All posts by Dave Gray

Condo Market

Condo Market : Floorplan Reading 101

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Condo Market : Floorplan Reading 101

Purchasing a new condominium suite early in the selling cycle is a wise decision nowadays in the Greater Toronto Area. Chances are, by the time you move in, your new home will be worth more than you paid for it.

It is also likely that you purchased from a floorplan rather than being able to walk through completed suites. For seasoned home buyers, this is probably old hat, but for first-time buyers, it can seem daunting to visualize a three-dimensional space from a two-dimensional representation. The best thing to do is learn to read a floorplan to ease that visualization.

Typically, floorplans include symbols and abbreviations that may differ in style from builder to builder, but there are conventions that are used by most. Condo floorplans are drawn as though you are looking down at the suite from above. You will see the overall square footage of the layout and of the balcony or terrace area. Room dimensions are shown, usually with the width first, and with arrows indicating from which wall to which wall. If you are looking at an L-shaped room, this helps greatly with determining furniture placement. Squares with an “X” inside mean the fan coil units for distributing heating and cooling are located there.

Notice that some lines are a bit thicker than others. Those with more depth represent walls that contain plumbing, electrical and/ or structural elements. How does this help you? At your colour selection appointment, you know that you cannot move those walls as an option. Of particular importance is the key plate in the corner of the floorplan that features a shaded area indicating where the suite is located in the building’s floor plate. You may even see key plates that describe on which floors that particular design is available.

Keep in mind that where doors are concerned, icons show you which way they swing. Sliding doors to a balcony or terrace are shown with overlapping rectangular lines. And when you see parallel lines on the floor, that means hardwood or laminate. If the floor area is blank, it likely indicates carpeting. Squares are ceramic or other stone or tile flooring.

Kitchen drawings can be quite intricate, with lines that represent everything from appliances to breakfast bars. A blank square is the fridge; a square with four circles on it would be the stove seen from above. Dotted lines in the middle of a counter may signify uppers above it. A dotted line along the edge of a counter or island probably means there is an overhang under which you can place stools. If there is space for a dishwasher, there is a dotted line for that too. Icons with small circles (for drains) in the middle are sinks. W/D is the abbreviation for washer/dryer, and you may see LIN for linen closet. Bathroom drawings are easy to read, as the sink, toilet, tub and/or shower are obvious. The abbreviation WIC stands for walk-in closet.

The best advice I can give you is to ask your sales representative to explain anything on the floorplans that is not clear. If you can tour model suites, by all means, do so. Be sure to walk through models with the floorplans in hand, which will give you an excellent idea of how other suites will “live.” A new condo suite is a big investment for your future. Use all of the tools at your disposal to make the best choice for your needs and wants — and have fun in the process!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at


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In Conversation With – Shakir Rehmatullah

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In Conversation With – Shakir Rehmatullah

Flato Developments’ president has perfected the art of the condo.

Everybody has a story to tell — some are pretty interesting — and Shakir Rehmatullah has one that spans three countries and two continents, and all before he was 20.

In 1996, Rehmatullah came to Canada with his parents from their home in Karachi, Pakistan, where both his father and grandfather were in the building industry.

As soon as the family landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport, the family drove to Markham and checked into a hotel, which, incidentally, is right beside Flato’s new head office.

The senior Rehmatullah then rented a car and started looking for property he could buy and found a piece of land.

Rehmatullah was studying architectural engineering at the University of Miami before his family relocated to Canada, which is why he named his company Flato — Fla is the abbreviation for Florida and TO is for Toronto.

The energetic father of four has a passion other than building — the arts. It’s why Flato is the naming sponsor for the Markham Theatre and why Rehmatullah is a patron of the theatre. He also sponsors Markham’s Varley Art Gallery, named for Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley, and helps young artists market their work through The Original Artwork Collection at his home decor website,

“I love the arts,” Rehmatullah says. “It’s important to me to support the communities where we build — whether it be sponsoring their community theatre, art galleries, or recreation centres. It’s not just about building houses; it’s about building communities.”

Q: What separates Flato from other homebuilders?

