Pad to Pad Newsletter February 2013

Who’s sick of winter, yet?

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:

  • Rogue photographers illegally scales Toronto’s highrise buildings to capture breathtaking images.  Amazing pictures and video of Toronto in link.
  • Wacky Real Estate Stories of 2012 – Cube house, dilapidated garage for sale for 100k, etc.
  • Woman ends up in Jail for tearing a 6mm hole in neighbours water hose.
  • Hamilton Saves Captain John’s Restaurant
  • “As is” Condition.  I am asked a lot what “as is” really means when it shows up on a listing.

Thanks for reading and all the best to you and your family on Family Day – Which is February 18th this year (February 11th if you live in BC).


Positive Start to 2013

February 5, 2013 — Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 4,375 transactions through the TorontoMLS system in January 2013. This number represented a slight decline compared to 4,432 transactions reported in January 2012.

“The January sales figures represent a good start to 2013. While the number of transactions was down slightly compared to last year, the rate of decline was much less than what was experienced in the second half of 2012. This suggests that some buyers, who put their decision to purchase on hold last year due to stricter mortgage lending guidelines, are once again becoming active in the market,” said Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Ann Hannah.

“It is interesting to note that sales were up for many home types in the GTA regions surrounding the City of Toronto. This is due, at least in part, to the additional upfront land transfer tax in the City of Toronto,” added Ms. Hannah.

The average selling price for January 2013 sales was $482,648 – up by 4.3 per cent compared to $462,655 in January 2012. The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) Composite Benchmark price was up by 3.8 per cent over the same period.

“There will be enough competition between buyers in the marketplace to prompt continued growth in home prices in 2013. Expect annual average price growth in the three to five per cent range this year,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

Click here to see Full Report [pdf]

Historic Annual Sales and Average Price [pdf]


First-time buyers are back after 2012 slump in sales

Just a few weeks ago, the house on East York’s Marlow Ave. would have looked like a simple starter home — two bedrooms and two bathrooms crammed onto a 17-by-93-foot lot, listed for $469,900.

But by Monday night, after the barn-shaped detached home sold for $525,000 in a flurry of eight competing offers, it became symbolic of something much bigger.

The first-time buyer is back…  Mortgage brokers have also seen a surge since Christmas in would-be home buyers, especially first-time buyers, looking to get preapprovals or to renew approvals that lapsed last fall and winter as they headed for sidelines, waiting for the housing market to cool or crash.

How single women – and what they want – are shaping the new housing market

When Charise Bauman bought her condominium in Toronto she wanted it to be in an established, walkable downtown neighbourhood, have a concierge service and, among other criteria, have good lighting. “Lighting is huge,” Bauman says. The 25-year-old hairdresser has a few rules about interior design, including this one: “If you’re going to put in a walk-in closet, there better be a light in there.”

Women, particularly those in their 20s, have become a dominant force in the condo market, representing approximately one-third of all sales in several Canadian cities. Developers have taken note, and are responding by designing buildings and individual units to suit their tastes and interests, whether it’s improving the quality of lighting, or installing security cameras in parking garages, or creating floor plans that maximize storage space.

“It’s the fastest growing niche right now,” says Louis Conrad Migneault, vice-president of marketing at DevMcGill, a condo development company based in Montreal. “It changes the whole way we present and conceive projects.”

Interior Design Show full of kitchen artistry

When you are looking for inspiration, fresh ideas and advice from the pros, a good place to start is by visiting a home show in your area.

One of my favourites is the Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto. The event vibrates with leading-edge designs and innovative new products from companies large and small. I am always impressed and excited by the rhythm of the show, and come away with dreams of renovations to come utilizing what I’ve just discovered.

The masterful display for Varasmus Kitchens shown here definitely gets a top rating. The six-tier kitchen cabinet unit is designed to show off a portion of the range of finishes available — exotic veneers, laminates drenched in custom colours and stainless steel. The mix in door and drawer sizes makes an intriguing colour puzzle with a few sleek steel handles added for aesthetics.


Is there a prime rate cut in our future?

Recently the Bank of Canada (BoC) met and, as expected, left its target overnight rate unchanged.  More surprisingly though, the bank also eliminated its oft-repeated warning about near-term rate increases. Here is the exact wording from the announcement:

“While some modest withdrawal of monetary policy stimulus will likely be required over time, consistent with achieving a two per cent inflation target, the more muted inflation outlook and the beginnings of a more constructive evolution of the imbalances in the housing sector suggest that the timing of any such withdrawal is less imminent than previously anticipated.”


Captain John’s restaurant boat could have new life in Hamilton as casino

A Hamilton businessman hopes to tow Captain John’s restaurant from Toronto’s waterfront to Steel Town’s and turn it into a casino or banquet facility.

Don Maga says he plans to meet with Toronto waterfront officials later this week and breathe new life into the rusting 91-metre-long floating restaurant, which has been shut down since the city shut off water to the ship June 26 and health officials ordered the restaurant closed.

“I’m going to resolve everything,” was all Maga, a veteran of sales, marketing and product development, would say in a telephone interview from Hamilton on Tuesday.

