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Archive for the ‘Buying a Home’ Category

Would a Vacancy Tax Help or Hurt?

Monday, September 17th, 2018

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

Monday, September 10th, 2018

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

Monday, August 20th, 2018

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?

Monday, August 13th, 2018

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.

Is Toronto’s Condo Supply Family Friendly?  

Friday, July 27th, 2018

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

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

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

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

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.

 

Make Your Move More Tolerable

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Summertime is when we experience a higher-than-normal volume of people moving from one house to another.

The reasons for this are because children are out of school in summer and the weather is moderate. It also happens to more closely follow the peak real estate sales season of spring.

Let’s consider ways to make the unpleasant task of moving a little more agreeable:

Compartmentalize

Sorting out your belongings is a big part of moving, though possibly one of the most difficult aspects. And why not use the chance to decide what stays, what’s recycled and what goes in the donation bin. Consider holding a garage sale before the move. The less you have to transfer to the new house makes moving easier, less expensive and much less time consuming.

Get Quotes 

Be sure to get multiple quotes from different moving companies. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what kind of insurance is included. Explore what options and services they offer such as packing and unpacking services, moving boxes and packing supplies.

Drill Down 

Find out what items your moving company won’t touch. You will either have to throw out those items or find a way to move them yourself.

Pets 

Whether you’re moving relatively close by or far away don’t forget to make travel plans for your pets. And remember to accommodate your furry friends once you get to your new place. Try to find them an out-of-the-way spot where they won’t be distracted or disturbed by all the comings and goings of moving day.

Move-In Musts 

Consider assembling a sort of first-aid kit for moving day. You’ll want to include necessities such as toilet paper, tissue, a flashlight, cleaning supplies, rags and cooking supplies. Mark them ‘open first’ so you can quickly find these essentials.

Find a Babysitter 

Though kids aren’t in school in summer, younger ones may be more of a hindrance than a help on the big day. You may want to leave them with mom or perhaps a friend or babysitter. Plan that ahead of time.

Clean-Up 

As a gesture of goodwill, it’s a good idea to hire cleaners to clean your house once you’ve moved out and before the new homeowners arrive. You may want to consider having the carpets cleaned as well.

Unpacking 

This should be done based on your needs, but kitchen and at least one bathroom makes sense. Also, at some point, you’ll want to make up the beds since you will be spending your first night in your new home. Once these essentials are done, you can relax. Remember unpacking doesn’t need to be done in one or two days.

Source: www.moving.com,

Buying a Condo Resale versus Pre-Construction

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Now that your heart is set on purchasing a condo you need to decide if you want to buy resale or one that hasn’t yet gotten off the ground.

Each has their pros and cons. What you select probably depends on your personality. So let’s examine both.

Resale

I can see it 

This option allows you to visualize what you are buying up close and personal. No guessing, no trying to picture yourself walking through the condo based on a 3-D rendering and wondering if you will truly like the layout, space and design elements. Same goes for the neighbourhood. You will get a sense of the kind of commercial activity and green spaces currently in your area as opposed to projecting possibilities with a pre-construction condo that can take years to materialize.

Waiting Game 

With a resale condo, you can move in right away or as soon as you close so there is little waiting, if at all. This is perfect for the patiently challenged among us.

Math Made Easy 

Calculations are a breeze as your mortgage is pre-approved and you can then figure out your monthly payments so you know what you’re dealing with.

Room to Breathe 

Older resale condo units typically contain more square footage in terms of living and storage space. If size matters to you, this may be a factor worth considering.

Renovation Expenses 

Odds are if you unit was lived in for any length of time, you may want to invest in some home renovations and repairs.

Pre-Construction

It’s Tailor-made 

One of the big benefits to buying a condo before it’s built is that you can customize to your heart’s content. Being able to select that bamboo flooring you’ve always loved or certain appliances and cabinetry can really add to the charm of buying this way.

Save Your Pennies 

Pre-construction gives you more time to save for your condo. This is because you pay the builder a number of payments which total a deposit in the neighbourhood of 20 to 25 per cent of the purchase price.

Appreciation 

There are no guarantees, of course, but often the value of your condo increases from when you buy it to when you actually move in.

Delays

It’s not uncommon to experience setbacks that impede the progression of construction so being sure you have a stable place to hang your hat as your condo is being built is important.

What are the Fees? 

With pre-construction you don’t know what your maintenance fees and property taxes will be. Of course, you can guess but they will likely change by the time your building is ready. Also, pre-construction units are subject to HST.

Dust, Dirt & Chaos 

You might have the keys to your unit, but the builder still have lots of work to do. If you don’t mind the commotion and the mess and can handle living in a condo that still needs some tweaking, this may not be a problem for you.

 

Sources: www.sunlife.ca, www.baystreetblog.com, www.lowestrates.ca

 

How to integrate condos and pets

Friday, May 11th, 2018

There are a million considerations to mull over before deciding to buy a condo. One you should not neglect centres on your furry and feathered friends and how warmly they’ll be welcomed, if at all, in your new digs.

Not all condominium corporations love domesticated animals equally. So if bringing your four-legged friend or pet turtle with you is a priority that is definitely something you need to discuss with your realtor, who should be able to advise you. If they can’t or won’t, it’s time to get a new agent.

At Freeman Real Estate, where we encourage staff to bring their pets to work, we’ve even dedicated part of our website to finding the perfect pet-friendly Toronto Condo. We know the public loves their pets and will go to great lengths to accommodate them. In fact, a CBC.ca report from 2017 cited a city estimate that there are between four to eight pets living on every high-rise floor in the city.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The thing to know is that every condo building varies in its rules about pets with some banning them altogether. In order to get the low-down on a particular building you need something called a condo status certificate which outlines the dos and don’ts of your condo. Your real-estate agent may already have copies of the certificates but if not you can get them for a small fee.

So what kind of regulations do condo boards typically have? They vary and cover a wide assortment of items. More common restrictions include rules about leashing pets and ensuring that they are registered and guidelines as to how many pets you can have in your unit and what size and weight your pets can be. There are even some that govern the type of pet so goats or chickens are forbidden because they would be deemed to be livestock.

If you’re something of a rebel and you think the condo board members will fall in love with your 90-kilo English Mastiff and disregard their weight restrictions, think again. Unless you can prove that your pet is with you for medical reasons (as recognized by the Human Rights Code), you may be in for a bitter and pricey fight. In 2015, The Toronto Star reported on a case that ended when the dog was ordered to be removed from the condo. The judge awarded $47,000 in court costs to the condo corporation “which can be collected by way of a lien” against the condo unit in question. The legal costs incurred by the condo dwellers could have easily doubled their bill, the story reported. They argued that their dog, Peaches, should be permitted despite weighing 15 pounds more than what the bylaws allowed.

It just goes to show you that it’s important to be mindful of the rules. Besides there are plenty of GTA condos that are very pet friendly, offering a host of amenities such as nearby parks, pet-washing stations and pet spas.

Sources: www.torontostar.ca, www.zoocasa.com, www.cbc.ca

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.