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Real estate receiverships on the rise as projects stall



In a concerning trend, residential development projects across Canada are experiencing a surge in receiverships, marking a distressing turn for the real estate sector. From towering condo complexes to vacant land, various projects are grappling with financial stressors, including heightened interest rates, construction delays, and a sluggish real estate market.


Experts point to a confluence of factors contributing to this rise, including elevated construction costs and delays. Mike Czestochowski, vice-chair of CBRE’s land services group, notes a stark increase in distress calls, emphasizing that what was once a monthly occurrence has escalated to a weekly trend.


Receiverships serve as a remedy for secured lenders, enabling them to have a court-appointed entity take control of a property with the aim of either liquidating it or maximizing asset value. While traditionally seen as a last resort, CBRE has observed a spike in receiverships, especially among larger construction projects involving multiple mortgages and stakeholders.


One notable case unfolded in Kitchener, Ontario, where the Elevate Condominiums project faced receivership as construction costs outpaced available funds, leaving the site 80% complete but exposed to the elements. A similar fate befell a planned 55-story condo tower in downtown Vancouver, with creditors, including BMO seeking repayment of over $82 million in loans.


Even completed projects aren't immune. Duca Financial Services Credit Union filed for receivership against a Mizrahi Inc. condo project in Toronto, illustrating the industry-wide challenges.


The rise in receiverships is particularly evident in high-rise developments, where complexities and potential delays pose substantial challenges. Lauren White, executive vice-president of CBRE's land services group, attributes a significant portion of the issue to mismanagement and a failure to grasp the intricate development process.


High-profile projects like "The One," an 84-story building in Toronto, have faced receivership due to soaring debts, construction delays, and budget overruns exceeding $600 million. In another instance, creditors sought receiverships for multiple projects by Vandyke Properties in the Greater Toronto Area, totaling over 1,700 units and debts surpassing $200 million.


Receivership is a recourse for secured creditors to recover funds when borrowers default. However, not all applications are approved, as seen in a B.C. judge's denial of a request for Coromandel Group, citing ongoing receiverships.


The focus of the process is to maximize value, either by completing the project with the existing developer or selling it as-is. Drastic measures, such as terminating pre-sale agreements or changing the project's nature, may be necessary to offset shortfalls.


The market outlook remains uncertain, with potential buyers cautiously waiting for opportune moments. CBRE's White predicts a prolonged recovery period, estimating at least six more months of increasing distress calls before signs of stabilization emerge. The challenges facing the Canadian real estate sector underscore the need for strategic solutions and careful financial planning in the current economic landscape.


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