Pad to Pad March 2013 Newsletter

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Below are some interesting real estate news articles over the last month, you can click on the title to read the article from the original source.

My favourites include:

  • Toronto      is now the 4th largest city in North America after Mexico City,      NY and LA.
  • Why      are my property taxes so high, and how do I reduce them.
  • DIY      things you can do your stairs.
  • Homes      made of wacky materials: airplanes, sand, etc…
  • Who      wants to live in house when you can buy a public school.

Just a reminder that Good Friday falls on March 29th this year.

Thanks for reading 


Price Growth Continues in February

March 5, 2013 — Greater Toronto Area (GTA) REALTORS® reported 5,759 sales through the TorontoMLS system in February 2013 – a decline of 15 per cent in comparison to February 2012. It should be noted that 2012 was a leap year with one extra day in February. A 28 day year-over-year sales comparison resulted in a lesser decline of 10.5 per cent.

The average selling price for February 2013 was $510,580 – up two per cent in comparison to February 2012.

“The share of sales and dollar volume accounted for by luxury detached homes in the City of Toronto was lower this February compared to last. This contributed to a more modest pace of overall average price growth for the GTA as a whole,” said Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Ann Hannah.

“Stricter mortgage lending guidelines that precluded government backed mortgages on homes sold for over one million dollars and the City of Toronto’s additional upfront land transfer tax arguably played a role in the slower pace of luxury detached home sales,” added Ms. Hannah.

The MLS® HPI Composite Benchmark price covering all major home types eliminates fluctuations in price growth due to changes in sales mix. The Composite Benchmark price was up by more than three per cent on a year-over-year basis in February.

“We will undoubtedly experience some volatility in price growth for some market segments in 2013. However, months of inventory in the low-rise market segment will remain low, resulting in average price growth above three per cent for the TREB market area this year. Our current average price forecast is $515,000 for all home types combined in 2013,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

Click here to see Full Report [pdf]

Historic Annual Sales and Average Price [pdf]


Toronto overtakes Chicago as fourth-largest city in North America

Toronto has leap-frogged Chicago to become the fourth-largest city in North America, according to a new report that came before the economic development committee Tuesday.

The latest data from Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau show Toronto’s population at an estimated 2,791,140, narrowly edging out Chicago, which sits at an estimated 2,707,120. The top three spots go to Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles.

“These population figures are another sign confirming Toronto’s steady growth,” Mayor Rob Ford said in a statement. “Toronto is a desirable location for people to live and work. We are attracting people from across North America and other parts of the world.”

The Economic Dashboard report relied on Statistics Canada’s July 2012 population estimates, released last month, which also revised the city’s 2011 population estimate to add 9,400 people. The latest available U.S. Census Bureau data for Chicago was from 2011.


Homeowners poised to cash in on decade-long housing boom

More homeowners are poised to cash out and move up this year backed by gains averaging some 93 per cent during a 10-year housing boom that, in losing some of its steam, has opened new doors for would-be buyers, according to a new report from realty company ReMax.

Move-up buyers took advantage of the softening market last year as a chance to buy a bigger home in 14 of 16 major markets surveyed by ReMax, the exceptions being Victoria and Vancouver, where sales slumped significantly.

Move-up houses in the $500,000 to $700,000 range accounted for about 20 per cent of sales across the GTA last year, up 8 per cent from the previous year, says the ReMax Move-Up Buyers Report 2013 released Thursday.

That buy-up spree is likely to continue this year as interest rates remain low and many first-time buyers take a breather in the face of tougher mortgage lending rules, the report notes.


BILD Releases Market Results

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) has released its market results for the GTA new home market, announcing that the GTA’s home sales in January 2013 were definitely split between the low-rise and high-rise market.

In the high-rise market, new home buyers are still looking for and finding quality, affordable homes across the GTA. Choice in the high-rise market is a direct result of provincial public policy which has resulted in an ever increasing emphasis on intensification, and the industry is adapting to the shift.

n January, new home buyers purchased 686 high-rise homes, most of which were sold in the City of Toronto. Buyers interested in owning a new condominium in the 905 area found a variety of projects in York Region as well.

The tale of the low-rise market is illustrated by constrained land supply and a lack of product and choice. According to RealNet Canada Inc., BILD’s official source of new home market intelligence, new home buyers purchased 562 single, semi-detached and townhomes in the GTA.


