In a land of immigrants, housing is an important component of one’s life. The GTA is no different in that respect. Investing in a house is a big stake for anyone. It can be even more nerve-wracking for a newcomer. To help new immigrants navigate the world of real estate–be it in terms of financial, legal or any other type of counseling are real estate agents, armed with their knowledge of the markets and the latest trends operating in it. Geeta Chopra is one such professional. After a degree in economics from the University of Toronto, she worked as an analyst with BMO before becoming a realtor four years ago. Besides her work as a sales representative, Chopra also sits on the board of the Toronto Real Esate as a committee member. She also hosts a TV show called Real Estate and the City with Geeta Chopra on Rawal TV, a South Asian channel. She recently spoke to Generation Next on a range of issues.
Born in Canada and raised in the USA, Geeta Chopra grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit. Her foray into the real estate field started with buying of properties and renting them out. “I realized the generous profits in doing so. I combined my passion for sales with my faith in real estate as the most stable and promising investment vehicle – and here I am!” she says.
Given the highly competitive nature of the real estate market, did Chopra face any challenges as a woman. “Yes, at times,” she says adding, “being successful in my industry is typically measured on a first come first serve basis and there is 100% competition, there is also ample scope for corruption. This is not gender exclusive. However, if you win, some of the men you were competing with for the product project their feelings of insecurity towards you.”
For those interested in making a career as a realtor, Chopra describes the typical career path: it begins with being licensed as a sales representative for two years. Following this, an individual may consider branching off on his or her own. “Staying with a larger firm and maintaining a great sales record is also an option. A lot of realtors combine a second career; i.e. real estate law, mortgages, banking etc.” she says.
Despite the current economic downturn, globally and especially in the USA, Chopra finds the current real estate market in the GTA to be quite healthy. However, she also thinks that because the conservative nature of Canadian banks, the public here has been sheltered from a lot. “Demand has superseded supply in the last few quarters and is speculated to continue to do so. Part of this, I feel, is due to interest rates remaining low, providing a great incentive for buyers to keep jumping in,” says Chopra. In her view, the limited land principle plays a big role in Toronto. “Developers are running out of land to develop on and cannot stay at par with the ongoing demand from consumers. Consequently PSF (price per square foot) steadily rises across the board. New immigrants, ex- suburb commuters, and the annual fresh graduating class constitute a large portion our demand [downtown]. We find these numbers rise exponentially each year,” she adds.
When asked about the hottest trends in the GTA market right now, Chopra says without a blink, “Pre-construction. Pre-construction. Pre-construction. Did I mention pre-construction? It is an extremely profitable venture. You buy a 1+ den for $350k. You put 20% down and walk away. In three years you return to the table and collect your keys. At that point, you can either sell for $450k or hold for one more year and collect rental income and build equity; thus increasing your profit even more. The average profit on most pre-construction is $100,000 if you have done your due diligence.” Being a landlord is also a hot trend, observes Chopra.
To new immigrants looking to purchase a home, her advice is to study real estate laws and Canadian mortgage financing. “I would also educate them on the neighborhoods to ensure they have taken the correct decision,” she says. Chopra also suggests due diligence for newcomers to avoid being trapped in scams. As she says, “Due diligence. Knowledge is power, and nowhere is that more true than in real estate. If you know the facts, no one can scam you. Have a good real estate lawyer on your team. It is worth the investment. Or watch my real estate law episode!”
Talking about her TV show, Chopra says, “There is a sea of information coupled with my own personal insights – which establishes they need for an informative outlet- and I feel my TV show is just that. I established the show to assist the consumer in obtaining as much information as possible for free.”
The real estate field is marked by cut-throat competition, which can at times, seem ugly. Chopra explains this is because the entire industry is a race. The key is not to take it personally. “As long as we can still shake the person’s hand who won- and genuinely congratulate him -that shows integrity. I do that as a part of my routine as I believe in abundance. There is certainly enough for everyone,” she says.
As a VIP agent with certain developers in the GTA, Chopra has access to pricing a week before they are released to the public. Perks of being a VIP agent include discounted pricing, special suite selection, no line ups, assurance of unit choice, discounted parking, free lockers, no assignment fee, free finishes, other discounted items; and better treatment overall.
Chopra has quite a few interesting projects in her portfolio right now. Some of these are River City, Cinema Towers, Monde Condo’s, 1 Bloor east, CASA 2, Chaz Condo’s, One Park Place, Massey Condos, B Street Condo’s and 10 York coming up soon.
This dynamic real estate professional often finds first-time home buyers to be a bit nervous, regardless of their age. However, she assures, “Once they get past the fear, there is no limit to their possibilities.”