Saturday, August 30, 2008

The joys of waterfront living

In this hectic world, lakeside living provides a tantalizing lifestyle option, and why not? Being able to gaze at breathtaking water views or stroll along a sandy shore without having to drive to the cottage is an ideal scenario - especially when you live in the city. The idea of living by the lake appeals to people of all ages, which is obvious when you look at the cross-section of purchasers who are snapping up suites in Toronto's many waterfront condominium communities.

Water has a calming effect on most people all year long. Hot summer days bring the refreshing vista of sun shine bouncing off the lake's serene surface and birds riding the wave of soft breezes. Even in the winter or when the wind whips up a storm water fascinates us, and connects us to the earth and our beginnings.

A lakeside location is also paradise for active individuals who love the outdoors. In Toronto, the waterfront is blessed with the Martin Goodman Trail, which invites walking, jogging, bicycling and inline skating along a 22 km pathway that leads through scenic parkland. Marinas and boating opportunities beckon, and some of the city's finest dining, entertainment and cultural amenities are situated within walking distance, adding yet another dimension of resort style living for those who are fortunate enough to live here.

Views are important, of course, and there are many exceptional waterfront views, including those from the Martin Goodman Trail and Etobicoke's waterfront Humber Bay Shores. Purchasers at Monarch's Waterview, for example, tell us that the views they will enjoy from their balconies, terraces and large windows are a major reason for their choice. The shoreline in this area winds west from Toronto and then curves, offering vistas of both the water and the city's skyline, a perfect example of how condominium developers understand the special nature of waterfront land and design buildings to maximize the lakeside locale.

During the past decade Humber Bay Shores has undergone a metamorphosis. A redevelopment plan adopted by the City of Etobicoke in the mid-1990s led to a rejuvenation of this coveted area. The redevelopment plan requires that before large-scale developers can proceed with the creation of condominium neighbourhoods, they have to have designs in place for amenities. Working together, the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Department and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority have enhanced the natural environment in the area with the introduction of a new waterfront park, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, enhanced wetlands and fish habitats, trails and more. Less urban than Toronto's central waterfront, Humber Bay Shores will offer peace and tranquility for its residents.

Once you've explored lakeside living, you'll be hooked. But as the demand for waterfront condominiums in Toronto increases, it's important to remember that there is only so much shoreline to go around. With the central waterfront area pretty well developed and Humber Bay Shores selling quickly, opportunities for an idyllic lakeside lifestyle in Toront will soon come to an end. What a shame.

Linda Mitchell is Vice-President of Marketing, High-Rise for Monarch Developments, a company that offers condominiums at many of Toronto's best locations. In 2003, she received the Riley Brethour Award acknowledging outstanding and consistent professional achievement in residential sales and marketing.

David Pylyp All the reasons to want waterfront condos and enjoy the Mark Goodman trail will become more apparent as the available building sites disappear. (Developed) With the addition of the proposed transit line and business improvements this neighbourhood will do exceedingly well in the long term.

Watercolours in Mississauga

Watercolours in Mississauga is located at Indian Road and Mississauga Road. Visitors are greeted with a stone gate marking the almost gated community thru only two entries via Cobalt and Infinity St(s).

Quality upscale Mattamy built homes ranging from 3700 to 5000 + square feet are arranged on 50 to 75 foot lots. The Majority are freehold owned Detached properties. The addition of smaller Private Roads and the concept of condominium type detached home ownership has finally arrived and is very attractive to occassional residents. A number of streets exist withing the community where Snowbirds and world travellers can vacation safely knowing their homes are groomed, maintained and appear attended. This community contains a number of desirable BUNGALOW properties.

Featured homes currently available

A strong Community Oriented Residents Association is available within the community that pride themselves with being Watercolours Residents. You can rest assured that the majority of vehicular traffic in the community is from local residents and makes for a pleasant environment.
The common elements fees look after snow, grass and common element maintenance. There are a number of detached bungalow properties contained here that start at 2400 square feet.

The newly build Catholic Elementary School, St Luke Elementary, on Cobalt St., adds a benefit to the community as being within the local walking distance. The addition of small parkettes adds to the ambiance and an open invitation to baby strollers and promenades thru the charming streets.

Access to transit is idea via the QEW at Mississauga Road,via the Lake Shore. Travel times to downtown Toronto are approximately 20 minutes in optimum traffic conditions. The Go Train is available at the Hurontario Port Credit Station and is a sensible native for DT Toronto destinations.

The newly imposed Toronto Land Transfer Tax does not apply in this community as you would become Mississauga resident, yet enjoy the benefits of being within minutes of a major cosmopolitan area.

With site sign up you will receive a PDF list of homes that have sold in the last 12 month period. This will provide an understanding of the local property values. Please complete the information below to receive this material instantly.

If you would like an immediate update of homes available for sale please contact me in this dialogue window.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Can you be forced out of your home - on a reverse mortgage

If I am retired and do a reverse mortgage, what happens if I live for such a long time that all the equity in my house has been paid out to me? Will I be forced to sell the house and give the proceeds to the reverse mortgage holder?would I be able to live in the house until I dieneed to go into a nursing home?

First, a bit of background information on reverse mortgages. In order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, all borrowers must be at least 62 and the home must be your primary residence. Generally, there can be no other mortgage on the property. If there is another mortgage on the property, you will need to use some of the proceeds from the reverse mortgage to pay off the debt. A reverse mortgage, as it’s name implys, is a loan against the equity in your home. The most common type of reverse mortgage is a Canada Home Income Plan (CHIP).

The amount you can get depends primarily on your age, the value of your home, and the type of program you select. For example, an 85 year old living in a $500,000 home would qualify for a larger amount than a 64 year old living in a similar $500,000 home. To find out how much you could qualify for with a reverse mortgage, check out this calculator. Canadian limits for the CHIP Program are 40 % of appraised value.

Once you are approved, the loan amount can be disbursed in one lump sum, paid to you in monthly payments,established as an available credit line that can be tapped whenever you need it.

With reverse mortgages, you are never making any payments so your debt level is constantly increasing (because your equity is constantly decreasing). The good news is that you will never owe more on the loan than the house is worth. If property values drop after the loan is in place and you end up living a very long time, you might not have any equity left in the house but that would be the lender’s problem, not yours, and the lender wouldn’t be able to “evict” you because that situation occurred.
As long as you are living in the house and maintaining it properly, you do not have to pay back the loan. Reverse mortgages come “due” when:
  • the borrower has died,
  • the borrower sells the home, or
  • the borrower has not lived in the home for one continuous year.
So, the reverse mortgage wouldn’t even be due if you needed to go into a nursing home for a yearless. You would have to be in the nursing home for a year more.

Technically, the lender can also demand payment if you:
  • don’t maintain your home,
  • don’t pay your taxes,
  • don’t carry the necessary insurance, or
  • declare bankruptcy.

I am really not a huge fan of reverse mortgages, as they tend to be very expensive. When you take out a reverse mortgage, you will incur origination fees, servicing fees, and closing costs. Total costs on a $250,000 loan amount could run close to $20,000. However, in certain situations, reverse mortgages are the only option on the table.

Manulife One has a credit line available for home owners that will advance up to 50 % of the appraised value without credit verification. You could establish a credit line at PRIME with manulife and advance (take only) the money you need when you need it. Simply put why borrow at 6.25 vs 4.15 % calculated in simple interest.

