Category Archives: Toronto living

A potential way to end Toronto bidding wars

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New home buyer Marko Sijakovic and his fiancée had to contend with months of looking and 10 bidding wars before they were finally able to purchase their first home.

Adding to the stress of a record-breaking market was the fact that Sijakovic didn’t how many other buyers he was up against, or how much they were bidding.

“You don’t know who you’re going against you don’t know how many there are. It’s a really grey area of what’s really happening,” he said. “Sometimes I felt like I was negotiating with myself instead of a counter party.”

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That is the case in much of Canada, where information on other bidders or a home’s history is not revealed by realtors. Today, Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa admitted to CityNews that there is a transparency problem.

“Buyers are frustrated every time they get into these bidding wars. We recognize more and more are happening not just in Toronto but it’s expanding beyond Toronto and the GTA,” he said.

He revealed it’s an issue he’s going to bring to the table when he meets with Mayor John Tory and federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

However, there is a way for buyers to get a little more transparency about who else is interested in their potential dream home. In July 2015, the Real Estate Council of Ontario introduced Form 801 – giving buyers the power to request documents with the names of other potential buyers and their agents. However, exactly how much people are bidding is still top secret for potential buyers.

In other jurisdictions, more transparency is the norm. In Australia, home bidding auctions take place on the property’s front door. All interested parties come face to face and go head to head.

Buyers there can also obtain home inspection results, sale-price histories and information on recent sales of comparable and neighbouring homes — without going to an agent to get the information.

In Nova Scotia, people in the market for a new home have access to a house’s history and information about properties in the neighbourhood. And over the border in Buffalo, every time a house changes hands, the old and new owners and the selling price are listed in the local paper.

Sijakovic says that he would have welcomed information like that when he was looking for a home

“In any real market the transparency needs to be there. It doesn’t matter what you’re going to buy,” he says.

Getting the Ontario market to make the change to public bids may make sense for buyers, but real estate experts say not everyone would embrace the change.

“It’s a different way of thinking, and getting the market to adopt that is going to be an uphill battle,” says MoneySense senior editor Mark Brown. He adds that more transparency wouldn’t be much help in cases where there’s only one offer on a house, or when a home is in a highly coveted neighborhood.

Realtor David Batori says when you’re on the other side of the bid, it’s better not to reveal information. Greater transparency for bidders may mean sellers don’t get the generous offers they’re hoping for.

When it comes to concerns about phantom offers, Batori believes it’s a thing of the past. But even realtors can never be sure.

“Sometimes you have a feeling,” says. “But I can never say for sure because you just don’t know.”

Source: 680 News – by NEWS STAFF Posted Apr 6, 2017

 

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Observers air concerns about unrelenting price appreciation in Toronto

Observers air concerns about unrelenting price appreciation in Toronto

By all accounts, the Toronto market’s exceptional performance remains the main contributor of strength to the national housing sector, but a local real estate professional is more cautious of where these continuous increases in demand and home prices will lead to.

A noteworthy example of this outsized growth is a three-bedroom semi-detached home on Palmerston Ave., which got listed on the market for $1.375 million earlier this week. The property was purchased in December 2014 for just $851,750—fully over half a million dollars less than its current price, and representing a sharp 62 per cent appreciation in just 2 short years.

Realosophy president and broker John Pasalis noted that the listed value of the Palmerston home would have purchased a larger and more spacious house as recently as last summer.

“If this is getting $1.4 million what does that mean for anyone who wants to buy in this neighbourhood?” Pasalis mused in a Toronto Star report. “When you see appreciations of 30 per cent a year it generally doesn’t end well. That’s a concerning thing.”

And at the rate it’s going, Toronto’s price growth might not grind to a halt in the foreseeable future.

“My instinct is that Toronto’s going to keep going like this until there’s some outside policy decision,” Pasalis stated.

One policy intervention that has proven effective in another hot market was the 15 per cent tax slapped by the B.C. government on foreign buyers in mid-2016. Since then, Vancouver price growth has seen a significant cooling down from its prior rate of over 20 per cent a year.

However, such a measure in Ontario would only have a limited impact at present, considering that less than 10 per cent of real estate investors in Toronto are foreign nationals.

“The numbers are still in the mid single-digits from what we can tell. The foreign demand we have is more from immigration, people that are choosing to raise their families in Toronto,” Re/MAX Hallmark Realty managing partner Gurinder Sandhu said.

