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Q&A With Richard Vilner: CBRE's National Research Platform Just Got A Big Boost

Richard Vilner has been hired by CBRE as managing director of research for Central Canada. He tells us what drew him to the firm and how he plans to grow its national research platform.


Bisnow: You joined CBRE after seven years at RealNet Canada overseeing CRE research. Why the move? 

Richard Vilner: This industry is quickly changing, and our country is being influenced by both domestic and foreign factors, and I came to CBRE to be part of a global firm. But most importantly, CBRE has a truly national research platform; we have operations from coast to coast and experts on the ground in each major market, many producing local research respecting these various regions. Few firms can match that scope, which is very appealing. I’d worked with CBRE very closely in my seven years at RealNet, and became very familiar with their people, their processes and systems. So this was an easy choice for me. 

Bisnow: What's your mission at CBRE?

Richard: My mandate is to keep this firm at the forefront of the commercial real estate business in Canada—Central Canada in particular. My area of focus is investment and development transactions. And while we’re already leaders in that segment, I want to take it to the next level. I think my insights and expertise on the land and development side of the real estate investment market, particularly in the GTA, will benefit all aspects of the CBRE operation, from the investment side of this business to the leasing side. 

I’ll be producing data for CBRE’s people to take advantage of internally—research and insights that'll help to make this company more relevant in this market, if that’s even possible. We’ll be launching products that have worked in our other global markets; bringing those to Canada for the first time. And we’re working on a thought leadership series examining how global issues are impacting the real estate investment market and how this affects all sectors of Canadian CRE.


Richard’s tracked and analyzed every big Toronto deal over the past decade, like the 2012 sale of Scotia Plaza for $1.3B, the most ever paid for a single asset in Canadian history.

Bisnow: You’re a regular at industry events and a valuable source of insights for the lending industry on real estate fundamentals and trends. How did you become this guy? 

Richard: I moved to Toronto (from Montreal, in 2005) and ever since I’ve been focused on Canadian real estate. The foundation of my expertise was real estate finance and risk management for both commercial real estate and residential real estate lenders from coast to coast.

From there I came upon a company called RealNet, where over seven years I helped to build a company that became the industry-leading research platform for major institutions, including CBRE. I really built up my knowledge and expertise on the investment side of the business at RealNet, where I managed all asset classes for the Ontario region and then ultimately Eastern Canada, which resulted through the acquisition of RealNet by Altus in 2014. 


Above is Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, a poster child for intensification, a trend Richard says is fundamentally changing the GTA.

Bisnow: What lies ahead for Toronto real estate?  

Richard: 2016 is a critical year because the province’s land policies are currently being reviewed, and that will directly impact the intensification of this market. We’re still in the early stages of the ballgame in terms of intensification of the GTA, and it’s changing this market from every end and asset class, and influencing the values behind everything. Mixed-use is the name of the game; we’re seeing that in the north GTA where other downtowns are springing up (like Vaughan Metropolitan Centre).

Bisnow: How about from an investment point of view? 

Richard: I don’t think we’ve reached anything near the ceiling in terms of valuations in this market. Toronto and Vancouver are attractive markets both domestically and to foreign investors, and I think this is what will have the greatest impact on what happens in those two markets.

What you should know about Richard Vilner


Born/raised: Montreal, moved to Toronto in 2005

Education: BA, Concordia University; MA, University of Toronto, focused on computer science (and business), political science and risk management

First real job: Actuarial analyst at Aon (in Montreal), servicing global financial firms. It taught me two things: where countries like Suriname are, and the fact that white-collar crime used to be a lot dirtier than it is now.

Best advice you've received: The greatest risk in life is not taking any risks at all.

Place you'd most like to visit: South Africa, Turks and Caicos, Austin, Hong Kong…the list goes on.

Montreal beats Toronto when it comes to: Of course hockey (blue-blanc-rouge!)…but I support the Raptors, Jays and TFC, too.