Friend Or Foe?

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Despite what some may think, realtors are not all the same.

We have different ways of running our business and different approaches to working with clients.

We also have different styles when it comes to co-operating with other realtors...

Some agents think it's best to take an adversarial approach when working on a deal.

While others see the benefit in both sides "working together".

Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of dealing with agents at both ends of this spectrum.

There were those who acted as though we were sworn enemies, battling it out ‘till the death.

And there were those who acted as if we were best friends forever.

Where do we fit on this scale? We’d say that we’re a bit of both.

That's a good thing, because both have their merits.

One of our key assets as realtors is knowing when to favour one of these approaches over the other.

There’s a time to be warm, open, and charming.

And there’s a time to be cold, tight-lipped, and poker-faced.

We've seen plenty of other realtors falter here.

Some are too friendly, speaking when they shouldn't and seriously compromising their client's negotiating position.

Some are way too tough when they shouldn't be, making molehills into mountains and killing any goodwill between the two parties.

Knowing which approach is the best in any given situation is something that can't really be taught.

It's a skill you develop over time, by doing deals and gaining real world experience.

We like to think that our ability to put on the right hat at the right time is a huge benefit to our clients.

Sometimes they need us to be a friend to the other agent. Sometimes they need us to be a foe.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, feel free to contact us for more info.

Viewing Properties At Night? Be Sure To Take A Second Look During The Day

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When most people picture themselves shopping for a home they imagine doing so on the weekend, during the day.

After all, this is when the majority of open houses happen and it’s generally the easiest time for people to coordinate a couple of free hours.

In a busy city like Toronto however, realtors and buyers are out there pounding the pavement at all hours.

A lot of my buyer clients find it easiest to meet for viewings during the week, after work.

I’ve shown properties as late as 10:30pm on a weeknight.

Seeing properties during the evening isn’t much of an issue in the spring or summer when daylight stretches past 8:00pm.

In the winter though, when night falls as early as 5:00pm, evening viewings can pose some problems.

Natural light is a deal breaker for most buyers. A property that gets plenty of it is always going to outshine (pardon the pun) a property that doesn’t.

Knowing how much natural light a property gets (or doesn’t get) is such an important factor in assessing value that it’s foolish not to view the property during the day.

Before moving forward with an offer on a property that we’ve seen at night, I always advise my clients that we come back for a second look during the day.

Just because a home has windows doesn’t mean the sun’s going to pour in. I’ve seen plenty of houses, condos, and lofts that are dark and dreary on the inside, despite what the exterior might suggest.

And what about the view? Staring out the window of a 3rd floor condo into the dark doesn't give you peace-of-mind for what lays beyond.

What if the garbage bins are sitting directly under the balcony?

Worse still, what if there's a hole in the ground where a new condo will soon stand? (Of course, if your realtor is worth their salt they'll know about that new condo...).

I know that you're busy and evenings may be the only time you can squeeze in some viewings. Do yourself a favour though - take an extra long lunch the next day and go back for a second look.

It's only the largest purchase of your life.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, contact us for more info.

What Happens When A Seller Mistakenly Lists Their One-Bedroom Condo As A Bachelor/Studio Instead?

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I remember going back-to-school shoe shopping one year as a kid. 

I had my heart set on a pair of red Adidas Sambas. 

With cash in hand, I biked to the mall and made a bee line for K-Mart’s sneaker section. 

But the Sambas were nowhere in sight.  

I searched high and low before approaching the cashier. 

After hunting around for awhile we finally tracked the shoes down – they’d been mistakenly placed in the women’s sandal section!

If I hadn’t gone out of my way and made the effort I would’ve had to settle for a lesser shoe (British Knights, anyone?). 

And the Sambas would’ve sat in the sandal section, unsold. 

Why did this happen? 

If you ask me, it boils down to one thing - poor marketing.

What does this story have to do with the Toronto real estate market? 

Last week, a one-bedroom condo popped up for sale on MLS. 

The suite has a lot going for it – it’s located in a great area (St Lawrence Market) and it’s in a highly sought after building. 

However, the listing has one major flaw...  the property is listed as having “0” bedrooms. 

That's right.  It's a one-bedroom condo that's actually listed as a bachelor/studio! 

Anyone who has searched for real estate online knows that “minimum bedrooms” is one of the key criteria to be entered. 

Naturally, anyone searching for a one-bedroom condo ticks "1" in the drop down box so that all bachelor suites are excluded from the results. 

Guess what?  None of these potential purchasers will see the listing for the above property!

Because of this careless marketing error, there are a number of important questions that the sellers will never know the answers to. 

Here are a few that immediately spring to mind:

  • How many potential buyers didn’t see this property when searching on Realtor.ca?

  • How many automated search programs failed to capture and deliver this listing to buyer clients?

  • How much more market exposure could this property have received if the listing was posted correctly?

  • How much more $$$ could it have sold it for?

The key takeaway here? Not all realtors are the same! 

Some are better than others (and if you’re considering going with a discount brokerage… you'll get what you pay for). 

Be sure to find out exactly what you'll be getting for your commission dollars and make an informed decision.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, contact us for more info.

Does My Deposit Cheque Need To Be Certified?

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In my recent blog post on real estate deposits (read it here) I answered some of the key questions that my clients often have: “How much should the deposit be?”  “When is the deposit due?” 

