Saturday, June 30, 2018

Happy Canada Day!

Time to fly the flag and have fun with family and friends! Enjoy a barbecue or see a parade! Canada Day is a holiday for everyone -- have a great one!

Wishing your family & friends a very Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

TREB Releases Monthly Market Figures

Toronto Real Estate Board President Tim Syrianos announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 7,792 sales through TREB's MLS® System in April 2018. The average selling price was $804,584. On a year-over-year basis, sales were down by 32.1 per cent and the average selling price was down by 12.4 per cent.

The year-over-year change in the overall average selling price has been impacted by both changes in market conditions as well as changes in the type and price point of homes being purchased.  This is especially clear at the higher end of the market.  Detached home sales for $2 million or more accounted for 5.5 per cent of total detached sales in April 2018, versus 10 per cent in April 2017.  The MLS® Home Price Index strips out the impact of changes in the mix of home sales from one year to the next.  This is why the MLS® HPI Composite Benchmark was down by only 5.2 per cent year-over-year versus 12.4 per cent for the average price.

"While average selling prices have not climbed back to last year's record peak, April's price level represents a substantial gain over the past decade. Recent polling conducted for TREB by Ipsos tells us that the great majority of buyers are purchasing a home within which to live. This means these buyers are treating home ownership as a long-term investment. A strong and diverse labour market and continued population growth based on immigration should continue to underpin long-term home price appreciation," said Mr. Syrianos.

After preliminary seasonal adjustment ¹, the month-over-month change (i.e. March 2018 to April 2018) in sales and the average selling price was minimal, with sales decreasing 1.6 per cent and the average selling price decreasing by 0.2 per cent.  The month-over-month sales trend has flattened out over the past two months following a steeper drop-off in January and February.

"The comparison of this year's sales and price figures to last year's record peak masks the fact that market conditions should support moderate increases in home prices as we move through the second half of the year, particularly for condominium apartments and higher density low-rise home types.  Once we are past the current policy-based volatility, homeowners should expect to see the resumption of a moderate and sustained pace of price growth in line with a strong local economy and steady population growth," said Jason Mercer, TREB's Director of Market Analysis.

Provincial Election Candidates Should Make Housing Issues a Top Priority

With a provincial election campaign about to begin, GTA REALTORS® hope that all of the provincial parties will make housing issues a priority. Home ownership is a worthwhile investment that benefits our economy, individual finances and quality of life," said Mr. Syrianos

"In recent months and years, there has been significant intervention in housing markets by all levels of government, through regulatory changes and taxation. We believe the next step should be tax relief, especially from Land Transfer Taxes, both provincial and the Toronto Land Transfer Tax, and efforts to facilitate an increase in the supply of missing middle housing that fills the gap between single family homes and high rises. Furthermore, we believe that any attempt to increase the Toronto Land Transfer Tax should require approval from the provincial government, given the significance of Toronto's economy to the Province and the connections between the Toronto real estate market and that of the broader GTA," added Syrianos.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Monthly Market Figures Reported By GTA REALTORS

Toronto Real Estate Board President Tim Syrianos announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 7,228 residential transactions through TREB’s MLS® System in March 2018. This result was down by 39.5 per cent compared to a record 11,954 sales reported in March 2017 and down 17.6 per cent relative to average March sales for the previous 10 years.

The number of new listings entered into TREB’s MLS® System totaled 14,866 – a 12.4 percent decrease compared to March 2017 and a three per cent decrease compared to the average for the previous 10 years.

“TREB stated in its recent Market Outlook report that Q1 sales would be down from the record pace set in Q1 2017,” said Mr. Syrianos. “The effects of the Fair Housing Plan, the new OSFI-mandated stress test and generally higher borrowing costs have prompted some buyers to put their purchasing decision on hold. Home sales are expected to be up relative to 2017 in the second half of this year.”

The MLS Home Price Index Composite Benchmark was down by 1.5 percent on a year-over-year basis for the TREB market area as a whole. The overall average selling price was down by 14.3 per cent compared to March 2017.