A: My passion and the pride I have in what I build. I learned from my father and grandfather that building homes isn’t just about creating shelter, but about creating vibrant communities. I live in the community I built because it’s important to me and I have nothing to hide. I have a long-term commitment to each project I build. I work in the community for the same reason.

Every community needs schools, parks, theatres, arenas, libraries, hospitals, art galleries … we all need them. To help create those amenities, and to support those amenities, is going above and beyond what is required. I don’t want to leave a ditch behind when I finish building. I’ll turn that ditch into a park.

I’m also really blessed to have a really great team working with me who shares my vision.

Q:You are a lowrise homebuilder that recently took on a condominium project, ArtHouse.

A: We have built many lowrise communities acorss the GTA; in Vaughan, Mississauga, Oakville, Markham, Richmond Hill and Brampton. And yes, our first condo, ArtHouse in Markham, a 14-storey building with 173 units, which has been completed. The project is completely inspired by the arts, right down to the amenities, which includes an artist’s studio, gallery space, a digital arts centre and a culinary arts studio. It’s also built to LEED Silver requirements and will include retail at grade.

Q:What’s on the drawing board?

A: I’m really excited about our upcoming communities. In Dundalk, we’ve got Phase 3 of Edgewood Greens about to be released. It’s a master-planned community of fully detached homes, ranging in size from about 1,800 to over 3,000 square feet. And in New Tecumseth — Beeton actually — we’re in the planning stages for another master-planned community.

I’m finding that we can build high-quality homes outside the GTA and offer a more affordable price point. Beeton is right off Highway 400 and just a short drive to Alliston and Barrie, making the commute into the GTA fairly easy. But I’m really hoping the government will do more to promote public transit, which would make it so much easier for people to move around and find affordable housing outside of the GTA.

We’ll soon be releasing our final phase of Alloa Greens in Brampton. And another upcoming community we have is Palgrave Estates, a luxury estate home community in Caledon, situated on one- to seven-acre lots.

Q: Do you have someone you would consider a mentor?

A: My father, absolutely; I learned a lot from him while he was a builder in Pakistan and after we moved to Canada.

Q:What makes you proud?

A: My kids. I have four children — aged 11, 9, 5 and 2 — and I love to spend time with them. I take them to school every day and we really enjoy each other.

I’m also very proud of my team here at Flato. It sounds cliché, but we really are a family. What we do is what we believe.

Q: Flato has a reputation for giving back to the community. Why is that important to you?

A: What I do is not about the money for me. It’s personal satisfaction. It gives me pleasure to give from my heart. I want Flato to be more than just the homes we build.

Q:What do you do for fun?

A: I love to spend time with my kids. But, of course, having lived in Miami, I enjoy golf. I used to be quite good but don’t have the time anymore, so when I do play, I really enjoy it.


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Architecture Expert: Size Doesn’t Matter

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Architecture Expert: Size Doesn’t Matter

The seven-step strategy to creating an enchanting urban garden.

Creating a garden in an urban space can be a challenge. However, because most are typically small, it can be a great opportunity to invest a few really lovely details that inspire the space. Also, because gardening can be a time-consuming activity, a small garden gives you more opportunity to rest and relax in your summer oasis.

When planning your garden, you should have a strategy that encompasses the following elements:

  1. Perimeter and Plan
  2. Sun and Shade
  3. Seating/Entertaining/Relaxation
  4. Vistas and Views
  5. Hardscape vs. Softscape
  6. Greenery and Colour
  7. Lighting

PERIMETER AND PLAN The first activity on your garden-planning list should be to assess the perimeter and the plan. This should include an assessment of the fence, neighbouring properties, built structures, underground utilities, drains, etc. I would suggest measuring this and drawing a plan to scale. This will help you make decisions and allow you to take the plan to the nursery when purchasing plants.

SUN AND SHADE Next, you need to study the sun over the course of the day. What is in the shade? What areas get sun for at least six hours per day? If possible, lay tracing paper over your plan and mark the areas. I suggest using yellow highlighter for sun, and blue highlighter for shade. If an area gets about three hours of sun mixed with mostly shade, mark it in a different colour.