In just a few years, the costs associated with these products have come down and the terms in general will become more favourable. Baby boomers retiring in the next decadeso may find themselves short on retirement income but long on home equity so the demand for these products is likely to increase.

If you are interested to discuss these option please contact me and I will arrange for a Manulife One rep to make an appointment with you.

Fixed vs Variable What to do?

Fixed versus variable rate mortgages

Recent rumblings in the financial markets have made some homeowners nervous – especially those with mortgages that may be coming up for renewal. With inflation creeping upward and interest rates threatening a continued rise, is this the time to lock-in a fixed rate mortgage? Or is the upward pressure on interest rates merely a short-term event, thus making a variable rate mortgage a better gamble over the longer term?
Your choice should be firmly based on your personal financial objectives, your overall financial plan, and what some experts term your insomnia factor. You may also want to investigate an alternative arrangement that offers a combination of fixed and variable rate mortgage financing.

Know the differences

A fixed interest rate mortgage provides the security of a ‘locked-in’ interest rate for a specified period of time (usually five years). A variable interest rate mortgage usually offers a lower initial interest rate but that rate can go up or down, often tied to prime interest rate levels.

Know your mortgage

Take a close look at the mortgage ‘features’. For example, is it portable? – meaning can you move it from an existing home to a newly purchased home without penalties or having to renew it? If you intend to increase your mortgage for a renovation or to purchase a vacation property, will the new rate be ‘blended’ with the old or will you have to renegotiate at a higher rate?

Know yourself Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Do I want to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible or am I better off focusing more on investing for retirement?

  • Do I want the lowest cost mortgage?

  • Do I want my mortgage paid off by the time I retire?

  • Should I consider converting my mortgage interest costs into a tax deductible investment expense?

  • Do I want a low-rate mortgage so I can borrow against it for investments, a reno, or to consolidate other higher-interest debt?

  • Can my budget stand short-term interest rate increases and the ‘payment shock’ that can happen with a variable rate mortgage?

  • Similarly, will interest rate increases lead me into ‘negative amortization’? This is a gradual increase in mortgage debt that occurs when your fixed monthly payment doesn’t cover the increasing interest due. It can add years to your mortgage.

  • Can I sleep at night? Ahh, the insomnia factor – any investment, including your mortgage, is probably not right for you if you constantly worry about it.

Before making your final mortgage decisions, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a professional advisor.

John Scholl B. Mathematics, CGA,

Wealth Management & Financial Planning
Please contact him at 416 731 3660

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Take another look at those numbers

A reoccurring theme at my office, seems to be the status of the real estate market with many people hesitating to make long term purchase commitments; CMHC shortened amortization maximum's and the media cried Canada at risk; ZERO down eliminated effective October 08. The media responded with Buyers will be wiped out.

1) I do not have a crystal ball.
2) I do not profess to have special insights.
3) I just report the facts as I see them.

That said; I thought it interesting to examine the real estate market from a slightly different perspective.

In Toronto, we are a collective population of 4.7 Million People source This does not include the surrounding GTA to the west, Mississauga, Oakville, North regions of Newmarket and Markham, and the Oshawa Ajax region. Although all their sales are pooled into TREB.

From the pool of data that we have from the Toronto Real Estate Board stats posted monthly, give us sales summary number- up or down; percentages increasing and decreasing. But What do they all really mean?

August 6, 2008 -- TREB Members reported 7,806 sales of single-family dwellings in July, continuing a healthy but not record setting pace into the summer. “Even though GTA sales were down 12 per cent from the best-ever July 2007 figure of 8,912, sales were up 10 per cent from July 2006 (7,082),” Market Watch Stats are available to you here.

Total number of homes for sale in the TREB system 26,543 eom July 08.

Now lets compare that with an urban city in the United States. I took a site tour and found the following details from The Houston Housing Market.

The Houston Housing Market continues to show strength in pricing. However, the Houston Homes Market posted declines in the number of homes sold with July of 2008 posting 5,885 total closed sales compared to July of 2007 which posted 6,856 Houston Homes sales. These numbers show a slight improvement over June of 2008 on a percentage basis, as July posted a 14.2 percent decrease in Houston Single Family Home sales on a year over year basis, while June showed a decrease of 14.7 percent on a year over year basis. This trend has again increased Houston Housing Inventory now pushing 6.9 months with a total of 36,287 active Single Family homes on the market.

The Houston Population number's given are a census Metropolitan area of 1.9 Million people.

What conclusions do I drawn from this comparison?

We still are in an active market but our sales vs population ratio's when compared to the Houston market are about 1/3 rd. Lets compare data.
Houston Toronto
Listings available for sale; 36, 287 26, 543
Sold this month (July) 5,885 7,806

If I took these figures to heart, Toronto should have 15,000 sales per month based on the percentage of population. Toronto continues to be a growing world class city and is drawing attention globally for investors as a safe harbour for their equity.

The biggest difference I remind people of is; every crane you see, is a building that is already sold.

I believe that the Canadian dream of owning your own home is alive and well.

Franklin Horner Community Center Extravaganza

Franklin Horner Community Centre has served the residents of the South Etobicoke for over 20 years. The Centre is a registered non-profit charitable organization, and is home and host to programs and services, along with program and meeting space for community organizations, groups and individual members.

We have 1200 individual members and 52 diverse groups. The Centre facilitates ethno-cultural dancers, artists, big bands & chorus groups, sports organizations, scouts, yoga, pilates, hip hop dance for kids, substance abuse groups, chess clubs, historical & horticultural societies, after-school basketball program, fundraising events, tournaments, plays, among others, providing space and programming for children, youth, and their families.
In addition, Franklin Horner operates a Seniors Club that includes recreation, health education, fitness, woodworking, crafts, art classes, line dancing, social programming, lunch & learns, cooking healthy meals for one classes, foot clinic, tax clinic, travel club and special programs. We are a satellite location for a daily moms & tots drop-in and school readiness program run through the Ontario Early Years Centre (LAMP).
Franklin Horner's commitment to providing a home for the community to come together and grow makes it "One of a Kind".

Shop the Shore event. Help make it a success

Mark September 20th on your calendar "shop the shore" in New Toronto.

See details below about how you can help make this a success.

There will be activities for the kids, tastings, demonstrations, prizes, entertainment and sales. This is a great opportunity to discover the many stores and services on Lake Shore Blvd W, from Dwight to Kipling.

This event is a volunteer initiative, created by local residents to help revitalize our business area. It is supported by the BIAs, Councillor Grimes, Laurel Broten, and Michael Ignatieff. Join us!

We are looking for help in the following areas: * Volunteers to distribute flyers - walk your block in early September * Volunteers to help on event day (9 am - 2 pm) * Gift certificates for a draw - minimum $25 value * Musicians and entertainers (e.g. balloon animals, guitar, vocals, keyboard, or even spoons!) * Artists who have work that they would like to display.

More information will be coming soon. An outline of activities, prizes, activities and participating stores will be updated on the website at To help make this event a success, please email . Click here for more information about the event.

Shop Local. Good for the environment. Good for the community. Good for you.

Forward email

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buyers Agent Beware

Contra proferentem is a rule of contractual interpretation which provides that an ambiguous term will be construed against the party that imposed its inclusion in the contract - or, more accurately, against (the interests of) the party who imposed it.

