Thursday, 15 December 2011

Lotsa Space or Perfect Location: What Hooks You?

This past week, I toured a few properties with a new client from Montreal. After spending over a decade living in Canada's second largest city, she decided it was time to call our country's largest city home.  As with many incoming Montrealers, you have to manage their disappointment somewhat. Toronto is not New York or Tokyo, but compared to Montreal, it might as well be. Living in Montreal is easy - beautiful homes and condos for a fraction of the price. Montrealers often live, whether they rent or own, in stylish conversion lofts in very central parts of the city. At a similar price point in Toronto, they will not get the same space, sexy location, or level of fanciness as they had in old Montreal. It's a harsh reality that most of us already know: Toronto is more pricey, and some adjustment in moving here has to be made.

This led my buyer to make some sacrifices, sacrifices many of us make, even if we're not coming from Montreal. Do we sacrifice space to live in a great neighbhourhood? Can you be happy with a murphy bed in a 350sq ft condo in one of the best addresses in Yorkville? Or would you prefer to be further from the city core in a larger condo unit or house where you have the space, but you you're practically back in Montreal in terms of the time it will take to drive or take transit into the city.

It's a tough sacrifice, and it's usually a personal one. Some people are never home and need the city to be at their doorstep. They can't bare to walk more than 10 minutes to their downtown office. In their case, size does not matter. Location does. Some need space - a big, private yard, a lot of rooms for kids and visitors and storage. A small box in the middle of the city to live in would be prison.

Chances are these personal preference will guide you for the most part,  but if you could set the personal stuff aside, there are some shrewd business choices you can make. First, you can try to have a little of both. A little more size, but only a small distance from the downtown. A condo or house in an emerging neighbourhood will often lead to a better return down the road in 5 to 10 years in comparison with other neighbourhoods. Why? Because the neighbourhood is still changing. If things are changing for the better, that change will likely continue. 10 years ago you would never find a New York Times article raving about Leslieville or the Junction as you would today. They were both run-down, drab places that looked that they would never make it. Even Yorkville in the 60s was a haven for hippies and the counter culture movement, not the haute couture movement of today.

But back to my Montreal buyer. I think she has determined that she's definitely a city girl, though ideally she  would like to buy in an established Toronto neighbourhood with an emerging neighbourhood budget. Ahh, those Montrealers. They dare to dream!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Toronto's Next Best Neighbourhood - Did Toronto Life Get It right?

After many years, Toronto Life has finally decided to update their "where to buy next" list in their Toronto Real Estate Guide 2012. (I would attach this list, but it's only available in print at the moment.)

To be fair, they did do their homework including having a researcher call little ole me for my 2 cents on what neighbourhoods will be the next hot spots. They didn't necessarily select the least expensive Toronto pockets, but each of their neighbourhoods can be considered fairly reasonable with respect to affordability. They had ten neighbourhoods chosen. Many of which I would agree with. But at the very top of their list, the best neighbourhood to invest in right now is...

Drum roll please...Mimico! 

I agree, Mimico is a pretty good neighbourhood to get in on. The very best? Maybe. Top 5 for sure. It is amazing how you can find property so close to the lake. And the lake-side parks are amazing, no doubt about it. The commercial strip is a little weak, and could use an injection of cool into the businesses. And some people may find it to far from downtown, though all you have to do is hop on the Gardiner or catch the Queen Car and you're there. The truth is Mimico has been emerging for awhile. It was one of the big three 5 to 10 years ago when Leslieville and the Junction were ascending. Both of those neighbourhoods have become great neighbhouroods since then, and property values have gone up in these advanced emerging neighbourhoods. Mimico, has improved as well, just not as fast. Slow and steady is the Mimco approach. 

 I think Wallace-Emerson, Danforth Village and The Junction Triangle can give Mimico a run for its money, but all of these neighbourhoods, I believe, have started their renaissance, if you're looking to buy in Toronto's latest up and coming neighbourhood. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Toronto: the new Miami?

Never would I have thought any one would compare Toronto to Miami, but alas it is now happened. in fact, I've read a few articles in the past week or two comparing these two seemingly incomparable cities.

