This is becoming an annual feature, now in my third year of providing both the “Top Five Blog Posts” as well as “Top Five Real Estate Stories,” the latter of which you’ll see on Wednesday.
Combing through the 2017 archives, some 150 posts, was a real trip! To see how we started the year, where the conversations took us, and the topics we covered – it was a welcome series of flashbacks!
So today, let’s take a look at the “Top Five” blog posts, chosen by yours truly. Don’t worry, you’ll have your chance to chime in as well…
What goes into picking a “top blog,” you ask?
How do I pick five from 150?
Well off the top of my head, I have to think there are certain topics that make for great blogs, whether it’s all the government regulation thus far in 2017, the insane spring market, prices in general, hot-button issues like rentals, or any sort of “one-off” posts that caused a stir.
Then I head into the comments section of the blog, and look for anything that really got readers engaged. Anything over, say, 50-60 comments, is significant. But anything over 100 means there was some real debate! As you’ll see below, one particular post made 100 comments look like it was nothing…
These “top five” posts are quite subjective, but as I said, they’re chosen by me.
They represent the most important and/or memorable topics, the best response from readers, and the ones I had the most fun with.
So without further adieu…
5) Should The Government Regulate Rent Increases?
This blog was nothing, if not timely.
The conversation started back in February, and shortly thereafter, I put it up on TRB for debate.
March 1st, 2017 – “Should The Government Regulate Rent Increases?”
The blog spawned a whopping 137 comments, and the debate was fierce.
Then about six weeks later, the Liberal government introduced their “16 Point Plan,” the second point of which referred to new rent control legislation.
The irony is – an overwhelming majority of the 137 comments on my blog post were anti-rent-control, and yet the government introduced them anyways.
But that’s what governments do.
Down in the U.S.A., only 27% of the population is in favour of the new tax legislation, but the Republicans are implementing them regardless. I’m pretty sure if the approval number was 7%, the tax reforms would still go through, but I digress…
The rental legislation we saw here in Ontario can be traced back to a series of articles that Shannon Martin from the CBC produced back in February of 2017.
And whoever said it took an army of people to bring about change?
In 2016, I was sitting here writing this very same column, touting the Globe & Mail’s Kathy Tomlinson for changing Vancouver real estate forever, when she broke the story about “Shadow Flipping,” and then another piece on foreign tax evasion. The B.C. government responded with new legislation to address both issues.
So here in Toronto, where renters were “taking it to the streets,” the government eventually started to listen.
And in one of many attempts by Kathleen Wynne to increase her approval rating from a low of 8% last year (my prediction here, folks: she will win again in 2018), the Ontario Liberals brought in rent controls, despite every economist with a beating pulse suggesting this would have an adverse affect on the market.
In my post, I went off on the idea of “entitlement,” in what would become a recurring theme on TRB.
I’ve always felt that, especially in the last year or more, much of our society has this incredibly misplaced sense of entitlement that was never present in generations previous.
When it comes to Toronto real estate, the entitlement is rampant.
And because of our socialist government at all three levels, not only do they allow people to believe this misnomer that everybody in the country “should” be able to afford a home, they actually promote it.
Realists, like myself, or most of the people who commented on the March 1st blog, would suggest, “If you can’t afford to live in Toronto, then don’t live in Toronto.”
But that’s not how much of society, specifically the entitled group, see things.
And thus, after a barrage of proverbial man-on-the-street interviews with Joe Q. Public, crying foul that he or she wants to live at King & Spadina, but can’t afford to, the Liberal government stepped in and introduced rent controls, as what can only be described as a knee-jerk reaction to a rash of media attention on the subject, for a period of perhaps 4-5 weeks earlier this year.
The March 1st blog is actually kind of ironic, because the content, and the comments, referred to ideas and principles that were the complete opposite of what the government eventually relied upon one month later…
4) Another Pre-Construction Condo, Cancelled: Who Is To Blame?
This one was fairly recent, so many of you will have it fresh in your minds.