Here is what is interesting, a number of preprinted “standard form” agreements still incorporate “ambiguities” that were intended to protect the sellers, at a time when it was mistakenly believed that everyone must work for the seller.

It was thought that in order to forestall a buyer from alleging misrepresentation, in relation to minor discrepancies in the dimensions of the property and escape from what was otherwise a binding contract, it was decided to insert the following (more or less) ambiguity. “having a frontage of .....(insert).... more or less, by the depth of .....(insert).....more or less...... etc..”

Supposedly this would allow the seller to claim that any discrepancy was only minor, but this only led to buyers claiming the discrepancies were major and is seeking the contract be declared void or seeking a reduction in the purchase price and it was left up to the courts and the ensuing litigation costs to decide who was right.

Fast forward to the day of “buyer’s agents” where the accepted agreement (contract) in a real estate transaction is deemed by the courts to be the buyer’s agreement, drafted by his “buyer’s agent” and therefore all ambiguities contained therein are interpreted against the interest of the buyer.

Buyer’s Agent Beware, because you were negligent in failing to apply your due diligence in confirming the properties dimensions and/or in removing all ambiguities from the contract, you therefore breached your fiduciary duty to the buyer, who is now suing you and seeking compensation for his original loss together with his litigation costs in relation to his unsuccessful suit against the seller.

There is no known cure for experience. I invite you to contact an experienced Buyers Agent to your next home purchase.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Proposed Building at Dundas and Bloor (Roncesvalles)

1540 Bloor West at Dundas Project Overview

On May 2, 2007, TasDesignBuild revealed plans for a 27 storey condominium on the site of the Joe Mercury's – at the NW corner of Dundas and Bloor. Such plans highlight the need for our community to respond effectively to the forces of development that are sweeping our area.
Development of the 1540 Bloor Street West property has profound implications for our neighbourhoods and for the GTA as a whole.
  • This intersection is a key GTA transportation hub. It joins GO transit, Bus, Subway and Street Car.
  • The Dundas-Bloor intersection marks the convergence of three main avenues and at least four neighbourhoods, including: The West Bend, High Park, Perth Lansdowne and Roncesvalles MacDonnell.
  • Development on this property will set a precedent for other development in our area.
    We need to make the most of the opportunities for neighbourhood and civic improvement that such opportunities present.
  • Local Advisory Committee Formed as Part of the Application Process
  • A 540 Bloor West Local Advisory Committee Meetings As part of the application process, the City invited a cross section of residents, business owners, building owners and others -- along with the developer -- to discuss the development in light of community concerns.

Click the link in the title to see proposed renderings of the new site.

There has been no recent update of the status of this project; but the location is ideal being on site for subway transit, and easy walk to High Park or the charm of Roncesvalles Village.

The New Seniors Home - spa, pub, filet mignon

Sylvia Camilleri remembers the first retirement home she visited when she was thinking about a move.“There were these poor women sitting there,” she says, imitating their slouched posture. “I thought, ‘I'm never going into one of those.'

”The Toronto resident bought a condo instead and held tight for three years. But, finding herself increasing lonely, she decided to look again.

This time, the retirement living industry wooed her with a drastic makeover. Now, as she sits in the lobby of her new Toronto retirement home, she might as well be holding court in a trendy boutique hotel. Past the granite concierge desk is a seating area decorated in modern earth tones and a full-service restaurant, complete with crisp white Parisian tablecloths.

Tunes play gently in the background, on a player piano hooked up to an iPod. There is a slick pub with a full bar and a screening room complete with a Wii golf simulator. Around the corner are a poker room, a library, a spa, a fitness centre and a salt-water pool.“It's like living in a five-star hotel,” says the petite brunette 78-year-old, who was the first to move into the newly built Tapestry at Village Gate West in April.Catering to septuagenarian Eloises with upscale amenities and services has become de rigueur in the newest wave of North American retirement development.

Even Donald Trump is getting in on the action, with an haute retirement community outside New York for the over-55 set.For one thing, there is plenty of demand from affluent elders who want to “skip the condo phase,” as Toronto seniors' consultant Jill O'Donnell puts it, and move directly into a chore-free, pampering environment. The trend also amounts to a massive test-marketing campaign aimed at the baby-boom generation.

This crowd, even more than the parents they escort on tours, are used to the good life and, frankly, unaccustomed to thinking of themselves as old.“We're now building with a vision of what the boomers will be looking for in the next 10-15 years,” says Susan Gerard, vice-president of marketing and communications for Amica Mature Lifestyles, another Canadian developer of upscale retirement homes. “It's going to be that luxury, ‘Do everything for me. Let me enjoy it, travel.' It's a secure, worry-free lifestyle.”Amica has seven new Canadian homes in the works, in cities including Ottawa, Whitby and Windsor in Ontario.

As Tapestry's general manager Catherine Wallbank puts it, “The boomers think, ‘If this is the face of retirement, I'm okay with it.' ” (Tapestry accepts residents aged 62 and up.)Don't expect to see any paisley at Tapestry, she says as she gives a tour of the 168-unit building. In place of the typical dusty landscape paintings are modern artworks in subdued tones.

The decor choices are a shorthand for new thinking about the needs and tastes of an aging population. At new retirement homes such as Tapestry, several services match those in many retirement homes – weekly housekeeping, social activities and a medical staff on call. But the medical clinic is called a “wellness centre.” And instead of mandatory set mealtimes and fixed menu choices, residents have a $400 credit for the restaurant to spend à la carte. They can blow it all on a few filet mignon dinners or stretch it out with less expensive fare.

Residents with cars enjoy valet parking. Pet care is available, too.While prune juice may be on offer, cocktails are front and centre. The pub hosts martini contests and boasts an impressive wine list. Residents can ask that their own wine collections be cellared in the restaurant. And a TV-worthy kitchen demonstration area is used for classes, but can also be booked for wine tastings and private dinners. Prices range from about $3,000 for a studio apartment to $6,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit. Included in Ms. Camilleri's one-bedroom rental is two hours a month of concierge services, such as a private car with driver to take her to the theatre or shopping. She takes fitness classes as well as a computer class in the “brain centre” to beef up her memory.“I can remember names much better, now,” she says, before heading off to lunch and a visit with chef Michael Howell, whose résumé includes stints at Toronto's Auberge de Pommier, Moishes Steakhouse and the Four Seasons.

Likewise, retiree Joan McLeod, 82, has lived in a Vancouver Amica residence for 31/2 years and is now accustomed to regular fitness programs, shopping and cultural outings, and afternoon hors d'oeuvres parties.“It's a cross between a five-star hotel and a cruise ship,” she says. Still, experts on aging caution that there's still a big question mark regarding how the next generation will age.

University of Alberta gerontology professor Norah Keating says it makes good business sense that luxe retirement homes are already reflecting boomer interests.“But we really don't know what that generation's going to look like in very old age,” she says. People's interests and needs at 85 are very different from those at 55, she adds.

She suggests boomers would do well to remember there may be a next step after the funky independent living of a place like Amica or Tapestry. They may want to make sure there's money left over for long-term medical care, too.“Some people in the baby-boom generation will end up with high levels of health problems or dementias and some of them will not,” she says.“There is a vision of a seamless transition. I think the seams are a little frayed.”