Baby boomers may be planning to move, but not into condos

Baby boomers may well be on the move over the next five years, but don’t expect them to be downsizing to condos, according to a new report by realtor Royal LePage.

“They love their garages and their yards,” says Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper.

In fact, they love them so much that 40.6 per cent of 1,011 boomers surveyed for the study said they plan to move out of the family home to another house — some 25.9 per cent into one of a similar size and almost 18 per cent of them into something even bigger.

While 54 per cent of boomers surveyed said they do intend to downsize, less than a quarter (22.9 per cent) are looking to condominiums or apartments, the report notes.


China’s housing crackdown may drive cash to Canada’s condo market

Foreign buyers are trying to move their money to a safer spot for capital preservation. They are looking for hard assets and the condo sector has a track record of increasing prices

The bad news for China’s real estate market could be good news for
Canada’s condominium market.

A crackdown on real estate ownership in the world’s most populous county might translate into Chinese citizens looking to move more of their money abroad, with Canada a leading destination.

“Absolutely it will have a positive impact [on the condo sector],” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist with CIBC World Markets. “If it’s softening now, it will soften less rapidly than otherwise. This is a positive move because some of the money will find its way to Canada.”

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index was off as much as 9.3% following news of the crackdown Monday, which will include increasing down payment requirements on second-home mortgages and tougher implementation of a 20% capital gains tax on property sales.



How I reduced my property taxes by $700

Homeowners who feel the assessed value of their property assessment is too high should appeal. I did and have saved myself $15 a month in a process that took some time, but wasn’t overly complicated.

In August, I bought my first house, a beautifully renovated three-bedroom bungalow in Scarborough which cost $425,000. I loved everything about it, except the property taxes which came in at more than $3,000 a year. In October when I received my property assessment notice I discovered the assessment and my taxes were going up. The assessed value was $65,000 higher than my purchase price.

My father’s two-storey century house in the Beach area had only been assessed at $100,000 more. It didn’t seem fair, so I decided to appeal.

First I visited and the property taxes section of I spoke with family and friends and contacted my real estate agent and mortgage broker to get their opinion. They agreed that the assessment was high.


Spring housing market could trigger mortgage rate wars as Bank of Montreal lowers rate

TORONTO — The spring housing market is expected to bring on a new battle from mortgage lenders as they compete for what has become a shrinking pie in the form of lower real estate sales.

Bank of Montreal struck first on Friday with a five-year closed mortgage rate of 2.99% — down from 3.09% and now the lowest published rate among the big banks — with sources indicating the financial institution’s mortgage specialists are armed with discretionary power to go as low as 2.89%.

As the banks battle it out for consumers skittish about jumping into what more than one analyst sees as an inflated housing market, lenders know their costs have dropped in the past few weeks. The Bank of Canada’s five-year bond rate is in the 1.3% range after being almost at 1.6% at the end of January.

“Perhaps there is pressure to lower rates,” said Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association, about banks trying to capture customers in a slowing market. “It remains to be seen how much [the real estate market] is going to slow.”


Fears of a Canadian housing bubble unfounded: BMO report

Fears of a Canadian housing bubble are largely unfounded and, in fact, house prices remain affordable in three-quarters of the country, with the exception of Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria, says a new BMO report.

Overall, the Canadian housing market is about 10 per cent overvalued — half what it was in 1989, when prices began a 13 per cent decline, and a third of the height U.S. houses hit before crashing by some 34 per cent, says the Canadian Housing Affordability study released Friday.

Despite significant price hikes the last 10 years, house prices remain affordable across most of the country, with mortgage payments on the average Canadian home eating up a “moderate” 28 per cent of family income, and just 23 per cent when the two costliest cities, Vancouver and Toronto, are factored out, says BMO senior economist Sal Guatieri.


There’s No Such Thing as a Prefect Home

Consider the price of the average Toronto home today, and you’ll realize that an imperfect house represents an opportunity, not a liability.

The perfect home exists in our minds and in our dreams, but in reality, you’ll never find it no matter how long and hard you search. The 2013 spring market is proving to be just as competitive as previous years, so buyers need to learn the word “compromise” now more than ever. Low supply coupled with high demand for entry-level homes means that many buyers are being shut out of the market, and in some cases this disappointment could be avoided if they’d just ease up on expectations in terms of what a house “should” offer.

