January 13, 2023

Collaborative Culture Helps Vancouver Developers Build Resiliency in a Challenging Market

Finding success amidst rising interest rates, inflationary pressures, and supply chain challenges in an evolving Canadian market is something that wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative culture found at the newest Canada ICI office located in Vancouver.

A Team That Knows the Market

Since 1993, Canada ICI has a long history in the B.C. market. In 2022, the timing was right to open an office in the market.

The Vancouver office has only been in operation since February this year, yet they’ve already become so accustomed to working alongside each other you’d never be able to tell. 

Michelle Child is part of Canada ICI Vancouver, and says that she barely remembers a time before taking on her new role as Director of Mortgage Origination in the Waterfront Centre office.

 “As someone who grew up in B.C., it has been great to be a part of bringing a successful brokerage to the west coast,” says Michelle. “I believe clients appreciate when you can meet them in person and tour their projects and vision, so I think a local presence while leveraging a proven national brokerage model makes a huge difference in our clients’ success.”

I think a local presence while leveraging a proven national brokerage model makes a huge difference in our clients’ success.

– Michelle Child

An Evolving Commercial Real Estate Market

The team has been doing what they do best: navigating current market opportunities and adapting to market conditions. The team is focused on adding value, offering guidance and alternatives on how to best navigate the many uncertainties that exist in the market right now. The greater Canada ICI organization has seen a lot in 25-years, and that experience can be applied in markets like the one we are in now.

Michelle has had the opportunity to leverage her valuable construction and lending experience. Growing up in the industry with her father as a home builder and spending her career in real estate lending, she understands the cycles in the industry, which enables her to quickly identify what the best options are for builders and developers, depending on what stage the project is at, which has been crucial insight as of late. 

With rising interest rates and slowing sales, she and the team have been advising clients on how to pivot their projects and maintain their equity. For development projects that have yet to start, some clients are able to pivot from condo to purpose-built rentals. Purpose-built rentals are seeing huge support, with lower financing costs and higher leverage, with the addition of the latest CMHC multi-family mortgage loan insurance product called MLI Select. The program has been a great option for some projects already underway and has given even more developers a reason to start looking into other multi-family asset possibilities. 

In addition to our expertise in the MLI Select program, Canada ICI also offers their own CMHC lending product.

“We are in a unique position, as Canada ICI is also an approved CMHC lender – so we are able to bid on the deal as well as secure the certificate of insurance (COI) and broker to other lenders,” says Michelle. ”It also allows us to bid as a Lender when the COI has been secured by the client themselves or even another brokerage. It’s just another tool we have to specialize our services to our clients and their individual needs.”

Andrew Howard, another Director at Canada ICI Vancouver came to Canada ICI after seven years as a senior manager at CMHC. His perspective has been invaluable to the team as they navigate the intricacies of CMHC and the MLI Select application process. He also provides guidance on additional products that clients can apply to with CMHC that are over and above the MLI Select product, so we can find the best financing fit for each deal. 

Another way the team is helping clients preserve equity is by offering inventory loans on unsold product. Michelle says that this solution will give some much-needed breathing room for developers to re-strategize given the soft buyer’s market.

Collaboration Leads to Client Success

The unique dynamic and collaborative culture at Canada ICI is a fresh approach and perspective that has made a difference for developers who are facing some unprecedented challenges.

Every deal is approached from a team mindset, rather than brokers within the office competing against each other; a practice which is still fairly commonplace with more traditional brokerages. With a reach that spans across the country, the expertise offered by Canada ICI continues to shine through in all dealings, not just in the Vancouver office, and it has certainly played a part in the success of their clients.  

“Things change every week, so it’s nice that we don’t just work in silos here,” says Michelle. 

Michelle notes that there has always been a willingness to share data or insights amongst the offices. One could say it has created a sort of collective knowledge bank – filled with valuable insights and experiences of everyone at the company. For example, a particular funding structure that is having a positive impact in the Toronto market is shared and can be easily deployed in the Vancouver market or vice-versa.

The benefit of this of course, being that the client doesn’t just get the knowledge and experience of one broker; they get the entire office backed by a national team.

“That way we can adjust and leverage whoever has the capacity. It means we can get things done more efficiently for our clients,” she added

The newer Vancouver team members are also supported by ICI veterans in Benjamin Clark and Nate Larsen, who have supported the new office with an efficient underwriting practice and mentorship in origination respectively.

It’s this mix of both new and more experienced brokers that has produced a perfect dynamic; on one hand insights and knowledge that comes with many years in the industry, but also the enthusiasm and drive of the brokers who are in new roles eager to make an impact. 

[Because of the willingness to share data or insights] That way we can adjust and leverage whoever has the capacity. It means we can get things done more efficiently for our clients…

– Michelle Child

Looking Ahead

Since the office opened, they have continued to grow as a team, and are now looking into other areas in B.C. that are outside of Vancouver proper, such as the Fraser Valley, Kootenays, and Vancouver Island – all of which still have many untapped opportunities on their radar.

Although Canada ICI has had a long-standing business presence in Vancouver, the opening of the new office really speaks to the business it does and the clients they serve in the area. The Vancouver office marks number eight across the country and brings the same commitment to help both new and existing clients make the most of their opportunities by providing them with unparalleled guidance from start to finish, and every pivot in between.

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