There’s another question that often gets asked and deserves a little attention here: “Does my deposit cheque need to be certified?”

In every MLS listing there’s a section towards the bottom for “broker’s remarks” (note: these remarks aren’t available on the public versions of listings). 

It’s in this section where listing agents will specify things like showing restrictions, offer dates, etc. 

And it’s here that we’ll often see the instruction, “deposit to be certified”.

Why Does The Seller Want My Deposit Cheque To Be Certified?

A seller wants a certified cheque because it gives them greater peace-of-mind than a standard personal cheque does. 

A certified cheque tells the seller a few very important things:

  • The buyer went to the trouble of walking into a bank and paying $5.00 - $10.00 to have the cheque drawn up.

  • The buyer is serious and is submitting their offer with the genuine intent of purchasing.

  • The buyer does indeed have the deposit funds available.

  • The cheque can be deposited immediately into the Listing Brokerage’s trust fund and there’s no worry as to whether or not the funds will clear.

Not to say that a buyer who's only providing a personal cheque isn't serious or doesn't have the funds available... 

It's just that a certified cheque holds more weight in most sellers' eyes.

Give Yourself The Upper Hand When Competing With Other Buyers

In a seller’s market, where buyers are doing everything they can to set their offer apart from the competition, having the deposit certified is a must. 

I’ve seen a buyer with the highest offer actually lose out to someone with a lower offer simply because the lower offer came with a certified deposit cheque. 

In this case, the seller wanted to rest easy that night knowing that it was a done deal and he was willing to pay (in the form of selling for a bit less) for that peace-of-mind.

Can I Provide A Bank Draft Instead?

In my experience, a bank draft is just as good as a certified cheque. 

I’ve never had a listing agent show preference of one over the other and both seem to hold the same weight with sellers. 

And bank drafts are sometimes a bit cheaper/easier to obtain (be sure to check with your banker which option is best for you).

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, contact us for more info.

Elements Of An Offer Explained: The Deposit

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An offer-to-purchase real estate is made up of many elements, some of which are arguably more important than others. 

In most cases, price sits at the top of the list. 

Conditions are another biggie, followed by any significant clauses, the closing date, inclusions, exclusions... 

And of course, one of the most important elements of an offer – the deposit.

The deposit forms a few key functions. 

First, it shows good faith on the buyer’s part and gives the seller peace-of-mind that the person they’re dealing with is qualified and sincere. 

Secondly, the deposit amount is applied to the purchase price of the home when the sale closes.

How Much Should The Deposit Be?

There’s no set amount when it comes to real estate deposits, but 5% of the purchase price is generally a good rule of thumb. 

Having said that, I’ve seen deposits of less than 5%, especially when it comes to first-time buyers (eg. $20,000 on a $500,000 property). 

Deposits of greater than 5% are not out of the ordinary either. 

We see these often in multiple-offer scenarios, where buyers are doing everything they can to give themselves the upper hand over their competition.

When Is The Deposit Due?

The pre-printed deposit section of an Agreement of Purchase and Sale gives three options for when the deposit is to be paid: Herewith, Upon Acceptance, or as otherwise described in this Agreement

The following image is a screenshot of the Deposit clause as it appears on the standard APS:

Elements Of An Offer Explained: The Deposit Photo

Elements Of An Offer Explained: The Deposit Photo

You can see that "Upon Acceptance" means that the deposit is to be delivered to the Deposit Holder (most often the Listing Brokerage) within 24 hours of the acceptance of the Agreement. 

"Herewith" is just as it sounds, the deposit is submitted along with the offer. 

"As otherwise described in this Agreement" can mean a few things. 

The buyer and seller may agree, for example, that the deposit be delivered within 48 hours (as opposed to 24 hours). 

Or they may agree to an initial deposit PLUS subsequent additional deposit(s) upon removal of conditions. 

For example, the buyer will fork over $10,000 now and then an additional $5,000 once they secure financing.

Aside from "How Much?" and "When?", another common question I get from buyers is, "Does My Deposit Cheque Need To Be Certified?"  

This is a great question... Stay tuned for a future blog post in which I'll give the answer.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, please contact us for more info.

The Importance Of Having A Mortgage Pre-Approval

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When I meet with a new buyer client, one of the very first questions I ask is, “Have you been pre-approved for a mortgage?” 

More often than not, they’ve haven’t. 

Sure, they’ve done a bit of research on their own; plugged some numbers into an online mortgage calculator, crunched a few more numbers to see what they’re comfortable spending each month...  

Don’t get me wrong – this preliminary leg work is great in that it gives you a ballpark idea of what you’re in the market for. 

It’s not the same as having an actual pre-approval though.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

Generally, you can get pre-qualified for a mortgage over the phone or online. 

You provide a breakdown of your employment history, your income, a list of assets and liabilities, and an approximate down payment amount. 

Based on this info, your mortgage broker will let you know how much you’re pre-qualified to spend and what sort of interest rate they can offer you.

An actual pre-approval is a bit different. 

It takes the process a step further by having you complete a mortgage application and provide your mortgage broker with the necessary documentation to verify the info provided in your pre-qualification (income verification letter from employer, banking info, proof of financial assets and liabilities, source and amount of down payment and deposit, proof of source of funds to cover closing costs, etc.).

