That’s what the 2016 Canada Census told us, and the website www.betterdwelling.com put together an awesome interactive map that highlights areas of the city, and shades them different colours according to the percentage of empty homes.
You can’t miss this, so check it out HERE.
It’s a cool, fun, feature, but after the excitement of tool wears off, the reality sets in: 4.5% of all homes are vacant.
This is a story on which everybody is going to have an opinion…
Do you like Bob Ross?
Sure you do.
We all do.
And I think Netlflix did us all massive favour when they put all of his shows together in a series, and put them at our fingertips.
Wait…….you don’t know who Bob Ross is?
Were you not a child of the 80’s? Or a stoner parent of the 80’s?
Did you have a TV with rabbit-ears, that you plugged into the wall, with no cable box or anything, and got TVO on channel 2, and Global on channel 3?
Didn’t you ever accidentally flip to TVO on channel 2 (because who actually watched TVO?) and see a guy with a massive afro painting a canvas, then keep flipping past TVO and after channel 5, or channel 6, think to yourself, “Wait a minute…….was that guy painting a mountain with trees? I simply must flip back and see what he was doing….”
This was before “Guide” on the remote, and thus we “flippers” would just go up and down, from channel to channel.
And how many of you stopped and watched Bob Ross paint for a half hour?
Still don’t know who I’m talking about?
It’s this guy:
Now you remember!
Whether you were 5, 15, or 55, you watched Bob Ross in the 1980’s. He had that kind of mass appeal.
Every day, in 25 minutes, he would start and finish a painting that would take any hobbyist days to complete.
And thanks to Netflix, we all get to relive our youth (or simply younger years…) by watching Bob paint again in 2017.
Every night when I get home, and I need to unwind, I eat my dinner in front of the TV while watching Bob Ross.
“And now comes the first big decision of this painting.”
“Where does this tree live? Maybe he lives here. And maybe he has a friend.”
“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
And have you ever seen Bob Ross “beat the devil” out of a paint brush?
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen it.
So what is my point to all of this? What does this have to do with real estate?
Well actually, very little.
I did an interview today and I spoke to the columnist about how crazy the market is, how we’re out until 11pm every night on offers, how we scramble to get from the east end to west end, or how we battle the threat of a bully offer.
She asked me, “How do you cope? How do you do this each and every day, all year?”
I told her, quite simply, “Bob Ross.”
And you know what?
SHE KNEW WHAT I MEANT!
There’s nothing more calming than Bob Ross’ voice, or the sound of his “criss-crossing” brush strokes making “little x’s” on the canvas. The sound of his paint-knife creating the outer-shape of a mountain gives me goosebumps.
And in this crazy real estate market, where we eat, breathe, and sleep houses and condos, you need something to take your mind away from the insanity.
It’s not just me.
It’s agents, yes. But it’s also the poor buyers out there, that are getting beat up every single day of the week.
So folks, when you’re feeling down, turn on some Bob Ross. I promise – you’ll mentally check out for twenty-five minutes as you eagerly await every brush-stroke that turns that white canvas into a Rossian-original.
Now, to the subject matter of today’s blog, which I’m less angry about having just watched a Bob Ross episode (see what I mean?).
The 2016 Census was released by Stats Canada, and while we could pick any number of topics to discuss amidst all that data, we are, of course, going to discuss real estate.
Within the census, some of the questions surrounded occupancy of homes, and under the “not regularly occupied” section of the census, over 99,000 people checked the box.
99,000 “not regularly occupied,” or to take that a step further, logically or cynically, “unoccupied.”
As the website www.betterdwelling.com pointed out, this is four times that of Vancouver.
The interactive tool is really neat, but those dark, red areas where 20% or more of the homes are unoccupied are a bit scary.
Can this be right?
Can the area bordered by Rutherford, Dufferin, Steeles, and the 427 really have 35.27% of homes “not regularly occupied?”
Can King West, the Fashion District, and the Entertainment District in downtown Toronto really have 20%+ of condos “not regularly occupied?”
So while the discussion points are endless, there are two questions I really want to ask:
1) Do you believe these numbers are accurate. It’s a census, right? How could these numbers be understated?
2) Are these numbers a cause for concern? Is 4.5% a lot? Does it matter whether the speculators are foreign or domestic?
And the latter point might be a whole other topic of discussion, but perhaps one we can delve into today.
There’s this idea out there that the “foreign buyer” who keeps properties empty is driving up the price of real estate.
But do you distinguish between the foreign buyer who keeps properties empty, and the domestic buyer who rents them out?
Speculation is speculation, after all.
And there’s no shortage of speculators looking to get into the market.
I’m currently working with six people looking to buy condominiums “for investment.”
Four are looking for the yield, and the cash flow. They’re looking for a typical $325,000, 1-bed, 1-bath, that rents for $1,650 per month, or even a 2-bed, 2-bath that costs $550,000 and rents for $2,700 per month.
Two are looking for “something incredibly unique,” mainly of the loft variety, that will be cash flow negative each month, but will appreciate in the long-term, ie. 15-years or more.
I believe five of these buyers started their search in 2017.
So my question comes down to whether you paint all speculators with the same brush, and whether you believe in some sense that “houses are for living” and that anybody who owns more than one is responsible for disrupting the natural relationship between supply and demand for a physiological need, or whether we can admit that people are, always have been, and always will be motivated by personal gain and self-preservation, and the purchase of real estate as an investment is as obvious as eating breakfast in the morning.
If it’s the latter, then all this talk about “speculation” in the market is sour grapes.
And whether somebody buys a property and keeps it vacant, or buys a property and rents it out, doesn’t matter.
They’re both contributing to the same cause: rising real estate prices.
I think the topic of “unoccupied homes” is a sexy one, but it’s yet another attempt to create a “bad guy” on whom we can blame for the fact that we can’t afford what we want.
I don’t think it’s a topic that’s going to go away any time soon.
And eventually, the topic of the foreign buyer’s tax will come up in Toronto too. I don’t ever see that happening here, by the way. I think Vancouver reacted to their market in a drastic, knee-jerk fashion, and we’ll be studying that decision in history books for a long time to come.
But this headline – “99,000 unoccupied Toronto homes” is going to get play. There will be articles in the newspapers to come, and you’ll see a couple news pieces eventually.
So what do you make of it?
Much ado about nothing?
Or does this story have legs?