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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Toronto in a 1980s Style Housing Bubble

Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter says Toronto is the midst of a housing bubble, and is making comparisons to the housing bubble of the 1980s - which ended in a collapse and a recession.

"There’s nothing tentative about the red-hot housing market in Toronto and neighbouring areas," says Porter, in a note out Monday.

Porter is referring to the 22 per cent price appreciation of existing homes over last year's prices. He is now predicting a 19 per cent increase in condo prices in the Greater Toronto Area (during 2017) and says to watch for double-digit gains in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

"An apparent influx of foreign wealth, coupled with record-high demand and a shortage of detached properties, are driving the frothiest price increases since the late 1980s. Prices are even accelerating in segments and areas without shortages."
 
"Admittedly, condo supplies in the GTA are down sharply from prior elevated levels, but a record number of units are now under construction…so why the froth?" asks Porter.

Porter also notes that Montreal and Ottawa have entered a lengthy period of stagnation, that Alberta is stabilizing.

And that there should be "some further softening in Vancouver’s prices", compared to last years 33% increase in Vancouver prices.

The national average price for homes sold in January 2017 was $470,253, up only 0.2 per cent from a year ago and carried mostly by sales in Toronto and Vancouver.

However if you ignore Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver, the average price of a home in the country is reduced by almost $120,000 to $351,998.

Counting adjustments for inflation and the lack of increases in housing prices across most of Canada, the cost of homes across most of Canada is actually going down comparatively. The GTA and GVA are inflating the national average and skewing the results. Which is similar to what happened in the 1980s. The average prices across Canada stagnated and went down first, while Toronto and various cities experienced a real estate bubble.

And then the bubble burst, economic chaos and a recession resulted. The stagnation across Canada was basically the canary in the coalmine, warning of the impending disaster.

2010s Vs the 1980s, What is Different?

Toronto and Vancouver's real estate bubbles are now mostly driven by foreign investors. That is what is driving the prices to ridiculous heights. That means that the rest of the country could go into a recession and as long as Toronto/Vancouver's prices continue to balloon upwards, the investors will just keep investing.

In British Columbia, Vancouver is trying to curb that by introducing a 15% land transfer tax on foreign investors.

In Ontario, Toronto has rejected the idea of a land transfer tax and has embraced the status quo for now...

But then Toronto Mayor John Tory announced recently that he would be increasing property taxes in Toronto by 2%.

Which gave me an idea.

Don't increase the property taxes for regular Torontonians.

Increase the property taxes for foreign owners of Toronto residential real estate instead. By say... 22%. Or more. Perhaps 27%.

You will note that this would only effect residential investors.  It would still allow for foreign investors in commercial and industrial real estate, which means they are investing in Canada's economy.

If the prices of homes in Toronto are going up by 22%, increase the property taxes on foreign owners of by a like amount (plus maybe an extra 5% to make it 27%).

So if prices in 2017 go up 19%, the property tax for foreign owners should be 19 to 24% higher than people who actually live here.

The thing about property taxes is that it is every year. The land transfer tax is only an one time thing.

Now property taxes are not a huge amount, but those property taxes would mean the mayor wouldn't need to raise taxes on Torontonians (people who might actually vote for him) and only harms non-voters who don't even live in Toronto.

Over time the property taxes on foreign owners could be increase gradually until Toronto's housing market stabilizes to a more reasonable and normal growth. Which means Toronto ends up with a stable and sustainable housing market that can withstand global and local recessions - instead of an ever ballooning market that will burst the moment the local economy hits a recession.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why you should Schedule an Electrical Inspection

Schedule an Electrical Inspection for Peace of Mind

Having safe electrical equipment and wiring around your home is not something you want to take lightly. If things aren’t right, you could not only be at risk for a personal injury from electrical contact, but you could be risking a fire as well. If there are electrical problems that are causing fire or shock hazards, you will want to know about them so they can be fixed before you find out the hard way that you had a problem.

If you are not absolutely certain that everything in your home is up to code, you might want to schedule an electrical inspection Jacksonville. Companies like Mister Sparky have qualified electricians who can come and check out your entire electrical system. If any problems are identified, you will also have a source for getting things fixed.

