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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Is Toronto's Condo Market Poised to Cool or Collapse?

November 9th 2017.

So today the CBC posted the following article on their website, but I don't want to talk about the article so much as I do want to talk about the implications of it:

Hundreds of Toronto condo buyers lose homes after developments fail

When Tanya Rumble and her partner Josh Kolic heard a new condo development was going up in their Junction neighbourhood, they thought it would be the ideal time and place to buy. After all, they had been renting in the neighbourhood for seven years and loved it.

The developer, Castlepoint Numa, advertised an exciting new 10-storey condo building on Sterling Road in the Junction Triangle, called Museum FLTS. The building was going to be close to transit, a new park, a daycare and a new contemporary art museum it was also building.

"We got really excited" Rumble explained. "I walked by the sales centre almost every day," she said, hoping to be one of the first people to put down a deposit the moment sales opened.

She was.

In May of 2016, Rumble and Kolic signed an agreement to purchase a two bedroom, two bath unit in the 10-storey condo. But as the months dragged on they noticed the project appeared stalled. "Sales staff kept telling us, 'Nothing to be feared. The developer has a great reputation,'" she said.

Unexpected letter came in the mail

Last week, about 18 months after signing their purchase agreement, the couple got a letter from Castlepoint Numa, along with more than 100 other condo buyers.

The company returned their deposits, explaining the condo project couldn't get construction financing. The developer also wrote, "we have not secured all of the development approvals or available permits" from the city of Toronto.

"We were pretty gutted," Rumble said. "It was quite devastating."

While the vast majority of condo projects proceed as planned in Toronto, CBC News has learned that more than a handful of proposed projects have failed this year alone, leaving hundreds if not thousands of buyers in limbo.

Many now find themselves priced out of Toronto's red-hot condo market where prices have soared 20 per cent in the last year alone, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Developer says lack of financing, permits killed condo

Castlepoint Numa declined to answer several specific questions about the cancelled project, but in an email, company president Alfredo Romano vowed the condo will get built eventually.

It will "proceed but only once building permits are available. We can no longer rely on just a zoning bylaw to proceed to market. Only then will a project be 'safe' to go forward." he wrote.

Romano and company officials would not say when that would be, or whether they expect to resell the units to new buyers at higher prices.

The developer also declined to say whether it would offer the original buyers any discount or incentive once the project is eventually built.

Janice Creighton and her partner, Mike, also bought a condo at Museum FLTS and feels she's now been priced out of the market. "It seems as though there's a risk that you could put your money into something, think that you're in the market," she said, "and they could just take it away from you and resell it for whatever it is when they open it back up again."

Museum FLTS just the latest condo project to fail

Museum FLTS buyers aren't alone. Hundreds, if not thousands of other pre construction condo buyers have also been left in limbo.

Earlier this year, a project adjacent to the Mimico GO station in Etobicoke was placed into receivership after the developer, Stanton Renaissance, failed to meet its financial obligations. The company owed millions to suppliers and contractors.

More than 200 of the units in the proposed 27-storey tower had already been sold — some as far back as six years ago.

Today, the site remains only 15 per cent complete. It was recently sold to the Vandyk group of companies. Court records show Vandyk doesn't have to honour the purchase agreements of the original buyers, and it won't.

On the GO Mimico buyer Arash Borujerdi tells CBC News he still hasn't received his deposit back and fears he's now priced out of Toronto's housing market.

"The process has really set me back in life in terms of becoming a homeowner, as you know the prices have gone up substantially since I purchased," he said.

It doesn't take much for a condo to fail

Numerous other condo projects in the city have also failed — many due to lack of financing, zoning approvals or other factors. It's happened in Scarborough, North Toronto, and downtown. Hundreds of people who bought proposed condos and townhomes from Urbancorp are still fighting the bankrupt developer in court to recoup some of their losses. Unlike condos, deposits of freehold townhomes aren't protected.

Real estate lawyer Bob Aaron says it doesn't take much for a proposed condo to fail. A developer can simply decide they don't want the hassle of building if profits appear to be diminishing.

"It's always a case of buyer beware," he said.

"Sometimes purchasers think, 'I'm going to make so much money, I don't care about buyer beware, I'll take the risks.' Sometimes when the market gets a little tighter, people are a little more cautious."

