2015 Toronto Realty Blog In Review (P1)

Thanks to everybody who posted their suggestions on Friday, and it seems as though a lot of us are on the same page!

Today, I wanted to outline both the “Top TRB Posts of 2015,” as well as the “Top Real Estate Stories of 2015.”

But as always happens when I sit down to write, I get carried away.  First, it was Top-10.  Then, it was Top-5.  Now, I’m going to split this into two posts: Monday will be for the Top-5 blog posts of 2015, and Tuesday will be for the Top-5 stories of 2015.

A blog post on Tuesday.  Wow, that brings me back!

Hope you enjoy!

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I’m not sure what makes a “top blog post,” but surely the number of comments, the amount of debate among those readers/commenters, and the content.

The content has to be timely, at least somewhat insightful and potentially creative, and above all else, interesting.

There could be some overlap between the “top blogs” and the “top stories,” but that’s only fair, given I write about what’s buzzing out there in the real estate world.

It was REALLY tough to narrow this down to five.  Way tougher than with the real estate stories.

But after one year, and 142 blog posts, these are the ones I feel were, in one way or another, the “best.”

5) Why Own When You Can Rent – July 15th

I’ll be honest – this wasn’t on my short list, until I saw that it received sixty-three comments from readers, and that’s near the top for any of my blogs in 2015.

The article wasn’t the most novel, original, or innovative, but rather it was something as basic as “rent versus own” and it got people talking, discussing, and as is often the case – debating.

I outlined that there are five major reasons why people are buying rather than renting:

1) Low interest rates
2) The bank of mom and dad
3) Societal changes
4) The next generation
5) The market continues to rise

A reader added point 6) Culture

All of these points, on their own, are great reasons why people buy rather than rent.

But collectively, I feel they leave absolutely no debate.

The low interest rates not only make it more affordable for young buyers, but it also puts FAR more money back into their pocket each month in the form of principal.

In the blog, I used the example of a $327,000 condo, and how the low interest rate environment helps the condo carry for less, but also gives back a lot more principal:

@2.59% – $1,331.59 mortgage, $708 principal, $623 interest
@5.99% – $1,881.20 mortgage, $432 principal, $1,439 interest

It’s absolutely astounding.

Sure, the fact that the condo carries for $500 less each month is important.

But look at the principal repayment!

Look at the ratio of principal-vs-interest!

At the lower rate, your ratio is 53% principal, and 47% interest each month.

At the higher rate, your ratio is 23% principal, and 77% interest each month.

The other points I made were important as well.

Most of my young buyers do get money from their parents.

The “wants versus needs” of today’s society has us biting off more than we can often chew.

And the generation of young 20-somethings, via massive advances in technology in the 2000’s, have always had everything at their finger-tips, so it comes as no surprise that “first-time buyers,” who used to be 26-27, are now more like 21-22.

But I go back to the simple calculation of principal and interest as the main reason why it simply makes no sense to rent anymore.  Of course, all that can change, and most likely will.  Just not any time soon…

4) What The Heck Is With Realtor Head Shots – August 6th

Maybe this one wasn’t on your radar for “best posts of 2015,” but it received among the most page views of anything I wrote, and my follow-up post also received some attention…

As I’ve mentioned before, oh, I dunno, about a thousand times, I get a lot of flak from Realtors who don’t like my honesty, or my penchant for drawing attention to problems in our industry, or for simply making fun of people in this business.

But I really, truly thought that 100.00% of Realtors would find a blog about “Realtor Head Shots” hilarious.

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.

Read the original post HERE, and feel free to skim and simply look at the photos.

I thought I nailed it.  I thought I had put together a very complete list of all the stupid poses, angles, and types of photos that we see in Realtor head shots.

For the most part, people thought it was funny.

But one person, or at least one, did not.

I honestly don’t care what this person thinks, and so I’m going to post the email she sent me the day after I posted this blog:

Dear David,

I do not agree with your approach to real estate.  And I don’t think there’s anything novel or commendable about your blog website.  I cringe when people in my office suggest that you represent the next generation of realtors.

I have been selling real estate in Toronto since 1976.  I am a PROFESSIONAL in this PROFESSION.  Your actions on this website make our PROFESSION look like a circus, and it’s awful.

Your latest blog on real estate agent photos only serves to embarrass us as a whole, and I find it completely misplaced.

I am filing a complaint with RECO and I have advised my broker of record to do the same.

Your actions are shameful and I hope you are severely reprimanded.

