A growing luxury home market in Quebec has helped the Engel & Völkers franchise owners in Quebec achieve their business goals well ahead of schedule.

“Our market plan was (based) on five years. We did everything we wanted in two years,” says Patrice Groleau, who co-owns the franchise rights with wife Debby Doktorczyk. “It’s just literally booming. Every single thing looks positive for Montreal. I don’t see any downsides at the moment.”

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Groleau says Quebec has seen a 90-per-cent increase in foreign buyers in the last two years. In addition, sales of condominiums and homes over $1 million in Montreal increased 60 per cent year over year in July and August, all of which puts Engel & Völkers in good stead.

In late August, Engel & Völkers opened a 6,500-sq.-ft. head office on Sherbrooke Street in downtown Montreal. The two-storey flagship office in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile area also serves as Engel & Völkers’ seventh brokerage in the province.

The grand opening of Montreal’s Engel & Völkers flagship office. From left: Robin Brinkley; Richard Brinkley, Engel & Völkers’ SVP Canada; owners Debby Doktorczyk and Patrice Groleau; and Julie Thompson, Engel & Völkers’ VP, brokerage services.
The grand opening of Montreal’s Engel & Völkers flagship office. From left: Robin Brinkley; Richard Brinkley, Engel & Völkers’ SVP Canada; owners Debby Doktorczyk and Patrice Groleau; and Julie Thompson, Engel & Völkers’ VP, brokerage services.

Doktorczyk and Groleau also plan to open shops in Laval and the South Shore next year. Additional offices in Gatineau and the Eastern Townships are also on the horizon.

Groleau says at the current growth pace, he expects Engel & Völkers to be at par with Sotheby’s in the province in about 18 months. “We’re really thrilled. People love the brand,” he says. “It’s a real international network and it’s working. We have a lot of good things to sell to potential investors and they’re coming.”

He says Engel & Völkers needed a large head office to assemble its brokers in one place. Along with meeting rooms and board rooms there are 24 individual offices.

The head office, which Engel & Völkers had been seeking for two years, is in what was once the tallest residential tower in Eastern Canada. Board members in the tower turned down several other previous offers from potential tenants for the office space, Groleau says.

Along with housing Engel & Völkers brokers, who now total 50, the new head office will be home to the 50 agents of McGill Immobilier (McGill Real Estate). Groleau and Doktorczyk own McGill Immobilier, which specializes in the marketing of new condos and has sold 8,500 condos worth $3 billion in 10 years.

“A lot of our (condo) towers are located downtown – it’s a logical location to be with our developers and designing teams.”

The new office also houses Engel & Völkers’ aviation and yachting divisions. In Quebec “it’s more for people who want to book private flights or rent a sailboat for a vacation. There are a few brokers doing that in the province.”

According to a recent report by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Montreal is becoming a luxury real estate hot spot. Sotheby’s forecasts Montreal will emerge as a strong leader on Canada’s luxury real estate landscape this fall.

“We have Chinese investors pouring into Montreal,” Groleau says, although “we’ve always been the third choice for Chinese buyers, behind Vancouver and Toronto.”

Chinese buyers who choose Montreal tend to bring their families to live in the city, which is not always the case in Vancouver, he says. “You don’t see empty towers in Montreal that don’t light up at night. Go to Vancouver, you’ll see buildings where 80 per cent of the building has no lights at 8 o’clock at night because the condo is empty. They want to live here.”

Prices for luxury housing remains much lower in Quebec’s major cities than most other Canadian cities. The median price for the top five per cent sales is about $950,000 in Montreal and $570,000 in Quebec City.

“We’re not really targeting a certain price; it’s more certain areas and a certain clientele,” says Groleau, noting that he believes the future of brokerage lies in specialization, not generalization. He foresees that Engel & Völkers will have no more than 120 brokers in the province, given the niche market in which it operates.

Aside from operating Engel & Völkers and McGill Immobilier, Groleau recently became a TV star in the province as a “double agent.” He co-hosted the Canal Vie network reality show Agents Doubles.

It features Groleau and another broker pitted against couples with widely disparate housing wants – the wife wants to buy a condo downtown while the husband wants to live on a farm, for example. The hosts try to convince them to opt for one of the options.

“I was out of my comfort zone and I’m learning a lot,” Groleau says. The show was the most popular on Canal Vie during the summer and there is a good chance it will return for a second season.

Engel & Völkers has more than 9,000 brokers in 30 countries and set up shop in Quebec in 2015. Groleau says he is “really surprised” at the response to and perception of the brand in the province. “It’s rare that you do a market plan and it’s even better than what you had expected.”

Part of the reason, he maintains, is that Engel & Völkers is the only international brokerage that is privately owned. “Every decision is always made for the long term. It’s a unique culture.”

As well, he maintains his brokers regularly receive quality leads from the international network. “I’ve been interviewing brokers for years now, and ask any broker for any brand, ‘How many leads do you receive from your agency?’ If they tell you, ‘In the past five years I’ve received one,’ it’s already good.”


Note: This story has been changed from an earlier version, with updates the the number of brokers and countries in which the company operates.


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