SEATING/ENTERTAINING/RELAXATION One thing to determine is the type of garden that you want. What will be the purpose? Might it be for flowers, vegetables or herbs or relaxing? Or entertaining? How much use will it get? How many people would you like to seat? Will it simply be for viewing? Will you attract bees or butterflies? Or, perhaps a rabbit or two?


VISTAS AND VIEWS After assessing the type of garden you want, determine what possible views you would like to make interesting. Many people decide to study the garden from the window and from the front or backyard. I suggest taking photos, printing them at 8.5 by 11 and using tracing paper to create some ideas for visual interest. Imagine a fence as a backdrop for planters or tall grasses. What would a burst of red flowers look like against a bench? How might you disguise a drain or water main with planting? What if you added a small gazebo or pergola? SoliCanada from Quebec offers some lovely structures with motorized louvers and shades. What about a water feature? This is where your creativity should shine! Use a stack of tracing paper and come up with some crazy ideas, and then whittle them down based upon feasibility, cost and sun patterns.

HARDSCAPE VS. SOFTSCAPE Next decide how much of the garden will be hardscape and how much will be softscape. Hardscape includes: fences, pavers, concrete, walkways, stepping stones, sun structures, retaining walls, etc. Softscape includes all planting areas. Make a wish list and prepare a budget. Hardscape costs can add up quickly, especially if it requires experts to execute. There are many, many choices for paving stones, both natural and manmade. Part of the secret of installing them is providing a good base that doesn’t heave in harsh Canadian winters. Many homeowners opt for poured concrete under pavers, especially if they have large areas. One thing to consider is investing in a landscape company for the hardscape. A good landscaping company will understand what needs to be provided to minimize movement of pavers and also for proper drainage away from the house. While I am a big fan of natural limestone and slate, I also like the look of concrete pavers. Some brands to consider are Permacon, Bestway and Banas Stone.


GREENERY AND COLOUR When choosing plants, make sure you understand longevity, perennials vs. annuals, blooming times and planting instructions. Determine what type of heights you would like to see first. Are you going to plant a few trees? Will they be a focal point? What will be potted vs. planted? Are you aiming for some winter greenery for the holiday lights? Speak to the nursery about evergreens that do well in our climate and are easy to maintain. A selection of evergreen shrubs can create a lovely backdrop to flowers. When choosing colours, analyze perennials vs. annuals. I recommend saving annuals for one or two accent pots and planning perennials that are a better investment over time. While some owners like vibrant mixed gardens, sometimes it’s better to group colours for a higher visual impact. For example, use a flowering white ground cover and then accent a certain area with tall purple Alliums.

LIGHTING Consider extending the use of your garden to early morning and night with landscape lighting. DVI and Eurofase, both Canadian lighting companies, have some great choices for outdoor lighting. Consider wall sconces, fence lights, pendants (under canopies, gazebos and pergolas) and in-ground lighting to spot trees, shrubs or statuary. If you are completely lost when deciding on landscape lights, consider making an appointment with a lighting supplier such as Dark Tools for help with your plan. For any electrical needs, hire a professional as well unless you decide on solar power lights.

Most of all, whatever you decide, the garden is a great way to showcase your creativity. Happy Planting!



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Improving Employee Relations with Face Time

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Improving Employee Relations with Face Time

Here’s a sneak peak excerpt from a column by Jeff Mowatt ( on five ways to improve office politics and employee interactions.

Talk in person

Too often, we initiate communications to other departments in writing when we should opt for face-to-face conversations. When you have a new request or procedure that requires explaining, begin by talking in person to that department’s key influencers. Ask for their advice – literally. That word lowers their defenses and helps generate buy-in. Ask who else you should be talking to on their team – including any naysayers. Finally, when you decide upon the most likely to be accepted course of action, send a short written summary; more as a confirmation than as a proposal or directive.


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Tips for taking control of body pain

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Tips for taking control of body pain

By News Canada

As much as we’d like to steer clear of long-lasting muscle, joint, back and arthritis pain, we may be unable to dodge these symptoms as time marches on.