So, yeah.

That was what I woke up to the day after I wrote, what I thought, was a silly, playful look at our industry.

If we’re going to talk about “misplaced,” then we should look at this bizarre email.

To be blunt, I think this email was sent from a snarky old woman, who used to sell a lot of real estate, who is on the way out, and who uses a head shot from the 1980’s and looks like something out of Dallas or Hill Street Blues.

I was SHOCKED to receive an email like that, but everybody in my office thought the blog was hilarious, as did my colleagues throughout the industry.

One of my blog readers wrote:

David, surely you’ve taken a few pics over the years that could find their way into this post.

Care to share those??

So with that comment, and that stupid letter from some geriatric Realtor who still uses a typewriter, I decided to follow-up with an entire post about Realtor head-shots, making fun of MYSELF.

Read the post, and see the pics HERE.

I went through all my head-shot archives, and found the worst ones.

My brother told me that on a pleasant Sunday morning, in his new home in London, England, he woke up because his wife was laughing uncontrollably, to the point he thought she was crying.  She told me, “Dave, I lived through this!  These photos – those clothes, that hair!”

My Dad always said, “You have to be able to make fun of yourself.”

Those two posts were top-10 in page views in 2015, as they were picked up a lot in the US and distributed in Realtor-circles.

3) The Lonely, Lonely Bike Lane – October 13th

I went to bed the night before this post, and not for a moment, did I think I was about to endure a sh!t storm the next day.

Does that make me naive?  Perhaps uninformed?

Or just really, really confident in my feelings about bike lanes?

I had this idea for a while, but never got around to filming it.  I also had an idea about how stupid TTC streetcars are – how they’re in the left lane, and people are on the right side of the street, so streetcars actually take up TWO lanes of traffic, and I think buses would be far more efficient for traffic flow.

But judging from the reaction to my thoughts on bike lanes, maybe I’m wrong about that too?

If you didn’t read the post that spawned fifty-three comments, and a LOT of arguing, you can read it HERE.

The very first comment bothered me the most.  It read:

I am assuming you filmed this over thanksgiving weekend.

Using a day in one of the emptiest weekends in the city to try to prove your point makes your logic unsound. I walked around the city all weekend and it was very empty.

This bothered me for two reasons:
1) I didn’t film it over Thanksgiving weekend, as somebody implied.
2) The mere fact that somebody would think I would somehow fake, embellish, or manipulate my point showed that many people don’t know me, and don’t want to give me credit for doing my job the way I’ve always done it.

As for the rest of the comments, I didn’t really care.

I have a thick skin, and after 1,600 blog posts over nine years, I’ve seen a lot worse.

I will say, however, that I was amazed by the number of people who disagreed with me, as well as the passion (hatred?) they displayed.

My logic has always been extremely simple: supply and demand.

There’s a bike lane with maybe 2-3 people in it, and then there’s two lanes for cars with hundreds of cars in them.

It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Couple this with the fact that we have harsh Canadian winters, and many people won’t bike for 3-5 months per year (I know some die-hards posted that they bike 365, and I respect that.  I biked to McMaster University every day for four years never missing a day, and on the morning of a 2000 snowstorm I carried my bike on my shoulder so I could keep my streak alive), and I simply think that supply and demand doesn’t necessitate removing a lane of traffic on Richmond Street for bicycles.

However, I did see the logic in a few people’s comments.

One person suggested that as a “progressive society” we need to act before something is needed.

Somebody else said that cycling is going to “take time to catch on.”

Others suggested that we really need to think ahead, plan ahead, and devise ways to reduce traffic in Toronto’s downtown core.

Then again, some real crazies came out of the woodworks too!

One person said, “Recording a video while driving is ILLEGAL!  I will be directing the Toronto Police to this site.  You are an idiot.”

What’s worse – the fact that somebody might expend time and effort to call the police about a video on a blog, or the fact that somebody thinks the police might, or should, look into this?

Another person said, “Buy yourself a nice bicycle and meet your clients at your condo appointments.”

Yeah, I’m sure a client would love me trying to show them ten condos throughout the downtown core, walking from one condo to next.  Or maybe doubling them on the handle-bars?

In the end, if you eliminate a few weird and misplaced comments, you see a lot of very good points in favour of bike lanes, and a lot of reasons why they don’t make sense.

I’m sticking to my guns here, but I’ll admit that there are far, far more people in favour of bike lanes than I previously thought.