“There’s political certainty, there’s economic certainty and, when you look at all the uncertainty around the world, all of a sudden Toronto becomes that much more in demand.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews – by Ephraim Vecina | 20 Jan 2017
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The myth about warming up your car on a cold day

Since modern cars have fuel-injection systems their engined don’t need to be warmed up. (Stefan Redel, sredel@sredel.de/iStockphoto / Getty Images)

The Stegosaurus disappeared more than 100 million years ago, doomed by its tiny brain and a changing world. Then we come to the carburetor, a crude fuel-mixing device that once ruled the automotive universe.

Today, the carburetor is largely extinct, kicked aside by the modern fuel-injection system. Yet millions of drivers still seem to be stuck in the Jurassic Period. I thought of this recently when I watched a man spend 10 minutes warming up a fuel-injected Toyota that could have been driven seconds after it was started.

Few processes are as poorly understood as the cold-weather start. Back in the days of carburetion, a car couldn’t be driven until it was warmed up. Today, warming-up is a counterproductive exercise that wastes fuel, harms the environment and damages your car. Let’s have a look at the science, history and flawed folklore behind the automotive warm-up:

Virtually every car on the market today is equipped with a fuel-injection system that adjusts gasoline delivery based on temperature, throttle setting and engine load – because of this, your car can be driven almost immediately, even at low temperatures.

Even in extremely low temperatures, most fuel-injected cars can be driven away less than 30 seconds after start-up. The best way to warm an engine is to drive away as soon as possible and keep the load low until it reaches ideal operating temperature. Accelerate gently and use small throttle openings. Driving loads the engine and warms it more quickly than extended idling.

Engines are most efficient when they operate in their optimum temperature range. Running an engine when it’s cold causes increased emissions and engine wear. The goal is to get the engine into its preferred temperature range quickly.

Using a block heater can dramatically reduce the wear on your engine by improving oil flow on initial start-up. According to tests by Environment Canada, a block heater can improve overall fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent – you get zero miles per litre while idling and fuel economy is best at optimum engine temperature, so you should reach the target zone as quickly as possible. Environment Canada tests also showed that warming up an engine with extended idling leads to sharply increased emissions.

Although driving away as soon as possible is optimum, you may be limited by visibility requirements – the defroster system in your car won’t work until the engine generates enough heat. This can be offset by the use of a plug-in interior heater. Some manufacturers offer windshields with embedded heating elements, which speed defrosting.

The science and engineering that govern engine performance are relatively simple. Metal parts expand and contract with temperature and are designed to work best within a specific range. The efficiency of fuel combustion also varies with temperature – a cold engine burns extra fuel.

The catalytic converter unit installed in your car’s exhaust system is less efficient when it’s cold. This is another reason why short warm-up times reduce emissions.

Many drivers base their warm-up practices on outmoded technology and outdated thinking. When cars had carburetors, engine warm-up was essential – trying to drive a carbureted car when it was cold was like waking up a temperamental senior citizen from a deep sleep. Modern fuel injection systems automatically adjust themselves to deliver the correct amount of fuel, and are ready to go almost immediately.

Extended-idle warm-ups were once encouraged due to lubrication technology. Old-school oils didn’t work well in low temperatures. Modern synthetic oils can flow well at temperatures as low as – 40 C.

Use remote starters wisely. Many drivers start their engines far ahead of time so their car will be toasty warm when they get in. This extended idle has a high cost. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (a division of the U.S. Department of Energy), excessive idling shortens the life of your exhaust system and spark plugs because a cold engine creates more damaging combustion byproducts than a warm engine. Carbon and soot buildup also reduces the effective lifespan of engine oil.

Source:  PETER CHENEY The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 5:00AM EST

 Read more questions and answers from Peter Cheney and Globe Drive here

Since modern cars have fuel-injection systems their engined don’t need to be warmed up. (Stefan Redel, sredel@sredel.de/iStockphoto / Getty Images)

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These figures suggest just how much immigration drives Canadian housing demand

canadian-housing-immigration

Canadian immigration is set to reach its highest annual rate in a century this year as at least 300,000 newcomers are expected, a fact Scotiabank says is a tailwind for Canada’s housing market.

While those new to Canada don’t generally make the leap into homeownership right away, notes Scotiabank Economist Adrienne Warner, sooner or later most do.

“New immigrants typically first choose rental accommodations, but eventually have homeownership rates similar to Canadian-born residents,” Warren explains in the bank’s latest Global Real Estate Trends Report.

The Canadian homeownership rate was 69 per cent in 2011, the most recent year Statistics Canada provides this census data for.

Canada’s hottest major housing market is also the country’s leading migrant destination, according to the Conference Board of Canada, a non-for-profit research organization.

