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Microsoft store, its first in Canada, is scheduled to open at Yorkdale mall in Toronto

Grand Opening: November 16th, 2012

The design of the Microsoft stores in the U.S. incorporates many of the elements that made Apple stores a hit – gleaming wood floors, lots of glass and products to sample. Microsoft has added big comfy chairs and benches to the décor in the U.S. locations.

At Apple stores, customers stand at counters featuring tethered Apple products.

Jason Dubroy, vice president, shopper marketing, DDB Canada, said the Microsoft move isn’t surprising, given that malls still draw crowds, including Baby Boomers, who still control about 60 per cent of all dollars spent in Canada.

While many are savvy online shoppers, others prefer the look, feel and service of a physical shopping environment.

But Dubroy said Microsoft is late to the game, both in the tablets and bricks-and-mortar stores.

“They will need to be able to differentiate their experience proposition quickly… or they won’t see the sales-per-square-foot traction they will need to justify expansion.”

“I think a retail presence is a logical next move,” said John Gerzema, executive chairman of BAV consulting. “Microsoft has gained a lot of consumer momentum over the past year with popular products like Kinect (for Xbox 360) and now, tablets.

“Among Canadians in our Brand Asset Valuator (BAV) surveys, Apple is seen as trendier and more progressive. But Microsoft outperforms Apple on being more trusted and caring for customers. The challenge of course, will be to define a retail experience that stands apart from Apple.”

The Apple store design was revolutionary when it was launched in 2001 as a spare and serene environment for customers to test-drive Apple products. It was conceived by Ron Johnson, the man behind the bubbly Target brand, which is set to enter Canada in 2013.

I am excited to this new store opening. Competition is good!

ber 16th, 2012
U.S. slips out of top 10 most prosperous countries, while Canada keeps No. 6 ranking

November 5th, 2012

The U.S. slid from the top 10 most prosperous nations for the first time in a league table which ranked Canada sixth in the world for the second year in a row.

The U.S. fell to 12th position from 10th in the Legatum Institute’s annual prosperity index amid increased doubts about the health of its economy and ability of politicians. Norway, Denmark and Sweden were declared the most prosperous in the index, published in London Monday.

With the presidential election just a week away, the research group said the standing of the U.S. economy has deteriorated to beneath that of 19 rivals. The report also showed that respect for the government has fallen, fewer Americans perceive working hard gets you ahead, while companies face higher startup costs and the export of high-technology products is dropping.

When can you walk away from a house deal?

Check out these questions and answers before making decision to walk away from the deal you made last night.

  • Can a buyer sign an offer and then walk away?

The Ontario real estate contract gives a buyer 24 hours to pay the deposit, once the offer is accepted by the seller. The buyer cannot just change their mind or they can be sued.

For example, the buyer offers $300,000 for a house which is accepted. The buyer changes his mind and doesn’t pay the deposit and walks away from the deal. The seller resells the property for $275,000. They can still sue the first buyer for the difference, or $25,000.

  • Is there a buyer’s remorse period in Ontario?

If you are buying a new condominium from a builder, you have 10 days to change your mind. You do not need a reason. This does not apply if you buy a new house from a builder and does not apply if you are buying a resale home or condominium. Why condos only? The clause is included in the Condominium Act.

  • Can buyers use conditional clauses as escape hatches?

Most real estate contracts are conditional on the buyer being able to get a mortgage and being satisfied with a home inspection. Other conditions include being satisfied with a condominium status certificate when buying a resale condo.

Many buyers think these conditions give them the right to just change their minds. It is not that easy. The case law has demonstrated that buyers must try and satisfy any condition in good faith. This means that you need a legitimate reason why you found the home inspection report or condominium status certificate unsatisfactory.

  • Who gets the deposit when buyers change their mind?

In most cases, the deposit is held by the seller’s real estate brokerage, in trust. Under the law, when a deal breaks down, the brokerage cannot pay the deposit to anyone without either a mutual release or direction signed by both the buyer and the seller, or an order of the court. As such, when deals do not close, if there is no agreement, the deposit can be locked up for a long time, and the buyer will not have access to it to make an offer on another property.

  • Is there a “legal” way for a buyer to get out of a deal?

