All posts by Dave Gray


KiWi Condos – How cool is that?

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KiWi Condos – How cool is that?

An iconic 14 Storey Condo is coming to 212 King William in the heart of Hamilton’s Urban Art scene.

King William is where you want to be. KiWi is cool. And you get it. This is a place where people and ideas come together. New possibilities. New thinking. Urban style. KiWi is the essence of the King William district. How cool is that?


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Renovation Contractor – Dec/Jan 2019

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Renovation Contractor – Dec/Jan 2019

Renovation Contractor is a trusted trade publication written by and for Canada’s small to medium-sized home renovators.


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GTA moving into balanced market for 2019

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GTA moving into balanced market for 2019

Although the Greater Toronto Area housing market is somewhat in balanced territory, buyers and sellers are both up against the ropes.

This year has changed so much from the last five to 10 years. Both buyers and sellers have been affected in both positive and negative ways. For me, when working with a buyer and investor client, it was always a tailored approach. However, now more than ever, we have to be extremely diligent when analyzing residential types, location and price range.

In past years, it was much more common to think about flipping real estate or short-term investments. Now? Not so much. There is a total shift to a minimum five- to 10-year hold. Since the introduction of the stress test, some real estate markets took a hit. Buyers are also now faced with additional challenges such as qualification rules and rising interest rates.

Glass half full

Although there are pros and cons in today’s market, take a glass half full approach. Just think, in the past, is was very challenging for a seller to move up to a bigger property. There were bidding wars, price increases that exceeded pay raises, and to top it all off, extremely low inventory – which meant buyers might have to settle for something they might not fully love. The trade-off was a low interest rate environment. If you were a seller, it was nice to think you could sell your property for top dollar, but the million-dollar question was where will you buy next?

Also read: GTA home prices continue to rise

Also read: GTA new home market gains further momentum in October

Also read: GTA condo sales and prices hit record levels

Today, if a seller wants to move up, they can usually find a good deal and sell their property for a fair market value. Maybe your property went down 10 to 15 per cent, however, you are also buying your next home for the same 10 to 15 per cent less. Another benefit to such market conditions is that there are more deals to be had.

Notably, there have been fewer first-time buyers out there recently. Even a larger down payment might not cut it anymore, due to higher interest rates. This is why the condo market is doing well, especially the smaller and less expensive properties, due to affordability. The new reality could well be more people renting for a longer period.

Rising rates

The qualifying rate today is slightly more than six per cent. “The recent rule change with regards to the stress test basically decreased people’s max mortgage amount by about 15 to 20 per cent,” says Michael Yosher, director of lending at Integrity Tree Solutions Inc. “The 2019 horizon looks like this trend will continue, as Bank of Canada and economists are predicting several interest rate hikes, which will further reduce the amount of mortgage a buyer will qualify for. This has really taken the wind out of first-time buyers. Family members helping out with gifted down payments and cosigning mortgage loans are the trend these days.”

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, in October 2018 compared to last year October, average sales prices were up 3.5 per cent. Although this is good news for some sellers, most of this price growth is driven by the condominium market, which at one point lagged behind detached, semi-detached and townhouse product.

Arie Buzilo is a real estate broker with Century 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc. Brokerage, and an investor specializing in buying and selling properties in the GTA.


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Don’t forget about these winter window maintenance tasks

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Don’t forget about these winter window maintenance tasks

As home heating costs continue to rise, saving money and conserving the home’s warm air has become a top priority for many Canadian homeowners. That’s why it’s essential to take time to maintain your windows this winter, since drafty windows can account for up to 40% of a home’s heat loss. Here are a few tips on how to keep the heat in.

Check for Leaks

The best way to prevent heat from sneaking out the window is by checking the windows in your home for any leaks. An easy way to do this is with a smoldering incense stick. Light the incense and hold it close to each window. If the smoke is being pushed away from the window, there’s a good chance that you might have a leak.

You also want to check the caulking along the frame since it can dry out and gap.

Insulate your Windows

Winter insulation is a good idea for homes in most cold weather climates. It keeps home interiors comfortable and home heating bills low. Two easy ways to keep the warm air inside are with window insulation film and thermal curtains.

Window Insulation Film

Window insulation film is often available as part of a kit, which contains double-sided tape and a large sheet of insulating film. The tape it affixed to the window frame and then the film is applied to it. Next, a hair dryer is used to tighten the film by shrinking it into place.

