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Would a Vacancy Tax Help or Hurt?

September 17th, 2018 by freemanrealty

A common lament in the world of Toronto real estate is that the housing market is in short supply.

So when we hear that and then also learn that two per cent of homeowners own properties that are currently vacant, it makes you stop for a minute.

Though two per cent might sound like peanuts, it’s not. If you are looking at sales over the past 12 months, that translates to nearly 1,857 properties added to the bundle of already vacant homes in the GTA, an indisputably significant number, according to Better Dwelling.

In 2017, numbers from Statistics Canada showed that Toronto was home to over 99,000 unoccupied homes.

The survey of 2,501 homeowners was released earlier this year by the Toronto Real Estate Board and Ipsos.

It also appears that the inventory of empty homes has risen quite substantially from 2017. According to the CBC, 28 per cent of GTA property listings are vacant, a number that has increased over last year from 17 per cent.

Large numbers of vacant homes has been a controversial issue particularly in the GTA and Vancouver, where real estate prices have made the prospect of owning a home impossible for some. In fact, many industry insiders and economists have suggested that a vacancy tax would ease housing supply shortages. While many proponents of affordable housing support a vacancy tax believing that it would unlock Toronto’s supply of rental units, there is also some evidence that shows a vacancy tax may just help the buy-and-sell housing market.

The TREB-Ipsos survey supports this view. Results show what these homeowners of secondary properties would do if confronted with a vacancy tax. Nearly 38 per cent said they would sell their property, while almost 37 per cent claimed they would rent their properties to tenants. This would clearly go a long way toward building the city’s housing supply.

Some observers say higher numbers of empty homes are the result of foreign investors and speculators, who are simply waiting for the right time to sell. Still, others blame the growth in vacant housing stock on short-term accommodations services such as Airbnb. Any which way you approach the issue, there’s no doubt that the high number of empty homes poses some level of threat to the GTA’s economic health.

 

 

 

The Benefits to Buying & Selling in Fall

September 10th, 2018 by freemanrealty

There’s a time-worn saying in real estate that location, location, location is everything but anyone who has bought and sold property once or twice knows that success in the market also hinges on timing, timing, timing.

If you missed the hot spring market, you’re in luck as fall runs a close second in terms of being the most desirable time to buy or sell your home. Here’s why:

Buyers are serious

It’s true that there are fewer buyers in fall, no doubt, but those that are out there tend to be more serious about the practice of purchasing a home. Not to discredit spring buyers, but when the real estate market heats up into a whirling frenzy you invariably end up with buyers who are simply caught up in the tumultuous trend. A number of them enjoy touring homes and kicking tires. Fall buyers aren’t as affected by the whirlwind of activity as they otherwise would be joining their counterparts in spring.  These home buyers are ready to put their money where their mouth is and they are interested in investing in a home or property instead of merely checking out how well or poorly a home is staged.

Fewer irons in the fire 

We all know competition can be fierce during a spring market. That’s when the majority of sellers list their homes in order to accommodate summertime moves thanks in large part to school-aged children and other family needs. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to selling your home in the fall is the fact there is far less inventory available, which puts your property in greater demand.

Before the snow flies 

If you buy or sell early enough in fall, you could be settled into your new home before any inclement weather begins knocking or just in time for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. In addition, a fall move will likely go easier on your wallet than a move in spring or summer.

Families aren’t the only buying demographic 

It makes sense why families with children choose to buy or sell in the spring. Their kids need not be uprooted during the school year and moving in summer is simply easier and less disruptive for little ones. But there are plenty of childless consumer groups who buy and sell real estate. Young professionals, seniors and empty nesters, to name a few.

The beauty of autumn 

It’s true that one of the reasons the spring market is so popular is because that’s when properties are at their most captivating. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding and lawns look lush and green. But the fall is clearly no runner up in the home beauty pageant department. Trees display a magnificent variation of colour in fall. Certain flowers are still in blossom or just emerging then. Add to your exterior’s curb appeal with a beautiful wreath or door swag. Given that Thanksgiving and Halloween occur in October, there are plenty of visual cues from which to draw inspiration for outdoor decorating.

