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…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…