Every home has something wrong with it. I’ve never seen a home inspection that comes back in a one-pager that consists of a smiley-face, a thumbs-up, or a quick note saying, “Nothing to see here, folks!” Consider your own house or condo for a moment, and be honest: Isn’t there something wrong with it? Sure, there are always catastrophic problems and red flags just waiting to sink you deep into the money pit, but then there are hundreds of little things that the average buyer need not fear.


A brief explanation of development charges

There’s been a lot of talk lately about development charges and what the funds are used for. This is a great opportunity to inform the dialogue because it’s a complex topic that needs some explanation.

In 2012, construction began on more than 44,000 new homes across the GTA and industry experts estimate that more than $1 billion in development charges were paid. It’s the land developers and home builders who front the costs, and BILD works with municipalities to keep these costs fair, reasonable and accountable. We are advocating for the future homebuyers of this great region, since these charges contribute to the overall cost of building a new home.

BILD (the Building Industry and Lane Development Association) agrees with the principle that growth should pay for growth and it is important to understand that the people who come to live in this region will pay for the infrastructure they require to live here. Of all the government charges and fees related to the construction of new homes, development charges are the most significant and they are becoming a big part of the cost of a new home. They are imposed by local and regional municipalities, as well as GO Transit and school boards. Rates vary across municipalities, but the combined residential fees can range from $12,000 to over $63,000 per home.


Shaw Street School For Sale – 180 Shaw St

Are you the type of buyer that doesn’t want to keep up with the Jones’?  – When you’d rather leave them in your dust?

Does a 2 million dollar home in Rosedale scream so yesterday? 

Next time you’re downing single malts with the your CEO pals discussing your plans to take over the world and one of them breaks out about how he bought a golf course to build his new home north of Toronto, you can tell him the new black is buying your own public school and calling it home.

The old Shaw street school is for sale.

180 Shaw St. – google map


Lanterra’s North St James Town Proposal Resurfaces

As the ongoing redevelopment of Regent Park transforms a neighbourhood’s status from infamous to innovative, new interest has been sparked in the abundant development opportunities found in many of downtown’s lower-income, higher-density communities. Properties on the edge of one such neighbourhood, St James Town, caught the eye of Lanterra Developments a few years ago, and resulted in an ambitious four-tower proposal first sent to the City on 2010. Towers in the plan would, controversially, rise as high as 56 storeys.

Now, following a thoroughgoing consultation process, an impressive revised proposal has been re-submitted, addressing the concerns of city planning staff as well as community residents. Like the previous proposal, the revised plans propose a multi-tower, architectsAlliance-designed development of the area bounded by Bloor, Sherbourne, Parliament and Howard Streets, divided into three blocks. This checkerboard of lots, which form much of the northern edge of the St James Town neighbourhood, is home to an impressive but badly faded collection of late nineteenth-century houses – several of which are now destined to be restored and incorporated into the planned redevelopment.


As Regent Park rebuilds, a pause to consider what came before

The British-born architect Peter Dickinson came to Toronto in 1949, and worked here until 1961, when death took him, at age 36. In the dozen years of an extraordinarily prolific career, he dotted the local landscape with buildings that were hailed at the time as gems of festive, svelte design – the Benvenuto Place apartments, the Inn on the Park (demolished), Beth Tzedec Synagogue, and numerous others.

So it’s hardly surprising to find a considerable number of townsfolk dismayed by the prospect of seeing Dickinson buildings swept away. The structures I’m thinking of are the three remaining towers (of an original five) in Regent Park, the large former public housing complex now undergoing massive transformation into a mixed-income, public-private neighbourhood.


25 DIY Ways To Update Your Stairs

Your staircase might be the last place in your home you’d think to decorate. But after seeing these staircases, you’ll realize that a boring staircase is an opportunity squandered.


What’s the Meaning of This?  The Winds Are  Changing

Despite our power washer–wielding mayor’s stance against graffiti, last year, the city co-commissioned The Winds Are Changing, a large, intricate mural at Howard Park and Dundas West by San Francisco artist Andrew Schoultz. The busy piece continues to exist as a bold testament to the importance of street art in the city. Here, Schoultz talks us through how it all came together.


