IF THE SOFA FITS …

Over the years, I have written about the increase in popularity of furniture designed to maximize space – perfect for a condo. Well, with condos becoming THE popular new home choice across the GTA, there are now sections of large furniture stores, and even entire stores dedicated to condo-inspired furnishings. As brilliantly designed as today’s suites are – even the most compact – the need is there to make the most of every square foot. Cleverly designed furniture is a major approach to this concept.

Simply Google condo furnishing ideas, and you will discover a wealth of information on items such as desks that fold down into Murphy beds, expandable dining tables (like the ones we grew up with, only on a less grand scale), chairs that have bookshelves built in (yes, it’s true!), tall wall units with doors, floating chairs and tables, and beds with storage underneath. Oh, and remember the ottoman? It is not just for footstools anymore. Modern ottomans come in a variety of styles and configurations, and can serve as extra seating, storage pieces, and even coffee tables. As you browse through furniture stores online or in person, ask about the possibility of having features customized to meet your individual condo needs. Many companies offer this service.

Before you think a condo square footage is too small, check out what’s available in furnishings – and then enjoy selecting the items that will turn your condo “house” into a comfortable, spacious home.

THE MAGIC OF EMERALD CITY CONTINUES TO AMAZE

It was only five years ago that ELAD Canada introduced Emerald City at Don Mills Road and Sheppard Avenue East in North York – and the progress on this master-planned condominium community has been phenomenal. The three residences in Block A are already completed and occupied. In Block B, three more are under construction and one is nearing completion, including Fifth on the Park, which will feature a major retail component at the base of the podium. In Block C, another tower is sold out and in pre-construction. Following that resounding success, ELAD Canada has recently launched The Point, adding an eighth landmark condominium to the mix.

 

Besides a fabulous location across from Fairview Mall, close to the Don Mills subway station and major highways, Emerald City offers its own central gathering spot, the Parkway Forest Community Centre. Now completed and well in use, this facility has a green roof, teaching garden and commercial teaching kitchen for green thumbs and avid cooks; a full-size gymnasium, weight room, running track, dance studios and incredible 5,000 square-foot aquatic centre for those who love to keep active; plus a youth lounge, craft rooms and YMCA-run daycare for families.

 

Another outstanding element of Emerald City is its massive colourful public art cones created by Canadian artist Douglas Coupland. Anyone driving by the intersection will know immediately that this is a special community.

 

For cohesiveness, all of the towers in Emerald City feature elegant exteriors by WZMH Architects. Tanner Hill Associates is appointing the interiors, making for a prestigious design team. The Point will have its own amenities for entertaining and exercising, along with an inviting lobby and concierge service.

WHAT’S A FIRST-TIME BUYER TO DO?

When you consider the amount of rent people pay today, it is obvious that many of them can afford monthly mortgage payments, but it is the down payment that usually holds them back from buying. With today’s new home and condo prices, as well as the new stress tests on mortgage approvals, what’s a first-time buyer to do? As challenging as it is to enter the marketplace, people are buying their first homes every day. They are finding ways, because they understand the wisdom of owning, as a lifestyle and financial investment for their future.

My advice is to do whatever you can to buy the most you can. First, look at what the government has in place to help you in the form of tax credits, RRSP withdrawal allowances and GST/HST rebates. When you shop for a new home or condominium suite, chat with the sales representatives about potential incentives that will make your choice more affordable. Trust me, builders and developers WANT to help you get into homeownership.

Think of other things as well. Can your family help with the down payment? CMHC reports that one in four buyers is getting financial help from their parents.

Might you co-purchase a suite or home with a friend or relative? Another consideration is adjusting your attitude toward your first home. Nowadays, most first-time buyers turn to condominiums because it is what they can afford. With the ongoing demand for condos in the GTA, this is a wise first step into homeownership. Even the most compact suite designs “live” larger than their square footage. And even living in a studio layout at a good address is better than paying someone else’s mortgage with rent.

SO – my advice is to get into the market a.s.a.p. and start earning equity. Pull out all the stops. Check out CMHC’s “Homebuying Step By Step” and “Condominium buyer’s guide” online at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/. You will be glad you did!

NEW CONDOMINIUM PROTECTIONS A WISE STEP BY GOVERNMENT

Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has just announced an increase in consumer protections for condominium communities, to take effect this fall. These reforms result from the government’s public consultation process.

The new regulations include the improvement of communications between condo corporation boards and owners, new disclosure requirements for directors in order to avoid conflicts of interest, mandatory training for condo directors and mandatory education requirements for condo managers applying for a general licence, and clearer rules for access to condo corporations’ records and participation in owners’ meetings.

