“Don’t believe everything you read,” said one commenter on Wednesday’s blog about 201 Carlaw Avenue.
Don’t believe everything I say, and don’t believe everything he says. Do your own research, gather facts, educate yourself, and make an informed purchase decision.
Not that I want to fuel the fire, but I believe a follow-up post to Wednesday’s blog is in order. If ever a blog post could serve as a cautionary tale, I think buyers can learn a lot from this experience…
Since I clicked “submit” on my blog post on Wednesday morning, several residents of 201 Carlaw Avenue have emailed me personally to complain, a couple people called my brokerage, and one person filed a complaint with RECO Ethics.
If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
An agent from another brokerage called me yesterday, and he started in on me with “you’re irresponsible,” he called me “reckless,” and hinted that there could be legal repercussions.
I didn’t want to argue the validity of the information I presented, or the logistics of how legal action works in the real world – outside of what we see in movies and on television. But I did ask him a question:
“Did you ever ask yourself WHY I wrote that blog?”
He really couldn’t say.
I told him, “I’m not a monster. I’m not a mean person. I don’t have an ex-girlfriend in the building, and I’m not out to get anybody. You don’t even know me, or anything about me, or how I run my business.”
Nobody ever really stopped to ask WHY I wrote what I wrote. Instead, residents of the building were quick to dispute the facts I laid out, with false information of their own (we’ll get to that), and defend their homes in a knee-jerk reaction, without asking WHY.
I’ll tell you why, and excuse the rant…
I love real estate, but often I hate the industry in which we work, and the lack of regulations that govern us. Our business is over-saturated with 40,000 agents, many of whom only care about their next paycheque, and couldn’t possibly care less about their own clients. There are no barriers to entry, and the talent pool is being watered down with every unemployed person who says, “I think I’ll go into real estate!”
The City of Toronto constantly issues approvals for condominium towers that are too tall, complexes that are too dense, areas that have no infrastructure to support them, all in the name of their precious development charges, and additional property tax base.
The Province of Ontario hasn’t revised the Condominium Act in nearly two decades, allowing builders to run the province, specifically in downtown Toronto. Today’s Toronto developers build terrible products, with no real guidelines or structure, and no repercussions for their actions, and the consumer ends up on the losing end.
The pre-construction condominium industry is corrupt, crooked, and the chips are stacked against the consumer, who is wide-eyed, and clueless, because they often don’t do their own research, or they don’t have accurate representation from their Realtor.
I started Toronto Realty Blog in 2007 with one mission: to be the most honest, outspoken, transparent Realtor in Toronto, and for lack of a better phrase, “to tell it like it is.” I will write about a number of topics that ruffle feathers, whether it’s a practice I don’t like in the industry, or a building that has issues.
I want to provide a forum – for FREE, where I can educate buyers and sellers, and provide them with information on every conceivable topic in real estate, as well as keep them informed and up to date.
THAT is why I wrote Wednesday’s blog post.
And there is a lot be learned from the problems at 201 Carlaw Avenue, whether you’re looking at this building, or others.
The facts I laid out in Wednesday’s blog are indisputable, but that didn’t stop the residents from trying to dispute them, and I don’t blame them. As one commenter pointed out – you can’t just call your mortgage broker, or CMHC, and ask them, “Is 201 Carlaw Avenue insurable?” A mortgage insurer will not give you this information unless you are submitting a deal to them, to be approved.
I stake my reputation on the fact that you cannot obtain mortgage insurance in this building for a mortgage of greater than 80% LTV, as of today. Maybe you could have in November, and maybe you can next week, but as of today, you cannot, and if your mortgage broker tells you differently, it’s because he or she didn’t speak to a senior manager at all three mortgage insurers, after presenting a financially qualified applicant, with an Agreement of Purchase & Sale signed by a buyer and a seller.
But I’m going to move on from that…
The concept of “but I know somebody who bought in this building last month” really bothers me, because in my opinion, it means that this buyer had an agent and a lawyer that didn’t do his or her job.
I heard the case of a unit at Printing Factory that sold in the past three months, where the original buyer walked away after reviewing the Status Certificate, and another agent, who had a very interested buyer, subsequently jumped in and submitted an unconditional offer. I believe that this agent was reckless, irresponsible, and screwed his or her buyer client, who is now in a world of financial trouble, since that buyer can’t close the deal if he or she doesn’t have 20% down.
The residents of Printing Factory want to paint me as the bad guy because I aired their dirty laundry, and let their secret out of the bag, but it’s interesting to note that when one resident of the building called a colleague of mine on Wednesday (and you know who you are, because you posted on this blog), she said in reference to the above situation, “We were sooooo glad when that unit sold!”
THIS is what bothers me about the business of real estate. We have Realtors out there that will sacrifice their own buyer-clients all in search of a paycheque.
Residents of the building can say, “Well David, that’s up to the buyer to decide! You have such a hate-on for this building and you’re ruining it for us!” But that’s an emotional response. I think if any responsible, experienced Realtor made an offer on a condominium on behalf of a buyer, that agent would include a condition on the lawyer’s review of a Status Certificate. On this, there is no debate.
I have worked for Bosley Real Estate for ten years, and in those ten years I have learned that we truly are a different breed here. That’s not to say that Sage, Chestnut Park, Royal Lepage – or other companies aren’t the same, but what I mean is that with 40,000 Realtors working in the GTA, and only 200 at Bosley, we hold ourselves to higher standards.
Toronto is full of new agents, with no experience, who work for crummy brokerages, with no training – who run around the city making mistakes, all in search of a paycheque.