While the change in market conditions certainly played a role, the dip in the average selling price was also compositional in nature. Detached home sales, which generally represent the highest price points in a given area, declined much more than other home types.  In addition, the share of high-end detached homes selling for over $2 million in March 2018 was half of what was reported in March 2017, further impacting the average selling price.

“Right now, when we are comparing home prices, we are comparing two starkly different periods of time: last year, when we had less than a month of inventory versus this year with inventory levels ranging between two and three months.  It makes sense that we haven’t seen prices climb back to last year’s peak.  However, in the second half of the year, expect to see the annual rate of price growth improve compared to Q1, as sales increase relative to the below-average level of listings,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

TREB continues to stress that housing and housing affordability need to be at the forefront of the policy debates leading into this year’s provincial and municipal elections.

“A well-functioning housing market is not only important to ensure that people have a place to live; it is also important because it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in spin-off expenditures and billions of dollars in government revenues.  Issues such as the below-average level of housing supply and often inadvisable policy ideas and negative measures such as land transfer taxes, vacancy taxes, speculation taxes and second home taxes should also be thoroughly debated by all candidates,” said Mr. Syrianos.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mortgage renewals in 2018: Prepare for nasty rate surprises

The era of pleasant surprises for people renewing their mortgage is done.

Years of falling interest rates in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis taught a generation of home buyers that renewing a mortgage is a chance to reduce your payments. Now, we're heading into the first wave of postcrisis renewals at higher mortgage rates.

If you bought your house five years ago and chose a mortgage with the ever-popular five-year term, rate hikes since last summer mean your payments are headed higher on renewal. Competitively discounted fixed five-year mortgage rates today run from 3.19 per cent to 3.59 per cent, depending on your particular home and mortgage details. Five years ago, a comparable rate was 2.74 per cent. The lowest five-year rate widely available in the past five years was 2.44 per cent in mid-2016, according to

David Larock of Integrated Mortgage Planners said he's starting to hear from homeowners who are taking in this shift in rates. "I get e-mails from people once in a while to say, if you can get me my old rate of 2.49 per cent, I'd be happy to renew," he said. "I have to break their hearts."

Higher rates are just half the story. New mortgage-industry rules are complicating the process of taking your mortgage elsewhere if you don't like the rate offered by your current lender. Vince Gaetano, a broker with, said a lot of people seem to think the new rules applied only to first-time buyers. "Now, they're coming up to their renewals and they're saying, I had no idea this impacted me. I would have planned for this last year."

The new rules require buyers with a down payment of 20 per cent or more to undergo a stress test that ensures they could afford their mortgage payments at the greater of the Bank of Canada's five-year benchmark rate (now 5.14 per cent) or the actual rate being offered plus two percentage points. People with down payments below 20 per cent already faced a stress test, but it was set at the five-year Bank of Canada rate and thus slightly less stringent.

For existing homeowners, the stress tests are a non-factor as long as they're renewing their mortgage with their current lender. If they want to move the mortgage to a different lender, a stress test must be applied. Unless you can pass the stress test, you're likely stuck with your current lender. Mr. Gaetano expects lenders, notably the banks, to use the new rules as an opportunity to become less competitive in the renewal rates offered clients who appear to be less creditworthy. Better rates may be out there, but these clients won't be able to get them.

A recent column looked at how people refinancing their mortgages to add other debts must also pass the stress test now. Refinancing is a popular tactic used by people who are getting overwhelmed by their debts. How popular? Mr. Gaetano said about 80 per cent of his clients who are up for their first mortgage renewal have in the past refinanced as opposed to simply renewing.

The biggest rate shocks will be felt by people who thought they were being prudent borrowers by putting down 20 per cent or more and thus avoiding the cost of mortgage-default insurance. This insurance makes a mortgage more attractive to lenders because the equity built up in the house means they won't lose money if borrowers can't repay what they owe.

