Pad to Pad Newsletter June 2013

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Welcome to my June newsletter. Below are the Real Estate stories that have been making the news over the last month.

Highlights include:

  • More on Toronto’s two-tiered rent controlled system… condo’s built after 1991 are not protected under the act.
  • How to turn your Instagram shots into a stained-glass window.
  • Toronto’s riches retail area used to be one of the city’s poorest residential areas. The Ward.
  • Nothing is free. Not even open houses. For $50 the owners will let you see their home for sale.
  • Volume of sales down -3.4%, AVG Price increases 5.4% over last 12 months.


Price Growth Across All Major Home Types in May

June 5, 2013 — Greater Toronto Area (GTA) REALTORS® reported 10,182 sales through the TorontoMLS system in May 2013, representing a dip of 3.4 per cent compared to May 2012. Sales of single-detached homes in the GTA were up by almost one per cent compared to the same period last year, including a three per cent year-over-year increase in the City of Toronto.

“The sales picture in the GTA has improved markedly over the past two months. While the number of transactions in April and May remained below last year’s levels, the rate of decline has been much smaller. A growing number of households who put their decision to purchase on hold as a result of stricter lending guidelines are starting to become active again in the ownership market,” said Toronto Real Estate Board President Ann Hannah.

The average selling price for May 2013 sales was $542,174 – up by 5.4 per cent in comparison to $514,567 in May 2012. The annual rate of price growth was driven by the tight low-rise segment of the market and particularly by single-detached and semi-detached home transactions in the City of Toronto. Average condominium apartment prices were also up slightly in comparison to last year.

The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) Composite Benchmark was up by 2.8 per cent year-over-year.

“The annual rate of price growth in May was not surprising given the competition that still exists between buyers, particularly for low-rise home types such as single-detached and semi-detached houses. We remain on track for a three-and-a-half per cent increase in the average selling price for 2013 as a whole,” 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 house prices hit record high in May

Toronto’s housing market continues to defy the odds, with prices up an average of 5.4 per cent in May, year over year, despite cool, wet weather that has put a bit of a damper on the spring buying and selling.

The average price of a house in the GTA hit a record $542,174, up from $514,567 in May of 2012, according to May sales figures released Wednesday by the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Even condos saw price gains of 1.2 per cent in the City of Toronto — and just under one per cent in the 905 region. The number of condos sold in the GTA fell 9.3 per cent last month compared to May 2012, but for the first time in months, that figure wasn’t in the double digits.

There are no signs of a bursting bubble. In fact, indications are that the condo market is “rebalanced,” says condo market research firm Urbanation, as developers have held back on new projects and first-time buyers seemed to be out looking again in May.


What’s with the Premium on City Parking?

Fewer parking spaces are being provided in new condos, which means parking is far too expensive now to be just “nice to have.”

Owning a car can be expensive: There’s the cost of the purchase or lease, financing, insurance, gas, and ongoing maintenance. (Your mechanic probably isn’t looking to save you any money, either.) Being a city driver gets even more pricey when you consider the sky-high value put on parking spaces in condos and on freehold properties.


When I meet with a prospective client for the first time, particularly a condo buyer, one thing I ask them right off the bat is, “Do you need parking?” This has become a blunt “yes” or “no.” People can no longer afford to say, “Well…I’d like to have a space, just in case.” Toronto parking is far too expensive now to be just “nice to have.”


When I got into the business almost 10 years ago, parking spaces in condominiums were worth about $20,000 on average, depending on whether the space was in an older building (which could bottom out at $15,000), or included in a newer development (closer to $25,000). Today, I’d ballpark around $40,000 for a spot downtown; many of the luxury developments like Shangri-La and the Four Seasons are charging over $50,000, which hikes up the average.

Pressure mounts for Ontario to extend rent controls to all tenants

The lively Facebook page, Tenants of the Standard Lofts, was meant to be a safe place where residents of the hulking apartment complex in Toronto’s west-end could get to know their neighbours.

In just 18 months, it’s also become a forum where tenants can compare their rent increases.