It depends. If for example, there was a right on your title for the City to access 20 per cent of your property for any reason, known as an easement, and that was not disclosed to the buyer, they can usually cancel the agreement without penalty. However, there have been other cases that indicate if there is a problem with a city work order or title problem for which the seller can obtain title insurance to protect the buyer, then the buyer cannot refuse to close. A buyer can also cancel if there has been substantial damage to the property before closing, such as a flood that was not repaired. You can’t refuse to close if the oven is not working.

The better answer in all of these situations is to be very careful and serious before you make any decision to buy a home. Changing your mind later can be very expensive. Get legal advise before you make such steps.

 

 

Mid September stats

TORONTO, September 18, 2012 – Greater Toronto Area (GTA) REALTORS® reported 2,544 transactions through the TorontoMLS system in the first 14 days of September. This result was down by 15 per cent compared to the 2,995 sales reported during the same period in 2011.

"The combination of stricter lending guidelines, rising home prices and the added upfront cost associated with the land transfer tax in the City of Toronto resulted in a slower pace of sales during the summer of 2012 compared to a year ago," said Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Ann Hannah.

The average selling price for sales during the first two weeks of September was $496,786 – representing an annual rate of increase of more the 9.5 per cent. Average selling prices were up for both low-rise and high-rise home types, including condominium apartments sold in the ‘416’ area code.

"Price growth continued to be strongest for low-rise home types during the first two weeks of September. This segment of the market has been very tight, with months of inventory remaining low from a historic perspective," said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis

Interest rates will remain low for a while - Scotia bank


The Bank of Nova Scotia has released a new forecast which tells Canadians to expect low interest rates until 2014.

In the forecast, Scotiabank economists Dov Zigler and Derek Holt estimate the economy will likely average 1.9 per cent growth this year, and 1.8 in 2013.

“At best, we’re going to see a very slow-growth environment with downside risks,” said Holt.

He went on to note that most developed countries will be in a similar position. He expects that strong growth will come from emerging economies like India, Indonesia, and China.

The report noted these factors should keep the Bank of Canada on hold at the current policy interest rate setting into 2014.

This goes against indications from Mark Carney who has signalled there may be a rate hike in the future. An article from The Canadian Press explains Holt’s argument, saying “that given that many global central bankers are easing lending conditions, any counter action from Canada will light a spark under the dollar, further weakening exports.”

Mortgage Rate. Qualifying Rate.

Mortgages with variable rates or fixed terms under five years typically require that you qualify at a higher rate (called the “qualifying rate.”).

For example, if you apply for a 2.25%, 5-year variable mortgage, the lender might make you qualify at their posted 5-year rate (5.39% for example).

Qualifying rates are used to ensure borrowers can handle their payments if rates go up.

In practice, lenders use the qualifying rate to calculate your debt service ratios. Lenders then check to ensure your debt ratios are low enough to meet their guidelines.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your payments are typically based on the contract rate (i.e., the regular rate you are quoted), not the qualifying rate.
  • As of April 19, 2010, all insured variable and 1- to 4-year fixed mortgages over 80% loan-to-value must be qualified using the posted 5-year fixed rate, as published every Wednesday by the Bank of Canada.
  • Some lenders also apply the Bank of Canada qualifying rate to uninsured mortgages, and mortgages with a loan-to-value of 80% or less.
  • Other lenders allow lower qualifying rates if the loan-to-value is 80% or less (e.g. they use a 3-year discounted fixed rate instead of the posted 5-year fixed rate).

Have you thought of being pre-approved before start looking for a home? It will give you many advantages. Some of them are : Knowing maximum mortgage you can afford, winning in bidding wars by having pre-approval in 'your pocket',  avoiding frustration of selecting the house you cannot afford, etc.

Looking for your first home? your next home? your investment property? Call Natalie now! Full support and professional service guaranteed.

 

 

Did you know that the overnight target rate has now been static for a record 678 days?

Once again, Mark Carney and committee have left Canada’s  core interest rate unchanged.

Our economy still isn’t firing on all cylinders, says the Bank of Canada. This suggests that mortgage holders can likely expect the 3.00%  prime rate to remain as is for a number of months.

Here were some focal points from today’s Bank of Canada statement:

  • “Global financial conditions have…deteriorated since April…”
  • “Housing activity is expected to slow from record levels.”
  • “Canadian exports are projected to remain below their pre-recession peak until the beginning of 2014”
  • “The economy is expected to reach full capacity in the second half of 2013”
  • “To the extent that the economic expansion continues and the current excess supply in the economy is gradually absorbed, some modest withdrawal of the present considerable monetary policy stimulus may become appropriate”

That last quote is what the markets keyed in on. The Bank of Canada chose to retain this phrasing as a reminder that borrowing costs could jump if inflation threats emerge. That said, we’d likely have to see surprisingly strong economic performance for 3-4 months in a row before that happened.

