Real estate industry prepares for a battle

Seven years ago, an advertising executive wanted to experience the bright lights and excitement of competing in a boxing match. So he launched Agency Wars – an event specifically for ad execs who wanted to show off their pugilistic skills.

This year, that same man is bringing the sweet science to the real estate industry.

“Over the period of those years, we’ve perfected the methodology. We have two teams, red and blue; we train the boxers as a team. For a lot of these people it’s the first time they’ve ever been in a boxing ring or gym,” Michael Clancy, founder of Agency Wars and now Toronto Real Estate Rumble, told CREW. “It’s reality show stuff; it’s amazing the transformation and drama they go through. You get in a ring, people throw punches at you, and it’s a transformative experience. We want it to be a really rewarding experience.”

A total of 24 amateur boxers – all from the real estate industry – have been chosen, following a rigorous tryout period, to take part at the event, which takes place Wednesday, November 22 in Toronto.

Clancy, who got into boxing at the age of 50, founded the events as a way for industry professionals to experience the allure of a big ticket boxing event.

“We want you to have that feeling. It’s like the ultimate fantasy. It’s a fantasy camp for boxing – you are going to work and train like a boxer for 12 weeks. We’re going to give the whole experience of the fight as well; the entourage, the robes, 600 spectators, ring card girls, cameras,” he said. “When I first put the show on I wanted to feel how Floyd Mayweather feels. We carefully put together something that gives the full experience that you’ll want to tell your grandkids about.”

The chosen boxers are currently embarking on a 10-week training program, which includes numerous weekly training sessions, nutritional counselling, and world-class coaching from elite-level boxers and trainers.

The real estate combatants will become legitimate amateur boxers, and the event is properly sanctioned by the Boxing Canada to ensure the utmost safety.

Boxers wear headgear and oversized gloves and, according to Clancy, the worst injuries that have occurred over seven years of running Agency Wars were bloody noses.

As for the real estate industry’s own iteration of the event, Clancy says those particular professionals will make perfect boxers.

“It’s very metaphorical for real estate guys: It’s a hard, competitive business and you don’t win every day,” he said.

The event is also raising money for two good causes: The We Foundation and imagine1day. It’s supported by a number of industry partners, incuding Garrison Hill Developments, Foundry Mortgage Capital, Concrete Mortgage Capital.

To find out more about the event, to purchase tickets, or to become a sponsor, check out the website here.

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Investor: Buyers, investors would be ‘foolish’ not to use home inspections

In red hot markets, many are foregoing home inspections in a bid to quickly close on competitive properties. Do you make sure to use inspections?

Let us know in our poll today

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In red hot markets, many are foregoing home inspections in a bid to quickly close on competitive properties. One investor says that’s a mistake.

“Somebody who buys a home without a home inspection, that’s a foolish decision to make. You’re spending $500,000a t least on a piece of property; spending $500 on an inspection makes sense,” BC-based investor Hans McFarlane, told Canadian Real Estate Wealth. “People are skipping home inspections quite a bit, but no realtor, no professional is ever going to put their name on any document that says I recommend you skip an inspection.

“For a new investor, for someone who doesn’t have the resources to deal with the problems that need to be dealt with, it’s foolish to not get it done.”

In markets such as Toronto, many are skipping the home inspection in a bid to win bidding wars.

But that can be a costly mistake, according to mortgage broker and investment author Enza Venuto, who says a few hundred dollars can often save thousands in the long-run.

“If a person does not use a home inspector, they’re doing the wrong thing. They’re a must in today’s environment. Even on new properties, not just old properties, new construction require it as well. I know there’s Tarion, but sometimes issues arise and we recommend clients use a home inspector on homes and on condos,” she said.

And investors will have an easier time securing financing when they have the home inspected, according to Venuto.

“Even seasoned investors … if we don’t use an inspector, the lenders may want to know more details about the property,” she said.

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Mortgage rule change effects extend to small market

Last year’s mortgage rule changes are being blamed for dwindling activity outside the areas they were intended to target, according to a recent report.

“The impact of the new mortgage stress test is impossible to ignore. It has effectively caused a knee-jerk reaction in (Winnipeg), impacting activity and contributing to declining house prices,” Michael Froese, managing partner, Royal LePage Prime Realty, said. “However, given that our region is home to a very stable, diverse economy, which has helped insulate the housing market from significant downward price adjustments over the long term, we expect to see market factors bounce back as the year progresses.”

According to Royal LePage’s Q1 housing report, the aggregate home price in Winnipeg dropped 0.9% year-over-year to $274,844.

Still, the brokerage remains optimistic about the market’s future.