Coun. Josh Matlow tabled a motion that was passed at city hall back in 2013, demanding Ontario's Ministry of Government and Consumer Affairs prevent developers from advertising or selling condos that still haven't obtained the necessary permits and approvals.

"Why should people believe all the community meetings, the votes at city council mean anything, if the developer is telling you there is already a predetermined outcome?" Matlow said.

"'Something is coming soon,' they advertise, even though nothing has been voted on."

Matlow says the province has yet to enact any regulations.

He also says a variety of issues can derail a proposed development, leaving behind financial and other problems for buyers who waited years for nothing.

As Creighton puts it, "I don't know that I could do pre-construction again knowing that this is the risk. I just kind of wish I had known beforehand that this was something that developers have done before."

Rumble says she and her partner knew buying a pre-construction condo came with risks but "developers are in a position to sell units when they don't have the necessary permits in hand. They can sell us a dream that they don't know if they can materialize."

So...

Really what happened is that the developer didn't have enough from people wanting to buy condo units. Lack of people and sales equals lack of financing. So when it came to crucial stages like getting permits to actually start construction, the developer decided to skip the whole project entirely.

Now this is just an example of one building, but I see it as evidence of something bigger. A cooling condo market.

And at present that is all it is, potentially.

As long as Toronto's economy remains strong, I don't currently expect any kind of collapse in condo prices.

To get that we would need Toronto to get hit by a recession, in which case the recession could be a tipping point if the economy sours enough to hurt condo sales - at which point then Toronto will be hit by condo and possibly housing market collapse.

But seeing as Toronto is not facing any kind of recession, and is not facing any recession in the foreseeable future, then a cooling of the condo market is all it could potentially be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What is the best time of year in Toronto to move into a new home?

July 18th 2017.

So my wife and I were discussing recently possibly moving - mostly because we want to get away from an a$$hole neighbour who hears noises/talking when they aren't there and seems to think he can boss us around.

The problem however is that moving right now would be inconvenient, for a number of reasons.

#1. We have a newborn baby. And exhausted. Sleep is valuable to us.

#2. My wife is in law school and that keeps her very busy from September to May roughly.

#3. It is currently July, and July and August are the hottest / most humid months of the year.

I suppose we could hire movers to do all the work for us, however since neither of us are in the habit of hiring movers, doing it ourselves is our normal routine. Thus it makes sense just to wait.

After all movers don't unpack and organize everything once you are settled in to your new home.

Which got me thinking... What is the best time of year to move into a new home in Toronto?

Well, lets start with the following graph, which specifically shows temperatures for Toronto Island (which is slightly cooler than the rest of the city thanks to the Lake Cooling Effect).


In addition to your personal comfort, the temperature also plays a big role in trying to get friends to help you move. Your list of friends willing to show up and help you move will likely be cut short if it super hot or super cold outside.

The graph shows July and August are the hottest months of the year, so lets scratch those off the list right away as being "too hot" to do strenuous exercise like moving.

Another problem with July and August is that is the time of year college/university students move in, which means you might also be competing with them for rental space if you are in the apartment market.

The chart also shows that December, January, February and March are the coldest times of the year, with the average temperature (the black line) being below 0 most of that time. So lets remove them from the list as well.

Another problem with December is that many people are busy with Christmas / various holidays, and thus that makes a bad time of year to move regardless of temperature.

Imagine moving in on January 1st, New Years Day... Don't expect any help from friends with the moving process, they are probably all sleeping off a hangover, sleeping in, whatever.

What about Rain?

It might surprise you that in terms of volume it usually rains more in August than any other month of the year, but that volume is on average during 9 days of the month.

April and May however have on average 12 rainy days for each of those months.

Chance of Rain/Snow on the Day you move in...
  • January - 48% of Snow Day
  • February - 46% of Snowy Day
  • March - 42% of Snowy Day
  • April - 40% of Rainy Day
  • May - 39% of Rainy Day
  • June - 30% of Rainy Day
  • July - 29% of Rainy Day
  • August - 29% of Rainy Day
  • September - 33% of Rainy Day
  • October - 32% of Rainy Day
  • November - 42% of Rainy Day
  • December - 45% of Snowy Day

Thus June arguably ends up being the best time of year if you want to avoid the rain. August is good too, but way too hot. June is still pretty warm however so some people might want to avoid that month.