Is it the tropical temperatures? The miles and miles of beaches? The art deco? Hmmm... not exactly.

The reason: new condos. Toronto will have some thing like 16 000 new condo units hit the market next year. Some like to compare this to Miami, who reached similar numbers in it's heyday.

Of course, Miami is not in its heyday any more.  Far from it. And some like to think Toronto will go the same way of the dodo bird (re: Miami).

It is true that Toronto does have a lot of new condos in the works and does have a certain amount of foreign investment in condo units now like Miami had 5 or 6 years ago, but there are some huge differences that cannot be ignored. Most notably: Toronto's market is not linked to a subprime mortgage crisis in the United States. And secondly, our four full seasons keeps Toronto out of the same league as Miami as far as vacation destinations go. Miami's crashing market probably had a lot to do with the temporary vacationers and not people who actually live/rent in the city. I have a feeling there are some secondary vacation homes in the Toronto market, but nothing compared to Miami. And lastly, Toronto has a much more diversified economy than Miami. Miami has oranges and  beaches. Toronto has entertainment, health technology, and it's the financial centre of Canada.  So, if people stop visiting, the city isn't going to have it's housing market plummet.

I'm not saying that Toronto's market will never see a price correction ever again. I'm just saying that Toronto is not Miami. So let's stop comparing Ontario apples to Florida oranges.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Is the Housing Crash Near?

Is it here yet, the housing crash? Lately, this question has been asked of me more and more. With the ups and downs of the stock market, a new plot twist every week with the European debt crisis, plus the endless uncertainty of another reccession, you can't blame someone for asking.

And to be honest, I don't know. Housing markets ebb and flow, and they can certainly head down. But, no housing market stays down for the count. It always rebounds eventually, So, it's important to look at the long term, and see what's pushing Toronto to higher property values, and a good place to invest for the long term. First, we have immigration. Twenty thousand new immigrants to this city every year. Second we have the momentum of urbanization. Culturally speaking more people want to live in the city closer to where they work, and closer to every thing a city has to offer -   fancy food options, entertainment, and boutique shopping.

And then there's the Green Belt policy to protect the lands from development around the city, and to encourage smarter, more densely populated vertical growth in taller buildings. This has led to some pretty unusual results as far as the city of Toronto is concerned. First, condo development and construction has exploded. Toronto has more condos being built than any other city in North America and possibly the world this year. That could sound pretty frightening, but on the other side, single family new houses being built in Toronto has fallen considerable. So, with these policies currently in place, it's not such a bad time to by a house. After all, there are only so many houses in Toronto, and not a whole lot more being built. All the development is happening in the condo market because developers want to maximize the use of limited land in the city, particularly close to the subways.

So, this may not be a crystal ball as to the state of the real estate market in 2012, but I think for the long term, buying in the city, especially a house, will likely be a very smart investment decision.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


At least once a week I hear: "Who can live in a 500 square foot condo?" To which I say: "Someone who doesn't want to live in a 270 square foot condo." People love space. Even in in-demand Toronto neighbourhoods where it's at a premium.  I often find these space loving buyers are drawn to the 80s condos. They built them big back in the day. Much bigger than today.  Sure, they need some kitchen updates and may be a new floor, but wow, you have space to move!

Then there are those who won't even consider such a dinosaur. The people who love new condos. It's true that the design is nicer and certainly more up-to-date. The newer condos don't have the look of a Communist-style lego building of some of the older condos. There's better kitchen counters, stainless steel appliances, and cooler looking lobbies. But it seems that the newer the condo gets, the smaller they become.

Then there's that additional cost. With any one looking at condos, 80s or modern, the first question out of their mouth ( next to questions about parking) has to be: What are the maintenance fees? People are obsessed with this extra cost. And for good reason. High maintenance fees are almost a big enough stigma as a house that was a grow-op. Both push down the price of a given property.

 I can say wholeheartedly that people do not like high maintenance fees, even if the condo is priced low. They often think some thing is wrong with the condo.  And some times there is, but other times, especially with 80s condos, there are a lot of amenities like a gym, a concierge, or say, tennis courts. I would say the balk of the buyers with whom I have come into contact want low maintenance fees and would certainly cut out the extras.

