November 30, 2015 51

Toronto Politics

Ready…..Set…..TAX!

It’s coming.  You have to know that it is.

I don’t know why I’m about to dedicate a blog post to this, or why we’re going to waste time discussing, when I remain 100% convinced that a municipal land transfer tax is coming to every single square inch of the Province of Ontario.

That old saying, “The three things you’re not supposed to discuss: politics, money, and religion,” certainly rings true here.  But let’s start with two of the three, and who knows where we’ll end up…

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November 27, 2015 23

Business

Should CMHC Reintroduce The “Regional Mortgage Cap?”

More likely than not, your answer here will depend on where you live.

But if you’re not aware of what a “regional mortgage cap” is, or was, consider that until 2003, the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) had different maximum dollar amounts on loans they would insure, for different areas, having recognized that prices (gulp!) are different in different areas!

With the growing disparity in average price between cities across Canada, the idea of one mortgage cap for the whole country is getting more and more ridiculous.

Is it time for CMHC to bring back the regional mortgage cap?

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November 25, 2015 29

Business

How Is “Value” Determined?

Not to get too philosophical here, but let’s have a conversation on what “value” actually is.

How is value determined?

Is it set?  Is it created?  Is it negotiated?

There’s no fixed value of real estate, and yet the fluctuations aren’t as pronounced as, say, the stock market.  But is “a property worth what somebody is willing to pay for it?”  Or is there a better measure of a property’s worth, or relative value?

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November 23, 2015 5

View Other Posts

Photos Of The Week!

Maybe I just expect too much when it comes to the way properties are listed for sale in today’s market.

Maybe it’s a matter of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and I should list properties without cleaning them, staging them, fixing them up, or removing piles of garbage from the living room.

Maybe I should make laughable claims in the MLS description, misrepresent the property, and just do crazy things that you’d never expect in today’s red-hot market.  Like…..well, like every photo you’ll see below.  Enjoy!

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November 20, 2015 23

Condos

The Friday Rant: What Is With The Prices At One Bloor?

Has there been a condominium in Toronto, past, present, or future, that’s received as much hype and fanfare as the modestly-named One Bloor?

We can debate the merits of their “Spring 2016” completion date and whether that’s actually going to happen, but look up to the sky from Yonge & Bloor right now and you will certainly acknowledge that this once-fateful project is nearing completion.

Assignment sales are starting to show up on MLS, and the prices are absolutely, positively, insane.

We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but nobody is going to convince me that prices at One Bloor are justified…

1BloorRendering

There’s a reason I chose that photo of “One Bloor.”

It’s not because the building isn’t finished yet, and thus an artist’s rendering looks better.

It’s not because of the sexy upward-trajectory camera angle.

And it’s not because I love one photo with eighteen different shades of blue.

It’s because of the birds, plain and simple.

If you’re a film buff, then quickly – tell me which Hollywood director is famous (or infamous…) for including copious amounts of birds in his movies?

Think action movies.

Think about doves.

Think about a movie where, for absolutely no reason, and in a completely unrealistic setting, there happen to be doves calmly walking around in the background when the main character is doing something unspectacular, like walking slowly to music.

Anybody?

John Woo.

Be honest, and tell me if you knew the answer before I posted it.

But as soon as I saw that stupid artist’s rendering of One Bloor, I immediately said aloud, “Who the hell drew this, John Woo?”

Now, shall we vote on the “Greatest John Woo Dove Scene” of all time?

In my mind, it has to be John Travolta in “Face/Off” from 1997:

TravoltaDoves

How did those doves get into the church anyways?

And why are they so calm?

Anyways, while Travolta is gracefully dancing his way through beautiful, pure, white doves, the birds in the photo of One Bloor are more than likely fat, hot-dog-bun-eating, Toronto pigeons, and are about to dance a gooey-white mess on the heads of those in the “All-Ways Crossing” at the intersection of Yonge & Bloor.

On Thursday night, I was showing condos at Yonge & Bloor – standard issue; 8 Park Road, 35 Hayden, 85 Bloor, etc.  Not once, at any point, did I ever consider even discussing One Bloor with my clients.

Not once.

And they didn’t bring it up either.

Wait.  Before I go any further, perhaps a refresher on the debacle-turned-apparent-success that is One Bloor?

This project (then going by the more impressive name, “Number One Bloor”) was first announced almost nine-years-ago in early 2007, and was going to be built by a company called Bazis International, out of the Middle East.

The tower was set for 80-storeys, but the project stalled, rumours started, and eventually the developer lopped a good 15-storeys off the project to cut down on construction costs.

Rumour has it that one or more of the principals lost their proverbial shirts in the 2008 financial crisis, and the developers began to look for an exit strategy.

In 2009, Great Gulf Homes bought the project, and proposed a 91-storey tower, but eventually reduced it to 65-storeys.

Investors flocked to the landmark project, which is comprised primarily of 1-bedroom units, and the tower was increased to 70-75 storeys (still can’t be 100% unless I physically count them).

So this project went from hero, to zero, and back to hero, in a number of years.

Here we are, standing on the doorway to 2016, some nine years after this began, and the end is in sight.  “End” sounds bad; how about “The new beginning is in sight?”

That’s the story in a nutshell.

And with completion just around the corner, these units are starting to come on MLS as assignments, and the real estate community is starting to debate the merits of One Bloor.

You all know how I feel about buying pre-construction condos.  I don’t think we need to delve into that.

And you all know how I feel about buying “assignments” of pre-construction condo contracts, which is basically the same thing, just dumber, since you’re paying the closing costs of somebody who simply put down a deposit 2-3 years ago.