It didn’t register exceptionally-high on the discussion-meter, with only 53 comments, but it spawned a follow-up post that I think is perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done on TRB (more on that in a moment).
Here’s the first blog:
November 13th, 2017 – Another Pre-Construction Condo, Cancelled: Who Is To Blame?
In short, a condominium project called “Museum FLTS” was cancelled, with buyers being given their original deposits back, plus interest, in what is a seldom-used, but not unforeseen “out” by the developer, for whatever reason he felt prudent.
In my mind, that’s simply “end of story.”
But in the minds of the buyers who bought into the project, and some of the media who picked up the story, this was, in a sense, “unfair.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot of awful things that go on in the pre-construction condominium industry. It’s why I’ve never sold one, in 14 years, and why I’ve been writing about the pitfalls of pre-construction condos for a decade.
However, we discussed “entitlement” in the #5 blog of 2017 above, and that theme rears its ugly head here once again, because the story that was sold to us by the media was that these poor, hard-done-by, blessed-souls who purchased into the Museum FLTS were unjustly wronged by an evil developer who did something he really shouldn’t have.
In reality, the developer did what he, and every other developer, are contractually allowed to do, which is cancel the project, at a certain point, before a certain date.
Again, end of story.
I took a decent amount of flak for that post, including multiple emails from people who bought into the project.
I emailed one buyer back and said that “buying into a pre-construction condominium project is no different from betting on the Dallas Cowboys to cover the spread, or putting your chips on #24 Black on the roulette wheel.”
This buyer emailed back, disagreeing, saying that “only 2% of condo projects are cancelled, so it’s not gambling, but rather taking a very minor risk.”
This buyer completely missed my point about gambling.
Gambling is putting your money down, on a particular outcome, when you have zero control over that outcome, and when there are a host of variables working against you.
So a few weeks later, I did a follow-up post on this subject:
November 29th, 2017 – “Pre-Construction Condo Builder Forms And What You Need To Know”
In this blog video, I took a handful of selected “builder forms” and read through them, highlighting clauses and paragraphs which I found to be completely unreasonable, and at times, laughable.
For the buyer that suggests, “Buying a pre-construction condo doesn’t have much risk because only 2% of condos are cancelled,” I suggest he or she watch that video!
Delays, deficiencies, material and immaterial changes, approximate square footage, artist’s renderings, common elements, alterations, levies and closing costs, breach of contract, occupancy, assignment, substitute materials, economic viability, representations by salespeople, and on, and on, and on.
In this video blog, I went through about 8-10 common clauses that you, as a buyer, should have no business agreeing to.
As I said in the video, to the camera, speaking to pre-construction condo buyers, “You signed this!”
Pre-construction condo buyers who cry foul because something didn’t go their way, should re-read the contract they signed, without ever reading in the first place, and take responsibility for their poor decisions.
3) Liberal Government’s “16-Point Plan” Comes Up 14 1/2 Points Shy
Boy, does politics ever get me in a mood.
Any newspaper article, any online click bait, any FWD from a friend; it’s a surefire way to ruin my day.
I guess what seems to bother me the most, as it does with everybody, is that I always think I know best!
I really, truly, believe that I know better than the people who are actually elected, and in charge.
Just like everybody else out there…
All through the scorching-hot spring real estate market, we heard rumblings about “the government taking action,” and I’ll show you many related blogs on Wednesday.
But in April, we finally got the Liberals’ “16 Point Plan,” which was complete and utter nonsense, in my opinion.
April 24th, 2017 – “The Liberals’ 16-Point Housing Plan Comes Up 14 1/2 Point Shy”
Folks, I didn’t pull any punches, and neither did my readers, posting 59 comments on the blog, not to mention 82 comments on the preceding blog, “Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan: Have Your Say.”
I spent hours reading this “plan,” over and over, to make sure I had it right. And the more I read it, the more I realized two things:
1) It was full of holes.
2) Very little of it would actually address the perceived “problem”
So much of what was written referred to ideas to be conceived at a later date, suggestions about actions, maybe/sorta/likely policies that were yet to be defined, and indefinite timelines.