Depending on what is deficient after the inspection, you may just need simple things done like installing some new outlets. In other cases, the job may be more extensive. Whatever the problem is, having knowledgeable electricians at your disposal will enable you to get everything in safe working order and up to code.

The electrical code is rather lengthy and can be complicated for people who are not trained in the electrical field. As a result, doing an evaluation is not something you should attempt to do yourself, unless you are an electrician.

There may be times when you need to upgrade your electrical panel. If you live in an older home and your panel has never been upgraded, it is highly likely that it needs to be. Most older homes were built when people did not rely on electricity to the extent they do today. To illustrate, just take a look around the rooms in your home and identify the items that you use on a daily basis that run with electricity. Then think about how many of those items did not exist a generation or two ago. If you have the same electrical panel that was in place then, there should be little doubt that you need an upgrade.

Another time when your panel may need to be upgraded is when you are making additions like building another room. You clearly do not want to overload your existing system. An upgrade is the smartest and safest thing you can do.

Because you can’t actually see electricity, it can be a bit difficult for untrained people to understand. For this reason, you should have your home evaluated by a professional so you can have the peace of mind in knowing that everything is okay.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Boulder House

This is so kewl we should definitely build more homes like this. Unfortunately boulders conveniently placed like that and huge are pretty rare.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Project Gridless - Off Grid Home and Other Topics...


Project GridlessA few years ago (Oh wow, that was April 2011. Time flies...) I started an offshoot website titled Project Gridless.

The goal of the new website was to primarily deal with real estate that was "off the grid". Cabins up north, farms that use solar and wind power, etc. As part of that initial idea I also included a variety of posts on various topics connected to the lifestyle of living off the grid.

Topics such as Archery, Bow Making and a Homemade Crossbow that I made dealt with my avid interest in archery and by relation, Hunting Food Off The Grid. Over time I even got into Compound Bow Repairs.

But hunting isn't the only way to get food, so I also explored issues like Farming, Gardening, Fishing Off the Grid, Trapping, and of course Cooking Tips. I even added posts about Veganism for those people who don't like eating meat.

For those people who really love animals I also wrote about Animals / Pets and Falconry. (Sometime I really should do some posts about birdwatching too.)

Because it was still a real estate website many of my posts dealt with things people needed around their home. Thus I wrote about solar, wind, hydro and other ways of getting Electricity Off The Grid. And because this is Canada and we have hot summers and cold winters, I also had posts about Heating and Cooling. And Green Homes / Sustainable Architecture for those people obsessed with the environment. And "modern necessities" like how to get Off The Grid Internet and plumbing, aka Water and Sewer Off The Grid.

For the preppers / survivalists out there I wrote posts about:
But it still was not enough. I also had topics such as:
In April 2017 it will be 6 years since I started Project Gridless and there is still is so much to do. It is an expansive topic that goes beyond real estate and into the realms of being self sufficient, providing your own food, your own heat sources, your own entertainment, and all of your necessities.

My efforts have not been in a vacuum either. Project Gridless is now twice as popular than MSfaH.

Therefore I am putting the call out for more bloggers to join me.

Join Project Gridless and write about the off grid topics that most capture your interest.

To join email charlesmoffat{atsymbol}charlesmoffat.com.

Once you have joined you can post on the above topics to your heart's content, knowing that you are posting to an already popular and successful blog that is currently read by 5000+ people per month.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Renovating Home Offices in Toronto

On Renovating Home Offices for Work from Home Professionals

By Rob C.

This author was there when Laura Bilotta from Single in the City walked a renovator around her Toronto area townhouse and laid down plans for a new perfect home office. “Rip out the wall cabinets and put up vision boards,’ was how she started her fix list. "Bookshelves are so last century."

The contractor agreed, and he nodded his head like he was expecting it. Keith Travers, home renovations expert in Toronto has years of experience and his own ideas about transforming living rooms, basements and guest bedrooms into cost efficient modern home offices. "What Laura asked for is what every work from home professional wants, a clean modern home office."

