Tuesday, May 15, 2018

£1 for a house in the UK

Over in the UK there is sad little neighbourhood which is down on its luck and previous residents have been unable to sell their homes and just abandoned them. To rectify the bad situation the local city council has made an interesting offer to possible new residents by agreeing to sell the new residents a house for just 1 British pound.

The offer of £1 house does sound pretty tempting, but it does come with some string attached.

  1. The new owner must live in the house for 10 years.
  2. The new owner is expected to somehow help the community to blossom again.
  3. The 2nd part won't be easy as the area is known to be a high crime region and there is a lot of youth drug addiction, so it is not ideal for people with teenage children.

This is not the first time some neighbourhoods around the world have done such actions.

In Detroit after the financial collapse it was possible to buy a house for $1 USD, but you also had to pay the back taxes on the land that the previous owner had refused to pay. Since then the city of Detroit has been forgiving some or most of the back taxes because even then people are unwilling to buy the property.

In Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada a company in the village of Whycocomagh offered to give people free land (2 acres) and a job on the island, but there was some strings attached to the deal of course. The Farmer's Daughter grocery store needed people to work there, but most young people in the area were leaving Cape Breton and nobody was willing to come work there. Needing the people to labour there, the owners of Farmer's Daughter sweetened the deal by offering free land to anyone who came and worked for them for 5 years or more.

If they stayed on at the store for five years, the two acres is theirs for free — as long as they cover legal costs to transfer the deed.

The truth is there is lots of places around the world where someone can buy a house (or build a house) very cheaply, and live there. The true challenge is the local cost of living and whether a person can find work locally (or work online).

One such place is Spain, which has seen many villages become abandoned during the past few decades.

It is now possible for someone to easily buy an abandoned home in Spain, cheaply, and then all they have to do is repair it. No string attached.

Well maybe one string. You still need to be able to find work locally. Proof that the cost of land is so often tied to economics.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Why is Project Gridless more popular?

Okay so here is the thing, I have multiple blogs. Quite a few in fact and I really should get rid of a few that I don't update that often.

My Search for a Home has a sibling blog called "Project Gridless" which is about off the grid living, covering everything from off grid real estate to gardening to fishing to hunting to survivalism to various outdoor activities associated with off grid living.

My dream home frankly would be to have an off grid horse farm where I could raise horses, go riding regularly and do lots of archery outdoors (and open a horse riding / equestrian archery school). So that is my dream home right there, and it would be amazing.

Years ago I did my whole "Quest for a Condo" and it never really panned out. Now I am married, I have a son, and I have different priorities. Raising my son on a horse farm would be a dream come true.

So it should probably come as no surprise to you the reader that Project Gridless, being nearer and dearer to my dreams, has also seen a lot more blog posts.

A hundred more in fact.

As of today, My Search for a Home has 185 posts (186 if you count this one I am writing right now).

Project Gridless meanwhile has 285 posts. A testament to me spending a lot more time writing on the various topics that have made Project Gridless popular.

How about popularity is Project Gridless?

Sadly I am not quite sure. There is a glitch in the My Search for a Home blog statistics that says there was way more hits than there really was. So I need to use a different measuring stick.

Instead the reason why I know Project Gridless is more popular is because of the Google advertising revenue, which has thus far been 5 times more profitable than its sibling website.

So does this mean I will be getting rid of My Search for a Home ?

Doubtful. Too many of the topics in it pertain to specific aspects of the real estate industry that I cannot simply export it and import it and make it part of Project Gridless. Many of the posts would end up being off topic.

If I made a different blog that includes real estate as a topic, maybe then it would be better. But then it wouldn't be a niche topic any more and could end up being a website that is too broad a topic.

There are other blogs I should probably get rid of. The rarely updated, seldom used blogs that could be exported and imported to a more popular blog that is on the same or similar topic. But I don't think this one is one of those.

So for now I am keeping this one.

And maybe someday "My Quest for a Condo" will transform into "My Quest for a Horse Farm". Whatever. It is fine by me.

Want to have some fun? Go Google the following:

horse farm for sale ontario

There is even a real estate website just for horse farms at horsefarmsontario.com. Pretty nice.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Demand for real estate lawyers goes up as Toronto home prices plummet

Imagine you are selling your Toronto home for $1.1 million and suddenly the buyer who already agreed to buy your home changes their mind, despite various bits of paperwork already being signed.

