Torontoism Toronto Real Estate with Torontoism Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:07:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shopping for Mortgages: Millennials versus Baby Boomers Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:26:10 +0000 Members of various demographic groups shop for mortgages in different ways. Do the contrasts in the way the baby boomers and the millennials shop for mortgages tell us something about modern home buying? You bet.

A pair of mortgage professionals recently took time to chat about the way Canadians of different generations think debt and mortgages. The younger of the pair, Harry McCallum is a mortgage agent with SafeBridge Financial Corporation. As a twenty-something he self-identifies as a millennial. He's noticed generalities about how it is his peer group shops for a mortgage.

They do definitely shop a bit differently. You'll see a lot of online research. A lot of the people will say, 'I was researching on I was looking online and found this rate posted. Can you match that?'



Their first step for any purchase is to go online and do some research before they talk to anyone. McCallum calls them smart shoppers:

Millennials are definitely online and shopping around. They seem to be visiting more than one person. Many of the people I talk to say they come as a result of a referral from a realtor. Or they'll shoot me an email and say they've already spoken with another broker and their bank. And then they'll come back and ask what I can do for them.

Today millennials number over 9 million in Canada, or 27% of the population, and 80 million in the United States.

This makes them the single largest demographic on the North American continent. The leading edge of this demographic are now in their middle-thirties. They're just now coming into the home-buying years. Compared to Gen X and baby boomers millennials have had a tough time financially. They graduated with more debt than any other generation. Many entered the job market as the Great Recession of 2008 settled in. That means they are careful about who they give their business too.

One trait of millennials according to marketing experts is that they look for institutions they can trust. They don't fall for marketing gimmicks. They poll peers, and reference crowd-sourced ratings sites in a search for organizations that have built up a good reputation among clients. The glitzy advertising bounces off their net-informed psyches. They want to see real value in their service provider. To that end, McCallum talks up the benefits a mortgage broker can provide.

As mortgage brokers we definitely need to find a way to add some value. Mortgage rates are what they are. You need to distinguish yourself through a 'value add'.

To do that he takes the time to walk a client through the mortgage buying process, and then stays in contact after the sale is complete, which is not always the case with a mortgage rep at one of the Big Five Canadian banks.

At the end of the day I want to educate and advise. I'm not just selling them a product. I'm educating the client and helping them through the process. I'm explaining the pros and cons...and I keep contact with them after. Generally I'd like to be in contact five or six times over the course of the mortgage.


Having dealt with many millennials during his time in the business he has also noted the mistakes those in his peer group make. Online savvy aside, some in the younger generation overweight the magic of online searches. They end up focusing only on posted rates. They end up overlooking key pieces of the larger puzzle.

Sometimes they'll miss one important detail. They often don't realize that only the very best credits get the lowest rate posted by a bank. Only 1 per cent of people can get that lowest rate. Most millennials will be first-time home buyers and they won't get that rate. They have to be educated about that.

There is a learning curve when it comes to shopping for a mortgage. That is, it's about more than just a rate. As McCallum puts it, "the lowest rate might not be the best for you." It helps to understand that a bank or among online lender structure penalties in different ways if a mortgage is broken.

If you're in a fixed mortgage and you have to break it you might have to give three months interest or make a payment that makes up for the interest rate differential. If rates have gone down, you'll pay the differential. And when the banks calculate that differential they use the posted rate, not the discounted rate that you've been paying. That makes the penalty go up substantially.

It's a detail only a mortgage shopper that has sat down with a professional will understand.

A monoline like M-CAP will use the contract rate to calculate the cancellation fee. That can save you $10,000 if you have to break the mortgage. That's one of the things that the banks won't do. These are the tricks that a mortgage broker knows.

The Boomers


How do the millennials compare to the way baby boomers shop for a mortgage? David Smith, a director of Oriana Financial Group of Canada Ltd., identifies with his peer group, the baby boomers, those born in the late 1940s and '50s. This generation has dominated the post-war economy in Canada (even if they are now outnumbered by millennials). They have slightly different approach to mortgage shopping.

It's true millennial do a lot more research. They're used to using the internet for everything. I would say they are smart shoppers that way. They aren't going into it blind. But baby boomers are not like that. Boomers will go to the net for information. But they tend to still want to sit down and talk to someone about their situation.

Smith says this different approach to mortgage shopping goes back to their formative experiences that formed their attitudes toward debt. The lessons passed along from their parents have stuck with them.

Boomers grew up with Great Depression-era parents. For that generation – that Bob Hope era – owing money was a social stigma. They grew up in plenty but under a heritage of thrift. Among boomers the number of gifted down payments was almost nil. They had to save that money themselves. We couldn't ask those tight wads for help in that era, they were so worried about their money.

Of course, attitudes have changed since those days, Smith notes that now we have the millennials, who get to borrow money cheaply and are typically gifted down payment. He also notes that 48% of first home buyers get some sort of family assistance.

Millennial moving into real estate have had it kind of easier. Their jobs may be less fulfilling, but rates are lower and they're getting help...They are coming in with a certain amount of privilege. It's not say they are impulsive, but it's not the attitude toward debt the last generation had. This generation is not scared of debt like the boomers were.

Smith worries like McCallum does that millennials rely too much on their online searches, and so overlook the benefits of real advice.