Smaller Condo Buildings May be the Answer

August 20th, 2018 by freemanrealty

If you’re a millennial hoping to build your life and grow a family within the city, you will likely know that Toronto’s condo boom is also in short supply of family friendly units.

While developers have spent the past decade or so building smaller condo units with single folks or investors in mind, a 2017 housing report by Ryerson University and Urbanation points out that developers and city planners need to look at the changing demographic landscape to help guide the housing development of tomorrow. The report notes that as millennials mature and begin to raise families and as baby boomers age and decide to move out of their homes and into condos, the city will require more family-oriented housing units for these groups.

Yet condos are getting taller and smaller overall. Proportionately speaking, developers are building fewer two-bedroom condo units than ever before. The size of so-called family units is shrinking when compared with, say, a three-bedroom condo from a decade or two ago. Many condos buildings are towers, and as such, considered unliveable by some. At the same time, affordability has also taken a hit. For example, in 2007, the price gap between a detached house and average condo was $205,000. In 2017, the difference jumped to over $600,000.

The report titled Bedrooms in the Sky calls for a shift in how developers meet the housing needs of the future and the so-called “missing middle” housing options that fall somewhere in between a detached home and small condo apartments.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“This missing middle includes low-rise walk-ups and stacked townhouses that can infill low-density neighbourhoods predominated by single-family homes,” says the report. “Mid-rise buildings can also help bridge the gap between detached houses and small apartment units. Mid-rise buildings tend to include larger units and can be more attractive to families than high-rise buildings due to their moderate scale and better integration into existing communities.”

At the time of the report’s release in November, 2017, just three per cent of condos slated for development in the GTA were in buildings under five storeys and only seven per cent were for five to eight storeys.

Buildings under six storeys can be built using wood-frame construction, a feature offering developers greater flexibility, according to the report.

Building bedrooms in the sky for growing families may be the way of the future for those who want to own property in the GTA. In order for families to stay put, developers need to make condos that are spacious and family friendly. That requires political will and the recognition that if condo prices continue to climb, good families will be forced to relocate outside the city.

 

 

Is 2018 Your Year to Invest?

August 13th, 2018 by freemanrealty

Don’t let the naysayers bring you down. There are still numerous ways in which to invest in real estate in the GTA.

Investments come with certain rewards and risks so it’s important to go in with your eyes wide open. How risky, how accessible and how difficult or easy depends on your resources and your tolerance level.

Given the city’s escalating real estate prices, making a quick buck in the market is not as easy as it once was. But that doesn’t mean earning a profit on your holdings is a product of a bygone era. You likely need to be in it for the long haul.

An ideal scenario would give investors a positive cash flow in which your investment property spikes in value and your dream tenants never squawk about helping you pay off the mortgage. In today’s market that would be the stuff of dreams, however. Investors in Toronto are lucky to break even on their outlay. Your cash flow, which is the amount you keep after collecting rent and paying the expenses on your property, may see you recover your costs. But if you’re looking to fund your kid’s university education or a vacation home this may not be for you.

Let’s look at the types of investments that might be right for you:

Income Property

These are typically detached and semi-detached homes that have been converted into apartments. Houses in the city typically grow in value greater and faster than do condos so that’s an argument in their favour. You should be able to at least balance your expenses against your income and – who knows? – maybe realize a positive cash flow. Of course, know that you will have all the headaches that come with renting out a space, too.

Condos

These investments are hot, hot, hot right now. But condo investing likely means a more long-term proposition. Thanks to the city’s very low vacancy rate, landlords have the upper hand and can pick and choose from a list of preferred tenants. The maintenance and all-round work of keeping a condo in good repair is significantly less than with a freehold house. Their appreciation levels over time are also respectable.