“The boat will be transferred over to my ownership next week . . . I have a deal in place that I know will go.”

Maga, who claims to have been involved in other entertainment ventures but refused to elaborate, wouldn’t discuss what he plans to do about the more than $568,000 that “Captain” John Letnik owes in property taxes and lease payments on the watery slip at the foot of Yonge St.

“It’s just waiting for someone to come and take it,” said Maga of the five-level ship that he plans to have towed to dry dock and then spend millions in restoration.



Mike Holmes: Neighbourly talk can help suss out a home’s sins and secrets

Let me give you a scenario: You found the house of your dreams. You get it inspected and there don’t seem to be any major issues. Should you go ahead and make an offer? Most people would give you the green light. But smart homebuyers will do a little more digging — they’ll talk to the neighbours.

I can’t tell you how many times I walk into a home that is a complete nightmare. And if the homeowners had just asked the neighbours a couple of simple questions — before they bought the house — they could have avoided the entire mess.

Ask questions such as: Was there any work done on the house recently? Was it exposed to rain during the renovation? Did it have a tarp on the roof? For how long? Who was living in the house? Was it rented? Did anything happen on the property? These are things that every homebuyer should know before they get caught up in the excitement of buying a home.


Ten Reasons to Love the Toronto Public Libary

If there is a public library system on the planet better than the Toronto Public Library—the world’s busiest—we’d like to know about it. A shining, seemingly rare example of tax dollars working hard and wisely for every member of the community, the TPL raises book borrowing—and movie-watching, eBook devouring, museum-going, computer-using, and lecture-attending—to an art form. Or at least, the library makes all those things a whole lot more accessible to everyone from grannies to tweens, new Canadians to new moms.

In fact, the TPL offers so many way-cool, free services that a lot of users—even regulars—might not know about them all. And if you’re not already a regular visitor, you are totally missing out. Stop making Heather Reisman richer. Skip Indigo (and all their overpriced home-decor trappings) and head down to your local library branch for your next nail-biter novel or copy of Chatelaine. Here are 10 highly compelling reasons (plucked from a smorgasbord of many) of why you should.


Ghost City: 696 Yonge St.

The Church of Scientology calls this Yonge Street building home, but over the years it’s housed some famous food brands and been the site of a dramatic police raid.

The Church of Scientology’s Toronto headquarters are in the midst of an “Ideal Org” makeover—signalled, last month, by boards nailed to the Yonge Street high-rise. While it remains to be seen whether the move will fracture the controversial faith’s local followers as similar, costly refurbishings have in other cities, the plans are less than modest, indicating a colourful new façade will be placed on the almost-60-year-old office building, along with a new bookstore, café, theatre, and “testing centre” inside.


Ghost City: Cumberland Terrace

You know it as downtown’s most dated shopping mall—but the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor was once the site of a cemetery… as well as a pro-breast-feeding rally.

That Cumberland Terrace exists as a time capsule of shopping-mall design fits well with one of the site’s earliest uses: A cemetery preserving the memory of loved ones. Currently honoured with a plaque on the 2 Bloor West tower, Potter’s Field was Toronto’s first non-denominational burial ground when it opened in July 1826. Just as redevelopment a century-and-a-half later pushed out the coffee houses and hippie kids, the growing village of Yorkville successfully petitioned to close the cemetery in 1855. Getting rid of Potter’s Field wasn’t easy—though many remains, including those of 1837 rebels Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, were quickly moved to the Necropolis, it wasn’t until 1881 that the last of the unclaimed bones were legally sent elsewhere.


Drawn TO

Welcome to Drawn T.O., the Toronto Urban Sketch Blog. Urban sketching is a global phenomenon. So pick up your pencils and let’s do it in Toronto. The manifesto of Urban Sketchers the world over — written by one of the greats, Gabriel Campanario, a news artist with the Seattle Times and founder of — lays out a few ground rules.

We draw on location, indoors or out; our drawings tell the story of our surroundings; our drawings are a record of time and place; we are truthful to the scenes we witness; we use any kind of media; we support each other and draw together; we share our drawings online; we show the world, one drawing at a time. Admittedly, some of that is a little more touchy-feely than I prefer, but I don’t live in Seattle.Here in Hogtown, I’ll be walking around the city drawing stuff, when time and childcare permits. I draw LIVE, and I use a ballpoint pen. What could be more urbane than that?

My hope is that if you are reading this, you may be a bit of a sketcher yourself and will consider sending me your own Toronto sketches so that I can eventually put together a gallery. Or if you can’t draw a lick, then maybe write and tell me how special I am, or — in lieu of that — write and suggest a corner in Toronto I should draw some attention to.

Send your sketches to Richard at


View from the top

This group of rogue photographers illegally scales Toronto’s highrise buildings to capture breathtaking images. We tagged along to find out how and why they do it.