2) Factors Affecting The 2015 Real Estate Market – January 7th & 9th

This was a two-part blog post from January, which you can read HERE, and HERE.

In hindsight, and as one of my readers graciously pointed out, the content was spot-on.

I figured the following would be the biggest factors in the 2015 market:

1) Interest rates
2) Land transfer tax
3) Canadian dollar
4) Pre-construction condos
5) The stock market
6) Media sentiments
7) Online real estate resources

All of these were hot topics at one point or another.

We’ve been talking about interest rates basically every day this year, and with the Federal Reserve raising their rate in the U.S. last week, now our rates are under even more scrutiny.

Calls to eliminate LTT in Toronto, or at least reduce the amount have died out, as most residents of the city realize it’s here to stay.  And we had a scare earlier this month when the Liberals hinted they might give other municipalities in Ontario the power to charge their own MLTT, but then it was later determined that wouldn’t happen.

The Toronto city manager has also questioned Toronto’s reliance on the LTT, saying it represents a massive source of revenue, and we’d be in trouble without it.

The Canadian dollar has plummeted from $0.86 to $0.71 against the USD since January 1st.

As a result of the dollar, pre-construction condos continue to sell, defying all logic in my opinion, given their prices.

And after bleeding money, www.zoocasa.com shut down their online brokerage, only to sell it for a pittance to Realtor, Lauren Haw.

All in all, I’d say that January, 2015 blog post was one of my best of the year.

1) What If The Whole World Worked The Same Way As The Toronto Real Estate Market – April 1st

I appreciate all the compliments on this series, and if I may be so bold, let me say that I’m extremely proud of how this series turned out.

It’s the thing I’m second-most proud of, after starting Toronto Realty Blog in the first place.

I didn’t actually have an idea for a “series,” to begin with, but rather I wanted, yet again, for the umpteenth time, to talk about pre-construction condos and all the associated pitfalls.

It bothers me that no matter how well I make my point, people still go out there and play with matches next to a can of gasoline.

I’ve tried articles, videos, anecdotal evidence, and real-life tales.  But developers still screw people, every single day, and people, as we’ve seen in my videos are actually lined up to get screwed!

So I wondered, “What if I dumb this down, so low, that people have absolutely no choice but to agree?”

Forget about talking about the actual pre-construction condo, but rather let’s use an analogy, that is free of loopholes, and directly applies to the way pre-construction condos are sold, built, and closed.

I wanted to think of something so simple – something everybody has done before, and thus something as innocuous as buying a pair of jeans came to mind.

I first had this idea back in 2013, and on my “BLOG TOPICS” list I keep on my computer’s desktop, it has sat there, every day, at the top of the list.

The problem was that I really wanted to make this look good, and I was afraid to half ass it.  While working 70-hours a week, and in the midst of a busy market, this wasn’t something that I had that high on the proverbial “to do” list.

When 2015 rolled around, and having failed to implement a couple other new blog features that I had in mind (ie. the forum…), I made this a priority.

My assistant reached out to one of her old professors, who put her in touch with a recent film school graduate, who was looking for projects and work.

After realizing that nobody was going to allow us to film in their actual store, we looked for a set location, and found some random warehouse in Corktown where we could do our best to create the basic look of a clothing store.

This video was the first in the series, which now has seven episodes, and while “The Real Estate Seminar” was probably a better feat, and while “The Discount Agent” was a far better production, I always felt that “Pre-Construction Jeans” had the best point, and, well, it was where it all started.

If you haven’t seen the video already, then I have no idea why you’re reading this today.  Are you new?  Did you just find me?  Do you think I talk too much?

So that’s it, folks!

Wow.  2,658 words.

This is nuts.  And I’m sweating bullets here at 2:27am.  I started this when my wife went to bed at 9:20…

And to think I was going to do both a Top-10 for “posts” and a Top-10 for “stories,” in the SAME blog!

Stay tuned on Tuesday for Part-2, and the “Top-5 Real Estate Stories of 2015.”

15 Comments

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  1. A Grant says:

    What kind of city to you want?

    If David’s taught us anything this year (or any year), what people living in the core want are mixed use urban areas, walkable neighbourhoods, and quiet residential streets without any thru-traffic. This is not achieved by continuing to design cities almost exclusively for the automobile, with everything else in an afterthought.

    If we want our cities to grow and prosper, we must reapportion limited public space away from the car, so that our urban environments are more accessible to all forms of mobility, including pedestrians and cyclists. Some people are going to be inconvenienced – and I’m sorry. However, unless we want to revert to a 1960s vision of the city with Forest Hill, the Annex, Kensington Market, Rosedale and Chinatown destroyed in favour of expressways, the current transportation model is not simply sustainable.