Time to buy? Call Natalie Korchuk now!

Did you know that the average Canadian household is more than $40,000 richer than the average American household? Part 2

[by Michael Adams , special to The Globe & Mail] Part 2:

Canadians have traditionally been the cautious, fiscally conservative society, watching American economic dynamism from a safe remove (and subsisting on a small cut of the branch-plant spoils). For us, paying off the mortgage was once the equivalent of forgiveness for our acquisitive sins. Our public policies were more prudent than the U.S. policy of allowing home owners to deduct the interest on mortgage debt. Canadian leaders rejected mortgage interest deductibility and fortunately Canadians only briefly embraced the subprime mortgages that are still a huge factor in Americans’ fiscal woes.

For the moment, it seems that the risk-averse Canadian tortoise has the lead in the race against the risk-taking American hare, who has singed his feet on his rocket pack. How Canadians will respond to this at the household level remains to be seen. Are we naively careering toward American-style (pre-crash) financial behaviour with loaded credit cards, second and third mortgages, and a lax approach to savings in a headlong pursuit of materialism, hedonistic pleasures, and instant gratification? Or does it say something about our abiding national character that we have so many sober souls in positions of power who will mete out regular scoldings like the clergy in pulpits of old and do things like change our mortgage rules to protect us from ourselves?

By Michael Adams , a president of the Environics Institute and the author of Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada, and the Myth of Converging Values.

Did you know that the average Canadian household is more than $40,000 richer than the average American household? Part 1

 [by Michael Adams , special to The Globe & Mail] Part 1

Currently, the average Canadian household is more than $40,000 richer than the average American household. (According to the latest Environics Analytics WealthScapes data, the average household net worth in Canada was $363,202 in 2011; in the U.S. it was $319,970.) And these are not 60-cent dollars, but Canadian dollars more or less at par with the U.S. greenback. Furthermore, these figures ignore public-sector (government) debt that presumably people on both sides of the border or their children will some day have to pay. Such debt is higher in the U.S. as a percentage of GDP than it is in Canada.

Has Canada experienced a sudden surge of productivity or entrepreneurial genius? Not exactly. Our resource sector is certainly firing on all cylinders, but the biggest reasons for Canadians’ deep pockets relative to Americans’ in recent years are the related phenomena of the 2008 economic crisis and the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Because house prices in the U.S. have plunged, the real estate held by Canadians is now much more valuable than that held by Americans (worth over $140,000 more on average). In fact, Canadians hold more than twice as much real estate as Americans and, once mortgages are factored in, have almost four times as much remaining equity in their real estate. Americans’ liquid (non-real estate) assets are still greater than Canadians’.

to be continued.. 

Mid-May housing market stats

Greater Toronto REALTORS® reported 5,142 transactions through the TorontoMLS System during the first 14 days of May 2012.

This result was up by more than 14.5 per cent in comparison to the first 14 days of May 2011. The number of new listings continued to grow at a slower pace than sales – up 13 per cent year-over-year to 8,749.

“Annual growth in sales was experienced across the GTA for all major home types in the first half of May. Sales growth was strongest for the condominium apartment segment. While the condo market has generally been the best supplied market over the past year, we have continued to see enough demand to exert moderate upward pressure on average selling prices in this market segment,” said Toronto Real Estate Board President Richard Silver.

The average selling price for transactions in the first 14 days of May was $517,242 – up by six per cent compared to the same period in 2011.

“A shortage of listings in the low-rise segment of the market has resulted in a lot of competition between buyers and above average annual rates of price growth. Tight market conditions are expected to remain in place for the balance of 2012,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis.

Market real estate stats - mid April 2012

Toronto, April 18, 2012 – Greater Toronto REALTORS® reported 4,557 transactions through the TorontoMLS system during the first two weeks of April 2012.

 

This represented an increase of almost seven per cent in comparison to the same period in April 2011. The number of new listings grew over the same period, but by a lesser annual rate than sales, which means market conditions tightened compared to last year.

 

“Competition between buyers remained strong in many parts of the Greater Toronto Area during the first half of April, with many listings attracting a lot of attention. Strong competition meant that, on average, sellers priced within market value range received offers that matched their asking prices within three weeks,” said Toronto Real Estate Board President Richard Silver.