I stress to my clients that having an actual pre-approval in place is essential.  Here are a few of the key reasons why:

Knowing What You Can Afford

There no sense in shopping for a Jalopy if you can easily afford a Jaguar. 

By the same token, why waste your time on a Jaguar if you’re really in the market for a Jeep? 

A mortgage pre-approval gives buyers a firm budget to work with. 

It helps to streamline the home searching process and allows us to focus specifically on those properties that are within reach.

Locking In An Interest Rate

A mortgage pre-approval locks in a current interest rate for you, for a period of a few months. 

If rates start to increase while you’re out shopping for a home, you’re guaranteed the original, lower rate. 

If rates actually go down while you’re out shopping, you’ll get the new, lower rate. 

It’s a win-win situation.

Giving You The Upper Hand Over Other Buyers

It’s common knowledge that the Toronto real estate market can be highly competitive, especially for buyers. 

It helps when I can tell sellers that my buyer clients have been pre-approved. 

It gives the sellers some peace-of-mind and reassures them that they’re dealing with serious, qualified purchasers. 

And of course being pre-approved helps when there are multiple offers. 

Sellers are much more likely to work with an offer that doesn’t have a financing condition in it.  

I've actually seen sellers reject the highest priced offer because it had a financing condition in it and accept a lower priced offer because it didn't.

In a real estate market that's as active as Toronto's, any advantage you can give yourself is going to make a difference  

A mortgage pre-approval is key in giving you the power to act quickly and confidently when the right property comes along.  

Happy hunting!

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, please contact us for more info.

The Power Of A Firm Offer

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In a seller’s market, where demand outweighs supply and properties often receive multiple offers, buyers need to do everything they can to give themselves the upper hand.

One of the most powerful ways to strengthen their position when competing with other buyers is to submit a firm offer-to-purchase.

Think about it - if you’re a seller with two offers in front of you and one of them is conditional upon the buyer arranging financing and the other one isn’t (all other things being equal), which one are you going to go with?

Accepting a firm offer means there’s no waiting period to suffer through with the possibility that the buyer will walk away from the deal.

A firm offer means you can go to bed that night knowing that you’re property is sold and it’s a done deal.

Peace-of-mind like this carries a lot of weight.

Keep in mind though; submitting a firm offer is not to be taken lightly.

Preparation is key and there’s work to be done ahead of time by the buyer, their realtor, their mortgage broker, and possibly their lawyer.

Financing Condition:

Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval is crucial, but it’s not worth much if your broker is surprised with significant details when the time comes to actually arrange the financing (eg. “I forgot to mention that I’ve got a $30,000 student loan I’m slowly chipping away at.”).

Be sure to provide accurate income and debt figures so that your pre-approval is solid and you can comfortably go in without this condition.

Home Inspection Condition:

If the sellers are "holding-back" on offers, get in there and have a home inspection done prior to the offer date.

Yes, it’s going to cost you approx $600.00 and you may not even end up getting the property.

But six hundred bucks is peanuts compared to the hundreds of thousands (or more!) you’ll be dropping on your home purchase.

Having the inspection done ahead of time will allow you to come to the table sans condition and give you a better shot at sealing the deal.

A number of sellers will actually have their own “pre-listing” home inspection done ahead of time and the results will be made available to all prospective buyers.

Status Certificate Condition (condominiums):

The best case scenario here is that the seller has already obtained a current Status Certificate and copies are made available to all prospective buyers for their lawyers to review prior to the offer date.

If the docs are not available ahead of time, the buyer and their realtor need to have a discussion about the risks of submitting a firm offer without seeing the Status Certificate.

There is some homework that the realtor can do to give their client some peace-of-mind in this area, but it needs to be clear that there are still risks involved and nothing can substitute for a lawyer's thorough review of the documents.

Succeeding as a buyer in a seller's market is hard work.

There's plenty of competition out there right now and you need to find every advantage you can.

Being able to submit a firm offer certainly tips the scales in your favour.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, please to contact us for more info.

What's In A Status Certificate Anyway?

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When working with a new buyer client, part of my job is to educate them as to the elements of an offer.  Different types of properties require different clauses and conditions.  If they’re in the market for a resale condominium then chances are we’ll be including a condition that allows for the buyer’s lawyer to review the Status Certificate.

What’s in a Status Certificate anyway?

A status certificate is a document, or rather a group of documents, that outlines the rules, regulations, and financial health of a particular condominium corporation.  All in all, the sucker is about an inch thick and it’s far from “light reading”.  It is essential reading though. 

Some of the more pertinent pieces of information found in these documents include:

  • Arrears or increases in common expenses.

  • The amount of the Reserve Fund and whether or not it’s sufficient to cover any major work.

  • Whether or not the Condo Corp is a party to any legal proceedings.

  • Whether or not there are any Special Assessments levied against the Condo Corp.

  • The number of suites known by management to be leased out, as opposed to owner-occupied.

  • Whether or not pets are allowed in the building, and if so, what restrictions apply.

What does all of this mean to me as a Purchaser?

Well, the financial well-being of the condo corp is certainly of great importance.  Legal proceedings, special assessments (due to roof repairs, parking garage repairs, etc), and reserve fund deficits can result in direct costs to the condo owners. 

As for the specific unit being purchased, the Status Certificate will show whether or not the seller is up to date with their maintenance fee payments. 