Back in the 80s, when condos were really starting to take off in Toronto, developers wanted to project an image that living in a condo was a like a day at the spa where you didn't have a care in the world. You barely had to leave your luxurious building for any thing. We'll take care of you. So, condos bulked up on the extras - squash courts and indoor heated pools. And so, many of the 80s and 90s condos had some pretty hefty maintenance fees right from the start.

Newer condos, for the most part, tend to have fewer perks because they want to keep the maintenance fees down.  Does this always work? Not always. If a condo is not able to build a decent reserve fund for a rainy day, then they have to raise maintenance fees. I heard of a condo recently whose reserve fund had been largely tapped out because the elevators had to be replaced only a couple years after construction.  So fees went up. The developers, as far as I know, didn't pay a dime.

Still, 80s condos could have higher maintenance fees for another reason. Old things need to be replaced or updated after a few decades - a new roof, an updated  heating system, new fire codes regulations. This will also cause fees to go up.

I'm not trying to steer any one into choosing an 80s condo or a modern one, but it's a good idea to understand the pros and cons of both. There are great 80s condos and terrible ones. And there are lousy modern condos and excellent ones. Still, it's good to know the perks and down sides to each one.

So let's recap:

80s Condos

GOOD THINGS:  often bigger size,  often less expensive per square foot, a reserve fund that has been established.
BAD THINGS: Could have higher maintenance fees and older building systems and parts may need to be replaced.

Modern Condos

GOOD THINGS: Better finishes, more stylish, and less out of date, likely won't need to replace any thing just yet. Less amenities can mean lower maintenance fees.  Fewer renos required - just move in!

BAD THINGS: Often smaller in size. With brand new buildings, there's usually a small reserve fund to start. So maintenance fees can go up suddenly once the condo board has an idea of the cost to run the condo.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Do your future self a favour: Get Parking!

I recently chatted with someone who bought a condo downtown around Queen and Yonge for what seemed like an amazing price. A loftie, exposed brick, open concept place that sounded like a real find. But the dream became some thing less dreamy pretty fast when he told me he didn't have any parking at his new home.  So now this guy, who does own a car, is going to have to park on some of the most congested park-unfriendly streets in the city. And the funny thing is, he thought he found the deal of a lifetime. But the reason he was able to find a unique, large loft right downtown at a great price is because there is no parking. You take out the parking and the price drops significantly, and for good reason: People love it. And the older they get, the more they want it. Every time I hold an open house whether it's a condo or a reno'd Victorian, one of the first things out of peoples' mouth's is: Where is the parking?

Some might say parking on the street is fine, and they may be right, but that doesn't change the fact that most people don't want to do it. They don't want to come home from work on a rainy day and find every spot within five blocks of their home has been taken. They don't want to get up at 6am to move their car because they have to switch to the other side of the street that day. They don't want to shovel their car out of a snowbank that the plough going by just made.

 Even if you never plan to drive a car, you could always rent parking out and make yourself some money. And if you change your mind, maybe you can buy it once you need it- but it won't be cheap.  Some estimate that parking spots in key neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto condos can be sold for over $70,000.

I have never heard of a condo that has too much parking. In fact, I rarely hear of a condo that has available parking spots to sell. You may think you're are getting a big deal  on that house when you find a place with no parking, but when you go and sell it down the road, the big deal will repeat itself, but you won't be on the winning side of that deal. So, do your future self a favour. Get parking, get parking, get parking.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Dream That Stays a Dream

Today I walked out of an open house in the Dufferin Grove neighbourhood, just south of Bloor.  It was a beautiful house and every thing had been redone from top to bottom with a professional design firm - open concept, top-of-the-line kitchen, high efficiency every thing. At the end of the walkway was a woman on a bike looking directly at me, waiting for me to be close enough to say some thing.

"How much is it?" she asked. When I told her the price tag of almost $800K, she almost fell off her bike.

Then she confessed to me: "I've been renting in this neighbourhood for years, and I am never going to be able to buy."

