A tour through GTA opens eyes of foreign friends

Members of BILD frequently visit the United States and foreign cities on housing study tours and, occasionally, we are asked to play host to foreign delegations, the most recent being from Swedish builder Aroseken.


BILD is the Building Industry and Land Development Association. Located in Toronto, it is the voice of the residential land development, home-building and professional renovation industry in the Greater Toronto Area.


The Swedish builder we hosted recently is a trust founded 50 years ago by the city of Vasteras (population of 130,000), two industrial groups and the savings bank of Vasteras, hence the presence of Vasteras Mayor Elizabeth Unell as part of the delegation.


With the great co-operation of Patrick O’Hanlon and Helen Prucha of Kylemore Homes, and Brad Carr and Frank Garcea of Monarch Homes, we were able to showcase several communities, model homes and homes under construction.

“We have had the benefit of having some great co-operation and hospitality on our housing study tours to other cities and I was more than happy to try and provide the same experience for these visitors,” said BILD CEO Stephen Dupuis.

The study began in Aurora, which just happens to be twinned with Leksand, Sweden. Standing outside the model homes at Kylemore’s Bayview Hunt Club, the obvious differences between the GTA and Sweden became quickly apparent as they commented on the small lot sizes and the larger house size and lot coverage of our single-detached homes.

Inside, some of the things we take for granted, such as having a microwave combined with an exhaust fan in the kitchen caught the attention of the Swedes.

Walking about the homes under construction, the differences were far fewer, although the Swedes had not seen the gypsum backboard used for stucco applications (thanks to “Frenchy” the carpenter for Kylemore for explaining that detail).

The Swedish group seemed to be most interested in the scale of some of our developments and what was driving the market in the Greater Toronto Area. While touring Monarch’s Heritage community in Markham, they were quite interested to understand who was buying the homes and how common the sizes were across the city. In comparison to what they would see in their city, many of them thought they were million-dollar homes, versus $525,000 to $630,000 on the Monarch price list.

Following a drive-through of the Cathedraltown community and the Angus Glen community, the tour ended with style and class in Kylemore’s stunning Dudley model home in Angus Glen’s West Village.

“While the Swedes came to see mid-market housing, we thought we’d wow them with this final model home,” said BILD manager of communications Cynthia Malagerio. “As they toured through the rooms and admired the style and attention to detail, it became clear that they could not think of mainstream comparisons in Vasteras.”

Overall, our tour allowed for an international audience to appreciate the communities and homes we create in the Greater Toronto Area. As with BILD’s tours to other cities, the Swedes left with lots of inspiration and, no doubt, a few good ideas in their back pocket.

During our drive between sites, the conversation naturally turned to that ultimate equalizer — hockey talk. Our Swedish visitors proudly rhymed off every Swedish player, past and present, by team, in the NHL, reserving their utmost reverence for Borje Salming and, of course, Leafs captain Mats Sundin.

As we parted ways, we asked what their evening plans were. They were going to the Leafs home opener against Ottawa, captained by Swede Daniel Alfredsson. Looking at their tickets it was apropos that the Leafs image on the ticket face was that of Sundin, who picked up two assists on the evening. As for who won the game ... let’s just say I am sure our Swedish guests enjoyed themselves either way.