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In Conversation With… Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

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In Conversation With… Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

Some homebuyers, be they empty-nesters or those just looking for a little more privacy, love space. Quieter locations, larger homes, bigger lots… it’s as much a lifestyle choice as it is a new home selection. Georgian International, with unique communities in locations such as Blue Mountain and Horseshoe Valley, is one builder that caters to this demand.

It’s early days yet, but some experts suggest these very homebuyers might become a fast-growing demographic in a post-pandemic market.

And Georgian, offering “more than a floorplan, but an opportunity for a more balanced way of life,” seems well positioned to deliver.

Mike Parker, vice-president of sales and marketing, discusses the Georgian approach – pre- and post-COVID-19.

When we last spoke, for our Special Report: Outlook 2020 in our January issue, you were quite bullish on the outlook for 2020. How were things unfolding before COVID-19… pretty much as you expected?

Yes, we had a positive start to the year. All of our sites were essentially in the same position, with final lots and suites in current phases well positioned to be sold out by the end of the first quarter. We continue to have strong interest in our communities with people connecting with us daily, collecting information and asking questions, however, people are more cautious to move forward with a purchase at this time. Due to demand, we opened our final phase at Mountain House in Blue Mountain just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, this altered our outcome, however, a good percentage of our purchasers continued with their purchase.

The pandemic has obviously changed everything, at least for the time being. How is Georgian Communities operating during this time – for example, accepting sales centre visits by appointment only, giving virtual tours…

Like all businesses, we’ve had to adapt to new health and safety measures to help ensure the well-being of our staff, and of course the public. Our production team continues to construct our homes and condos, albeit under stricter working protocols. We’ve increased communication with our onsite team to ensure they and our trade partners have the necessary support to conduct their activities safely. Currently, our sales centres and model homes are closed, but we have kept our regular sales centre hours the same with our team working remotely. We previously introduced virtual tours of our model homes and we connect with people through phone, video conference and, of course, email. We’ve had a 30-per-cent increase in website registrations with people spending more time online. This is positive, as it keeps our team busy with follow-up and one-on-one engagement.

And how is all that going?

Our immediate priority is to maintain and promote personal engagement with people. In many aspects, we are conducting our sales operation in the same manner we always have. It’s not unusual for the majority of our initial communication to be done remotely. However, what’s obviously missing, and what I feel will always be important, is the tangible aspects of visiting us. Walking through our model homes, taking in the views, enjoying the local restaurants and shops to get a sense of the area, and of course the in-person interaction with our team are all important components of our sales process. Technology is a tool, and one we absolutely could not operate business without. However, for us, and the nature-rich based communities we have, we want people to be able to experience what we have in person. We look forward to this returning. What we are offering is so much more than a floorplan. It’s an opportunity for a new, more balanced way of life.

Given that your community locations are outside the GTA, how conducive is that to success when the market returns to “normal”?

We are very optimistic that we will see an increase in demand for all of our communities. Windfall and Mountain House in Blue Mountain offer private enclaves away from urban congestion, close to all daily necessities, and set in one of the most beautiful four-season recreational playgrounds.

Similarly, Braestone offers large estate lots set in the picturesque Horseshoe Valley region, another four-season playground. Many of our residents have the ability to work from home, and we suspect this trend will continue as companies have been forced to provide and embrace remote working solutions. We are extremely confident that we have the locations, lifestyle and homes that people desire and, when individual consumer confidence returns, we will remain well positioned.

What is the status of Windfall? How is that project coming along?

Windfall continues to be one of the most sought-after communities in Blue Mountain. Located next to the mountain and within minutes of the slope-side village, it continues to exceed our expectations. To date, we have delivered more than 250 homes and, assuming we will be able to continue building, our construction pipeline is full through the second quarter of 2021. We are not delaying the launch of our next phase, which is scheduled for May/June 2020. You can literally walk to the chair lift from this part of our community and people are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to live here. We have, of course, been in touch with our potential future homeowners to gauge their interest, given the current circumstance, and most plan on moving ahead when we do, in fact, release.

And Braestone?