David Pylyp - While researching some material contained in this article by the Globe and Mail (Aug 19th, 2008) I was already well aware of Amica's sales office in Mississauga and how quickly they had sold out. I was surprised at the size of Amica's website presence and various cities that are represented. A link is provided here. This is timely with an aging population of affluent Baby Boomers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Condo boom is ending, report predicts

National Post Jenny Wagler
New condos are still shooting up to crowd the Toronto skyline, but behind the scenes the condo boom times are ending, a new report predicts.
“We’re expecting a slowdown in 2009,” said Jane Renwick, editor and vice-president of Urbanation, a condominium market research company.
“So we would say that we were at 22,000 [condo] sales at the end of 2007. We’re predicting 16,000 sales to round out this year. And we’re expecting sales to dip beyond that in 2009.”
Urbanation released a report yesterday about the Toronto condo market’s second quarter of 2008.
Following record condo sales in 2007, she said, the market is now back to 2005 and 2006 levels.
Currently, she said, the market appears “more normal and predictable,” with sales volumes returning to earlier levels and prices climbing slightly.
But economic woes in the United States, a high dollar and a loss of manufacturing jobs, she said, are pointing toward a recession and a condo market contraction.
“We’re not predicting a crash by any means,” she said. “I would say that we’ll have a correction in terms of sales volume, but I don’t think we’ll have the same correction in terms of price.”
The good news, she said, is that this contraction shouldn’t be on the level of the condo market crash of 1989 to 1991.
Starting in 1986, she said, prices started increasing by 6 and 7%, quarter over quarter. In 1987, the price increases exceeded 20%, year over year.
At the end of 1988, condos were selling for 39% more than the year before. And in 1989, there were a couple of quarters with 40% price increases, year over year.
“Those things say a correction is inevitable — it’s price inflation,” she said.
And the result, she said, was that in 1991 and 1992, condo pricing dropped by 17%, 16% and 15% year over year.
But this time, she said, the price increases are more modest.
In 2007, she said, price inflation was between 10 and 12%, year over year, relative to the year prior; now it’s at 8%.
“There was some price inflation last year which always happens in a heated market, but it didn’t get out of control to the point where it was requiring a correction to bring it back down in line with value,” she said.
The number of condos being built, she said, are likely to decline from both a rise in construction costs and a credit crunch in the banking sector, which is making it tricky for less-established developers to find financing.
“So ABC developer launches a building, thinking everything is fine with what they consider the historic pre-sale requirements in order for the financing to kick in,” she said, “and the banks are saying we actually don’t have an appetite for this because we can’t.”
Even if supply diminishes, she said, Urbanation predicts that prices will flatten out as opposed to rising.
“We’re also saying that the demand will wane — hopefully those two things happen in unison and create some kind of balance,” she said.
Maureen O’Neill, the president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, said that the advantage to the current softening real estate market is its stability.
“Because it’s declining, it’s correcting, it’s balancing to make it a lot more stable,” she said. “At least now we know what we’re looking at.”

David Pylyp - I concur with many remarks made in this article. With a slightly slower market, things take longer to sell (days on market) and there is greater opportunity for the buyers to examine and ultimately compare complex to complex features and values.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mortgage fraud scheme manipulated 'puppet' purchasers

Norman Ave. is a two-block long street near St. Clair Ave. W., and Lansdowne Ave. Number 16A is a small row house that recently became the subject of an apparent mortgage fraud case in Ontario Superior Court.

A title search of the property shows that it was sold to Winchester Financial Corporation in November 2004, for $153,500. Just four months later it was "flipped" to Danny Meneses at the inflated price of $299,000, almost double the original cost. National Bank provided Meneses with high ratio financing of $293,230. The mortgage was guaranteed by Oldemiro Demeneses.

Default occurred under the mortgage, and in July 2007, National Bank sold the property under the power of sale in its mortgage for $212,000. After deducting expenses, real estate commission, property management fees, legal fees and realty taxes, the net proceeds of the sale were just under $192,000. The bank was left with a shortfall of $98,642.67, and sued the borrower and guarantor to recover its loss.

After receiving statements of defence from the defendants, the bank applied to the court for what is known as a summary judgment – in effect, a final decision in the bank's favour based on its assertion that there was no genuine issue for trial.

At the hearing before Master Andrew Graham in Superior Court in March, the defendants Meneses and Demeneses claimed that they were innocent victims of a fraud, and that the bank had a duty to exercise "due diligence" to prevent the fraud. (A master is a court official who makes judge-like decisions on procedural matters.)

The defendants claimed that they had been approached by a family friend who was interested in buying a property to renovate, lease and then resell, and that in return for signing the paperwork, Meneses would be paid $5,000. Meneses was told that mortgage payments would be made by a third party, and that he would have no personal liability.

Meneses admitted receiving payment of $5,000 for signing "the paperwork," but claimed that if the bank had taken more care and appraised or inspected the property, it would not have made the loan. In effect, he argued that the bank was the author of its own misfortune.

Meneses and Demeneses also argued that they were innocent victims of a fraud involving a property flip at an inflated price, and that their lawyer never explained to them the consequences of the documents they were signing.

It turns out that the facts in the case of National Bank v. Meneses are not unique. Twice in 2007 alone, the Ontario Superior Court heard cases involving the use of "puppet" purchasers in circumstances similar to the Norman Ave. case. Both cases were sent on for a full trial based on allegations of fraud against the lawyer involved in one case, and the lawyer's misrepresentations in the other case.

Analyzing these two cases, Master Graham noted that there was no allegation that the lawyer in the Meneses case made any fraudulent representations which could cancel the bank's right to recovery on the loan. The borrower and guarantor were not induced to sign anything by misrepresentations of the lawyer – even though the allegations against him, if proven, might amount to negligence.

The court concluded that the alleged negligence of the lawyer did not raise a genuine issue for trial, and it awarded judgment against the borrower and guarantor for $98,642.67.

Offering puppet purchasers a tempting sum of money to sign "some papers" is the latest development in the techniques of fraudsters in mortgage scams.

If anyone offers you or anyone you know to sign "some mortgage papers," consult an independent lawyer or call the police. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818. Visit the column archives at for articles on this and other topics.

David Pylyp; I have, over the years heard of "Buyer's Clubs " where unwitting participants are eager to benefit from the $5,000 just to sign a few documents. The old adage that nothing in life is free truly seems to apply.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If not now, when? End-of-life planning

Guest Contribution John Scholl Investors Group

Bob Allison knew exactly what he wanted – how his legacy should be passed on, who should handle his estate, the way he wished to be treated in a medical emergency, even the type of funeral service he expected – but when an aneurysm suddenly incapacitated him and ultimately caused his death, it all went wrong. That’s because even though Bob knew exactly what he wanted, he had not made his wishes clear to anyone else close to him – and that oversight caused a lot of emotional and financial issues for his family that could have been avoided with a well-considered end-of-life plan.
Illness and death are spectres none of us likes to think about – but by doing so now, you will truly be helping your loved ones later. Here are the basic ingredients of a sound end-of-life plan:

Financial issues
· Ensure your will and power of attorney are up-to-date.
· Be sure that your family knows where to find your financial and estate planning documents.
· Appoint a health care directive (power of attorney for personal care), which lets you appoint someone who will make decisions on your behalf about your future treatment, or express your health care decisions, or both. The portion of the directive that expresses your health care decisions is often called a “living will”.
· Plan your funeral. You can prearrange your funeral by leaving specific directions with the funeral director who will be providing the services. Your arrangements should be based on what you want and how much you wish to pay. Put your funeral plan in writing and give copies to your family members and your lawyer.

