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Feb. 15, 2021

Marina James on the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board and 2021 market outlook

Marina James on the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board and 2021 market outlook

Marina R. James is the Chief Executive Officer of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board (WRREB), formerly known as WinnipegREALTORS®. She is a seasoned executive having spent much of her career in senior real estate asset management roles. In this episode we ta...


Marina R. James is the Chief Executive Officer of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board (WRREB), formerly known as WinnipegREALTORS®. She is a seasoned executive having spent much of her career in senior real estate asset management roles. In this episode we talk about the recent WRREB name change and what to expect in 2021.

Transcript

Adrian:

I'm joined today by Marina James, who is the Chief Executive Officer of what was formerly known as the Winnipeg Real Tourist Association. Welcome, Marina.

Marina:

Thanks.

Adrian:

Marina, can you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Marina:

Sure.

Adrian:

Your role, and the organization as a whole?

Marina:

Sure thing. So I'm born in Winnipeg and raised in Fort Garry and have a long career in real asset management, specifically hotels and mixed use and residential rentals. And then I ventured off to look after over a hundred million dollars worth of assets in western Canada for a company called Westcorp. And finally, then went on to head up the city's economic development agency, Economic Development Winnipeg, for six and a half years before I came here to take on the role of CEO for what is now known as the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board. Very excited in the role. Long history in real estate, big fan of real estate and how it affects our economy, so very, very excited to be fulfilling this role.

Adrian:

Now you mentioned Westcorp. I recall they did have some multi-family assets here in Winnipeg. Do they at this time?

Marina:

No, they sold out to Sunrex a couple of years ago, and they're really focused in Edmonton specifically, and Kelowna now.

Adrian:

Okay. Well, very interesting. So you are definitely a perfect fit for this rule, especially in the dynamic real estate climate that we are experiencing. The organization recently underwent a name change. What was the reason for that?

Marina:

Well, if you know, regionally the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Winnipeg Realtors both operated MLS systems for the marketing of properties, and in 2019, the Manitoba Real Estate Association exited that function and we did an alignment activity to make sure that each of us had different activities so we didn't have any duplication. And that made for a lot of other organizations that were outside of the city Winnipeg to join us. In 2019, we had over 300 to 400 new members that came to us from surrounding metropolitan region areas and as far away as Winkler, Morden, Carman, Altona.

Marina:

So that really enhanced our diversification and we realized along with the Winnipeg metropolitan region that about 40% of the real estate that's transacted in our system is from outside of the city proper and it made sense to really reflect and honor the membership of the organization to include the regional areas that we represent. So the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board made good sense. The business community still refers to us as REB and a lot of people still call us REB, and so now we're back to being RREB with a double R, RREB. So there you have it.

Adrian:

I see the RREB engraved in some of these statues in Assiniboine Park.

Marina:

Right.

Adrian:

And it's neat how the organization has transformed. How is this going to change your organization's day to day operations now that there are other areas that are encompassed within, I guess, the district.

Marina:

Well, we need to, and we're working on improving reporting for rural areas, so that may make some changes to the MLS on ... Because everything flows, our data flows, out of what entries are put in for what area and so we are looking at that right now. So we want better reporting for everyone. Winnipeg wants to know what's happening in Winnipeg and Stonewall wants to know what's happening in Stonewall and Steinbach and Altona and so on. So that's the first thing is to improve our reporting on that.

Marina:

But the services overall, our core services, are largely used by all realtors. So not too much of a change there, not so much lock boxes in rural areas, but the improvement might be with more rural connectivity through internet that those lock boxes would function better. But overall, the core services of our members are pretty much the same, but just better data reporting on what's transacting and where, and so we're working on that framework.

Adrian:

Now given that you're a member based organization, do you have any interactions with the general public?

Marina:

No. The role of the interactions with the general public goes through the Manitoba Real Estate Association. This organization is focused on member to member, member to broker, member to business partner, interactions and all our processes revolve around that. That doesn't mean we wouldn't speak to someone and get them connected in the right area, but that particular function falls through the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

Adrian:

2020 was a historic year in so many different ways, but we'll focus on real estate specifically. It was a big year. What do you expect for 2021?

Marina:

Well, we had our Market Insights event yesterday and Peter Squires did a reveal and we would say that it's 80% sunny skies and maybe a few days of rain. Who knows. That's just what he said for some fun. But I think that we're looking ... This year we were at $4.9 billion in total real estate transacted in the residential real estate market. We're looking to forecast that we'll go over $5 billion this year, but the increase last year was double digits and we think this year, even though real estate is already moving rapidly, even in January, that it will be single digit increases for residential homes and condos we predict will transact, but not as high as homes have done and varying price ranges for condos versus homes. The average price in the $350 to $450 range is most rapidly moving in homes and in the $200 to $250 range for condos. So I think very predictable.