That competitive 3.19-per-cent, five-year fixed rate mentioned earlier is for people who started with a so-called high-ratio mortgage, where the down payment is less than 20 per cent, and/or for those who have a mortgage that is less than 65 per cent of the current value of their home. Also, the purchase price had to be below $1-million. The best rate applies here because the mortgage is insured against default.

Expect rates in the area of 3.39 to 3.59 per cent if you're renewing a mortgage of between 65 per cent and 80 per cent of the home's current value (for example, a couple that put down 20 per cent at the time of purchase several years ago) and/or had an original purchase price of $1-million and higher. The same applies to people who are refinancing when they renew.

If years of declining rates have reduced the motivation for homeowners to shop around for a mortgage deal, Mr. Larock expects that to change this spring. "If their costs are going up, a lot of people are going to be more inclined to see what else is out there."

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Ontario's best investment hubs this year

A new report from independent research think-tank Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) ranked Ontario’s largest metropolitan areas by real estate market performance and suitability for investment over the next 5 years.

In terms of growth, diversity, and fundamental strength, Ottawa came out on top of the wide-ranging survey, which looked at multiple factors including economic health, employment numbers, GDP and population growth, housing prices and overall affordability, rent and vacancy rates, and several others.

REIN ranked the following cities in order of their housing market strength and potential performance over the next half-decade:
  1. Ottawa
  2. Kitchener -Waterloo-Cambridge
  3. Hamilton
  4. Barrie
  5. Brampton
  6. Durham Region
  7. Toronto
  8. Kingston
  9. Orillia
  10. Grimsby and St. Catharines
REIN also cited the following cities as honourable mentions, in no particular order:
  • Milton
  • Niagara Region
  • London
  • Thunder Bay
  • Vaughan
  • Chatham

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Most Buyers Won't Delay Despite Rate Rises

The recent increases in interest rates appear not to have dampened the intentions of most Canadian home buyers.

Just 1 in 4 surveyed for CMHC’s 2018 Prospective Home Buyer Survey said that an interest rate would make them very likely to delay purchasing a new home.

However, the tight inventory in some markets is likely to delay home purchase with more than 40% saying they would wait to find the ideal home and a similar share willing to compromise on the size and location.

All groups of prospective buyers would prefer a move-in-ready home or a newly built one.

While many are not put off, the tighter mortgage regulations and interest rate rises were not a top motivator for their purchase; most respondents cited better accessibility and investment as their top motivators.

“The Survey findings provide insights and valuable information for mortgage professionals about their future clients and their needs,” said Nathalie Fredette, Vice-President, Client Relationship Management. “It brings awareness amongst the industry and contributes to financial literacy by helping Canadians make informed and responsible home buying decisions.”

Most respondents will finance their home purchase with a mortgage – especially first-time buyers – with a downpayment saved 1 to 2 years before purchase. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Capacity Issues Revealed in GTA Condo Report

Condo developers in Toronto are under extreme pressure to deliver more units as demand continues to escalate.

An assessment of the market from Urbanation reveals that 35,074 new condos were sold across the GTA in 2017, rising sharply from the 26,893 sold in 2016.

Absorption hit record highs (84% of units launched were sold by year-end) and demand from investors escalated even as prices jumped 33% year-over-year to $876 per sq ft in Q4.

Unsold inventory was down to below 8,000 – it hasn’t been that low since 1999 – but completions dropped to a five-year low of 13,513 units in 2017, with only 62% of units that were scheduled for delivery last year reaching occupancy.

“While the results for 2017 prove how remarkably strong demand can be for GTA condos, the level of activity underway is putting the industry under tremendous pressure to push the units through the development cycle”, said Shaun Hildebrand, Urbanation’s Senior Vice President. “A more sustainable pace of roughly 26,000 sales is likely in store for 2018.”

