Tag Archives: downtown Toronto

The History Of Toronto’s First Apartment Building

toronto first apartment

So many people live in apartments or condominiums in Toronto that it’s hard to imagine a time when renting a small portion of a larger building was a radical, even a shockingly salacious way of life.

Amazingly, before 1899, there were no purpose-built apartment buildings in the city at all, making Toronto something of an anomaly in North America.

Sure, people rented rooms or floors of sub-divided homes (The Ward, a notorious slum that used to be located near current City Hall, was densely populated much earlier), but nothing had been constructed specifically for that purpose.

The first building in Toronto purpose-built for multiple occupancy was the St. George Mansions at 1 Harbord Street, directly opposite where the looming brutalist mass of Robarts Library would later sit.

In 1905, the intersection was part of a relatively quiet and affluent neighbourhood west of the University of Toronto campus.

Dappled sunshine filtered through young trees and little Model T Fords lined the curb. It was a “a district of substantial detached villas,” according to Richard Dennis in a 1989 research paper.

Dennis discusses the St. George Mansions and the real estate market leading up to their construction in detail.

toronto first apartment

As Dennis recalls, the permit for the building’s construction, the first of its type in Toronto, was issued in 1899 to A. W. McDougald, the president of the Improved Realty Co. of Toronto Ltd. He estimated the building would cost his company about $100,000 – the equivalent of about $2 million in today’s money.

The six-storey pressed brick and Bedford stone building, roughly “C”-shaped with a partially enclosed courtyard, took about five years to complete. Many of its 34 apartments had access to balcony space, though some were decorative Juliet-style affairs with heavy stone balustrades.

In 1904, shortly after it was finished, it contained 34 apartments and was home to 99 people, most of them wealthy middle-aged couples. Three barristers, two professors, two bank managers, and a director of an insurance company appeared on the occupancy list at that time.

Toronto was slow compared to other North American cities to build its first apartment block. The living concept had already appeared in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and other nearby cities, and was established in the form of “apartment hotels” in Boston and New York City in the 1850s and 1860s.

Apartment hotels were typically marketed at single, city-dwelling businessmen. Buildings such as the New York’s Stuyvesant Flats, built in 1869, had “between six and ten rooms each” and were let for $1,200 to $1,800 per year, according to Dennis.

The buildings of this type often had a central restaurant, laundry, recreational facility, barber, and dentist—complete miniature communities for the residents that turned a handsome profit for the owners.

The living concept became less communal and exclusive in the later decades of the 1800s. Apartment buildings that were constructed around this time were private and self-contained and became accessible to middle class families.

toronto first apartment

The apartment building concept wasn’t without its detractors.

Observers fretted that apartment living was unsuitable for families, prompting one Milwaukee landlord to offer free rent for every child born or marriage proposed in his building. “It is a shortcut from the apartment house to the divorce court,” Dennis quotes the author of Housing Problems in America, written in 1917.

The St. George Mansions were targeted firmly at middle class occupants when they were finished in 1904. Economic evidence suggested middle income families were less likely to move and were more numerous than the upper class renters, making them the perfect market to tap.

Toronto’s rents spiked massively in the years the building was under construction – up to 95 per cent between 1897 and 1906 – in part due to a sudden uptick in immigration. There were more new arrivals than the number of new homes could accommodate, making apartment blocks and attractive idea for developers.

toronto first apartment

The second Toronto apartment building was completed a year after the St. George Mansions on University Avenue. The stone, brick, and steel Alexandra was a larger building: 72 suites across seven floors with panoramic views of the city from its penthouse windows.

Like the apartment hotels of New York, the property included a communal dining room and appealed to middle-class renters.

By 1907, Toronto had its first apartment building directory that included Sussex Court at 389 Huron St. and Spadina Gardens at 41-45 Spadina Road, both of which still exist.

The St. George Mansions and the Alexandra are both sadly gone. The former survived until after the Second World War when it was repurposed as Trinity Barracks, the Toronto home of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

One contemporary account described the building as “cockroach palace,” suggesting time wasn’t kind to Toronto’s first apartment complex.

Today, U of T’s Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories building, built in 1965, occupies its former lot.