The reason? The home prices in Toronto have been dropping dramatically and some buyers have become wishy-washy on the whole buying idea when they see falling prices.

This happened to one seller. They were in the process of selling their home for $1.1 million, and the buyer changed their mind.

Months later when the seller finally did sell their home it was for little more than $800,000. So they lost $300,000 in that failed transaction. Or 37.5% of the value of the house. That is a huge drop.

So they tried to recoup their losses by suing the buyer who had pulled out by hiring a real estate lawyer, but that failed too. Was their real estate lawyer just not good enough? Or did they just have a weak case?

Whatever the situation, and it truly does vary from case to case, real estate lawyers in Toronto are suddenly in more demand as home sales continue to drop.

Sales data from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) shows the average home sold for $804,584 in the Greater Toronto Area in April 2018, a 12-per-cent drop from $918,184 in April last year, when the market hit a record peak before beginning a steep slide in May 2017.

So that is the average. Not everyone experiences a 37.5% drop in value.

Still a 12% drop is significant.

Prices can also change dramatically from month to month, as can volume. Total number of sales in January, for example, were down 24% compared to December on a seasonally adjusted basis. Total sales fell 9% in February compared to January, and sales were down 1.4% in March compared to February, based on seasonally adjusted numbers.

So taken together, volume of sales is down 34.4% just in the December to March period, despite seasonal adjustments.

Volume is drying up as many homeowners have apparently decided low prices means this is a bad time to sell, so the only people selling are those people who really want to sell in a hurry.

Which is probably why that one seller took only $800,000 when it was $1.1 million months earlier. Is that really the buyer's fault for getting cold feet? Or was the seller just in a hurry to sell? Clearly it was the latter. They could have simply refused to sell.

Thus the seller might have had a better case if they had waited longer to sell and not accepted such a huge dip in the offer. A good real estate lawyer probably would have warned them against selling too soon.

Below is a video by Toronto real estate lawyer Stephen Shub - this is not an endorsement of his legal practice, I am just posting his video as an example of what real estate lawyers do. In the video Shub describes some of the services that real estate lawyers provide.

So who is the best real estate lawyer in Toronto?

Honestly. Hard to say.

It is probably not Stephen Shub. There are probably hundreds of other real estate lawyers who are better than him. I have no idea. Just guessing. I just like his video, despite his somewhat awkward manner of talking to the camera and the bad editing.

Googling "toronto real estate lawyer" won't tell you who is the best either. The people at the top of the search rankings are probably just the people who hired the best SEO experts to do their online advertising.

Yelp? Filled with fake yelp reviews.

Google Maps/Business? Also filled with fake reviews.

I do think I have a solution however...

Don't use the regular Google search. Use the Google News Search, find the name of a lawyer who has been in the news and recently won a case. Then search only that lawyer's name in Google News and see if there are other news articles talking about legal cases that lawyer has won.

It may not be the way to find the "best lawyer in Toronto", but it should find you a lawyer who wins cases - including high profile cases.

So for example I did a Google News search for Stephen Shub and only 1 article came up from April 23rd 2018:


In the article Stephen Shub is not winning a case, he is just commenting on a condo development that disappointed buyers when the builder killed the development.

Does that make him a good lawyer? Just commenting on a prospective case? Not really.

I found the names of other real estate lawyers...

  • Tim Duggan
  • Bob Aaron
  • Lawrence McLawyerson

Okay, so that last one I made up. But the first two were real.

Tim Duggan appears in multiple news articles. I didn't bother to read them all.

Bob Aaron appears in a whole bunch of news articles. A ridiculous amount. The news media loves mentioning him.

So from that perspective Bob Aaron looks pretty good. He is at least getting a lot of media attention. Is he winning cases though?

I don't know. I didn't bother to read anything more than the headlines. There was a LOT of news articles mentioning him though... hopefully they are mostly positive about his reputation.

Do you know a Toronto real estate lawyer that you would recommend? Post their name in the comments. Please do NOT post links to their websites. I do not allow spammy links.

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