Is the Market Really Cooling Down?

June 15th, 2017

There's a lot of talk about the real estate market cooling down but most of my colleagues refer to it as "softening". In April, the government instituted "The Fair Housing Plan", intended to cool the market. It was a 16 point plan and included actions to address the demand for housing, to protect renters, to increase housing supply and to increase information sharing. The annual growth rate in the Toronto housing market peaked at a whopping 30% in April this year.

More than ever, the government is taking an interest in gathering data about the Ontario real estate market, in order to circumvent practices that contribute to inappropriate speculation and tax avoidance issues that are thought to be a major cause of the housing dilemma- especially in Toronto.

The government has doubled the maximum Land Transfer Tax refund for eligible first-time home purchasers to $4000. Essentially, this means that eligible buyers in Ontario don't have to pay Land Transfer Tax on the first $368,000 of the purchase price for their first home purchase. They are funding this enhancement through a modernization of the Land Transfer Tax to increase rates on single family homes over two million dollars.

New rules also make it easier for non-profit housing to buy surplus government lands and municipalities have a new framework for including affordable housing in residential developments. In addition, the Planning Act and Development Charges Act to allow homeowners to create rental units in their primary residences. There are also freezes on the tax burden for multi-residential apartment buildings where the taxes are high.

More than these measures, however, GTA Realtors say that the biggest reason for the cooling is that so many homeowners are trying to take advantage of the high prices and the number of MLS listings are growing higher and higher... and the Sellers are demanding inflated prices. There are still properties selling and the population is pushing its way into more rural areas where there are far fewer properties on the market. For now, it seems to be keeping the prices fairly static and if you go by the number of emails I receive from blog readers asking questions about property they are contemplating purchasing... the market is picking up.

A Wet Spring

June 7th, 2017

With the serious flooding this spring, many cottage owners are finding out that their insurance isn't going to cover damage and Provincial programs are only addressing permanent residences. This is causing quite an uproar.

Apparently, there are two different kinds of flood insurance: regular and overland. Regular insurance may cover water damage from plumbing issues, but not weather related flooding. Overland flood insurance is quite new to Canada. Insurance companies began offering it, after the flooding in 2013. Overland flood insurance is a special "add on". It covers damage that comes into the home through doors or windows etc. This likely does not include water that leaks into a basement through a crack in the foundation, which is considered "seepage".

Many people are unaware of their insurance coverage and flooding is going to increase. It is important to check with your insurance provider and ask what kind of coverage you have. Be careful about language... and ask specifically about overland insurance.

198 Years After Victoria

May 24th, 2017

Alexandrina Victoria; (24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) inherited the throne of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland when she was just 18 years old. She saw her country through dramatic changes, industrial, political, scientific and cultural expansion. A national icon, she is most remembered for maintaining a strict code of personal morality and family values.

On this day, we celebrate Victoria's birthday and I have been thinking about how much has changed since she ascended to the throne on 20 June 1837.

In Victorian times, it was highly recommended that proverbs and puns should be avoided in conversation. Ladies were never to provoke an argument, speak of religion, or interrupt while another person was speaking. Victorian women we expected to up to date on current events but gossip and whispering were most certainly frowned upon. A lady should never interfere with a man while he was smoking. During a carriage ride, men should sit with their back to the horses and refrain from sitting next to any woman to whom he is unrelated. Dance cards were expected and any woman dancing with the same man more than three times with the same partner was inappropriate. No man should ask to dance with a woman to whom he has not been introduced. A gentleman will dismount from his horse before conversing with a woman.

With the Industrial Revolution, came a period of social and economic flux as an segment of society emerged, known as the middle class. This was a segment of society for which the accepted norms of the tenement or far would not suffice. In the latter part of the 1800s, there was a surge in the number of instruction books written, providing a guide to the rules of polite society. Some of these were simple, common sense rules like "refrain from chewing with your mouth open" and others were more elaborate rituals that in today's age seem very quaint.

With the advent of the steam powered engine, people were able to travel more easily and factories were able to locate almost anywhere. Women began to travel more, alone. Lady travellers were advised to be punctual and to dress demurely, so as not to attract attention. They were to carry very little luggage, perhaps no more than a small satchel or a fashionable carpet bag containing those items required for grooming, a shawl, night clothes, a nightcap and clean linen. It was appropriate for a lone woman to seat herself next to another woman or an elderly gent.

If encountering an unpleasant exchange with a strange man, the female traveller was advised to lower her veil and turn away from him, thereby discouraging any further interaction. A lady was to sit quietly and avoid any fussing or fidgeting else she would be seen as being ill-bred or dis-eased with society.

Today's traveller is unlikely to be without a cell phone... and fidget spinners have become all the rage. Forbes magazine has said they're the must-have office toy for 2017. Imagine what Victoria would say?


Nature is an Architect's School

May 6th, 2017

In 1914, famed architect Frank Lloyd Write wrote, " the ideal of an organic architecture... is a sentient, rational building that would owe its style to the integrity with which it was individually fashioned to serve its particular purpose- a 'thinking' as well as 'feeling' process." Wright felt that, "the site should be enhanced by the building, and the building derives its form partially from the nature of its site".

The creative possibilities of form, colour, pattern, texture, proportion, rhythm and growth are all demonstrated in nature. Organic architecture does not imitate nature; but rather is concerned with natural materials. Simplicity in the art is a synthetic positive quality; in which we see evidence of the mind, with the sense of completeness found in a tree or flower.

Once in a while, something extraordinary comes on the market.

It began, once upon a time...

In 1980, a Polish aristocrat engaged a noted architect to design a home, suited to a large estate lot, close to Algonquin Park. The results are spectacular.

Nestled on 158 naturally treed acres, this spacious, year round, four bedroom home enjoys absolute privacy without the need for fences or hedges. There is frontage on a navigable creek, ponds, varied topography, including a private look out point. Convenient to all the amenities in a nearby town, you can also walk to the local village.

Serious inquiries are invited to email us for further information and photographs.

Rumblings at the OMB

April 27th, 2017

According to the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs, "The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an independent, quasi-judicial, administrative tribunal responsible for handling appeals of land-use planning disputes and municipal matters. For example, appeals to the OMB could involve official plans, zoning bylaws, plans of subdivision or minor variances."

For years, many have argued that the OMB is not exactly democratic and that community residents have felt undermined when dealing with experienced developers, savvy in how to negotiate their interests with the Board. In response, the Province of Ontario has been reviewing the OMB process and functions and making changes that may allow local municipalities a greater say in the development of their communities. Opponents suggest that local municipalities don't want to have to make difficult decisions and see the OMB as a solution.

Regardless of your outlook, it appears that we're in for some changes and, as per usual, it seems that it's going to put an even greater strain on local resources.