I’m sometimes asked about the greatest real estate victory I’ve ever seen. There have been some major heists in 20 years, but none of those could touch this success story.
There were really only two properties being considered in September of 2009 when I had the pleasure of helping former Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel. One was a 4,400 square foot condo at The Residences of College Park, and the other a 3,600 square foot townhouse in Yorkville.
The College Park condo was, and still is, the nicest condo I’ve ever seen in Toronto. Phil loved that condo too, and rightly so.
It had a ridiculous amount of space, which felt even larger due to the 10-foot ceilings. The penthouses are always the last to be finished; this one was brand new and never lived in, and there were just two suites on the floor. The builder had built this particular condo for himself, so as you can imagine he held nothing back inside.
Now you’ve probably heard that you should never buy the most expensive home on the street, right? Generally, I’d agree that, with perhaps one exception — and this was that exception.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had just signed Phil to a five-year, $27,000,000 contract and with that comes big expectations — and big pressure, too. I was plugged in enough to the game to know that a contract like this will go one of two ways: Expectations will either be met/exceeded or there will be an early trade.
When I am helping someone with their real estate, 99.81% of the time the actual real estate is the main driver and the main concern. This was different. There was MUCH more at stake than the real estate.
‘Know your client’ is the #1 rule in the investment industry, and I was fortunate enough to spend 12 years working for perhaps the best money manager in the country, Taylor Echlin. Taylor thankfully drilled this ‘know your client’ rule into me and so I kept it as my #1 rule in my real estate dealings too.
Phil was just 21 at the time. He was already one of the top players in the league. Phil Sr. and his mom Kathy were now in town and there we all stood, in the massive living room looking south to the beautiful downtown skyline.
“Which property holds value or goes up the most in five years?” Phil Sr. asked.
“The Yorkville townhouse is more bankable, no question,” I answered. “But this is a one of a kind space so it should be okay too. Phil should live where he wants to live, though. If it were me, I would live here, no question about it.”
Phil Senior nodded and smiled. He knew the big picture too. Although very nice inside, the Yorkville townhouse had nowhere near the ‘inspiration’ factor that the Bay Street condo had. It didn’t have much light; it was dark and cave-like. You couldn’t even compare the two in that regard.
I said, “Listen, Phil, very important. You’re going to move in here and you wake up in the morning, walk over to the window here stretch like this see as I stretched my arms out, look out at our beautiful city and say to yourself, ‘I think I’ll score two goals today, maybe an assist. It’s very important.’”
Everyone laughed. And I followed along, except I was serious. I brought humour into it, I often do, but what I do best is look after my client’s wealth. Most usually, that’s wealth within their real estate, on a purchase or sale. But this time, I was looking out for my client’s potential wealth. I knew what was at stake.
I wasn’t overly concerned, in this case, with where the real estate value would go in the years ahead, because I knew my client and I knew that what he did on the ice over the next five years was going to be FAR more important. The Yorkville townhouse, though more bankable in terms of resale, didn’t light Phil up the way this Bay Street condo did. We made the right choice. Things went well.
The Benefit of Getting It Right
Things went so well in fact that on October 1st, 2013, at the start of his fifth season here in Toronto, a year ahead of schedule, the Leafs extended Phil’s contract signing him to an eight-year deal worth a whopping $64,000,000.
I was at that game, which was the season opener in Montreal (always an amazing atmosphere). Once it was officially announced, my phone blew up with all my friends texting saying, “I guess you’ll be helping Phil find a new place now.”
Except there was no need. We did it right the first time. We did it more than right.
My greatest real estate victory had little to do with real estate, yet everything to do with real estate at the same time. It’s 11 years later and Phil still talks about that condo as being the nicest one he ever saw in the city of Toronto.
Phil led the Maple Leafs in goals five times and scored at least 30 goals four times during his six seasons with the Maple Leafs. He had 394 points in 446 games before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015.
I’m not going to tell you I was out there on the ice with him passing him the puck. I wasn’t. But I was there, with the big picture in mind, and I made sure I passed him the right set of keys.