Commercial Property 

These are often also known as mixed use properties as they have a mix of retail, office and apartment space. A big reason to invest in these properties centres on earnings, which are generally higher than that of residential buildings. Other bonuses include the pride retail and commercial business operators take in their businesses. The leases you negotiate with commercial tenants can be attractive, too, as the onus is often on the tenant, and not the landlord, to pay the expenses associated with the space. On the down side, there is more work involved with managing a commercial property, you will likely need more upfront funds for your investment than with a residential property and there is a higher liability risk as more people will be accessing the property due to its commercial focus.

Weird Gardening Terms You Need to Know

August 6th, 2018 by freemanrealty

There are still a few good months to go in our efforts to manage and maintain our lawns and gardens.

While simply keeping on top of your vegetable garden and grass trimming can be work enough, August is a good time to get to know your garden a little better. So let’s explore those vaguely familiar, weird-sounding lawn-and-garden chores that you can begin applying. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find one you really like doing.

Deadheading:

This, quite simply, is the process of removing dead or dying blossoms from flowers and shrubs. The purpose for doing so is that it encourages the growth of more blooms.

Aerating:

This process pokes small holes in your grass so that air, water and nutrients can more easily penetrate the grass roots. This makes your grass stronger and greener.

Dethatching:

If healthy grass is important to you, you may want to take this step. Thatch is that layer of dead grass that sinks down into the soil line. As thatch builds, it prevents water and nutrients from leaching down into the roots.

Aphids:

These small insects are likely not an avid gardener’s favourite creature. Aphids suck sap from plants and they can cause heavy-duty damage to plants, shrubs and crops.

Biodegradable:

This word applies to natural substances that break down or decompose quickly thanks to the work of microorganisms. Food, leaves, wood, paper and cotton are all examples of biodegradable products.

Dibble:

These smallish tools might save your finger nails as the point makes holes in the ground for seeds, plants or bulbs.

Heirloom:

When plants are called heirloom, this refers to old fruit, flower and vegetable plants that have been grown by gardeners and farmers since before World War Two. These plants are generally grown in small-scale operations.

Hydroponics:

This is the art and science of growing plants without soil.

Irrigation:

This essentially means delivering water to your lawn and garden. When you sprinkle water on your flowers, whether with a watering can or hose, though there are many other methods, you are irrigating.

Symbiosis:

This is the relationship that occurs when life forms interact with each other. Sometimes it is beneficial, sometimes not. For example, marigolds release a chemical that wards off a type of worm. Beneficial, right?

Succulent:

All the rage right now, this often thick and fleshy type of plant retains water in dry climates.

Xeriscaping:

This is a type of water-saving garden that works well in drought conditions. Native flowers, plants and shrubs are ideal for this as they are accustomed to our climate. These gardens tend to be less maintenance and attract birds and beneficial insects.

A Kaleidoscope of Summer Fun

July 31st, 2018 by freemanrealty

Summer in the GTA is all about enjoying outdoor events and activities. From al fresco patios and window shopping to biking trails and evening strolls, the warm weather prompts us to move outside for three or four months each year.

Is it any wonder that the GTA is home to such a wide assortment of open-air events, festivals and activities? Let take a look at some:

Lights, Camera, Action – You don’t need to be a movie nerd to enjoy these celebrations dedicated to cinema. The Open Roof festival runs each Wednesday until August 22 and celebrates independent film and music. Located at Castlepoint Numa on Stirling Road in the Lower Junction, tickets are $15.

The Christie Pits Film Festival goes until August 19 and showcases unusual depictions of cities and their residents from around the world. Screenings begin at sundown and a suggested donation of $10 is requested. Films will be shown on August 5, 12, 18 & 19.

The Mulan International Film Festival runs from August 10 to 17 and showcases Chinese-language films. Tickets are $15 and the films are screened at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Charles St. W.