So why does this happen? With age, muscle fibres shrink and weaken, which can contribute to fatigue and limit physical activity. At the same time, joints may stiffen and lose flexibility, resulting in pain, inflammation and, in some cases, arthritis.

Long-lasting body pain may be more common as we get older, but it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying life and accomplishing all we want to. Research has found that a combination of treatment methods, including physiotherapy, massage therapy and medications, show the best results when managing body pain.

“When we leave our 30s and enter our 40s and 50s, pain can become a regular part of life. Some of my patients complain that they have to rely on taking multiple doses of pain relievers in a day to cope,” says Dr. Jeff Habert. “Advil 12 Hour offers an option where just one pill keeps working for up to 12 hours.”

If you’re looking for an additional way to help get some relief, try applying icepacks to reduce inflammation and ease pain, or a warm bath to relieve aching muscles. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.

Some pain can be episodic, kicking in after a physically strenuous activity. Or, it can be long-lasting pain, perhaps preventing us from participating in the activities we love. If you experience long-lasting pain that interferes with your ability to stay active or accomplish the things you want to, these simple tips can help you take control of your pain:

Stay active: Body pain may lead you to avoid physical activity. But low-impact activities like walking, stretching or light exercises can actually help manage pain and even increase strength and flexibility.

Get relief: To help gain control over your pain so you can accomplish everything you want to, try a non-prescription pain reliever.

Hot and cold: Direct heat from hot packs or a warm bath can help relax tight muscles, while ice packs can reduce inflammation and ease pain. These tips are suggestions. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.


The long, sunny days of summer are returning, and that means it’s time to dust off those gardening tools. But if you experience long-lasting body pain, yard work might be easier said than done.

Gardening and weeding involve a wide range of motions, including kneeling, squatting, twisting and lifting, engaging many muscles and joints. These movements can exacerbate existing pain, including arthritis pain, if not done right.

Try these tips to minimize pain when gardening:

Limber up: Tend to yourself before tending to those precious flowers. Stretch your arms, back, wrists and hamstrings prior to planting — your joints and muscles will thank you.

The right gear: Choose tools that help ease the burden on your body. Use a wheelbarrow to carry bags of soil and other heavy materials across the yard and wear kneepads to reduce the strain on those joints.

Relieve your pain: A non-prescription pain reliever can help you focus on your gardening tasks without your pain holding you back, and also relieve pain after a gruelling day in the soil.

Proper technique: Proper technique and positioning reduces strain on muscles and joints. Bend your knees when lifting heavy objects and alternate between heavy and light activities to avoid repetitive-motion injuries.

These tips are suggestions. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.


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The Waterfront Artisan Market returns

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The Waterfront Artisan Market returns

The Waterfront Artisan Market (WAM) returns to HTO Park this summer! Located at 339 Queens Quay West (between Rees Street and Lower Spadina Avenue), WAM will take place every Saturday from May 20 through Thanksgiving weekend, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., rain or shine. Toronto’s own Waterfront open-air market features a carefully curated mix of 75 local, up-and-coming artisans, crafters, chefs and bakers.

“We heard from last year’s attendees, and the feedback was loud and clear,” said Carol Jolly, executive director of The Waterfront BIA. “We’re excited to announce that due to popular demand, we’ve made The Waterfront Artisan Market a weekly event, extended the hours and brought even more vendors to the park. The Waterfront is a vibrant community and makes for a perfect getaway — just a short walk from the Downtown Core.”

Visitors to WAM — presented by The Waterfront Business Improvement Area (BIA) and operated by Scadding Court Community Centre — will have the opportunity to shop and dine against the stunning backdrop of Lake Ontario while enjoying live entertainment, including the multi-award winning Waterfront Singing Ambassadors, who will return for their sixth year, performing impromptu a cappella renditions of classic and modern summer hits, and offering assistance, directions and recommendations to visitors on Thursdays to Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 22 to September 4. “WAM celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of the community, inviting visitors and residents of the city alike to discover new foods and artisanal crafts from up-and-coming local businesses,” said Kevin Lee, executive director at Scadding Court Community Centre.

