Quick Hits!

This week’s Quick Hits includes stories about $1 Billion products, and products that are FREE!  Then, there are products that are for sale, but are broken, and disguised as working…

Who says honesty is the best policy?

More Bemoaning of BMO?

I think we may have ‘touched’ on this already this week, but it’s interesting to see all the response on BMO’s “Low Rate Mortgage” of 2.99% which is gaining momentum in the mortgage market.

Every day this week, I read articles in The Globe & Mail about possible mortgage rate wars, and what Mark Carney and Jim Flaherty think.

From The Globe: “Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he stands ready to intervene in the housing market again, just as a mortgage price war breaks out among Canada’s major banks.”

“Bankers also argued that the 2.99 per cent fixed-rate mortgages they have begun to offer, after Bank of Montreal spurred a price war, are not a big problem for consumer debt levels, in part because many Canadians still have variable-rate mortgages that are even lower than that.”

So maybe my argument about the potential for misleading uninformed consumers won’t even factor into this discussion!

FOR SALE: Scotia Plaza

If you’ve got a spare $1 Billion burning a hole in your pocket, I have something you might like…

Bank of Nova Scotia is looking to sell its headquarters in Toronto’s financial district, and although the talk is preliminary, experts are saying that it could sell for as much as one billion dollars.  The building was constructed in 1988 and measures 68-storeys, making it Canada’s second-tallest skyscraper.

I keep hearing about this “hot commercial real estate market,” so this should be a quick sale, no?

I’d imagine that the pension funds will be the usual suspects for this type of asset, so I’ll call my friends at CPP, OTPP, and the like to see if I can assist them in any way…

(Solar) Power To The People!

I’ve never quite seen anything like this:

This is an expensive home in an upscale area, and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

I’m not going to tell anybody how to live their lives, and I’m not going to get into a debate about environmentalism, but does anybody else think that this house now looks exceptionally unnattractive?

I mean, I’m sure the owners here are saving a few bucks each month by churning their own butter, combining those little soap-bar leftovers into one giant bar, and using solar power, but I don’t think they’ve increased the value and marketability of their home.

Hey, to each, their own, right?  Maybe not everybody is primarily concerned with money, and maybe they put the environment first.  To that, I say, “bravo, Mother Nature thanks you.”

(Grow) Opportunity!

A new company out of Ottawa called “HomeProof” is launching a registry of properties that housed former drug operations, aka “grow ops.”

This will be the very first registry of its kind, and for a fee, Realtors will be able to search a property’s address against millions of national records consisting of insurance claims and criminal reports.  This is similar to the “CarFax” reports for automobiles, which trace the entire history of a car through accident reports and insurance policies.

HomeProof will provide information on insurance claims on everything from fires to floods, but it’s the grow-operatives that pique most people’s interests!

The service will only be offered to Realtors, home inspectors, lawyers, and other authorized representatives associated with real estate, but the public will be able to pull reports for their own properties.

ADT Versus Alarm Force

A client of mine is comparing options for home security in her new Riverdale house, and the options out there are…..interesting, to say the least.

Alarm Force offers free installation and $25 monthly monitoring.

ADT offers a $1,200 installation and $50 per month monitoring.

But it doesn’t end there!

ADT also offers a multi-page “information package” slandering Alarm Force, complete with supposed testimonials from people called “Member 1” and “Member 2” that describe their displeasure with Alarm Force before they, of course, switched to ADT.

I’m no expert here, but don’t you just want a really loud alarm to sound if and when somebody tries to break into your home?  They’ll either get scared off, in which case “response time” doesn’t matter, or they’ll brutally murder you in a matter of minutes, in which case response time also doesn’t matter.  Call me a cynic.

Broken?  Or Just A Lotta’ Work?

A listing came out this week for a condominium unit, over $500K, in a two-year-old buildint that I would consider to be well above-average in terms of the quality of the finishes.

But I laughed hysterically when I saw the caption in the private “Brokers Remarks” on the MLS listing.  It read:

“Need To Use Lighter For Gas Burner On Stove”

Again, I’m no expert, I’m no chef, and I’ve never been enrolled in culinary school of any kind.

But what kind of stove starts with the use of a lighter?  Maybe a super-duper one in a restaurant – but surely not a normal, run-of-the-mill stove that you’d find in a condominium.

So is there a chance that this stove is actually broken?  And maybe they’re just disgusing this on MLS?  Or maybe it’s not meant to be disguised and it’s just an odd way of disclosing “Stove Is Broken.  Ignitor Needs To Be Replaced.  Current Owner Is Lazy And Just Uses A Lighter.”

Putting On The Ritz

I was a tad confused this week when I saw the hot-sheets and a new listing for a 1-bedroom…..priced at $1,500,000.

I’ve seen a lot of 1-bedroom condos in my time, but I have to be honest – not even in my wildest dream did I think I’d see a 1-bedroom at a million-five.

What’s the future of the “luxurious ultra luxurious luxury” market in downtown Toronto when Trump Towers is looking for $1,900/sqft for some of their remaining units?

No ‘Man’ Is Too Old To Be A Boy

A friend of mine sent me the image below this week, and I’ve been determined to work it into a blog post somehow.  After trying to work this into articles about mortgages, I figured I’d just plop it down here.

For any man who was a child of the 1980’s, you’ll love this.