She seemed pretty dejected, but I told her, as nicely as possible, that you have to look for a neighbourhood with a bit more possibility, not one that has more or less arrived. The next Dufferin Grove, if you will. She didn't seem very happy with my speech. She wanted to live in THIS neighbourhood in a house that is affordable.  She wanted to be one of the smart people who invested in this neighbourhood 10 years ago when it was still affordable. But she wanted 10 years ago to be now.

So often I see this kind of dreaming. People fall in love with a certain neighbourhood, often a pretty one, and they wait and wait and wait for prices to change or for some amazing deal to pop up. The truth is, there won't be any great deal in a desirable neighbourhood. Sellers know when some thing is working. And they are not just gonna suddenly list some thing that's substantially lower in price than their neighbours.

I told her her she needs to head a little north toward Wallace Emerson for some better deals. Already there are clear signs that this location is improving. Still, some people will go to an emerging neighbourhood and see the glass half empty - the commercial strip that seems patchy, some houses that seem run-down, the longer car/bike-ride to downtown. And those people will be renting for a long time.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Little India: Ready for your transformation?

For well over a hundred years or so, we all know that large North American cities, whether it's New York, Toronto, Montreal or Miami have been built on immigration.  The result: Culturally distinct "ethnic enclaves" that have grown from a common immigrant base. You could probably find a Little Italy or Chinatown in almost every large city on the continent. Even the gay villages of many urban centres can be considered an ethnic enclave of sorts. They add their own character to a given neighbourhood and contribute to the appeal and cultural diversity of a city as a whole. 

The funny thing is that this kind of city neighourhood is changing, and has been changing for awhile. There are a lot more non-Italians in Toronto's Little Italy than Italians, and a lot more Italians outside of the city in Woodbridge.  New immigrants are not necessarily heading to the city any more, and as a result, the population of a given ethnic enclave is becoming a lot more complicated. 

Take Little India in Toronto, some times called Gerrard India Bazaar. South Asian business still dominate here down Gerrard street, but a change is under way. In the 70s, it became a destination for new arrivals from South Asia, and a distinct part of Toronto was born. Businesses down Gerrard Street between Coxwell and Greenwood were almost all South Asian owned. Many Indian-Canadians (and other Canadians) would travel to this destination, a distinct part of the city to indulge in South Asian culture.  But today South Asian newcomers are heading out of the city in much larger numbers to Brampton, Mississauga and Vaughan. And as a result, Gerrard India Bazaar is  having trouble competing with their much larger and fresher suburban counter-parts. 

So, what does this mean for this location? It means that places like Little India are going to change. The neighbourhood will not be able to support  a commercial strip that has exclusive South Asian businesses.  I imagine it will keep some of the cultural flare of South Asia- a destination for great food, and products from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan, but there will be other businesses that reflect the  newer population buying homes in this neighbourhood, mostly made up on non South Asians. As prices become too high in Leslieville and the Beach, there will be more pressure for more buyers to buy in this less expensive area and alter the local South Asian population. I imagine this commercial strip will begin to an have an influx on new businesses that will mix with the stronger South Asian businesses that survive.  Already I've seen the obligatory independent coffee shop emerge right on Gerrard Street, just west of Coxwell - a good sign of a more multi-faceted neighbourhood to come. Still, there's no guarantees, and there could even be a period of decline where some of the businesses close down and the Business Improvement Association in the neighbourhood  must encourage other businesses to come in. I, however, think this strip could become some thing very interesting. 

 How long this will take is any ones guess but the potential is here for Little India to become like Greektown on the Danforth where Greek businesses mix with organic super markets, excellent bakeries and sushi joints run by Koreans. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lansdowne and Bloor revisited

You know, I went to a nice little restaurant, last night, called Zocalo. Less than year old. It was set up on Bloor Street near Lansdowne and Bloor, an intersection famous for it's low-end strip joints and seediness. Despite the neighbourhood, the place was full. Great food at a very reasonable price. Happy customers that kinda felt like they just discovered a well kept culinary secret.  I think there's some thing to be said about being a pioneer in an emerging neigbhourhood like Lansdowne and Bloor. But what does a successful business have to do with residential property demand, you ask? Well, a healthy commercial strip leads to a strong/cool/in demand community, then, eventually,  it becomes a destination that every one wants to travel to, a place too expensive to buy unless you bought early or you have money.  If you're looking for a home close to transit that I believe will have some of the best appreciation over then next 5 to 10 years, then consider this neighbourhood, whether you call  it the Junction Triangle, Bloordale Village or just Bloor and Lansdowne, the seeds have been planted, and good things are gonna happen  here. It won't happen overnight, but at some point the character of this corner is gonna change.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Pretty but shallow?