Source: BlogTo.com

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How Forest Hill Real Estate’s focus on family is turning a local reputation into a regional brand

In 1985, when Ronni Fingold launched Forest Hill Real Estate in a tiny 450 square foot space in the heart of Toronto’s Forest Hill Village, she had no idea that her vision of a boutique luxury family run brokerage would quickly become a formidable force in the area’s real estate market and beyond.  Today, with 31 offices established across southern Ontario, the idea of family is still one of the key driving forces behind the day to day business and ongoing expansion of the company.

“Forest Hill was born around a kitchen table in my home,” Ronni says. “Surrounded by family and loved ones, we imagined a brokerage that would offer greater sophistication and service while always offering the personal touch

Ronni maintains that real estate is most often about family, and that it’s a sacred trust to help families find the right home while passing their well-loved property on to new owners.

“The business is also a family,” says Ronni. “It’s a place where friends and associates can work in a supportive nurturing atmosphere to achieve prosperity and success.” In addition, Ronni’s children and grandchildren have also built their own careers around Forest Hill Real Estate. They recognize the unique and thriving atmosphere that their grandmother has developed and take pride in contributing to this legacy.

In fact, Ronni’s daughter, Catherine Himelfarb Borden, is the Branch Manager of the Yorkville office. Catherine’s son, Rich Himelfarb is a successful realtor and her daughter, Rebecca, serves as both the corporate Head of Recruitment and the Director of Operations for Forest Hill Real Estate Yorkville.

Early on, Ronni welcomed partners, David and Elie Wagman, who were integral to taking the company to an even greater heights. As experts in the Forest Hill marketplace, they understood real estate and the clientele in the area intuitively. Today, they are still a dynamic force and their son, Jeffrey Wagman is the Broker of Record for the entire company continuing the tradition of engaging the strength and talent of family members in expanding the business further.

Forest Hill’s offices stretch from Oakville to Muskoka and smaller centres including Peterborough and Gilmour to the east. Each office is looking to hire new, qualified agents at the same time as the company is open to establishing new branches. But the expansion has never been driven by growth for growth’s sake.

“Unlike many brokerages, we award new offices according to an attractive well thought-out business plan,” says David Fingold, Ronni’s husband and the company’s president. “Our focus is on attracting people who have demonstrated success in the business and are qualified to run their own shop. We look at sales history, new office location, the knowledge and integrity of the agents associated with the business and the applicant’s trajectory for growth. You don’t purchase a Forest Hill office—you’re asked to join us by demonstrating merit.”

There are a multitude of benefits that come from establishing a Forest Hill Real Estate branch that David reviews with all aspiring Managing Partners.

Ronni Fingold notes that the made-in-Toronto Forest Hill brand has developed solid traction outside the city. “The words ‘Forest Hill’ are associated with quality wherever they’re used,” she says. “Our distinctive brand emblem and signage announce our presence in every market we enter.”

“We’re seeing a lot of new offices established by motivated and qualified brokers,” she says. “But we’re particularly proud when someone decides to switch an existing brokerage to the Forest Hill name. They’re trading their success for the promise of greater success.”

Randy Drohan of the Mississauga suburb of Streetsville exemplifies that transition. His family has planted deep roots in the area. Following a successful real estate career, he launched Drohan Real Estate in 2014—along with the support of his mother’s accounting acumen.

But Drohan didn’t want to relinquish control of the business he’d founded. At the same time, he realized that a successful real estate brokerage needs to do more than simply buy and sell real estate. It also needs to grow its brand.

“In Streetsville, Forest Hill was already a well-known brand, synonymous with luxury and prestige. In our discussions, Forest Hill offered me what I needed to grow the brand without asking me to give up the company.”

Drohan unfurled the Forest Hill banner in January 2018. A dozen employees, including seven agents, made the transition.

“Six months later we’ve doubled the size of the company to 24 employees,” he says. “The Forest Hill name has made it significantly easier for us to attract and hire the type of quality agents we need to achieve sustainable growth..”

Drohan says he is proud to have the Forest Hill name on the sign over his brokerage door.  “Our family has now become part of Forest Hill’s family.”

Forest Hill Real Estate is now the fastest growing luxury brand in the country with more than 900 active agents across Ontario and plenty of room to grow within the province. Ronni, her partners, her own family and her business family have developed a unique formula for marketing, promoting and selling real estate in Ontario’s exciting housing market and for this privilege, they are extremely grateful and proud.

