Here’s a feature I did at the end of last year to recap the 2015 real estate calendar, and along with the “Top Five: Stories Of 2016,” I think it’s the perfect way to finish out this year as well.
The “top stories” might make for a better read – that will be up on Monday. Included will be a lot of links to both media coverage, as well as TRB articles.
But today, I want to look back on the top five blogs here on TRB, in terms of the topics, the comments, the response, and a solid look back at the posts in hindsight…
It’s not easy to come up with a “top blogs” list.
What makes a blog memorable?
And does it need to be memorable?
What if it’s just something I had fun writing? Or something I thought was great, but maybe the readership ignored?
It’s all subjective. How can it not be?
So I’ve looked back at the 150-some-odd blogs from 2016, and the first thing I look at is the topic.
Some of these I barely remember writing. Some of them are bland in my eyes, but some are quite memorable, and the topics are incredibly important.
The second think I look at is the number of comments. A “best blog” should not be a popularity contest, but since some blogs get 3-4 comments, and some get 80, I think the number of comments is important.
And the last thing I look at is the response. Did people agree? Did they disagree? Did the readers engage in a spirited debate, with well-constructed, researched, and insightful arguments? I think that’s incredibly important since the “best blogs” will often be ones that get people thinking about the topics the most.
So without further adieu, let me present to you the “Top Five: Blog Posts Of 2016” as I see them.
5) “An Open Letter To Today’s First-Time Toronto Home Buyer”
“You’re going to hate it.”
That was only one line in my lengthy blog post, directed at first time buyers in Toronto, and that was also the subject line of an email I received from a reader who “thanked” me for crushing her dreams, and as she put it, her “spirit.”
“You’re too honest,” she told me.
I think perhaps, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it” might have been the appropriate response, but instead, I gave her some watered-down pep-talk. If she really wanted to know how I felt, she should have re-read the blog post.
For those of you that haven’t read it, here: “An Open Letter To Today’s First-Time Toronto Home Buyer”, written on May 2nd, 2016.
Whatever happened to “Honesty is the best policy?”
When did half of the buying public decide they didn’t want honesty, but rather they wanted somebody to hold their hand, lie to them, and tell them it was going to be okay?
I just did an interview for a website called “Toronto Storeys.” They have interviewed a bunch of real estate agents, and one of the questions was “Do you have any hot tips for home-buyers in this over-heated market?”
Well first of all, that question is leading – they say “over-heated market.” What’s over-heated? Says who? Is the crash coming? Didn’t I get the memo?
But whereas most of the agents profiled gave some pie-in-the-sky, wishy-washy response, I said this:
My best advice is don’t hope, don’t wish and don’t dream because many frustrated buyers end up becoming market bears. They’re in denial about what’s going on, they’re frustrated with what they could’ve spent for that same house two years ago, so don’t sit around and wish, hope or dream. Don’t dream about a 30 per cent correction because it’s not coming and don’t wish for the opinion that you want to hear — nine people tell you the market’s going up, and one says it’s going down, but you listen to that one person — work in the market you’re in, not the market you want to be in.
I can’t be more honest than that.
And some buyers just don’t want to hear it.
I talked to a young lady from Boston last week; she was referred to me by an agent from Vancouver.
She told me that she was waiting six months to buy, because she wanted to save 10% on the price of her purchase.
I asked her if she had a coupon…
In the end, she and I did not agree on a number of things, and it was like going out on a first date where neither party contacts the other again.
I can’t help her, plain and simple. Every property she sees is “too expensive,” but she freely admits that she’s sat on the sidelines and watched prices climb over the last three years.
My “letter” to first-time home-buyers was not meant to be cynical, or insulting.
It was meant to be honest, and detail the journey they’re about to go through.
I wanted to outline the emotions they’ll experience, and the thought-process they’ll have.
Look, if I can write a 2,500-word blog post about the emotions a man goes through during the birth of his first child, and be honest about that, then how is an honest letter to first-time home buyers, outlining the emotions they are going to go through, any different?
I loved this blog post.
Let me know if you did too.
4) “Toronto’s Property Taxes Need To Be Increased, But How?”
Call this “lighting a fire, and running away,” if you want to.
As I’ve learned over the past ten years, often the controversial topics are the ones that get the most attention.
“Taxes” is a term that will definitely catch eyeballs.
And “Property Taxes” has a larger effect.
Couple those words with “Increase,” and people will stop what they’re doing.
“Toronto’s Property Taxes Need To Be Increased, But How?” from January 13th, 2016. I started the year with a BANG, did I not?
