The Friday Rant: Get A (Toronto) Life!

August 28th, 2013 marked the first time I ever paid for a copy of Toronto Life.  I just had to know what all the fuss was about…

This month’s Toronto Life has ranked all 140 neighbourhoods in Toronto, and from the rankings, to the accuracy, to the pricing – they show us why their publication is truly second-rate, and should be thrown directly into the garbage, where it belongs…

TorontoLifeGarbage

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I actually took a photo of this magazine in the garbage for dramatic purposes.  But this isn’t just symbolic – it really is where this magazine is going once I’m done writing this column.

I had never actually walked into a store and bought a copy of Toronto Life before Wednesday night.  It’s usually something you pick up at your doctor’s office and accidentally walk out with, or at one point, I believe it was included with my subscription to the Globe and Mail.

I’m not a regular reader of Toronto Life, although I don’t know if anybody truly is.  But I was asked by so many people if I had read their “rankings” of Toronto’s neighbourhooods, so I had to see what all the chatter was about.

I’ve never been a fan of this publication.  They’ve been calling the demise of the real estate market for close to a decade now.  I keep a file of many of their articles and past issues, and I just pulled out an article from March of 2008 called, “That Sinking Feeling,” which is a story about how the real estate market is about to collapse.  Yeah, well, the average house price in March of 2008 was $380,338, and in July of 2013 it was $513,246, so if you listened to the geniuses at Toronto Life, you only missed out on a 35% gain…

Again in 2010, Toronto Life published a guide to the impending market crash.

Here’s the cover:

TorontoLifeBubble2010

Note the text: “When it will pop and how bad it will be.”

Again, house prices continued to rise since this issue was published, but I digress…

It’s not that I expect Toronto Life to have a crystal ball.  Nobody does; not I, not my colleagues, and not the happy-go-lucky Realtor that tells you, “It’s a great time to get into the market, the sky is the limit!”

But I do expect for a publication of this stature, producing an article gaining as much attention as this August’s “The Best Places To Live In The City,” to do so accurately, without bias, with more attention to detail, and with some sort of adherence to facts about the city we live in.

It’s almost as if this issue was put together by people who know nothing about real estate, and nothing about Toronto.

If you’re not familiar with the article, and you can’t stomach paying $6.95 for the issue, click HERE for the article, “The Best Places To Live In The City.”

My problems with this issue are many, but I’d like to start with a “micro” problem that is somewhat indicative of the entire article.

1) Accuracy

Before anything else – before we talk about a possible hidden agenda, or playing favorites, or who the HELL came up with this list, let’s talk about accuracy.

I’d like to think that Toronto Life has enough people on staff, and enough respect for their own publication, that they can avoid making catastrophic mistakes that are identifiable to the naked eye.

Case in point: the average house price in Rosedale-Moore Park.

The very first neighbourhood that is ranked in their list of 140, happens to be (correctly, in my opinion – one of the few things they got right), Rosedale-Moore Park.

But to my absolute horror, I noticed the text “Average House Price: $951,300,” and it made me immediately realize that NOTHING in this article can be taken seriously.

Why?

Because even if you know NOTHING about real estate, you know that the average house price in Rosedale-Moore Park is NOT $951,300.

I just took a poll of people around my office, independently, and asking five people, they came up with: $2M, $2M, $2.5M, $1.8M, and $2M.  Now, those are Realtors, who know the market, but what would you as an Average-Joe think the true average price is?

And how long would it take to get this information?

I timed myself – I have a stopwatch in my gym bag, and I clicked “start,” then logged onto MLS, ran a history of all properties sold in C09, Rosedale-Moore Park since 1/1/2013, pasted the data into Excel, and took an average of the 89 properties that have sold.

The result?

$1,848,438.

And it took me one minute and forty-eight seconds to produce this number.

Why couldn’t the folks at Toronto life put more effort into such an important publication?

This alone is enough to make me put zero stake into this article, but just in case that was a typo, and they meant to add a “1” and make the number $1,951,300, let’s look at some other issues…

2) 140 Neighbourhoods

I might get some push-back from you guys on this one, but I think dividing Toronto into a whopping 140 neighbourhoods only serves to bring up issues with boundaries, and the disparity between neighbouring areas.