Homes made from wacky materials

Bedtime stories say the evil witch from Hansel and Gretel lived in a gingerbread cottage with window panes of sugar and a candy studded roof. And an old lady with so many children she didn’t know what to do lived in a shoe.

In real life, the possibilities are just as wacky, from paper houses to converted grain bins to homes made from a muddy mixture called “cob.” These architectural oddities — homes built out of recycled junk, gussied up dumpsters, or grounded airplanes — provide fodder for future fairy tales, or at least late-night shows on HGTV.

In the Hamptons, a resort area usually associated with oceanfront mega mansions, abandoned steel shipping containers are being used to construct a 2,000-square-foot beach house with a deck and a small pool. Andrew Anderson, the builder and owner of, says turning the containers into a home will ultimately help the planet.

“It’s the opportunity to take these products and give them a second life,” Anderson says. “You weld them together and tack them onto the foundation.” With loads of glass and an exposed corrugated ceiling in the upper container and an exposed corrugated wall in a lower crate, the shipping container beach house will be listed this spring for close to $1.4 million.

See full story: Homes Made From Wacky Materials



Ghost City: Golden Mile Plaza

Once the pride of Scarborough, this strip mall was deemed fit for a Queen during a 1959 royal visit, before experiencing a slow, sad decline.

Following World War II, Scarborough Township was in dire financial straits. “We didn’t have enough money to meet our weekly payroll,” reeve Oliver Crockford recalled years later. Crockford placed his hopes on a 255 acre parcel of federal land along Eglinton Avenue east of Pharmacy Avenue that the township purchased in 1949. Industrial development quickly ensued, with major companies like Frigidaire and Inglis opening along what was soon dubbed the “Golden Mile.”

Developers saw potential in turning nearby farms into commercial and residential properties. Among them was Robert McClintock, who purchased a 150-acre farm at the northeast corner of Eglinton and Victoria Park in 1950. After building apartments and homes, he realized he wasn’t equipped to handle a major commercial development, so he sold a chunk of land to Principal Investments in 1952.

The new owners proceeded to build one of the new “one-stop shopping” plazas that were starting to define suburban North America. Retail chains saw such developments as key to their future. “The rate at which Toronto is growing internally and on its fringes,” Fairweather treasurer Benjamin Fish told the Telegram, “makes it imperative that the merchants give it the room and facilities it deserves.”


Dressing for the home office

Six months after leaving her job as a technical writer to go freelance, Kara Landis met a lawyer friend for lunch at a downtown Toronto restaurant.

“She was wearing a dress and heels, very put together.” Landis was wearing old jeans and salt-stained boots. “For some reason, it really hit me in that moment. I thought, ‘What’s happened to me?’”

Thanks to technology and flexible employers, an increasing number of Canadians are working from home. They comprised 19 per cent of the workforce in 2008, according to a Statistics Canada report.

But the growing numbers don’t make dressing for a home-based career any easier. To counteract the pajama-clad basement dweller cliché, a wardrobe has to be versatile enough for everything from running errands to impromptu meetings. Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, shapeless sweatshirts and sandals won’t cut it.


Totally Fired

From haggis to halibut, Oreo cookies to Mars Bars, the Scottish love of all things cooked in oil bubbles over at St. Andrew’s Fish and Chips.

Stephen Watson picks up a slender halibut filet and dunks it in a pail of batter, letting the excess drip off, before carefully laying it down in a bubbling fryer full of dark brown fat. It sizzles with a sound like faint static, and when it begins to curl from the heat, Watson flattens it out against the drying rack, so it stays perfectly straight. He watches as the fish turns a golden halo around the edges, placing it on a plate next to a heap of thick-cut, double-fried French fries.

This is fish and chips at its finest: ungarnished, unblemished, and just the way God intended. The halibut is tender and moist. The batter, crisp with bubbly ridges, adheres perfectly to the fish, so that each bite is crunchy and somewhat sweet, enhanced only by a flick of salt and a dash of malt vinegar. “We never had tartar sauce when I was growing up,” says the white-haired Watson in his Scottish brogue, as he returns to tending the fryer at St. Andrew’s Fish and Chips, just south of Scarborough Town Centre.