Browse and shop for finely-crafted jewellery, unique works of art, delicious foods and artisanal gifts at the Waterfront Artisan Market. Stand out this summer with custom wood watches and sunglasses by G Fox & Co.; shop for upcycled, handmade, hypoallergenic sterling silver jewellery by Spirit of Vera; create a free 3D photo which can be used to design custom bespoke glasses from Specsy; experience professional and high quality henna art services from Nasrin’s Henna Design; pick up drinking glasses, platters, planters, candles, lamps, jewellery, vases and art handcrafted from 100 per cent post-consumer materials atReciclar Factory; and indulge in Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Japanese stone-ground matcha green tea, Peruvian dark chocolate and raw honey with ginger or turmeric from Menos.

Food lovers will rejoice with the wide selection of on-site food vendors. Enjoy shadegrown artisan coffee from ethical sources by Firebat Coffee; savour mouth-watering Mexican street food from Chorizos La Abuela; devour authentic home-style Ecuadorian beef empanadas, paella or pulled pork and chicken skewers accompanied by rice, beans, and salad from La Fiesta Catering; and bite into sweet roasted corn on the cob from the Mighty Cob, among dozens of other delectable choices.

The Waterfront BIA is working to bring the Toronto Waterfront’s artistic and cultural significance to the forefront, improving the retail and restaurant environment with a unique, artisanal flair. Find your weekend escape within the city at the Waterfront Artisan Market. Visit for more information.


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Hoshinoya Tokyo takes culture to new heights

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Hoshinoya Tokyo takes culture to new heights

By Marc Atchison
TraveLife Editor in Chief

TOKYO—I arrive at the entrance of the Hoshinoya Tokyo, the capital’s newest hotel, on the eve of Bunka no Hi (Culture Day), when the nation celebrates its deeply rooted customs and traditions.

As I step out of the cab, I feel like I’ve arrived at the cultural crossroads of Japan. On one side of the street I see the Imperial Palace grounds, the venerable home to Japan’s revered Emperor and his family; on the other side stands the gleaming glass and steel office towers that make up Tokyo’s prestigious Otemachi business district. Hoshinoya Tokyo appears perfectly juxtaposed. That’s because this amazing property, whose concept is based on preserving Japan’s threatened ryokan culture (traditional inns that date back centuries that are normally built near onsen hot springs) is located in one of Tokyo’s newest buildings.

A young man wearing a haori jacket welcomes me to the hotel’s genkan, a traditional entrance where shoes are normally removed. I’m instantly impressed with the arrangement of seasonal flowers, sliding paper screens and aromatic Japanese wood featured at the entrance.

“We’ve been expecting you,” says the attendant as he leads me to an elevator with tatami-covered flooring. A few seconds later we step off on the ninth floor of the 17-storey property and a young woman manning the ochanoma (lounge) — each floor has one — bows and welcomes me again.

“Please follow me,” says Tomoko as she leads me down a dimly-lit hallway to the entrance of my room — there are just six guest rooms on each floor of Hoshinoya Tokyo, the city’s only 5-star ryokan, which is operated by Japan’s famed Hoshino Resort Co. As I cross the threshold, I feel like I’m being transported back to ancient Japan.

A glorious light streaming through some shoji screens highlights the room’s traditional trappings — futon beds raised on a platform anchor one end of the L-shaped suite, which is wrapped in lots of warm blonde wood and bamboo. The room, whose checkerboard- designed ceiling mirrors the tatami flooring perfectly, also includes a dining table and a cozy low-back sofa with lots of pillows. The room’s furnishings were custom- crafted by the renowned Hinoki-Kogei woodwork factory and the room’s lanterns were designed by the legendary Masanobu Takeishi. Walls are painted in colourfully rich adzuki-bean purples or matcha-tea greens. Very pleasing to the eye.

Tomoko is anxious to show me the bathroom, the highlight of Hoshino’s 5-star Hoshinoya properties — the company operates similar award-winning resorts in Kyoto, Karuizawa, Okinawa and Bali.