 

The average selling price during the first two weeks of April was $506,954 – up by five per cent compared to the first half of April 2011. The annual rate of price growth was stronger in the GTA regions surrounding the City of Toronto.

 

“Growth in listings has not kept up with growth in sales. In the City of Toronto, new listings for low-rise home types during the first half of April were actually down compared to last year. This helps explain why some of the tightest market conditions in the GTA can be found within the ‘416’ area code,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis

Spring clean your computer

The spring cleaning bug is upon us, but it doesn't have to stop at old clothes and couches…. You might want to spring clean" your computer.

I don't mean wiping down your keyboard, mouse and screen - which isn't a bad idea - but rather squeezing some additional life out of your existing computer.

Spring-cleaning your PC or Mac can speed up performance, free up hard drive space and ensure you're protected against the latest cyber attacks.

1. Back up important files

The first thing is to back-up all your important files and store them in a safe place. A spare USB thumbdrive in your desk drawer should do the trick for documents, but you might consider a free "cloud-based" online back-up solution, such as Windows Live SkyDrive (25GB of free storage, per account), which you can access from virtually any computer in the world.

2. Clean up the desktop, hard drive

Decide what programs you no longer need. This should be pretty simple.


Don't just delete the desktop icon, but for Windows users, click Start (bottom-left corner), Control Panel and finally Add/Remove Programs (or simply Programs) and uninstall old or unused software one-by-one. You should clear up a lot of hard drive space, and also clean up the icons on your desktop, so you can see your wallpaper again.

You can also right mouse-click on your C: drive (in Windows Explorer) and click Properties, followed by Disk Cleanup. Now check off the desired boxes -- such as "Temporary Internet Files," "Recycle Bin" and "Downloaded Program Files" - and it will tell you how much space it can free up.

3. Use the built-in system tools

"Degfragging" is another way to help your computer operate faster with more stability. Click on the Start button, find All Programs, select Accessories, then System Tools and finally Disk Defragmenter. Run the program on your hard drive to give your PC maximum efficiency.

It might take a while but you should notice a marked performance improvement when it's done. Because it's not recommended to use your computer while you're defragging, perhaps you'll want to start the process before you go out for lunch or before you go to bed (but turn off your monitor to conserve electricity).

4. Update your operating system and other software

The second-last step to spring-cleaning your PC is to download the latest free software updates for your operating system (Start>All Programs>Windows Update) as these updates plug security holes and add functionality.

I have Windows 7 scheduled to download and install new updates whenever they become available so I don’t have to manually do it. On a related note, be sure to download all the updates to your favourite programs – such as a web browser, media player and computer games – as they usually fix issues (like technical bugs) or add new features.

A quick way to see if there's an update is to go to the About, Help or Settings section of your software and you should see an option to check for updates. There are often new updates for hardware accessories, too, such as a printer, monitor and webcam, so you can also look for that online beginning with the official website for the product.

5. Install anti-malware software for real-time protection

Finally, it's always recommended to have good antivirus and antispyware programs. The former refers to software that can detect and remove online threats (such as viruses or worms that can propagate through your address book), while the latter are tools that can protect your PC from sneaky programs that hide on your hard drive, monitor your web surfing behaviour, hijack your browser home page and slow down your computer's performance.

Collectively, these threats are called "malware" (malicious software). And if you've read the news lately, Macs aren't bulletproof, either. Many free antivirus and antispyware tools are available from Download.com – check out the Top 5 downloads on the main page – and once you start using one be sure to regularly check for updates (if it doesn't do it automatically) to ensure you're protected from the latest online threats.

 

How to inspect a house you buy?

Many complains come after the buyer moves in and reveals problems in the house.  

Most complain about sellers who fail to disclose defects or home inspectors who fail to find them. The system is far from perfect. However, there are steps that buyers can take before and during a home inspection to protect their interests.

Simple steps you can do yourself:

Check all electrical outlets to make sure that they work.

Open windows, even in the winter, to make sure they are not stuck or painted shut.

Look under any area rug or bed and behind any picture to check for cracked tiles, stained carpets or walls. Lift anything on the kitchen counters to look for defects.

Do any of the appliances show any rust? How old are they? If they are discontinued models, you will likely have to replace them if they break down because of the difficulty of finding replacement parts.

