Last February, the most expensive house on the Toronto market sold for $17.5 million. The Hogg’s Hollow estate, at 174 Teddington Park Avenue, was built in 1931 for an industrialist and CIBC director named Frederick Cowan, and was also owned for a while by Eric Philips, a co-founder of Argus Corp. Steve Stavro, the one-time Knob Hill Farms and Maple Leafs owner, bought the house in 1981. Ever since his death in 2006, it’s been on the market or in the hands of flippers. The new buyer is Daniel Hopp, a 31-year-old German businessman and son of billionaire Dietmar Hopp, co-founder of the business management software empire SAP. Hopp plans to move his family to Teddington and make it their primary residence.
He isn’t the only foreign national buying up Toronto’s priciest properties. Legions of international big spenders have discovered that Toronto’s real estate market is one of the most stable in the world. Elise Kalles, the super-agent who handles houses in the $8-million-plus category, reports that, in the past year, more than half of her clients have been foreign buyers. Same goes for Barbara Lawlor, an agent who specializes in high-end condos. She says that 60 per cent of the 159 new Ritz-Carlton residences have been snapped up by buyers from China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, England and France. They’re also buying here because our property is cheap: Toronto houses cost an average of $7,538 per square metre, compared with $23,358 in London, $12,029 in New York and $10,265 in Mumbai. James McKellar, a professor of real estate and infrastructure at the Schulich School of Business, suspects that many of these foreign buyers are simply looking for a place to park their money. “They can fly in, write a cheque to buy a condo in the Four Seasons and fly out again,” he says. And they know we’ll take good care of their property’s value.