Nearly a third of those 300,000 expected to settle in Canada are Toronto bound, notes Alan Arcand, the associate director of the board’s Centre for Municipal Studies.

“Toronto is the main… destination for immigrants in Canada and immigrants are the biggest driver of population growth today in Canada,” says Arcand.

“It’s important to realize that Toronto adds about 90,000 people a year to its population. So the whole CMA (census metro area) of Toronto grows by a city every year, a mid-size major city,” he continues, adding, “All those people coming need places to live, so that drives the housing market.”

This is why the Conference Board forecasts housing starts (a measure of how many units construction begins on in a given period) will waver between around 38,000 to 41,000 through the 2016-2020 period. Arcand says this is around the 10-year average.

Population age demographics also fosters housing demand, says Scotiabank’s Warren.

“The number of Canadians in their prime homebuying years is projected to continue to grow through the end of the decade, though at a slower pace than in recent years,” she explains.

Source: BuzzBuzzNewscanada – 

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Luxury Living: Not all condo buildings are towers. Meet four mid-rises in mid-town

200 Russell Hill Road is one of the most luxurious condos in Toronto at the moment.

Boutique buildings, especially the luxurious sort, have many advantages over towers: elegant finishes, short waits at the elevator, fewer chance encounters in the hallway and a scale that tastefully tucks into a neighbourhood. Quality control, after all, is inherently more manageable in a mid-rise, where each suite can be coddled and treated as the individual it is, without competing with 699 other units. And so we present a quartet of exceptional small buildings in mid-town Toronto to call home, all within 15 minutes of each other.

200 Russell Hill

Step into the marble-loaded model suite for 200 Russell Hill (200russellhill.com) and your eye shoots up 20 feet to a lacy swirl embedded in the domed ceiling. Which way to go next?

Left to the black kitchen or right to the black kitchen. There are two in the same hue, one contemporary, one traditional, and they’re both glossy and glamorous.

But it would be a shame to bypass the miniature model that sits squarely under said rotunda. It showcases countless trees the size of broccoli florets as a reminder of the forest and the park that makes this site so appealing. If you peer closely at the model, you’ll also notice the front and the back of Rafael + Bigauskas Architects’ design doesn’t match.

“We’ve designed the building with a beautiful, traditional, limestone front, which transforms into a contemporary, minimalist facade around the back,” says Simon Hirsh of Hirsh Development Group of the units that run from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet and are priced from $3.2 million to $11.9 million.

Hirsh Development Group

 

Hirsh Development GroupInterior designer Lori Morris’s model suite shows prospective buyers what they can do.

There’s a reason for the hybrid, Hirsh says. Once the five-storey mid-rise is complete in the fall of 2018, it will complement the sylvan setting. “As you walk along the ravine trail up through the park, you look through the trees where you will see a black, understated building,” he says. The refined design means the trees will eclipse 200 Russell Hill instead of the other way around.

Hirsh stresses the units themselves should be considered as “22 custom homes” given the attention to detail. The enthralling model showcases interior designer Lori Morris’ obvious love of layered and eclectic spaces.

The designer’s signature sass continues indoors, where a gutsy mix of materials prevails: there’s leather on the library walls and kitchen cabinets with raised Rococo detailing as well as gold striping. Buyers needn’t copy the look, Hirsh says. Go Scandinavian with pale woods if you want. And buyers are free to introduce whatever custom finishes they choose without incurring extra costs. Morris says doing this kind of specialty work would be quite different on a tower. “In a smaller building, you can get more intimate, both with what the client wants and you’re able to do more finesse details.”

346 Davenport

 

Freed Developments

Freed Developments 346 Davenport features open-concept suites with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Driving south 10 minutes to the Casa Loma district leads to 346 Davenport Road (346davenport.com). The site is where the mid-rise condo is debuting in 2019 from developer Peter Freed of Freed Developments.

Homes from 1,000 sq. ft. to 4,400 sq. ft. start in the $800,000s and can be combined for true largesse. RAW Design’s vision for the 35-unit building sees a striking marble-like material cascading down the front, as well as vertical landscaped green elements. Acclaimed firm Burdifilek will design the interior and common spaces.

The area is close to the developer’s heart. “I love this neighbourhood. It’s such a core part of our city,” Freed says. “My parents live in the building next door, so it’s been an intimate part of my life.” The luxury market could use a boost, he continues. “The user market with larger units is under-served in the city. Over the past decade, most of the larger projects offer 300 to 700 units; most of which are very small units, which cater more towards rental markets.”

This project promises to pamper the private dweller. “Units are open-concept with very high-end finishes, it’s going to be really stunning,” Freed says of the building that boasts expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies big enough to lounge in.