The spacious bathroom comes complete with a wooden bucket and stool for those who prefer to bathe in the traditional Japanese style. However, the bathroom area also includes a state-of-the-art shower, a stylish square bathtub and a self-cleaning toilet that look like it was designed by NASA. The posh toiletries, specifically made for Hoshinoya Tokyo, are fit for the emperor’s wife.

Tomoko tells me each room is overloaded with modern technology — high-speed internet, etc. — but she reluctantly introduces me to the television, which is hidden behind a black mirrored wall.

“We like our guests to live a traditional Japanese lifestyle without any modern interruptions while staying at Hoshinoya Tokyo. But the TV is here if you feel a need to watch,” she says in a soft voice.

The young attendant then pulls out a drawer filled with traditional Japanese garb. “We encourage guests to wear these kimonos (for dinner and elsewhere in the hotel) and pyjamas (modern cotton jersey outfits) when they are walking around their floor so they can have the complete ryokan experience,” Tomoko tells me. The room is also bathed in a magical kimono motif effect, which is created by the light filtering through the stylish black metal latticework, which wraps around the Hoshinoya Tokyo tower.

“Every room has a hidden interior design and the architect (Rie Azuma) used the Edo Komon pattern on the exterior of the building because it is considered good fortune. It also means ‘four directions,’ so it welcomes guests from everywhere,” Tomoko informs. After freshening up and changing into my comfortable lounging pyjama outfit, I join Tomoko in the ochanoma where she prepares me a cup of seasonal tea and treats me to some nigiri rice balls. The lounge also serves sake and Japanese wines (surprisingly good!) in the evenings and was created by Azuma to encourage guests to mingle. It’s also a place where staff like Tomoko and front desk manager Asuka Nagayama, who lived in Vancouver for two years, educates guests on the traditions and cultures of this amazing country.

“You’ve arrived in Japan at a good time because we are having Shichigosan,” says Asuka, referring to an event held annually in November when children aged 3, 5 and 7 are taken to temples and blessed in an ancient ceremony celebrating the rite of passage.

One of the biggest challenges Azuma and her team from Azuma Architect & Associates faced when it came to creating this modern ryokan tower was staying true to an authentic ryokan experience, which meant finding a natural hot spring in the heart of Japan’s magnificent capital.

“Before construction even began, they drilled 1,500 metres under the ground where the Hoshinoya Tokyo now stands and found a thermal hot spring in the seabed (Otemachi district is built on reclaimed land).

“That water is now pumped up to our 17th floor where our hot spring baths are located,” says Asuka. “Our hot spring is very different, though — it’s salty because it’s fed from a seabed hot spring.”

The hotel’s Otemachi Onsen Hot Spring is an oasis of relaxation in one of the world’s busiest cities. Guests, many of whom are business executives, soak in curative waters in rooms with open roofs — providing a magical experience under a glorious night sky. Just as relaxing is the hotel spa, manned by exceptional therapists like Naoyo Iwsaki, who administers massage treatments using traditional techniques meant to meet the health needs of guests.

Naoyo insists I perform a pre-massage workout, which includes stretching and dips in the hot spring so “I can check the level of tension and pain in your body.”

The understated elegance of the treatment rooms — more soothing blonde woods and bamboo — get you into a relaxed frame of mind very quickly.

Morning breakfast can be enjoyed in the ochanoma with other guests or delivered to your room. Guests have two choices: a complimentary rice ball and miso soup meal at the ochanoma lounge or a full in-room Japanese or Western breakfast.

In the hotel’s stylish lobby, guests are treated to traditional performances, which break out regularly.

Hoshino Resorts’ Hoshinoya Tokyo is where Japan’s ancient and modern cultures co-exist in harmonious splendour.

Information: Rooms at Hoshinoya Tokyo are always in great demand so we suggest you book well in advance of your arrival. Accommodation for this type of experience is never cheap. Hoshinoya Tokyo rooms start around $800 (Cdn) but the cultural experience is priceless.

Go to for more information.

Air Canada offers direct daily service to Tokyo from several Canadian cities.

Tour East Holidays offers many Japan tour options.