So would it also surprise you to know that I’m not the city’s biggest fan of “record-setting” buildings, sold with flash and pizzazz, that trade on image and some false sense of brand value?

Take a gander at this beauty of a listing:

1BloorListing

$539,888.

For how many square feet?

Wait for it……………530.

That’s $1,019 per square foot, with no parking, and no locker.

Is that a whole other level of crazy?

Or am I just crazy?  Maybe I’m just out of touch?

Maybe real estate, in this red-hot market, is now “cool” and “fun” and dropping DOUBLE what you could pay for across the street is justified, if you want to be part of the real estate “in-crowd.”

The listing reads, “Don’t Miss Chance To Call 1 Bloor Your New Home.”

Ignore the laughable grammar, and look at what they’re selling here.

“This Suite Is Perfect For Anybody Looking To Live In One Of Toronto’s Most Anticipated New Buildings.”

Is it really?

I mean two things there 1) is it perfect for somebody, 2) is it one of Toronto’s most anticipated new buildings?

Because personally, I’m not “anticipating” the completion of the building.  While I am “anticipating” the end of insane traffic at that intersection, caused by this epic construction process, I wouldn’t say I give the slightest you-know-what about an over-priced condominium being finished.

Maybe there’s just nothing else for the listing agent to market here?

Maybe he or she is doing the right thing by pandering to the “real estate is cool” crowd, and hoping some moron pays $1,000/sqft for a 1-bed, 1-bath condo?

Maybe I’m just totally out of touch.  Maybe people will think you’re cool if you own at One Bloor, in the same way that the “big kids” would think I was cool in 1986 if I smoked a cigarette in the school yard, or stole from the hard-working corner-store owner.

Maybe today’s market is about spending more!  Maybe the more you spend, the more successful you are, so the more a unit costs, the better it is to help you justify your level of success…..and coolness!

Okay, so I’ll discuss this theory with my therapist next week, and perhaps delve into some childhood issues.  But as it stands right now, the concept of paying, say, even $700/sqft for this unit, is rather unappealing.

Take a look at this competing listing down the street:

85BloorListing

Here we have a 685 square foot unit, priced at $569 per square foot, also with no parking, and no locker (I would also add based on the fact that it’s vacant and on the market for 68 days, the eventual sale price would be closer to $550/sqft).  The maintenance fees are dirt-cheap, and they include all the utilities – something that is incredibly rare in today’s market.

This is literally steps from One Bloor.

I know these are apples and oranges; I’ll be the first to admit it.

85 Bloor Street was built in 2005, and in today’s market, that’s getting “old.”

85 Bloor Street does not have the flash, glitz, and glamour of One Bloor.  I get that.

But what are we really paying for when it comes to the purchase of real estate?

Are we buying a home?

Are we making an investment?

I often use the example of a Louis Vuitton hand-bag.

I know women like these things, but it’s not a “real” value.

You pay, what – $4,000 for that bag?  Four THOUSAND dollars?

You could pay $400 for a Michael Kors bag.  Or maybe $100 for a really nice one from Joe Fresh.

Or, I suppose if you were so inclined, you could pay five cents for a plastic bag from No Frills, and carry your keys, wallet, and makeup around in it.

But can we agree that when you pay $4,000 for that Louis Vuitton bag, you’re sinking money into something that you’ll never get your money out of?

Sure, we can hammer away at this all day.

“Why do people spend money on vacations when they end?”

I know.  My analogy has the potential to go right off the rails here.

But I don’t quite understand the concept of “cool real estate” and somehow justifying paying $1,000 per square foot for a crappy 1-bed, 1-bath condo because it’s in a flashy, new, “anticipated” building.

It should also be mentioned, that whoever closes this deal, be it the current “owner” or the potential assignee, is likely going to pay $30,000 in closing costs, so it’s not just $1,019 per square foot, it’s $1,076 per square foot.

And then we have the potential for a two-year occupancy period, at $1,000 per month, but I won’t get into all that…

So is buying a “sexy, hot, cool, flashy” condo at a massively-inflated price the same thing as buying a nice handbag that you really like?  Or buying a Lexus instead of a Toyota?  Or buying “Cheerios” instead of the cheaper “Wheat O’s” knock-off?

Or do we put real estate in another category because it’s an investment?  Or because it’s so much more expensive?

If these units, priced at $1,000 per square foot, start to trade at $1,050 per square foot, then $1,100 per square foot, then $1,200 per square foot – then I’ll be dead wrong about my opinion that this project is massively over-valued for no good reason.

But as I see it now, there are scores of investors trying to get out of this project with a profit, and that represents a $1,000 per square foot valuation to them, at the current moment.

I would never, ever, under any circumstances, put a buyer in a 530 square foot, 1-bed, 1-bath, for $539,888, with no parking, no locker, and no track record on management, finances, and operations in the building, not to mention ongoing construction for the foreseeable future.

And I don’t actually know anybody that “wants to call One Bloor home,” or doesn’t want to “miss their chance” to get into such an “anticipated building” or a “Toronto landmark” that’s the “first of its kind.”

But hey, “ripped jeans” sell for more than jeans that are fully intact.

So in the end, what the hell do I know…

November 18, 2015 6

Opinion

Fact or Fiction: “December Is A Great Time To Buy”

One of my active buyers told me today, “Well I think we’re just about to pack it in for the year,” and I was confused.  I asked him why, and he said, “Nobody buys real estate in November and December, do they?”

We’re talking about houses here, of course.  Condos sell 24/7, 365.  But in the residential housing market, is it still possible to be an active buyer in December?

And if it is…..what is the market like?

Is it true that prices are down?  Let’s take a look…

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