In a nutshell, the Ministry is addressing transparency, and I applaud this step. Education is hugely important today, especially when you consider that some of our condos encompass up to 700 units. Our condo boards represent a lot of people, so their responsibility is tremendous. For the most part, owners who put their names forward to serve on the boards are well intentioned, but they may not have the insight and acumen to adequately address the decisions that have to be made. These new regulations are comforting when we think about the sustainability of our condo residences.

With condominiums representing the highest and best use of our urban land, there will only be more high-rise living in the future. More transparency, education and regulations will increase owners’ peace of mind and improve their already high quality of life.

“STAYCATION” TAKES ON A WHOLE NEW MEANING IN TORONTO

Those who have recently purchased a new home or condominium in Toronto may be avoiding spending money on a vacation this summer. Well, here is some great news – our city is one of the best in the world for a staycation! The number of summer activities, events, concerts, festivals and other get-togethers is incredible. I spent a few minutes on the Internet and found far too many to list here.

For example, take the long weekend in early August. You can choose from Caribana with its parades, parties and concerts; the Summerworks Festival of up-and-coming theatrical talent; the Toronto Food Truck Festival; and the Art & Music Ontario Festival – OR attend them all! The following weekend, Toronto will be home to the Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, Waterfront Night Market, Taste of the Danforth and Jerkfest, the celebration of Canada’s jerk food. And of course, we have our beloved Canadian National Exhibition to look forward to. This year’s CNE will take place from August 19 through September 5. This fabulous event is one of North America’s largest fairs, attracting 1.5 million visitors each year.

Those for whom the “dog days of summer” include taking along their dogs, Toronto features several parks with off-leash zones. Check out www.blogto.com/toronto/the_best_dog_parks_in_toronto/ And of course, being a waterfront city, Toronto has wonderful Harbourfront Centre with activities for all ages. Whatever you consider fun, explore our beautiful city for eclectic dining establishments from fast food to fine dining, live theatre, outdoor and indoor concerts, museums, art galleries and shopping, shopping, shopping. Visit Toronto.ca for festivals, events and things to do.

Staying in Toronto for the summer? Lucky you!

PLACE INTEREST RATE RISE IN CONTEXT

Well, we knew it had to happen eventually. For the first time in seven years, The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate. The rise to 0.75 per cent prompted all five major Canadian banks to increase their prime rates to 2.95 per cent from 2.7 per cent. This quarter point will have an effect on variable rate mortgages and lines of credit, of course, but historically, this is a minor blip for most Canadians.

Those who have been in the homeownership market for decades remember all too well the double-digit mortgage interest rates of the 1980s, which peaked at just over 21 per cent. A quarter point over today’s historically low rate seems little enough to pay when you consider the value of an investment in housing.

Contrary to those who suggest this rise in rates will slow down the home-buying market, it may in fact spur fence-sitters to purchase now, before rates go up again. Remember, real estate is a cyclical business. In the long run, those who ride out the fluctuations are glad they did.

CONGRATULATIONS, REETU GUPTA!

At the end of June, the Canadian real estate industry and businesswomen everywhere took a step forward on the national stage, when Reetu Gupta BBA MBA was honoured by Canada’s Top 40 Under 40®. She is the only person named who is in the real estate sector, and is one of only nine women to receive this distinction. As Chief Operating Officer of The Easton’s Group and The Gupta Group, Reetu has certainly proven herself an outstanding young achiever in Canadian business. She has worked in the family business since her teens, and over the years, she has held jobs in everything from reception to sales and operations. Like most incredibly successful people, she came up through the ranks, which gives her a holistic approach to making decisions.
And I can attest to the fact that she has done a fine job. Baker Real Estate Incorporated has represented Gupta Group and Easton’s Group for several years, and I have watched Reetu grow and mature. She has worked tirelessly and with consummate professionalism to bring highly successful condominiums to life, including King Blue, Dundas Square Gardens, Icona Condos and The Rosedale on Bloor Condos.
In addition to her tremendous business acumen, Reetu continually shows the kindness and generosity that lie at the core of her inspiration. She has served on hospitality, tourism and charitable committees and boards. As co-chair for the University Health Network’s (UHN) Diawli Gala, Reetu raised nearly $2 million in the past two years. She also served as Co-Chair for the City of Toronto’s Sesquicentennial Celebration of Canada Advisory Committee. What a tribute to her humanity!
On behalf of everyone at Baker Real Estate Incorporated, I am extremely excited to congratulate Reetu on this great honour, and to offer kudos to her father, Steve Gupta, and their entire family. Reetu, you have done Canadians proud!

