Tag Archives: high-rise living

What share of GTA condos are flipped? New report offers insight

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Soaring price appreciation in the Greater Toronto Area’s high-rise segment is encouraging condo investors to flip their units more rapidly.

So suggests the latest quarterly report from Urbanation, a Toronto-based real estate consulting firm.

This burgeoning trend is reflected in the 9,932 condo units that changed hands in the first quarter, a 73 per cent increase over activity in the first three months last year as well as a quarterly high.

Looking only at units in condo developments that were completed by builders and registered in the last two years, a total of 1,059 transactions were recorded in the first quarter.

In the first quarter of 2016, condo owners sold a total of 625 units in buildings completed throughout the preceding two-year window.

“The shortening of holding periods for some condo buyers is an outcome of the rapidly accelerating market,” says Shaun Hildebrand, senior VP of Urbanation, in a statement.

The average sale price of a resale condo unit in Q1 this year was $510,000, representing a 24 per cent increase over that period last year, according to Urbanation.

“Following the recent strength in condo price appreciation, Urbanation noted an increase in resale activity within newly completed buildings as well as more units transacting twice within shorter timeframes,” the consultancy’s report reads.

In fact, according to past Toronto Real Estate Board numbers, resale condo prices were increasing annually by a far more restrained 9.3 per cent as recently as September 2016.

With year-over-year appreciation well above 20 per cent now, a relatively recent development, it’s easy to see why some recent homebuyers would be compelled to sell sooner.

However, Urbanation’s Hildebrand notes flipping is not widespread — for now.

“Although the share of short-term condo market participants still appears relatively low, it will be important to monitor the situation closely going forward as market conditions evolve,” he adds.

Source: BuzzBuzzHome.com – 

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Buying an unbuilt condo? Think twice, agent says

Being exceedingly careful in one’s condo purchase is never a bad thing, especially in light of the $3-million class action by over a hundred condo owners in Ottawa.

Toronto-based real estate agent David Fleming, who says that he has never been involved in a pre-construction condo transaction in his 13 years as a professional, advocates one simple bit of advice: “Never buy new.”

“I liken it to buying a pair of jeans. If you walked in [to a store] and you couldn’t try them on and didn’t know how long they would be, and what the waist was … that’s a hundred-dollar pair of jeans. So why would someone buy a million-dollar condo the same way?”

The most important aspect that buyers should remember is the fact that they can back out with no penalty, as Ontario provides a 10-day “cooling off” period that can serve as an out for hesitant consumers. The countdown for the 10-day duration starts once the would-be buyer receives a copy of either the disclosure statement or the fully signed purchase and sale agreement, whichever comes later.

Another wise step would be to always hire a lawyer, who should be tasked to review all of the documentation involved in the transaction. If the lawyer suggests amendments to areas of concern, these proposals should be forwarded to the developer.

“If the developer says no, then don’t go ahead with the transaction.”

Fleming also noted that it would be helpful to remember that the people in the showroom are still salespeople who work for the developer, no matter how warm and accommodating they might seem. Working with one’s own real estate agent should help a consumer avoid an ill-advised purchase.

Source; Canadian Real Estate Wealth – by Ephraim Vecina 03 Apr 2017

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Condos are king in the GTA

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Condo sales were up 79% year-over-year in February and far outstripped home sales for low-rise units.

“In the GTA in February, there were more than twice as many new condo apartments sold (as) low-rise units,” the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) said in its latest report. “Altus Group recorded 3,542 sales of condo apartments in stacked townhouses and mid and high-rise buildings, and 1,541 sales of new detached and semi houses and low-rise townhomes.”

Condo sales more than doubled the ten year average.

Toronto led the way in terms of sales (1,661 units), followed by York (1,299), Peel (370), Halton (107), and Durham (105).

A lack of low-rise supply and, indeed, skyrocketing prices, are the market forces driving many buyers to the condo sector.

