If you are of a certain age (ahem), you may recall the histrionic of Tommy Vu – a Vietnamese poker-player who turned real estate investment guru. He had some embarrassingly vulgar infomercials in the 1980s, promoting get-rich schemes predicated on no-money-down investment properties. To be crude, the point was his students would get rich, and the dudes would get women. Money and sex still sells. “Look at all these beautiful women!” Vu would chant, with buxom bikini-clad bombshells flanking him.
While there are ample rumours about Vu’s scheme landing him in jail, the simple truth is that his crass antics and failure of his “graduates” to generate any real returns caused his business to collapse. Alas, he’s apparently returned to professional poker.
Times don’t change much, and while the “get rich / get chicks” angle may be downplayed, there are still innumerable programs, personalities and schemes intended to make investors inordinate amounts of money with little effort, equity, motivation or insight. I will leave the relative merits of these various ploys to others, but I will respond to a question that comes up with enormous frequency: “Paul, is this is a good investment?”
Let me be absurdly clear: I sell homes. I sell properties in which people chose to live parts of their lives, lofts and homes with style and character that reflect a buyer’s tastes, and a buyer’s ambition to find comfort and calm. I don’t see real estate as a commodity, although I acknowledge the degree to which it helps create or preserve wealth. But if a buyer’s primary motivation is to invest for the sole purpose of economic return – regardless of style, design, location, substance or the “vibe” of a property – then I’m a lousy person to turn to. Because when we invest in unique urban homes, we’re making an implicit statement: that we care deeply about the spaces we inhabit and the neighbourhoods in which we roam, and that our primary investment decision is to place equity in our quality of life. I can demonstrate why I believe the eventual returns on certain properties will “outperform” the market in general, but I’m absolutely not someone who hawks condos as though they were soybean futures or mutual funds.
So when I was recently asked by a media outlet for quotes about “terrific investments” in the Toronto market, I suggested chats with some of the buyers I’ve been lucky enough to work with. After all, they invested in themselves, in their futures and in their desire to live in unique properties in the city. That, to me, is an investment sure to provide amazing returns.