Young, Hip and South Asian

Toronto Star
 May 8 2004

Downtown locale, cultural diversity big draws City considered a good investment destination

Central locale is a big attraction 

When Asad Rahman moved to Toronto from New York, he thought he would have to rent a one-bedroom apartment like the one he had in Manhattan. It came as a pleasant surprise to him that he could afford to buy something bigger and better.

“Property values are extremely high in New York,” says Rahman, who lived there for 15 years. “For almost the same price I was able to buy a three-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto.”

The 32-year-oldinvestmentbanker-turned-filmmaker moved to Toronto in 2002 because he fell in love with this city on a visit in 2001.

“Toronto is a much more livable city, not crowded or aggressive, while offering the same cultural diversity of New York — people of all ethnicities, multicultural food, art and culture and amazing bookstores,” says Rahman, who is originally from Pakistan.

Rahman, who bought his condo at 1001 Bay St., is one of a growing number of South Asians who are settling in downtown Toronto and originally hail from the countries of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

He’s part of a trend among young South Asians, aged 28 to 40, to buy condos downtown to live in, or to use as short- or long-term investment properties.

Most of these buyers are educated professionals attracted to the downtown lifestyle.

“Although condo living is a relatively new concept for South Asians, condo sales in this sector of the market are much higher than a decade ago,” says Adnan Bashir, of Remax Professionals in Mississauga.

He heads the largest team of South Asian real estate agents in the GTA — seven in total — specializing in residential and commercial properties.

“The vacancy rate in Toronto rentals was 3 per cent in October 2003 compared to 0.6 per cent 10 years ago, which shows the rising trend toward buying over renting,” says Bashir, a South Asian native himself.

More than 70 per cent of Bashir’s clients are from the South Asian community, which numbers about 1 million across Canada.

“I encourage local and overseas South Asians to invest in Canada’s vibrant economy because it gives them a healthy portfolio,”
says Bashir.

Among his clients are South Asians who have moved to Canada from the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

They want to invest in residential or commercial buildings downtown.

He has three groups of clients interested in buying condos: “Young professionals in the IT and finance sectors, new immigrants and investors.”

Many of Bashir’s South Asian clients are well-educated business people who have migrated to Canada from the oil-rich Gulf regions of the Middle East.

They have cash to invest and see downtown condos as a good long-term bet.

Builders like Canderel Stoneridge are successfully targeting the South Asian market.

Riz Dhanji, marketing director of Canderel Stoneridge, knows that “young upwardly mobile South Asians prefer ownership to renting and place a lot of importance on real estate, so it makes sense for them to invest in condos.”

Canderel recently held an open house in partnership with the popular South Asian Web site, to market its DNA project on King St. W. Living in the heart of city was the attraction for the Someshwar family.

“We aren’t do-it-yourself kind of people, so having the building maintenance take care of the upkeep is the way to go for us”

Shylee Someshwar