“Today in the GTA we have a scarcity of single-family ground-related housing that is not just unprecedented – it is almost inconceivable,” BILD President and CEO Bryan Tuckey said. “As a result we are seeing record breaking condo sales and continued price growth.”

That’s also leading to inventory issues in the condo market.

Units hit a new low in February, dropping to 10,342.

Still, that’s much better than the current availability of single-family homes.

Across the GTA, a mere 1,001 new low-rise homes were available in February. And there were only 324 new detached homes available.

10 years ago there were 17,304 low-rise homes and 12,064 detached homes available.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth – by Justin da Rosa27 Mar 2017

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Do You Know the Rules of Condo Living in Mississauga?

The might of the heavy hand of the condo corporation has been in the news lately. Recently, a judge ruled in favor of an Ottawa condo corporation that took legal action against residents who rented out their suite on short-term rental service Airbnb.

The judge ruled that condo corps can indeed forbid owners and tenants from listing their units on short-term rental websites and the ruling has far-reaching implications because it confirms that such organizations can put limits on what owners can and can’t do with their spaces.

But while that’s an interesting case, it makes one question what rules condos have (and are permitted to have) and how residents follow them.

While the Airbnb case is complex, it’s often interesting how people misunderstand rules and, in some cases, plain common sense.

I live in a typical 20+storey condo. It’s challenging living in a place filled with such a diversity of people. But even so, you would expect people to be able to do simple things like dispose of their garbage and enter the underground garage properly.

Recently, our condo management began posting notices about procedures for residents to follow, and when I read them I couldn’t help wonder if they were actually serious. The instructions were rather simplistic and I was surprised that people needed to be reminded to follow them. Here’s a brief sampling, and my own comments pertaining to those instructions:

Garbage must be properly tied in plastic garbage bags (so they don’t break open while being tossed down a chute)

Unless you’re just taking your garbage container and dumping its contents down the garbage chute, I don’t know anyone who isn’t supposed to be already doing this. Maybe some residents are unfamiliar with garbage bags, or are just too lazy to use them?

Please remember that glass items are recyclable and must be taken to the depository on the ground floor

It sounds ridiculous that in 2016, people are still throwing out glass like it’s garbage. Even if glass wasn’t recyclable, don’t people realize throwing glass down a garbage chute, especially if you live on a higher floor, could smash into pieces and injure someone? At the very least, broken glass is a nightmare to clean up.

Please do not allow anyone without a key to enter the building, nor grant access through the entry phone to unidentified individuals

This may sound crazy, but there are people out there who will unlock the front door to the building for just about anybody. All you need to do is make up some story about how you’re seeing a family member, friend or dropping someone off. I’ve seen the police show up at my condo numerous times; people really shouldn’t just let random people in. You never know what might happen.

Please be sure to close and lock all suite and patio doors and windows

As a follow up to the previous point, just because you live in a condo with security in the lobby doesn’t mean some random weirdo can’t access the building. You may feel no obligation to lock your door if you live in the countryside by yourself with your nearest neighbour 10 miles away, but in a condo (as well as standard detached homes in neighbourhoods these days) you can’t assume you’re not at risk.

When parking your car in the underground garage, please ensure that no visible items are in your car, especially your garage door opener

I actually leave my garage door opener in my car, because I can’t tell you how many times I would forget to bring it with me if I didn’t. That said, something like that should be stored in a safe, discreet place in your vehicle if you do leave it in there, so as to avoid the prying eyes of potential car thieves.

When entering the underground garage, please allow the garage door to close behind you before proceeding to your parking space

This one had me baffled, because I literally was not sure what it meant. My underground garage entrance is a ramp like structure, and if I were to wait until the garage door closed behind me, it would be quite inconvenient, especially for any vehicles behind me. That would definitely slow things down for people going in and out of the underground garage.

This isn’t the first time my condo management attempted to convey instructions to their residents. But if they have to issue notices on rather obvious rules to follow, then maybe posting notices isn’t working. One of my neighbours suggested that management host meetings for the residents to go over these instructions and then give all residents a written test that they must pass before returning to their unit.