Another performance map came out today about Toronto's real estate market in the past year. I cannot resist these things and will spend a good chunk of time staring at each neighbourhood and wondering why some (and in fact most) have increased in price and a few have kinda bombed. I certainly believe that some neighbourhoods and micromarkets have a better chance at appreciation than others. I enjoy how this interactive map gives you the stats in each neighbourhoods, though I have to say that these neighbourhoods do some times contain vastly different kinds of housing.

On the downside, this kind of map can come off as a little too simplistic. For example, according to the map, Liberty Village properties have actually dropped in price from 2010 to 2011.  It suggests that the prices of condos (which is most of Liberty Village) have fallen in price. I feel that the prices in this area with existing condos, particularly a number of conversion projects, have increased in value. So, it's not so much that properties have fallen in value, but that newer, smaller condos have come to market at a lower price point bringing the average down. Kinda hard to get across in an interactive map.

So, have fun with the map, but don't take it too seriously.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Selling a Condo? Timing is every thing

Earlier this year, I helped a buyer purchase in a pretty amazing loft conversion at a reasonable price on the subway line. We were not the only ones who thought it was amazing though. There were two offers on the property. The funny thing:  a year earlier, during a time when the housing and condo market was pretty strong, few were buying the condos in this particular building. Why, you ask? Timing.

Once new condos are registered, there are usually a flood of condos that come to market for a particular project. Most developers will not let buyers sell their condos until the building is registered, though assignments can happen before this date. Often, a number of investors, particularly in large condo developments, want to get rid of their condo as soon as they can so they don't have to pay a mortgage and condo fees, especially when they have no intention of living in their unit. Unfortunately, when all the condos come up for sale at the same time, there is too much competition for a given product and condo remain unsold or sells for less. 

Flash forward a year or two and glut of condo sales on a new, healthy development usually passes. 

I would say the best time to sell a condo is about 5 years after you buy it, especially in an established or emerging Toronto neighbourhood. At this time, your condo hopefully has become more in demand, and there are fewer number of units coming to market. The design of the condo has not become too out of date and condo fees have not started to increase to cover aging heating systems and infrastructure of a given building. 

You may not be able to time the market, but you could have a better shot of timing the sale of your condo. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Buying Under 300K

I received a call the other day from a Toronto magazine researcher who was trying to figure out where the next up and coming neighbourhood is going to be for 2011 and 2012. She asked me if a couple had a $300 000 limit, could they buy a decent but humble house in one of the latest emerging neighbourhoods in this city.  The key word to focus on here is "emerging" because I think you can buy a house for that price in a neighbourhood that won't likely improve much. 

It's a tough one. She wasn't asking me about emerging neighbourhoods, but about pre-emerging neighbourhoods.  I told her that Carlton Village in the northwest part of the city comes close. It has some promise though a long ways to go. I'm not sure you can get a home under 300K, but the neighbourhoods around this area are improving. So, it makes sense that this one will too. How fast is any one's guess. The homes are still not as renovated but they're decent stock - with the right renos. There's not groovy coffee shops nearby or yoga studios to visit yet.  You'll have to travel a little for that, but as far as this city goes, it's a good place to get in.

Outside of the old city limits of Toronto, you can certainly find a house for under 300K, even in Etobicoke and Scarborough - though be very selective buying here.