Have Your Fill – This is a great city if you enjoy food, even greater if you appreciate foods from around the globe. And the food festivals are there to show it. Here goes:

  • 3 to 6 is The Toronto Food Truck Festival at Woodbine Park
  • 3 to 6 is Scarborough Ribfest at Thomson Memorial Park
  • 4 is Taste of the Middle East Food Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square
  • 5 is Taste of India Food Festival at Nathan Phillips Square
  • 9 to 12 is Grace JerkFest at Centennial Park
  • 10 to 12 is Pickering Food Truck Festival at The Esplanade N
  • 10 to 12 is Waterfront Night Market, a Pan-Asian food and lifestyle festival at Ontario Place
  • 10 to 12 is Taste of the Danforth on Danforth near Pape Ave.
  • 10 to 11 is Feast of St. Lawrence at St. Lawrence Market
  • 11 to 12 is Toronto Vegandale Food Drink Festival at Garrison Common
  • 11 to 12 is Sweetery Toronto Food Festival at David Pecaut Square
  • 11 is the Richmond Hill Craft Beer Festival in support of Rotary at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts
  • 17 to 19 is the Oshawa Rotary Ribfest at Lakeview Park
  • 18 to 19 is Richmond Hill Food Truck Festival at Richmond Green
  • 18 to 19 is the Markham Craft Beer & Wine Festival at Markham Fairgrounds
  • 24 to 25 is The Toronto Cider Festival at Sherbourne Common
  • 24 to 26 is Beer, Bourbon & BBQ at Ontario Place
  • 25 to 26 is the Panamerican Food & Music Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square
  • 25 to 26 is the Japan Festival Canada at Mississauga Celebration Square
  • 31 to Sept. 3 is The Mac + Cheese Festival at Woodbine Park
  • 31 to Sept. 3 is the Hispanic Fiesta at Mel Lastman Square

Entertainment, Arts & Culture – If music, dance, arts and culture are more your thing there is plenty on tap:

The Toronto Summer Music Festival runs until Aug. 4 at Koerner Hall, while the Toronto International Youth Dance Festival is at Nathan Phillips Square from Aug. 3 to the 4th. You can soak up Caribbean music at Island Soul at Harbourfront Centre from Aug. 3 to 6. From Aug. 10 to 12th catch Habari Africa, a festival celebrating the sights and sounds of African culture, at Harbourfront Centre. The TD Markham Jazz Festival goes from Aug. 17 to 19 on Main Street, Unionville in Markham.  Try the Small World Music Festival at Harbourfront Centre from Aug. 17 to 19. How about the Festival of South Asia on Gerrard Street East near Coxwell or the Chinatown Festival, both on Aug. 18 and 19th? The Korean Harvest Fest is at Mel Lastman Square Aug. 24 to 26, while Tamil Fest is being held in Scarborough on Markham Road on Aug. 25 and 26. Don’t forget the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront Centre Aug. 28 to Sept. 3 or the International Buskerfest for Epilepsy at Woodbine Park on the same dates.

 

 

 

 

Is Toronto’s Condo Supply Family Friendly?  

July 27th, 2018 by freemanrealty

Young families hamstrung by the lack of affordability within the city’s freehold housing market are looking to condos to raise their children in more affordable living spaces.

For the estimated 13 per cent of Toronto families that often means family-sized or three-bedroom condos. But good luck finding them. Many of today’s newer condos comprise some pretty un-family friendly traits: high carrying costs, meagre layouts and small quarters. As a result, these units end up being rented by students or young professionals who share the costs with their roommates.

According to Bedrooms in the Sky, a 2017 report by Ryerson University and Urbanation, Toronto may be experiencing a condo boom but it is not building enough family-friendly condos to meet demand. Even though condo construction is geared toward one-bedroom units, developers are building fewer two-bedroom units proportionately than ever before. Urbanation, a high-rise condo development tracking consultancy, says only 38 per cent of condos in development in November 2017 were two bedrooms and larger.