Urbanation’s calculations show that speculation dropped in 2017 from 4% of units bought and sold within 12 months in 2016, to 2.9% by the end of 2017.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Monthly Market Figures

Toronto Real Estate Board President Tim Syrianos announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 4,019 residential transactions through TREB’s MLS® System in January 2018. This result was down by 22 per cent compared to a record 5,155 sales reported in January 2017.

The number of new listings entered into TREB’s MLS® System amounted to 8,585 – a 17.4 per cent increase compared to 7,314 new listings entered in January 2017. However, it is important to note that the level of new listings was the second lowest for the month of January in the past 10 years.

“TREB released its outlook for 2018 on January 30th. The outlook pointed to a slower start to 2018, especially compared to the record-setting pace experienced a year ago. As we move through the year, expect the pace of home sales to pick up, as the psychological impact of the Fair Housing Plan starts to wane and home buyers find their footing relative to the new OSFI-mandated stress test for mortgage approvals through federally regulated lenders,” said Mr. Syrianos.

The MLS® Home Price Index Composite Benchmark was up by 5.2 per cent year-over-year. This annual rate of growth was driven by the condominium apartment market segment, with double-digit annual growth versus the single-family segment, with prices essentially flat compared to last year. The overall average selling price was down by 4.1 per cent year-over-year to $736,783. This decline was weighted toward the detached segment of the market. In the City of Toronto, the average selling price was up for all home types except for detached houses.

“It is not surprising that home prices in some market segments were flat to down in January compared to last year. At this time last year, we were in the midst of a housing price spike driven by exceptionally low inventory in the marketplace. It is likely that market conditions will support a return to positive price growth for many home types in the second half of 2018. The condominium apartment segment will be the driver of this price growth,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

“With the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee meeting today to make recommendations on the City’s 2018 Budget, City Councillors would be wise to note the vast difference between last January’s real estate market and this January’s, given the City’s inadvisable reliance on the Municipal Land Transfer Tax. The amount of revenue that the City generates from this tax goes up and down with the real estate market. The last year should be a wake-up call for City Council. They should heed the City Manager’s ongoing warnings of over-reliance on this tax. The Land Transfer Tax is not a good way to fund municipal services,” said Syrianos.

The revenue generated by the Municipal Land Transfer Tax is based on the number of real estate transactions and the value of those transactions. When the MLTT was first implemented in 2008, it made up less than 2% of the City’s operating budget. Today, it makes up 7%, a 250% increase.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

GTA condo rental prices soar as demand outweighs supply

The construction cranes seem to be everywhere you look in downtown Toronto, but finding a condo to call home is becoming increasingly more difficult, and costly, for a legion of desperate renters.

Recent statistics compiled by real estate consulting firm Urbanation show rental costs have spiked in tandem with a sudden supply shortage.

According to its annual report, condo rents in the Greater Toronto Area have risen nine per cent in the fourth quarter to an average price of $2,166. The average monthly price was even steeper in downtown Toronto at $2,392.

But it also appears more people are staying put in their condos, and a large number of construction projects remain incomplete, leaving fewer units available to renters.

“Lease activity declined in 2017 to 8.3 per cent, the lowest level of condo rental turnover since 2013,” Urbanation said. “Lower condo rental supply in 2017 was the result of an increased share of units resold as investors took advantage of quickly rising condo prices, as well as a decline in new project completions to a four-year low.

“At the same time, high rent levels and new rent control regulations are leading tenants to move less often, further reducing available supply.”

But Urbanation believes the supply issues will embolden developers to continue building at a rapid pace.

“Persistently strong rent growth throughout 2017 was simply the result of demand fundamentals for renting far outweighing supply” said Shaun Hildebrand, Urbanation’s senior vice president.

“This has raised the confidence of developers to add more units to the pipeline, a trend that will need to continue in order to meet future housing needs for the GTA.”