“Winnipeg is the most affordable major city centre in Canada, offering prospective homeowners – particularly first-time buyers – a great deal of value for their dollar,” said Michael Froese, managing partner, Royal LePage Prime Realty. “The region’s real estate market is coming off its best year on record. Although home values dipped slightly in January and February, March saw a surge of activity, helping to buoy prices in Winnipeg. Sales in the first quarter of 2017 also remain consistent with the same time last year, and are above the 10-year average for the quarter.”

Last October, the federal government released a suite of mortgage rule changes – which included tougher qualification requirements – that were widely regarded as a move to address affordability in major markets such as Toronto and Vancouver.

However, the spill over effect has been felt in smaller markets, such as Winnipeg.

And just six months later, the industry and politicians remain concerned about the Toronto and Vancouver markets.

“The overall Canadian market is healthier in 2017 than it has been in years, yet the downside risks are greater too,” concluded Soper. “Our economy, which has recovered nicely from the 2014 oil crisis, is sadly dependent on moves by an unpredictable U.S. federal government and can be swayed by unforeseen global events, such as fallout from Europe’s restructuring. Still, housing activity is strong and prices are rising at a healthy mid-single-digit rate across the land. The trend in Alberta, Quebec and Atlantic Canada is particularly encouraging. Our concerns with the state of Canadian real estate begin and end in Toronto and Vancouver.”

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Veteran estimates foreign investment as much as 70%, argues for regulation

One Toronto brokerage owner is calling for foreign buyer regulation, despite some blowback from his own brokers.

Carl Langschmidt, president of Condos.ca, recently penned a blog entitled Foreign Investor Tax and Regulation Please! – a polite, yet assertive call to action.

In the piece, Langschmidt argues foreign ownership stats are much higher than the CMHC’s estimate of 2.3% of sales in Toronto. He went so far as to call that figure “laughable.”

“Our talks with sales reps in the trenches indicate it is much higher; some reported as high as 70% foreign ownership at developments like CityPlace,” Langschmidt wrote.

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But how about this other piece of sobering hearsay?

“Personally, this week alone, one of the agents in my brokerage who was meant to be listing a 50 unit condo building was just informed today the developer sold the entire building to a Chinese consortium and that we’re not getting any of the listings,” Langschmidt told Canadian Real Estate Wealth. “That’s how hot the market is.”

Vancouver had success with its own foreign real estate regulation when it implemented a 15% sales tax. That helped contribute to double-digit cooling in what was once Canada’s hottest market.

And Toronto may soon have its own measures introduced, with Ontario’s budget expected in the coming weeks. Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the budget will contain policy aimed at addressing housing affordability.

“Demand is high for a number of factors,” he said, per the Canadian Press. “Could be speculators, could be people from outside the country, it could very well be the many who are now moving into Ontario creating that demand.”

While many have argued in favour of a similar approach in Toronto, Langschmidt suggests a multipronged strategy that could also include special regulations for prebuild home sales.

“Preconstruction sales has morphed into a totally separate specialization in real estate; it’s almost as if agents who specialize in that are so different from traditional real estate where you’re showing properties,” he said. “Preconstruction sales is all about pitching investors and often agents and groups go overseas to pitch. I’ve seen their presentations. I cringe at their presentations. It induces the speculation; half of them use numbers are (off). A lot of them don’t calculate ROIs correctly. This is where I think some regulation is required.

“Anyone selling a stock or investment vehicle, there’s regulations in the securities business about what you can say. Whereas with (real estate sales) it’s the wild west.”

Many believe foreign ownership is having a major impact on Toronto home prices and will likely applaud Langschmidt’s comments. However, that may not include a portion of real estate agents, his own included.

“The reason why I’m saying it is I don’t mind saying what I think is true,” Langschmidt said. “It will upset people who deal with foreign investors; even in my own brokerage I had someone call me up and say ‘we have a lot of foreign investors and they’re not going to be happy with our opinion on us.’”

Related stories:
Ontario hints at measures to cool real estate market in the budget
Don’t tax foreign buyers says real estate board

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CREA spotlights challenges

The Canadian Real Estate Association has released its first report of 2017, highlighting the challenges homebuyers are poised to face this year.

“Canadian homebuyers face some challenges this year, including new mortgage rules that make it harder to qualify for a mortgage and regulatory changes that will push up mortgage financing costs,” CREA President Cliff Iverson said. “It will take some time to gauge the extent to which these challenges will weigh on home buyers in different housing markets across Canada.”

Home sales fell 1.3% in January from December’s total. Sales activity was down in half of all local markets, led by the GTA, Greater Vancouver and Montreal markets.

Inventory continues to be an issue.

