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What has happened to Toronto’s skyline? Condos!


Every day, the rise of condo towers across the city continues unchecked.

In fact, 60% of housing starts in the GTA over the past five years have been high-rise developments.

With so many units on the market, it’s no surprise that buyers are building equity in a space they can call home. Toronto’s rental market has exploded and prices are high enough to make frustrated renters consider purchasing their own units. As well, Toronto’s pool of available semi- and detached homes, especially in the downtown core, is dwindling. The shrinking number of homes means that prices have risen. It’s basic supply and demand.

Experts have predicted that prices will continue to rise for the rest of 2014. TD Bank suggests an increase of up to five or six percent. That is great news for the condo market, and experts at Scotiabank expect an upturn in condo sales as a result.

Of course, that’s not the only way in which the escalation in housing prices has benefited the condo market. As downsizers take advantage of a seller’s market, they are moving into luxury condos. This situation creates a mix of demographics in condo buildings, and a change in the condo culture as more experienced homeowners join boards and community groups.

Condo prices in Toronto have remained stable and have not seen the stratospheric growth apparent in other areas of the market. This makes condo purchasing attractive, especially for first-time buyers who want modern, luxury amenities and access to transit-friendly areas downtown.

So, if you have been contemplating a condo, get out there and take a look! Hang up those rakes and shovels, and flex your fingers to push elevator buttons instead.






Holding Back & Bullies in the Real Estate Playground


If you are familiar with Toronto’s real estate market, you are probably also familiar with the practice of “holding back” offers. What does “holding back” mean? And what are the pros and cons of doing so?

To “hold back offers” simply means to set a date on which offers will be reviewed.  When agents hold back offers, they usually list the home at a below market price in order to create market excitement. It is part of the strategy of under-pricing properties to encourage a multiple-offer situation in order get a higher selling price for the owner. It typically happens in markets like Toronto – sellers’ markets – where a small number of properties are available and multiple-offer situations for good homes are likely.

Holding back offers on a property often involves showing a home for a week or more when realtors and prospective buyers can view the property. This sometimes means staging the home and keeping it in “show ready” condition for a week or more, which can be hard for the owner to maintain – many owners move into a hotel for the week!  However, this strategy also means that prospective buyers can apply for mortgages and conduct home inspections in advance of the offer date so that they can bring their best offers forward.  It may reduce the chances of a deal falling through due to financing or other issues.

While this is primarily a marketing strategy designed to help sellers, prospective buyers can help themselves by asking their sales reps to present a “bully” offer with a quick expiration date before the offer hold-back period ends. This pressures sellers to make a quick decision on the bully offer.  The biggest risk of holding back offers is that it may backfire: potential buyers may be turned off by the strategy or may assume that the home will go for so much over asking that they won’t even bother putting in an offer.

However, if you are living in a high-value area or a market with limited supply, holding back offers can be the best strategy.  It’s a potent tool for creating buzz… and it may ensure you get a higher price for your home.

A decision as to whether or not to hold back offers should be made after discussion with a skilled real estate agent who knows the Toronto market, and who knows your specific micromarket[1] well. Luckily, we can help with that![2]



Baby, it’s hot outside!!


It’s July and as the first heat waves are rolling across Toronto, you may be wishing you had invested in last winter’s end-of-year deals on air conditioners.  But if you live in an older home, the question of how to cool it down is somewhat complicated. So, if you want to make your older home more livable in the summer months, what air conditioning method works best?

There are a few different options to consider: central air conditioning, window-mounted air conditioners, and wall-mounted ductless air conditioning.  All of them have pros and cons, and their value to you will depend on how much time you actually spend in your home over the summer months and what your budget will allow.

For example, a new central air conditioning retrofit to an older home will easily run over $10,000. You will recoup about 80% of the expense in your resale price should you choose to sell, but you’ll be spending additional money on duct cleaning, air filters, and general maintenance in the meantime.

Window-mounted air conditioners are noisy and a pain to install. They need to be changed with the season, which requires heavy lifting and often some shimming in the window unit itself.  They can make all the difference in isolated rooms of a house, but even the quietest models make some noise. The good news is that they are now more powerful than ever, and come with easy-to-read displays and a suite of controls that everyone can use. This Consumer Reports buying guide will help you get started.[1]

The compromise between these two methods is a wall-mounted ductless system, which patches into walls. You have probably seen units like these in hotels because they can heat or cool a room powerfully with very little energy.  They can also draw air in from the outside and de-humidify it.  Multiple models exist from companies like Fujitsu and Mitsubishi and most come with remote controls.

