Tag Archives: toronto

Top 50 Canadian Real Estate Blogs 2014

Toronto Real Estate News, , ,
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Canada's housing market continues to rise, and that's producing some high quality blogging. There are many fine personal and corporate blogs that cover pretty much every aspect of the market a person could think of. Market analysis, home decor tips, financial tips, news and advice are all offered up among these sites. Many of these sites are updated frequently enough to keep readers satiated with designs that are easy on the eyes and strong social media presences to back them up. We've poured through the Canadian real estate blogosphere to find the best sites and based on these criteria we've selected the top 50. There really is something for everyone here, so please take a look and feel free to comment below!

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Strong Growth Towards The Summer

Toronto Real Estate News, ,
glow by Kevin
glow by Kevin

The real estate market in June 2014 didn't slow down, although summer had already started. The latest figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board suggest continually strong increases in residential sales toward the summer.

The number of sales reported through the TorontoMLS system for the whole Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in June 2014 increased 15.4 per cent compared to June 2013, recording 10,180 transactions. We saw 7.5 per cent average price growth in the GTA as well. As Jason Mercer, the Toronto Real Estate Board's (TREB) Senior Manager of Market Analysis, explained:

With less than two months of inventory in many parts of the GTA, it makes sense that we continued to experience very strong price growth in June. This is especially the case for low-rise home types like singles, semis and townhouses. Strong price growth for these home types will continue through the remainder of 2014. Despite higher inventory levels, the condominium apartment market segment has benefited from enough buyer interest to result in above-inflation price growth.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the quality of new condo buildings in Toronto. Many people wonder what will happen with the condos constructed by irresponsible builders who try to cut their expenses as much as possible.

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BNN posted an interesting interview with Ute Lehrer, an associate professor at York University, about the issues we're facing in the current condo housing market in Toronto. I always recommend buyers look for quality first because a lower purchase price might result in additional expenses several years later.

What are your thoughts? What would you pick: a better-built condo or a better location at the price of renovation expenses after 10 or 15 years? Let me know in the comments section below the article or contact me if you have any questions about buying or selling.

City of Toronto Sales

As I mentioned above, sales increased. The City of Toronto's total sales rose 16.23 per cent compared to June 2013, reaching 3,795 sales last month.

All housing types experienced growth in sales. Detached and semi-detached house sales rose 15.39 per cent and 18.42 per cent, respectively. Detached home sales totalled 1,312, and there 450 semi-detached units sold. Condominium sales rose 18.74 per cent, finishing the month at 1,578 condos sold.

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Toronto Central: C02 Area

The June real estate market brought 172 new listings, bumping the overall number of active listings in the C02 area up to 261. In June, sales reached 91 units sold in the C02 area, with an average price of $1,078,442. The price was, surprisingly, 26.94 per cent lower than in June 2013.

The price growth was strong for each segment. New listings were also up compared to June 2013. This suggests that homebuyers in the GTA can afford to pay for a home. As Paul Etherington, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, revealed:

Generally speaking, buyers feel that home ownership will be a good investment over the long term. This is why we continued to see increases in home sales in June for all major home types across the GTA. Given the degree of pent-up demand in the market today, I would expect to see sales growth continue through the summer.

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Viva Tastings Cooking Classes

Toronto Life, ,

Website: vivatastings.com
Price: $90 per person
Location: 52 Henry St. Lower Level

Walking down residential Henry Street, a few minutes off of downtown Queen's Park and College, you may hear distant buzzing. Listen closely and you will make out the faint sound of kitchen equipment (blenders, cutlery clinking, dishwashers, a hood fan, a juicer, and a freezer), light music, and laughter. If you're brave enough to descend a few steps to take a peek inside — and if you're lucky — you'll witness the magic in action, a handful of strangers prepping, cooking, and indulging in a one-of-a-kind meal.

Dessert InViva Tastings
Dessert InViva Tastings

Viva Tastings cooking school has a similar energy to that of a bustling restaurant kitchen, with a fully decked-out, completely equipped kitchen to match. Students create several dishes, all working in sync to find the right timing, with a head chef providing guidance whenever necessary. The positive energy in the room is palpable, which is probably why Viva Tastings has been successfully running corporate team-building workshops, with problem-solving and following instructions just some of many things you'll learn throughout the class. The only catch is that the stakes (or steaks?) are high. Instead of serving hungry customers, the finished product is for you and your fellow chefs to eat, and it will serve as a just reward that brings everyone together in the end.