Here are some of Urbanation’s key findings.
  • Average monthly rents grew by 9.1 per cent year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $2,166.
  • Per-square-foot rents increased by 5.8 per cent to $2.93, marking a slower rate of growth than previous quarters due to compositional changes from a shift in activity to the suburbs.
  • The number of units leased in the fourth quarter fell 11 per cent annually as listings dropped 16 per cent.
  • Supply has been weighed down by low condo completions and reduced rental turnover rates.
  • The average length of time between lease transactions increased to a high of 23 months.
  • The share of units leased through companies as opposed to individuals was 10 per cent in the fourth quarter.
  • Rents for available purpose-built units built since 2005 grew 10.8 per cent, with vacancy of 0.3 per cent.
  • Rental development increased to a two-decade high of 7,184 units under construction

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Luxury living here to stay

Coming off a strong showing in 2017, luxury real estate markets in Canada’s three largest cities will remain robust this year, according to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s Top-Tier Real Estate Report.

Sotheby’s President and CEO Brad Henderson says that with strong projected GDP growth in Toronto and Vancouver, there will be a strong absorption of luxury properties.

“Luxury properties in great locations will always be in demand,” Henderson told REP. “There were strong, stable prices over the last year and I expect that will continue over the coming year. GDP growth in Vancouver and Toronto is expected to be well over 2.5%, so it should continue strong in both markets.”

Activity in the GTA’s top-tier condominiums market last year outpaced all other Canadian markets, both in percentage gains and volume. Sales in the region’s million-plus category were up a whopping 59% year-over-year, and even more impressively, sales for $4mln-plus homes were up 91%.

“When we saw the actual statistics, what we were surprised at is how resilient condos were in Toronto in the face of the Fair Housing Plan,” said Henderson.

Sales in Vancouver’s luxury condo market weren’t up quite as high, although the 27% year-over-year increase in 2017 was still robust.

Montreal has been riding a high the last couple of years, and there’s nary a reason to believe that won’t continue in 2018, according to the report. While activity has been overshadowed by Toronto and Vancouver, where growth is beginning to taper, the Quebecois metropolis is enjoying an ascendance it hasn’t seen in years.

“Montreal is going to continue to be a very healthy market,” said Henderson. “When you compared it to Toronto and Vancouver in the past, it always looked like a comparatively slow-growing market. But that was always comparing a relatively healthy market with markets experiencing hyper growth. Toronto and Vancouver are retrenching, but Montreal’s standing out as a strong performer. Expect it to continue on over the next couple of years with upward pressure on price.”

Henderson says 2018 will be a strong year in Calgary, where GDP growth is expected to surpass 3%, suggesting the worst is behind the city. Henderson

“I would think that’s most people’s views, and what we’ve seen, is better quality properties in better quality neighbourhoods have responded first and fastest, and that will have allowed other properties to come along with them,” he added.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No brakes on the Toronto condo price train

In its latest data release, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) stated that the average selling price for condominium apartments went up by 17.9% on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter of 2017, up to $515,816.

“While this annual rate of growth was down from earlier in 2017, the condominium apartment segment was still the leader in terms of price growth in the second half of the year,” TREB said in its release.

TREB president Tim Syrianos also announced that brokers in the Greater Toronto Area reported 5,773 condominium apartment sales through the Board’s MLS® System in that same quarter. This volume was down by 15.4% compared to the last three months of 2016.

Meanwhile, new condominium apartment listings increased by 9.8%, up to 8,186. And while sales declined noticeably relative to listings, market conditions still remained tight with a sales-to-new listings ratio of 70%.

“Demand for condominium apartments remained strong relative to listings in the fourth quarter. Even with the uptick in listings, which was certainly welcome, there was enough competition among buyers to prompt double-digit annual rates of price growth. This points to the fact that we still do have a supply problem in the GTA that needs to be addressed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the marketplace,” Syrianos explained.