There are questions about mortgages that, if you're banging around out there on the net all by yourself, you are not going to be aware of. Can your mortgage broker help if you lose your job? There are remedies for that. You don't know what questions to ask beyond price. And that's a very important point. You're making the biggest financial decision of your life and so to disregard anyone with advice on that because you have an app on your smartphone... that can be dangerous.

We've been encouraged by credit cards to take on debt. And maybe this is the real difference between generations. Millennials have grown up in an era of low interest rates. They've grown up in a world of long-term artificial low rates. And so they take on huge amounts of debt and are okay with paying on that. But boomers came of age in an era of high interest rates and so they tend to save and invest. The changes in attitudes toward debt may have consequences for the younger generation according to Smith.


Sitting down with an expert who can take someone through the various mortgage products (especially in an era when it seems interest rate may be set to rise) is an important part of the process.

Smith is of the opinion boomers were more cautious and more respectful of those more knowledgeable.

There is real difference between generations. It's a consequence of the information age I suppose. The millennials haven't leaned the difference between knowledge and understanding. They haven't learned that while they can get information about price online, they won't find value. There is a difference between price and value, and between information and wisdom.


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Rizwan Malik: Bully bids for Regent Park suite help set new price record Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:26:45 +0000
  • 225 SACKVILLE ST., No. 1709, TORONTO
  • ASKING PRICE $509,900
  • SELLING PRICE $575,000
  • PREVIOUS SELLING PRICE $384,576 (2012)
  • TAXES $2,635 (2016)
  • LISTING AGENT Rizwan Malik, Sotheby's International Realty Canada
  • The Action:

    Earlier this year, the Paintbox building at Sackville and Dundas Streets had several suites available for sale, including this two-bedroom corner unit. The sellers vacated the home from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for several days to allow for nearly 80 showings. Their reward was a flood of offers.

    "The first day, we started receiving bully offers, so I had almost six bully offers on the property before the offer presentation date," agent Rizwan Malik says. "[The sale] is the highest price recorded for the building for any unit type and it's not even the largest unit."

    sackville kitchen225 Sackville Street #1709

    What They Got:

    A few years ago, the Daniels Corp. helped kick off the redevelopment of Regent Park with this high-rise development, now home to an arts centre, restaurant and hundreds of modern units. Across the street is a large park and the new Regent Park Aquatic Centre.

    The two-bedroom, two-bathroom plan is fairly standard with laminate floors, expansive windows and sliding balcony doors off open living, dining and cooking quarters.

    Laundry facilities, a locker and parking round out the unit. Each month $581 pays for water, heating, concierge, fitness, games, guest and party rooms.

    sackville-views225 Sackville Street #1709

    The Agent's Take:

    "The neighbourhood is still in transition and often has a negative stigma associated with it," Mr. Malik notes. "This unit, coupled with the way that it showed with the furnishings … and the way it was marketed, really helped set a new bar for Regent Park."

    Originally published in The Globe and Mail by Sydnia Yu.

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    New Delhi: Global Luxury Realty Conclave Fri, 17 Mar 2017 15:22:18 +0000 Richard has recently attended an exciting event in New Delhi, India. The beautiful venues at The Taj Palace Hotel hosted a variety of guests who were eager to witness Global Luxury Realty Conclave.

    A first of its kind convention and exhibition of India and International Luxury Real Estate

    India, the two trillion dollar economy, has declared 7.6 per cent growth rate. Significant part of its young population (72 per cent below 32 years) features a lot of potential toward the future. 

    The two day event was packed with "leaders and stakeholders in the world of luxury real estate". Richard, known for his involvement in international real estate and recognized for retooling his business, met with representatives of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Price water house Coopers, Sotheby's International Realty representatives from USA, UK, UAE, India & International real estate developers, and most notably Confederation of Indian Industry

    On the first day, Richard took part in a session about the ownership of luxury property overseas and its growing popularity among "the super-rich". The panel attendees consisted of representatives of Sotheby's International Realty and real estate developers from UK, Maldives, USA, Canada, Malta and UAE.

    First Session

    The upcoming sessions were no less interesting. On the contrary, the diversity of topics discussed by real estate experts included current situation in India: impact of Indian Union Budget 2017, tax policies, mortgage policies tied to investments abroad, and "economic and socio-political developments that are expected to impact the real estate scenario in India and abroad". The latter included BREXIT and US elections.

    Read the full report with photos and description of events here


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    People of Toronto: Shawn Micallef Tue, 14 Mar 2017 14:07:29 +0000 It was incredibly appropriate that when I called to interview him, Shawn Micallef - journalist, author, university lecturer, and perpetual pedestrian explorer of Toronto - was about to head out for a walk.


    Wandering around Toronto’s byways is, after all, one of the things that Micallef is known for; since he moved here in 2000, he has walked the city, tweeted about the city, and written about it extensively in his weekly column for the Toronto Star. Three of Micallef's four published books - Stroll: Psychogeographical Walking Tours of Toronto, Full Frontal TO, and just this year, Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness - are meditations on aspects of Toronto, while their author is both a co-owner and senior editor at the city-centred Spacing Magazine.

    Shawn teaches at the University of Toronto and OCAD University. In 2002 he co-founded [murmur], the location-based mobile phone documentary project that has spread to over 20 cities globally. 

    Follow him on Twitter.

    You’ve been referred to as a modern flâneur– a term usually associated with 19th-century gentlemen leisurely strolling the streets of Paris. What do you think of the title?

