Habs-mania hits the condo market
In hockey-crazed Montreal, the Habs brand has been used to sell everything from school lunch boxes, to home insurance.
But even with ownership perks like the chance to skate once a year at the Bell Centre, are Habs fans really willing to pay more than $500 per square foot – exact price yet to be determined – on a place to live?
“I think you’d be surprised,” said Riz Dhanji, the Toronto-based vice-president, sales and marketing for real estate developer Canderel Property Management.
“I think there will be more interest among hockey fans in Montreal than there was at (the Maple Leaf Square condo project) in Toronto. The difference is that in Toronto (Maple Leaf Square), you didn’t have any real association with the Leafs. Here there will be an association.”
As I wrote last week, Montreal-based Canderel, Toronto’s Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. and partners, Club de hockey Canadien and Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ, announced their $175 million Tour Canadiens condo project on Monday. The 48-storey, 534 unit project would start at $250,000 for a 500 square foot condo, but a 332 square foot model is also available for minimalists.
Some players might choose to live there, but I’d personally be surprised to see that many Montreal-based Habs fans swapping their current homes for condos at the Bell Centre. The price range, from $250,000 for a 500 square foot condo, to about $800,000 for a 2,000 square foot penthouse, while reasonable for downtown, is already out of reach for the majority of Montreal buyers – and that’s without considering the recent tightening of the rules on CMHC-backed mortgages.
But like other condo towers announced for the area – Icône, the Roccabella and l’Avenue -I’m hearing that the Tour des Canadiens, inspired by Maple Leaf Square, could interest a number of domestic investors.
Condos at Maple Leaf Square, marketed in 2005 at a then jaw-dropping $475 per square foot, are now worth north of $700 per square foot – an appreciation in price that’s likely to be noticed by real estate investors in Toronto and other Canadian cities.
“There’s some speculation that this (Bell Centre) project will follow suit. And that’s the speculation I expect the developer is going to try and drive,” said Brian Persaud, a Toronto real estate broker and author of Profitable Investing in Condominiums.
“A lot of my people (however) are in wait and see mode.”
It’s wait and see because unlike Maple Leaf Square, Tour des Canadiens is being launched at a time when several analysts are already warning about possible condo overbuilding in Montreal’s downtown market. Condo prices in the Greater Montreal Area, which more than doubled from $118,858 in 2001 to $256,035 in 2011, are now expected to grow more slowly, or possibly dip a bit in 2013.
But Dhanji said that the Montreal project is unlikely to attract a large number of speculators that buy condos on paper and then sell or flip them when built.
“It’s not going to be a (big group) of investors like you see in Toronto,” he said. ”There are going to be an active number of people from all over Canada. There could be people in Ottawa, or Toronto who want a pied à terre in Montreal.”
The Cadillac Fairview Bell Centre project features the Tour des Canadiens and an office tower to be completed in 2015. The project is scaled down from the original three condo towers my colleague Andy Riga wrote about in 2011, but would be part of a larger $1 billion multi-phase development plan by Cadillac Fairview.
The Tour des Canadiens has also been sized down from 700 to 500 units, in part to accommodate the two-storey sports bar, modeled on Toronto’s Real Sports bar and grill, and nine stories of indoor parking.