For example, the 33rd ranked area, “Glenfield-Jane Heights,” borders on the 93rd ranked area, “Black Creek.”  Now, it’s not like this is Cabbagetown bordering on Regent Park, where there is a pretty identifiable border.  We’re talking about Jane & Finch, which is notoriously the worst area in Toronto (more on this later…), and yet you can divide the 33rd ranked area from the 93rd ranked area by using Finch?

Or in some cases, they really don’t differentiate enough between neighbourhoods!  Hitting close to home, they’ve ranked my area #96 out of 140.  96th!!  They’ve grouped King East and the St. Lawrence Market area in with Moss Park and the Sherbourne towers, and simply called this area “Moss Park.”

I feel as though, on the one hand, these 140 neighbourhoods were created to thicken this magazine, and give the writers something more to talk about.  But on the other hand, the writers demonstrated their lack of geographical prowess by lumping dissimilar areas together.

3) Differing Opinion

There are bound to be differing opinions on these rankings.  In fact, the introduction to the article reads, “The results are bound to be controversial.”

But some of these rankings make absolutely no sense.

They have Rosedale ranked #1, but then Forest Hill is ranked #31.  Personally, I think Rosedale is a better area, as it’s closer to downtown, the houses have more character, and it’s not quite as snooty.  But when I have a client in this price point, they’re looking at these locations in tandem.  Rosedale and Forest Hill are like peanut-butter and jelly, and cannot be separated by THIRTY positions.

Then we have my evil nemesis, CityPlace!  Would you believe that CityPlace is grouped into an area they call “Waterfront Communities-The Island,” and it’s ranked #12 out of 140?

That’s right folks – CityPlace is a better area of Toronto than Forest Hill, Riverdale, Danforth Village, High Park, The Annex, Leaside, Kingsway, Sunnylea, et al.

And right next door to CityPlace, is King West, which is one of the most popular locations for condo-buyers in Toronto.  What does Toronto Life rank this area?  #86.

Yes, CityPlace is #12, but King West is #86.

It’s one thing to talk about a given area and its rank, ie. Kingsway is #59, wow-wow-wee-wa, but to compare areas that are linked by location, stature, or price puts these rankings into even better perspective.

Honestly, we could sit here all day and debate these individually ranked neighbourhoods but we’d never reach a consensus.  But can we agree that the rankings, overall, are pretty poorly done?

4) Hidden Agenda?

As I alluded to earlier, part of me thinks that these rankings were done strategically.

There’s just no way that Jane/Finch could be ranked 33rd out of 140.  I’m not trying to be insensitive, or adhere to stereotypes, but come on – it’s Jane & Finch, man!

And CityPlace?  Really?  #12?

Why are they hating on Roncesvalles at #80?  It’s only one of the most popular locations in Toronto.

Playter-Estates is #66?  Try telling that to the people who live there and send their kids to Jackman, which is one of the most sought-after school districts in Toronto.

Baby Point is #78?  Does Toronto Life hate old money?  Do they hate rich folks?

I know there’s more to these rankings than just the price of houses, so before you accuse me of only looking at these rankings based on the price of real estate…

5) Adherence To Ranking Criteria

This is how Toronto Life has, apparently, come up with their rankings:

15% – Housing
13% – Crime
11% – Transit
11% – Shopping
10% – Health
10% – Entertainment
8% – Community
8% – Diversity
7% – Schools
7% – Employment

If that’s truly the criteria they used to rank these areas, and there was no switching-around, then I have no idea how the 140 neighbourhoods got the ranks that they did.

And for the record – what does “Housing” mean?  If it’s a bunch of Toronto Life readers giving poor grades to Forest Hill because they can’t afford those houses, then this whole ranking system is shot to hell.  Is “Housing” an affordability scale, or do better houses (meaning more expensive) houses, make for better grades?

And “Employment?”  What is that?  There are no job opportunities in Rosedale, FYI, unless you want to be a crossing guard, or teach tennis at the park.  However, all the people who live in Rosedale have high-paying jobs, downtown, or elsewhere.  So what does “Employment” actually mean?

What the hell is “Health” anyways?  How could you possibly rank an area based on that?  Are we talking about smokestacks polluting outside your bedroom window?  Or are we talking about access to a walk-in clinic across the street?