Clear the walls and ‘desks’

In Laura’s vision for tomorrow there are no desks and no shelves, but rather tables stuck to bare walls with nothing underneath to bang her knees on when swivel-chairing around the room. By having clear walls and desk surfaces she can do three jobs at once in three or more separate work stations in her office, or on busy days, she can bring in support staff and easily scale her operations.

By having white boards and cork boards on the walls instead of shelves, Laura can effectively organize tasks for staff using pins and post-it notes. This makes it easy for interns to pick-up and go forward with initiatives laid out literally right in front of their eyes. Perhaps more important is how it allows Laura to compartmentalize her campaigns in her own mind.

"Shelving is still important." Keith Travers insisted, “But now the shelves go up to the top of the wall. Shelves are necessary for storage, and small things can be put in wood boxes we can make to match the d├ęcor.” And another item that’s now stored high on the shelf – the office printer.

Install Offices Doors that can be Closed

High on Laura’s list for Keith was to amend the walls of her living room to host French doors (double doors with twelve panel glass windows in the center of each) so she could seal off her home office and therein her business from the rest of her life.

Keith told me later that doors and walls are necessary mental as well as physical barriers; the modern work from home professional needs a door for privacy and security of course, but also, they must be able to close a door in their mind at some point everyday too. A physical door that locks helps them mentally encapsulate their work inside their home life.

Office Telephone Wifi Solution

While most work from home professionals function effectively these days without an office telephone, WiFi must be present in their home office. Why not get a business phone? There are still plenty of advantages to using an old-school Nortel Meridian phone with a display fromStandard Telecom because over time it becomes a super handy easy-to- use business rolodex that can store call data for years. Regardless home office professions must have a strong Wifi signal, and so the modem / router connection MUST be in the home office.

The alternative is to embrace walking back and forth, up and down stairs every time there’s a problem. If the residence did not previously have a home office than the cable modem is likely found behind the television – it must be moved into the office and a proper airport Wi-Fi set up high on the shelf, in the room where people are working – not in the room where kids are playing network videos or spouses watch TV.

Put a Safe in the Wall

Somewhere in the home office there should be a wall safe. Its important. It’s a line item on many small business insurance policies. There should also be a filing cabinet ‘solution’ and if you don’t have a safe then you need a good filing cabinet with at least one drawer that locks. Where else can you keep your master business license? Or your lifetime discount deals, exclusive contracts, or your bottle of the good stuff and maybe your handgun? ‘Handgun owners must have a safe’ Keith adds, ‘they’re required by Federal legislation to have and use a secure lock box to store their weapons.’

A Clock above a Calendar

Further to the idea of keeping track of time and resources – the wall clock and calendar combination is critical for keeping small business CEOs and staff on track. The wall clock is different than the wrist watch and cellphone clock and computer monitor time keeper. The wall clock is a powerful judge that knows when you start late, and finish early.

For small business professional who work alone and talk to themselves, the clock & calendar is one character who becomes a mental butler. He or she is a concierge who schedules calls and appointments and becomes an operational framework for the business. The device also serves to answer questions that other visitors to the home office (mostly family members) might have
regarding your time, especially if they can see the business agenda on the home office calendar and plan accordingly.

Leave Room for Visitors

"There needs to be space for visitors", Keith made Laura think about her new office layout from the perspective of a visiting client that might come to her house. Where will he or she sit? And what will they see? How comfortable will they be in here?

Laura’s home office of the future is set to look very Spartan indeed. With hardwood floors under the swivel chairs and wide open surfaces on white walls and wood tables, the blank office chamber is designed to invite creativity and banish clutter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hey Toronto, don't forget to Winterize your Plumbing

Winterizing Your Home in the Toronto Area

Wintertime means ice skating and hockey for most Canadians. And whether you plan to go become a snowbird in Arizona or stay in the Toronto area, it is a good idea to consider winterizing your home and yard so that you can enjoy the winter months without having to do any outdoor maintenance.

Here are some of the most popular ways to set your home and yard up for the cold season:

Look into plumbing maintenance: If you do have a problem with your pipes, chances are that it will happen in the Wintertime- when temperature extremes put the most stress on your pipes. One way to try and head this off is to work with a local plumbing partner- someone who can arrange to do maintenance on a regular or seasonal basis. In addition to focusing on water pipe repair in Toronto, most plumbing professionals are able to check all of your pipes and water systems and tell you where there are any weak spots. One way that they can do this is by doing a pressure test that will show if there are any weak spots in your plumbing system. If there are, they can normally predict about how long your system will be able to continue without repair.