Bosley runs a 6-week training program for new agents. Our management team consists of the former Presidents of CREA, OREA, RECO, and TREB. I discussed Wednesday’s blog post with one agent who is on the RECO Ethics Committee (and one former chair as well), one agent who is a Director at Large for TREB, and agent one who was previously TREB President.
What I do, and how I do it, is different from the bulk of Realtors. Not all, but most. And I work for a company that hand-picks agents who will lead by example, and not misrepresent the industry.
I consider myself a consumer advocate, and my blog is a forum for learning and discussing.
I want to put everything out in the open! I want to empower the public! I want buyers to have information and knowledge that can assist them in their purchase, and help them avoid mistakes. I want to discuss some of the unethical practices that exist in our business, whether it’s the concept of “under-pricing” listings for multiple offers, or “double-ending” a listing via multiple representation.
That is why Toronto Realty Blog exists. It’s not to ruin the lives of people to live at 201 Carlaw Avenue, but rather to bring to light issues that affect Toronto real estate, and open it for discussion.
So, why don’t we do something positive with this situation at 201 Carlaw Avenue? Let’s use this, or “a property like it,” as a cautionary tale, and see what we can learn from this. As I see it, there are three important issues for buyers to understand:
1) The importance of the Status Certificate.
We Realtors are to blame for the monster we have created in today’s Toronto market, with multiple offers, pre-home inspections, offer nights, and a flurry that often precedes the delivery of an offer on real estate.
And with a condominium purchase, you are completely blind, with your arms and legs cut off. You have no idea what’s really going on in the building, and that’s why every offer MUST be conditional on a review of the Status Certificate.
If a Realtor made an unconditional offer on a building like Carlaw, then that’s irresponsible.
And if a lawyer reviewed the Status for a building like Carlaw, and didn’t advise his or her client to walk away, then that lawyer isn’t worth his or her salt.
This brings up another issue: don’t use your friend’s friend’s dad from Ajax to review your condo purchase in Toronto. Sure, you can save $1,000 on the fee, but imagine if you went ahead and bought in a building where you can’t get financing, or a building with a massive financial albatross hanging over its head?
Realtors need to explain the importance of the Status Certificate review to their clients before they ever step inside a condo with that buyer, otherwise that buyer might make an emotional attachment at the wrong time.
You know – you just know that when units at 201 Carlaw Avenue were being sold in pre-construction 5-6 years ago, some young 20-something agent, with 6-months in the business, had a buddy from his days as a Queen’s Golden Gael, who walked him into the sales centre and didn’t explain TARION.
Part of the reason why there are issues at 201 Carlaw Avenue are because TARION didn’t provide a warranty, and that is something that should have been addressed before purchase.
But lil’ Johnny B. Good, in search of his 4-5% commission for selling in pre-construction, with little to no knowledge of real estate, probably didn’t take the necessary time and effort to explore the potential ramifications of buying in a building with no TARION warranty, and thus never explained it to his client.
See why it’s important to have an agent who actually has experience?
3) Board Decisions
I’m not here to tell the board at 201 Carlaw Ave what they should have done. It’s true – I have no knowledge of what went on in those meetings.
But I am here to tell you that a board of directors, a condominium corporation, a property manager – or all three, can affect your largest investment.
I rant and rave about the goings-on in my building at 112 George Street all the time. The concierge is a total dick, the rules and regulations that the board just put into place do nothing to help the residents, and everything to hinder them in their day-to-day lives, and the board of directors is a “clique” who hasn’t had a new member since the building came into existence.
The decision of whether or not to: a) levy a special assessment, or b) take out a $2M loan, was something that the residents of 201 Carlaw Avenue likely did NOT take lightly, and there is always input from the lawyers, the property manager, and the board of directors on a decision like this. But don’t forget about proxy votes for absentee owners, which the board usually takes on.
It is imperative that condo-owners attend every single meeting that the condominium corporation holds, and reads every single notice they receive in the mailbox. Once you start stuffing those notices in a drawer, you’re the creator of your own misfortune.
I practice what I preach.
And without quoting my personal sales statistics, or resting on my laurels, I will say that people read Toronto Realty Blog on a regular basis, and come to me to transact in real estate. And of course, some people hate what I write, and would never use my services in a million years. But that is the difference between myself and most agents: I’m not afraid to take a stand.
Most agents want to satisfy ALL segments of the buyer/seller pool. I just want to work with like-minded folks, who respect my opinions, and like what I have to say.
I didn’t say anything about 201 Carlaw Avenue that is untrue, malicious, or unfair. I essentially reported the news, and I’m in no way surprised that the residents took issue with me bringing their condominium’s finances to light.
But that’s my job. It is my job to investigate issues affecting buyers and sellers, and it’s my own personal mandate to inform the buying public.
A colleague of mine told me yesterday, “When the movie ‘Lone Ranger’ came out in 2013, Walt Disney spent about $250 Million on producing the film, and it was expected to make $500 Million gross. But as soon as it came out, film critics started panning the film, and saying ‘Save your money, don’t see this movie – it’s awful,’ and that cost the studio hundreds of millions of dollars.”
My colleague was essentially telling me that my comments and opinions on a particular condominium in Toronto are tantamount to a film critic, or a food critic, offering an opinion.
When a financial analyst issues a “sell” rating for the stock of Google Inc., the company and its shareholders don’t line up and threaten legal action against that analyst.
What I write on my blog is opinion, and nothing more, so feel free to treat it as such.
And above all: don’t believe everything you read…