Reetu Gupta, CEO of The Easton’s Group and The Gupta Group

 

 

FOREIGN BUYERS MINOR IN THE GTA REAL ESTATE SCHEME OF THINGS

In April, I wrote a blog about the Foreign Buyers Tax our Provincial government announced as part of its Fair Housing Plan, with the intention of cooling the market and reducing home prices. In that blog, I mentioned that at Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we have tracked foreign buyer contact in all of our sites for several years, and it is consistently approximately 5 per cent – suggesting that the tax was not needed. This was in line with TREB’s fall 2016 survey of local realtors that showed 4.9 per cent of their transactions involved foreign buyers during the previous year.
Lo and behold, recently the Ontario government released the statistic that 4.7 per cent of properties that changed hands from April 24 to May 26, 2017 in the Golden Horseshoe area were bought by overseas buyers! Even if the percentage is slightly higher in Toronto and/or the GTA, we are still talking about an influence that is unworthy of the media hype it has received over the past few months. This is why we at Baker Real Estate have never panicked about foreign buyers. Many other factors are at work in determining both new and resale real estate prices.
BILD’s June 23rd news release on new home statistics for May 2017 indicates that the Fair Housing Plan is having little impact on the new homes market. Sales were strong, and prices increased. Although sales dropped during June, remember that is normal for this time of the year. Contrary to what you may have read, the market is still hot, especially for new construction condominiums. We are seeing brisk sales in locations outside of the downtown core, such as Yorkdale, North York and the 905 municipalities, where prices are more attainable for both investors and end-users. Overall, we have a more balanced market, which is beneficial to all involved.
I repeat that if the government really wants to bring down prices, it can increase the efficiency of approvals, speed up the process and flood the market with new homes and condos.

BARBARA LAWLOR A DESERVING RECIPIENT OF PINNACLE AWARD!

At Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we are thrilled that Barbara Lawlor, our president and CEO, received the prestigious Riley Brethour Award at the 2017 BILD Home Builder Awards presentation. The Building Industry and Land Development Association is the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

We can’t think of a better winner, especially as the Riley Brethour award celebrates outstanding and consistent achievement in residential sales and marketing, while exhibiting exemplary leadership and serving as a superb role model for other industry professionals. This coveted pinnacle award has been won by the most iconic professionals in the industry. Barbara is the epitome of everything the late Riley Brethour stood for, especially his approach to business with hard work, integrity and a positive attitude.

On a consistent basis, we see firsthand Barbara’s tremendous work ethic, and she inspires us to strive to excellence in every aspect of our careers. Competency, credibility, communication and caring define her professionalism. Barbara came up through the ranks in the real estate profession, and her leadership style includes respect for everyone on her team. She listens to us, and in turn, we appreciate and learn from her feedback.

Regardless of real estate cycles, Barbara is always positive and passionate about our industry. She truly cares about our clients, the Baker Real Estate employees and associates, and the home-buying public. Her popular blog and columns offer the voice of reason when the media are filled with negativity.

Congratulations, Barbara! You often say that you get out of any career what you put into it, and you have put in a lifetime of dedication, which is why this award is so well deserved. We look forward to many more years of learning from you and following your example.

The Baker Real Estate  Executive Team: Executive Vice Presidents Debbie Lafave, Jeff Clark, Harley Nakelsky

GOVERNMENT ACTIONS MAY NOT HAVE THE DESIRED EFFECT!

Recent announcements by the Wynne government regarding housing in Ontario is sending mixed messages to the housing industry. Our primary challenge is Demand exceeding Supply so mimicking BC’s approach to the Vancouver housing situation does not address what is happening here.
For example, introducing a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers may have been effective out west where they have a large percentage of this kind of purchaser, but our situation in the GTA is different. At Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we have tracked foreign buyer contact in all of our sites for several years, and our percentage is consistently approximately 5 per cent. Where the new regulations could make a difference is in Toronto’s luxury market – people who have discretionary income in the millions. Toronto is just now coming into its own as an international city that is attracting wealthy purchasers who own several homes around the world. If they want to purchase high-end homes here, whether as investments or to live in when they visit, a 15 per cent surcharge added could be a deterrent from buying.
The recent provincial announcements include bringing all rental units under Ontario’s rent control, which will likely harm both large and small investors in the rental market, and may keep new investors from entering it. Again, our situation in Toronto is different from Vancouver, in that our condominium vacancy is hovering at approximately 1 per cent (the lowest in many years). People have been investing in condominiums and providing badly needed rental stock, which is a good thing. Rent control might deter potential developers from building new apartment residences, resulting in an even tighter rental market. It might also keep existing landlords from making repairs and upgrades, as they require more funds to do so. In addition to large investors, rent control discriminates against landlords who own just a few units, as well as those who already have their rental units on the market. In the future, we will likely see fewer of these smaller investors, and those who do enter the market will simply set their initial rents as high as they can and ride that wave for as long as they keep the investment.
The Premier says she will bring in measures to encourage the building of new rental stock, as well as streamline the building of new homes and free up more land for development. We will see if that happens. I and many other real estate professionals continue to stress that our current housing situation is the result of demand exceeding supply – in both market and rental housing. Increasing the efficiency of government approvals, speeding up the process and flooding the market with new homes and condos – now that will bring down prices!