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New Provincial Plan Will Have Some Unintended Consequences

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New Provincial Plan Will Have Some Unintended Consequences

After carefully reviewing Ontario’s proposed Fair Housing Plan, I have some thoughts on the new rules that have taken effect retroactive to April 21.

First, the 15 per cent non-resident speculation tax: this maybe more symbolic and psychological than impactful in the real market.

The estimate from many of our clients on the extent of nonresident buyers in today’s GTA market is less than 6 per cent. A similar tax in Vancouver immediately depressed sales volume by 40 per cent and prices by 10 per cent before stabilizing, but Toronto is a different market. Over 95 per cent of ethnic buyers in the GTA are Canadian residents. The caveat may be that unknown amounts of financial support are coming from non-resident sources. We have no way of knowing the extent of this support, although we suspect this support will continue unabated.

We don’t believe this tax will have much of an immediate impact except in very specific ethnic neighbourhoods where the psychology of the tax will have its greatest effect. The highrise market is 80 per cent driven by investors, mostly for long-term rentals, and they are predominantly Canadian resident investors.

The tax won’t apply to rental apartment buildings, agricultural land, or commercial/industrial land. Watch for a shift in investment to these sectors as an unintended consequence.

As a tax applicable only in the GTA, if non-resident investment is considered such a critical driver of demand, then watch for investment targeting tax-exempt areas. Ottawa, London and Kingston are stable markets with balanced price appreciation. If non-resident investment is here in Canada for financial security and not necessarily for appreciation, it will flow to other Ontario cities. Another unintended consequence.

Now, let’s talk about rent control. The move to place all construction after 1991 under rent control guidelines may severely impact new purpose-built rentals. The annual fixed increase of up to 2.5 per cent may seriously impact the rate of return in an era of rising interest rates. The lowering of the municipal apartment tax rate to match other residential rates is a terrific change; but seeing is believing! We think a lot of rethinking will be going on in the purpose-built field and, given the modest annual increase allowed, may defer or cancel many planned projects.

The real impact here may be on the tens of thousands of condo units purchased by investors over the past decade. About 80 per cent of units are being sold today to investors as long-term rental units. This has been a primary source of “affordable housing.” This product also served as the basis for rental stock when purpose-built rentals did not exist.

The unintended consequence is the investor market may be a tougher sale for new condo builds if the investor decides that 2.5 per cent is just not a sufficient return amidst rising costs — utilities, maintenance fees, interest rates, etc.

A $1,500 per month rental rate would be allowed an annual increase of only 2.5 per cent, or about $40, an amount likely insufficient to cover current and anticipated costs. Watch for current “rental” condo units being put up for sale.

The unintended consequence reduces rental inventory yet should increase the supply of “affordable housing.” If supply increases dramatically in a short period, MLS prices will also adjust slowly downward for condo units only; it will not affect affordability in the overall market.

Now, on the vacant home property tax. I’m not sure how this will be monitored but it has been suggested that it could be done through hydro and water usage. Not sure about this one. We don’t see vacant units as an issue in the GTA, so no impact except for the software that can adjust your hydro and water usage when you are not in residence. This one is probably a bureaucratic nightmare.

Municipalities can now impose a higher tax on vacant land approved for housing. Talk about Catch 22. The municipal approval process is so onerous that delays from land purchase to actual moving of dirt can take many years. So, the municipality causes the problem and now they can tax you for the delay. Bizarre. The unintended consequence is that the tax will be passed on to the consumer, further increasing the price of new housing. Not exactly a “fair” consequence.

And now, let’s talk about the updated Growth Plan. “Carefully written premise trying to balance the demand for housing next to the policy directives of the Greenbelt, Transit Policy and Climate Change,” the Fair Housing Plan says. But the Growth Plan is more about restricting than managing growth. Supply management is critical to stabilizing prices and until the province recognizes that the underlying cause of price pressures is limited supply as measured against continuing strong demand, prices will keep escalating until supply and production is balanced. This means a new housing target of 60,000 to 70,000 units per year should be produced in the GTA to mitigate price pressure.