Life planning issues
· Talk to your family. Discuss how you would like your financial and medical affairs to be handled if you become incapable of doing so for yourself. Tell them about your funeral plans and any religious rites you may want. Explain your medical and treatment expectations including your thoughts on palliative care – that is, moving from medical treatment aimed at finding a cure to medical treatment aimed at easing pain and suffering. Explain your position on organ donation.
· Make your decisions now so your loved ones won’t be confused or find themselves in financial trouble when you are no longer able to provide for them.
· Deliver important messages. Make an action list of the people you want to talk to or say goodbye to before you go.
It’s a good idea to include a professional advisor in your end-of-life planning and discussions with your family.

John Scholl B. Mathematics, CGA, Wealth Management & Financial Planning, Investors Group

John is available by email , or telephone (905) 450-2891

The housing boom may be over, but there's no bust in sight

Ever since last year, forecasters have been predicting that Canada's hot housing market was about to slow to a much more sedate pace. Well, it's happened.

Except that sedate is hardly the word for the 14% plunge in construction activity that turned up Monday in the housing starts data for July. To many, this sharp drop will be downright alarming, raising fears that the catastrophic housing meltdown in the U.S. has now spread across the border.

They can relax. Or at least most of them can.

Maybe a little nervousness is appropriate for those who bought near the market's peak in one of Canada's very high-flying centres of real-estate inflation -- places like Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.

In these towns, warns BMO Capital Markets economist Sal Guatieri, soaring home prices so greatly outstripped income growth that it wouldn't be surprising if real-estate values had to drop significantly in order to restore affordability to the market.

But in most of Canada, what we're seeing looks like a normal return to earth after a six-year-long real-estate boom.

The frenetic construction and double-digit price gains of yesteryear couldn't last forever, so now we've entered the cooling-off phase. Economic forecasters think the outlook for most cities is for prices to stagnate, or maybe edge down a little, while the level of construction eases, but doesn't collapse.

If this doesn't seem to fit with the outlook foreshadowed by July's big drop in construction activity, that's simply because you're reading the numbers too literally. No one month's statistics mean very much, especially if you take them at face value.

When you look at a chart of housing starts over a period of many months, it looks like a mountain range, with soaring peaks and deep valleys. Most of this volatility is caused by builders of condominiums and other multiple-unit developments, where a few projects more or less can make the numbers skyrocket or plummet.

That's why analysts take the single-family starts more seriously. They're a lot less volatile and, thus, a better indicator of where the market is really heading. In July, single-family housing starts fell by just 7%.

As well, nearly all of July's decline was in Ontario -- "think Toronto condos," says BMO Capital Markets analyst Robert Kavcic. And exceptionally wet weather in Eastern Canada likely slowed construction, notes Millan Mulraine of TD Securities.

Outside of Toronto, most big cities saw only modest changes in total activity.

So what can we expect for the coming months? Continued slowing, most likely, but certainly no savage nationwide meltdown on the model of the U.S.

Royal Bank economist Paul Ferley notes that in 2007, Canadian housing construction remained little changed from the banner year of 2006, even as U.S. activity plummeted 26%. He thinks Canada's housing starts will drop by only about 5% this year, compared with a 30% plunge south of the border.

Mr. Ferley thinks that 2009 will finally bring a significant drop in Canadian activity, but nothing like the U.S. collapse, with starts down by about 15%.

The brake on construction is the slowdown in sales that started months ago, with sales figures in each month this year down from the comparable period in 2007, Mr. Guatieri noted.

It's quite likely that this will continue into next year, since the U.S. economic slowdown and the recent sharp decline in commodity prices are both beginning to bite in Canada, bringing declines in job creation.

With housing demand weaker, price gains have already slowed sharply.

With a 5.4% average gain over the past year, Montreal is doing a little better than the national average of 3.5%. Toronto is near average at 3.8%. The hardest-hit include mainly big Western cities, with Vancouver up 1.8%, Edmonton 1.6%, Calgary a mere 0.1% and Victoria down by 0.4%.

But even if the boom is over, there's no national bust in sight. Without the severe financial excesses and fraud that devastated the U.S. mortgage market, undermined that country's banking system and brought soaring numbers of home foreclosures, Canada simply doesn't have the conditions to trigger a housing collapse.
From the Montreal Gazette Jay Bryan, Canwest News Service Published: August 12, 2008

David Pylyp So many of the media reports sensationalize the real estate results to capture a readers (or viewers) attention, but there is rarely substance of thought to the details. This article by Jay Bryan provides insight that I do not usually find.

Demand for upscale executive townhouses and detached homes in prime neighbourhoods continues. I have observed a modest adjustment in sales prices where SELLERS need to be realistic about values not their own optomistic evaluations.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Putting oil in wrong tank adds fuel to this warning

A decision of the Ontario Superior Court earlier this year provides a valuable lesson to property owners whose homes were once heated with fuel oil.

Back in 1979, Mary and Francis Bingley decided to replace their old oil furnace and convert their heating system to natural gas.

They hired Stanzel Plumbing to perform the work and remove the oil furnace. For reasons nobody seems to remember almost 30 years later, the basement oil tank was left in place, along with the exterior oil fill pipe and the vent pipe.

Donald Stanzel tightened the cap on the oil fill pipe so it could not be removed by hand. He then bent the pipe down towards the ground to prevent it from being filled and to indicate that it was no longer to be used.

One day in 2001, 22 years later, John McDougall was making the rounds with his tanker truck, delivering furnace oil to various homes in the town of Smith Falls. As an employee of Morrison Fuels, he had been trained and certified for the transport and delivery of fuel oil.

On his 10th or 11th delivery of the day, he unfortunately misread a delivery ticket for a house on William St., thinking it said Russell St. In a hurry to complete the delivery at the house on Russell St., he missed a number of warning signs on the ticket and the house itself.

McDougall brought out a wrench, banged the cap loose, and straightened the pipe so he could pump fuel into it. After he had pumped 933.4 litres of furnace oil into the wrong house, he looked at the delivery ticket and realized his mistake.

The old oil fill pipe was still connected to the tank in the basement, but unfortunately that tank had leaks. Even worse, the basement floor consisted of large exposed blocks of bedrock with vertical and horizontal soil seams. When the oil was pumped into the tank, it leaked onto the basement floor where it entered the soil and the groundwater.

The house was immediately rendered uninhabitable and serious environmental contamination occurred. Extensive remediation efforts have taken place since 2001, and are ongoing.

Total cost to date for the environmental cleanup is more than $767,000.

The Bingleys sued Morrison Fuels, which admitted negligence and reached a settlement with the homeowners on damages. That settlement did not, however, end the litigation.

Morrison Fuels brought a third party claim against Stanzel Plumbing, alleging that the Bingleys' damages were caused in part by the negligent actions of Stanzel when it failed to remove or permanently plug the fill pipes at the time the oil furnace was removed.

The trial of the third party action took place over four days earlier this year before Justice Lynn Ratushny. After hearing the evidence, the judge ruled that Stanzel's decommissioning work in 1979 complied with the gas installation Code at the time. (It has since been changed to require removal of the fill pipes and tank.) She wrote in her judgment that the old system was left in a "safe and secure" condition, and that Stanzel Plumbing could not reasonably have foreseen that an unauthorized fuel delivery would be made into the tightened and turned-down pipe.