“The shortage of homes available for sale has become more severe in some cities, particularly in and around Toronto and in parts of BC,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “Unless sales activity drops dramatically, the outlook for home prices remains strong in places that face a continuing supply shortage.”

The number of newly listed homes fell 6.7% in January – that’s the second consecutive monthly decline. New listings, meanwhile, were down in two-thirds of all markets.

“With the monthly decline in new listings surpassing the decline in sales, the national sales-to-new listings ratio jumped to 67.7% in January compared to 64.0% in December and 60.2% in November,” CREA said in a release. “A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers’ and sellers’ markets respectively.”

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Industry weighs in on foreign buyer stats

Ontario-based associations discuss the recent released foreign buyer stats and whether or not any action is needed to control its influence.

Should Toronto implement a similar foreign buyer tax?

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) doesn’t think so.

“A foreign buyer tax penalizes the international MBA student who will one day start her own business in our province, or the pediatric nurse aspiring to work at Sick Kids,” Tim Hudak, OREA CEO said in a release. “The lesson here is that we need sustainable, long-term solutions that get to the root of the affordability problem, and it starts with increasing housing supply.”

OREA referenced a study by the Toronto Real Estate Board, released Tuesday, that found a mere 4.9% of GTA transactions in 2016 involved foreign purchasers.

“As the foreign buyer conversation unfolded, TREB held steadfast to the view that the provincial and municipal governments should comprehensively and patiently review the issue of foreign purchasers of real estate in Ontario before making any policy decisions and should seek out actual empirical evidence on the level of foreign buying activity in the GTA,” the board said in its Market Year in Review. “In this regard, TREB decided to take the lead on data collection and commission its own study.”

TREB commissioned Ipsos, a third party research firm, to survey agents about the level of foreign purchasing activity throughout the GTA.

The survey collected over 3,500 responses.

As previously mentioned, the survey found an estimated 4.9% of foreign transactions in the GTA – with levels as high as 6% in York and Halton regions and as low as 1% in Durham.

In Toronto, the share of foreign buyers was 5%.

According to the survey responses, 40% of foreign buyers purchased a home as a principal residence; 15% purchased for a family member; 25% purchased as a rental investment; 4% purchased as a non-primary residence; and 3% purchased with the intent of keeping it vacant.

“These results were in line with recent CMHC findings related to the condominium apartment market. In the fall of 2016, CMHC estimated that 2.3 per cent of condominium apartments in the GTA were foreign-owned. In newer condominium apartment buildings, the share of foreign ownership was slightly higher at 3.9 per cent,” TREB said.

The results suggest the influence of foreign buyers on the GTA market is minimal and that a similar foreign buyer tax to Vancouver’s is not necessary.

Click here to read the entire study.

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Budget options for Canadian millennials in the age of soaring prices

With Canadian housing price growth having set new records this year, more and more millennials are branching out to other viable options aside from home ownership.

Among these alternatives, especially popular in red-hot Toronto, is cooperative purchases of homes between friends or relatives, The Canadian Press reported.

In its recent survey, RBC noted that co-ownership is a top choice among 24 per cent of millennials. HomeLife/Realty One Ltd. (Toronto) sales representative Alan Aronson said that a leading reason is that each of the buyers in a co-purchase can qualify for a larger mortgage, while sharing the remaining costs (such as land transfer taxes and insurance) among themselves.

However, Aronson warned that this route has its own share of risks, especially considering that relationships can and do become strained when it comes to money. For instance, if one party neglects their fiscal responsibilities, all the co-owners might be forced to sell the property early or might even lose it to the lenders.

Another option would be to rent, probably in perpetuity. Jason Heath of Objective Financial Partners said that this might indeed be the better choice in the most expensive markets, if one is willing to “ignore the practical and psychological benefits of home ownership.”

Instead of using one’s funds for down payment, one can instead invest it—and in the process avoid other, not initially obvious, expenses such as taxes and closing fees.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada warned in its report that young workers nationwide are facing far worse conditions compared to professionals from older generations, with the youth unemployment rate over a period of 4 decades (from 1976 to 2015) being around 2.3 times higher than the rate among workers older than 25 years old.

This trend accompanied a severe decline in the take-home pay and the purchasing power of this demographic by the early 1980s, with young Canadian males (17 to 24 years old) experiencing a 15 per cent reduction in their real hourly wages, and young females suffering a 10 per cent drop.

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Major investor hotspot no longer seller’s market

Real estate association tries to find the positive in a downward trending market.

“BC home sales trend toward ten-year average,” the British Columbia Real Estate Association proclaimed in its latest sales report.