The truth is, if your budget is under 300K and you want to live in the city, buy a condo.  Yes, condo fees can be pricey, but it's a good place to start for your first home. Same rules apply here. Buy in an emerging neighbourhood or even an established one. But also buy is a smaller development, like a townhouse or some thing that is unique. If you live in a 40 story condo, there are probably 3 or 4 condos for sale at the same time when it comes time to sell. So, you'll always have competition. Older condos are good if you want a lot of space, but they do start to fall apart after awhile, sending maintenance fees up. They also don't sell as well if they look dated. Best to get in early on a newer development, then sell it in 5 to 10 years before it becomes too dated. Then go buy your awesome house with the money you hopefully make!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Exodus to the suburbs?

Toronto Life just came out with a feature story with the title "Exodus to the Burbs" on the front cover. As I read this article, I was left scratching my head. It seems that Toronto Life has interviewed a few people who have moved from the city to the burbs, and then determined that this somehow constitutes an "exodus," like some great migration of Biblical proportions.

In fact, what keeps prices high in the city is the fact that people want to live here, and actually come here. If there was an exodus, prices would be much lower.

Toronto Life does bring up a few things that the burbs do offer - more space, less rat racey and often a quieter environment.   The feature story, however, is so romantic about life outside of the city, it's verging on fiction. They describe this sense of community that exists in the smaller towns and suburbs completely ignoring the very strong sense of community that does exist in the city. In fact, I do know my neighbours, and my neighbourhood functions very much like a small town with it's local butcher, baker, plus all the cool stuff that only cities have - your pick of indie coffeeshops, good restaurants, and a festival for what feels like every weekend in the summer.

One thing Toronto Life and I do agree on. Once you leave the city, it's hard to get back if you want to buy any property.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

For those of you who think Toronto home prices are too all, you should take a look at this Vancouver real estate game:

Sure Toronto is pricey, but for a city of its size and what it has to offer, I still think we are considerably well priced.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Crack is Whack

Just above you'll see a photo from a recently discovered flyer found in the Sherbourne and Dundas area. I'm not sure whether I think it's pretty clever or just plain sad. You can really take this notice one of two ways. It's either legit where there is a concerned citizen out there who genuinely wants to return crack to his or her rightful owner, like you would a bank card or cell phone you found on the street, or more likely, it's a local prankster who is making his or her thoughts known on just how common place drug use has become in this particular neighbourhood.  

But what does this have to do with emerging neighbourhoods, you ask?

 Well, a lot.  Many buyers I come across seem to think that if a Toronto neighbourhood is centrally located and is close to the downtown glitz and glam, it is destined to shake off its shady past, and emerge as a place where the prices of property will just keep going up and up, and the neighbourhood will inevitably improve. 

And to a point, I agree. There is a certain momentum where more and more people want to live in the city. And this places pressure on well located neighbourhoods to improve as prices become out of reach in the more established downtown neighbourhoods. Even at Dundas and Sherbourne, a lot of the old Victorians have been renovated to look pretty fantastic. 

But let's not kid ourselves. Some hoods that have much bigger hurdles to clear than others. The  things that are pulling it down are just too powerful - crime, lack of community, and a disproportionately high concentration of poorly maintained public and private housing.  And of course crack. I wouldn't go so far to say neighbourhoods like the one around Dundas and Sherbourne are doomed forever like rehab that just won't work, but turning them around won't be easy.  

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Wacky Pride of Parkdale

Parkdale's a wacky place. Just the other day I was standing on a leafy, pleasant street in this emerging neighbourhood with a client who just purchased a property here. I was speaking to him on the sidewalk  when a local Mom, possibly a little on the crazy side, or maybe just looking a little tired from the heat, walked by with her kid in a wagon. As the Mom and 3 year old passed me, the kid wound up and punched me in the leg. It didn't hurt, but it was strange that the Mom didn't turn around to respond to it. Of course,  I didn't say any thing either. Somehow, because I was in Parkdale, I expect that odd things will happen from time to time and I'll just be fine with that.