    "It's a funny word because maybe it's not something you want to put on your resume. It's about being idle and being a bit of a professional loafer, lingering around cities, and just sort of observing; slowing down and watching, being a part of the crowd, but not lost in it.

    The way I think of it is, a flâneur wanders through the crowd – you're part of it, you're overhearing it, but you always have your mind's eye floating up high above. You're watching how you and the crowd kind of all interact together. It's a good position to be in as a writer."

    Have you always been interested in how cities work?

    "I think so. I grew up in Windsor, and we looked across the river to Detroit – a fascinating place. We had kind of this front-row view for the decline of Detroit. I was a kid of the 70s, growing up in the 80s watching it kind of bottom out, and then sort of rebound, as it has in the last few years. Once I was old enough to drive and in university, we would go to Detroit weekly.

    But then I always wanted to move to our city, the Canadian city of the 401, which is Toronto. I always had this kind of mild Toronto obsession. I think it was because of growing up in a small city –which I'm very fond of – and looking at these bigger cities; Detroit across the lake, kind of collapsing and decaying, and Toronto, which was sort of the opposite of that. It was growing kind of like a circuit board when you come in on the Gardiner Expressway. Things are going up all the time. I think being not-from-a-big city has made me fascinated with big cities."

    Your latest book is called Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness. What is this greatness, and how do we go about achieving it?

    "Well, all the ingredients are here, right? It's a prosperous city, especially if you live in and around downtown, with skyscrapers going up everywhere, and these neighbourhoods that are beloved and constantly being written about – you know, like, the New York Times, the Guardian, 'Coolest Neighbourhoods': the Junction, Queen West, Leslieville, etcetera. So if you live in it, you get to see quite a great place.

    But as I talk about in the book, the upshot of going through the Rob Ford years and beyond is that we're reminded, or just schooled, in the fact that there are vast amounts of Toronto that felt left out of that prosperity, and they didn't get to experience the kind of joy of Toronto. Instead, there’s the idea that living in the city is a chore, and it's hard to make it here, increasingly for them, and the inequality of cities is increasing as multiple studies are showing.

    And if we don't get on that, if we don't figure that out, a populist politician like Rob Ford can easily be elected again, and the greatness - the things I love about living in this city, and a lot of people love, the stuff we've often written about in Spacing magazine - won't be available to an increasing number of people.

    So that is, I think, the greatness. If we don't bring this great joy of living in Toronto to everyone or make it available to everyone, it will be thwarted."


    What are some of the joys of living in Toronto?

    "I think part of it is that you can get to the country. I live near Yonge and Bloor, and within ten minutes I can go for a run and be in the ravines and run into deer and coyote, and then ten minutes later I'm back up on Yonge street at a Starbucks, post run. I think one of the great things about Toronto that so many other cities wish they had is just the benefit of the geography of blending wilderness, or quasi-wilderness in with the city.

    The ravine network goes all the way out to the far suburbs, and that proximity is really wonderful. And the fact that the city that's often adjacent to the ravines is kind of everything you want in a city at first blush.

    And then, you know the mixed, communities; people can do everything that they need to do within their own neighbourhoods - it's a city of neighbourhoods, as has been celebrated. But also just the people that are here, and the people that are coming to the place create a culture that is exciting. You can always find something to do. You can find your niche, your subculture."

    Going back to your book, didn't the idea for Frontier City spring from the last two municipal elections?

    "It was kind of pitched to me by the publisher at the height of the Rob Ford trauma in 2014, soon after he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel. It was like this international thing. They [the publishers] thought 'we could do a book about this'.

    And as I started it became apparent that the details of Rob Ford were all being told – we know it, right? We know the salacious details. So the more interesting, compelling story seemed to be 'Why?' What was it about this city that – it's a learned city; four universities and many other colleges, endless studies and reports and books about the city – a smart place, and yet it elected this guy.

    That's where the thing kind of shifted from being an of-the-moment book about Rob Ford to trying to figure out an understanding of the people and geography of this place."

    But what is the frontier in the book’s title?

    "I think the frontier can be interpreted in a couple ways. Maybe it's downtown and suburb – which was such a wedge issue during the Ford years (and maybe even now) – but also just the frontier between Toronto being a city that happened somewhat accidentally, despite itself. It was never supposed to be a great city.

    Montreal was Canada's great city. And you walk through Montreal and you can see these grand buildings, whereas if you walk in Toronto we've got good buildings, but also kind of a sense of suburban-ness, shabbiness, often built on the cheap.

    So the frontier is that the city is, maybe, a teenager. Sometimes it's awkward, sometimes it acts out and you don't want to see it, but its potential is all there, and the future – if it gets it right, if it gets into the right school – it'll be a great future. But teenage years – frontier years – are incredibly thrilling. We're lucky to live in them, but maybe we don't want to repeat them."


    Now that you mentioned grand architecture, your writing often seems to be infused with a sense of history, or even myth. Is this intentional?

    "Yeah, I totally try to sneak history in. The other things I try to sneak in are social justice issues if it's a fun column, or like, a happier column. Sometimes it's architectural appreciation. I don't write straight-up architecture columns, but I try to sneak them in so people who think they don't care about architecture and never thought about it might kind of come around to it. So there's a certain sneakiness I think, in all of this kind of writing.

    Why are you sneaking this stuff into your writing? What's the point?