This blog post resulted in a whopping eighty-one comments, which was TRB’s high water mark for 2016.
And while half of the comments might have been in agreement, there were some scathing ones from people who thought I should shut my mouth, stick to writing about kitchen backsplash, and leave politics alone.
Where’s the fun in that?
Toronto Realty Blog.
“Realty” means I write about real estate.
“Blog” means I write about whatever the hell I want.
And “Toronto” means I write about Toronto.
Toronto’s property taxes are, and forever will be, a huge topic on this blog, and just because a person doesn’t agree with the contents of a blog, doesn’t mean I should shy away from the topic.
Toronto has the lowest property taxes of any city in Ontario.
That’s important. Let me write that again, in bold:
Toronto has the lowest property taxes of any city in Ontario.
We’re the largest city, which means we need the most, and our infrastructure is decrepit, and pathetic.
Just this week, City Council approved road tolls – something I first mentioned in a blog post way back on December 11th, 2009. I guess City Council should just come to me seven years before making any decisions.
My idea, of course, was to tax non-residents of Toronto, since they’re using our infrastructure, and not paying for it. But that’s a topic for another day. Maybe on in 2017…
But the bottom line is: Toronto needs money. Badly.
City Council apparently voted on a motion to approach the Provincial government about allowing them to impose a municipal income tax! Wow, and here I thought the 54% I pay in taxes was enough already.
They’ve also discussed a municipal sales tax as well.
Taxes, taxes, taxes.
They won’t re-institute the vehicle registration tax. Because that would be such a travesty.
And all the while, here we sit, with the lowest property taxes in the Province.
It’s like the boy who lost his head, got tired looking for it, and just sat down to rest on that round thing by his feet…
3) “The Condo Construction Boom At Yonge & Eglinton”
This was a lot of fun.
It was January, and it was miserable out.
So I got in my car, picked up an extra-large Tim Horton’s, and drove around and around and around the Yonge/Eg area looking for “NOTICE” signs.
You know the ones, right?
They’re more famous now, ever since a young man named Daniel Rotsztain decided to “prank” the City of Toronto and its residents with fake “Development Proposal” signs at sites like Old City Hall and Casa Loma, while all the while, thousands of people passed by without noticing.
My favourite was the proposal to build a 40-storey condominium sticking out of the CN Tower:
In any event, you know what these signs look like, and I spent an entire day driving around Yonge & Eglinton, compiling a master list of all developments either underway, pending, or proposed.
The list was exhaustive.
But the idea came about from the land-assemblies that were going on in the area. I previously wrote “More Land Assembly In Toronto’s Vibrant Yonge & Eglinton,” complete with a video of the site.
And from that blog, I decided that I needed to dig deeper, and examine just how many condos, and how many units, were due to set upon “Young & Eligible,” as the area used to be called.
The blog, “The Condo Construction Boom At Yonge & Eglinton,” came out on March 2nd, 2016.
A paltry thirty-one comments, sure.
But the take-away here was more important.
There would be 9,464 units completed between 2015 and 2020.
There were only 2,227 units completed between 2000 and 2014.
And of course, everybody who read the blog got to see this snazzy map that I made:
2) “Tales From The Fall Market”
This is cheating, I suppose, since this is technically three separate blogs.
But I absolutely love writing “series,” and I wish I had the time, the subject matter, and the patience to do it more often.
Before I forget, I wrote an epic 4-part series two years ago called, “The Tao Of The 2014 Buyer.”
You can read the first part HERE and then click “next” to read each successive chapter.
It was a long read, but a crazy story! It detailed my experience working with a young couple who made a record (a record, for me, that is) nine offers before they bought a house. I think my previous record was five, and that happened only once. 3-4 is a solid learning curve, but this one poor couple……nine……just, wow.
Anyways, I figured if you like reading series, then you might like the link to that one.
As for “Tales From The Fall Market,” I had the idea toward the end of the summer when I felt the calm before the storm. Everybody was secretly gearing up for a crazy fall – buyers, sellers, agents, mortgage brokers, home inspectors. It was like bracing for a tornado in the middle of an Iowa field; you just knew it was coming, but you kept looking around to see if everybody else was still waiting.
When the fall market began, it was crazy right away.
I had blogged in the summer about the potential for “offer dates” to appear on condos, and not to toot my own horn, but I was right. You can read that here: “Predictions For The Fall Market: Offer Dates On Condos Will Run Rampant.”