 

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Forest Hill Real Estate

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Even New Yorkers Can’t Afford a Home in Toronto

 

There’s only a handful of cities in the world that make living in New York seem cheap for middle-income people, places like London, Sydney and Hong Kong. And then there’s Toronto, as 26-year-old JunJun Wu will tell you with a sigh.

After almost three years in New York she opted to move to Toronto for what she figured would be less-expensive housing.

“The apartments that I saw were so tiny, which was shocking,” she said. “Compared to my studio in New York, these were half the size.”

Prices have soared almost 60 percent in the last five years in Canada’s biggest city, and are up another 3 percent already this year. They’re not as high as Vancouver — one of the hottest real-estate markets anywhere — but among the world’s major cities, Toronto housing ranks as the fifth most unaffordable relative to income, according to consultant Demographia.

Severely Unaffordable

The world’s seven priciest housing markets relative to salary

Source: Demographia

Rankings are only for major markets with over 5 million residents. Price and pre-tax income are medians.

All that means is that a Canadian millennial, aged 25 to 31 with a median income of C$38,148 ($29,360), can’t buy very much housing in Toronto. Her maximum budget at that salary would be about C$193,661, according to Royal LePage. That calculation includes tougher lending rules, institutedthis year, that has reduced buyers’ purchasing power by almost 20 percent and cooled the market.

That’s probably not even enough money to purchase the garage of a detached home in the Toronto region, where the average price was C$1.05 million in May, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Rents are no better, having soared about 11 percent to an average monthly C$2,206 ($1,697) in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to researcher Urbanation. That’s if you can find a unit: the number of newly completed condos available dropped to 1,945 over that time frame, the lowest in more than eight years.

Angie Mosquera, a 23-year-old software developer, saw up to 30 different units in recent months but kept getting outbid.

“I was so frustrated by the whole process,” Mosquera said. “I was like screw this, I’m going to be 40 and living at home, and I don’t even want to live in Toronto anymore.”

She eventually found a tiny studio downtown for about C$1,620 per month, meeting her budget. Still, the rent eats up a huge chunk of her salary, which is especially frustrating because she moved to Toronto from Montreal for a 40 percent bump up in pay.

Penthouse Condo

Stephanie and Justin Wood

Source: Justin Wood

Even those with more resources find it tough. Three years ago, Justin Wood and his wife Stephanie bought a three-bedroom penthouse condo for about C$430,000. Its price surged by about C$181,000 and this year they decided to upgrade to a house, with a toddler in tow.

“We thought we were going to be rich and it was going to be amazing,” said Wood, 33, who is now chief executive officer of his own Toronto-based tech startup. “But then we were like ‘Oh wait, we have to buy something.’”

As living in Toronto proved to be too expensive, the Woods headed for the suburbs and ended up purchasing a three-bedroom detached house in neighboring Oakville with a pool for about C$800,000. Monthly mortgage payments are about C$3,400. The commute is around two hours.

After spending almost a month in Toronto looking at about 40 listings, JunJun Wu, a college-prep counselor originally from Montreal, finally found a studio to rent in downtown Toronto through an online listing. She’s relieved that she secured a lease but the experience has left her unnerved.

“Maybe I should’ve gone back to Montreal instead,” she said. “I’m thinking I’ll give myself maybe one or two years in this city to see.”

Source: 

 

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Real estate market uncertainty is forcing appraisers to take a second look

The potential for rapidly dropping prices in southern Ontario is forcing appraisers to have a second look at properties they have already assessed to see how much the market has shifted.

Claudio Polito, a Toronto appraiser and principal owner of Cross-town Appraisal Ltd., says lenders basing mortgage decisions on value, as opposed to income and credit history, are really trying to stay on top of a market that appears to be changing rapidly.

By his estimates, prices in the Greater Toronto Area have dropped anywhere from five per cent to 15 per cent over the last 30 days. The next set of statistics from the Toronto Real Estate Board are due out Monday and will mark the first full month of data since provincial changes to cool the market that included a tax on foreign buyers.