Viva Tastings
Viva Tastings

The owner of Viva Tastings is a quirky Cordon Bleu–trained woman named Karen Viva-Haynes who is also a caterer and vendor at the St. Lawrence market. She has been leading cooking classes for over a decade. She uses innovative recipes to teach her students, with an extensive knowledge of culinary techniques and a welcoming spring in her step. On this particular evening, the class of eight was entitled An Affair to Remember and featured a final menu of several dishes, including Middle Eastern cocktail meatballs with a minty yogurt, fresh salmon– and feta–stuffed phyllo, a colourful salad of carrot, avocado, and orange, and individual mouthwatering molten chocolate cakes with fresh raspberries for dessert.

Fresh Raspberries
Fresh Raspberries

Since this was a class for couples, students split into four pairs and were each assigned a dish to work on so that, in the end, everyone could enjoy a feast as a group. Students were given a recipe to work from, with their ingredients and equipment set up at separate stations. We had Karen's special fruit and chili guacamole to munch on as we worked. With the help of the owner and one kitchen assistant, the class was able to complete each dish and learn culinary skills in the process. Karen would stop the class to demonstrate knife skills, showing the right way to cut cilantro, avocado, and scallions. She taught us how to roll meatballs, melt chocolate, and slice salmon to wrap in phyllo pastry — all using a hands-on approach that allowed each student to learn the technique, discover a new recipe, and prepare a four-course meal. Karen believes this approach is what makes her classes unique, She explains,

"We don't just focus on one technique at a time... Through building a meal together with other people everyone learns and everyone has a fabulous meal. My aim is to inspire each person to continue building their skills and to have fun with food.

For $90 per class, students learn fundamental cooking skills and gain experience in a professional kitchen by jumping right in. Most importantly, with Karen's method of teaching, you learn how to cook by tasting and fixing as you go — which, as any chef can testify, is what makes cooking an endless work in progress. These tips will stay with me throughout my cooking endeavours. I really enjoyed Karen's constant participation in the class and the high energy she maintained throughout the night. We really felt we were part of a team in a kitchen with an important task at hand, but she kept the session fun too.

 Owner Viva Tastings Karen
Owner Viva Tastings Karen

When it came time for plating, Karen taught us the importance of eating with your eyes. She emphasized,

Your food needs to look fabulous, or else it's not going to taste as good.

Luckily for us, every bite was better than the last — from crunchy salmon phyllo to dark chocolate spoonfuls. We each went home with full stomachs, new skills, and possibly even a better understanding of our cooking partner and ourselves.

Recipes
Recipes
Chocolate Cakes With Fresh Raspberries
Chocolate Cakes With Fresh Raspberries
Tasting
Tasting

MEET THE PHOTOGRAPHER: BEA LABIKOVA

Bea Labikova
Bea Labikova

Bea is a Toronto based musician, photographer, teacher and a multidisciplinary visual artist. Growing up surrounded by her father’s antique camera collection, Bea was naturally inclined towards photography since an early age. She loves taking portraits of unique faces and always tries to capture the colours of the world around us. Her main areas of interest are documentary, performance and travel photography.

Five Basic Rules When Buying a Condo in Toronto

Toronto Real Estate News, , , ,
Welcome To Your New Condo by sam xu
Welcome To Your New Condo by Sam Xu

Buying a condo is an important decision that will affect your lifestyle, so you should always approach this decision with great care. Owning a condo offers many attractive features, such as various amenities, freedom from yard and exterior maintenance, making a vacation home more affordable, and the ability to live in your desired location. However, finding the right condo that suits your lifestyle and budget is a daunting task — especially in Toronto, where there are more than 55,000 condo units under construction and an additional 32,000 units are at the pre-construction stage. There are many more aspects than the purchase price that you should consider when buying a Toronto condo. Here are some basic rules.