Start the dishwasher at the beginning of any home inspection. By the end, it should have gone through its entire cycle, without leaking.

Put a thermometer inside the oven and turn it on to 350 degrees. After 10 minutes, check the temperature. Test stove burners.

Put a cup of water in the microwave for 45 seconds. Does it heat up?

Flush every toilet and see whether it stops running after it is filled.

Check sinks, tubs and showers in the house. Is there proper water flow from each faucet and does everything drain properly?

You may want to consider turning all the faucets on at the same time and then flushing a toilet upstairs to see whether the water pressure slows or stops in any sink. This could indicate a problem with the system.

In older homes, consider a separate sewage inspection. Stan Collini, the President of Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service in the GTA, tells me that for $295, you can do a video camera of a property’s sewer system to see if there are any problems that would not be visible on a typical home inspection.

Check under the water heater for leaks or stains on the floor.

Ask how old the air conditioning unit is and when was it last serviced Is there sufficient hot or cold air reaching all of the rooms in the house?

Does the owner have a plan with their gas company to inspect the furnace once a year? When was the last inspection conducted?

If the house has an addition, ask whether any upgrade was done to the heating or cooling systems to account for the additional living area.

Look for water stains in the ceiling which could indicate leaking from the roof or other problems with the plumbing system.

When your inspector is on the roof, ask them to check for broken or cracked shingles. If it is a flat roof, look for the low spots where water can collect for any evidence of a problem. Check the eaves to see if there is any rot or decay. If any concerns are noted, consider bringing in a roofing contractor for an additional opinion, especially if the home is 15-20 years old and it is still the original roof.

You may also want to consider a separate inspection for mould or termites, as these may not be visible on a home inspection but can result in significant costs to repair later. Check if this is a known problem in the area.

Always ask the seller and the seller’s agent if they know about any hidden defects that are not visible. They must answer truthfully if you ask them.

Consider looking into after-sale warranty protection. Many of these products on the market will generally cover problems with a home electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling system, as well as the major appliances. But like any warranty, ask about deductibles and what is excluded from coverage.

By being properly prepared and asking the right questions both before and during any home inspection, you will be better protected against costly surprises after closing.

Condo Fees to be paid by the Tenants in the future?

The TD Canada Trust 2012 Condo Poll surveyed urban Canadians who recently bought or intend to buy a condo and found they are drawn to condos because they require less maintenance (60%), are more affordable (45%), and offer more amenities (25%) than a house.

Those findings specifically focused on condo amenities back up investors arguing monthly condo fees should explicitly be factored into rents. That move, if adopted by a majority of condo investors, could bump up rental values in new developments by as much as 10 per cent, say analysts.

That leverage increases in markets with occupancy rates sit near or at record highs. Many investors in the boom markets of Alberta and Saskatchewan are already asking tenants to pay all condo fees, some even adding a premium.

That may sit better with young renters hungry for hot and cold luxury, if their condo-buying counterparts are anything to go by.

The TD poll found that one-third of condo buyers (35%) are willing to pay up to $200 per month in condo fees, 44% would pay up to $400 and 17% would pay up to $800.

Across all cities, Torontonians are willing to pay the highest fees; 38% are willing to pay more than $400 and 16% more than $600.

A different view at 2nd Mortgage

There are so many benefits to registering a second mortgage on those deals as a way of protecting your investment [ your own home or your real estate investment].

In placing that secondary lien – equal to their investment amount – money investors place themselves second in any queue of creditors resulting from a default. They also gain firsthand oversight of what their expert partners are doing with the property.

“The second mortgage means that you have to be notified before any other liens are placed or if there is any attempt to refinance the property, for example,” said Loeffler, who usually takes on the role of expert investor, although routinely places a second on deals where he provides the primary funding. “It just protects you on the back-end.”

That manoeuvre is always done with the full consent of all JV partners. Its use is expected to grow as an increasing number of investors form those joint venture relationships as a way of overcoming more rigid lending guidelines.

The continuing growth in property values across most Canadian markets also means many individual investors are having to band together to be able to afford even single-family properties.

“Filing a caveat will accomplish some of the same things,” said Greg Head, co-author of The Canadian Investor's Guide to Secrets of the Real Estate Cycle. “It will make sure you’re notified about any refinance or attempted sale, because ‘trust me’ doesn’t work in real estate.”

 

http://www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca/index.php/news/item/1114-money-investors-keep-eye-on-jv-partners-with-second-mortgages