final tower at Edge Towers in Mississauga, is set to open in early spring, with pre-registration now open. It will rise to 50 storeys and have 630 residential units. Indoor and outdoor amenity space stretches over two floors with views over the city. A mix of one bedroom, one plus den, two- and three-bedroom suites are available, including three luxury penthouses across the top floor. It is the only new project that borders the future LRT transit line.

The third and final tower at Park Avenue in Vaughan is slated to open this spring, with more than 24 floors and about 250 suites, located in a prime area of Vaughan surrounded by a park setting. It is a luxury condo project with a similar mix of suites as Oro at Edge.

Bellaria Phase 2 in Vaughan will be an exciting project, following in the footsteps of Bellaria Phase 1, which was the first highrise condominium project in Vaughan, with four towers. We are in design stage and plan for launch in 2021.

CL: Why should prospective new-home buyers consider buying from your company in 2020?

Marotta: Solmar homeowners have seen healthy increases in overall value, which has them purchasing from us again and again. This is based on the location of our communities, proximity to transit, design and quality of their home, our continued in excellence with Tarion Warranty Corp. and referrals from past Solmar homeowners. Our reputation with the industry and consumers alike is very important, and we have worked very hard over the past 30 years to attain it and cherish it!

Special Report: Outlook 2020

Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

Outlook 2020 – Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes High Rise

Outlook 2020 – Anson Kwok, Vice-President Sales & Marketing, Pinnacle International

Outlook 2020 – Samson Fung, Vice-President Marketing, Tridel

Outlook 2020 – Nick Carnicelli, President, Carriage Gate Homes

Outlook 2020 – Fan Yang, Deputy General Manager, Aoyuan

Outlook 2020 – Jordan DeBrincat, Director of Operations, Altree Developments

 

 

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In Conversation With… Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

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In Conversation With… Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

For more than 30 years, Solmar Development Corp. has focused on excellence, whether it’s building highrise projects in the GTA or lowrise communities in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or delivering on its promises of exemplary customer service.

Director of Sales & Marketing Angela Marotta shares her insights on what the company values most, and where it plans to go next.

Condo Life: Solmar has been in business for more than 30 years. What have been the keys to your success over this time?

Angela Marotta: We are family owned and operated, and as key family members, we have continued to share the same philosophy and vision for the company for all these years. Each project is thoughtfully designed with the buyer in mind. From our amenity spaces to landscape and surrounding greenspace, and ultimately to the suite and home designs.

When we acquire property, we always have the big picture in mind, which has allowed us to navigate through any difficult zoning and planning issues, and consolidation of various parcels of land. We have a very strong planning department and consultants that have been with Solmar from inception. They understand and continue to support the long-term vision to bring our projects to final stages. As principals, we are involved every step of the way. My father, Benny Marotta, is a visionary and has a very keen eye for design and architecture. No architectural plans are redesigned or enhanced without him and then flowed to myself and brother-in-law Giuseppe Paolicelli for final review, always with the buyer in mind.

CL: The homebuilding industry is undergoing a lot of change these days, with increasing government involvem ent, policy issues and other challenges. How do you see all this playing out in the foreseeable future?

AM: Regulatory changes within the Planning Act have given municipalities more local power to facilitate change in zoning bylaws, and thus hopefully allow for economic growth within their communities. As developers, we have faith that the governing bodies take into consideration the future economic growth, together with quality of life of residents. There has to be a balance.

However, changes to the Ontario Municipal Board are somewhat troublesome, as they may restrict the tribunal to propose decisions based on the best planning solutions, as the process has now been fast-tracked. It’s complicated, and I’m still trying to come to grips with the pros and cons. There will always be complex appeals, which make the process difficult to navigate. We will always try to push higher density on proposed developments, as it increases their viability. Giuseppe works very closely with our inhouse planner to ensure that we do.

CL: Affordability is a growing concern for homebuyers in the GTA, but much of what determines end costs – land use policy and availability and approvals processes – are out of builders’ control. How does Solmar address the affordability challenge?

AM: Everything boils down to timing and the span from inception of a project to construction to proposed occupancy. We never rush developing our proformas without having a clear understanding and comfort level of the market and future costs that are at times not completely defined. We are careful, but still take on a level of risk that we are comfortable with. We never want to sell out a project that quickly. Allocations are determined and timelines for release are defined so we always have a contingency whereby we retain flexibility with pricing over time to protect us against any instabilities or change.

We also try to price ourselves at or just above market without being “out of” market. Our projects are higher end, with various luxury amenities and features that attract a consumer that appreciates value and may be willing to spend a little more as a result. We attract a lot of end consumers, and any investors purchasing in our projects feel comfortable knowing they have a secured investment based on our reputation as a builder.

CL: Where do you see the next homebuilding – and therefore, for customers, homebuying – opportunities in the GTA, in terms of geographic area and housing type?

AM: Consumers are finding pricing within the downtown core to be very high and competitive. Projects such as ours at The Edge in Mississauga allow consumers to have homeownership at much more reasonable pricing, gain equity over time and still be able to work in the city due to the great transit infrastructure in Mississauga. The LRT is along Hurontario right at The Edge. With higher density projects outside of the downtown core, you’re seeing more and more buyers looking there. Our project at Park Avenue Place in Vaughan, which is sold out, saw buyers coming from all across the GTA. Again, municipalities that have planned and developed transit infrastructure well have seen economic growth and a superior quality of life in their community as a result.

CL: How are things coming along at Edge Towers in Mississauga?

AM: We’re excited to see the development come to life. It took great perseverance to consolidate individual lots to comprise what is now three luxury buildings with more than 1,400 units. Tower 1 is currently under construction and nearly sold out. Tower 2 is not far behind, with construction starting before the end of the year and nearing 80 per cent sold. Tower 3, launching this fall, will be the pinnacle of the project, with 50 floors of luxury suites and amenities that will make this tower a unique place to live.

CL: And at Park Avenue Place in Vaughan?

AM: Park Avenue is currently under construction with occupancy set for fall 2020. This has been an amazing project, as it is referred to as the sister project to our now completed highrise, aptly called Bellaria, which was the first development of its kind in Vaughan. Park Avenue comprises two towers of beautifully designed suites located at the south east corner of Jane and Rutherford. This project saw lots of end users as buyers, many of whom were referrals from Bellaria – a major source of pride for us.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

If I wasn’t involved in homebuilding, I would:

Be in the hospitality industry, as my passion is wine and food. Together with our family, my sister Melissa Paolicelli and I own and operate Two Sisters Vineyards.

My greatest inspiration in this business is:

My father. I have seen him take on such high levels of risk and navigate through them in the most decisive and intelligent way. He has accomplished great things and built or developed many landmark communities that we are very proud of.

When I’m not at the office, I:

Am enjoying quality family time with my three teens and the rest of our close family in Niagara-on-the-Lake, preferably at the Vineyard! We live part time in NOTL, and it has become such a special place for us all.

PORTFOLIO

Edge Towers
Downtown Mississauga
Under construction and register now

Park Avenue Place
Vaughan
Under construction

solmar.ca

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