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According to RealNet Canada Inc., the sales of new condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area last month resulted in the highest March on record and catapulted 2014’s first quarter 68 per cent over last year! The statistics are so remarkable that they were reported by New York-based Bloomberg, one of the world’s most reputable and prestigious providers of international financial news and information.

We sold 2,496 condos in March, which is phenomenal, and that month’s statistics overall for low-rise and high-rise helped to create a first quarter that is among the strongest in the last decade. In fact, the GTA has experienced eight consecutive months of year-over-year increases in total sales. This is more than fantastic news; it is also continued proof that buyers have confidence in the new home market, in particular the condominium market. Time and again, the naysayers are proved wrong.

The RealNet New Home Price index reported that the average price of a condominium increased two per cent to $436,898. The average price rise for the low-rise sector was three per cent over last March, bringing it to $657,961. President of RealNet, George Carras, predicts that prices will rise as new development charges are added.

The industry website Skyscraperpage.com reports that Toronto has more condominiums under construction than any other North American city. We are the world’s condominium Mecca!

After an extensive and thoughtful review based on feedback from the public, the government is in the process of redrafting Ontario’s Condominium Act of 1998 to better meet the needs of today’s consumers. Things certainly have changed in the past 14 years, especially with condominiums becoming such a staple in new home ownership across the Greater Toronto Area.

The review was staged in three parts, beginning in the fall of 2012. First, the government asked the public to bring issues and ideas to the table. These involved governance, dispute resolution, finances, consumer protection and condo management.

Stage 2 involved professionals with condominium expertise looking over the findings from Stage 1 and reported on how issues could be resolved. Then it was on to Stage 3, during which roundtable sessions were held across the province to discuss those recommendations. The feedback is in, and the government is reviewing the comments and rewriting the Act. The entire process was facilitated by Canada’s Public Policy Forum, which is a recognized leader in engaging the public for initiatives such as this one. Various stakeholder panels were involved as well.

To find out more about the review process, including reading the session summaries and reports that were generated, visit the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services website at www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/pages/condo_rev.aspx

Combined with Ontario Building Code continually evolving to demand higher construction standards, we are in an enviable position as new home buyers. How wonderful that our leaders are listening to, reacting and working toward a better future for all of us.

Great Gulf is one of the heroes of the building industry, having built incredible successful low-rise communities and fabulous high-rise residences across the GTA. This award-winning company is known for bringing superb homes to amazing locations, with great attention to detail and an eye for outstanding architecture.

Twenty Lombard

Twenty Lombard

Yonge + Rich

Yonge + Rich

Currently, this award-winning firm offers three condominiums in downtown Toronto that live up to Great Gulf’s reputation for excellence. 20 Lombard and Yonge + Rich are two distinct condominiums uniquely positioned in one great location, at Yonge and Richmond Streets. At 25 Richmond Street, Yonge + Rich offers luxurious condominium suites from floors 2 to 33, priced from $280,990, and coming soon, 20 Lombard features private residences from the 34th floor up. The architecture is stunning, the features and finishes sumptuous, the amenities outstanding. You can find out more at yongeandrich.com or visit baker-re.com.

With an eye to the future as well, Great Gulf snapped up one of the last few properties left on Toronto’s waterfront for Monde, on Queen’s Quay at the bottom of Sherbourne Street. The company is definitely doing its part by helping to develop the east waterfront area with stunning architecture by Moshe Safdie, the brilliant mind behind the National Gallery of Canada, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and numerous other internationally renowned buildings.

Residents of Monde will enjoy spectacular views over green space, water and sculptures of Sherbourne Common, the signature park right beside the condo. Monde is also close to the bustling Financial District, charming Old Town Toronto and the trendy Distillery District. What an incredible addition to Toronto’s skyscape! Suite choices run the gamut from 1-bedroom to 3.5-bedroom designs, so there is literally something for everyone from first-time buyers and empty-nesters to growing families. Prices begin from just $309,990, which is incredible for this location. Visit mondecondominiums.com or baker-re.com.

People are often quick to assume that everything they read in print is true, especially when it comes to statistics. Take the Canadian home-buying market. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) promoted the idea that Canada’s housing market is in a “bubble” and that prices are over-valued by as much as 60 per cent by world standards. In a report entitled “How to Dissect a Housing Bubble,” noted housing industry economist Will Dunning has responded that OECD used seriously flawed house price-to-rent statistics in their study. He dismisses the housing bubble myth and the fear-mongering that has people thinking that Canada’s housing market is overvalued.

Dunning says that OECD relied on the Teranet/National Bank National Composite House Price Index and Consumer Price Index, which are in his words, “badly flawed” and resulted in “wildly inaccurate estimates.” He says that the Royal LePage House Price Survey is more accurate. In fact, he states that Canadian home prices may even be under-valued, which is something I have been saying for years. He adds that Canadians have been careful about mortgage spending, knowing full well that interest rates will eventually rise, and that the market can absorb the increase when it comes. To read Will Dunning’s entire report, which is fascinating, visit http://www.wdunning.com/docs/Bubble-report-2014-03-12.pdf

chartTD Bank has also criticized the OECD study conclusions, forecasting that the market is perhaps overvalued by only 10 per cent. TD’s economist Diana Petramala argues that the OECD study was based on price-to-rent and price-to-income rations rather than housing affordability, and did not take into account the drop in interest rates over the past few years.