That condo developments are enjoying a boom period is without question. Census data shows that 129,000 of Toronto’s families lived in condos in 2016, up 8.9 per cent from 118,000 in 2011, and well above the national average of 8.4 per cent.

But Toronto doesn’t lay claim to the highest number of condo dwellers. In Vancouver more than 30 per cent of the population lives in condos, this, according to the CBC, is far and away the highest percentage in the country. In Calgary, nearly 22 per cent of residents call condos home, followed by Abbotsford-Mission, Kelowna and Toronto, all of which have more than one out of every five households living in a condominium.

The problem, many say, comes down to simple economics. Large, family-sized condos aren’t favoured by developers because it’s difficult to keep them reasonably priced. They also earn more per square foot on smaller condo units.

The report by Ryerson and Urbanation states that there may be some hope for family-friendly condo units of 3+ bedrooms as they are trending upwards, however, these dwellings generally have a resale price of more than $900,000, making them far from affordable.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The report’s authors warn that if these construction trends continue, the number of family-friendly housing units available in neighbourhoods close to transit, school and other services will continue to decrease, likely along with affordability.

Changing Lanes

July 18th, 2018 by freemanrealty

Toronto is finally poised to embrace laneway housing.

The move to approve laneway houses across the old City of Toronto has been hard fought and a long time in the making. In 2006, the city rejected laneway housing imposing strict conditions that virtually made it impossible for most homeowners to build a separate dwelling in their back alley.

But the bull real estate market of recent years, which resulted in a housing crisis in terms of affordability, is credited with transforming the thinking on laneway housing and finally opening city planners’ eyes to creative housing alternatives.

Only a handful of examples of these secondary suites exist in the city now. The directive, if approved by council, means about 250 kilometres of Toronto laneways could be used as possible laneway housing projects. Currently, these back lanes are lined mostly with garages but under the new rules, they could be replaced by houses up to two-storeys high.

In early June, the Toronto East York Community Council voted to amend the city’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law to allow laneway suites in Toronto and East York. The issue must now be considered by the full Toronto council.

A laneway house is a small dwelling at the back of a residential lot that is detached from the main house. Its services such as water, electricity, garbage and mail all come from the front street that the primary house is on, not the laneway. Laneway homes can be used as residences for family members or as rental units. These dwellings cannot be severed and sold separate from the main house, however.

The advantages to laneway housing are numerous: it increases the quality of affordable rental housing, it lets people stay in pretty, well-established and low-rise neighbourhoods, it intensifies neighbourhoods and makes urban lanes more green, liveable and safe, it allows people to live near where they work, shop and play and they provides living space for household members at different age and stages of life.

Since 2009, Vancouver has been home to over 500 laneway homes. Ottawa has recently launched a laneway housing policy and Regina is close to doing so also.

 

 

 

Summertime and the Living Needs Real Estate

July 11th, 2018 by freemanrealty

When the days are at their longest, warmest and most sun-drenched, we often feel like taking it easy.

This is the time to sit on the verandah with a tall glass of ice tea, or maybe it’s a good time to putter around your yard, extracting the odd weed and deciding what perennials need to be divided. The heat seems to slow us down a notch and force us to focus on the minutiae of life. If you’re a proponent of meditation, gurus might say it’s an ideal time to live in the moment.

Unfortunately, living in the now is not how most of us buy and sell houses. And while many think summer is a time for chilling, the commerce of everyday life often gets in the way. If you’re thinking of holding off the sale or purchase of a home until the fall, you may want to think again.

Did you know that estimates peg home sales during summer at somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent?  There are a number of reasons for this. The fact that these reasons all converge in summer is likely why. Let’s take a look:

Mild Weather

Say what you will about the weather but it’s a big factor in how we behave. Warm temperatures generally mean we’re out and about much more, possibly taking holidays or just enjoying the heat from our back patio.

