Donald Trump sought to stir up buyers for the unsold units in Canada's first Trump International Hotel & Tower on Monday, undaunted by talk of an overheated real estate market in Toronto.
Even though there are more condos under construction in Toronto than in any other in North America, Mr. Trump insisted he would be willing to do a second project in Toronto if the right opportunity came along.
In fact, the consummate salesman and publicity hound, who has had his brushes with businesses that became overburdened by debt, seems fazed by little.
"I don't worry about anything," he said during an interview in the tower, the city's tallest residential building, which has been open since the end of January.
It likely helps that Mr. Trump did not develop, and does not own, the tower, which is now competing with a host of other new luxury establishments in the city such as the new Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton, each of which mix condos and hotel suites. The owners and developers of the Trump property are Talon International Inc., whose chairman is Toronto-based Alex Shnaider, a billionaire Russian immigrant, and its affiliates. They use the Trump name under a licence.
Toronto's house prices have risen 10.5 per cent in the past year, according to BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., and both the federal government and central bank are keeping a close eye on the city's frothy condo market.
"There's always fears, no matter where you go," Mr. Trump said. "No matter when you build, where you build. Usually the best time to build is in a terrible market because then the market gets good by the time you're finished."
The idea for the Toronto tower was conceived about a decade ago. The final version, which is 65 storeys, has 261 hotel condos (owners can use the rooms when in Toronto, and receive revenue when guests stay in them), priced at $970,000 and up, and 118 residential condos.
About 60 per cent of the residential units are sold, and those remaining are priced between $2.3-million and $6.3-million, according to a publicity official with the project.
About 80 per cent of the total units in the building have been sold, and 35 per cent of the buyers are Canadian. Some economists have expressed concern that foreign buyers are influencing Toronto's real estate prices.
The mix of owners in the building has been shifting from those who bought the units as investments to those who intend to use them as a home, pied-à-terre or corporate suite, the official said.
As Mr. Shnaider officially declared the building open for business at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, he suggested that the project's backers persevered through economic uncertainty and he's glad they did.
"When we launched our property in 2004, there was considerable scepticism regarding the demand for luxury properties such as ours in Toronto," he noted. But he said he considers the Trump Tower a "great success," adding that he thinks it contributed to the success of other luxury properties in the city.
"We have changed the skyline of Toronto," he said.
Mr. Trump said during the interview that the hotel's occupancy rates are living up to his expectations, especially on weekdays. The tower is in the heart of Toronto's financial district.
Mayor Rob Ford told reporters that the city's hotels are enjoying record business. "In 2011, folks, the number of hotel room nights sold surpassed nine million for the first time ever," he said. "This city is booming."
Neither the less-than-stellar economic outlook for North America, nor the prospect of much higher interest rates down the line have dented Mr. Trump's ambitions to attach his name to new properties.
"It's cycles," he said, using his assessment of the market as a chance to pitch the unsold units in the building.
"Rates are low right now, they'll be higher. That's why it's a great time to buy at Trump International in Toronto, because you can get a great mortgage today," he said. "Real estate is largely based on financing and mortgage markets. But this is a great time to buy an apartment right in this building."