Thermal Curtains

Thermal window curtains are an easy, affordable way to provide extra insulation. Sometimes called cold-blocking curtains, these energy-conserving window coverings are either double or triple layered and may also be coated on one side with an acrylic foam. Some options are available layered and backed by a thick, insulating layer.

Replace the Windows

Sometimes the best solution for a drafty home is to replace your windows. Leaky windows can not only elevate your home heating bill but can lead to additional problems like allergens getting into the home, and condensation, which can lead to mold, mildew and damage to surrounding wood.

Newer, more energy-efficient double and triple glazed models can be filled with inert gas which provides further insulation. They will help you enjoy a more comfortable home and lower your energy bills as well.

*Article courtesy of EiEiHome


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Are you covered for weather damage to your home?

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Are you covered for weather damage to your home?

Under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, warranties do not apply to damage resulting from an act of God

These days the news is full of reports of extreme weather, both here at home and around the world. This past summer we had strong winds, heavy rainfall and even tornadoes – and it’s hard to know what weather surprises the winter may hold.

When extreme weather happens, it’s not unusual for homeowners and builders alike to call Tarion asking whether storm-related damage is covered under the warranty plan or is considered an “act of God” and excluded from coverage.

Under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, warranties do not apply to damage resulting from an act of God. An act of God is a natural event that is unexpected and unavoidable and causes damage that is beyond the control of the builder. Examples include tornadoes, earthquakes and extreme winds.

New homes that are designed and built to Ontario Building Code standards are expected to withstand Ontario’s normal weather conditions – like ice, snow, high winds and heavy rains. This means that the act of God exclusion only applies to extraordinary occurrences or conditions of nature that could not have been reasonably foreseen or guarded against.

For example, a high wind is not an act of God unless it is of such exceptional strength that no builder in Ontario could be reasonably expected to anticipate its force.

So where does that leave you if you’re a new homeowner whose home has been damaged by an ice storm, heavy snowfall or high winds? You should contact your builder, who in turn should inspect the damage to determine if warranty coverage applies. If it’s not covered, you may be able to make a claim for it under your home insurance.

If a homeowner reports damage after a weather event and the builder believes the act of God exclusion applies, the onus is on the builder to prove it. For example, if roof shingles on a newly built home flew off on a windy day, the builder would be required to replace the shingles unless the builder can prove the shingles were installed properly and became detached only because there was an extraordinary wind.

As we contend with Mother Nature’s extremes, what constitutes normal Ontario weather may change and so may the requirements for building homes to withstand it.

In the meantime, if you have questions about your warranty coverage or the act of God exclusion, you can contact Tarion.

Howard Bogach is president and CEO of the Tarion Warranty Corp.


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Affordability Is A Challenge

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Affordability Is A Challenge

Housing supply is not rising in response to increased demand

Every fall, BILD invites experts on economics and housing to join us for breakfast and speak to our members about what the GTA housing market will look like in the coming year. This fall was no exception and I was heartened by much of what I heard about current and future trends from Patricia Arsenault of Altus Group and Dana Senagama of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). I also saw we have much left to do around housing supply and affordability in our region.

There’s no doubt we have a lot to look forward to in the GTA. Economic conditions are expected to be solid in the short term, with the employment growth rate projected to be 1.8 per cent in 2019, according to Arsenault, who is Altus Group’s executive vice president, data solutions.

More GTA households than last year are planning renovations of over $5,000 in the next year, and the percentage of GTA households that currently rent but plan to buy a home in the next year has rebounded after softening last summer, according to Altus Group’s survey.

But these survey results only indicate what homeowners and potential new homebuyers intend to do, not what they are ultimately able to do, and Arsenault noted that households may take longer to save for that first home in the face of new mortgage hurdles and housing affordability challenges. The prices of condo apartments, which used to offer potential homebuyers a more affordable choice than single-family homes, have been rising, reducing the advantage of this option. In September, the benchmark price of new condo apartments was $789,643 and the benchmark price of new single-family homes at $1,119,533.

Despite rapid price gains in both ownership and rental markets, the supply response has been weak or inelastic, said Senagama, who is CMHC’s manager of market analysis. That means our housing supply is not rising in response to increased demand for housing and the corresponding increase in the prices of homes, as the law of supply and demand would lead us to expect. In fact, Senagama showed that Toronto is one of the markets in Canada that are not at the risk of overbuilding.

I was not surprised to hear this. BILD has consistently delivered the same message. We have said that we are not building enough housing to accommodate the 115,000 new residents who are arriving in our region every year. We should be building 50,000 homes every year, and last year we only built 38,000. A big reason for this supply shortfall is the lengthy development process that housing projects face in the GTA, slowed down by outdated regulation and red tape.