These various new tax measures tackle the consequence and not the cause of escalating house prices, the lack of supply and will have little effect on the long-term price pressures for housing in the GTA.

ANDREW BRETHOUR is the president of PMA Brethour Realty Group, a full-service professional realty company with offices in Canada and the United States. You can reach Andrew through


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Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection: For Now, It Is Business As Usual At Tarion

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Consumer Protection: For Now, It Is Business As Usual At Tarion

You may have read the news reports: In late March, the Ontario government announced it intends to make substantial structural changes to Tarion by splitting it into two new Delegated Administrative Authorities (DAA).

One will continue with Tarion’s current warranty provider mandate, and the other will continue with Tarion’s current building regulator mandate.

The news received some attention in the media, and not surprisingly, Tarion staff began to receive enquiries from both new condominium owners and builders. They wanted to know how the changes will affect them — and rightly so.

Tarion not only regulates the building industry, it also administers the new home warranty, an important consumer protection program that comes with rights and responsibilities for both the condo owner and the builder.

I would like to assure you that for now, it is business as usual at Tarion. The government’s plans will significantly affect how Tarion operates in the future. However, given the scope of the changes, I expect it will likely take some time before they come into effect.

So, for now, new condo owners and builders should contact Tarion as usual for any help they need on warranty questions and issues. Our award-winning customer service staff remain ready to provide information, resources and answers to condo owners and builders alike on the province’s new home warranty — something we’ve been doing for more than 40 years.

It’s worth mentioning that since our start in 1976, Tarion has worked to protect new home and condo owners by anticipating and responding to changing markets and consumer needs.

Raising the bar for builders — which ultimately benefits consumers — has been the focus of many of our initiatives and improvements over the years. A recent example of this is new education requirements that came into effect in 2016, improving qualification standards for new builders entering the industry.

Our warranty program has also been significantly enhanced over the years.

Warranty coverage limits were increased to reflect the rising costs of condos and repairs. And, the program provides coverage that no other warranty in Canada offers: the seven-year warranty covers illegally built homes, and we were the first and only province to provide coverage for radon gas remediation and for delayed closings.

Meanwhile, our staff has won international awards for customer service. This is not a surprise to us: every year we send out annual surveys to new home and condo owners and builders to help assess our customer service performance, and Tarion consistently scores above an 80-per-cent approval rating.

Given that we help administer the warranty to more than 350,000 condominiums and homes and regulate more than 5,000 builders, I believe that rating is a strong indication of our dedication to customer service and consumer protection.

One issue we have been working on is reviewing deposit protection coverage for buyers of new homes.

Purchasers of new condominiums enjoy strong protection under the trust provisions of the Condominium Act which require that deposits and monies for upgrades and extras are held in trust. Purchasers of freehold homes do not have the same protections.

We are therefore pleased that the Ontario government has said it wants to work with Tarion to review deposit protection coverage limits in the coming weeks and months.

Other changes the government is planning may take time to put in place. So for the time being, new condo owners and builders should take comfort that it is business as usual at Tarion, as our staff remain committed to delivering their award-winning service.

HOWARD BOGACH is president and CEO of Tarion Warranty Corp., a private corporation established to protect the rights of new homebuyers and to regulate new home builders.


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Property Brothers want you!

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Property Brothers want you!

The Emmy-nominated Property Brothers — starring twins Jonathan and Drew Scott — is now casting in York Region and North York its next season in the fall of 2017.
We are looking for:

  • Fun, interesting and opinionated people who want to renovate a fixer-upper
  • Interested candidates must live in the GTA and be moving to or moving within North York or York Region.
  • Must have a minimum renovation budget of $100,000.
  • Must have financing in place, ready to spend.
  • Candidates must be flexible and available for up to 10 days of filming, staggered over seven weeks.

Benefits to being on the show:

  • Homeowners receive $20,000+ value towards their renovation.
  • All renovations will be complete in seven weeks.
  • All budgets include not only construction of three to four rooms, but also furnishings, appliances and all the bells and whistles in each fully designed space.
  • Expert design and construction help from Jonathan Scott and his team.

Anyone interested can apply directly on our casting website:


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