  2. Kyle says:

    @David

    Congratz on a great year of real estate blogging and on being recognized as a Best Real Estate Marketing Play in 2015.

    https://placester.com/real-estate-marketing-academy/best-real-estate-marketing-2015/

  3. moonbeam! says:

    David — amazing blog posts this year, and awesome webcasts!! Your readers are fortunate to have such a well-produced, entertaining, and informative blog. TorontoRealtyBlog.com rules!
    Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to David & Jenna, and to Bosley, and especially to all your readers. Looking forward to lots more in 2016, and I’ll bring sandwiches to all your webcasts! xo

    1. @ Moonbeam

      Thanks Mom! 🙂

  4. Daniel says:

    Awesome post, David! It’s like reliving the year that was! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  5. Boris says:

    Bike lanes are still for losers, wimps and pantywaists.

    Merry christmas, pussies!

    1. Gordy says:

      Oi!, I concur Boris.

      VANITY PROJECTS.

  6. Katie says:

    Noel just once I’d like to see you post something positive on here. David just included the “bike lane” post in his top-5. He’s not hiding it, and not shying away from the criticism and scorn.

    How about instead of hammering him AGAIN, you give him praise for his epic 2,658-word post that we just all used for entertainment for 15-20 minutes? How about a “congrats” on the post, the year that was, the blog posts that were, etc.

    More to the point, why are you talking down to David like you’re an authority figure? “You did an incredible disservice.” “Irresponsible.” “so far off base.”

    Who ARE you? Who are you to be talking on this blog every day like you’re the PM & president of mensa?

    1. Big Al says:

      We have a saying in the media: “Don’t engage them.” Katie, do you notice how David rarely replies to stupid comments? Your reply to Noel not only validates his comment, but it gives him more fuel to rage on.

      You do raise a good point though: David, HUGE CONGRATS on this post, and your 100+ blogs in 2015. Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog!

    2. moonbeam! says:

      I agree with Katie. I am a cyclist and a car owner. I love cycling, have cycled in Torotno, also France and England, and soon in Cuba… But I don’t ride a bike in the rain or in any winter weather. I don’t ride a bike to important appointments or when there are major hills involved or when I have heavy and/or large loads or children to transport. This is not Amsterdam. Dave is absolutely correct in his post and most reasonable people will agree with him.

    3. Joel says:

      The other day I was bored and looked at Garth Turners site. There was a commentor named Noel whom I would assume is the same, based on his admiration of Garth. After reading the comments on that site I can see that Noel is typical of the type that comments there and he has clearly decided to bring his Garth Turner backed real estate bashing here.

  7. Noel says:

    All I can say David, is you are so off base on the bike post you made it isn’t funny. Start riding a bike around the city every for a few months and your view which change 100% guaranteed. Bike ridership is exploding in the city and explodes even more every time more separated lanes are added. It happens to be chicken and egg, though. What you don’t understand is that if lanes are not added then the increase in ridership will not happen and it doesn’t happen instantly after the lanes are added.

    You did an incredible disservice to the bike riders of this city by that irresponsible post. Europe is proof that more separated bike lanes (hopefully physically separated, not just lines on the road) increase bike ridership dramatically. You might want to go there and see.

    1. Gordy says:

      we live in Canada. Its shit weather 70% of the year. Get a grip. Roads are for cars.

      Using Europe as an example for anything is a recipe for disaster.

      You did the world a disservice, Noel, when you came into this world.

  8. Mike says:

    I think it might have been my comment on the bike lane post that mentioned showing condo’s by bike. I thought it was self-explanatory but I guess it wasn’t. See, most people rather than “doubling” their clients on the handlebars, would have suggested to meet their clients at the first listing with their bikes. You then ride to the next listing together. This let’s you show them how convenient city living is without a car.

    Because otherwise you’re going to sit in traffic, pointing out what everyone in the core knows, traffic sucks.

    If you’re buying a condo and want to travel from place-to-place in your car, check out Mississauga.

  9. A Grant says:

    Good picks with respect to the blog posts. That said, “…we have harsh Canadian winters, and many people won’t bike for 3-5 months per year.” The forecast for Christmas Eve is 12 degrees and sunny. Yes, I know this is an odd year weather wise, but let’s not pretend that Toronto is an icebox for 9 months of the year. 😉

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