Tom Ryaboi sits gargoyle-like atop the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, his legs dangling over the ledge. It’s cold up here—you feel the wind chill a lot more when you’re 350 feet in the air—but Tom is still and confident. He looks at ease up here, striking a pensive pose as he looks off into the distance. Mies Van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre towers provide a black backdrop dotted with specks of light, and a snapping shutter breaks the calm. Tom’s camera, a Nikon lens on a Canon body, captures the moment, and he hops down from the ledge to examine his photos.


Wacky real estate stories that hit home in 2012

Sales and prices may have softened, but you can always count on the unusual when it comes to Toronto real estate.

It’s the stuff of water-cooler conversations, dinner party drinks and rants over the backyard fence.

Few things have the power to entertain — and enrage — like real estate.

If 2011 was the peak of Toronto’s condo boom, 2012 was the start of the slowdown, with the GTA housing market now heading into an uncertain 2013.

But all that angst about the future doesn’t take away from some wacky real estate wonders of 2012.


It was far more than just a decrepit Roncesvalles garage with its own address and outrageous $99,999 price tag. The collapsing structure became symbolic of a housing market that had become almost too hot to touch.

‘Best’ high schools inspire desperate measures — by parents

There was the mother who rented an apartment so her daughter would be “in district” for popular Earl Haig Secondary School near Yonge and Sheppard.

Never mind that the flat was empty and the mother had no intention of living there; she told the principal it was cheaper to pay rent to get into Earl Haig than to pay tuition for a private school.

Then there were 15 applications for Grade 9 one year — all from the same apartment unit. “An apartment superintendent was selling false leases,” recalled Michael Smith, principal at the time. “We shut that down.”

At this time of year, as Grade 8 students apply for high school, families can get creative in trying to get their children into schools they believe are best. In a system that gives first dibs to children who live in the district, schools with good buzz can drive out-of-district families to desperate measures.


Neighbour feuds: How a small tear in a garden hose led to a criminal trial

The six-millimetre-long tear in the $50 grey garden hose was the last straw in a bitter seven-year neighbour feud.

A call to the police led to a mischief charge and a criminal trial based on so little evidence it baffled the judge who presided over the case earlier this month.

“Fortunately for the Toronto Police Service, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that stupidity in relation to the law and negligence is not a case for malicious prosecution.” said Provincial Court Justice William Wolski before dismissing the charge, according to a transcript. “Why these charges were laid is still a mystery to me.”

The case is an example of a slew of minor cases that lawyers, and notably a judge in December, have said are clogging up the court system and wasting court resources.

The story of the garden hose unravels like this.


Mike Holmes: Removing snow, ice is everyone’s responsibility

Canadian weather can seem a bit unpredictable. One minute it’s sunshine and warm weather. Next thing you know we’re hit with a snowstorm. Don’t let the occasional spring-like day fool you — we are still in the middle of winter. And when you consider that insurance claims for damages related to winter storms can run into the thousands, knowing how to deal with ice and snow around your house is just smart.

One of the first things I tell homeowners is to keep snow away from foundation walls. The moisture from snow melting can slowly seep in. Remember, concrete is porous. So when you shovel your driveway, walkways and sidewalks, shovel snow away from the perimeter of your home. And make sure fire hydrants, gas meters and dryer vents aren’t covered by snow.


Unsold condos in Toronto steadily rising, but market strong

The percentage of unsold condominiums in Toronto’s housing market continues to rise but the market remains strong by historical standards, according to a new survey.

Urbanation Inc., one of the leading research companies in the condo industry, said overall the Toronto census metropolitan area was 79% sold in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 80% a quarter earlier and 82% a year earlier. It is above the 10-year average of 78%.

“Despite concerns over the level of unsold supply in the new condominium market, the ratio of sold to unsold units has consistently been above the long-run average in recent years,” said Ben Myers, executive vice president of Urbanation, in a release. “There remains confusion over unsold supply and standing inventory, to clarify, at the end of Q4-2012 there were just 613 completed and unsold new condominium apartment suites in the Toronto CMA — some would be rented out by the developer, some used for construction offices, and others used as model suites for subsequent phases, effectively lowering this standing inventory figure even farther.”


Buyer beware the ‘as is’ clause

Q: What do I need to know about buying a home listed in “as is” condition?

A: When a home is listed for sale “as is,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in a poor state of repair. The term simply means the property is being sold in its current condition and the seller will not be making any repairs to complete the sale.

The “as is” condition might mean the homeowner does not have the time or money to make repairs, or in the case of a foreclosure or estate sale, the seller may not be familiar with the condition of the house.

Whatever the reason, if you’re interested in the property, the only way to know the true condition is to have a home inspection carried out. Consider including a contingency clause in your offer based on your satisfaction with the inspection. If a deficiency with a budget-busting repair cost is uncovered during the inspection, you’ll want the option to walk away without penalty.

The advantage of an as is sale is the purchase price may be comparatively lower than similar properties in the neighbourhood. But be sure to factor in the cost of repairs and renovations when accounting for the total cost of the purchase.

Buying as is isn’t for everyone. If you’re planning to ask the owner to address a defect or are unwilling to follow-through on the purchase if the inspector finds anything wrong, you’re probably best to avoid making an offer on an as is property.