    "Because if people don't have this kind of founding idea of themselves, they won't care about the place. Toronto has always been a city that has looked elsewhere for stories. You walk around the city and everything's named after some dead British guy. Maybe a couple Irish guys too.

    I'm walking on Richmond street – I think it's named after the Duke of Richmond. There's Queen's Park. King street. Queen street. All these references to take people out of the local and to someplace else. And we’ve sort of become this de facto colony of America, looking to the south.

    Think of all the movies we shoot here, and Toronto never gets to play itself; it's always playing New York or Chicago or some other city. Whereas New Yorkers have this innate sense of themselves. Even my mom in Windsor – if I said something like 'the Lower East Side of Manhattan’ I think she would kind of have an idea that that's where punk rock came from. Even though my mom is not into Punk Rock at all. Right? The mythology of it kind of comes out.

    Whereas Toronto – and probably Canadians in general – we have not been good at telling our urban stories. The stories inform who we are, so we haven't had that kind of base knowledge of ourselves. Which leads to not appreciating the city, and overlooking the great things that we have here."

    This reminds me a bit of [murmur], the urban oral history project you did back in 2002.

    "Yeah, that WAS basically the motivation for doing [murmur]. It's having small stories, instead of grand narratives such as the Leafs winning in 1893 - or whenever the last time they won. It's small, everyday stories pulled from non-professional storytellers.

    It would be like walking down the street with your uncle who lived in Toronto. You're visiting your uncle in Toronto and he tells you about his Toronto. Sometimes it's personal history and sometimes it's the city's history that he knows, but always sort of on this personal level.

    And I just wanted to trickle those out onto the streets of Toronto as a way of helping along the founding mythology of the city. And making it more complex. Sometimes the story of Toronto – the official story – tended to be a little more white, a little more British and queen and king and that sort of thing, when there are a lot of sub-stories that are part of that, but different. I wanted people to learn those sub-stories as well, which was the point of [murmur]."


    In addition to your books, projects and running an online magazine, you're also teaching some classes at the University of Toronto? What kind of classes?

    "I teach one course at U of T all year called Citizenship and the Canadian City, and one I was marking this morning called Blogging the Just City. It’s getting students to write about Toronto but through a social justice lens. So, homelessness, inequality, untold history. Unrepresented history is one of the things we talk about. Whose history gets told in Toronto, and whose doesn't?"

    And what do you teach in the Citizenship and the Canadian city class?

    "This is a class about city citizenship, so it's not national citizenship – it's not like, getting a passport or swearing allegiance to the crown, or the Queen, or whatever. What are the obligations of a person living in a city? Do you have to love the city? Should you hold a door open for people? Should you stoop and scoop if you have a dog? Kind of everyday things.

    It's a citizenship of the everyday, and a commitment to the place you live in, to do whatever you can to make it a little better. It's a big, broad umbrella, but I try to discuss that throughout – when we talk about the problems, and the great glory of living in a city.

    What can people give back to it, in various different ways? I don't want students to do what I did – I was oblivious to the city for so long. I want them to think that they CAN make this place better."

    [This post contains video, click to play]

    Any idea what’s next for you?

    "A project about Canadian cities, talking about 'is there a Canadian urbanism?' Is there something about Canadian cities which seem by-and-large successful (although many cities are experiencing the same kind of inequality and pressures that Toronto has and Rob Ford could be elected in any of them)? So maybe there's something worth sharing, something worth talking about.

    But also, I wonder if talking about Canadian cities - getting Canadians to think about themselves as city dwellers, because 80 percent of us live in cities - maybe that might overcome some of the regionalism that Canada's been plagued with. You know, East vs. West, and that sort of thing.

    And none of this has to be at odds with the countryside. I think town and country need each other – sometimes that relationship is a bit thrown out of whack, but I think getting excited about beyond Toronto is what I'm looking forward to next."


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    China, UK, & US: How do their real estate markets differ from Canada’s? Fri, 10 Mar 2017 13:44:34 +0000 Our world is becoming increasingly globalised. As a result, traditional employment for many people has become less reliable and more people are looking to other countries for opportunities.

    A 2010 report by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (the most recent date for which data is available) found there were 2.8 million Canadians living abroad, a higher population than exists in six of the country’s provinces. With so many Canadians deciding to live abroad we decided to look at some of the differences in real estate markets and processes in the world’s biggest markets.

    Buying properties in different countries has a number of benefits. If you have the capital, it can be a good way to diversify and protect your investments. Richard Silver says it's both:

    I think people who are high-net-worth like to have properties all over the world for a couple of reasons. Both for investment, but also to diversify their portfolio. I think they're often nervous about having all of their property and investments in one country.

    Down South


    Most Canadians who leave the country live in the United States. Luckily for anyone looking to buy property while living there, the processes are remarkably similar.

    Canadians base their mortgages on a 25-30 year amortization rate, with the contract renegotiation every five years, adds Silver. Whereas in the United States, the mortgage lasts for 30 years without a renegotiation.

    There's also a thing in the States where you can deduct your mortgage interest payments but you cannot in Canada.

    Applying for a mortgage as a Canadian will likely be more tedious. To apply for and secure a mortgage in the U.S. can take up to 45 days. Still, buying property south of the border may be a good investment. Particularly when you look at data released by BMO last year showing Canadian homes were 41 percent more expensive than in the U.S.