Seller’s market conditions remained in place for the condominium apartment market segment in the fourth quarter. Based on price point, this housing type remains top of mind for many first-time buyers. In addition, as home prices have grown year-over-year some buyers who initially may have considered the purchase of a low-rise home have chosen to purchase a condo apartment as well,” TREB director of market analysis Jason Mercer said.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Monthly Market Figures Reported By GTA REALTORS®

Toronto Real Estate Board President Tim Syrianos announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 92,394 sales through TREB’s MLS® System in 2017. This total was down 18.3 per cent compared to the record set in 2016.

Record sales in Q1 were followed by a decline in Q2 and Q3 after the Ontario Fair Housing Plan (FHP) was announced. The pace of sales picked up in Q4, as the impact of the FHP started to wane, and some buyers arguably brought forward their home purchase in response to the new OSFI stress test guidelines effective January 1, 2018.

“Much of the sales volatility in 2017 was brought about by government policy decisions.  Research from TREB, the provincial government and Statistics Canada showed that foreign home buying was not a major driver of sales in the GTA. However, the Ontario Fair Housing Plan, which included a foreign buyer tax, had a marked psychological impact on the marketplace.  Looking forward, government policy could continue to influence consumer behavior in 2018, as changes to federal mortgage lending guidelines come into effect,” said Mr. Syrianos.

The average selling price for 2017 as a whole was $822,681 – up 12.7 per cent compared to 2016.  This annual growth was driven more so by extremely tight market conditions during the first four months of the year.  In the latter two-thirds of 2017, fewer sales combined with increased listings resulted in slower price growth.  In December, the MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) Composite Benchmark was up by 7.2 per cent year over year, and the overall average selling price was up by 0.7 per cent year over year.

“It is interesting to note that home price growth in the second half of 2017 differed substantially depending on market segment.  The detached market segment – the most expensive on average – experienced the slowest pace of growth as many buyers looked to less expensive options.  Conversely, the condominium apartment segment experienced double-digit growth, as condos accounted for a growing share of transactions,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

“TREB will have much more to say about the year to come on January 30 when we will release our third annual Market Year in Review and Outlook Report.  The report will feature an outlook for home sales and prices; new Ipsos consumer survey results covering buying intentions, including insights on new federal mortgage lending guidelines; new research on housing supply options surrounding the ‘missing middle,’ and important new reports on the movement of people and goods throughout the GTA,” added Mr. Syrianos.

Monday, January 15, 2018

OSFI rule changes may lead to spike in reverse mortgages

With the expectation that first-time homebuyers will be shuttered out of the housing market, thereby reducing the number of people to whom seniors can sell their homes, reverse mortgages might begin surging next year.

OSFI’s new lending rules are widely expected to affect first-time buyers more than any other buying cohort, and the ripple effect it can have through the marketplace could result in seniors being stuck in their homes, rather than pulling out equity and retiring.

Yvonne Ziomecki, the executive vice president of marketing and sales at HomEquity Bank, says the new borrowing rules coming into effect on January 1 will give the reverse mortgage market an indirect boost.

“If there are less people qualifying for conventional mortgages, therefore, there are less buyers in the marketplace, then our clients 55 years and older will have fewer buyers to sell to,” she said. “There are [younger] buyers in the market who may not be able to qualify under the new rules. They may be looking to their family for a larger down payment so that they look better to lenders.”

This, too, could be a boon for the reverse mortgage industry. It’s no secret that many millennial buyers rely on the bank of mom and dad to help them afford their down payments, and with home value appreciation skyrocketing in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, many homeowners are dipping into their homes’ equity to help their kids get a start.

Ziomecki says that we’ll see more of that with the new rules.

“It’s not uncommon to get a Toronto or Greater Vancouver Area family who lives in a $1mln-plus home and take out equity and give it to either adult children or grandchildren,” said Ziomecki. “We’re also seeing the bank of grandma and grandpa, who want to see the young ones enjoy their lifestyles.

“With the new rules coming in, we’re going to see more and more of that. It’s becoming more restrictive for younger buyers to get into the market, and considering older generations are sitting on so much equity in their homes, it’s a smart way to unlock equity and help the younger ones.”

