zylhdum · 2022-02-01

Real estate slide slows

After a recession that started “overnight,” business activity is showing positive signs, says commercial real estate broker Wayne Hay. “We’ve slowed the slide,” he observes. “Nobody knows when this will stop, but at least in the region it’s not quite so bad. Barrie is a very strong place to live.” That goes for the rest of Simcoe County as well, he adds. Although funding can be hard to come by, he’s noticed “there is still a lot of cash out there.” As a result, there is plenty of movement in the local market.  “That’s the difference between now and in ’92.” As the broker for Royal LePage First Contact’s The Commercial Group, he and his team of three are among the few commercial specialists in the local industry. He has had this focus for the duration of his 26-year real estate career. Within that field, however, he is a generalist. The property management side of the business grew out an opportunity to better serve his real-estate clients.  “It’s difficult in the city to concentrate on one avenue of commercial real estate,” he says. “So we do leases, property management, and sell land and buildings – we’re jacks of all trades. With a population of 134,000, Barrie is still considered a small town.” Born in Collingwood, the Barrie resident has a provincial licence but sticks to servicing Simcoe County.  “I try not to go down south,” he says. “They have thousands of agents there, and we have our niche here.” In this county, however, there has been growing competition in recent months from agents who would focus on non-business properties in a better economy. “Some residential people are dipping their fingers in because it’s slow,” he says. The commercial process is different, he adds, with a parallel set of laws, forms and other procedures. People are sometimes looking for asset management and valuation, disposition, or tenant representation, he adds. Or perhaps they want someone to help them search out expansion options. Hay works with his clients to navigate any of these paths. “There are lots of buyers for investment properties,” he says. “And lots of sellers for industrial land. Development land has just gotten quiet.” The “employment lands” down the 400 corridor, that was once buzzing with the prospect of developing industrial, commercial and residential projects, has also softened because of the market, he reports. The situation there isn’t helped by the “lack of commitment" between Innisfil, Barrie and the province. “It’s difficult with the banks, and I really don’t know why because Canadian banks don’t lose money on Canadian people,” he says. “But they’re being a less aggressive these days.” That said, he believes it’s a good sign that new businesses are committing to Barrie. He refers to the recent TD Bank arrival announcement, and the Patene Building Products purchase of the former Dana plant. “Announcements like that are very good,” he says. And where industrial leasing was down and Park Place was put on hold, he’s recently noticed more “calls for new business start-ups, which is a good indication.” Small businesses, which are sometimes started when soon-to-be entrepreneurs lose their jobs, are “the backbone of our economy.” The timing could buy these young enterprises bargains since “landlords are being much more flexible due to supply and demand,” he explains. “Landlords are offering incentives.” He says he’d like the city to offer new incentives of its own to help small business and promote industrial development. “We still have a lot of people driving down the highway everyday because we don’t have higher paying jobs here, so we need manufacturers to come to Barrie.” In the meantime, he expects to be working a little bit harder for a little less work – at least until the slide stops completely. For more information, visit www.thecommercialgroup.com