    Over the Pond


    For anyone thinking about hopping the pond to the United Kingdom, it’s advised to do your homework as the process there is quite different.

    As Silver points out, one of the biggest differences is that they don’t use a multiple listings system in the U.K.

    If you're working with an agent in the United States and Canada, they can basically show you a whole myriad of properties that are listed with Sotheby's, they're listed with Royal Lepage, they're listed with Bosley. They're listed with all different companies. But then in the UK, if you see a sign you have to go to that agent. And if you want to buy that property you have to buy it through the agent.

    Sherille Layton is originally from England, so she’s intimately aware of the differences between the two countries. Layton says on a recent trip to London, she and Richard gave some presentations on Toronto and the market there and the people at the London branch were impressed.

    Layton calls the U.K. system "archaic" as she talks about the differences.

    It's not as organized at all. Because the difference is, to do real estate there you don't pass any exams, you can just come out of school at 16, walk into an estate agency and get a job and then start showing houses.

    The buying process is entirely different as well according to Layton. In Canada, a client usually needs to sign a ‘buyer representation agreement.’ When they find a house they want to put an offer on, they have to sign an ‘agreement of purchase and sale,’ which gives them a finite closing date.

    In England, an agreement can be made verbally, which makes things much less clear.

    So if you put an offer in and they accept it, one month later they can turn around and say someone else came and they're giving 5 thousand pounds more. You just never know when you're going to close until you close. It's crazy.

    Richard Silver agrees with Sherille and adds how much more comfortable the process is in Canada thanks to formal agreements.

    [In Canada], once you've signed an agreement a contract is a contract. But in the UK they have what they call ‘Gazumping'.

    Gazumping is when the seller raises the contracted price of a property after having informally accepted a lower offer from a potential buyer.

    Commission structure for agents is also very different. According to Layton, Agents in Britain think our commission structure is outrageous. The commission in Canada is often five percent, split between the selling agent and buying agent. In the UK, a seller will typically pay their agent 1 to 1.5 percent. Another difference, according to Layton, is that most salespeople are paid by salary.

    Realtors in Canada are mostly on a hundred percent commission. They're "independent contractors".



    China recently relaxed restrictions on foreigners buying property in the country. The move enables "qualified foreign institutional and individual investors to buy more properties on the Chinese mainland," according to

    Previously, foreigners were restricted to buying one property in mainland China and needed to have worked or studied in the country for at least a year.

    But as Richard Silver points out, no one actually owns property in the country.

    The problem with China is the government owns the property, so you only get a leasehold. You don't actually buy the property. So even the property owners, as they call them, are really either a 50-year leaseholder or a 70-year leaseholder.

    After the lease ends the property reverts back to government ownership.


    In larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai there are also limits on the number of properties an individual can buy. These were put in place to prevent wild speculation after an incident in 2009. A high-end property was launched in central Shanghai, bringing a wave of foreign investors. According to a report by Xinhua, one extended family purchased 48 units at one time. Properties are most sought after in gateway cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but these limits will put the brakes on speculation.

    These new rules don’t mean it will necessarily be easier to buy property, though. The usual process is to pay for a property in full. Mortgages can be obtained by foreigners from Chinese banks, but the documentation process is more arduous. In order for a foreign buyer to qualify, you must:

    • Have worked or studied in the city you wish to buy in for at least one year.
    • Must have a Chinese sponsor who will guarantee you earn enough to repay the loan. Usually an employer.
    • Provide many documents for the approval process.

    That said while buying property in China might be possible as a foreigner, in might not be a wise investment. As Silver points out, many people in China are parking their money elsewhere in the world.

    You have to remember, China's a communist country. It's totally autocratic, So that's one of the reasons people would move their money out of China. Because they're nervous that the government can come in and just automatically change the rules.

    Buying property in different countries can be a very effective way to diversify your investments. It also leaves you free to travel and can offer you extra income. But whether it’s a country like the United States–where the system is relatively similar to Canada–or a country like Britain or China–where the system can be much different–, it’s important to know the facts. 


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    February 2017 Toronto Real Estate Market Report: The Wild West Tue, 07 Mar 2017 15:12:33 +0000 Toronto's real estate market remains hot. TREB reported 8,014 residential sales in February 2017. Even though 2016 was a leap year, February 2017 still managed to top its number of sales by 5.7 per cent. 

    Everybody wants to own a house and the high demand, strong price growth and the increasing number of sales we're experiencing is a good enough proof. A recent customer survey undertaken for TREB by Ipsos found that there are just as many first-time buyers as existing homeowners interested in buying a property in 2017. And they're not just interested in houses.

    In the City of Toronto, 14 per cent more condos were sold than this time last year, while the number of sold detached properties dropped by 6.8 per cent. The average price of a condo in the 416 area has increased by 18.2 per cent, amounting to $515,424.

    As for houses, the average price of a detached property in the City of Toronto has experienced an increase of almost 30 per cent of last year's price crossing the $1,5M mark. According to TREB's report, you'd need $1,573,622 on average to buy detached property in the 416 area.

    The demand for home ownership grew over the course of 2016, but the inventory remains low with new listings in February 2017 down by 12.5 per cent, and active listings amounting to less than a half of what was available in February 2016.


    Richard Silver, Sales Representative, SVP-Sales

    2010 11 21 08 43 54 37 revBW 1 small

    February was fast and furious with no sign of stopping. However, this is not a lot of fun for us REALTORS. Remember that if there are 28 offers on a property, there are 27 clients and their agents that spent the evening trying to secure their next home.