Plumbing maintenance that you can do yourself around the home should probably include draining all of your garden hoses, coiling them up, and storing them indoors in a shed or the garage. Draining any fountain not made of stone or natural materials is also a good idea because they will last longer.

Go High Tech On Heat Loss:

Another popular type of maintenance over the past several years has been to take the latest infrared sensors and make a heat map of your home so that a contractor can can take defined heat loss areas and fix them. The present technology is strong enough that it can show a couple of degree temperature difference, making it easy to find out where your house is leaking warm air from the outside.

The savings that you achieve by having your house examined and then repair may be substantial if it works out that you had a major leak without knowing about it.

One area that can put you ahead when it comes to heat loss is choosing the right insulation strategy in your home. Many older homes were not insulated as well as they could be. On the other hand, even if your home is newer and already has insulation in the walls and floor and ceiling, you can still save money in the long run by adding another layer of insulation. If you have centralized heating, it is also a good idea to ensure that all of your duct pipes are wrapped with insulation.

Ensure Your Heat Sources Are Adequate:

Over the years, you have likely grown close to your furnace and fireplace- and know how efficiently they actually perform for you. At the same time, Autumn is a really good time to have a professional come in and check them out to see if they can't get more efficiency out of them. At a base level, you may find that your furnace filter hasn't been changed as often as it could- something that can take away from its output. You can also have them test the output in each room to ensure that the air forced into every room is warm enough to actually heat it up. In addition to wrapping the duct pipes, it can pay off to ensure that the main pipes that lead into the the furnace itself are also winterized.

When it comes to fireplaces, many homes have purchased heat exchangers or inserts that increase the amount of hot air that is generated when you have a fire. If you don't have one, you might look at your options- they can save you money. Getting your chimney cleaned is antoher great winterization idea because it means another season of safe fires in your home.



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Evolution of Urban Planning, Infographic

I find it really annoying when people email infographics, asking me to post it for them. I consider them to basically be spam.

This one however was rather interesting, so I have decided to post it. It was sent to me from "Kon von der Schulenburg", who is an architect from an architectural firm called "Cantrell & Crowley Architects & Interior Designers". Their website is http://www.cantrellcrowley.com


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Raccoon Removal Service for Homes

The video below is of a mousetrap that humanely catches mice. But what if you could build a larger scale version that catches raccoons?



Raccoons are a serious problem in many parts of Toronto, often due to a lack of natural predators that eat raccoons. The closest thing to predators in Toronto is traffic, as testified by the sheer number of raccoons that get hit and killed on Toronto streets every year.

Like the impromptu memorial for a dead raccoon that popped up within hours and went viral in July 2015. Proof that Torontonians truly care about its wildlife, even if they did it a bit jokingly (I think the cigarette in the raccoons paw was a bit of an overkill). Shown below:


A friend of mine who lives near York University even feeds her raccoons. She lives near a ravine so she has tonnes of raccoons in the neighbourhood. Even within her home she is a bit of an animal fanatic, having a rabbit, cats, mice, and pet spiders. The raccoons to her are just one more thing worth feeding.

I should note however that feeding wild animals can be dangerous. If they lose their sense of fear of humans, they are no longer afraid of humans and can become either dangerous or a nuisance.

Toronto's raccoons for example have, for the most part retained some of their fear of humans, but others are quite brazen and friendly - but friendly doesn't mean they are not dangerous if provoked.

If you own a home and you are having a problem with raccoons being a nuisance (and possibly even attacking your dog or cat or children) then you need to have those animals removed.

Many people in Toronto believe that raccoons should be simply be killed, that this is the simplest / quickest / most permanent solution to the raccoon problem in Toronto. Some people attempt to do this by leaving rat poison, anti-freeze or dishwasher detergent in places where the raccoons frequent and the raccoons eat/drink the poisonous materials and later die.

However deadly traps and poisons are banned in Toronto. As is shooting them with firearms.