How is “Schools” only 7%?  That’s one of the biggest drivers of real estate in the city!  People will target a neighbourhood specifically for their schools!  What does it say about this ranking system that SHOPPING is more important than SCHOOLS?  I guess the people who voted on these areas care more about their shoes and purses than they do about their children, present or future…

Last but not least, let’s remember that these TEN categories were chosen by Toronto Life, and every person in Toronto would weigh these categories differently.  Some people would put “Diversity” around 40%, if they were New Canadians, for example, and wanted a demographic of people that was easier to feel comfortable with.  And some people would put “Housing” at 60%, if we’re really talking about the best places to LIVE in the city.

 


Maybe I’m making something out of nothing, but I don’t think I am.

Maybe this article was destined for controversy and debate, but I really don’t think that was the point of it.  Although, there was no shortage of real estate companies and developers (Christie’s, Chestnut Park, Minto, RedPin.ca, Mizrahi Developments, Minto, New Amherst, etc.) that paid for advertising in this issue, so is it possible that Toronto Life could have put anything into this magazine, and people would read it?

I’m sure that the people who put this issue together worked very hard, and that they’re smart, organized, and capable.  I certainly do not want to take anything away from the sheer amount of effort that went into this publication.

But the results of Toronto Life’s “The Best Places To Live In The City of Toronto” gets an “F” in my books, as it’s misleading, inaccurate, biased, and I hope that no active house-hunter puts any stake into it, whatsoever…

25 Comments

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. […] in TL’s own story, the move smartly real estate blog, the Urban Toronto discussion board, David Fleming’s real estate blog, another real estate blog, The Grid and […]

  2. oren says:

    Great post.

  3. haha says:

    8% diversity— what a silly joke, no one wants to live in a diverse neighbourhood, especially the politically correct types who proclaim to love diversity.
    toronto life is disgusting

  4. Julio Z says:

    Regardless the name of 140 best places to live, GTA might be on the top of Seller Market II within 3 to 5 years, along with the crush of Stocks Markets between 2016-2018. If you do not believe it, do your own research by reading the Hot Commodities “Jim Rogers” and “The New Great Depression” by Richard Duncan.

  5. Paully says:

    Regarding your first point, Toronto Life could not run the average numbers like you did, since the Real Estate Cartel that you are part of, does not make that data directly available to the public. It has to be filtered through a member of the cartel.

    To play devil’s advocate regarding the overall list, perhaps the rankings were actually based on where Toronto Life’s biggest advertisers live and work?

    1. Greg says:

      That doesn’t mean they can pull the number out of their ass and make complete fool of themselves like this.

  6. Devore says:

    “August 28th, 2013 marked the first time I ever paid for a copy of Toronto Life. I just had to know what all the fuss was about…”

    Mission accomplished. Next month’s issue feature: Realtors; are they really worth the cost?

  7. Julie says:

    I’m not sure what they were drinking when they came up with some of those ratings, but aside from that, what makes a top neighbourhood? I’m sure we all agree on items like low crime rates and good schools, but past a certain point, what factors do you look at? Ten years ago, we lived in a quiet neighbourhood where the kids could play on the street and we had to get in the car to reach anything we needed. We had little kids and it was a wonderful oasis of greenery and quiet. Once those kids grew up and I became their chauffeur, our current neighbourhood, which is near restaurants, cinemas, shops and the subway, is so much more suitable to the lifestyle of a busy family with teens. Both neighbourhoods were perfect in their own time.

  8. Frosty Johansen says:

    The ratings are irrelevant, of course. Toronto Life, along with other local “lifestyle” publications like the Saturday Star and the Globe, have done more to stoke the flames of real estate envy and aspiration than anything else. Are they rags or not? (Factually) wrong or right? Who cares! The Real-Estate-Industrial-Complex in this city needs them.

  9. Kyle says:

    How about an unbiased David Fleming top 10 Toronto neighbourhoods post?

  10. Floom says:

    Clearly most of the neighborhoods were ranked using a random number generator, then they filled in the text. Cityplace over King West – laughable

  11. Cee says:

    Based on Housing rankings.. Forest Hill is #1 and Rexdale-Kipling is #7. I don’t understand the criteria they used and how these two areas would be remotely similar.