    It is also important to remember, that if you are selling to buy, the difference between what you sell for and what you buy for is often static whether the market goes up or down. There are also opportunities if you scour the market for overpriced houses that have not sold, and make offers at market value; no matter the asking price.

    In this market, it is not possible to underprice a house but some sellers look at a neighbours sale price and overshoot the market. If the property works for you, it may be time to jump into the water.

    Sherille Layton, Sales Representative

    sherille headshot small 160

    TREB’s heading for February "Sales up and Listings down", says it all! February felt like the Wild West. I saw 28 offers on one condo, and nearly all newly listed condos have an offer date.

    There is such a lack of housing stock that first-time buyers and investors are having to look to condos. We are hearing more buyers say that they have sold stock to put their money in bricks and mortar as it is a better investment.

    So many factors are fueling this Sellers’ market and we are urging clients to jump in as we don’t see a change for some time.

    Rizwan Malik, Sales Representative, B.Comm


    February saw a continuation of January, where sellers saw multiple offers but buyers meet with more frustration and a constant race against the clock. Properties that would typically take 7-10 days to sell are selling within hours.

    This lack of supply is definitely intensifying the stronghold that sellers have on this Seller's market. However, it is also putting some sellers off from listing their homes because they are starting to fear about what they will buy.

    Timing is key if you wish to succeed in this market and we have successfully helped many buyers and sellers this past month who couldn't be happier with the results.

    Jim Burtnick, Broker, SVP-Sales

    JimBurtnick new headshot cropped BW

    If you want to get a toehold in this market for any type of housing stock, you need to get out "in front of it" and not be perpetually "chasing it". By that I mean, as a buyer you need to be ready to step up with a healthy premium pre-emptive offer above the asking price on a property.

    The "asking" price bears no real barometer of the current market value as that is established by "what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree upon", and this in almost every sale we are seeing is above and beyond the "asking price". Guess what? If you do not make the "winning bid", the new current market value is established with the higher offer that was accepted on the property and you end up "chasing" the market.

    As for selling into this current marketplace, there has never been higher demand from buyers and this level of diminished inventory means that this is the BEST time we have ever seen to be a Seller!

    Tracy An, Sales Representative

    tracy an2

    We have been experiencing a shortage of inventory in Toronto for years now. However, the condo market was beyond the word "HOT" in February. We were not only facing numerous offers on the set offer date but also multiple offers with pre-emptive offers only a few hours after listing was submitted to MLS.

    Every sold price was a record breaking price in the building. The results shocked both sellers and their agents. I guess anyone who decided to invest in a condo a few years ago is now celebrating.


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    Torontoism Joins Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce Tue, 28 Feb 2017 16:58:49 +0000 Canada and the United Kingdom have a long and storied history with one another. As Canada transitioned from British colony to a sovereign country our relationship has evolved. While we still share the same monarch, our two countries are more closely related thanks to our intimate trade deals and cultural ties.

    It was in that spirit that the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce was founded in the early 1920’s. Now, amidst global changes, Torontoism joined up with the Chamber in hopes of fostering closer ties and helping anyone who may be making the transition between countries.

    Sherille Layton is a member of Torontoism and was born in England. She’s played a big part in the team’s decision to join the Chamber.

    We’re just really trying to help a lot of the companies that do a lot of trade between Canada and the UK. Help them when they’ve got their employees transferring, whether it be to the UK or to here. Help them with their real estate needs.

    A Little History

    The Chamber is a bilateral networking organization that helps representatives of companies in the two countries meet and share ideas. Nigel Bacon, CEO of the Chambers, says Chambers of Commerce generally help in the networking, introduction and referral space, and historically they’ve represented smaller businesses and provided advocacy to government.

    The Chamber, currently in its 96th year, was founded in London in 1921. Since 1998 it’s been housed inside the High Commission of Canada. Currently they boast 320 members, ranging from multinational corporations to individual businesspeople. Top tier patrons are referred to as “charter members” and they’re given the opportunity to put someone on the board of directors. The board meets five times a year in addition to an annual general meeting.

    Functions and Luncheons

    The primary function of the Chamber is for networking and referrals, says Bacon. This is achieved by hosting event forums for members, about 40 per year.

    What we say to prospective members is we offer [business-to-business] opportunity to them. To help get their brand out, particularly here in the UK.

    Layton says the topics at the events can range widely.

    It’s all various. It’s all networking. They cover different subjects over networking cocktail and lunch receptions.

    High profile speakers have included Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and former federal Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty.

    A Reason To Join

    Bacon explains that people join the Chamber for any number of reasons.

    We’re dealing with global talent. They may be Canadian businesses but their representatives may not be Canadian at all. They want to get involved. They want to meet people and find help getting settled.

    Richard Silver sees the Chamber as an opportunity to help people who may be transitioning from one country to another, especially after Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union.

    We just wanted to make sure we had a foot in the door in case there were people in the UK who wanted information on Canada or were thinking of moving. And there has been quite a move.

    Bacon doesn’t believe Brexit will impact the Chamber’s roll too substantially.

    We’re not a Canada-Europe Chamber, we’re a Canada-UK Chambe. So whatever that relationship is in the future, we’re here for that relationship. That business relationship. So, if our working environment is changing just like everybody else’s is, then we have to adapt.