"Current Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines state that using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.'
  • The firing of guns in Toronto is illegal.
  • Placing poison out to kill animals could result in criminal charges."
It is important to note that raccoons are wildlife, and as such are protected. They can only be trapped humanely and then transported (preferably outside of the city). Vermin on the other hand (mice, rats, cockroaches, wasps, insects, etc) can be killed outright.

Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife
So over the past few decades there has evolved a special ambassador to animals; the modern wildlife removal technician is a licensed wild animal whisperer who safeguards these creatures' lives and the lives of their young families with every house call. He or she protects the animal's rights just as much as he works to seal the house and keep the homeowner or business owner's property safe.

And nobody does this job better than raccoon removal expert, Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife.

Last month Life as a Human did a story on Derick that took the form of a very insightful and informative ride along as Derick completed three missions helping home owners and safeguarding raccoons. You can see how he found a nest of baby raccoons in a rental apartment.

See
http://lifeasahuman.com/2016/eco/environment/the-art-science-of-raccoon-removal-in-toronto/



Raccoons often like hiding in high places. Hence the ladder.
Derick also shares wisdom about how to know if animals are living in a house before you buy the property, which you can read on Josie Stern's blog below:

Josie Sterns Toronto real estate blog post, Are Raccoons Living In you Home?
"He [Derick McChesney] states, “roughly 15-20% of homes probably have a mice issue or have once had a wildlife issue. Most of the time the seller will only do the minimum amount of work to get rid of the problem and decline the necessary prevention so they can sell the house and then leave the problem with someone else." Buyers that do unwittingly purchase animal infested properties are in for nightmare renovations that can include new carpets, drywall and total home insulation removal and replacement."

Which includes your attic. Sometimes also your basement, crawl space, garage, space above the garage, etc.

Chicken wire is surprisingly effective at caging raccoons out of attics.

Raccoons often get into houses through the garage. They are basically nature's best burglars. Check out Guru Security's blog post, What raccoons can teach prowlers about your home security? to learn more on this topic.

However if you want to make it more difficult for raccoons to get in and out of your garage, you might want to invest in hiring some garage door installers to install an automatic garage door. It takes only a moment for raccoons to sneak into places they are not meant to be - often in search of food - and the more often they manage to find food means they stick around in the neighbourhood and continue to be a nuisance. Having an automatic garage door that closes when not in use prevents the animals from being afforded the opportunity to do so again and again and again.

More photos of raccoons in Toronto:








I should note that Toronto raccoons don't usually get very big. They're comparatively tiny when compared to the giant raccoons you find in the countryside - some as big as German Shepherds or Chimpanzees. It really depends on how well fed they are. In the countryside they can grow to be quite large.

The one in the photo below is large, but still not as big as the biggest one I have ever seen which was Chimp sized.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Conservatives Vs Liberals - How does the election effect housing prices?

In terms of real estate, how does the Canadian election effect home prices?

Well it depends. Are you buying or selling?

If you are thinking of voting for the Conservatives, expect more of the same laissez-faire approach to economics - which means to say the Conservatives like to do nothing unless they absolutely have to.

Remember the recession that started several months ago? Stephen Harper denied it was a recession until economists told him, yes, yes it is a recession. And even after the recession was confirmed Stephen Harper has actively avoided using the word "recession" - because talking about the recession is bad for his re-election campaign. (Instead Harper has been trying to distract people by fear-mongering about Muslims.)

In terms of real estate a recession lowers house prices, so that is good for home buyers, but bad for people looking to sell.

Voting for the Liberals means lower taxes for the middle class, which makes homebuying more affordable - which means prices may end up going higher, which is good for sellers, but more affordability also means the economy is more robust and Canadian homebuyers will be more able to afford that new home. So that is a win-win.

In contrast the Conservatives like to lower taxes for the rich - which they have been doing for 10 years now. This has resulted in the richest Canadians becoming richer, while the middle class has failed to make any progress. The Conservatives had 10 years to lower taxes on the middle class, and they squandered those ten years on partisan politics and betting on oil futures. Thus the rich are now more able to buy property and make themselves richer. Land ownership in Canada has become very skewed towards the rich during the last 10 years, plus foreign ownership of land in Canada has skyrocketed, with much of Canada's oil and mineral reserves being bought up by the Chinese.

