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He Sold $800 Million of Luxury Homes During a Housing Crisis, then Bragged in His Own Magazine

Browsing ‘Exclusive,’ realtor Malcolm Hasman’s self-published glossy.

By Geoff Dembicki 4 Oct 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee. His work also appears in Vice, Foreign Policy and the New York Times. His 2018 municipal election reporting is supported by Tyee Builders.

Vancouver is going through a housing crisis that by some accounts is the worst in Canadian history. But some people are getting rich from it. Statistics Canada released data last year suggesting that the real estate and development industry is worth more to B.C.’s economy than oil and gas is to Alberta’s.

That revelation likely came as no surprise to Malcolm Hasman, a top-performing seller of luxury real estate in Vancouver. From 2010 to 2017, Hasman says he made over $800 million in sales. He markets to “potential buyers in Mainland China and throughout Asia, Indonesia, India, Great Britain and both Europe and Russia as well as South America and South Africa,” according to his website.

There’s no question that the upcoming civic election has become a referendum on the housing policies of Mayor Gregor Robertson and his party Vision Vancouver. I thought it would be fascinating to speak with a local real estate agent who sold close to $1-billion worth of luxury properties to buyers from around the world while housing affordability for many people who live in Vancouver plummeted.

When I reached out to Hasman for an interview he responded, “I am not really interested in being in the news media. I’d rather keep a lower profile.” Browsing his website, however, I saw that for several years he has self-published a magazine called Exclusive with his face on each cover. I decided to read the 17 issues that were digitally scanned and made available on his website to gain insights into his profession. The magazine reveals in vivid detail the strategy that Hasman uses to sell Vancouver properties to wealthy international buyers. And it paints a portrait of life at the top in one of the least affordable cities in the world.

The earliest issue of Exclusive on Hasman’s website is from fall 2011. It contains a story headlined, “How to sell a $10 million home in five days.” In the article, Hasman described the property as “a stunning 8,000 square-foot stone mansion on 3 plus acres of land with over 1,500 feet of waterfront.” He went on, “It’s the only property in greater Vancouver that I am aware of that has its own private helicopter pad.”

Hasman decided to incorporate the helicopter pad into his sales strategy. “Using his marketing prowess, he planned an exclusive preview event so extravagant most would never forget,” the magazine reads. “He then invited the city’s top 25 Asian realtors and instructed them to bring their buyers.” He sent limousines to pick up the event’s guests. Hasman put a black helicopter in the driveway next to a Rolls-Royce convertible and a white Lamborghini. “We actually took at least 20 potential buyers out in the helicopter to show the property from the sky,” Hasman recalled.

The magazine reported that “over 80 high profile buyers attended the extravagant party,” which included seafood and B.C. wines. One of the party’s guests decided to buy the $10-million property that night. “I sell dreams to people. I explain that the opportunity to enjoy life comes once. You live once, you’re healthy, you’re lucky and smart enough that you have achieved wealth. Enjoy it while you can. That’s the way you sell high-end luxury real estate,” he said. That year he says he did $200 million in sales and 90 per cent of his luxury home sales were “to Chinese buyers.”

Exclusive Magazine attributes some of this success to Hasman’s personality. “Meet Malcolm once and you will see that he’s charming, engaging and down right captivating, traits that have helped him stay on top of his profession,” reads another issue from 2012. “[His] charismatic personality exudes a tremendous warmth and sophistication.”

The pages of Exclusive are filled with advertisements for luxury brands that most average-earning people could never afford. They include vehicle makers like Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari. One ad is for a $395,000 wristwatch from Maitres du Temps. Another is for an Audemars Piguet watch that costs $1.3 million. Hasman said “the magazine is distributed to a well targeted client list throughout the city. Most of the luxury brands advertising in the magazine offer it to their exclusive clients who then have the opportunity to see my magnificent luxury properties.”

Hasman in turn organizes parties in Vancouver promoting these brands. These events, Exclusive explained, are “dripping with extravagance and luxury.” In May 2012, Hasman co-hosted an event at a private hanger in Vancouver’s International airport. The event promoted several brands at once. There was Aurora Jet Partners, which specializes in private jet ownership, a new Rolls-Royce Ghost that typically sells for close to $300,000, and a $400,000 Fazioli piano from Italy. “I am trying to organize five exclusive events a year for my VIP clients to enjoy,” Hasman said.

For the next few years Hasman was indisputably living the high life. He boasted about “having had the pleasure to own three Ferraris in the past.” His magazine covered stories such as “How to sell a $22 million luxury mansion in West Vancouver.” His VIP parties served glass after glass of “lovely French Veuve Cliquot Champagne.”

But there were clear signs that all was not well in Vancouver. And soon not even Hasman could ignore them. The average detached home price in Vancouver had grown by more than $420,000 over the previous year. The number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver was reaching record highs. After denying that offshore owners have any influence on Vancouver home prices, the BC Liberal government led by Christy Clark passed a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers.

Hasman shared his thoughts on Vancouver’s escalating housing crisis in a 2016 issue of Exclusive magazine. “Well it’s a complex issue and unfortunately it’s now becoming a political issue with the blame being used for irresponsible political gain leading up to a provincial election,” he argued.

“Canadians invited the world to Vancouver in 2010 and government incentives invited wealthy families to bring their money to Vancouver. Together with our discounted Canadian dollar and record low interest rates the result is an out of control real estate market.”

Hasman did not believe that bringing in “additional taxes” on the international buyers that he sells to would make housing more affordable. He argued the best solution was to let developers build more housing supply. “Too many buyers and not enough product,” he said. “Eventually the market will find its own balance.”

The same interview included a rare acknowledgement from Hasman in Exclusive that not all Vancouverites enjoy the same lavish lifestyle that he and his wealthy clients do. “We still have children living below the poverty line in East Vancouver and going to school hungry,” said Hasman, who has made a family endowment of close to $2 million to the BC Children’s Hospital and given money “to one of the poorest elementary schools in the city.” He went on, “Only a few miles away you have teenagers driving to expensive private schools in Ferraris and Lamborghinis.”

A few pages after Hasman’s comments about children living in poverty, Exclusive shared the details of a party he’d co-hosted at the “iconic glass Ferrari showroom in Vancouver.” Hasman described the party as “a perfect fit for my most exclusive VIP clients… The cars are both simply stunning to look at and truly amazing to drive.”

In 2018, a group called Demographia concluded that Vancouver is the third least affordable city in the world. A report later that year from RBC found affordability across Greater Vancouver had reached a “crisis level.”

You’d never know it from reading Exclusive. The 2018 issue focused on high-end restaurant, clothing and watch store openings. At one party, guests arrived “to a truly spectacular display of Lamborghinis parked curbside and were greeted with a glass of chilled Moet and Chandon Champagne.” Hasman posed for a few photographs. He was beaming.  [Tyee]

Read more: Housing

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