The case against Stanzel Plumbing was dismissed and in a subsequent ruling, it was awarded $53,000 in costs against Morrison Fuels.

The lesson of the case is clear: If you have an old oil fill pipe or storage tank it should be removed immediately. Having your basement filled with fuel oil can ruin your whole day.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Toronto housing market continues to cool, economist blames new tax

Toronto’s vigorous housing market softened in July, and one economist attributes the weakening to the city’s new land-transfer tax.

According to figures released today by the Toronto Real Estate Board, sales have declined slightly over July, 2007, but average prices remain stable across the Greater Toronto Area.

July sales dropped 12% regionally from the best-ever record of a year ago, but are still up 10% over 2006.

In Toronto sales dipped 14% while in the 905 sales were down just 11%.Gilles Duranton, a professor of urban economics at the University of Toronto, said these minor differences are surprising in light of the effect rising gas prices are having on other aspects of consumer behaviour.“It boils down to the land transfer tax,” said Prof. Duranton. “It’s making the act of buying and selling more expensive. It’s making moving more expensive… People will prefer to buy on the Mississauga side of the border.”

Some hot neighbourhoods buck the trend. Uxbridge saw a 23% increase in volume last month over July 2007, while Whitby say 22% growth and Brampton East 12%.

In Toronto’s Annex neigbourhood, sales soared 29%. In July, the average price of a home in the GTA was $371,427, up 1% from a year ago and 9% from two years ago.

In Toronto proper, house prices were up less than 1% at $395,342 while in the 905 region the average rose 3% to $355,401.“The market seems to have plateaued,” said Prof. Duranton. “But it’s a high plateau.”

Richard Silver, a sales representative with Bosley Real Estate, said he remains busy during the usually slower summer months. Sales are healthy, he said, but buyers are being more choosy. No longer are there bidding wars on properties in disrepair, said Mr. Silver. He advises sellers to fix any deficiencies and dress up their homes before listing.“They just can’t assume that they can put their home on the market and expect to get multiple offers,” he said. “The house has to look good.” Toronto has gone from being a seller’s market to being a balanced market, according to Mr. Silver. “Good properties still see lots of attention, they are selling for the asking price and they are selling quickly.”

Toronto Land Transfer Calculator Check for yourself.

David Pylyp - The Toronto Real Estate Board lobbied heavily to make people aware of the changes but many residents ( of Toronto ) are still unaware even a year later. This additional tax forces many to rethink their buying decision.

There are also buyer rebates of up t0 $ 5,725 available to first time buyers.

Smooth moves: Easing future transitions for seniors

The number of Canadians over the age of 65 is quickly increasing. Over the next 30 years, the population of seniors in Canada is expected to double. At the same time as Canada’s senior population is growing, so too is the need for housing that matches the needs of an aging population.

While it is clear that the housing industry must be prepared to respond to this challenge, findings from the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance (ASHRA), a five-year research project looking at the long-term housing needs of Atlantic Canadian seniors, suggests that few communities are preparing themselves for the upcoming demographic shift.

This a concern, in light of the fact that as Canadian baby boomers age, they are entering a stage in their lives when making housing decisions requires careful consideration, and the role of the Realtor will be even more important in their decision-making process. We will see the effect of population aging in terms of the location of residences, the design characteristics of new homes, and the range of financing options available to senior boomers. We will also see changes to the variety of services available enabling seniors to thrive independently and participate in their community for as long as possible – because aging in place is exactly what seniors want to do.

One of the key findings from ASHRA’s survey of more than 1,700 Atlantic Canadian seniors overwhelmingly demonstrates that seniors want to stay where they are, even if it is not very practical or is unaffordable. Almost half of survey respondents reported less than $30,000 income per year, and a significant percentage of these individuals spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs, meaning that many seniors continue to reside in homes they are unable to afford. While the needs and preferences of the boomer cohort will likely be different than those of current seniors, the overall message, that staying in familiar surroundings is important to seniors, is unlikely to change.

Findings from the ASHRA survey also show that seniors generally fail to plan for the future when it comes to housing. Seniors have typically lived for a long time in their current dwelling, so when the need to move occurs, there may be increased anxiety, apprehension and confusion. As Realtors, it is important to understand that attachment to the home can be a powerful force – which may be especially true for seniors who have many years of memories tied to their residence. The familiarity, comfort, and meaning associated with home, as well as the feelings of control and independence that come with living there, are the most common explanations for the strong desire among seniors to age in place.

There is a disconnect between what today’s seniors want to do and what they are able to do.

Although they want to age in place, in their own homes, in a familiar community, the probability that seniors will have to move increases with each passing year. As the years roll on, the likelihood that their current dwelling meets their needs in terms of accessibility, mobility and safety, becomes less and less.

Realtors can help baby boomers avoid the housing struggles that today’s seniors face. Realtors can assist boomers in making informed housing choices that can support their needs as they age by opening up the discussion about long-term plans for housing. By applying what we know about today’s seniors and their housing needs and preferences, Realtors can become better providers of housing services to aging baby boomers facing housing decisions that will affect them in years to come.

The real estate industry can also have a profound affect on the housing choices of seniors and aging baby boomers by encouraging them to think long-term. Considering that going up and down stairs, doing household chores, and maintenance work are the most commonly reported challenges for seniors with health problems, the importance of considering design and structural characteristics in the selection and buying process cannot be taken too lightly.

Start by looking at the layout of a home, or physical space, when counseling home buyers. To raise awareness of the potential need to adapt and retrofit dwellings in the face of physical challenges, Realtors can encourage older home buyers to use a critical eye when considering the physical features of a home. Whether a space meets the needs of seniors with physical challenges “as is”, or can be adjusted by retrofitting, addressing the ability of a residence to be adapted to changing needs is an important consideration if clients hold the expectation that they will age in place. But it is not just about physical space – community place is equally important. In the selection and purchasing process, helping seniors and older boomers assess a potential community in terms of availability of supports and assistance should also be explored.

According to the ASHRA study, children and other family members are the number one providers of assistance to seniors, but the availability of other services and resources at the community level (transportation, health clinics, and opportunities for social/leisure engagement) should be assessed to help find the best fit for today’s seniors and the boomers buying another home. Despite the clear importance of assisting seniors in finding affordable and suitable dwellings, the reality is that there are limited housing options for our aging population at the present time – especially in rural communities.

While a lack of affordable and suitable housing presents a problem to the current senior cohort, it also presents an opportunity for the real estate industry to influence the construction market for the up and coming senior generation. For more information about the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance (ASHRA), visit or contact Yvonne daSilva at (902) 457-6561. Kelly Fenn is a masters student at Dalhousie University working as the knowledge transfer graduate student assistant with ASHRA. Pamela Fancey is a co-chair of the ASHRA project’s Knowledge Transfer Working Group and is the director of the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging.