We should be updating zoning bylaws and official plans and streamlining the list of conditions for municipal approvals, so that we can build the housing our growing region needs. Only then will potential homebuyers be able to afford to make their dream of owning a home a reality.

Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on: and BILD’s official online blog:


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Don’t Doubt The Market

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Don’t Doubt The Market

There is no shortage of demand at the launches of new projects

The GTA housing market is as robust as ever and things have been humming along quite nicely for many years now.

And yet there will always be those who believe we are doomed, that the good times cannot continue for the GTA’s hot housing market — that it’s no doubt headed for an inevitable crash.

Well, that’s just not the sentiment we’re seeing at In2ition Realty as we’ve launched a series of successful projects across the region in recent weeks.

There was certainly no shortage of demand at the launch this summer of the first tower at Universal City, a Chestnut Hill Developments master-planned community in Pickering. The project enjoys lake views and is located just minutes from the GO Transit station. It sold out in record time and a second tower of 324 units just launched last month. The interest for tower two was equally as strong.

In Port Credit, on the other side of the GTA, it was the same story with the recent launch of Tanu Condos, a 204-unit tower and townhouse project by Edenshaw Developments. We had a lineup on the first day of launch!

Truth be told, Toronto condo builders can’t launch developments quickly enough to satisfy the insatiable demand.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the GTA housing market in 2018, mind you. The introduction of a new stress test on mortgage applicants certainly had an impact on home sales, sidelining some buyers.

And the GTA housing market faces considerable ongoing challenges, including trade labour shortages, development approval process and timing, project cost escalation, ability to secure financing, profit margins, land availability and cost … there are tons of hurdles for the building industry to contend with.

Although sales figures are down 40 per cent from last year, a portion is from lack of supply. In 2017 we saw 128 launches in highrise condos versus 56 in 2018.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reported a 6 per cent uptick in regional home sales in October 2018, compared to the same month a year earlier. And the average sale price of a detached home in the GTA last month was up 3.5 per cent on a year-overyear basis, to $807,340. The average sale price for a condo in Toronto was $603,153, compared to $461,013 in the 905.

Renovation spending is also at an all-time high: $12.3 billion was spent on home alterations and improvements in Ontario in the first half of 2018, according to Altus Group.

Homebuying intentions are up, as well, despite affordability and qualifying challenges. An Altus Group survey of current homeowners and current renters showed that most GTA households are saying yes, they plan to buy a home in the next year or so.

The evidence doesn’t lie. Households and investors alike see the GTA housing market as a quality long-term investment. And why shouldn’t they? A thriving and diverse regional economy and a steady stream of 100,000-plus new arrivals in the GTA each year — more migration than any other city in Canada — will keep this market strong for years to come.

Debbie Cosic, CEO and founder of In2ition Realty, has worked in all facets of the real estate industry for over 25 years.


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Condominium Cancellations: Why All The Fuss?

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Condominium Cancellations: Why All The Fuss?

There has been much talk in the press this year regarding some high-profile condominium cancellations. One of the most high profile of the cancellations was the 1,200-suite three-building project Cosmo by Liberty Developments, which left purchasers scrambling to find equivalent units in the current marketplace. Overall, for 2017 until June 30, 2018, Altus Group reports 17 projects were cancelled for a total of 3,627 units.

The reality is that over the last seven years, an average of 17 per cent of proposed units have been cancelled for a variety of reasons. The number of units cancelled this year is in line with the average.

In the past, however, most of the projects that have been cancelled due to their uneconomic viability resulting in a lack of financing, a lack of sales or delays in municipal approvals. It should be noted that builders are extremely limited under the current Tarion regimen and have few termination rights (other than purchaser default). These include: (1) lack of specified government approvals; (2) lack of a specified number of presales; (3) unavailability of satisfactory financing; and (4) failure of the purchaser to provide evidence of finance ability. All need a specific outside date to satisfy the applicable condition which simply cannot be later than the outside date under the Tarion rules, as selected by the builder.

Many of the more recent cancellations are not due to lack of sales, but rather a lack of financing and the underlying reasons are usually delays in municipal approvals and escalating costs as a result of these delays.

The public and the press have speculated that the real reason behind these cancellations is so that the builder can resell these units at current and significantly higher prices. The actual reality is far from this conjecture.

The last thing that builders want to do is cancel a project. It reflects on their credibility and reputation both with purchasers, trades and Tarion. Projects are only cancelled within the limited termination rights that builders have under the purchase agreement and only as a last resort. The cost of cancelling a project can be significant in terms of lost marketing fees, real estate commissions and the additional carrying cost of the lands.