For example, point #8:
“Providing municipalities with the flexibility to use property tax tools to help unlock development opportunities….”
As I wrote throughout the blog post, much of what was provided in the 16-Point plan didn’t even mean anything!
That sentence above is gibberish. It has zero meaning. It’s simply a bunch of words strung together to appease the 97% of the readers (representing maybe 8% of the population) who will skim that, think, “This is too rich for my blood,” and move on.
“Look! It’s the government! And they’re doing……stuff.”
Leave them unchecked for long enough, and they’ll basically just sit at their desks, sharpening pencils all day.
And that’s basically what this 16-Point Plan really was: a bunch of action-words, with indeterminate dates, strung together to make the government look like they were taking action. And in the end, we got rent controls, and a foreign buyer’s tax. That’s two points, for those of you that are counting.
One of the points was about elevator repairs, for Chrissake!
Several of the points were simply about creating more groups, panels, committees, advisory boards, et al, who would soak up more taxpayer money, and not give anything back to the public interest.
In the end, none of this mattered.
The government got what they wanted: their mere presence in front of a giant logo for the 16-Point-Plan was enough to scare the pants off buyers, and cool the market for the first time in nearly two decades.
2) Tao Of The 2017 Buyer (4 Parts)
The reviews on this feature were mixed, but I have to say, I liked it!
My feelings are never hurt when people comment things like, “Why the hell are you blogging with ‘funny photos’ today when there are important mortgage changes on the horizon???” I understand that everybody has a different preference, and while personally, I would have never gone for dinner at a friend’s house when I was younger and told his mother, “Your meatloaf tastes like shit,” I don’t blame people for voicing their opinions on what blog topics they like on TRB, and which they don’t like.
I divided this 10,000 word odyssey into four parts:
Tao of the 2017 Buyer: Part I – September 25th, 2017
Tao of the 2017 Buyer: Part II – September 27th, 2017
Tao of the 2017 Buyer: Part III – September 29th, 2017
Tao of the 2017 Buyer: Part IV – October 2nd, 2017
What can I say? I’m a sucker for multi-part stories. I just like using the words “To Be Continued.” It reminds me of Back To The Future from when we were kids.
I found this tale incredibly interesting for two reasons:
1) The clients made nine offers before finally buying a home.
2) The journey started in the spring, and ended in the late summer – through the transitioning market.
There were so many lessons to learn through four blog posts, and NINE offers made by my buyer-clients.
The search started in March with a meeting of the minds on what they were looking for, when the market was red-hot. And the search ended in the dead of summer, after the market had changed, and perhaps at the low-point of 2017.
It was incredible.
We looked at all different housing styles – detached and semi-detached, bungalow’s and 2-storey, east, west, and central.
And as I mentioned in the last part of the series, I think we ended up with the best house of them all, at a price we never could have paid for the home back when our search first began.
Some of my readers felt the story was “unsensational,” but others saw it as an in-the-trenches account of what it’s like trying to transact in this market, whether it’s in the red-hot spring, or the cooling summer. The story probably scared the pants off those readers who have yet to buy a home, and made those who did buy, and didn’t have to bid NINE times, feel quite lucky.
1) Predictions For The Fall Market
I get asked all the time, “What is the most comments you’ve ever received on a blog post?”
Believe it or not, this isn’t something I track.
For a long time, the high-water mark was my now-infamous 2014 blog post on the Printing Factory Lofts, which at last count, had 148 comments.
But if there were a “record” for most comments, it would, without a doubt, be the 202 comments that appeared on this post.
September 5th, 2017 – “Predictions For The Fall Market.”
I have to be honest, folks, I never saw the response coming.
That’s what’s so interesting to me – even after all these years, sometimes I still don’t know how a blog post will be received.