But Shane Bruce, founder of the ACME Group of Companies, is doubtful that seniors will be insulated from any harmful effects the OSFI rule changes might have on the housing market. While first-time buyers are expected to struggle with the new underwriting rules, Bruce expects there to be a domino effect in the housing market.

If anybody loses buying power, sellers will have a harder time unloading their homes, he says—and it won’t matter whether or not they’re seniors.

“Certainly for first-time buyer will struggle, but what does it do to all these people who are homeowners?” said Bruce. “The government talks about how real estate equity is a major component of seniors’ retirements, so when you’re tapping their major asset and reducing how much it’s increasing in value, then I think they do get affected. They’re in their golden years and their home is not worth as much as they expected it to be, and it will underfund their retirement.”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ontario, B.C. mull pre-construction condo sales registry amid CRA crackdown

Ontario and B.C.'s finance ministers say they are open to the idea of a registry of pre- construction condominium sales as the Canada Revenue Agency ramps up efforts to find tax evaders who earn money flipping condos still being built.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the government wants the CRA to enforce disclosure of so-called assignment sales or shadow flipping, where a buyer purchases a condo from a developer and sells it to another buyer before it is completed, to prevent tax avoidance of any capital gains.

His B.C. counterpart, Carole James, says the province has made some changes to allow for better sharing of information with the federal government, and is looking into ways it can assist the federal government in their investigation and audits.

She says the provincial government is discussing a registry of condominium presales and assignment sales, which some have suggested might help the problem, but stresses it's one of many possible options.

Sousa says he's supportive of anything, including a registry, that enables the government to ensure full disclosure.

The CRA said Oct. 24 it is analyzing 2,810 transactions of pre-construction condo flipping in Toronto and may carry out audits to find tax evaders. The agency says real estate deals in the hot housing markets in the Toronto and Vancouver areas have been the subject of greater scrutiny.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Condo disputes can now be resolved online

Ontario's 1.6 million condo residents have a new avenue for settling disputes in their buildings and neighbourhoods. Recently, the province launched its first online tribunal to help resolve the complaints that arise in 10,000 condo corporations.

The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) provides direct access to mediators and adjudicators in a stepped process that begins with a $25 fee, although to start, it is only looking at issues related to accessing condo records.

In its first week, only two disputes had been registered with the tribunal.

It is the first online-only tribunal in the province but it's a model that other agencies might consider in the future, said Tom Wright, chair of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO), which oversees the new system.

The CAO will also be administering a new training program to condo directors.

Only 2,700 of the nearly 10,000 condominium corporations have registered with the CAO to date. But all condo corporations in the province will be required to register by Dec. 31.

The Toronto Star spoke to Wright about how the tribunal and training will work. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Q. Why does Ontario need this kind of tribunal?

A. There was a need for an easier, more cost-effective way to resolve disputes that arose in a condo corporations and communities.

One of the features that will make it more accessible is that it's exclusively online. You're not bound by office hours or required to show up at a hearing.

It is more cost-effective in terms of resolving disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Q. How were condo disputes handled in the past?

A. Typically these disputes would require someone taking the matter to the courts, often a costly and lengthy avenue. Sometimes a mediator would be brought in, but that would require the agreement of all parties and, again, it could be costly. The fact that a condo corporation would have to pay means the owners are footing the bill.

Q. What kind of issues will the tribunal handle?

A. To begin, the tribunal will only deal with condo record complaints. That will likely be expanded to other kinds of disputes in the future but we don't know what kind yet.

Q. How does it work?

A. It's a three-phase process. The first stage is negotiation. It costs $25 and gives users access to the system, allowing them to try and resolve the dispute themselves. If you are unable to do that, you move onto Stage 2: mediation. That costs $50. A tribunal mediator then becomes involved in trying to resolve the matter. If that still doesn't work, you move on to Stage 3: adjudication for a $125 fee. At that point, a tribunal member, who is a different individual than the mediator, decides how the dispute will be resolved.