Sacha Proctor has become a regular on the closed social-media site since he and his girlfriend Leslie Hohmeyer were told the rent on their two-bedroom loft at Lansdowne Ave. near Dupont St. was jumping to $1,500 a month.

That’s an almost 18 per cent increase in just two years.

“Apparently this is what happens when you bring up maintenance issues with the landlord here,” posted Proctor, 33, a video editor.

7 reasons your house may not be selling

Selling a home isn’t as simple as planting a sign in the ground any more. It involves preparation, timing and strategic advice. If you don’t do all of the above, do not be surprised when your home does not sell while others in the area are doing so.

Here are some common mistakes…

Toronto’s Animal Heros

Their work is at once heartbreaking, infuriating, and ridiculously rewarding. Most are volunteer and all are largely unsung. And every single one would be thoroughly delighted if society would get its act together sufficiently so that their efforts would no longer be required.

They are the city’s animal heroes, those advocating for, feeding, fostering, sterilizing, and sheltering Toronto’s abandoned, feral, and wild creatures, filling the gap neither the Toronto Humane Society nor Toronto Animal Services—both excellent but stretched agencies—can entirely fill.

Without the dedicated souls behind the organizations spotlighted below, untold thousands of creatures would be dead or even more desperate than they are at present. Sadly, we can’t name-check everyone who daily makes a difference; heaps of caring individuals build life-saving winter shelters and set out plates of kibble for the city’s stray cats, estimated to number a shameful 100,000. But these people, we think you’ll agree, represent a level of dedication that’s goes one step beyond. Our city is better for their presence.


Before-and-After Kitchen Makeovers From Rate My Space

Dreary kitchen getting you down? Take matters into your own hands and give your cooking space a makeover with inspiration from fellow design enthusiasts.

How to turn your Instagram shots into a 21st-century stained-glass window

Home-improvement projects don’t have to eat up all your time or empty your wallet. Nor do you necessarily need to call in experts. There’s a long and growing list of ways to add a dash of design to whatever living space you call home all on your own.

Take, for example, creating a 21st-century version of a stained glass window made from Instagram photos. The smart-phone app that allows you to apply different filters to pics creates gorgeous photos, and this is a fantastic way of displaying them, as recently featured on Photojojo, a photography website. Sure, you could print and frame your Instagram pictures. But putting them in a window this way means you can get some really cool colour textures as sunlight streams through. Just be careful with the super glue.

Proposed Walmart near Kensington Market has residents fuming

It’s a retail drama that’s playing out across the continent: big box stores show up on the outskirts of town and mom and pop shops bitterly shutter their doors.

But what happens when the big stores try to move in downtown?

RioCan, the country’s largest real estate investment trust, has submitted plans to the city to build a three-storey retail complex downtown, just past the western fringe of Kensington Market.

If approved, it would house the mother of all discount retailers, the archetypal box store: Walmart.


Ghost-City: 203 Yonge Street

The story of how an historic-hotel-turned-jazz-club-turned-punk-haunt became a black-hole blight on the Yonge streetscape.

There were few sports John Francis Scholes tackled that he didn’t master. The Irish-born, Toronto-reared athlete racked up championship titles in boxing, rowing, and snowshoeing during the Victorian era. His first trophy, earned during a 220-yard hurdle race in 1869, was proudly displayed in the Yonge Street hotel that eventually bore his family’s name…

Tips for growing vegetables in raised beds [Video]

Gardening guru Marjorie Harris explains the importance of raised vegetable beds and how they can maximize your homegrown greens.

Tiny House Society of Craven Rd

In the east end of Toronto, between Coxwell and Greenwood Avenues, there’s a place called “Tiny Town.” The neighbourhood name might not show up on a map, but if you travel up and down Craven Road you’ll realize that the area is truly the epitome of modest living.

On Craven, you’ll find the largest collection of single houses under 500 square feet in the city. You’ll also find the longest wooden (and municipally maintained) fence in the city. Jack Ridout, a real estate agent whose family grew up on the road, says this arrangement draws a certain type of personality — one that doesn’t care for across-the-street neighbours peeking into front rooms at night. But those who move in get a lot more than seclusion; these houses come packed with over a century of history.