Financing — Closing Costs, Down Payment, Land Transfer Tax, and Condo Fees

Usually the price of your condo should not exceed more than three times your gross domestic income. The average price for condominiums in the GTA during the first three months of this year was $332,846. In addition, the number of new listings was also down in the first quarter of 2013 on a year-over-year basis. According to Ann Hannah, Toronto Real Estate Board president,

Buyers benefited from a substantial amount of choice in the condo market in the first quarter especially in comparison to low-rise home types. This being said, the fact that new condo listings were down in the first quarter suggests that the market may become tighter moving forward.

Don’t forget to consider closing costs, which include a list of charges your lawyer presents to you on the closing date of your home. Total closing costs can increase the cost of the new condo substantially, and many people are surprised when they have to pay these additional costs. According to the CMHC and GE Capital, you should be prepared to pay at least 1.5 per cent of the buying price for closing costs in addition to the down payment. Overall, you can expect closing costs together with other essential fees to comprise 2 to 7 per cent of the sale price.

All provinces except Alberta and Saskatchewan impose a land transfer tax, which is calculated as a percentage of property value. Many buyers often forget to add this tax when calculating the total cost of purchasing a home. Home buyers in Toronto also have to pay an additional municipal land transfer tax, which applies within Steeles Avenue as the north border, Etobicoke as the west border, Scarborough as the east border, and Lake Ontario as the south border. On the other hand, first-time homebuyers in Toronto of new and resale homes are able to receive a rebate up to a maximum of $3,725.

Lobby by Orijinal
Interesting Lobby by Orijinal

Moreover, condo buyers should take into account condo fees through proper research, as these monthly payments can increase at any time. Condo fees usually cover payments for amenities, a reserve fund for repairs and improvements, a master insurance policy, maintenance, trash removal, and utilities like water, hydro, and cable. Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, suggests,

Purchasing a condo may help you build equity, but the financial commitment of owning a condo may be larger and more complex than many buyers may realize. It’s important to do your research before you hit the open houses to understand the true costs of condo ownership. Keeping a pulse on the health of your condominium’s finances such as its reserve fund, can help you to create a realistic annual budget that anticipates condo fee increases and special assessments.

Maintenance fees in Toronto cost on average about 70 cents per square foot. Be prepared to pay condo fees even for the amenities you do not use.

Find out how much you can lend from your bank. Pre-qualifying for a mortgage is an important step before buying a condo in Toronto. The bank will assess your income, your debts, your down payment, and your credit history. Knowing how much you can get from your bank will help you determine the price range of your new property as well as eliminate the risk of financing once you find the right condo.

Location

Choosing the right neighbourhood is important, as it will determine the way you live as well as define the resale value of the property. Research the school districts in the neighbourhoods you choose, their proximity to work, recreational, and free-time activities, and expansion plans. Condos in the busy downtown business districts are more expensive; however, their value tends to increase. The ideal condo will be close to the subway or train stations and main highways. Moreover, if your condo is located near a gas station or a cemetery, its price might drag down in the future. A good location will help increase the value of your property, whereas a poor location or an unsafe neighbourhood will bring the value of your condo down. Find out whether the building stands on pipelines, as they could leak, which would affect the residents of the building.

Almost There
Almost There.. by Loozrboy

Apart from the building’s location, it’s crucial to consider the location of the unit itself. Location determines a unit’s advantages and disadvantages. For example, units located on higher floors have higher prices than those on mid-level or lower floors, but the higher units offer better views. There’s a huge difference between a unit that faces the street or another building’s wall and a condo that faces the skyline or a lake. End or corner units usually include more windows, which can increase their resale value.

Review the Condo Corporation Rules

The association bylaws can significantly restrict your ownership, so you should contact a lawyer and go through the bylaws with legal counsel before buying a condo. The condo corporation has a right to obtain a court order to ensure that you comply with the rules. Make sure that you know whether there are any restrictions about the number of people who can live in the unit, whether you can rent it, whether you can have pets, operate your own business from it, paint your front door or make other renovations, or barbecue on your patio or balcony. Determine the rules concerning use of common features like pools and gyms, and find out what your condo corporation insurance covers and other important considerations. Not reviewing the rules before buying a unit can lead to serious problems and inconveniences.

In addition, you might go through the delinquency rates of present owners, as the association could be underfunded if they’re not paying on time. It’s important that the condo community sustains a reserve fund that’s reviewed on a regular basis. Low maintenance fees could indicate that the building is either poorly maintained or that the maintenance fees will rise in case of any repairs or improvements.

