Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Most Expensive Places to Rent an Apartment

Did you know Toronto is one of the most expensive places to rent an apartment? In Toronto the average price of a two-bedroom apartment is $1,259 (as of May 2012).

Seriously, its up there.

True, its no Tokyo or Hong Kong, but its still pretty pricey. Lets run down the list for a second...

Note: The following list is a composite list which also takes into account other factors like "cost of living" and the price per square foot. Figures are from the ECA consulting group. (All prices are in USD.)

$4,352 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
The capital city of Japan has a notoriously high cost of living. Its one of the reasons I went to South Korea instead when I was teaching English overseas. Tokyo has been on the list of most expensive cities for a variety of topics (not just apartment rentals) for many years. Its the result of super high demand in central Tokyo. Its cheaper in satellite cities further from the center.

$3,500 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
You might not think Russia's largest city should be in the second spot on the list of most expensive cities to rent. Its because this Soviet city is also known for being home to a large number of billionaires and it jacks up the average dramatically, but don't expect to find anything much cheaper. The prices are high for other reasons too, but mostly its the billionaires (and possibly their mistresses).

Hong Kong
$2,830 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
China's economic growth has been red hot in recent decades and Hong Kong has become a world mecca for trade and commerce. That means lots of rich visitors looking for places to sleep and they don't want to stay in a hotel (which is even more expensive if you're there for multiple months on a contract).

$2,824 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
Old London town means you'd better have more than two pence to rub together. Like Hong Kong jolly old London is still a top location for business and commerce in Europe, and its a mecca for many rich expatriates who visit the United Kingdom regularly. Space in London is at a premium and the prices keep going up.

$2,810 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
Singapore is a popular tourist and business destination and housing prices definitely reflect the influx of tourists, business people, workers and strong economic growth.

Abu Dhabi
$2,500 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
The United Arab Emirates is synonymous with wealth nowadays. Not so much for vacations although that is growing. Its the business of oil that has caused this place to have soaring rental prices in the past decade. Abu Dhabi beats Dubai when it comes to the cost of apartment rentals. Both cities have seen a small decline in rental prices over recent years, but this garden city of the gulf is expected to continue to see growth (and periods of decline) depending on the fluctuation of oil prices.

$2,390 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
Paris used to be one of the most expensive cities for rentals, mostly due to artists, romantics, tourists and so forth... but apparently romance is on the decline. The average price is 1,650 Euros, which fluctuates a bit.

San Francisco
$2,100 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
Lets ignore that San Francisco is the future fictional home of Star Fleet Academy and Earth's government... that is after all, just fiction. However when you consider San Francisco's proximity to the Silicon Valley and it being home to many of the top technology companies in the world I guess you really can't be surprised by its high cost of living and rentals.

New York City
$1,359 per month for a two bedroom apartment, average.
Frank Sinatra's favourite city to sing about is a financial mecca, but its also crime ridden and has its share of poverty. A New York City apartment isn't even in the top 10. Its #17 down the list. Suffolk-Nassau on Long Island is more expensive at $1,592 per month. While the rentals in NYC are more expensive than the rest of the USA (ignoring San Francisco) its comparatively cheap when contrasted with Tokyo. Within NYC Tribeca and Soho are two of the most expensive, and Harlem is one of the cheapest. Many apartments in Manhattan are rent-controlled as a method of keeping them more affordable so maybe this explains why NYC is so low on the list.

(Ignoring Cost of Living)

Europe: Netherlands, Amsterdam; Finland, Helsinki; Ukraine, Kiev; Italy, Rome; Switzerland, Geneva; Monaco.

Caribbean: Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman; Barbados, St James; British Virgin Islands, Tortola; Bahamas; Bermuda.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Detroit bankrupt, houses and condos are supercheap

Once the backbone of American manufacturing, the city of Detroit is poised this Friday to commit financial seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide).

And it is really a damned if they do and damned if they don't situation.

You see Detroit needs $80 million in emergency funding just to keep the city running and in April Detroit Mayor Dave Bing handed financial control of the city over to the state of Michigan (which ironically owes Detroit $220 million, but is also suffering financially).

It seems like an extreme measure for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing who just weeks ago shocked America by announcing plans to save Detroit money by cutting off all street lighting to large swaths of the city. (And watch the crime rate go even higher.)

This is after all, Detroit, America's first "Ghost City". It was once America's 19th largest city, but since 2007 its population has shrunk to 713,777 (according to Google). Truth be told Detroit was dwindling in size since the 1960s.