Bob Vila of This Old House is the definitive authority on how to retrofit older homes with newer technologies.   He points out that there are multiple factors to consider when installing a new air conditioning system into an older home.[2]

  1. The electrical system.  If your home has knob-and-tube wiring, it may not provide enough electricity to power newer air conditioning models. Central air conditioners need between 20 and 50 amps of power, which old-fashioned wiring is unable to provide.  So before you install a central air system, you should consult an electrician. And even if you’re installing a window or wall-mounted unit, an older home that sustains 60 amps of power total still might not be enough to meet those needs.
  2. The size.  No matter what type of air conditioning system you choose, it should be fitted tightly to the house with adequate sealing around all ducts, vents, and fittings.  Too many gaps and you have problems with humidity, noise, and loss of cool air.  This is especially important for wall-mounted units that are patched into existing walls. Wall-mounted units (or “ductless” air conditioners) can be used as fans, heaters or air conditioners, and while they may not pump heat or cool air throughout an entire house, they can make all the difference in any room where the need for comfortable temperatures is paramount.  Also, they use less electricity.[3]
  3. How the home holds heat or cool air. Installing a new air conditioning system will only get you so far if your home has leaky windows and poor insulation. It can be worth it to look at your home through a thermal camera to find hotspots or other areas where air is leaking in or out so you can repair the damage before installing one of these systems.





Have you been bitten by the flea bug?


If you’re like Torontonians all over this city, you have. Upscale, artisan flea markets are becoming part of Toronto’s shopping landscape from Etobicoke to Leslieville.

Flea markets were once the sole domain of discount shoppers, set decorators, and interior designers looking for that certain je ne sais quoi that would pop an accent wall or set of built-ins. Now, they are now considered cute community gathering places and a way for Torontonians to shop local and vintage without having to venture out to high-pressure antique stores or design showrooms. They are great places to find under-valued art and antiques or unique pieces for friends and loved ones who have a very particular aesthetic.

If you like the laid back pace of street festivals but can’t stand all the crowds or noise, flea markets might be your next favourite Toronto experience. BlogTO has a comprehensive list of the flea markets available in Toronto. These are a few of those listed:

• Best for Classic Flea Market Experience: Dr. Flea’s Flea Market, at Highway 27 & Albion Road, open weekends 10am-5pm. This market sells everything from produce to clothing to discount merchandise. It’s crowded, but if you want to know what flea markets are all about, it’s a great place to start.
• Best for Gifts: The Leslieville Flea Market takes place the third Sunday of every month at the Ashbridge Estate on Queen Street East. If once a month isn’t enough to get your flea fix, the market website has handmade and vintage items for auction online.
• Best for Kids: The Junction Flea market takes place in a variety of locations, all of which are kid-friendly. The western location near Keele & Dundas takes place once a week on Sundays, and so does the Evergreen Brick Works location. This is the market that started the current flea craze in Toronto, and it’s a great place to bring kids due to its proximity to snacks and activities in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Whichever market you choose, remember to go with the flow. Focus on the experience of looking for buried treasure and diamonds in the rough – and you just might end up with an incredible piece of Haitian art or a fabulous painting by a prominent ‘70s artist for a quarter of what it’s worth. So happy hunting and good luck!

Is there a chilling effect going on in Toronto’s real estate market?


Although various media outlets have been suggesting for years that we are heading for a real estate market crash, or at least a cooling-off, the long-term data from a recent Royal Bank report says otherwise. According to both RBC and the Canadian Real Estate Association, home resales rose by 5.9% in April and May. That’s the highest level since 2012. Overall, the City of Toronto did extremely well with regard to real estate last year: in 2013, Toronto’s market generated a $168 million dollar surplus from the land transfer tax and other development fees. That doesn’t mean though that we can become complacent. More buyers are backing away from the bidding wars that have characterized Toronto’s real estate market and deciding either to buy their condos or to continue renting for now.

This is for a variety of reasons. Firstly, many buyers may have set a budget and have decided to stick with it either by choice or by necessity. Secondly, bidding wars are hard. Emotionally, financially and logistically – they are difficult. A terrific agent can help you navigate them, but they’re not for every buyer. As more buyers enter the market (and as the Millennial demographic grows older and looks into homeownership), we may see the bidding war culture changing with buyers choosing alternatives like three-bedroom condos or satellite cities such as Mississauga and Vaughan.

Ultimately though, the RBC report is good news. Statistically, sellers are still likely to get a good price for a home in Toronto’s downtown TTC-friendly core. Housing prices across Canada are up 7.1% from last year. Major gains have appeared in urban markets, specifically Toronto, which is generally seen as a great city to invest in from a real estate perspective. It ranks up there with Calgary and Vancouver in terms of “resilient” markets according to market consultancy Grosvenor’s. So, what is there to do? If you’re selling, recognize that you’re in a good position, but you may still need to go the extra mile when selling your home, particularly if it’s not in the hottest segments of the market. Just because it’s in Toronto is not enough. Keep in mind that buyers do just want the easiest process possible. As much as you want your move to go smoothly, they want their search to unfold the same way. Either way, you’ll want a skilled real estate agent to help you navigate the process. And that’s where we come in!

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