Craven Road was once known as Erie Terrace, but before that, these lots that now house tiny buildings were attached to the back of properties on Ashdale Avenue — properties that used to extend back from the road over 140 feet. Ridout says those who lived in the houses gave people materials to build places at the back of their lots. When there was a dispute over whose land belonged to whom around 1910, the City stepped in, expropriated the land, and created a tiny road between the houses on Ashdale and the rear lots. Those lots became Craven Road, and a fence was constructed behind the Ashdale houses.


The Ward: One of Toronto’s more historic, yet forgotten, communities

A week from now, thousands of people will fan out across Greater Toronto to take advantage of a once-a-year opportunity to poke inside intriguing buildings that are often closed to the public. As in previous years, the Doors Open roster includes architectural gems, cultural or religious institutions, and heritage buildings.

But there will be no doors to open in one of the city’s more historic, and yet most thoroughly forgotten, communities — a once dense Kensington Market-like precinct known as “the Ward,” home to thousands of poor immigrants who arrived here between the 1890s and the 1920s. The area, which today would likely be described as a “priority neighbourhood,” later became Toronto’s first Chinatown.

Little remains, although interest in the Ward’s history persists. The question is, how should the present-day city excavate and commemorate the heritage of this ghost neighbourhood and its critical role in the shaping of modern Toronto?

Ghost-City: 10 Scriveners Square

Long before it became the city’s biggest LCBO, this site served as Toronto’s busiest railway hub.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was tired of arguing. Negotiations with government bodies over the development of a replacement for the existing Union Station were heading nowhere fast. Fatigued by squabbling, in 1912, the CPR moved several passenger routes from downtown to a line it controlled in the north end of the city. While a train station already existed on the west side of Yonge Street near Summerhill Avenue, it hardly matched CPR executives’ visions of grandeur.

Take-back mortgages help young buyers when banks say no

John Curtosi faced a difficult home-buying choice. He could either walk away from a house he wanted in Hamilton because he couldn’t get a conventional mortgage, or he could find another way to finance it.

Like many young people Curtosi wanted to buy, but didn’t have enough for a down payment or a strong enough credit history to satisfy his bank. So, when the home-seller offered to help him buy the house by providing a mortgage, he agreed.

The advantage to buyers of so-called vendor take back mortgages is that you can end up with a bigger mortgage than a bank is willing to provide. Sellers also find it useful because it provides extra revenue through the interest they can charge which is often at a higher rate than the banks give. This type of mortgage can also help promote the sale of property by making it attractive to buyers who are not eligible for a full bank mortgage.

Vancouver’s ‘Hobbit House’ on market for $2.86 million

It’s a long way from the shire and doesn’t include a pantry stocked for second breakfast and elevenses, but Vancouver’s own “Hobbit House” is on the market.

The storybook home with a distinct wood thatched roof is up for sale for $2.86 million — and some heritage advocates fear the days are numbered for the Bilbo Baggins-worthy property.

Built in 1942 by developer Brenton Lea, the 2,416-square-foot home was styled after an English cottage but built with Canadian materials, resulting in its trademark wavy roof made of steam-bent cedar shingles.

“It’s a Vancouver landmark because of the style of the roof,” said real estate agent Mary Ellen Maasik. “It’s very unique.”

Toronto real estate: Condo rents hit record high as would-be homebuyers stay on sidelines

Would-be first-time homebuyers are fuelling such unprecedented demand for rental condos across the GTA, they’ve helped push average rents to a record $1,856 per month, says a new report by condo research firm Urbanation.

Since mortgage lending rules were tightened last July, pushing many first-time buyers to the sidelines, demand for rental condos has skyrocketed, says the report released Tuesday.

The number of condos leased via the MLS jumped 31 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 over the same period a year earlier.

Rents have climbed 10 per cent just in the last two years, the report notes, after a decade of largely flat or minimal increases.