Also, the rules and regulations need to be checked if you plan on owning pets in the building as some condos place restrictions on the number and/or size of pets allowed.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, please contact me for more info.

Should I Buy First Or Should I Sell First? (Part II)

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In a previous blog post (read it here) I explored some of the unique factors involved when selling one property and buying another at the same time.  I touched briefly on market conditions, budgetary concerns, and the best way to avoid being pressured into making a purchase you’re not completely happy with.  There's one more factor I'd like to take a look at - Timing.

Part of my job as a Realtor is to help clients time the closings of their purchases and sales as perfectly as possible.  If you're buying and selling at the same time, you'll ideally want to take possession of your new home a few days prior to giving up possession on your old one.  This way, you've got a few days' overlap with both properties.  This allows for a bit of breathing room with regards to booking movers, switching over telephone and internet connections, etc.

However, it's not always possible to line up the closings as closely as we'd like.  In anticipation of this possibility I ask my clients, "Would you rather have two homes for a few weeks or no home for a few weeks?"

Having two homes for a few weeks can be an issue as most buyers rely on the proceeds from the sale of one home to go towards the purchase of another.  Thankfully, bridge financing can help to "bridge" this gap.  Of course, bridge financing can only be obtained if there's a firm sale on the purchaser's property...

Having no home for a few weeks is obviously going to be much more of an issue for the majority of buyers.  Sure, there's the possibility of a short term rental during the interim.  But who wants to move everything into the rental and then turn around and move again shortly after?  I have seen people do it though - especially if their dream home comes along and they don't want to risk it passing them by.

If my clients and I anticipate that timing the closings may be an issue, I include a clause in the agreement that allows them the power to either move up or extend the closing date if they need to.  This doesn't always fly though - it depends largely on the other party's own particular situation and what kind of leverage position my clients are in. 

Ultimately, "Should I buy first or should I sell first?" is a question without an easy answer.  Each situation is different from the next and the same strategy isn't going to work for every buyer/seller.  Be sure to consult your realtor for advice on how best to proceed.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how we can help, please contact me for more info.

Under Pressure: Will Some Sellers Benefit From The New Mortgage Stress-Test?

 
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Ever since the new mortgage rules were announced almost 2 weeks ago, I've been monitoring the Toronto MLS to see how many new listings hit the market and try to take advantage of the upcoming changes.

I found a few listings that explicitly highlight the impending rule changes in the "extras" section of the property description. Take a look at the screenshots below:

Under Pressure: Will Some Sellers Benefit From The New Mortgage Stress-Test? Photo

Under Pressure: Will Some Sellers Benefit From The New Mortgage Stress-Test? Photo

Under Pressure: Will Some Sellers Benefit From The New Mortgage Stress-Test? Photo

Under Pressure: Will Some Sellers Benefit From The New Mortgage Stress-Test? Photo

Whether or not prospective buyers will actually feel the pressure to make a move on either of these particular properties remains to be seen, but no doubt there are sellers out there who see a potential opportunity here.

I've already heard from a few seller clients of my own who are seriously considering bumping up their plans to list.

Instead of waiting until spring 2018 as previously planned, November 2017 has become a very attractive alternative.

While not every buyer needs to stress about the new stress-test (as I outlined in my blog post from last week), some will certainly be affected by the new rules. Specifically those who need to push their mortgage amount to the maximum.

Consider first time buyers, for example. They have no home equity to throw into the pot, and rely only on whatever down payment they have saved. These buyers would typically need to push their mortgage amount to the maximum in order to break into the market.

And these are the buyers that some sellers are hoping to capitalize on in the coming weeks.

A buyer with a current maximum budget of $450,000 might see their maximum budget reduced to as little as $360,000 after January 1st, 2018.  This person will be highly motivated to make a purchase in the coming weeks, as they’ll be priced out of the market come the new year.

And it goes without saying that a buyer as highly motivated as this will be more inclined to pay a higher price in order to secure a property in time.

We’ll see how things play out over these next 2 months. I'm sure we'll see properties sell for higher-than-expected prices, and I'm sure that a number of sellers will benefit from buyers who are acting under pressure.

Dum-dum-dum Da-da Dum-dum.

Dum-dum-dum Da-da Dum-dum.

If you're a buyer and you have any questions just give us a shout and we’ll put you in touch with a mortgage specialist who can help.

If you're a seller and you're considering listing your home in the coming weeks, give us a shout and we’ll help you make the right move.

Who's Actually Going To Be Affected By The New Mortgage Stress-Test?

 
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Since last week’s announcement by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) about the upcoming changes to the Canadian mortgage rules, I’ve seen plenty of buyers fret that their budgets are going to be reduced by as much as 20%.

This isn’t necessarily the case though, and not every buyer needs to stress about the new stress test. Let’s recap what sort of changes are coming once the new rules are implemented on January 1st, 2018.

The Biggest Change

Once the new rules come into play no-one will be able to qualify at less than the benchmark rate (which today is set at 4.89%). And in fact, borrowers with a down payment of more than 20% will have to qualify at either the benchmark rate or their contract rate + 2%, whichever is greater. So it’s quite possible that some borrowers will have to qualify at a rate that is greater than the current benchmark rate of 4.89%!

To give you some perspective: Since the last round of mortgage rule changes came into effect last year, only default-insured borrowers (these borrowers typically have a down payment of less than 20%) have had to qualify at the benchmark rate.

