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The headlines show the many ways in which international events affect Canadian real estate markets.  For example,

  • Will Trump’s election cause too many Americans to move to Canada?  (And, will Canadians want to stay in a Trump-branded hotel?)
  • How will foreign buyers react to the new tax in Vancouver (and will its effect be bigger than the effect of the on-going anti-corruption campaign in China)?
  • How do the tastes of recent immigrants to Canada differ from those of long term residents?  (And do the tastes of first generation immigrants differ from those of second or third generation immigrants?)
  • Will the competing initiatives on infrastructure in Canada and the US cause more investment in Canada or in the US?

If you attend the Real Estate Forum in Toronto at the end of November, you will see suppliers from many other countries talking with potential clients.  You will also see many levels of government supporting international business links.

The real estate business is no longer all about “location, location, location”.  So, the question is how to get ahead of this wave? 

A good start is to recognize that the most common sources of information focus on the largest and best-known groups of consumers or competitors.  Almost by definition, they are not well-suited to identifying a profitable hidden niche until it (or a competitor) hits you in the face.

A second solution is to travel.  I took a six month sabbatical in Singapore a couple of years ago and it reinforced my opinion that the primary benefit of travel is to raise questions about what you think is obviously true.

For example, I had to find a place to stay for six months.  It took me a while to realize that, in Singapore, tenants pay a broker one-month’s rent to find a place; showing is not part of the property manager’s job.  (Imagine the reverse confusion for somebody from Singapore moving to Canada.)  It was cheaper for me to stay in a kind of hotel.

Or, building design is always a big issue.  On a simple level, design changes when a roof does not have to be designed to carry snow, but must deal with monsoon-type rains.  Air conditioning is also a problem, which may help to explain why so many of the hallways in buildings were outdoors.

It is hard to do a cost-benefit calculation when the primary benefit is to expect to learn that what you think of as “common sense” because “it is obviously true” is not obvious and may not be true.  I repeatedly encourage our students to travel abroad but depressingly few do so.  It takes a sense of adventure to deliberately step outside of a comfort zone.  It is not just about learning the different types of English or eating odd foods [1] [2].

The people who step furthest outside of their comfort zone are international students who have traveled a long way to study here.  Good employers already look to hire people who have demonstrated that attitude, because the world is not like it was.  You can either wait for the change to become obvious or get in front of the trend.