“Lenders I deal with they want to know if your property is still worth $1 million if they are loaning you say $650,000,” said Polito. “They don’t base it on anything else. We have to be precise because it’s not a bank, (smaller lenders) can’t afford to lose a dollar.”

 

It wouldn’t be the first time, appraisals have lagged purchases prices — a phenomenon that previously caught some Vancouver buyers by surprise when it was time to close.

A lower appraisal could increasingly be an issue for people with previous deals, not yet closed, in Toronto, especially when buyers are coming up with only the minimum 20 per cent down payment for a non-government backed loan.

If you buy a home for $1 million with $200,000 down, you need an $800,000 loan to close. But if your appraisal comes in at $900,000, your financial institution will only agree to a maximum $720,000 loan based on 80 per cent debt to 20 per cent equity. Those buyers are left searching for a second mortgage — at a higher rate — to get the extra $80,000 if they can find someone to loan them the money.

“We are seeing some people walk away from deals,” said Polito, because they can’t close — a move that comes with myriad problems if the sellers seek legal damages. “What we are seeing is properties sold in January and February, values are still there but if it sold in March, it is very hard to support the value.” Toronto prices rose 33 per cent in March from a year earlier.

 

Keith Lancastle, chief executive of the Appraisal Institute of Canada, said the warning for buyers is probably not to get into bidding wars if they don’t have a cushion to come up with a higher down payment. “I would expect it’s quite routine where the appraisals are being done and it’s coming in at lower than people hoped to see.”

He says the volume of sale in Toronto makes it easier to find comparable sales but the pace at which the market is changing makes it “tough to keep up” and that forces appraisers to look at some data and consider whether it’s an anomaly or part of trend.

A more difficult market to assess is one like Calgary, which has seen transactions drying up, making comparisons hard to find.

“The more valid data you have access to, the simpler the task of preparing the appraisal becomes,” said Lancastle. “When the Calgary market was slow, the lender would say we want sales that are within the last 90 days for comparable. If nothing has sold for comparable for 90 days, you ask the lender if they want to extend the time or the geographic window.”

Nicole Wells, vice-president of home equity financing at Royal Bank of Canada, said her institution is relatively conservative when it comes to appraisals to begin with — limiting the impact of a shifting market.

“Given how quickly prices rise, you really have to make sure you are adequately appraising the property,” said Wells. “We always promote affordability, making sure you know what you want and what you can pay. It’s really dangerous to get into a bidding war (with the minimum down payment).”

Source: Financial Post – Garry Marr | June 1, 2017 

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Is your condo board above board? Tips for evaluating condo governance

Condominums have proliferated in the downtown cores of Canada's biggest cities.

Condo corporations are effectively a 4th level of government, says one expert

Condominium governance is in the spotlight after an investigation by CBC Toronto reporters unveiled questionable practices at a series of downtown Toronto buildings.

Owners and property managers in those buildings say a group of people have aggressively sought control of the boards and budgets of multiple condos. The allegations include voting irregularities and contentious contracts.

If you’re wondering whether your condo board is operating in a trustworthy manner — or if you simply want to get a better grip on how your condo works — here are a few tips from experts in the field of condo governance.

Learn who runs the place

Not just anyone should sit on the board of directors of a condo corporation, experts say.

“You want people who are financially literate, who have some business experience, preferably,” said Audrey Loeb, a lawyer with Miller Thomson who specializes in condo law.

“You don’t want the board of directors managing the building, you want the board of directors overseeing the manager.”

That property manager should be independent of the board, with a good reputation, Loeb added.

Condo board directors should own a unit in the building, and ideally live in that unit, said Loeb. If not, that’s a potential red flag for owners.

Conflicts of interest on condo boards are another red flag, according to Brian Antman, who audits condo boards as a partner with accounting firm Adams and Miles and serves as a director of the Canadian Condominium Institute’s Toronto chapter.

Board directors shouldn’t have any financial interest in transactions with the property manager or their vendors, Antman said. Directors, he added, should also sign and follow a code of ethics.

Put on your reading glasses

Condo owners ought to take the time to read their building’s declaration, said Antman. (A declaration is essentially a condo’s charter or constitution.) They should also read any bylaws and rules instituted by the board, according to Antman.