Okay, I was being facetious on that last point.

But while some rules are a little more complex (no pet policies, Airbnb bans), I understand it must be frustrating for condo corporations and management companies to deal with people being inconsiderate and, in some cases, negligent.

Source: insauga by Alan Kan on December 27, 2016

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Road tolls: Will they actually reduce congestion?

HOT lanes that allow single-occupant vehicles to pay a toll to use carpool lanes are a popular alternative to HOV lanes. (J.P. MOCZULSKI for The Globe and Mail)

Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are among the most congested cities on the continent – ranking second, sixth and ninth, respectively, according to TomTom data.

The average person living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) spends about 65 minutes commuting each day, and all that gridlock costs the region up to $11 billion per year, according to a C.D. Howe Institute study.

Road tolls a ‘fair’ way to fund transit according to Toronto mayor (CP Video)

The most common cure thrown around is road tolls, but a new study suggests they may not be the answer.

The report, Congestion Costs, Road Capacity and Implications for Policy-Makers, issued Friday by the Conference Board of Canada and commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO), warns that governments should examine other options before moving forward with more road tolls.

However, economists at the C.D. Howe Institute argue road tolls are the best solution to reducing congestion and the additional revenue is a bonus that can be used to improve transit and other infrastructure.

The Conference Board of Canada report states there is a difference between policies designed to raise revenue and those designed to change driving behaviour.

“We have to be very clear about what we’re trying to achieve,” says Teresa Di Felice, director of government and community relations, CAA SCO. “If we want to achieve reductions, there are various tools, land use planning, ride sharing transit. When you move the conversation to road pricing there has to be a clear objective … If you want to change behaviour, that is a different pricing strategy.”

She says if tolls push too many people out of their cars, government won’t achieve its revenue goals.

The report examines other tools that policymakers can use to reduce congestion – highway ramp metering, variable speed limits, access controls such as time-of-day restrictions, ride-sharing support, biking facilities and public transit investment.

A previous Conference Board of Canada report showed Ontario drivers pay between 70 to 90 per cent of the cost to maintain roads through registration fees, gas taxes, parking tickets and other revenue tools. In the GTA, it’s more than 100 per cent.

“Motorists are frustrated, they are paying a fair chunk of the maintenance costs,” says Di Felice. With these reports, CAA wanted to see if drivers are getting the benefit of what they are paying and if motorists are going to pay more, what does that look like?

Tolls are the best solution, extra revenue is a bonus

“Even if on average, road users cover 100 per cent of spending money on roads, road pricing is still really important,” says Benjamin Dachis, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. “It is still the best solution for dealing with congestion.”

An example from London, England, supports this. A congestion charge there in 2003 cut traffic by about 15 per cent.

A 2007 study from C.D. Howe says, “Neither fuel taxes nor parking fees are effective in dealing with traffic congestion. Appropriately designed road-pricing schemes are the best instrument. Road pricing’s usefulness in charging for road damage, insurance, and so on, are a bonus.”

Dachis says his research shows that, on average, drivers pay less than 70 per cent of roadway expenses. There is a lot of confusion because there is good data on how much governments collect, but the money largely goes into general revenue, so there isn’t good data on how it is being spent.

Regardless, he says that tolls are effective to reduce congestion and to put a value on roads.

“When you have roads that aren’t tolled, there is something called the fundamental law of congestion, you build new roads and they fill up pretty quickly,” he says.

But the way to toll roads isn’t like what Ontario drivers currently see.

In September, 1,000 Ontario drivers received permits to use the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on the Queen Elizabeth Way west of Toronto. It was part of a pilot project that allows those drivers to have a faster commute at a cost of $180 for three months. The project will last two-to-four years and the government will be adding HOT lanes to Highway 427 in 2021. Highway 407, just north of Toronto, is also a toll road.

“It (HOT lanes) is probably the most rudimentary form of road pricing I’ve ever seen,” says Dachis. “The bottom line is what the (Ontario) government has put in place right now is barely only training wheels.”