Nowhere else in the city are you going to find the same mix of cool kids, urban professionals, half-way homes for the mentally challenged and some of Toronto's best rotis in the same neighbourhood.  You would think there would be more friction with this mix, but instead you find inhabitants who are incredibly proud to be part of such a distinct place. They brag about how close it is the to city, and they really own it's gritty side. Case in point: In the Parkdale property my client purchased, the seller explained how she had found a newpaper from the 1920s when she was renovating her home. She offered to frame it and give it to my buyers as a gift. My buyer was thrilled. Just in that act alone, he could see how proud Parkdale owners are of their homes and neighbourhood.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Unreachable Traveling Seller

In the Toronto world of selling real estate, some salespeople hold back offers in a healthy seller's market to help boost the price, and give the public time for buyers to see the house. I've used this strategy myself. It basically says don't bother giving me an offer until a certain date, usually around a week after the listing. At this point the seller will view all offers. Of course the buyer's agent can come in with a bully offer at any time, but usually every one gets in line, and if there are any offers that come in, they come in on that date. It's fair and straight forward. We're not seeing any offers until such and such a date.

Another tactic that seems to gaining some momentum is the 24 or 48 irrevocable used by the seller. With this, the seller will accept the offer any time but would like to have either 24 or 48 hours to be contacted, and then make up their mind about the offer. During this time, the seller's agent will likely call every one that went through the property to see if they would like to put an offer. The 24 or 48 hours allows the seller agent enough time to drum up a multiple offer situation. 

The bottom line though, the buyer's agent doesn't have to give the seller agent this time frame.  So often there is a popular excuse given as to why a seller can't respond to an offer on the most important sale of their life. That is: They're traveling.  And that's what drive me a little crazy. It's like every one who is selling their home has suddenly left for a remote part of the world where their is no internet, cell access or faxes. I'm sure some people are traveling and do need time. But let's be serious. One look at the mls you would think that a good chunk of people who want to sell a house had decided to do that lion safari in remote Kenya or climb mountains in Nepal at about the time they were selling their house. 

I can certainly see when you're selling a home how this strategy can be helpful. I used it myself when my client was up north at a cottage with no cell access. Honestly! But if I am working for the buyer, it's best to call up the seller agent and see just how accessible the traveling seller really is. 

Thursday, 30 June 2011

dinos for a strong community

Community is one of those wishy washy words that I don't like to throw around. It means different things to different people. For some, a good community is a lawful place where there's no crime, a certain bland consistency and a sameness that can feel great for insiders, and lousy for the outsiders.

I prefer community to be a place where different kinds of people have a common thread, a desire make a particular neighbourhood feel more friendly. People care about their  homes. They want to have distinct local business. And they want to bump into friends at the coffee shop.  Whether you crave community or not, it's a key ingredient for an emerging neighbourhood. Good coffee shops, restaurants, parks, local events, like farmer's markets or a music or art festival, are the usual markers of a neighbourhood that is building a stronger  community.

But sometimes community can grow out of some thing quite small, and unintentional. I have a friend, Amanda, who lives in Dufferin Grove. Amanda's been around. And by that I mean she has lived in a lot of cities. She was born in England, moved to Boston and now lives in Toronto. Each place she goes, she and her husband have to build a new group of friends and tap into their local community. She has two sons now. And recently, for her sons, Amanda put 2 toy dinosaurs in the front garden. She told her sons that the front garden was going to be their new home. The hostas will provide shade, and protect them from extinction-sized comets.  They became part of the flora and fanua of the garden. 

Then one morning, Amanda noticed there were more than two dinosaurs in her garden. There were four. And from there, it grew. Every one from the neighbourhood began adding dinosaurs to the garden.  If I mention the dinosaur garden to any one I know in Dufferin Grove, they all know exactly what I'm taking about. In fact, they light up with a kind of pride that their neigbhourhood contains this unique and unusual place. 