The Davies

 

Brandy Lane Homes

Brandy Lane Homes A view into a suite at the Davies from the elevator.

Drive 10 minutes east to Summerhill to take in The Davies by Brandy Lane Homes (thedavies.com). The nine-storey, 36-suite condominium overlooks Robertson Davies Park, and has a move-in date of Fall 2018. Suites sized from 1,105 sq. ft. to 2,900 sq. ft start from just over $1 million in a curved building that feels very art deco.

“Right-sizing is big here,” says David Hirsh, president of Brandy Lane Homes of the design by SMV Architects. “We started with 44 suites (36 regular and eight penthouses) and now we have 11 penthouses and 25 suites. One custom suite is 3,000 sq. ft., which is perfect for the empty-nester who wants room to spread out.” Hirsh also recently added a guest suite to the main floor, which is unusual for a building of this size and is a definite bonus for those hosting overnighters.

“We wanted to build an iconic building that completed the existing established neighbourhood,” Hirsh says.

 

Brandy Lane Homes

Brandy Lane Homes The Davies overlooks Robertson Davies Park on Avenue Road.

It took a while to get the project going on Avenue Road just north of Dupont, says Hirsh, noting the effort was well worth it. The response from the public has been great and Brandy Lane has already made modifications to the original design to meet buyer demands. “The design development was extensive and took more time that conventional projects,” he notes.

Crowning the project, a spectacular rooftop terrace means those decamping from a house won’t miss their backyards. This one features private areas where you can catch some rays with a book and communal couches for chatting over drinks.

The Hill and Dale

Old Stonehenge Development / Clifton Blake

 

Old Stonehenge Development / Clifton Blake The view down Yonge Street from one of the Hill and Dale terraces.

Ten minutes east leads to Hill and Dale (hillanddaleresidences.com), a heavily glassed building with street-level shops and office space at the corner of Yonge and Roxborough. Designed by the architectural firm Studio JCI with interiors by Chapi Chapo for Old Stonehenge Development with Clifton Blake, the 17 custom-crafted residences start at $2,195,000 for over 1,500 sq. ft and can be combined up to 6,000 sq. ft. There are only five units left; occupancy is slated for 2018.

Suites grace the top three floors of the building and are for the design-savvy: Those who gravitate to graceful opulence over loud lavishness will love, for instance, kitchens by bulthaup, the architect’s go-to.

“These aren’t flashy, which isn’t our interest,” says Paul Johnston, a salesperson with Right at Home Realty. “Our buyers really care about finishes, which is why we’ve gone to the extreme of using bulthaup.”

Old Stonehenge Development / Clifton Blake

 

Old Stonehenge Development / Clifton Blake Suites will have floor-to-ceiling views over low-rise residential neighbourhoods and the their tree canopies.

He adds, “The building has such a refined level of construction we’re allowing 10 months just for the finish of the individual suites.”
Life in a boutique building is wonderful for the luxury buyer, Johnston adds. “There’s something in the idea of luxury that has to do with scale and privacy that the highrise business can’t aspire to.”

So for those who aren’t interested in dawdling by an elevator in a tower or “renovating a creaky Victorian,” as Johnston puts it, a luxurious mid-rise suite in a distinguished neighbourhood is a very wise move indeed. But better get in quick — there aren’t many of them around.

 

Source: Iris Benaroia, Special to National Post | November 17, 2016 3:18 PM ET

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In Toronto’s hot real estate market, everyone wants to be an agent

Broker Jeffrey Joseph (Mark Blinch For the Globe and Mail)

Not long ago, real estate broker Jeffrey Joseph was having lunch with a friend at an elegant downtown hotel. The server must have overhead parts of the conversation, Mr. Joseph says, because as he was wrapping up the bill, she sought his advice on becoming a real estate agent.

Soon after that encounter, Mr. Joseph handed his business card to a tow truck driver who was towing one of the family cars to a garage for repair. The driver was also planning a move into real estate.

“Real estate is on the lips of everyone more than any other subject at every social gathering,” Mr. Joseph says, so he’s never surprised when people raise the subject. And while he’s happy to provide some guidance after working in the industry since 1968, he is sometimes amazed at how many people are segueing into the business.

With the Toronto Real Estate Board predicting that the Greater Toronto Area will tally a record 100,000 transactions this year, and with the average deal approaching $600,000, the busiest agents are undoubtedly able to afford to keep the shine on their luxury SUVs.

That’s one reason the number of agents has also soared to a record in Toronto – with more than 42,000 licensed at last count, according to TREB.