Braestone is a country estate community located in the Horseshoe Valley region with convenient access to neighbouring Barrie and Orillia. It offers large estate lots with beautiful natural amenities such as berry and pumpkin patches, a maple syrup producing sugar shack, kilometres of trails and unbelievable value compared to the GTA. Residents truly enjoy a life altering style of living, and we believe this community will increase in demand as more and more people look for options further away from the city. Similar to Windfall, we are not delaying the release of our next phase. In fact, we’ve taken advanced reservations on 40 per cent of the upcoming release. We are extremely excited about the escalated increase in interest for Braestone.

How will you welcome buyers back, when things return to normal and the market “reopens”? For example, will you offer any incentives, price discounts or free upgrades…?

We’ve always positioned our homes to offer value that exceeds their price and to be extremely competitive in the market. We have no plans to discount pricing, however, we will continue to offer decor incentives as we always have, as a means to help our customers obtain their priority upgrades.

Our sales philosophy is based on sharing, not selling. Our team simply shares what our communities have to offer, what lifestyle improvements our residents experience, and we provide information through a more holistic approach. Each community we build is designed to create positive interactions between neighbours – places for adventure, dreams, inspiration and coming together in shared experiences. We look forward to this being normal again.

What’s next for Georgian? What other new opportunities are you considering bringing to market?

We are very excited about our future development in the village of Craighurst, which is currently in the planning stages. Located minutes from Hwy. 400 and just 15 kms from north Barrie, this small town community will be embedded in nature, yet minutes to city conveniences. Additionally, we continue to study opportunities within “our own backyard” in the Grey and Simcoe County regions.

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Outlook 2020 – Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing, Georgian International Build Corp.

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Outlook 2020 – Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing, Georgian International Build Corp.

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

What is the outlook for the new home industry in 2020?

New housing starts have declined from the elevated levels of 2016 and 2017, however, we anticipate a more stabilized average in 2020. The average resale home price is expected to rise, and combined with an anticipated low risk of mortgage rates increasing, this is positive for consumers considering a new home closing one to two years out.

Mike Parker
Mike Parker, Vice-President Sales & Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

And for your company?

Many of our homeowners are from the 905 and 416 area code regions. Our value proposition in terms of price, lifestyle and location will continue to be a favorable option for GTA buyers looking to escape urban congestion. Our new home construction pipeline is full for 2020, based on positive sales results in 2019.

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

Homeownership should be attainable for all Canadians. We are currently providing a product mix that consists of condominium suites, semi-detached and single-detached homes with varying prices. Offering a wider range of home styles opens up more doors for consumers based on their affordability. We continue to study opportunities to provide housing that suits the needs of an even wider range of Ontarians.

What more could the industry do to address these issues?

All members of local, provincial and national home building associations should continue to raise awareness of the challenges builders face in providing housing that is attainable for all Canadians. We’re lobbying to reduce unnecessary legislation, and policies that create red tape for developers and additional development soft costs should be eliminated. All levels of government need to be supportive in creating positive changes in the industry. Developers need to be seen as partners to the townships and cities in which they build.

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

If living an active lifestyle and a love of nature is important, we have three different options new-home buyers should consider. All of our developments will be releasing new ownership opportunities this year.

Windfall at Blue, located slope-side on 148 acres in Blue Mountain, is set to deliver The Shed in 2020 – a rustic yet refined community gathering space for neighbours to come together to socialize and create traditions. There’s parkland, outdoor pools, a sauna and more for our residents to enjoy.

Right next door to Windfall, Mountain House at Windfall will be opening its final phase. This community offers chalet living without the maintenance. Mountain House features an exclusive amenity area comprised of hot and warm pools with a waterfall feature, a sauna and a relaxation and fitness room, all with Blue Mountain as the backdrop.

Braestone Horseshoe Valley offers distinctive and timeless architectural style, one that combines the elements of early Oro-Medonte farmhouses, barns and sheds. Residents have access to the neighbouring Braestone Farm, which features a maple sugar shack, skating pond, pumpkin and berry patch and more. In addition, there are kilometres of trails on the 566 acres that make up Braestone, with 60 per cent of the land preserved in its natural state.

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

We focus on providing a remarkable lifestyle for our residents. Our communities offer thoughtful amenities that are inspired by the natural landscape and the environment in which we build. We are building small-town Canada, and this is reflected in our streetscapes and timeless architectural style. Recognized not only locally but nationally, we are creating something unique in the Simcoe and Grey County regions.

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