Marina:

Winnipeg in the Canadian market is like the tortoise in The Tortoise and The Hare story. We move slowly and predictably, but for that we have great sustainability and a great a way for people to live and build their asset value over the long run. Not like Alberta, where the pendulum swings, you could buy at a high price and then your asset may end up being worth less. Not In Winnipeg, we're very predictable.

Adrian:

Well, now you mentioned that it's 80% sunny blue skies. What's the fear or concern about the remaining 20%?

Marina:

Well, the issue as you know has been owner's confidence on listing their properties in the market. So what we really want to do with that 20% is encourage people to meet with their realtor and to understand the market in their area, and if they're really thinking of selling, to sell. It's the perfect time to sell. It really is a sellers market because there isn't a great deal of inventory. Inventory is down about 50% and great turnover of property.

Marina:

So we really need product on the market and it's a perfect time to sell, and it's a perfect time to work with a realtor as well because realtors are professional. This is probably the single biggest purchase you'll make in your lifetime so you want that professional expertise. You want someone who understands how to mitigate the risks and also help you through the process when it comes to home inspections and legal parameters and making sure that you're protected on your purchase.

Adrian:

You spoke that it is most definitely a seller's market, and I would agree, especially given our demographics and with I think baby boomers looking to downsize or to change their living environment, I think there is condo inventory available. So what a wonderful time to pull out that equity that perhaps one could use for retirement, move to a different type of lifestyle, such as a condominium, where there is inventory available, making family homes available to those that are looking. I think in my world, there seems to be a big shortage of that $300 to $400 price range. I think that's the sweet spot at this time. For anyone that's looking at entering the housing market in Winnipeg, what's your number one recommendation and why?

Marina:

Well, use a realtor and talk to your realtor. Ask a friend or ask your family members who do they recommend, but go with a realtor. They're professionally trained. They live their values in helping consumers find the right home. It's a badge of pride, that they help people to find the right property. When you think about a realtor, they work day and night on your behalf and they're very knowledgeable and they know what the values are so that you are getting the best value in what your purchase is or on what you're selling is. They have the statistics, they have the ability to show you the market profile on where your home fits in, and for that you get the assurances, and so it's important to protect yourself and go with a professional.

Adrian:

Before we wrap up, given your experience in asset management, perhaps in the commercial or multifamily residential side, are you expecting any significant changes for multifamily residential or commercial real estate in this current year, valuations, availability, vacancy?

Marina:

Don White from Colliers just did a great presentation, but I think it's nothing that we don't already know, which is with the way the pandemic has borne out office, vacancies, the same thing has been happening for some time in that newer commercial is coming on board. That leaves older properties at more risk for vacancy, so that means ... But opportunity at the same time for buyers to come in and refresh properties because some of those properties have great locations, they just need some TLC and some cash infusion. Not everybody can buy real estate for their home living, but they can surely rent it, so there's lots of multifamily under development. Of course, there's also a lot, a lot of money being earmarked for affordable housing development, as we know through the federal government.

Marina:

So overall it's a good stable story. Industrial is still in demand and even retail. I think once we are vaccinated and get back out, I think people are itching to get out and get back to their normal behaviors, so Winnipeg was one of two cities in the country that was predicted to quickly come out of pandemic, cause and effect right in 2021. So we're pretty good at following rules, and then I think as soon as it's a good to do so we'll be back up and at it doing whatever we can.

Adrian:

I think if the pandemic did anything positive, I think many of us are appreciating again the time that we get to spend with family and friends in person, but boy oh boy, are we ever sick in our home with online shopping. We really would like to go, and I think some stores are open again, but would love to go and try on a pair of jeans or a shirt without ordering it, trying it on, and sending it back, and that never ending routine. What do you love most about Winnipeg real estate?

Marina:

Oh, gee. That's a great ... I love all Winnipeg real estate. I mean, I've owned homes. My first home, I would have bought in 1982 in Charleswood in Qualico development. Went on to Wildwood Park. I mean, there are so many great areas in the city to choose and then on top of it, there's diversification of different types, condos, townhouses. And then let's not forget about cottages because cottages were off the roof for sales this year. So I love all real estate. I think real estate is ... It houses your family, it includes your friends for good times, and on top of it, if you treat it right, it builds you generational wealth that you can share with others. So real estate is a great new story, but you need the help of a realtor to make sure that you make the right decisions and the right value and you know that you make good decisions.

Adrian:

Marina, I love your history and experience as a whole in real estate. It's a great fit for our show. I appreciate your time today and I hope to have you on again soon. Thank you, Marina.

Marina:

Happy to do so. Thanks for the invite.

Adrian:

Yeah.

Marina:

Take care.

Adrian:

Have a great one.

Marina James

Chief Executive Officer

A collaborative senior executive strong in assessing and implementing sustainable value creation. Identifies required improvement and introduces best practices across all core business platforms.