There are condominium complex's in Mississauga (Amica) that are directly addressing this market. [They] provide assisted living combined with regular condominium units.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Free Toronto Beaches

The city runs a total of 11 supervised beaches including Hanlan’s Point Beach, Centre Island Beach, Ward’s Island Beach, Cherry Beach, Woodbine Beaches, Gibraltar Point Beach, Marie Curtis Park East Beach, Sunnyside Beach, Kew-Balmy Beach, Bluffer’s Beach and Rouge Beach.
This year, six of the city beaches – Ward’s Island, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Woodbine Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Cherry Beach and Centre Island Beach – received the internationally-recognized Blue Flag designation because of their high standards in water quality, cleanliness, safety, and services.

During the summer, the Toronto Public Health goes to great lengths to ensure its beaches are safe and clean for swimmers. Water quality is tested daily and lifeguards are on duty during the summer months. If the water quality is not acceptable for swimming, Toronto Public Health will post signs warning against swimming.

People with mobility limitations can even borrow one of two free beach wheelchairs and take a spin (with the help of a buddy) along Woodbine, Ashbridges Bay or Kew-Balmy beaches. New this summer, the program is currently run through the Donald D. Summerville pool at Woodbine Beach. Call 416-392-7688 if you have any questions or if you’d like to reserve one of the unique balloon-wheeled chairs.

There are also several outdoor pools, splash pads and wading pools for residents to enjoy.Lakeside, there’s the Donald D. Summerville Pool at Woodbine and Lake Shore Boulevard East in the Beach as well as the Sunnyside-Gus Ryder pool at Lake Shore Boulevard West and Parkside Drive. In Etobicoke, residents can enjoy the Amos Waites pool at 2445 Lake Shore Blvd. W. and the Rotary pool at 25 Eleventh St.

The city also operates 64 unsupervised splash pads across Toronto from May 31 to September 21.Over 100 wading pools are also open across Toronto from June 26 to August 31.
For more information, call the city’s pool hotline at 416-338-POOL (7665).

To the east, there’s the 474-acre Bluffer’s Park at the foot of Brimley Road. This free, family-friendly venue is a popular spot for barbecues and picnics. It features a beach, restaurants, a boat launch area and a marina as well as various scenic outlook points.

The Port Union Waterfront Park, at the eastern-most end of Scarborough, is the newest addition to the city’s waterfront park system. This lakeside green space offers scenic views, natural green spaces and play areas for children.

Highland Creek, located at the western end of Port Union Waterfront Park, is a great place to enjoy free, self-guided hikes.

Guildwood Park, found atop the Scarborough Bluffs, encompasses several historic buildings including the Guild Inn. There are also more than 70 architectural fragments and sculptures within the park’s formal gardens.

The Leslie Street Spit, or Tommy Thompson Park as it’s officially named, is another unique and free-of-charge waterfront site to enjoy. Located at the foot of Leslie Street in the port lands, the five-kilometre long man-man peninsula is home to hundreds of bird species. The Spit is open to the public on weekends.

Colonel Samuel Smith Park, at Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Kipling Avenue, is one of Etobicoke’s best kept waterfront secrets. With spacious grounds and lakeside trails, the 195-acre park is a perfect place to spend the day with family and friends.

Humber Bay Park, near Lake Shore Boulevard West and Parkside Avenue, offers wildflower meadows, wetlands and a warm-water fish habitat. There’s also a boat launch, a fishing pier and scenic vantage points.

A stroll through the beautifully restored Distillery Historic District is always an interesting and free way to spend a few hours. Located near Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Parliament Street, the 13-acre site was once home to the circa 1832 Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Today, it’s home to unique cafes, restaurants, art galleries, performing arts venues, artist studios and boutiques.
Harbourfront Centre at Queens Quay and York Street is another venue that offers a whole host of free concerts and events during the summer months.

Western Canada on verge of housing slump

Updated Fri. Aug. 8 2008 News Staff Western Canada is on the verge of a housing slump with almost every major city suffering from inflated market prices, according to a new study by a pair of Merril Lynch Canada economists.

The report shows that homes in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton are all overvalued by more than 10 per cent. In B.C., Victoria and Vancouver's market prices are estimated to be inflated by about 35 per cent. Saskatchewan's housing market is said to be overvalued by about 50 per cent.

Part of the problem is that too many homes have built over the last six years, leaving a surplus on the market.

In nearly every western province, there are twice as many homes for sale as there are being sold. As the new home market slows down, there are worried that there may be layoffs in western Canada's busy construction sector.

But Pamela Alexander, a real estate analyst with Re/Max, said she believes the market will settle soon.

"That economy is super strong, oil and other commodities have really just helped drive the prices up," she said in an interview with CTV Newsnet. "Real estate is cyclical in nature. In Vancouver and Victoria, I don't think they've had any type of correction in more than 20 years.
"There is a chance things will settle down, that there will be more listings on the market and that prices and growth will ease the next year or so," she continued.

The rest of the country, including Toronto, is better balanced, the analysis concludes. However, Sudbury and Montreal are also similarly overvalued.

Alexander said that while housing prices in Ontario have been high, the increases have been steady and the market has remained stable.

The calculation was done by economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan who looked at current prices, affordability and long-term trends. The report was released the same day Statistics Canada revealed data that showed residential and corporate construction had dropped.

"Our conclusions show that we think we've peaked in terms of the housing valuations and we're in a period of sustained decline going forward," Kwan said.

The economists predict Canada's housing market will mainly suffer from a cut in demand for an excess of housing available. The market will also stall as new buyers choose to hold out from buying homes at a high price. The suburbs will feel the impact as higher fuel prices will likely discourage commuters from buying a home too far from their workplace.

Kwan says that the housing market decline could affect other areas of the economy as well.
"As people buy fewer homes, we'll also expect them to buy fewer of the things that go into new homes, for example drapes and furniture and things like that," she said.

Canadians are at an advantage because of the country's stringent credit conditions that applicants need to meet before being approved for a loan. In the U.S. a flexible credit plan allowed many people to buy homes who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it.

The market downturn will not be as detrimental as the housing slump that has plagued the markets in the U.S., the economists say.

David Pylyp The problem with continuous new releases like this is that the media posts both sides of the story to sensationalize the headlines. Toronto Market watch is posted for you to decide for yourself. IMHO, after 20 years of selling homes, families want the stability and pride of ownership that creates a long term (financial equity) nest egg. With many cultures joining Canada, families all want the same long term home ownership goals.

"The only values in real estate that can accurately be forecast or predicted are historic."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Neighbours fight against Strip Club

Local Neighbourhood group in South Lakeshore is vocal about a business establishment in their midst.


Since Jay-Jay’s Inn opened a strip club on May 5, 2008 a group of residents has been working hard to research and uncover documented evidence about the strip club license granted by the City of Toronto.

After reviewing the actual application documents and Zoning ByLaws (see documents below) it appears the strip club license was granted in error.

No Strip Club License For 10 Years
We were informed that Jay-Jay’s license was a renewal of a grandfathered license, but the documentation shows it was a brand new application and license. Prior to the issuance of the current license, there had not been a strip club licensed at Jay-Jay’s for almost 10 years.

Legal NonConforming
We were informed that the license was related to a “legal nonconforming right” however the, Etobicoke Zoning Bylaw Chapter 350-9, subsection (1) states, “Discontinued Use. Any nonconforming use of a building or structure which is discontinued or unused shall not be resumed, nor shall such nonconforming use be changed to any other nonconforming use.”
No where do the words “grandfathered”, “legal nonconforming”, “continuation” or “reactivation” appear in the documentation.