Detroit has been on life support since April, when the mayor and city council approved an agreement that handed over control of Detroit’s finances to the state of Michigan. But that apparently wasn't legal says Detroit's city lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, who was never consulted on the deal. Since then she has filed a lawsuit arguing the agreement was illegal because it contravenes the city’s charter, which states the city cannot enter into agreements with parties that owe it money. Since the state of Michigan owes Detroit about $220 million, then the agreement has to be struck down. A ruling is expected tomorrow (Wednesday the 13th).

Meanwhile the state of Michigan says it is going to cut off crucial funding to Detroit starting this Friday. Funding that governs everything from street lights to garbage collection. The city will basically be cut off completely.

And frankly who will want to live in a city that doesn't even have garbage collection or street lights?

Right now the bulk of the jobs in Detroit are the result of teachers and city services. The Detroit public school system is the city’s largest employer, with more than 13,000 jobs. #2 is the city of Detroit staff with 12,400. #3 is the Detroit Medical Center with 10,500 staff.

Manufacturing in Detroit is down to two thirds of what it was in 2006. 271,600 jobs in 2006 to just 187,800 jobs in 2010. Probably less than 170,000 by mid 2012.

In 2011 unemployment in Detroit was 20.2% (compared to 8.9% in the USA) and suicide, abortion and crime rates are all up due to extreme poverty.

City libraries have been closed, the quality of education has slumped because teachers are leaving for sunnier pastures and the spike in crime is filling the city jails and creating a huge backlog. The city can barely afford to pay for defense attorneys.

However... on the plus side land is super cheap.

You can buy a 750 square foot condo for $10,000.

Or a 3-bedroom 1500 square foot condo for $19,000.

Or how about a 6 bedroom + 3 bathroom, 3,600 square foot HOUSE for... $16,000. A mere $4.44 per square foot.

And this is just one Detroit real estate website I consulted (trulia.com), but you can certainly find other cheap listings on various Detroit real estate websites.

Including prices as low as $1 because the previous owner didn't pay the back taxes and the property has been seized by the state. All you have to do is pay the back taxes and its yours.

However if Detroit really does cut "the gravy train" (as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford likes to call essential services) then we can expect property prices in Detroit to collapse even further. In which case a wait and see approach is best, since you could in theory snap up a lot more for your dollar if you wait a bit longer. (But why would you want to live in such a horrible city???)

Frankly if you're in the market to buy cheap property why not buy it somewhere NICE?

For example you can buy a 2 bedroom condo in Hawaii for $25,000. However the current renters are unwilling to leave so you will need to find a way to kick them out if you want to live there. Still if you manage to do so its in HAWAII! The place is a paradise and a no brainer in comparison to Detroit where you can get mugged going to the bathroom.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The World's Tallest Treehouses

Okay, so its not exactly a house in the normal sense of the word... but some of these certainly count as real estate.

Whether I would live in it really depends on whether it has electricity, plumbing and air conditioning...

#1. The world's tallest treehouse is located in Crossville, Tennessee.

Owner and builder Horace Burgess spend 11 years building it. It is 10 stories tall, has 10,000 square feet of space and Burgess began working on it in 1993 after receiving what he says is a vision from god. It only cost him $12,000 to build it since he used mostly recycled materials. The building includes spiral staircases, a basketball course, lots of bedrooms, balconies and a chapel. The structure is supported by not 1, but 6 trees.

#2. The tallest treehouse in British Columbia, Canada.

Its the tallest because of the actual structure is taller.

#3. The 2nd tallest treehouse in British Columbia, Canada.

I decided to give this one 2nd place because it is physically higher up in the tree, 95 feet up in a douglas fir tree, but it is comparatively small and you couldn't really live in it. It is located in Belcarra and was built by George Dyson.

Unfortunately I was unable to find a good quality photo of Dyson's treehouse. The photos that are available it just looks like a tree and you can't see the treehouse that clearly.

#4. 4treehouse near Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.

Built by Lukasz Kos the "4treehouse" is built on four existing trees on the site. The three-story house is suspended from the four primary trees with very little additional support.

#5. The Naha Harbor Diner in Okinawa, Japan

Its big, its a treehouse... but that isn't a real tree. Its concrete in the shape of a tree. The structure even has an elevator and a spiral staircase.

NOTE: This is by no way a factual list of "the world's tallest treehouses". The tallest ones may not even be mentioned on the internet. When you consider that the tree dwellers of the Brazza River Basin in the Indonesian province of Papua all live in treehouses, they probably have quite a few really tall ones.

There is also the "Free Spirit Spheres", which aren't really treehouses. They're constructed on the ground and then suspended in trees using cables. Regardless, they're all interesting on an architectural level.

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