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REALTORS SET UP BOUTIQUE-STYLE FIRM

The Ottawa Business Journal ­ By Christine Wong Four local realtors are betting that Ottawa's hot investment market will bring booming business to their new boutique-style firm.

The new company is called Primecorp. Its four partners, who insist on being called "principals," are well-known realtors who left jobs at area firms a month ago to launch Primecorp.

Principals Steve Lerner and Aik Aliferis were both top producers at the Regional Group. Sam Firestone is a former partner at Ventron Realty. Rounding out the foursome is Nick Pantieras, formerly of District Realty.

The new firm specializes in the sale of investment properties like office building, apartments and shopping centres. The company does no leasing activity except for retail properties. The recent flurry of investment activity in Ottawa's commercial realty scene made forming their own company too attractive for the foursome to resist.

"The investment trusts and the new vehicles developed through the stock market have created a new level of activity and confidence in the market," said Aliferis. "That, combined with low interest rates, has spearheaded a healthy market. Investors are seeing the type of returns they can get now."

This new confidence in the Ottawa market is illustrated by the recent sale of several local investment properties. Just last week, the financially beleaguered Talisman Hotel was purchased by the Royal Host real estate investment trust. Last month, Olympia & York Properties Corp. sold the Citadel Hotel to the Canadian Hotel Income Properties REIT for $20 million.

In the local office market, many REITS and pension funds are looking to purchase Class B and C buildings in Ottawa as prime candidates for retrofits, Aliferis said. Primecorp has been set up as a "boutique" real estate firm, a smaller company in which each realtor focuses on a particular specialty. Aliferis and Firestone will concentrate on multi-family apartment portfolios and large office investment properties. Lerner and Pantieras will focus on retail.

"We felt the opportunity for what we call a boutique operation in Ottawa. It would really be limited only to the four of us and be highly specialized in the areas we wanted to pursue," Lerner said.

Primecorp will focus predominantly on properties in the Ottawa area, plus most major cities in Ontario except Toronto "because there are already many other boutiques in that city," Lerner said.

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