Suits us fine: You’re a lucky one if you call Toronto’s Financial District home

Last Thursday afternoon, Michael Nguyen was in his exclusive east-end men’s atelier, Garrison Bespoke, on Wellington and Scott streets.

His comportment suggesting a contemporary Gatsby, Mr. Nguyen wore a spiffy three-piece charcoal grey suit; the white pocket square jutting festively, the flawless made-to-measure slacks tapered just so at the ankles to reveal cognac-coloured Italian brogues with raised stitching.

His comportment suggesting a contemporary Gatsby, Mr. Nguyen wore a spiffy three-piece charcoal grey suit; the white pocket square jutting festively, the flawless made-to-measure slacks tapered just so at the ankles to reveal cognac-coloured Italian brogues with raised stitching.

Why it’s harder for self-employed to get a mortgage

Vick Vij knows all about the challenges self-employed folks face when they try to get a mortgage.

The Markham-based chartered accountant went through the arduous process a few years back. He also regularly deals with self-employed clients looking to purchase a home. “It can definitely be more complicated for them,” he says.

Where mortgage applicants with steady, salaried jobs can document their annual income with a T4 slip, the self-employed — entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelance professionals with a changing clientele and no regular paycheque — are assessed based on stated income, or the amount the borrower claims to earn, which they must prove with tax returns, contracts and financial statements.

“They don’t have a lot of verifiable pieces of paper that substantiate their income,” Vij says. “So the bank or mortgage broker is going to have to do more due diligence to gain comfort about their numbers.”

Beach home for sale, but it’ll cost you $50 just to see it

It’s a rare and iconic Beach-area home, perched on a cliff with its own steps leading to Lake Ontario.

It’s listed for close to $5 million.

There’s just one catch — a $50 fee simply to see it.

The owner has opted not to have the standard realtor tours and open houses. Instead, agents and their interested clients are asked to make donations to walk the sprawling one-acre property known as Edgemont or, as the sign on the front gate says, 1 Fallingbrook Rd.

The money will go to the SickKids Foundation . 


Ghost-City: 1172 Dundas St.W.


Long before the hipsters invaded Dundas and Ossington, the area was ground zero for Toronto’s bakery wars.


During the last decades of the 19th century, the Toronto bread market was a battleground. Bakers faced resistance from housewives used to making their own loaves and tough battles for customers with an increasing supply of commercial competitors. When teenager George Weston entered the business in the early 1880s, the future food mogul joined nearly 60 other city bakers and nearly 60 more confectioneries.


Another long-lasting bread name who entered the field at this time was James Dempster. Born in Scotland in 1855, Dempster’s family migrated to Toronto and established a bakery at the northeast corner of Argyle Street and Dovercourt Road, later the site of rival firm Ideal Bread. During the early 1890s, James struck out on his own to open Dempster’s Staff of Life bakery, which settled into its permanent home on the north side of Dundas Street west of Ossington Avenue after the turn of the century. Though it remained in the same location for the next half-century, its address changed several times due to expansions and the eastern extension of Dundas Street past Ossington during World War I.


Like other period bakers, Dempster stressed the purity of his products and baking processes, urging customers in a 1915 ad “don’t spoil the meal with inferior bread.” Several years later, the bakery reminded patrons that “when you wed yourself to a particular loaf of bread, do not choose it because of its beauty, but because of its quality and flavour.”


Neighbourhood News: Yonge and Eglinton grows up

Nearly five years ago, Sandi and Gus De Camargo reached a point in their relationship where they grappled with one of adulthood’s most pressing pickles: diapers or drinks?

When it was determined they could indeed have both a family and a freewheeling lifestyle, the married couple started scouting real estate. They lived on the Danforth for three years. Then, after becoming pregnant with their second child, they realized good  souvlaki should not be the sole motivator for staying.

“With the exception of Jackman Avenue Public School, the Danforth didn’t have exactly what we were looking for,” says Ms. De Camargo, a real estate agent; Mr. De Camargo works in IT. “We wanted the suburban lifestyle that offered excellent schools in the district and we liked being able to walk down the street to go out to dinner — Yonge and Eglinton had the whole package.”