Borrowers with a down payment of more than 20% (and not default-insured) have had the benefit of only needing to qualify at their contract rate (which is typically less than the benchmark rate).

Come January 1st 2018 though, all borrowers, regardless of their down payment amount and regardless of whether or not their mortgage is default-insured, will have to qualify at the benchmark rate (or possibly higher).

Not Everyone Will Actually Be Affected

I’ve spoken to a handful of buyer clients this past week (after urging them to check-in with their mortgage broker regarding the new rules), and all of them are happy to report back that they will not be affected.

Why not?Because not every borrower pushes their mortgage amount to the maximum.

For example, if a buyer qualifies for a maximum purchase price of $1,000,000 but only plans on spending a maximum of $800,000, then they won’t actually be affected by the new rules.

Buyers are often approved for mortgages that are significantly higher than what they actually want to spend. I’ve worked with plenty of buyers who are simply amazed at how much the bank will lend them and have no intention of going anywhere near that maximum number.

Some will certainly be affected by the new rules though.  Specifically those who do need to push their mortgage amount to the maximum.

Consider first time buyers, for example. They have no home equity to throw into the pot, and rely only on whatever down payment they have saved. These buyers would typically need to push their mortgage amount to the maximum in order to break into the market.

Will You Be Affected?

At this point, there are still some unanswered questions with regards to the timing of the implementation of the new rules. We’re advising all of our buyer clients to reach-out to their mortgage brokers immediately to secure financing options before the changes come.

If you have any questions just give give us a shout and we’ll put you in touch with a mortgage specialist who can help.

Multiple-Offers Are Still Very Much A Part Of The Toronto Real Estate Landscape

Multiple-Offers Are Still Very Much A Part Of The Toronto Real Estate Landscape Photo

Multiple-Offers Are Still Very Much A Part Of The Toronto Real Estate Landscape Photo

We're in the 2nd week of the fall real estate market now, and anyone who's been following along knows that in the past 4.5 months (ever since the Liberals announced their "16-Point Fair Housing Plan16-Point Fair Housing Plan" in April) we've seen a decline in the number of sales and, perhaps more notably, a decline in average sale prices.

Q:  Do these declines mean that there's now room for price negotiation on every single property that comes on the market? A:  Nope.

In fact... plenty of houses are selling for 100% of the list price. And an even larger number of houses are selling for more than the list price!

Despite all the talk of a "buyer's market", there are still plenty of buyers out there willing to pay full price for the right property, or even compete with other buyers and pay more than the list price if need be.

Let's take a look at all sales in the first 10 days of September for some insight (we'll go as far west as the Humber River, as far east as Victoria Park, and as far north as the 401):

Houses

  • 83 sales total

  • 58 sales at less than the list price

  • 10 sales at 100% of the list price

  • 15 sales at more than the list price (the highest being 119% of the list price)

Condos

  • 162 sales total

  • 77 sales at less than the list price

  • 37 sales at 100% of list price

  • 48 sales at more than the list price (the highest being 117% of the list price)

Percentage-wise, this breaks down as follows:

Houses

  • 70% of houses sold for less than the list price

  • 12% of houses sold for 100% of the list price

  • 18% of houses sold for more than the list price

Condos

  • 47.5% of condos sold for less than the list price

  • 23% of condos sold for 100% of the list price

  • 29.5% of condos sold for more than the list price

While these numbers don't reach the heights that we saw in January - April 2017 (in March, for example, there were a total of 2,145 combined house & condo sales - 73% of which sold for more than the list price), they do show us that buyers aren't being scared out of moving forward with their home searches. If a property warrants it, buyers will make agressive offers and fight for what they want.

Let's see what the rest of the month brings...

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

Buy In The Summer And Then Sell In The Fall?

Buy In The Summer And Then Sell In The Fall? Photo

Buy In The Summer And Then Sell In The Fall? Photo

"Should I stay or should I go?"

The classic 1982 Clash song (which I fondly remember being a highlight on the dancefloor at the Dance Cave, circa '99-'01) is a fitting soundtrack for anyone considering a move in the current Toronto real estate market.

While buying is nowhere near as stressful as it was in the first four months of the year, selling is a different story. We're in a transitioning market now and selling your home isn't as simple a process these days.

This change in the market has many buyers and sellers confused about how to proceed.

I've got a number of clients right now who are hesitantly contemplating a "move-up" purchase into something larger than their current space.

While they're tickled by the fact that they aren't shopping for a home in the same feeding-frenzy market we saw in January - April, the prospect of having to sell their home in this more relaxed market has them second-guessing whether or not now is the right time to make a move.

While their hesitation is certainly warranted, I don't think anyone should be totally writting-off the possibilty of a move in this current market.

Keep in mind, shopping for a home in the fall might not be the relaxed affair it is right now. Although no one can predict exactly what's going to happen in the fall, we need to consider the possibilty that market activity will pick-up again and we'll all be looking back at May/June/July/August as a four-month blip.

A few possibilties to consider when looking at how the market might be spurred towards greater activity in September:

  1. With today's interest rate increase by the Bank of Canada (I'm writing this blog post on July 12th, the same day that the Bank of Canada has announced their first rate increase in 7 years), there are going to be buyers out there motivated to make a purchase before their current pre-approval rate-hold expires in 90-120 days.