    I don’t take their articles seriously but they are fun to read. However, I do have to say that I am slightly offended that they ranked my area lower than Malvern.

  12. Hal 9000 says:

    Also what is diversity… Is it negative if you live in a diverse immigrant laden area…for instance Eglinton and Oakwood is diverse and its a bad area, Regent Park…what about Sherbourne south of bloor down by `needle park`. Diverse yes, full of crime and immigrants, yes.

    Rosedale and Forest Hill are generally less diverse I would argue, lots of anglo saxon and jewish money. So do they get knocked for this or not. Toronto is such a diverse city that why would you want more of it when you go home beats me.

    Toronto LIfe is a complete rag for all the reasons Fleming mentioned and even more. Dont ever buy the restaurant issue!!!

  13. AndrewB says:

    So Jane and Finch is 33rd? So somehow, Jane and Finch has more accessibility, better health, lower crime and better schools than many of the best parts of the city? That makes no sense.

    King West 86th?Parkdale isn’t even Jane and Finch bad.

  14. Joe Q. says:

    I think that rankings like these are just meant to provoke controversy and sell copies. The neighbourhood boundaries are always going to be arbitrary and the “research” was probably done by a student intern. IMO Toronto Life is mostly puffy but there are some good feature articles now and then (investigative etc.) Not sure where else we can find good local journalism these days.

    1. jeff316 says:

      We don’t usually read much of it but given that you get two or three ok articles per year and that I’ve bought subs that are almost as expensive as a year’s subscription it’s worth it.

  15. Huuk says:

    I agree with 3 out of 4 of your points. Your point #2 about the area borders being design by Toronto Life, are actually created by the City of Toronto – http://www.toronto.ca/demographics/profiles_map_and_index.htm

  16. Julia says:

    I’m at Yonge and Eglinton – ranking of 17 overall. However, Yonge and Eg. got a SIX on shopping? 119 out of 140 when it comes to shopping. How do they figure that? I rarely ever use my car anymore because I can get everything in the area, but I guess Toronto Life is looking for something other than groceries, movies, bookstores, clothing stores, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Oh well, at least the geniuses at Toronto Life ranked my new neighbourhood of Yonge and Eg. higher than that awful neighbourhood I came from – Forest Hill South!!

  17. Geoff says:

    Yeah no kidding. I read with amusement that Don Mills was ranked #2 in the land of TO. Disclaimer: I live in Don Mills, and I love it. I think it’s a great place to live, and raise a family, and I love my nice detached house I can afford because I don’t have $2M to drop. BUT is it better than Roncie? Or BWV? I don’t think so. Basically this is just a reflection of how the math worked, and you can adjust the rankings anyway you want. I don’t think our schools are as good as they say, and Don Mills transit definitely sucks hard and should have been punished more than they were. So while it’s good for me from a PR point of view, anyone who buys a home based on this list is a goofball anyway.

    1. Geoff says:

      Oh and one other little thing – on their map of Don Mills, they included it as going down to Don Mills and Eglinton. Trust me, there’s a word of a difference between Don Mills and Lawrence, and Don Mills and Eglinton. I found that preposterous that they wouldn’t reflect that.

    2. ScottyP says:

      “Anyone who buys a home based on this list is a goofball anyway.”

      Exactly.

  18. Anita Merlo says:

    Great article David. I agree with everything you said and enjoyed reading it. I do recall Toronto Life pointing out that the water front community was an area that would show no gain . In fact it was given a red caution a few years back. I am glad you challenged the article, as I have alway thought Toronto Life was simply an awful rag. Bravo!

  19. Potato says:

    Nothing I’ve ever read in that rag would lead me to assume that your penultimate paragraph is correct. The real low point for me was the article about the finances of young professionals that consisted of the reporter writing down a transcript of their night out at the bar with a non-random assortment of friends. So many other interviews try to blend in a restaurant review of where the reporter met the person. From what I can tell, their strategy is to be deliberately terrible so people will talk and debate, saving on fact-checking, writing, and editing. You’ve fallen into their trap, David!

    1. @ Potato

      DAMMMIT! I’ve been HAD!!!

  20. moonbeam! says:

    wow! my area Birchcliff is #56…better than Casa Loma or Baby Point, who knew??
    Do the writers live in Toronto?

TWEETS