    For her part, Layton points out there has been a lot of activity between the two countries lately. A lot of immigration lawyers have joined the Chamber, and that’s because the uncertainty is making Canada look like an increasingly stable option.

    Strengthening Ties

    The ties between the two countries are very strong. But it seems as though they’re growing even closer of late. Bacon says Canada’smentioned every single day in the news in some way.

    I’ve been involved in the Chamber for 12 years and I think, certainly in the last five years, I’ve seen headlines around Canada every day.

    It seems as though Britain can’t get enough of Canada lately.

    We have a Canadian running our Central Bank, we have a Canadian running our lawn tennis association, we have somebody running one of our postal services. There are examples everywhere of Canadians doing very well in the UK.

    And joining the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce looks to be a good opportunity for Torontoism.


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    No Place Like Home: Habitat for Humanity Mon, 27 Feb 2017 13:24:38 +0000

    What do you call a cultured American? A Canadian.

    All right, I know. It's easy to make fun our neighbours to the south – especially now, in this era of fake news, loud hair, and belligerent patriotism – so perhaps we should take some time to exercise our somewhat flabby appreciation muscles by acknowledging some of the truly great ideas that have come to us from the U.S.

    One really quite good idea hopped the border back in 1985, when Habitat for Humanity built its first Canadian home in Winkler Manitoba. Founded by Americans Linda and Millard Fuller in 1976, Habitat for Humanity's mission was to provide safe yet affordable homes for low-income families.

    With a strong foundation in Christian ministry, the organization enlisted teams of volunteers to build its houses, which were then mortagaged to selected families at no interest or profit. Now,100 different countries across the world play host to their own local Habitat affiliates – 56 of which can be found in Canada. Recently, I chatted with Danielle Mandell, the VP of People for Habitat for Humanity GTA, about her organization and the people it works with.

    Hainford Home
    Hainford Home

    As VP I oversee Habitat for Humanity GTA’s Human Resources; the more than 8,000 volunteers who work with us every year on our build sites, in our Habitat ReStores across the GTA and in our offices; and the families we partner with to build homes.

    That word ‘partner’ is an important one. A central tenant of the Habitat philosophy is the belief that the people they house are equals, deserving of respectful assistance rather than charitable pity. Families who apply for a Habitat home must be willing to put in 500 hours of work for the organization – often in the construction of their own future homes.

    "This is absolutely one of the most important features of the Habitat model" Mandell assured me "The 500 hours of sweat equity a family puts into building their home or the homes of other families is their down payment on the home."

    This way, continues Mandell, families don't lose their dignity and pride. It strengthens the commitment to Habitat's model. 

    Commitment isn’t all that’s required to get into a Habitat GTA home. In order to qualify, a family must also consist of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, demonstrate a clear lack of safe and affordable housing, as well as an ability to pay off their Habitat mortgage (apparently, defaults are extremely rare).

    "We partner with range of families, explains Mandell. "They all have different stories, but many have in common the fact that they have experienced hardship and have lived in very difficult unsafe, overcrowded living conditions."

    The impact of owning their own home is transformational for these families.

    Every $1 spent on building Habitat homes generates $4 of social benefit to the community. This comes in the form of improved family health, equity, increased property tax revenue for municipalities and reduced costs for rent supplements.

    Families pay Habitat a no-interest mortgage over 20 years that is capped at 30 per cent of a family’s household income, explains Mandell. This helps to break what is often a generational cycle of poverty, because it enables families to build equity over time. 

    It also has tremendous physical and mental health benefits for the families, who report that they see significant improvements in health and school performance in their children, due to an increased sense of security, well-being and safety at home.

    Consider the Botchways

    I asked Mandell about her clients and she told me about the Botchway family. Jacqueline Botchway and her husband Kojo met after they've imigrated to Canada from Gana in 1992 and started a family.

    For years, they struggled to make ends meet as they raised their four children. Unable to afford an adequate sized rental, they were forced to live in overcrowded conditions. So overcrowded, that Kojo and Jacquie had to share a bedroom with their daughter.

    The Botchways were living in very dangerous neighbourhood at the time, where there were at least two murders in the broad daylight. Jacqueline was very worried about the family and she was trying to find a way to get them out of that neighbourhood, so she applied for Habitat homeownership.

    The Botchways have been living in their Habitat home in Brampton since May, 2016. Jacqueline says the main difference it has made for their family is that she and her children are far less stressed. They have their own rooms and a peaceful place to do homework and to live without fear of being hurt or worse.

    When I asked Mandell for a story about one of Habitat's volunteers, she told me about Miah Kortekaas, a civil engineering student at Queen's University who spent 3 days a week volunteering with Habitat in the summer of 2016.

    She was respected and trusted to work independently to do estimations and invoicing, and made to feel that she was part of the staff team at Habitat. Miah tells us that working with Habitat last summer has changed her plans for her future. She no longer wants to be a civil engineer who sits behind a desk doing calculations all day. She wants to be in a position where she’s managing and dealing with people, problem solving, rather than just dealing with numbers all day.

    Hainford Home Kitchen
    Hainford Home Kitchen

    Do You Want to Help?