  2. After "taking the summer off" from their home search, buyers who've been sitting on the sidelines since the Liberals announced their 16-Point Fair Housing Plan in April will simply decide to get off the fence and take the plunge.

If the market does start to warm-up again in September we could all be looking back saying, "those who bought in the summer and then sold in the fall did very well for themselves...".

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

Point-By-Point: Ontario's Fair Housing Plan

Ontario's Fair Housing Plan: Point-By-Point Photo

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Today, Premier Kathleen Wynne finally announced changes to real estate in Ontario in an attempt to increase supply and address affordability.

No doubt, there's going to be some confusion about the effects of the changes. Keep in mind though, the fundamentals of a healthy market have not changed.

Take a look at the plan below, point-by-point. If you've got any questions just give me a shout.

There are 16 proposed measures:

  1. A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.

  2. Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.

  3. Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for “landlord’s own use” evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.

  4. A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.

  5. Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.

  6. A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.

  7. A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.

  8. More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.

  9. The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.

  10. An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.

  11. A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.

  12. The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed.

  13. Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.

  14. A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.

  15. Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.

  16. Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.

 

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

 

Deposit Cheque: Don't Show Up Empty-Handed!

Deposit Cheque: Don't Show Up Empty-Handed! Photo

Deposit Cheque: Don't Show Up Empty-Handed! Photo

Early in my real estate career, I was working with a young couple looking to purchase a loft in the city's west end.

Back then, just like now, most properties were receiving multiple offers and selling for above the asking price.

And just like now, listing agents were requesting that all potential buyers show up on the offer date with a certified deposit cheque in hand.

I don't recall the specifics now, but on the first offer we did together those clients of mine were not able to obtain a deposit cheque prior to submitting the offer.

Of the five offers that were submitted that night, my clients had the highest price.

The property should've been theirs...

The sellers ended up working with the second highest offer though, because we didn't have that damn deposit cheque in hand.

Needless to say, those clients never submitted another offer without being sure to have the certified deposit cheque ahead of time.

Fast forward to 2017, and just the other night I saw the same thing happen again (thankfully, it wasn't my clients who made the mistake this time).

A condo in the east-end received 20 offers and sold for $710,000. The highest offer was actually $730,000... but those buyers did not have a certified deposit cheque in hand.

Imagine the disappointment there - being the highest of 20 offers and still not getting the property!

There's almost 10 years distance between those two stories, but the lesson is the same for each: show up on offer night empty-handed, and you might go home empty-handed too.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

It Sold For HOW Much? WTF!

I’ve been a realtor for over 10 years now, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen as many WTF sale prices as I saw last week.

It’s not unusual for a house to sell for stupid money in this city (it is Toronto after all), but last week was notable because it happened so many times!

All over the city, almost every day, houses and condos were selling for unprecedented figures.

“Unprecedented” is the key word here, but I’m not sure it really does justice to what we saw last week.

A few examples…

Sale #1: A condo townhouse in the east-end

  • 1,100 sq ft
  • 2-bed / 2-bath
  • Parking

The last few comparable sales happened back in the summer, and sold for around $580,000. This new listing was priced at $589,000 and sold on offer-night… for $840,000!

Sale #2: A freehold home in the Don Mills area

  • 1,500 sq ft
  • 3-bed / 3-bath
  • Detached 2-storey

The listing agent and seller priced it low ($1,188,000), thinking that it might sell for somewhere in the $1,500,000 - $1,600,000 range. It sold on offer-night (with 31 offers) for… $2,303,000! Read more about this sale in the Toronto Star here.

Sale #3: A one-bedroom condo in the downtown core

  • 600 sq ft
  • 1-bed / 1-bath
  • No parking

A nearly identical unit sold in this building in the spring, for around $390,000. This new listing was priced at $435,000 and sold on offer-night… for $505,000!

It’s Sunday night as I write this, and I’m wondering what tomorrow and the rest of the week will bring. It can’t be as crazy as last week, can it? We’ll see…

 

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

Four Major Changes To Canada's Housing Rules

Four Major Changes To Canada's Housing Rules - Photo If you haven't already heard, the Canadian Department of Finance made an announcement earlier this month outlining a handful of changes that will have an impact on the mortgage/housing market.

The Globe & Mail followed the announcement pretty quickly with a detailed breakdown of all the changes, and how the affects might be felt.

Below is a reposting of that article in full. Enjoy!


From the Globe & Mail, on October 3rd, 2016:

Four Major Changes To Canada's Housing Rules

The Liberal government has announced sweeping changes aimed at ensuring Canadians aren’t taking on bigger mortgages than they can afford in an era of historically low interest rates.

The changes are also meant to address concerns related to foreign buyers who buy and flip Canadian homes.

Below is a breakdown of the four major changes Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Monday.

The current rules

Buyers with a down payment of at least 5 per cent of the purchase price but less than 20 per cent must be backed by mortgage insurance. This protects the lender in the event that the home buyer defaults. These loans are known as “high loan-to-value” or “high ratio” mortgages.

In situations in which the buyer has 20 per cent or more for a down payment, the lender or borrower could obtain “low-ratio” insurance that covers 100 per cent of the loan in the event of a default.

