September 25, 2014 6:00 pm

Why some real estate agents are marketing to new immigrants

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TORONTO – Catering to different cultures and backgrounds has become big business for the real estate industry in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

One third of all new homes in the GTA are bought people from the Chinese and South Asian communities, according to the company behind a couple of websites aimed at that market.

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HOMES Publishing Group created mychinesehome.ca and mysouthasianhome.ca in 2010, in an effort to attract people interested in staying connected to their heritage. The company now says at least 50,000 people each month visit the websites.

“That really makes a difference in how we want to make sure we represent that readership,” editor Rubina Ahmed-Haq said. “We make sure we have something that is significant to them.”

The sites feature real estate information as well as tips on home design, travel and health.

Real estate agents say newcomers to Canada and international students are eager to buy.

“An immigrant leaves their home, leaves their family safety net and comes to a new country,” Gautam Nath, vice-president at Balmoral Multicultural Marketing said. “They’re trying very hard to settle here.”

Based on languages spoken, Toronto has long been a city of ethnic enclaves including Little Portugal, China Town and Little Italy and Greek town.

That continues today, with a large portion of the South Asian and Chinese populations looking for homes in cities like Brampton and Markham.

“Brampton is a very popular place for South Asians to buy because a lot of friends live there family lives there,” Ahmed-Haq said. “It becomes a natural fit for them.”

A shift in demographic also allows developers the chance to cater to certain groups.

“The white population is older and doesn’t have (as) many children,” Mohammad Qadeer, a professor at Queen’s University said. “It’s not necessarily forming new households so it’s not necessarily the market for new housing.”

Yet it’s still big business in a market that’s already booming.

“It’s not really about excluding anyone,” Ahmed-Haq said. “It’s more about making sure everyone is included.”

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