Dachis cites metered high-occupancy toll lanes in Seattle, Miami, Minnesota, Georgia and southern California as examples of what works, is not mentioned in the Conference Board of Canada report. The price to enter HOT lanes as a solo occupant is constantly changing based on how much time it saves the driver. Billing is controlled through either a smartphone app or a windshield pass. A sign indicates how much time it will take to get to designated interchanges, guaranteeing the travel time through the pricing scheme.

“We’re trying to guess the dollar value people put on roads,” says Dachis. “Road pricing makes it very clear what people will pay for roads.”

Dachis worries that because current HOT lanes are so basic, they will fail and people will reject any further conversation.

One major criticism of HOT lanes is that they are for the rich – hence the moniker, Lexus lanes. But Dachis says variable pricing will do away with that because there won’t be a monthly subscription. Rather everyone, regardless of income, can make a decision right then and there if using the lane will benefit them financially or socially. One of the biggest users of these lanes will be buses.

Cost is a factor, but a study by the University of Minnesota found that when Minneapolis converted some of its HOV lanes to dynamic HOT, the economic benefits were more than double the operating and capital costs.

Toll highways

“Tolling the whole freeway is totally doable. It would even be the best option, from an economists perspective,” says Dachis. “But that’s a hard sell when there are few examples of working toll roads in Canada.”

He adds that tolling the entire highway would allocate the scarce road space most effectively and should lower taxes for everyone.

Dachis and Di Felice agree that road tolls aren’t the only method governments should consider to reduce congestion. They also agree there has to be better data collected on how money is being spent on roads at all levels of government.

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UN: Higher-density cities key to better urban life

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The United Nations has advice for city planners around the world: Move people closer together.

Designing more compact, higher-density cities is key to improving the well-being of the world’s burgeoning urban population, said Under-Secretary General Joan Cloas, the executive director of UN Habitat and a former mayor of Barcelona.

He said too many cities are characterized by urban sprawl that make it harder for people to get around and get access to basic services, especially in vast slums where the poor live far away from their jobs, medical services and food stores. Growing suburbs, meanwhile, discourage the use of public transportation, biking and walking, which in turns contributes to pollution through reliance on cars. And mega-cities are encroaching on farm land and environmentally sensitive areas.

Clos said the world’s average urban population density is “extremely low” at an estimated 2,000-3,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. For comparison, he said Manhattan has a population density of 56,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. In the world’s highest-density city, Hong Kong, he said the figure is 96,000.

More than 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to reach 65 per cent within 40 years, Clos said.

“It’s a huge transformation in the life experience of a lot of humans. And this requires, political attention, economic attention, social attention,” he said at a news conference ahead of World Habitat Day on Oct. 7.

Clos acknowledged the difficulties involved in trying to build high-density city centres and offered no easy solutions. In New York and Hong Kong, high-density comes with some of the world’s highest living costs. But Clos said those are extreme examples. In Europe, he said, the average urban population density is more like 15,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. He said offering affordable housing involves difficult political decisions – perhaps replacing subsidize gasoline with more subsidized housing.

Clos said high-density need not be the same as overcrowding.

“What cannot be sustained is spontaneous urbanization. When we have spontaneous urbanization instead of well-designed, high-density cities, we have overcrowding,” he said. “And that is what is happening in the favelas, the slums and other places.

Thomas Elmqvist, a Stockholm University professor, said there is opportunity for planning well-designed cities. Sixty-per cent of the world’s land projected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built, according to a new study titled Cities and Biodiversity Outlook, which involved more than 200 scientists.

Elmqvist, the scientific editor of the study, said 25 per cent of the world’s protected areas are now within 17 kilometres (11 miles) of urban areas. He said in 10 years, it will be 15 kilometres (9 miles).

Clos is the director of UN-Habitat. He spoke Friday ahead of World Habitat Day on Oct. 7.

Source: Alexandra Olson  © 2013 The Associated Press

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