This makes you realize why so many people get married in June, because they want to avoid rain on their wedding day and have a stereotypical warm and sunny "June Wedding".

September and October are not bad either for rain, and the temperatures are certainly more comfortably average.

If you have children and they are in school, moving to a new school could make September a bad time to move - not so bad if your new home is still in the same neighbourhood and your kids will still be going to the same school.

November starts getting both colder and rainier, so lets knock that off the list right now.

My personal conclusion?

October is arguably the best time of year to move into a new home. September is 2nd best. June is 3rd best.

Other Factors

This varies for many people, but lets list a few other factors people might also have to worry about.
  • Work obligations keeping you busy.
  • Difficulty booking off vacation time to pack everything / move.
  • Family / friend obligations.
  • You already planned a vacation during that time period and don't want to cancel.
  •  Bad time of the year due to miscellaneous personal or financial reason.
Obviously hiring a mover speeds everything up, but not everyone trusts movers to:
  • Carry their valuables / breakables.
  • Not rip them off*.
* In recent years there have been horror stories of movers who held people's personal belongings hostage and demanded a higher amount of money - effectively extorting the client.

eg. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/man-charged-after-toronto-moving-company-allegedly-defrauded-extorted-customers-1.4139985 is just one news story about people getting ripped off by crooked moving companies.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rent Control returns to Ontario

Ever since 1991 there has been a loophole that allowed the owners to set and change rents as they saw fit, which meant they could gouge renters for more money if they wanted to.

Rent control still applied to buildings that were built prior to 1991, guaranteeing that rentals could not be increased annually by any amount above and beyond the rate of inflation - and was capped at 2.5% even if the rate of inflation was more than that.

But new buildings that were built in 1991 or after, did not have rent control.

The loophole was created in 1991 in order to encourage property developers to build more rental units. Rent control was considered to be cost prohibitive, ie. not profitable enough. Building rental units made no sense to someone meaning to make a profit, as it would take significant time to finally get back their investment in building the property.

So to remedy the problem, the province got rid of rent control for all new buildings that were built after 1991.

Unfortunately the industry took advantage of the situation, built lots of condos instead, and then rented them out.

And then more recently, renters would see their monthly rent skyrocket to double to whatever they were paying before.

eg. Valerie Bruce, a renter living in Liberty Village, recently received a notice saying her rent would double from $1,600 to $3,200, so she decided to move.

And she was not alone. Many other Torontonians saw their rent double within the last year, as they are quite literally being squeezed out of the market.

Part of the current problem is that vacancies right now are really low. It is currently 1%, the lowest vacancy rate Toronto has seen in 7 years - not since 2010 has it been this low.

And when availability is low, prices tend to go up because the demand is high.

However doubling the rent on people who already are living in a particular place, well that is just ridiculous. It is that kind of flagrant disregard by landlords that has basically given them a bad rep and caused the provincial government to step in and put a stop to this nonsense - see the Ontario Fair Housing Plan below.

So it is the fault of landlords for getting greedy in the first place.

It is also the fault of real estate developers for taking advantage of the 1991 loophole to build condos between 1991 and 2017, when they were supposed to be building affordable apartment buildings. The purpose of that 1991 loophole was so they would build more affordable apartments, but they didn't build more apartments, they built condos instead - some of which ended up being used for high priced apartments by investors. There was nothing affordable about it at all.

The Ontario Fair Housing Plan
  • Expanding rent control to all units, including those built after 1991.
  • Annual rent increases for existing tenants can be no higher than the rate of inflation. 
  • Rent increases will be capped at 2.5 per cent, even if the rate of inflation is higher.
  • A standard lease will be developed in multiple languages.
  • Tenants will be adequately compensated if asked to vacate for "landlord use."
  • Change becomes effective as of April 20, regardless of when legislation is passed.
That last part means landlords will not be able to raise rent by more than 1.5 per cent this year — the annual provincial rent increase guideline for 2017, which was determined based on the inflation rate in 2016.

However, a landlord can raise rent by any amount in between tenant residencies. For example, if one tenant paying $1,600/month chooses to move out of their unit, the landlord can charge the incoming tenant $2,000/month or more.

It is also theoretically possible for renters to get in a bidding war if multiple people end up vying for the same unit at the same time.

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.

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