When it comes to the neighborhoods of Montreal, Ami Reiss is more than an investor, property manager, real estate expert and entrepreneur: He’s also a major cheerleader, someone who believes in the future of the city and its people.
The founder of Reiss Management has a knack for discovering rare real estate opportunities, enhancing value and creating sought-after living spaces in Montreal’s best neighborhoods. Born Amichai Reiss, he graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in business and psychology, and soon became a key player at Divco, one of the biggest construction companies in Quebec.
Working at its Vista division, he became the right-hand man to the company’s founder and chairman, and was entrusted with such major roles as property manager for the Palais des Congres, the iconic commercial complex at the heart of the city.
By 2016 he had established Reiss Management, and quickly accumulated a large multi-residential portfolio that continues to grow steadily under his direction. At the same time, he rose to prominence in the Montreal philanthropic world, with the creation of the Ami Reiss Charitable Foundation, which is a lifeline for many essential charities in the province, including schools, synagogues, medical organizations, food banks and special needs charities.
Q: Like many cities across North America, Montreal has experienced a rapid escalation in property values, but the pace has been moderate in comparison with some other markets. How has this played out for investors?
Ami Reiss: Yes, it’s true that Montreal is still more affordable than living in the GTA or Vancouver. That’s actually a good thing, not just from my perspective as an investor but also as a long-time resident who cares about the people of Montreal and the quality of life they enjoy. When real estate trends get out of control, a city can easily gentrify itself into an anodyne and frankly boring place. You need diverse communities to be an exciting city; you need a population that is drawn from a wide array of economic and demographic groups — and in the case of Montreal, drawn from cultures and countries around the world.
When you arrive at a point where only the super-rich can afford to buy or rent, what you’re left with is streets lined with wine bars, high-end retail, and frankly a lot of pretentiousness everywhere you turn. And the truth is that when only wealthy people can live in your city, you will also grow a large underclass that includes the homeless and people mired in the desperation of poverty. We don’t want that model for Montreal. Here, we are all in it together, and we enjoy our city as a community.
Q: What are some of the most affordable places to live in Montreal?
Ami Reiss: The most recent data pegs average rent for an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in Montreal at $1,573, up from $1,414 in 2021. Breaking that down, St-Henri is the most expensive neighborhood in the metropolitan area, with average one-bedrooms priced at $1,834. This is well below the GTA’s monthly average, which stands at north of $2,000. Downtown and Westmount are now the second- and third-most expensive neighborhoods for Montreal renters. The Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood records the lowest rents, with $1,332 per month for one-bedrooms. Other bargain areas include Oshlag, Notre-Dame-de-Grace and Villeray-Parc-Extension.
Q: What about the market for new and existing homes? Do you see some stability replacing the volatile pandemic and post-pandemic real estate market?
Ami Reiss: Well, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. Home prices are softening, but at the same time higher interest rates are making mortgages more expensive. This is not simply a Montreal, Quebec, or even Canadian phenomenon. The result of this is that a third of all Canadians now believe they will never be able to buy a home, according to a recent survey by a real estate professionals trade group. Despite this, 80 percent of Canadians say that owning a home is a wise long-term investment; so the demand is there, the dream endures.
Q: And yet, you seem to be a perpetual optimist when it comes to Montreal real estate.
Ami Reiss: Yes, who could not be, at least when you take the long view? With housing prices, for example, the dip in home values has been a negative for many investors, but an opportunity for others. It’s always important to keep your eyes on the prize, and that means looking far over the horizon. The history of Canadian home values is instructive here. Over the past 20 years Canadian housing prices have increased by an amazing 375 percent. In the end, that’s really the story of Montreal and its real estate market, where trends almost always point skyward, to the future.