One of the real culprits in these unfortunate cancellations is the ever growing red tape and delays in obtaining government approvals. These can include anything from actual rezoning and official plan amendments, site plan approvals and signoffs by various departments to permit the issuance of building permits. As a result of these delays, carrying costs mount, construction costs continue to escalate while the developer is prevented from signing up his construction contracts without having a firm construction start date. And to add salt to the wound, the municipality itself creates extra costs by raising its development charges, park levies, planning fees and building permit fees while the builder waits for his approvals to come through.

The most recent example of this was the significant increase on November 1, 2018, of Toronto development charges on all projects. Avoiding the increase requires payment only when full building permits have been issued. Numerous projects had completed their submissions and were awaiting their building permits, which, in many cases, were delayed by the city beyond November 1, 2018. This alone has resulted in significant increases in DCs that may or may not be passed on to the purchaser. At the end of the day, every development needs to make a reasonable return. Banks will simply not finance projects where this return is not evident and, without bank financing, the projects simply cannot be built. The provincial government has recently asked for input from Tarion and the residential building industry as to the causes of the condominium cancellations and what can be done to best protect purchasers from the unfortunate results of a condominium cancellation.

The reality is that purchasers buy into projects at a very early stage, many even before full approvals are available, on the basis that they are getting in at the ground floor at a lower price. The downside of getting in early is that there is a higher risk of a project cancellation if the approvals do not come through or costs change materially such that financing is not available. Those purchasers that do not want to be exposed to those risks can simply wait to purchase a project at a later stage of the development, i.e. when approvals are in place, or when construction has commenced, or even when construction has been substantially completed so that they can plan their move-in timeframe.

There are certainly other tweaks that can be made to the process to ensure transparency and fairness. Payment of some interest to purchasers on deposits above the currently low statutory rate, and disclosure to Tarion of the underlying economic reasons as to the lack of financing by an independent cost consultant, could be considered.

At the end of the day, the real key in this environment is to properly educate consumers as to the risks of buying projects from plans. The problem with most new condo buyers is that they do not read the documentation or pay their lawyers to do so, other than the price and the adjustment clause. The solution is really to educate consumers as to these risks, no different from the risks of investing in the stock market or mortgages, or any other type of purchase or investment. Consumers need to go in with their eyes open.

Leor Margulies is a partner at Robins Appleby LLP.


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Accessible Customer Service Is The Law

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Accessible Customer Service Is The Law

As a builder, you may have installed handrails, widened doorways or lowered countertops to make a home more accessible for a homeowner. But have you made your customer service accessible too?

Whether your interactions happen over the phone, in a sales office, on a construction site or within a home, it’s important that you are aware of your customers’ needs and do your best to meet them.

Accessible customer service is not just nice to have, it’s the law. Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, or AODA, businesses are required to comply with the Accessible Customer Service Standard.

So how do you adopt AODA principles as part of your day-to-day business? It begins with getting to know your customers and not making assumptions about what they can or cannot do or what they do or do not need. Disabilities and accessibility issues may present themselves in many different forms and it’s up to you to work with your customers to determine how best to accommodate them.

At Tarion, we are committed to ensuring that we deliver services that are integrated, accessible, and respect the dignity and independence of each individual.

I’ve heard numerous stories of how our staff has put this commitment into action by addressing the accessibility challenges of homeowners. For instance, by bringing a sign language interpreter to a conciliation for someone who was hearing impaired, or offering assistance with filling out warranty forms for someone with vision loss.

It’s important to be aware, however, that not all disabilities will be visible. While a person in a wheelchair or someone with a seeing-eye dog have accessibility challenges that are easier to identify, someone with a learning disability or a mental health issue may also require special accommodations. We have had situations in which Tarion representatives and the builder’s staff needed to wear gloves during an inspection to avoid physical contact with a homeowner’s possessions. In another case, we assigned a dedicated staff person to help a homeowner with a severe brain injury in filling out forms, communicating with the builder and scheduling repairs.

Customer service is only as good as its accessibility. There is no one size fits all approach – it’s about meeting and accommodating your customers’ needs whatever they are.

As a warranty provider, we not only hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to accessibility, but we expect the same from our contractors. To that end, we offer a training guide with tips and examples for our Tarion approved contractors. It’s a great resource and I encourage you to have a look if you are curious about ways you and your trades can increase the accessibility of your services. The guide, as well as Tarion’s accessibility policy and resources, are available at You can also reach out to your Stakeholder Relations Representative if you have any questions about meeting a customer’s accessibility needs or how Tarion may make accommodations during the warranty process.