G.I. Joe had to be the most popular toy when we were growing up, and no amount of Transformers could possibly trump the ongoing battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra.

“Knowing is half the battle.”  I live my life by that message…

If you’re not laughing out loud, then you clearly didn’t watch G.I. Joe as a child…


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  1. JakeyM says:

    Well said, but people need to understand that adding Solar on their home is an purchase that could improve the longer term valuation of their residence if / when they decide to sell. With the environment the way it is going we are not able to overlook any solution that supplies 100 % free power at no cost to both the consumer and more significantly the world!

  2. The economy has picked up and there’s more interest in people buying and selling these days. This seems to be the trend in Calgary. Like this site. Looking for ideas for my website to improve it myself.

    1. Krupo says:

      I don’t usually respond to such cries for website critique, but please, hire a professional photographer.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I suspect that you are right, the panels will turn off some buyers, but the ones that it attracts might actually pay a premium for it. Also, if they invested that much money in panels they may not be planning on moving anytime soon.

    I also think that that house sticks out far less than some of the monstrosities in my neighbourhood (lots of single floor 2-3 bedrooms being replaced with two story 3-4 bedrooms) that just don’t fit with the surrounding houses.

  4. Gord Martin says:

    Eye of the beholder? I, and lots of buyers, would give it pretty low “curb appeal” marks.
    But in a past life I provided management training to Hydro engineer-managers who were sometimes totally mystified by public reactions to “beautiful” hydro towers and lines.

  5. IanC says:

    I’d keep the solar panels (rather than rely on Toronto Hydro to provide reliable, well managed power). The house probably looks great on the inside. You can’t see your roof. It’s the neighbours across the street who might bribe you to take them down.

    If a buyer does not like the panels they can be removed and sold on ebay.

    It’s like a wife on “Property Virgins” who does not like the colour on the kitchen walls, and Sandra says… “Holy Crap, these property virgins, they are like all the rest… it’s just paint you dumb ##XX##AAA”.

    Well panels are more than paint, but I like to watch that darn show…

  6. Joe Q. says:

    I agree that the the “solar house” looks a bit ridiculous, but if the price of electricity goes stratospheric, he might be the last one laughing…

  7. jeff316 says:

    The owners of that first house aren’t trying to save Mother Nature. They’re trying just maximizing the relatively lucrative MicroFIT ROI.

  8. Potato says:

    “does anybody else think that this house now looks exceptionally unnattractive?”

    Well, the wreath in the smack dab middle of the bay window looks idiotic (bay windows were made for trees as decorations), and the fact that the lower window has latticework and the upper doesn’t is a little mismatched, but otherwise I’d say it’s a fine looking hou– wait, did you mean the solar panels?

    Yeah, I’d rather look at solar panels than brown asphalt shingles. And I would say it adds to the value of the house, since I’d pay more for a house with solar panels than without. The only problem with them is that they’re on two faces of the roof, which suggests that at least one set is not optimally pointed… But ugly? No.

    1. @ Potato

      The funny thing is – in this neighbourhood, there are many buyers who would turn up their nose at the house because it looks odd, weird, or just “different.”

      It’s a very homogenous area, and that house sticks out. Whether or not there is more value in the house because of the cost of the solar panels and the associated savings, I know for a fact that many buyers in this area would skip this one just because it looks strange.

    2. JC says:

      Actually, after going back and looking at the house *other* than the panels, I have to wonder why after spending all that dough on solar panels, they couldn’t dress up the front of the house with shutters or something to give it some oomph. Yes, lose the wreath in the bay window and the white window box. Perhaps if we saw some of the other houses in the neighborhood we’d know why you’re saying this one looks so strange.

      Potato, you see plenty of instances like this where panels are installed on two faces of the roof, especially on smaller homes. Usually south and west so that each set of panels can capture the suns rays as it passes through the sky. I believe the house at the URL I gave above has a setup like this. Both sets appear to generate almost the same amount of electricity.

  9. JC says:

    I don’t think the house with the solar panels is exceptionally unattractive. I probably wouldn’t have gone with the panels on the front, but depending on how much revenue they add (I’m assuming their system is tied in to the “grid), I could learn to live with it. There’s a house in Markham that will “profit” a total of 134,000 over a period of 25 years because they generate more electricity than they use. (Assuming the house lasts that long)

    1. Devore says:

      “There’s a house in Markham that will “profit” a total of 134,000 over a period of 25 years because they generate more electricity than they use.”

      That implies the house runs entirely on solar, and then has an excess to feed back into the grid. Is that possible from the roof area alone?

      1. JC says:

        Devore, the way it was explained to me when I was looking into solar for my own house, is that for grid-tied systems you still use hydro from the grid as per usual, but that all (or most) electricity generated from the panels is fed into the grid, separately metered, and you are credited (or billed) for the difference between what you produce and use. It was pretty cool in that days where you aren’t even home, even if it’s cloudy, your house is generating some electricity. I would “guesstimate” that the system pictured could generate certainly between 1,500-2,000 kWh/year, maybe more.

        1. jeff316 says:

          That’s correct. We looked into it to. Rooftop solar MicroFIT is a pretty attractive proposition if you have a newish roof (5 years or less) and have the cash on-hand. But if you need to replace the roof first and then borrow the money for the FIT (canbe upwards of 25 grand) then that really cuts into your profit.