I remember about 4-5 years ago, I wrote a post about some random cold-caller who wanted me to show him a property I had up for lease, at 6pm on Christmas Eve. I thought it was nuts, and I wrote a blog about it. The next day, my comments section was littered with people asking me, “Where do you get off suggesting you ‘shouldn’t have to work’ on Christmas Eve?”
So while I figured that there would be a response to my Fall, 2017 predictions, I didn’t think this would be the record-setting TRB post that it now is.
I also didn’t expect the scorn from some commenters!
We always have this conversation about “bulls versus bears,” and I maintain that market bears are far more talkative. But I also maintain that many market bears are bears out of circumstance, ie. they didn’t buy when they woulda, coulda, shoulda, and now the only way to sleep at night is to continuously shout about a massive market correction.
1) Prices Will Go Up
This was an easy one, for me.
And yet, so many people slammed me for suggesting this.
I referred to this as a “slam dunk,” and I wasn’t being salesy; it just seemed like an easy prediction to make.
Prices did, indeed go up, and this prediction proved correct.
But there were three other predictions within this one:
i) The September Average Sale Price will be higher than July or August.
July’s average sale price was $746,218.
August’s average sale price was $732,292.
September’s average sale price was $775,546.
This prediction proved correct.
ii) The October Average Sale Price will be higher than September.
September’s average sale price was $775,546.
October’s average sale price was $780,104.
This prediction proved correct.
iii) Prices will go up 10% from the summer.
August’s average sale price was $732,292.
October’s average sale price was $780,104, and November’s average sale price was lower – at $761,757.
This prediction proved incorrect.
2) Conditions will be reminiscent of the spring – and some buyers will be caught off guard.
My “reminiscent of the spring,” I was referring to offer dates, bully offers, multiple offers, and properties selling well over asking.
There’s no question about it – the fall was not the same as the spring.
But “reminiscent” of the spring? Absolutely.
Ask anybody who lined up in a 21-offer melee last Monday to submit an offer on a unit at 323 Richmond Street how they felt.
I submitted eighteen offers on freehold homes this fall (September onwards) for buyer clients, and fifteen were in competition.
Call this subjective, but this prediction proved correct.
3) Rental battles will be fierce.
Again, this is subjective.
And again (in my opinion) this was a very easy prediction to make.
There’s a massive shortage of rental properties in Toronto, vacancy rates are now under 1%, and the market bears who predicted
But there’s no question in my mind (and ask anybody you know who tried to rent a condo this fall), this prediction proved to be correct.
4) It will go by very fast.
This isnt’t much of a prediction, so I’m not going to give myself a mark here.
5) The government will continue to meddle in the market.
I almost feel like this isn’t much of a prediction either, since it’s so easy to call.
Plus, this is a topic we’re going to explore at length on Wednesday, so let’s just leave it for now.
All in all, I felt vindicated by my predictions, although outside of perhaps talking about spring-like market conditions, nobody really cared about anything except for the predictions on price.
And once again, I would suggest that the readers who raked me over the coals for my predictions that “prices would increase,” were the same people who sit back and hope the Toronto market drops by 70% so they can afford a detached, 4-bedroom home for $550,000.
That’s one thing about our market that will never change…
So there you have it, folks!
Excuse the 3,000+ words, but it’s not easy to explain, describe, and opine about my very own “top-five” blogs from the past year in anything resembling short order.
I remember writing all of these blogs as though it were yesterday.
The real estate market moves so fast, as does life, I suppose.
One moment you’re starting out in January, with no inventory, suggesting that “this market is about to jump,” and in the blink of an eye, you’re in the summer months. Not long thereafter, you’re looking back at it all, just shaking your head. “Where did all the time go?”
I can’t believe what a ride 2017 was, and in four short weeks, we’re going to start it all over again.
If any of you have your own ideas for what could have, or should have, been included above, please share.
These “top-five” are through my own eyes, and we certainly all have favourites.
On Wednesday, we’ll switch gears to the “top five stories,” of which there will certainly be some overlap with the five ideas above, but we’ll also compare these five stories to what we discussed last year, and see if there are any themes that remained at the forefront.