“Moderating consumer demand in the province’s largest population centres continues to trend home sales toward the ten-year average,” Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist, said. “The seasonally adjusted annual rate of MLS® residential sales was approximately 89,000 units last month.
The ten-year average is 83,000 unit sales, while the 15-year average is 85,300 unit sales.”

But is that the big story?

For investors with interests in the province, not likely.

Sales were down 20.1% year-over-year in November, coming in at 6,419 total residential sales.

Prices also took a dip, falling 6.4% year-over-year to $625,871.

Vancouver, specifically, had a tough month. Unit sales fell 37.4% to 2,225 and the average price dropped 3.8% to $895,084.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, Vancouver is no longer a seller’s market

“A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 percent is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers’ and sellers’ markets respectively,” CREA said in its monthly stats release. “The ratio was above 60 percent in almost half of all local housing markets in November, the vast majority of which are located in British Columbia, in and around the Greater Toronto Area and across Southwestern Ontario.

“In Greater Vancouver, the ratio has moved out of sellers’ market territory and into the mid-50 percent range.”

Still, it’s not all bad news.

“Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume increased 22.8 per cent to $74.5 billion, when compared with the same period in 2015,” BCREA said, again focusing on the positive. “Residential unit sales climbed by 12.1 per cent to 107,488 units, while the average MLS residential price was up 9.6 per cent to $692,745.”

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Toronto area housing prices, sales volume soar in September: real estate board

By David Paddon

TORONTO _ Housing sales in the Toronto area continued to soar last month, with the average price rising 20.4 per cent from September last year to $755,755, the Toronto Real Estate Board reported Wednesday.

The price increases came as the number of transactions in the Greater Toronto Area rose 21.5 per cent, a stark contrast to a big drop in the number of transactions last month in Vancouver’s residential real estate market.

The real estate board said Wednesday there was strong growth in sales transactions for all major home types in the area but a lack of supply limited growth in the City of Toronto itself.

By comparison, figures released Tuesday by Vancouver’s real estate board showed a 32.6 per cent drop in sales transactions compared with September 2015 _ prior to a new 15 per cent provincial tax on foreign buyers that came into effect in August.

Vancouver prices continued to rise but some analysts expect a prolonged decline in demand will lower the sky-high cost of housing in Canada’s most expensive real estate market.

There’s also been anecdotal evidence that some foreign buyers have shifted their focus from Vancouver to other cities, including Toronto. On Monday, the federal government unveiled measures to tighten rules for prospective buyers and lenders.

“The Toronto Real Estate Board will be closely monitoring how the recent changes to federal mortgage lending guidelines and capital gains tax exemption rules impact the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area,” Jason Mercer, the board’s director of market analysis, said in a statement Wednesday.

“While these changes are pointed at the demand for ownership housing, it is important to note that much of the upward pressure on home prices in the GTA has been based on the declining inventory of homes available for sale.”

The real estate board’s benchmark price index was up 18 per cent from September 2015, after adjusting to various types of housing..

The average sale price for detached houses in Toronto proper rose to $1.29 million, up 23 per cent from a year earlier. The comparable price for detached houses in surrounding areas was $928,414, up 26.6 per cent.

By contrast, prices for condos in Toronto proper grew only 6.5 per cent to $446,729. Condo prices in other parts of the Greater Toronto Area were up 19.4 per cent to $367,260.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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CREA releases latest sales figures

Canadian home sales have fallen for a third consecutive month.

“Home sales continued to trend lower while price gains further accelerated in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “This suggests that sales are being reined in by a lack of inventory and a further deterioration in affordability. The new 15 per cent property transfer tax on Metro Vancouver home purchases by foreign buyers took effect on August 2nd, so it will take some time before the effect of the new tax on sales and prices can be observed. That said, the new tax will do little in the short term to increase the supply of homes.”

National home sales fell 1.3% month-over-month in July and 2.9% year-over-year.

The average price jumped 14.3% year-over-year last month. Newly listed homes, meanwhile, increased 1.2% month-over-month.

“National sales and price trends continue to be heavily influenced by a handful of places in Ontario and British Columbia and mask significant variations in local housing market trends and conditions across Canada,” said CREA President Cliff Iverson.

Many cities in those two provinces continue to be considered “seller’s markets.

“With sales down and new listings up, the national sales-to-new listings ratio eased to 61.6 percent in July 2016 – its second monthly decline following its peak of 65.3 percent in May. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 40 and 60 percent is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings below and above this range indicating buyers’ and sellers’ markets respectively,” CREA said in a release. “The ratio was above 60 percent in about half of all local housing markets in July, virtually all of which continue to be located in British Columbia, in and around the Greater Toronto Area and across Southwestern Ontario.”

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