And the first story I told in “Tales” was one of my own, where, call me a hypocrite – we were holding back offers on a condo.
In my defence, the last 3-4 units in this complex (it was a condo townhouse, which are always sought after) had offer dates, and it was simply expected by the buyer pool.
The story I told wasn’t so much about the crazy price that we got (it was insane) but rather that the identical unit sold for more money the next week……without parking.
A parking space is worth $30,000, so basically that model unit went up $30K in one week.
The comments on my blog post were more directed toward the buyer agent who told his or her client to make such an offer, and frankly, I guess I don’t blame my readers.
The second story in “Tales” was one about making unconditional offers on condos, which became a trend through the 2016 market, so the story was somewhat timely.
The third story in “Tales” was about a listing I had that received twelve offers, which shocked the hell out of me, since it was in original 1987 condition.
In this blog, I detailed the offer price of every single offer on the table – something no agent would ever do. Except, I did, and I enjoyed it. People always want to know, “Of twelve offers, how many are throw-aways, how many are serious, and how close are they?”
Well, if you want to know, read the blog post.
That was a fun series for me, and often the craziest stories are the most fun to read as well.
1) “Reduced Supply & Increased Demand: What Are The Reasons?”
Number one, eh?
The best blog of the year.
Wow, that’s tough to pick, but let me explain why this seemingly innocuous post is my #1.
On August 15th, 2016, I wrote a blog post called, “Toronto’s Real Estate Problem: Simple Supply & Demand.”
The post spawned sixty-five comments, which is a hefty number for TRB.
The blog post focused on the massive decline in active listings, which coupled with the increase in sales, has resulted in massive increases across the board on PRICE.
To me, it’s very simple.
You don’t need to be an economics major to see that lower supply, with higher demand, will result in higher prices.
Draw an axis, a curve, and move it up and down if you want to.
But if you read that blog post, you’ll see a 30% decline in active listings, and a 10% increase in overall sales, so you won’t need an economics background to draw the logical conclusion.
If you’re willing to accept that the reason prices are going up is because of reduced supply and increased demand, then the next logical step is to look at the “why.”
So my blog post, “Reduced Supply & Increased Demand: What Are the Reasons?” was the answer to that “why,” and appeared on August 17th, 2016.
And I outlined the following eight reasons:
1) Fewer Housing Starts & Completions
2) More Rentals
3) Less Inventory From The Baby-Boomers
4) Prices In The Suburbs
5) Higher Acquisition Costs For Developers
6) No Land To Build
7) Transaction Costs
8) Being “Stuck” In Your Starter Home
If you’re just reading that list of eight criteria above, and you did not click on the link and read the whole story, then you’re missing out.
In fact, you’d be remiss if you didn’t read some, or all, of the forty-six comments from TRB readers that followed.
Because that is half the reason why I consider this blog post to be #1.
I have a very savvy, intelligent, and informed readership. For that, I am incredibly grateful. And for a typical blog post, the comments are insightful, and they add value.
But once in a while, I’ll post a blog where my readers share personal circumstances, and that’s exactly what happened with this blog post.
My readers began to chime in with how they’re affected by #8, or #3, or #7, etc.
Another recent post of mine, “Who Is Moving Outside Toronto, And Why?”, led to fifty-three comments, more than half of them detailing my readers’ personal circumstances, in where they live, why, and when they moved. That is the best value-add a comment can provide. I didn’t include this blog in my Top-Five, since it’s literally from last week and I wanted to dig back a bit further. But when my readers share their personal circumstances, I think that makes for the best blogs.
I suppose the other half of why this blog was #1 was simply the list from 1-to-8.
It’s a really simple answer, in hindsight.
When you see that list in front of you, you say, “Yeah, sure, that makes sense. Those are some great reasons why there’s less supply.”
But for all the bitching and moaning people do in Toronto when it comes to real estate prices, nobody ever wants to ask WHY.
WHY are prices so high?
That’s a boring story for the media.
They’d rather find a sad-sack couple who will go on camera, or take a photo with their dog with bottom-lip curled over top-lip, and a quote that says, “We’ve been left behind by the market.”
So allow me to toot my own horn for putting together an actual list of reasons why supply is down, which is the reason why, along with increased demand, prices are UP.
So there you have it.
An exhaustive summary.
Approaching 3,000 words, and I don’t even want to count how many hours this took me.
But the best part is – we get to do this all over again on Monday, with the “Top Stories” edition.
So if I’ve missed your favourite blog from 2016, please let me know below!