It allows me to share knowledge about attractive real estate investments with friends, family and colleagues outside of the institutional real estate investment industry. Previously, most investment opportunities were limited to institutions and ultra-high net worth investors with minimum investments of $2 million required to participate in each deal.
The Toronto commercial real estate sector (as an example), is presenting some excellent value-add and development opportunities for investors to build their capital base. Why shouldn’t everyone be able to participate in this wealth creation, even if in a small way?
What are your thoughts on technology disruption in the real estate industry?
Technology has offered more streamlined transactions from renting a room to investing in multi-million dollar projects. One of the greatest benefits of technology is greater transparency. There are no reasons why information can't be available in an efficient and easily-accessible manner.
Real estate has become a data-hungry industry which demands more detailed and interactive documentation, drawings, photos, maps, financial analysis, etc. Artificial intelligence will customize this process such that information an investor or tenant/user receives is tailored to be highly relevant to them personally and available immediately. In the end, the space, buildings and locations they choose will be significantly more suitable and valuable.
As a real estate investment professional, what are some the key criteria you look for when making investment decisions?
I will answer this from the perspective of Canadian commercial real estate development projects. There are so many variables to consider but at the top of my list are demand, supply, zoning, and environmental/geotechnical condition. Specifically:
- What is fueling demand for this space and location and is it sustainable and/or growing? Is this location in a transportation-centric area and would the average person want to “live, work and play” there?
- How much supply is available or planned to meet this demand? Will an oversupply situation lead to a decrease in rental rates?
- What is the zoning status (if a development is being considered). I can’t emphasize enough, the importance of understanding the timeline, influencing factors and risks involved with a rezoning. A rezoning that takes significantly longer than expected, or grants less density than anticipated, can completely kill your investment returns.
- Is there environmental contamination in/around the site? (most can be remediated, but understand the costs, approval process, monitoring requirements and overall timelines involved).
- Is the soil/substrate stable/suitable for building upon?
These issues can lead to some of the most costly surprises for a development project if not fully understood ahead of time.
What career advice do you wish someone had given you?
Focus just as much on your communication skills as you do on technical skills. Learn how to write well, listen very well and understand people’s needs and sensitivities. These skills are required to present an idea well and persuade using solid evidence.
I have met many smart people with good technical skills but the ones who have also honed their communication skills are those who get to the crux of all matters, are able to problem-solve, build the strongest networks/relationships and find the best opportunities.
Being an investment professional and mom must take up a lot of your time but when you have it, what do you do in your spare time?
I dedicate most of my spare time to music-related activities. I try to attend a concert every two weeks (all genres), I watch documentaries and read books about music styles and musicians/artists, I research and listen to new artists/songs, and I post/write for two music-focused Instagram accounts.
Music has been a good way to bond with my teenage children and their friends. Listening to music and going to concerts is also a great stress-buster.
Karen has more than 25 years of investment industry experience. In her most recent role as Senior Vice President, Specialty Funds at Fiera Properties, Karen played an integral role in researching, structuring and launching new investment funds. Karen launched and managed the Fiera Properties GTA Opportunity Fund, a closed-ended real estate development fund that invests in multi-family, office and industrial development projects.
After five years as a financial analyst in the real estate development industry, Karen became Portfolio Manager, Real Estate for Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, and was involved in the acquisition of $1 billion of commercial properties. Subsequently, Karen worked as Managing Director, Corporate Development with Enterprise Property Group, involved in the acquisition and integration of Edgecombe Investments where she was appointed Fund Manager for their open-ended real estate pooled fund.