Mortgage insurance in Canada is backed by the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Insurance is sold by the CMHC and two private insurers, Genworth Financial Mortgage Insurance Company Canada and Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company. The federal government backs the insurance offered by the two private-sector firms, subject to a 10-per-cent deductible.

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The change

Expanding a mortgage rate stress test to all insured mortgages.

What it is

As of Oct. 17, a stress test used for approving high-ratio mortgages will be applied to all new insured mortgages – including those where the buyer has more than 20 per cent for a down payment. The stress test is aimed at assuring the lender that the home buyer could still afford the mortgage if interest rates were to rise. The home buyer would need to qualify for a loan at the negotiated rate in the mortgage contract, but also at the Bank of Canada’s five-year fixed posted mortgage rate, which is an average of the posted rates of the big six banks in Canada. This rate is usually higher than what buyers can negotiate. As of Sept. 28, the posted rate was 4.64 per cent.

Other aspects of the stress test require that the home buyer will be spending no more than 39 per cent of income on home-carrying costs like mortgage payments, heat and taxes. Another measure called total debt service includes all other debt payments and the TDS ratio must not exceed 44 per cent.

Who it affects

This measure affects home buyers who have at least 20 per cent for a down payment but are seeking a mortgage that may stretch them too thin if interest rates were to rise. It also affects lenders seeking to buy government-backed insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

Why

The government is responding to concerns that sharp rises in house prices in cities like Toronto and Vancouver could increase the risk of defaults in the future should mortgage rates rise.

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The change

As of Nov. 30, the government will impose new restrictions on when it will provide insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

What it is

The new rules restrict insurance for these types of mortgages based on new criteria, including that the amortization period must be 25 years or less, the purchase price is less than $1-million, the buyer has a credit score of 600 and the property will be owner-occupied.

Who it affects

This measure appears to be aimed at lowering the government’s exposure to residential mortgages for properties worth $1-million or more, a category of the market that has increased sharply in recent years in Vancouver and Toronto.

Why

Vancouver and Toronto are the two real estate markets that are of most concern for policy makers at all levels of government. These measures appear to be targeted at those markets.

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The change

New reporting rules for the primary residence capital gains exemption.

What it is

Currently, any financial gain from selling your primary residence is tax-free and does not have to be reported as income. As of this tax year, the capital gains tax is still waived, but the sale of the primary residence must be reported at tax time to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Who it affects

Everyone who sells their primary residence will have a new obligation to report the sale to the CRA, however the change is aimed at preventing foreign buyers who buy and sell homes from claiming a primary residence tax exemption for which they are not entitled.

Why

While officials say more data are needed, Ottawa is responding to extensive anecdotal evidence and media reports showing foreign investors are flipping homes in Canada and falsely claiming the primary residence exemption.

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The change

The government is launching consultations on lender risk sharing.

What it is

Currently, the federal government is on the hook to cover the cost of 100 per cent of an insured mortgage in the event of a default. The federal government says this is “unique” internationally and that it will be releasing a public consultation paper shortly on a proposal to have lenders, such as banks, take on some of that risk. The Department of Finance Canada acknowledges this would be “a significant structural change to Canada’s housing finance system.”

Who it affects

Mortgage lenders, such as banks, would have to take on added risk. This could potentially lead to higher mortgage rates for home buyers.

Why

The federal government wants to limit its financial obligations in the event of widespread mortgage defaults. It also wants to encourage prudent lending practices.

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Five previous federal housing moves since 2008

Monday’s package of announcements is the sixth time since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis that Ottawa has taken policy action in response to concerns about Canada’s housing market. July, 2008: After briefly allowing the CMHC to insure high-ratio mortgages with a 40-year amortization period, then Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty moved to tighten those rules by reducing the maximum length of an insured high-ratio mortgage to 35 years.

February, 2010: Responding to concern that some Canadians were borrowing too much against the rising value of their homes, the government lowered the maximum amount Canadians could borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent of a home’s value, down from 95 per cent. The move also set a new 20-per-cent down payment requirement for government-backed mortgage insurance on properties purchased for speculation by an owner who does not live in the property.

January, 2011: The Conservative government under Stephen Harper tightened the rules further, dropping the maximum amortization period for a high-ratio insured mortgage to 30 years. The maximum amount Canadians could borrow via refinancing was further lowered to 85 per cent.

June, 2012: A third round of tightening brought the maximum amortization period down to 25 years for high-ratio insured mortgages. A new stress test was also introduced to ensure that debt costs are no more than 44 per cent of income for lenders seeking a high-ratio mortgage. Refinancing rules were also tightened for a third time, setting a new maximum loan of 80 per cent of a property’s value. Another new measure limited the availability of government-backed insured high-ratio mortgages to homes valued at less than $1-million.

December, 2015: The recently elected Liberal government moved to tighten lending rules for homes worth more than $500,000, saying it was focused on “pockets of risk” in the housing sector. The package of measures included doubling the minimum down payment for insured high-ratio mortgages to 10 per cent from 5 per cent for the portion of a home’s value from $500,000 to $1-million.

Is It A Bad Idea To List Immediately After Labour Day?

Is It A Bad Idea To List Immediately After Labour Day? Photo

Is It A Bad Idea To List Immediately After Labour Day? Photo

Summer doesn’t officially end until the Autumnal Equinox in the 3rd week of September, but we all know it really ends the day after Labour Day.