Potential owners of new condo buildings need to read the disclosure statement provided by the developer, and should have it reviewed by a lawyer with experience in condo law, Antman said. (For resale condos, a “status certificate” replaces a disclosure statement.)

“It’s probably the most significant purchase they’ll ever make, and they shouldn’t be surprised by anything going into it,” he said. “I see a lot of people who don’t do their due diligence up front, and are surprised.”

Toronto condos

Potential condo owners should be sure to read disclosure documents or status certificates provided by the seller, one expert says. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Communicate with the board, and participate

“The best way to tell how well-run your condo is… is to ask for documents, and see if you get them,” said Loeb, the condo lawyer.

Minutes of board meetings are a common record that a board should share.

“If you get them in a timely fashion, ask for the monthly financial statements,” said Loeb. “Any owner is entitled to see that stuff.”

Most condo board meetings are closed, but Loeb said owners should absolutely take the time to attend annual meetings.

If owners can’t attend an annual meeting but still want to vote on condo issues by proxy, Loeb recommends electronic proxy voting, by which proxy documents are emailed directly to owners.

Vancouver condos

Condominium buildings are administered by a condo corporation, which is controlled by a board of directors. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

If a condo owner is concerned about their condo corporation’s board, they can try to shake things up.

​”If they’re unhappy with the board, or a board member even, they can requisition a meeting to replace the board or the board member,” said Antman.

The owner can even try and join the board themselves, if they feel up to the task.

“This is their biggest investment, and if they want it to be run properly maybe they need to get involved,” Antman said.

Be warned, though: sitting on a condo board can be “a hugely time-consuming job, if it’s done well,” said Loeb.

“People have no clue what hard work it is, especially in the first two years of a condo’s life when you’re just trying to figure out what’s going on,” she said.

Make sure professionals are involved

Good condo administration often requires professional expertise, said Antman, an auditor.

“The [condo] corporation should hire a solicitor, an auditor, an engineer who’s doing the reserve fund study,” he said. “And all of these people that you’re hiring should be people that are experienced in the industry.”

A solicitor is especially important when things go wrong, said condo lawyer Audrey Loeb, who described how condominiums have become “very complex entities” over the years.

“My philosophy has always been that the condo is the fourth level of government,” said Loeb. “After the feds, the province and the city, you’ve got your condo [corporation].”

Source: By Solomon Israel, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017 5:00 AM ET

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SOLD: Uptown Home Sold For $1 Million Over Asking!!!

With so many house selling way over asking in Toronto these days, the tendency is to declare the expression meaningless. The value of a home, so the argument goes, is better judged by what nearby properties have sold for.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoThat’s mostly sound reasoning, but once in a while we get a bit of inside baseball from realtors about Toronto home sales, and this sheds some more insight on the wild prices that are being fetched of late.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoThis elegant and well equipped home at 375 Glencairn Avenue, for instance, just sold for $1,165,000 over asking after being on the market for seven days. During that period realtor André Kutyan of Harvey Kalles tells us that 165 people came through the home.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoOf the army of potential buyers who toured the property, nine made offers, which drove the price way up from its listing at $3,595,000. Worthy of note is that the listing price mostly reflects the sale prices of other nearby homes sold over the last 30 days.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoThe sample size might be too small for this to prove a trustworthy metric (only five other homes sold within 1,500 metres during this period), but one thing’s for sure: there was a ton of interest in this property.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoThe Essentials
  • Address: 375 Glencairn Ave.
  • Type: Detached house
  • Bedrooms: 4 + 1
  • Bathrooms: 7
  • Lot size: 50 x 219.66 feet
  • Realtor: André Kutyan
  • Hit the market at: $3,595,000
  • Time on market: 7 days
  • Sold for: $4,760,000
375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoWhy it sold for what it did

This house has a lot going for it. It’s been recently renovated, the enormous basement features a wine cellar, games room, mini movie theatre, and sauna, multiple bedrooms feature en suite washrooms, and the finishes around the house are top of the line.

375 Glencairn Avenue TorontoWas it worth it?

There are plenty of very nice homes in Lytton Park, but this one stands out when compared to recent listings. That alone was likely enough to start the bidding war that drove the price up into the ultra luxury range.

375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto375 Glencairn Avenue Toronto

Lead photo by Realtor


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