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It sold for what?

Today I spent the day at the Land & Development conference here in Toronto. If there was one running theme throughout the day, it was: “Holy shit, I can’t believe that X piece of land sold for $Y million. How will they (the developer) ever make the numbers work?”

Outside of the real estate development community, there’s often the perception that developers are building everywhere and that there’s lots of land left in cities, like Toronto. When you see all the cranes in the skyline, it naturally seems like we’re building a lot. Things seem easy.

But the reality is that it’s extremely difficult to find “land” in markets like Toronto and Vancouver. And by “land”, I mean properties that can be feasibly acquired/assembled, entitled, developed, and then brought to market. The way the speakers today spoke about land it’s as if it were a rare precious commodity.

I say all this, not to complain about how tough things are, but simply to shed light on the process. A developer’s job is to take a piece of property and figure out a way to create additional value. But to do that, they need to find a suitable piece of real estate. “Land” is an input.

This has implications for consumers, because inputs turn into outputs. And if one of the inputs is becoming scarcer, then it’s pretty safe to assume that the outputs, such as new housing, are also becoming scarcer.

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