Every year, the Tuesday after Labour Day sees the kids go back to school, the white clothes go back into the closet, and the real estate market come back to life after the August slow-down.

A whole slew of new listings hit the market during that first week after Labour Day, and plenty of eager sellers (and realtors) are excited to get the ball rolling.

In my opinion though, it’s a good idea to consider waiting until the following week to list your home for sale.

The goal is to expose the property to as many buyers as possible, but a good chunk of the buyer pool is distracted at this time of year.

There’s so much happening in people’s lives during that first week after Labour Day, that there’s a good chance many of the new listings are going to slip-by unnoticed.

  • People are busy getting back into the swing of things at work.

  • Anyone working in a seasonal industry is likely focused on transitioning over to their fall market.

  • People are coping with the fact that summer’s over and the cold & rainy weather is just around the corner (ugh).

  • And then of course there are the families that have small children…

I know that my wife & I are going to be preoccupied these next few days with starting our oldest daughter in JK. If we were searching for a home right now we’d almost certainly be taking a week off from our search to concentrate on the start of school.

I myself have a new listing coming out soon, and we’re waiting until that 2nd week after Labour Day to go to market. My clients are fully onboard with the idea that we’ll reach the maximum number of potential buyers if we wait that extra week.

That’s not to say that a seller won’t still do well if they list right after Labour Day. And not every seller is even going to have the option of waiting until mid-September to list.

If you really want to maximize your odds of success though, you do need to consider all of the angles and strategize accordingly.

So, while it might not necessarily be a bad idea to list immediatley after Labour day, it might be a good idea to hang back and wait a week.

Here’s to a kick-ass fall market!

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

What A Difference A Season Makes

What A Difference A Season Makes Photo More than once over the course of these past few months, I've seen a house come on the market and sell for significantly more than what it was unsuccessfully listed at back in the fall/winter.

You could argue that this makes sense - that in a rising market a house should sell for more now than it would’ve 6 months ago.

Maybe, maybe not. (More on that towards the end of this blog post).

Regardless, it’s interesting to see such a scenario play out in real time with one specific property.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened with one of the houses I’m referring to:

House is listed in June 2015

Located in a very hot area in the west-end of the city.

Priced at $679,000, with a hold-back on offers.

Offer night comes and goes, and the property doesn’t sell.

They re-list the following day at $719,000, with offers welcome anytime.

After 3 more weeks without selling, they take it off the market.

Same house is re-listed in February 2016

7 months after unsuccessfully trying to sell, they’re back on the market.

Priced again at $719,000, with offers welcome anytime.

In less than 24hrs they receive 3 competing offers and the house sells for $755,000 (105% of list price).

No one wanted the house back in the summer, but by winter’s end there were three buyers tripping over each other to pay well above the asking price.

Wow! What a difference a season (or two) makes.

Does this necessarily mean that the same scenario would play out for every single house listed for sale in the Toronto real estate market right now? Is every single seller out there guaranteed to sell for significantly more if they just wait another 6 months?

Not necessarily. I’m sure there are sellers out there who did better 6 months ago than they would today, for a number of reasons; maybe they were competing with fewer similar listings than they would be today, maybe there were more buyers in the market that week for their particular house than there would be this week, etc.

On the whole though, prices are increasing and you’ll very likely pay more for a house 6 months from now. Just ask the three buyers who bid on the house in my example above.

 

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.

Did There Really Need To Be 15 Offers?

Did There Really Need To Be 15 Offers? Photo

Did There Really Need To Be 15 Offers? Photo

I was involved in a multiple-offer scenario last week, on a condo townhouse in the east end.

The property had a helluva view, and there was no doubt that it was going to attract plenty of interest and receive a bunch of offers.

“A bunch” ended up being an understatement.

There were 15 offers. FIFTEEN!

The property sold for 125% of the list price (it was listed at $409,000 and sold for $510,000).

With so many offers and such a high sale-to-list price ratio, you have to ask yourself, “Did they really need to under-list the property by that much?”

Couldn’t they have listed at, say, $449,000 (which would still be “underpricing” the property, albeit less drastically)?

While there was obviously one very happy “winner” on offer night, there were 14 other buyers that went home empty handed.

No doubt, some of those buyers went in offering less than $449,000. And despite submitting what they (and/or their realtor) thought was a reasonable offer, they never actually had a chance.

Couldn’t the sellers have been a bit less extreme in their pricing, and perhaps spared a handful of those hopeful buyers on offer night? Wouldn’t they still have ended up with a $510,000 sale price?

Truth be told, there’s no way to know for sure if they would’ve ended up at the same sale price (although I think they would have). Sure, it’s possible that the top offer wouldn’t have come in as high had there only been 7 or 8 offers (unlikely I think, but possible).

On a funny side note, the listing agent had made a point of saying that he felt that there was no need to put anyone through the hassle of going to get a certified cheque ahead of offer night, as it would only add undo stress and waste too many people’s time.

Okay…

But he felt it was reasonable to under-list the property by $75,000 - $100,000? He didn’t think that would result in wasting a bunch of people’s time? Ha!

Granted, the listing agent did a great job for his clients. He orchestrated a process that got them a record-high price for their property.

It’s a frustrating process though, when one happy seller and one happy buyer have to leave 14 other disappointed parties in their wake.

If you’re thinking of making a move and would like to know how I can help, feel free to contact me for more info.