We recommend that condo owners try and resolve common issues on their own. In the case of noise complaints, for example, the CAO recommends occupants note the date and time of the noise to help identify the source and contact their condo board directly; then follow-up in writing. The CAO provides templates for letters and emails.

Q. If someone takes a dispute to Stage 2, which is mediation, is the other party compelled to come to the table?

A. No. But the dispute can still move through the process. Notice is given all along the way to the other party. If they choose not to attend, the matter can still proceed to a decision. It's a bit like a court where someone issues a claim and the other side doesn't show up. The court can still make a decision. The same thing applies here. Otherwise, it wouldn't work. People would just assume that if they didn't show up or didn't participate, they wouldn't be subject to a tribunal decision.

Q. The tribunal is only resolving records disputes to begin with. What does this mean?

A. This ties into what are being called core records. Those include the standard declarations, bylaws, budgets, amendments, financial statements, meeting minutes and reserve fund studies. If a condo owner wants access to those records and it is not provided, they can move to the tribunal process.

Q. How long before you move past this pilot phase to resolving other kinds of disputes?

A. That's up to the government. I can't give you a date, but the intention is clear this will be an ongoing process. This is so new we're going to be learning a lot of things. Once we have tackled this area it opens up a lot of possibilities.

Q. What kind of disputes would never come to the tribunal?

A. Anything to do with a breach of the Condo Act would be beyond the tribunal's jurisdiction. Things like directors failing to disclose an interest in a contract would be beyond the condo authority's mandate.

Q. Do mediators and adjudicators do the same job and what are their qualifications?

A. We have recruited and trained 15 people who are known as tribunal members. They have a range of experience in mediation, adjudication, condo law and some who have lived in condos. These are experienced people who know how tribunals work but also have an interest in following a new path in terms of the online nature of this tribunal.

It's important to know that members, who have mediated disputes at the Stage 2 part of the system, would not be adjudicating the same dispute at Stage 3. You have a fresh person looking at it.

Q. The CAO is also in charge of a new training program for condo board directors. How will that work?

A. Any director who is elected to a condo board after Nov. 1 will be obligated to take the free, online training within six months of their election. The training, which focuses on the obligations of directors and background on the Condo Act, can be done in under five hours during the six-month period.

Q. Volunteering on a condo board is already time-consuming, who will want the job with this additional required demand?

A. There will be people who genuinely want to do this. It's a question that has come up, but at the end of the day, the feedback we've had from more than 300 people who actually did the training was that it is helpful and positive.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Things Exceptional People Say

Want to make a huge difference in your own or other’s lives? Here are things you should say every day - to your employees, colleagues, family members, friends, and everyone you care about:

1. “Here’s what I’m thinking.” You’re in charge but that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier, or more insightful than everyone else. Authority can make you “right,” but collaboration makes everyone right.
2. “I was wrong.” I once came up with what I thought was an awesome improvement plan. But a few weeks later, I had to say, “I know you didn’t think this would work, and you were right. I was wrong.” When you’re wrong just say you’re wrong.

3. “That was awesome.” No one gets enough praise. Pick someone - pick anyone - who does or did something well and say, “Wow, that was great how you…” Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.
4. “You’re welcome.” Make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.” Don’t let thanks, praise or congratulations, be all about you. Always make praise about the other person.
5. “Can you help me?” When you need help, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help me?” And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen - making you a great leader and a great friend.
6. “I’m sorry.” We all have things to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failings… just say you’re sorry. Never follow with a disclaimer like, “But I was really mad, because…” Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts.
7. “Can you show me?” Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything. Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown. Then you both win.
8. “Let me give you a hand.” Everyone needs help but often hesitate to ask for help. Find something you can help with. Be specific. Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Model the behavior you want. Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.
9. “I love you.” No, not at work, but everywhere you mean it - and every time you feel it.
10. Nothing. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. If you’re upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. Be quiet until you know exactly what to say - and exactly what affect your words will have.