Howard Bogach is president and CEO of the Tarion Warranty Corporation.


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7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

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7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

Can the way we design or retrofit our buildings help the climate crisis? This is a question that lingers in my mind daily. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and trying to reverse climate change has never been more important. Investing in our buildings, new or old, can make a difference. Old buildings in particular present a great opportunity to make improvements.

It has always been a challenge to get people to invest in new sustainable buildings, largely because of the idea of higher upfront costs. Thankfully, because of successful projects like evolv1 in Waterloo — a net-positive, multi-tenant building that recently won the first-ever Zero Carbon award from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) — more people understand that there’s a great business case for green buildings. Not just for the environment but for the bottom line.

While our understanding about the value of green design in our new buildings is taking hold, people are still overlooking all the old building stock out there. For every innovative evolv1 project in development, there are dozens of inefficient existing buildings around us. Most of these old buildings will stand for decades, so what can we do about them today? What strategies can we adopt to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings?

Here are some ideas. Let’s focus on low-cost/no-cost measures. If you follow these suggestions, it’ll make a difference―both for the environment, and for your energy bill.

Don’t leave the lights on

Do you really need to be lighting every floor of your office building all the time? Aside from emergency lights, it makes sense to use control strategies like daylight dimming and occupancy sensors to reduce your energy usage during evenings and weekends. Daylight dimming detectors adjust lighting according to the amount of sunlight available, and occupancy sensors work like indoor motion lights to detect if a person is present.

Program that thermostat

Here’s another easy one. To maximize energy savings, it’s wise to use a variable temperature strategy. In office buildings, set your thermostat to a comfortable room temperature for the mornings and afternoons, when the building is occupied. In the evenings, reduce it. For example, during full occupancy times, set your temperature to 21C (70F). Lower it to 15C or 16C (59F-60F) during off-hours. At home, make sure to use a smart thermostat or a programmable thermostat. Why heat a room that much if no one’s in it?

Close down your fresh air damper

Here’s a related point to the last one. Some building operators keep central fans running for too long, which supply fresh air to spaces when it’s not necessary. If there’s no one in your building during nights or on weekends, it doesn’t make sense to provide continuous fresh air. At night, revert to the minimum airflow required for conditioning the space.

Shut off your equipment

Instruct staff members to power down their laptops and desktop computers at night. Reduce the receptacle power use during unoccupied times. I realize that businesses need to update their systems occasionally, so perhaps you can schedule patch/maintenance updates on weekends for a couple of hours. But don’t leave those computers on every night.

Fix those old windows

Windows in older buildings are often leaky. This leads to more heat escaping from your comfortably conditioned spaces, which means that you need to supply even more heat — and you lose more energy this way. Look into fixing or replacing those drafty windows as soon as you can.

Upgrade your equipment

People often don’t upgrade their equipment when they should. All pieces of equipment have a useful service life. For example, if your furnace has a service life of 20 years, don’t let it run for 30. If you are planning on doing a mid-life retrofit to your building, do not replace your equipment on a like-for-like basis, but upgrade and improve on the equipment’s efficiency. Technology improves every day, so the efficiency of appliances and devices also improves constantly. If your furnace is running at a low efficiency, you’re going to be dealing with some big bills.

Design for tomorrow, not for today

Apart from the cost, look ahead to the future. The temperature will be warmer, so if you’re designing/and or upgrading a cooling system, you need to account for extra cooling load in the future. Design for tomorrow, not today.

A few final thoughts

For both existing building retrofits, as well as for new developments, clients are typically focused on upfront costs. Most stakeholders will prioritize upfront cost — how much is this going to be at the outset? But we need to start considering life-cycle cost and think of how much it’s going to cost to operate the building on a day-to-day basis. Can you save $10,000 down the road by spending $500 extra today?

High-performance and low-carbon buildings will produce lower operating costs than more conventional strategies. Like I mentioned earlier, success stories like evolv1 are helping to change this mentality — evolv1 is a living example of net-zero carbon emissions balanced with a financially viable solution.

These are steps that we can take to help address the current climate crisis, while also designing, building, and retrofitting buildings to be energy- and cost-efficient and more comfortable for users.

Afaf Azzouz is a buildings energy specialist with Stantec’s Energy and mechanical engineering group in Ottawa. She recently won the 2018 Emerging Green Leader Award from the CaGBC of Ontario.


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