    Although they’re best known for building houses (now utilizing energy efficient building techniques and appliances), Habitat volunteers also take part in small-scale ‘Deconstruction’ projects; removing unwanted items such as furniture, appliances, and bathroom and kitchen fixtures at no charge to divert waste and help stock Habitat's retail outlets - of which there are 9 in the GTA. Called ReStores, these hybrids of Value Village and Canadian Tire sell re-used, remaindered, and salvaged furniture, fixtures, and building supplies at greatly reduced prices to help fund Habitat's endeavours (while also offering the rest of us the chance for a bargain DIY project or two).

    For anyone out there hoping to fill up the requisit 40 hours of community service for high school, Habitat does indeed welcome both the youthful and the non-expert. One solitary person with no building experience can help on a build site, while options also exist for student groups and corporate team-building events. There are even the annual female-only Women Build events – now in their eighth year.

    All different types of people volunteer with Habitat GTA. Former professional trades people, retirees, students and everyone in between. It’s a really rewarding volunteer experience to help build a home for a family and our mission keeps people engaged and wanting to do more. Having said that, we always need more volunteers, as we continue to build more homes for families in need of affordable housing.

    If you're feeling adventurous, there are always Habitat for Humanity's Global Village projects, which sends teams of volunteers to building sites all over the world. When I last checked, Canadian Habitat expeditions were collecting volunteers to go to over 20 different locations around the world, including Malawi, China, Portugal, and Hawaii.

    Why not grab a hammer and join in?

    In 2012, as TREB president, I got to participate on many projects. One of the most memorable ones was by far Habitat for Humanity.

    Getting dirty is part of any job and no one should be afraid of it. It's a wonderful experience to see something grow under your hands. Together with REALTORS Care Foundation, TREB REALTOR® Members, local politicians and volunteers (closes to 100 people!) built new home for the Matin family. They would in return give 500 hours of volunteer work to Habitat for Humanity.

    I encourage everyone to ask if there is anything you can do to bring others joy and happiness, and then go out and do it! Even if you can only help affect the life of one, it will be worth it!


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    Are Baby Boomers Salespeople Being Pushed Out? Mon, 27 Feb 2017 13:21:20 +0000 I joined an interesting panel discussion at Banff Western Connection 2017. The debate question was are baby boomers salesmen pushed out? Here's my 'against' argument.

    I am a boomer, senior citizen, and I have been selling property since before my colleague Amie was born!

    In my business life, I have been involved in technology and social media. They are major parts of my business. Constant change is also part of our business. The question is, wether you are engaging in the change or running from it.

    The cohort you were born in has nothing to do with your engagement.

    We need each other. Millennials need baby boomers and vice versa. We have the experience and skill and, hopefully, have developed "patience". We compliment each other.

    I Am Too Old to Change

    Is it real or fear of the unknown? Is it an easy excuse that I can use for not succeeding? Agents don’t age they just grow LIST-less.

    Entrepreneurial agents continue to innovate, looking for new opportunities. Millennials in your office or on your team can provide access to a younger marketplace. Use their skills.

    My tips to stay on top regardless of age:

    • Do what you do best and what you don’t...OUTSOURCE!

    • Bring in millennials and get to know them. Learn what drives them to buy or sell.

    • Develop a Team approach: If you know your strengths you can fill service gaps.

    • Develop a strong niche to set yourself apart.

    • Decide that if the pie is getting smaller, you need a bigger piece.

    • Expand your activities if your client base is dwindling.

    • Always be relevant and ENGAGED in life at any time.

    • Choose to engage: it is the choice that we make at any age or any stage. The cohort is not the issue!


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    Richard for the Globe and Mail: Ontario’s lack of foreign-buyer data sparks concern about a Toronto housing crisis Mon, 20 Feb 2017 13:14:43 +0000  ‘Up! Up! Up!”

    That’s where Toronto’s real estate market is heading, according to a Chinese-language promotional article posted last month on, a Beijing-based web portal that lists thousands of homes for sale in countries around the world.

    “You will really cry if you still don’t buy,” the same posting blares.

    Toronto has become the “dark horse” of the Canadian real estate market, asserts, another site jammed with Canadian home listings. It contrasts Vancouver’s continuing drop in prices with a prediction that Toronto-area homes will rise 8 per cent in value this year.

    In the months since British Columbia began taxing international buyers 15-per-cent extra on homes in and around Vancouver, those marketing Canadian real estate overseas have shifted their focus to Toronto. Last year, Toronto overtook Vancouver to become the most sought-after Canadian city for Chinese home buyers searching the property listing service, peaking in August just after British Columbia announced the tax aimed at curbing the public outrage over skyrocketing prices. Searches for properties in Toronto proper now surpass the total inquiries for Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa combined.

    Richard Silver, a Sotheby’s realtor and past president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, estimates close to 20 per cent of his clients are international buyers – from China, India and the Middle East – interested in the luxury condos and houses he sells in and around the downtown core.

    Prospective clients he talked to on his latest business trip to East Asia, just over a year ago, were curious to learn more about the city.

    “When I’ve gone to China, people ask me the difference with Vancouver and I say, ‘Toronto’s where you make the money, Vancouver’s where you spend the money.’”

    Anecdotes abound throughout the Greater Toronto Area, notably in places such as Markham, describing international buyers calling their realtors from overseas to bid tens of thousands of dollars over asking price to secure a new home.

    Despite fears that foreign speculators are juicing the region’s already-booming real estate market, it is impossible to know what impact international capital is having because no official data are being collected.

    Read the whole article here.


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