Category: "Misc. Stuff"

Up, Up & Away?

January 21st, 2016

Royal LePage CEO, Phil Soper, predicts that Canada will continue to see home prices to rise by 4.1 per cent over the course of 2016. He also predicts that the markets in Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Areas will continue to grow at a less "frenetic" rate.

Gregory Klump, the chief economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association suggests that Toronto is still experiencing a sellers' market, as an imbalance in supply and demand has resulted in large price increases for single family detached residences. Condominium sales, have slowed somewhat, except the smaller units which are generally favoured for short-term living or investment.

Derek Burleton, Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist for the TD Bank Group has expressed concerns about deteriorating affordability in the region. He suggests that higher land costs and restrictive regulations have made it difficult to supply affordable housing, even for those with moderate and higher incomes.

People in Toronto are quite accustomed to seeing old houses torn down to make way for skyscrapers. The push is on and while multi-unit dwellings, like high rise condos, are remarkably more affordable than single-family homes, the increased density puts a greater strain on the basic infrastructure of the area.

In the short-run, we need affordable housing. In the long-run, most of us want to secure social, economic and environmental prosperity. We need to find some middle ground. I know it's easier to provide services to a highly populated region, but there are problems with high density living, too.

City streets, buses and subways are already overcrowded and many industry professionals are concerned that there has been more attention given to creating housing than to sustaining the communities being created. Can we begin to imagine the long term ramifications to the quality of life that vertical concrete communities pose to our rapidly aging population?

What we need are housing policies that address long-term needs, rather than short-term demands. Burleton suggests, we need to find ways to reduce the cost of construction, expedite delivery and encourage investment in a broader range of housing types. & there's plenty of room in this neck of the woods. Perhaps we need to work at helping small towns to better accommodate some of this growth!

Bill 73: Smart Growth for Our Comunities Act, 2015

January 14th, 2016

Bill 73 was first read in the provincial legislature in March 2015. The revised version received Royal Assent on December 3, 2015. Known as the "SG Act", a few sections were proclaimed to be in force on the date of Royal Assent and those sections that amend the Developmental Charges Act (known as the "DC Act") were proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor of Canada as of January 1, 2016. The date that majority of SG Act (which amends the Planning Act) will come into force has yet to be proclaimed.

Based upon public consultations on Ontario's land use planning and appeals system that took place around the late fall of 2013, into January of 2014, the SG gives municipalities greater independence as far as local land use planning disputes. According to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (The Honourable Ted McMeekin), the SG Act will effectively give residents more of a voice in determining how their communities will grow and make the planning and appeals process more predictable, however, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and its operations were not part of the review.

There is no question that significant improvements have been made with regard to municipal accountability in Ontario... but it's interesting to note that McMeekin used the word predictable... not streamlined or more efficient. The Province's efforts to have the municipalities take a stronger role in the process, adds more to the burden of municipal responsibility for service provisions. There will be more letters, phone calls and email to answer. There will be more reports to generate.

One can only imagine that the ultimate result will mean increased costs for local ratepayers and a longer wait for responses. On the upside, I suppose, is that local municipalities will be able to collect the fees... and maybe some common sense will kick in when looking at requests for minor variances.

Is the Bottom Going to Drop Out of the Real Estate Market?

January 8th, 2016

Happy New Year...

There are always a slew of predictions thrown around at the beginning of a new year and 2016 seems to be rife with prognostication of economic doom and gloom. I can understand that folks out in Alberta are a little concerned, the oilfields having already cut back to the bones. In fact, most of the gloom seems to emanate from that direction. Still, the IMF predicts modes growth for the Canadian economy overall.

So why do people keep suggesting the bottom is about to fall out of the real estate market? Sure, Alberta is bracing itself... but there's a market that grew like crazy over the past decade, alongside the boom in oil production. British Columbia's Business Council suggests that net interprovincial migration in the 18- to 44-year-old category (the primary working age) caused Alberta’s population to grow by 200,000... all of those extra people put a huge demand on property, causing prices to climb. Even with the slow down, there were 1200 more people that moved to Alberta than the number who moved away in the 3rd quarter of last year.

Here, in Ontario, we haven't had the same economic factors to cause a dramatic influx of people. Alberta's economy (and the price of housing) is directly linked to the ups and downs of the oil market. Most predictions here suggest that with the low interest rates, the weak Canadian dollar and transparency brought on by advances in technology will continue to entice overseas investors. & that means, there's always someone new coming along to purchase property.

How Close is the Universe to Understanding Consciousness?

December 24th, 2015

This morning, I watched a panel of scientists discuss consciousness in an online video recorded at SAND15 US. Here's the link, if you want to watch it too:

It talks about the differences between science and consciousness. There's a lot of chat about science and spirituality. There's a lot of discussion around mathematics and science, experiments and empirical findings.

There is no definitive understanding of consciousness. Most of the scientists on this panel talk about consciousness as something that "does", it feels and perceives- in other words it's a function- the perception of experience. The moderator, who frequently speaks of the Indian Vedic teachings, speaks of consciousness as being what makes feeling, tasting and other perceptions and thoughts possible.

The most basic concept of physics is energy... which is an undefined term. This is articulated beautifully by one member of the panel (Stuart Hameroff) and I believe this is truly at the heart of the question. He goes on to say that science always talks about what energy does, rather than what energy is. He suggests that consciousness is possible without biology- that it's process on the edge between the quantum and classical worlds and that the edge is collapse. He believes that consciousness occurs in a self-collapse, when the brain organizes the universal consciousness- 40 times a millisecond or more.