Does Not Meet Current By-Law Standards
New Adult Entertainment Licences have to comply with the current Etobicoke Zoning Bylaw which states the following (Chapter 350-25, subsection G.1) “Restaurants whose operations or business include…floor shows and adult entertainment and bar restaurants, shall be subject to the following restrictions: (1) Such restaurants and bar restaurants… shall be situated not closer than ninety (90) metres from a property zoned residential.”
Jay-Jay’s is much closer than ninety (90) metres to private homes and directly across from the Woods Manor Seniors Home and we believe the license should have been denied because it did not comply with the Zoning ByLaw.

Meeting With Councillor Grimes
Residents met with Councillor Mark Grimes on Wednesday, August 6, to share this information. Mark stated he will work with the residents and advised that he will arrange a meeting in September with City officials from the City Manager’s office, zoning and licensing departments.
The question now is, will the City do the right thing and revoke the license?

Please speak out.
1. Review the documents for yourself (the documents are embedded below, simply scroll through the pages).
2. Write or phone Councillor Mark Grimes and Mayor David Miller and ask the City to correct the error that was made in granting a strip club license to Jay-Jay’s. Feel free to forward this email to the Mayor and Councillor and add your own comments. You should copy City Manager, Shirley Hoy in your emails (
Mayor Miller Contact Info: 416-397-CITY (2489).
Councillor Grimes Contact Info: 416.397.9273.
3. Add your comments at the bottom of the Blog.

After thorough review, we feel that the documentation is quite clear and that the license was issued in error. As residents who want to see a strong, family community, we believe that Council should exercise its authority and revoke the strip club license.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prices Up, Sales in Line with seasonal expectations

August 6, 2008 -- TREB Members reported 7,806 sales of single-family dwellings in July, continuing a healthy but not record setting pace into the summer. “Even though GTA sales were down 12 per cent from the best-ever July 2007 figure of 8,912, sales were up 10 per cent from July 2006 (7,082),” said TREB President Maureen O’Neill.

July 2007 saw a 26 per cent increase in sales over the 7,082 recorded in July 2006. Furthermore, the sales decrease in July 2008 from July of 2007 wasdistributed unevenly across the GTA. Within the City of Toronto, the 3,132 sales recorded in July 2008 is down 14 per cent from last July’s 3,640 figure but up 10 per cent from the 2,852 sales recorded in July 2006. Comparing July 2007 with July 2006, a period before the Land Transfer tax went into effect in Toronto, sales increased 28 per cent.

In the 905 suburbs sales declined 11 per cent, to 4,674 in July 2008 from 5,272 last July, but increased 10 per cent from the 4,230 sales recorded in July 2006. Sales from July 2007 increased 25 per cent over July 2006.

Overall, the GTA average price rose just over one per cent in July 2008 over July 2007 to $371,427 from $366,012, and a nine per cent increase from $342,034 recorded during July 2006.

Once again, price movements differed depending on the part of the GTA involved.
Within City of Toronto boundaries, the increase was marginal (under one per cent) to $395,342 in July 2008 from $395,044 in July 2007 and up 10 per cent from the$360,409 recorded during July 2006.

In the 905 municipalities surrounding the City of Toronto, however, the average price climbed almost three per cent to $355,401 in July 2008 from the July 2007figure of $345,967 and up eight per cent from $329,644 recorded during July 2006.
Breaking down the total, 3,045 sales were reported in TREB’s 28 West districts and averaged $352,956; 1,349 sales were reported in the 14 Central districts andaveraged $467,743; 1,519 sales were reported in the 23 North districts and averaged $408,815; and 1,893 sales were reported in TREB’s 21 East districts and averaged $301,658.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Home buyers still face bidding wars

Even as the real estate market softens, vendors still offer conspicuously undervalued homes in some neighbourhoods.

Listing properties below the market value has become a common practice in the Toronto area over the past five years – creating a bidding-war mentality for buyers. Even with sales down, the market cooling dramatically and active listings up by 22 per cent compared with last year, multiple offers continue in some highly sought-after areas.

That's because sales remain high in historical terms, even if they're not at the record highs of 2007. Prices continue to rise, albeit at a much slower pace than last year.

While houses sit on the market longer with more inventory available in the Greater Toronto Area, most of the multiple offers are taking place in pockets of the central city still coveted by buyers. But under-listing properties has created a backlash, not just among frustrated consumers, but also from some agents who say the practice is undermining the profession.

Cook says under-listing tactics often become a waste of time for both buyers and sellers.
"I was at one listing recently where there were 19 bids on one property. That's 19 people who have to call their mortgage broker, maybe get a house inspection, take time off work and pay for babysitters," Cook says. "The problem with listings today is that the list price means nothing."

Realtor Duncan Fremlin, who is also concerned about the underpricing of homes, says sometimes the marketing of a home at a lower price can be flat out dishonest.

He remembers one home in Riverdale being listed as a "Riverdale home at Pickering prices."
"That's a downright lie," Fremlin says. "The truth is, it may be listed at a Pickering price," but the home will sell for far more than that.

The first half of the year has seen six consecutive months of declining sales compared with 2007, and some observers say that agents who consistently use the underpricing strategy may see it become less effective if the cooling continues. "You might see a lot of agents with egg on their faces if they try and create an auction and nobody shows up," Fremlin says.

So far this year, while many homes are still going for more than the listing price, there have been no outsized shockers such as the Beach-area home that sold for $1.9 million last July, more than $600,000 above asking. Proponents of underpricing say the Beach case is spectacular proof the strategy can work in the right circumstances by generating a heated contest between motivated buyers.

But Cook and her husband Thomas, who is also a realtor, say the practice should be stopped outright in good and bad markets. They have complained to the Toronto Real Estate Board saying the practice of deliberately under-listing homes and holding off an offer for seven days is harmful to the industry.

"It is the lazy agent's way of having to deal with a listing for only seven days," Cook says.
The agent may end up "looking like a hero," she says, for putting the property on the market below market value, allowing showings, taking offers and selling the home in just a week But she says it does the client a huge disservice and may not get the best price.

"It's detrimental to the seller. You might have 19 bids, but only two people can really afford the house, because you've attracted everyone else who can't with a lower listing, so it's completely artificial," Cook says. "And of course the house is going to sell over asking – because it's underpriced in the first place."

It's also unfair to the potential buyers who waste time looking at homes they can't afford, she says.

The Toronto Real Estate Board, meanwhile, says there's little it can do to restrict the listing price an agent might place on a property.

"Auctions, bidding wars and the various ways of marketing properties are driven by the marketplace," board president Maureen O'Neill said in a written response to questions by the Star. "TREB (and others) do not have the right to interfere with a market-driven function."
However, perhaps in an effort to quell concerns, the board this April implemented a new rule that says listings placed on the MLS should be available immediately for showings, inspections and registration of offers. In other words, you can't place a home on the market and only have showings a week later.

Cook's husband, Thomas, says the rule doesn't go far enough. "The rule should read that the listing should be immediately available for presentation of offers as well," he says.
"That would end up stopping the one-day-auction mentality that agents try to create."
Cook says he wants a return to the tried and true method of pricing a home properly.
"Whatever happened to the old method of doing a proper appraisal, listing it at 2 to 5 per cent above market value, open a listing up for showings and taking offers as soon as they come in? It's much fairer for the buyers, opens up the sellers to get the best possible price, and takes the false hype out of the marketplace."

Toronto Star