Q&A: Nathan Levinson talks Canadian housing trends

Levinson founded Royal York in his car after dropping out of school. Now it manages more than $10 billion in assets.

Nathan Levinson is the president and founder of Royal York, a massive property management company based in Toronto. They manage tens of thousands of units and more than $10 billion in assets. We caught up with Levinson to chat housing predictions, technology and what his sector can do to address the country’s affordable housing crisis.

SiteNews: With 22,000 properties under management and $10.1 billion in assets, what sort of trends are you and Royal York seeing right now in the Canadian housing market? 

Nathan Levinson: Managing over 22,000 properties and $10.1 billion in assets at Royal York Property Management, we’re observing a critical trend: growing tenants struggling to pay rent due to economic pressures. This, coupled with rising mortgage rates, is creating a challenging scenario for landlords. We’re bracing for what I call a ‘real estate bloodbath,’ where both sides of the rental equation are under immense pressure. It’s a situation that demands innovative solutions and proactive management, which is where Royal York steps in.

Can property management firms like Royal York play a role in addressing Canada’s affordable housing crisis? 

Property management firms like Royal York Property Management have a vital role in this climate of financial strain. We’re not just managing properties; we’re also navigating complex situations where tenants can’t afford rent, and property owners are facing increased mortgage rates. Our role extends to advocating for sustainable solutions and providing practical support to tenants and property owners in these trying times.

What helps create a stable and reliable housing market? 

The current market’s volatility highlights the need for stability and reliability. This is achieved through empathetic tenant management, proactive property maintenance, and strategic financial planning for property owners. Our approach at Royal York is centered around understanding and mitigating the challenges tenants and landlords face.

What role do technology and data play in Royal York’ Property Management’s operations?

Technology and data are the lifeblood of Royal York. In this rapidly changing market, they are more crucial than ever. We employ advanced AI and machine learning algorithms for tenant screening, ensuring a low default rate. Our use of AI for tenant screening and market analysis helps us anticipate and navigate the challenges ahead. Our proprietary software allows for efficient property management, from maintenance to legal services. We’re not just a property management firm but a tech company revolutionizing the real estate sector.

Is there any technology that is currently on your radar or that has you excited? 

Our upcoming platform, Mateem.io, is what excites us the most. Envisioned as the Airbnb of long-term rentals, it’s set to revolutionize the property rental market. Amidst these challenges, Mateem.io is a beacon of innovation designed to streamline the rental process, making it seamless for property owners and tenants. This platform will be pivotal in managing the current crisis, offering seamless, efficient solutions in a more turbulent market than ever, and providing critical support to tenants and landlords.

What are some of the biggest challenges the property management industry faces today? 

The industry is currently facing unprecedented challenges. The impending ‘bloodbath’ due to non-payment of rent and rising mortgage rates is a prime concern. Our challenge is not just in managing properties but in navigating these financial complexities and providing viable solutions to both tenants and landlords.

What are your predictions for the 2024 housing market? 

Heading into 2024, I’m calling it as I see it – we’re on the cusp of a major shift in the Canadian housing market, GTA included. We’re already feeling the squeeze from climbing mortgage rates and the economic climate. This isn’t just a Toronto story; it’s unfolding across Canada.

We’re likely to see a readjustment in various regions’ property values. Sure, areas with high demand might stand their ground, but many others will see a dip in property prices. It’s not just a simple downturn; it’s a recalibration of the market.

Tell me about dropping out of University to running Canada’s largest property management company with 10.1 billions assets under management. What have been some of your keys to success?

Starting Royal York Property Management from the backseat of my car after dropping out of university was a leap of faith, driven by a vision to reform the inefficiencies in the rental market and the mistreatment of tenants by landlords. My early years working with my high school principal, handling maintenance, rent collection, advertising, and property showings, were eye-opening. They highlighted the critical need for positive landlord-tenant relationships and revealed the significant gaps in the market. This experience was the cornerstone of Royal York, a name inspired by a street sign sighting during a cold call, symbolizing our humble beginnings.

The keys to our success at Royal York have been multifaceted. Embracing technology and innovation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed us not only to survive but to thrive and expand, improving our services for both tenants and landlords. Our approach was not just to offer rental guarantees for landlords, but to create a balanced ecosystem benefiting all parties. This philosophy, stemming from my personal experiences as a mistreated tenant, led to the cultivation of an extensive database of over 200,000 pre-qualified tenant contacts, enabling efficient property rentals. The journey has taught me the importance of resilience, a structured approach, and the power of a vision shared with a growing network. These elements have been instrumental in transforming Royal York into the industry leader it is today.


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