Others believe the collapse occurs ubiquitously, meaning that it is simply present in the universe. Resonant energies give rise to consciousness and the brain organizes the collapses.

I've always thought that individual consciousness is an internal system that gives context to stimuli and when we are unconscious we simply have no context.

Of course, in the video the scientists go on to discuss platonic values... how we are programmed to seek pleasant experiences, which relates to survival. They discuss the possibility of mapping consciousness mathematically and how the pragmatic view of the quantum state of reality is mathematical, a practical set of rules that helps us to make useful predictions and allow us to choose what we are next going to probe. Then comes the argument for causality.

In the video they discuss whether the brain creates consciousness or not... and the difference between philosophical, theological and scientific views. Then on to our non-conscious absorption of information.

While watching, I keep thinking back to the powerful image of brain neurons and the universe that I first saw years ago:

Large Vacant Acreage Properties: a hot commodity

December 9th, 2015

There’s a growing demand for large parcels of vacant land and while purchasing rural property is an experience that is similar to buying property in a city, it’s important to take a clear look at how the property meets your current needs and explore its potential for your future plans. If you understand the differences between an urban and rural property, you can make informed decisions about what to expect from your rural property and what issues to consider. While Provincial and Federal regulations may affect the property, generally speaking, local municipalities are the best place to begin your investigation.

Life in the country is different than in the city. Life in rural Ontario involves a much closer relationship with the natural environment and while that includes viewing wildlife and enjoying the peaceful tranquility of the countryside, it also means that the natural environment has a much more direct impact on you and your property. Life in a rural area brings many unique responsibilities. As a landowner, you may be solely responsible for securing a source for safe drinking water, maintaining a septic system to deal with waste, taking your household garbage to a disposal site, maintaining private access roads and trails and, in some cases, flood and fire risk management. In addition to asking about the well and septic, you can ask for the well record and the septic use permit. If the Seller doesn't have these items, you might be able to order them from the local health authority. You might also include inspections of these systems, as a condition in the Agreement for Purchase and Sale.

It's important to remember that having an acreage is a bit of a romantic notion. There is work involved in maintaining vacant property. Mother nature can be harsh and it takes effort to keep trails open. Coming from a busy urban centre, people often think they want to totally get away from it all... but ultimately experience culture shock. People in small towns tend to give others a great deal more space and even a small property can feel a great deal more isolated than life in a big city. You might find it's better to be a little out of the way, rather than really remote.

Other items you might want to in investigate include:

Finding out about the actual property:

Ask what the property is zoned and what uses that particular zoning will allow. In some cases, you will need a specific zoning for agricultural pursuits and in other cases, use is fairly wide open. Remember, parts of the property that are unstable- either boggy or subject to flooding- may have been identified as environmentally protected. This has been instituted in order to protect sensitive landscapes, the municipality may have rules about setbacks, in order to prevent further damage or erosion.

Find out if there are any special zoning regulations or restrictions. Ensure that the all existing development conforms to local zoning rules. You should verify this information with the local municipality. It’s a good idea to get a copy of the survey, if one is available, and it’s preferable to have all buildings shown on the survey. You want to make sure that any structures included are fully within the property boundaries. It's a good idea to have the Seller flag the corners of the property, as well.

Ask about prior uses, for instance, lands previously farmed may have abandoned wells, old household dump sites or derelict field-drainage systems. If the Seller doesn't know, you can check with the municipality or stop in and ask the neighbours. This gives you an opportunity to meet the owners of adjoining properties.

Investigate the bundle of rights included in the sale. Are timber rights included? Mineral Rights? Surface rights? Mining Rights? This might mean a trip to the local ministry offices or your solicitor, but it is important information. You might want to ask your lawyer about the implications and check into obtaining these rights.

Financing options:

It’s important to keep in mind that mortgage institutions and banks are not particularly interested in financing raw land. If you don't have the funds to pay for the purchase, you should make your offer conditional upon obtaining suitable financing. Do you have a line of credit that you can use? Is the seller willing to hold a mortgage?

Know the neighbourhood:

Check out the neighbouring properties. What are the current uses of the adjacent properties? You will want to make sure that you are comfortable being next door to a target range, a paint-ball establishment, campground or pig farm.

Stop by and meet the neighbours, you may find yourself calling upon them at some point and you will want to know what you are dealing with. It’s not a bad idea to stop into local yard sales, talk to the people, tell them you are thinking of relocating- but be totally honest and mostly listen… in small towns, people can see right through a story and you will want to have a positive impression.

Incidentally, if you were born and raised in the city, you will need to learn new social rules… you must understand that when you relocate to a rural area you will be welcomed as a new member of the community, however, you will never be equal to those who have generations of family established or buried there. Many people who move from the city try to introduce change to the community, this is particularly disastrous- most locals have the attitude that if you don't join ‘em, go back to where you came from.


This is a case where you really want to find a good local Realtor to represent you. Ask them to provide you with all the comparable sales data from the multiple-listing service. While there might be ballpark prices per acre, there is generally a range. Value can be affected by the proportion of buildable land, severance potential, streams/creeks/ponds, accessibility, availability of utilities, known timber value and a number of other possibilities. Your Realtor should be able to help you discern how the value can be justified. If your Realtor can't find any really good comparisons, you can make an offer contingent upon obtaining a satisfactory appraisal- in this case, you will have to pay to have the price evaluated. If the appraisal comes in lower than your offer, you have a basis with which to renegotiate the contract... if it comes in higher, you just might have found yourself a bargain and you can check with your Realtor and the appraiser to see if they might know why the property is selling below value.