Work Hard by Sam XU
Work Hard by Sam XU

Pay special attention to the certificate of insurance that provides a summary of the association’s policy, and make sure that you understand it. Check whether the replacement costs covered by the policy are an accurate estimate of the cost of rebuilding. Ensure that the policy has a building-ordinance clause, which basically means that the cost of repairing and rebuilding the building will be paid from the insurance.

Amenities and the Condition of the Building

It’s no surprise that an exclusive and well-maintained garden, pool, Jacuzzi, or modern gym will add value to the property. However, you should consider both features that you desire as well as those that you don’t need, since you have to pay for all of them. Apart from the luxurious, desirable amenities, examine all the basic features that you will use on a daily basis. For example, convenient parking is crucial when trying to find a condo — especially for families with more cars. Most condo buildings feature onsite parking areas in a garage below the building or adjacent to it. Some condominiums also offer gated parking areas — sometimes even guarded by security personnel.

Condo Pool by Richard Bitting
Condo Pool by Richard Bitting

A very important feature of the development is security. Security measures can encompass 24-hour security guards, cameras, and video surveillance, special safety doors and locks, community watch programs, or fencing and safe landscaping. Review that your condo building is safe and that it has an emergency plan and systems for dealing with various disasters.

A basic rule in condo development is that every owner must contribute to common expenses like repairs. If the building is in poor condition, you together with other owners will have to pay the cost of repairs. This includes the parts of the development that you don’t use. Furthermore, you may have to pay for special levies that were approved before you bought the unit. Review the condo association meeting minutes to find out if they have planned any repairs or improvements.

Developers

Condo developers create hype for their projects through advertisements, signs, and informing agents to attract as many buyers as possible. However, their buildings often lack the promised quality and design. Developers ensure that their projects look great on paper, yet in reality you can run into some major flaws. If you don’t want to end up in a building with leaky walls or broken glass, make sure you deal with a respectable developer who stands behind a portfolio of successful products in the neighbourhood. This precaution is especially important in Toronto. With thousands of new units being built, you need to be careful and check whether the builder has a respectable track record of delivering quality housing.

Toronto Reflections: City’s Glass Architecture Photo Essay

Toronto Life, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ontario Association of Architects at Dusk
Ontario Association of Architects Building

Click individual photos to enlarge and enter the Lightbox Gallery.

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by local photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let's have a look at Toronto through the lens of John Dorosiewicz!

(Toronto Reflections: City's Glass Architecture Photo Essay continued...)

Toronto Christmas Market Photo Essay

Toronto Life, , , , , , , , , ,
Toronto Christmas market at night
The annual Toronto Christmas market is a magical place after dark

Click individual photos to enlarge and enter the Lightbox Gallery.

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by local photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let's have a look at Toronto through the lens of Benson Kua!

(Toronto Christmas Market Photo Essay continued...)

Toronto in Fall Season Photo Essay

Toronto Life, , , , , ,
Autumn walk in Riverdale Farm
Riverdale Farm at the heart of Cabbagetown - a perfect place for long autumn walks

Click individual photos to enlarge and enter the Lightbox Gallery.

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by local photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let's have a look at Toronto through the lens of Sanjin Avdi?evi?!

(Toronto in Fall Season Photo Essay continued...)

Amazing Toronto in HDR Photo Essay

Toronto Life, , , , , , ,
Downtown Toronto skyscrapers in the clouds
The endless Downtown Toronto skyscrapers in the clouds

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We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by local photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let's have a look at Toronto through the lens of Paul Bica! Go on a tour of some of Toronto's most famous landmarks.

See more amazing Toronto HDR Photography by Paul here.

(Amazing Toronto in HDR Photo Essay continued...)

The Top Beaches of Toronto Photo Essay Part II

Toronto Life, , , , , ,
Sugar beach near Downtown Toronto
A close view of the Financial District as seen from the Sugar Beach

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We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let's have a look at Toronto through the lens of Viera Prievozníková!

For more pictures from the Toronto beaches, check out the first part of The Top Beaches of Toronto Photo Essay.

(The Top Beaches of Toronto Photo Essay Part II continued...)