Now maybe you don't want dinos in your garden, but personally,  I think that says something quite nice about community. With absolutely no intention or committees or budget, a local dinosaur garden was formed from the creativity of a group of neighbours who may or may not even know one another. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

bigger is not always better

You know, ever once in awhile, an article comes along to say how big a house you can get if you move away to a smaller market like Windsor where houses are cheap and plentiful. What they never seem to mention: You better be staying in Windsor because you won't be able to afford to get in any where else. There are a few places that are still inexpensive, like Hamilton, that i think will be worth more some day, but unless you're retiring, more is not always better from an investment perspective. If you buy a hugh house in Windsor for 300K or a tiny condo in Toronto for 300K, you would have more space and a better standard of living in Windsor, but the appreciation on your asset will be much better in Toronto.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Lake Effect

People like lakes. And so do I - especially ones that you can swim in during the summer. Mimico and Long Branch are a pretty unique part of Toronto in that both neighbourhood border the lake, though I don't know about the swimming option for Lake Ontario in these parts. As far as lakeside communities go, they're fairly well priced. Of course the closer to the lake you are, the more it's gonna cost you, but even this is relatively new in south Etobicoke.

I remember celebrating my sister birthday at her friend's home about 7 or 8 years ago, a simple, but well-maintained bunglow on the lake with a humble row boat at the end of the yard. Even then I was shocked that any one can just live on the water like that so close to the city. It felt like a mistake. You couldn't go swimming in it, and the ugly view of Hamilton was not very inspiring, but it just felt nice to be near the water. I felt calmer somehow. Since then, my sister's friend sold her place for a healthy profit and the whole house was knocked down to make a far fancier home. I don't think it would be easy to find a lakefront property in Toronto these days, even in more affordable Mimico and parts of Long Branch.

But still a strange divide has happened. I have a listing, not even a block from Lakeshore Blvd. A great place, but you can't see the lake at all. Even south of lakeshore, you can't really see the lake from most properties. Still, I've had a few calls where I was told that interested buyers want to be near the lake, and for whatever reason, south of Lakeshore has been the dividing line that determines what is close enough to the lake and what isn't. You can still access the lake quite easily in a short walk from north of Lakeshore, but somehow this two lane commercial portion of Lakeshore determines what is near the lake and what isn't.

Is that crazy or is that just me?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fool for Pools

When I was a kid, I didn't have a pool, but I had friends with pools, and on hot summer days I would give them a call to see what they were doing. I would never ask if I could come over for a swim, but I would hint. "Wow, it's hot out," and hope they would take the bait and open the gate for me and my towel. Pools reigned supreme in the 70s and 80s. At one point, it was a bit of a status symbol to have a backyard pool. You can be the nerdiest kid on the block, but if you had a pool, you would be the coolest and most sought-after friend. At least until the end of the summer. 

 Then some thing happened. The tides turned - at least as far as adults are concerned. Many homebuyers began to develop a distaste for pools. Why? Because it cost money to maintain, they take  up too much back yard space, and you only use them for 4 months of the year. Fair enough, I guess.

I currently have a listing coming up with a pool. Luckily, the pool is above ground and could be easily removed, and it does not dominate the entire backyard, which has been landscaped so that the pool is not the only thing interesting behind the house.  In a sense, you could have your cake and eat it too in this home. 

Regardless, I think the pool may actually scare off a few people when they see word "pool" mentioned in the listing, even though the house is well priced - in my biased opinion. 

I have to admit that if I was selling this house in March with the dead leaves and the sunken cover over the pool, I would think it was a real eyesore, an unfortunate thing to have in your backyard. But it's different in the June. It's blue and swirling and just so inviting on a hot day.  I think of the entertainment potential. Though pools may be far less in numbers than decades ago, a summertime pool  still gives you the power to create the fun in your own backyard. People will come to you. And though you can't use the pool year round, I ask you: how many months do you actually spend in the backyard any way?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


As a real estate sales representative, here I will help you:

1. Sift through your mortgage options to see what financial opportunity suits you best. 
2. Answer any questions you may have about emerging or established neighbourhoods in Toronto.
3. Discuss the current real estate market to find out if this is a good time for you to buy a home. 
4. Conduct advanced searches on the Toronto mls to find listings that fit your desired criteria.
5. Set up all arrangements for property viewings at convenient times. 
6. Draft a legally binding contract and negotiate on your behalf with the seller.
7. Connect you with lawyers, home inspectors, mortgage brokers and any other professional involved in the buying process.
8. Work through any potential challenges that may arise during the home buying process.
9. Protect your interests and assure privacy and respect with all the information we share.