Monday, January 16, 2012

Wanna be on HGTV Canada?

May The Best House Win is the ultimate lifestyle game show that sees the owners of some of Canada's most interesting and unusual homes compete against each other in a bid to win a cash prize.

In every episode, four homeowners go head-to-head preparing their properties to impress their fellow competitors in the categories of creativity, ingenuity, hospitality and comfort. After snooping around one another's homes, they candidly review and secretly rate the overall experience out of 10.

The competitor with the greatest score takes home best house bragging rights along with the $1000 prize. It's the ultimate house-proud homeowner showcase showdown where owning the most impressive house wins!

Interested? Email for details!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Toronto Real Estate Predictions

Over on the right there is a tag cloud. One of those tags is Real Estate. And frankly if you click on it, there isn't much to see there. I haven't really talked much about real estate on this blog, but one of my hobbies obsessions is following the Toronto real estate market. So today i thought i'd take a break from talking about renovations to talk about Toronto real estate. And since it is the beginning of the year, i'll go ahead and make some predictions, so that i can either face palm or pat myself on the back at the end of the year. Let me just say i more than welcome comments from anyone who agrees, disagrees, or has predictions of their own. So here goes:

Prediction 1:

Lots of people think there's a RE bubble in this city and that there is a large price correction coming our way. I personally disagree, i think the market in Toronto is pretty healthy (see stats below) and demand for housing is being fuelled by a growing population of high income earners looking to live closer to the core. It's been noted in many studies that Toronto is becoming a city divided, with a large and growing population of low income earners and a large and growing population of high income earners. The middle income earners are leaving the city for the 905's. When one looks at the average income over time, there isn't much movement, because the increase in low income earners and increase in high income earners tend to wash each other out. When it comes to real estate prices however, there isn't any washing effect, because low income earners tend to rent and have little to no impact on real estate values. Whereas high earners tend to buy, so an increase in this segment of the population drives house price increases.

As income disparity widens, real estate prices rise, even as average income remains static. Over time real estate which was once affordable to the middle class eventually becomes out of reach for average income earners, which makes many of them believe there is a bubble. Rather than a bubble, in my opinion it more closely resembles the evolution most large cities go through. In fact compared to most large cities, Toronto real estate is still relatively inexpensive. Seriously, take a look at how much a 3 storey townhouse in New York cost. Over the course of 2012 i think prices in the core will continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace. And over the next decade i think we'll start to see a Manhattanization of Toronto's core.

Some stats to consider:
- Canadians with mortgages have significant equity in their home, averaging about 50 percent of the home's value - Canadian Banker's Association

- Canadian mortgage delinquencies stand at 0.47%, about the same level as when the rising prices started in 2000. This stands in stark contrast to US mortgage delinquencies which peaked at 6.89% in 2009
- Stats from a large mortgage broker (CanEquity), show that in Toronto: Average age of applicant = 37, Average household income = 125K, Average Home Loan = 262K. Certainly not red flag territory by any means.

Prediction 2:

Anyone who cruises the MLS listings enough will learn to recognize flipper houses right away. They are often unfurnished in their photos, and typically feature brand new, (but mediocre) everything. They usually have dark hardwood floors, beige painted walls, hollow-core doors, and reek of Home Depot sales items. And if those things weren't obvious enough, the exteriors usually sport, some combination of stucco, brick and mock stone. These days i see fewer and fewer of them on the market. I think the combination of the Toronto Land Transfer Tax and the increase cost to purchase the "original" homes has really put a damper on flippers' ability to find their next profitable project. Also i think that buyers are becoming increasingly design savvy and more and more are looking for higher end finishes, not just new. While other buyers are now more willing then ever before to buy unrenovated homes and make them their own. So my prediction in 2012, is that flipping in Toronto is dead.

Prediction 3:

Each year Toronto Life publishes it's "Where to Buy Now" list. I figured i'd come up with my own, focusing more on the core. I base my prediction on the housing stock, changing demographics, proximity to shopping, downtown and transportation. So here are 2 neighbourhoods that i think will see the next wave of gentrification.

1. The triangle formed by Dundas Street West , College Street and Ossington Ave: I believe this area has all the classic pre-gentrification ingredients. Many of the homes are occupied by older first generation immigrants who have raised their families in solid brick character homes over the last few decades and are now looking to downsize. The area is well served by public transportation, and is a short commute to downtown or to the Gardiner Expressway. Houses tend to be Victorian and Edwardian in style and date from the 1880's to 1940's. The homes tend to be well cared for, but not updated. Streets also tend to have mature trees and the retail strips along Dundas Street West and College Street, are being touted as the "Next Frontier". New low rise boutique condos and minimalist townhouses are starting to infiltrate this area. Along streets like Coolmine Rd, Lakeview Ave, and Churchill Ave, enormous three storey Victorians can still be purchased for under $800K, similar houses one block south in Beaconsfield Village or one block north in Dufferin Grove, would command prices over $1 million.

A row of large Victorians on Coolmine Ave, just begging for a make-over:

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A row of large Victorians on Churchill Ave, if these were in Roncy there would be permits in the window and a dumpster in front of every second house:

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A row of Victorians on Lakeview Ave, can't you just imagine the potential?:

2. Chinatown/Baldwin Village: Many of the homes in this neighbourhood were converted to apartments decades ago, to take advantage of the rents that one can charge when you're walking distance to everything downtown has to offer. The homes are typically older Victorian row houses and unfortunately have not always been well maintained giving the neighbourhood a gritty feel. I think this is a big reason why this neighbourhood has resisted gentrification thus far, in spite of it's incredible location. But with the condofication and yuppification steadily moving north along Spadina, i think Chinatown's gritty days are numbered.

Houses along Baldwin Ave, mere spitting distance from the AGO and University of Toronto. If you squint hard and imagine the chain link fences and weedy gardens are gone, you can see how beautiful this street scape could be:
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Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm Semi-Retiring

It was fun moonlighting as a designer, but my project has ended so it's time for me to retire my paint swatches and go back to designing just for myself.  As promised i wanted to show the finish photos and do a round up of products and costs.

Here's a breakdown of costs  (amounts include HST) and sources:
4 x 16 ceramic shower tiles $260 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
Shower floor 1 x 1 carrara marble mosaic tiles $163 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
12 x 24 carrara marble floor tiles $289 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
Vanity/Counter/Sink $720 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
Rubi Rondo Tub/Shower System $509 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
Rubi Lavatory Faucet $170 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
2 - Chrome Tile Edges $20 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
3 - 6' Marble jambs $170 from Downtown Lumber (Ossington location)
2 - Albion Sconces $305 from Restoration Hardware
Benjamin Moore Aura Kitchen and Bathroom paint in "Shaker Grey" $90 from High Park Wallpaper & Paint
Mirror/medicine cabinet can't remember the cost (originally purchased for my own bathroom, but never used) from Roman Bath Center

Total for the items i purchased: $2,696

The contractor included in his quote all other materials including:
All wiring, boxes and switches
All building materials (mortar, grout, thin-set, membrane, lumber, screws, insulation, dry wall, cement board, vapour barrier, etc)
New window
Glass Wall
New Door