All in all, this teaches us that sometimes the “experts” can be wrong, and that reality is determined by the way people act. New home sales in the GTA remain solid, especially condominium sales. I’m with Will Dunning on bursting the housing bubble myth!

For oh, so many condominium buyers, their pets are part of the family. That’s why it is important to ask about pet policies in the condos you are considering. There are several things to think about, beginning with whether the condo allows pets, and what restrictions there may be on the animals. Some, for example, place an upper limit on poundage for dogs. This decision is driven by the condominium board wanting to avoid potential problems in elevators, etc., with large dogs, which is understandable.

Think about your day-to-day life with your pet, too. Is there a park close by for walking? Can you access it easily from the building? You should also ask about any pet-friendly facilities that might be right in the condo. We often see developers including dog runs, pet grooming rooms and mud rooms so you can clean off paws after walks. This saves a lot on carpet wear and tear, not to mention the flooring and furnishings in your own suite.

If you are moving from a larger home into a condo, do some research on easing your pet into more compact surroundings. You want to move in with comfort and confidence that everyone in the family makes a positive transition. So if your Saint Bernard is your “baby,” make sure she will be welcome in a new condo before you sign on the dotted line!

Just a reminder that if you are shopping for a new condominium in the GTA, keep track of what you get for the price in each residence, as well as how liveable the suite designs are. Too often, shoppers get carried away with the price per square footage and forget that some condos offer higher-quality standard features and more efficient suite designs than others. How much are maintenance fees? Is the builder offering incentives that reduce your bottom line financially or provide upgrades you might not otherwise be able to afford? Ask questions and make notes.

Comparison shop in an educated way. Look at your work commute from the buildings you are considering. If one condo suite is less expensive, but your travel to and from your place of employment will be much costlier, take that into consideration, along with the neighbourhoods and whether they are established or evolving. Usually, communities in newer areas increase in desirability and value over time.

One of the best ways to keep track of it all is with lists or a spreadsheet. Many condo shoppers come in with a laptop and enter their parameters right in the sales office. Your goal should be to get the most and best condominium for your money!

The Carlaw

The Carlaw

When it comes to mid-rise condominiums in Toronto, Streetcar Developments is king! This progressive developer has a knack for creating the perfect choices in some of the city’s most exciting evolving locations. Guided by the motto “Rethink Urban Living,” the company is introducing beautifully designed modern buildings in neighbourhoods that are becoming coveted locales for loft dwellers.

Take Leslieville, for example, which The New York Times referred to as a destination for dining, shopping and living. This east-end area of Toronto is home to film studios, trendy shopping, lush parks, exciting entertainment, easy access to public transit and some of the city’s best dining (delectable brunch, anyone?).

The Taylor

The Taylor

Within these vibrant surroundings, Streetcar is developing two incredible loft condominiums in partnership with Dundee Realty Corporation, with exteriors by TACT Architecture and interiors by Seven Haus Design. The Carlaw is an intimate 12-storey condo well under construction on the northeast corner of Carlaw and Dundas. In addition to contemporary suites and amazing amenities appointed by Seven Haus Design, it will feature Crow’s Theatre, which will add a whole new dimension to Leslieville’s roster of amenities. This exciting facility will have a 200-seat theatre, studio rehearsal space, community programming area, and a trendy bar and restaurant. Hurry, and you can take advantage of a limited-time special on a suite design that comes with a private terrace on the roof. Visit thecarlaw.ca.

The Carnaby

The Carnaby

Right next door, Streetcar offers The Taylor, which will feature a new and stunning cladding called Öko-skin. These concrete slabs are about as high as a brick but much wider. The result is a perfect marriage of traditional and modern. Inside, owners will have 9-foot exposed concrete ceilings and a roster of modern finishes. Choose from lofts and a limited collection of two-level urban townhomes. Visit TheTaylorLofts.ca.

Moving west, Toronto’s Art & Design District around Queen Street and Gladstone Avenue is hopping with activity, with bistros, cafés, bars, shops, galleries and easy transit links. What an awesome setting for The Carnaby, Streetcar’s third condominium in a collection of four that will form a unique community centred around a European-inspired courtyard. The company’s popular 2 Gladstone and 8 Gladstone have paved the way for The Carnaby, which has already proven tremendously successful. Streetcar recently announced the release of two-storey designs in this 11-storey loft building, as well as large penthouses in the 20-storey tower. Here, Streetcar has once again teamed up with Dundee Realty Corporation, TACT Architecture and Seven Haus Design to offer an amazing condo lofts opportunity. Visit CarnabyLofts.com.

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