In the 416, where the average detached house changes hands at above $1-million, a 5-per-cent commission sits at $50,000.

As house prices soar, so too does the number of buyers and sellers complaining about the cut that goes to agents. There are endless tales of houses that sell with hordes of competing offers in a week or less. Some agents have taken to Twitter to defend the commissions they make and to itemize the brokerage fees and other expenses that take a big chunk out of commissions.

John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Realty Inc., says there is sometimes a perception among consumers that agents are making easy money.

“I think that’s everyone’s fantasy – I’m going to go into real estate and double-end a sale of a million dollar house,” he says of deals where the agent represents the buyer and the seller. Typically, commissions are split between the two sides.

But those transactions are very rare, he says. Instead, agents with long-established businesses are vying for each listing. People see the business booming, he adds, but in fact it’s more difficult these days to make a living because the competition is so much more intense and consumers have so many options. They’re also very knowledgeable. “It’s brutally hard. You’re competing with four to five people. It’s a harder life than I think most people think.”

While most agents starting out rely on their family and friends for those first listings, that strategy doesn’t take them very far. “Most of my friends probably know two or three other agents.”

Mr. Pasalis points out that roughly 57 per cent of TREB realtors sell three or fewer houses a year. A sale price of $550,000 produces an average commission for the buying and selling agents of $13,750 each.

Agents recording six sales a year might make $82,500 before expenses, which can lower their gross income to between $60,000 and $75,000.

Mr. Pasalis says about one-third of registered agents don’t sell anything, while those who become wealthy are usually in the top 1 or 2 per cent.

Those with marquee names likely spend $10,000 a month on billboards, along with photographers, stagers, brochures and even vases of fresh-cut flowers. “Their overhead is big.”

Mr. Pasalis’s firm typically offers a commission of 4 per cent instead of 5 per cent, so clients don’t haggle, he says; agents who charge 5 per cent will sometimes shave a small amount off of their rates to win business, he adds. The agents charging full freight are often paying for staging as part of their fee, he points out, so their expenses are higher.

Mr. Pasalis will pay for a consultation with a stager but not all of the expenses of sprucing a place up.

He adds that agents who stay in the business for the long haul have to expand their networks through referrals and lengthy presentations to potential new clients. “People underestimate the sales side of it.”

Mr. Joseph says he was selling cars on the showroom floor for his father at the age of 17. He learned the importance of making connections with people and staying in touch. “Some people don’t like to make phone calls to people they don’t know. They have to get over that.”

But Mr. Joseph says putting clients into houses and condos is a very different process from selling cars and other merchandise. “Because every house is one of a kind, it has to sell itself. We sell the value.”

If the house doesn’t feel right to a buyer, he says, you have to find one that does. The expertise comes from understanding the client and what trade-offs they might be willing to accept for the price. “They have to want to buy it. We can’t sell it to them.”

Mr. Joseph, who specializes in neighbourhoods from Bloor Street to Highway 401, says trying to estimate how much any agent makes from the business is difficult because there are so many variables. Typically, the higher the price range they work in, the fewer transactions they will do.

Some agents post eye-popping sales tallies on their websites but often those agents have a team of up to 10 or 15 people pooling their listings. Those new to the business will join a team for the brand recognition of a star agent and the veteran’s sales numbers will be boosted.

David Fleming, an agent with Bosley Real Estate Ltd., says some people are attracted to the business because they have a genuine passion, but others have poured in as real estate has been glorified by television. Barriers to entry are low, he adds.

He says statistics from a data analysis company show that, of 42,825 agents, 41 per cent – or 17,536 – record zero or one transaction in a year.

“At the end of the day, just because you have a business card with your name on it, doesn’t mean you’re in the business. You actually have to sell something.”

Mr. Fleming says he routinely works 75 hours a week but he does encounter part-time agents who seem to think that they can work six or eight hours a week. In his Toronto Realty blog, he cites one example where he submitted a low-ball offer on behalf of a buyer as a way to launch negotiations. The seller’s agent never answered his phone before 5 p.m. so Mr. Fleming suspected he also had a day job. Still, he was shocked when the agent agreed to the deal without pushing to see if more money was on the table. “They’re very easy for me as an experienced agent to take advantage of.”

While some properties sell quickly with multiple offers, many do not. This week, he was on day seven of a negotiation in which he represents the seller. His strategy is to stay cool and wait out the buyer’s agent.

“I know that the only way to get the best price for my seller is with the long game. Every time they call me instead of my calling them, I know I’ve got a little more leverage. If it takes two weeks, I’m on board for that.”

Source: CAROLYN IRELAND The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Nov. 05, 2015 8:00AM

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