Also we should note that the polls show that the best the Conservatives can hope for right now is a minority government, which would be hamstrung by the fact the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc are all refusing to support a minority Conservative government. So even if the Conservatives managed to cling to power, they would be essentially powerless.

In contrast the Liberals are currently poised to seize a possible majority government, which could usher in years of economic benefits for the middle class.

Canada's political system is really about class warfare - squabbling over who should pay more taxes and how much we should spend on social programs.

The Conservatives support the rich, and cut taxes for the rich while cutting social programs that help the middle class and poor.

The Liberals support the middle class, and cut taxes for the middle class, raise taxes on the rich, and use a moderate amount of funding for the social programs.

The NDP support the poor, cut taxes for the poor, raise taxes for the rich and upper-middle class, and spend oodles of money on social programs.

So who you vote for is really a matter of whether you buy, mortgage or rent real estate.

If you are rich, you buy real estate outright. No mortgage. Therefore you should vote Conservative.

If you are middle class, you buy real estate with a mortgage and pay it off over time. Therefore you should vote Liberal.

If you are poor, you are still renting an apartment, living in your parent's basement, etc. You should vote NDP.

There you go - Canada's political parties explained in real estate terms, in a nutshell.

GTA and Vancouver Suburbs Prices Soaring

When will Canada experience a US style burst?
If you think the prices within Toronto and Vancouver are skyrocketing, wait til you see the prices for the suburbs - which would normally be considerably cheaper. All of this adds up to an ever-inflating housing bubble in two of Canada's hottest real estate markets.

According to the latest Royal LePage housing report, the cost of homes in the suburbs are surging, eclipsing those of the city core in some cases.

Home prices in the Toronto area climbed 11.3 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, to $612,261. In the city proper, the cost was almost $640,000.

The median price of a two-storey Toronto home, is up 17.1 per cent to $961,656. The price of a similar home in nearby Richmond Hill rose 18.6 per cent to $963,561 and in Vaughan by 18 per cent to $842,173.

Vancouver homes are also high, up 17.3 per cent at more than $1.9-million. The corresponding prices in Richmond and Burnaby surged 23.5 and 20.9 per cent, respectively, to about $1.2-million. A  two-storey in North Vancouver is $1.3-million, while those in West Vancouver are going for about $2.8-million.

Across Canada, home prices rose 0.6 per cent in September from August, and 5.6 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Teranet-National Bank home price index released yesterday. The index showed that prices climbed 10.4 per cent in Vancouver and 8.6 per cent in Vancouver

"The Vancouver index, at 201.24 in September, is the first to top 200, meaning that prices in that market are slightly more than twice as high as in June 2005."

With respect to these two markets a bubble has been forming for over two decades, with prices reaching dizzying heights - especially in Vancouver. At some point the bubble has to burst and prices will tumble, but to do so there has to be an impetus - something to set it off. A proverbial flea that broke the camel's back.

The 2008-2010 recession wasn't enough to do it. The current 2015 oil-collapse recession plaguing Canada likely won't be enough either, because when you consider that the Canadian dollar has slid dramatically over the past two years, what you realize is that if you measure housing prices in US dollars, the prices haven't really gone up that much.

The Canadian dollar hasn’t been above parity with the U.S. dollar since Valentine’s Day 2013. Since then it’s dropped at a record-setting pace of 23 per cent by July 2015.


Now you might think, oh the dollar is down, wouldn't that effect our economy? And you would be right - it does. It boosts our exports because the prices of doing business/buying goods in Canada is now cheaper. It also means the prices of investing in real estate in Canada is now cheaper too (for non-Canadians).

One would wonder if it were possible to take your money you had invested in oil - if you timed it right before the oil prices collapsed - and reinvest in real estate. Then when the oil prices go back up eventually, the price of the Canadian "petro dollar" would rise in value too - which means when you sell the real estate, you've then made a bundle on both the increased value of the real estate, but you've also made a bundle off the fluctuating US-CDN exchange rate. Hypothetically speaking.

Meanwhile Canada has an election coming up very soon...

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