If you’re taking vacation during the summer months, this gives you more time to house hunt or to get your home ready for the real estate market. If your windows need washing and your hallway could use a fresh coat of paint, now is the time to do it. If you can’t take holidays during June, July or August, you can at least take advantage of the long weekends summer offers to get some of these chores out of the way.

Boost curb appeal

Houses and neighbourhoods, in general, look most attractive in summer. Blossoms are in full bloom, trees are lush and full and lawns are green. Make sure you keep shrubs and bushes trimmed, weeds at bay and your windows washed. You might want to place some inviting furniture on your porch or a decorative wreath on your front door. This makes potential buyers feel more welcome and at ease.

Ideal time for moving 

For families with school-age children, summertime is the easiest and most convenient time to move. But it may also be a good time to hunt for a house or to sell one.  While children aren’t the main decision makers in a household, their opinions do count so it stands to reason that they should attend showings and open houses. On the flip side, if selling your house in summer, perhaps your kids can help you get your house ready for showings? Give them age-appropriate jobs like sweeping the walkway or straightening the pillows on the sofa. Remember details count and children can appreciate the finer points.

 

Grass alternatives are greener and better

July 11th, 2018 by freemanrealty

As our climate heats up every year, the matter of lawns invariably creeps into our consciousness.

As spring approaches, homeowners’ heads fill with questions and concerns about their grass. Is aerating worth the money? Can I keep pests away in a manner that is eco-friendly? How can I find the extra time to maintain my lawn and keep it looking like a lush green emerald carpet? My neighbour paved over his grass. Can I do the same?

Our view toward lawns is changing. Not the ultimate landscape material it once was, grass is less popular compared to its heyday as homeowners now look for ways to save time, money and the environment.

We’re not trying to dump on traditional lawns, but there are clearly some great alternatives available that look attractive and are more environmentally sound than traditional turf grass. Just think of the time and money you’ll have for other pursuits.

Here are some options worth considering:

Fake grass 

It’s green, it’s even, it’s soft. What’s not to like? Artificial turf can easily be mistaken for the real deal. No cutting or weeding required, the turf can last up to 15 years. Your only maintenance is keeping it clean by hosing it down or vacuuming it. Artificial grass is expensive to install but you’re initial investment is rewarded in time and money saved from not having to water or fertilize the lawn or to cut it.

Hardscaping your lawn 

This technique essentially describes the addition of elements to your lawn and garden that consist of paved areas, decks, wood chips, stones or fountains. These dry gardens are further enhanced by adding any combination of native ornamental grasses, plants and shrubs alongside hard elements such as stone chips, pea gravel and larger decorative rocks.

While folks either love or hate the look of a paved-over front lawn, there are plenty of environmental reasons for not turning your grass into a tarmac. And, according to the Toronto Star, the process of getting approvals for paving your front yard is not an easy one.

Garden of Edibles

Talk about eating the fruits of your labour. Installing a garden that yields fruits and vegetables has its own set of benefits, perhaps the foremost being the sense of satisfaction you get from growing your own food.

Native plants and ground covers

The beauty of these species is that they survive, and thrive even, with very little outside help. Ground covers come in a variety of shapes, colours and blooms. Consider Creeping Potentilla, a drought tolerant low-growing plant that produces yellow flowers, Scotch Moss, perfect for growing in the cracks between stones or Thyme, which attracts insects and can withstand moderate foot traffic.

If you prefer taller plants, try indigenous flowers and shrubs. Asters, Coneflower, Milkweed and violets make for a colourful garden that will attract bees and butterflies. For bushes and shrubs and to fill bigger spaces, try Chokeberry, Dogwood, Honeysuckle and Yew.

While the transition may take some getting used to, know that you are free to pursue more enjoyable pastimes than lawn maintenance. Know also that you are doing your part for the environment as half of all residential water usage in summer is due to lawn watering with much of that water lost to evaporation and run-off, according to Environment Canada.

 

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.