Tag Archives: Ontario

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines

A new adventure into an old tradition

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A new adventure into an old tradition

River cruises have continued to grow in popularity over the past few years, but the tradition dates back to the 19th century. In many ways, it is like modern travelers have rediscovered the classic combination of relaxation, comfort, and intimacy that these journeys provide. In North America, St. Lawrence Cruise Lines has the distinction of being the most experienced river cruise operator in the magnificent St. Lawrence River region, and the company is proud to be celebrating its 40th season on the river in 2020. This experience comes with a tremendous knowledge and understanding of the geography of the region that allows St. Lawrence Cruise Lines to deliver cruises that are tremendously detailed and full of value.

A river without end

For many Canadians, the St. Lawrence River is part of our local geography. What makes the St. Lawrence so attractive to travelers?

  1. The St. Lawrence River is enormous. The river proper, at 774 miles in length, runs northeast from Lake Ontario towards the Atlantic, where it forms the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This magnificent river is still fairly young, having formed only about 10,000 years ago. It is at its most striking in September and October, when its shores become a kaleidoscope of fall colours.
  2. Settlers began constructing canals along parts of the river as early as 1783. In 1954, Canada and the United States agreed on the mutual construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power project, connecting Montreal to Lake Erie. The Seaway opened in 1959 and celebrated its 60-year anniversary in 2019.
  3. The 1000 Islands includes 1,865 islands and hundreds of miles of picturesque coastline. This region features both the beauty of nature and historic attractions that include museums, forts, fairy-tale castles, and national parks. The entire region is a giant playground with fantastic boating, swimming, hiking and bird watching.
  4. The St. Lawrence River connects English and French Canada, and traveling the river is a journey between two cultures. The old world charm of the Province of Quebec feature landscapes, ecosystems, architecture, food, and cities that are unlike anywhere in North America.
  5. The Ottawa River is the chief tributary of the St. Lawrence River, with the southeast part of the river acting as the Quebec–Ontario provincial border. Over 790 miles, the river forms innumerable lakes, and it became a chief route of explorers and fur traders, and lumberers in the early 19th century. The economic activity generated by these industries led to Ottawa becoming the national capital. The city is now famous for its numerous museums and galleries, as well as Canada’s parliament buildings.

Make the river your home

The Canadian Empress is a nostalgic replica steamboat with 64-passenger capacity, and a warm and friendly personality. This makes it the perfect way to experience calm-water cruising, and explore the unique beauty and rich history of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. The size and design of the vessel serves to enhance the intimacy and authenticity of the river cruise experience. The interior of the vessel is full of charming brass furnishings and ornate metal ceilings, and this classic steamboat style has been combined with modern engineering and amenities to enhance comfort, security and relaxation.

This ship will carry you through the very heart of Canada’s most beautiful scenery, on routes specifically selected for their stunning gifts of history, natural beauty and modern vitality. This is a chance to see a side of Canada and the United States that can only be viewed from the shared waters of the St. Lawrence River, from the charming bays and inlets of the 1000 Islands, to the locks and canals of the International Seaway and beyond to the old world culture of Quebec.

Cruises run from May to October with departures from Kingston, Ottawa, and Quebec City. For more information about St. Lawrence Cruise Lines, visit stlawrencecruiselines.com or call 1.800.267.7868.


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Mid-winter research; heritage, hybrids and natural mutations

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Mid-winter research; heritage, hybrids and natural mutations

As your gardening anticipation grows, it’s the perfect time of year to pour through seed catalogues and make plans. We all want to grow the very best quality plants, otherwise what’s the point of growing your own?

When we grow our own produce, we have control over the process. We grow it because it tastes better – think of the vine-ripened tomato, or the sweetness of a carrot just pulled from the ground and wiped on your pant leg. Children enjoy the experience as well.

Hybrid rose, Bonica

Hybrid pros and cons

A hybrid is the result of crossing two closely related species in a controlled environment. Professionals, like those at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario are coming up with new varieties every day.

Many hybrids that make it to market are more disease-resistant than their parents, they bloom longer, and they produce hardier fruit, which is great for shipping long distances. While flavour is often compromised, they generally possess a couple of qualities that make the plant, or its fruit, appealing to buyers.

The Sweet One Million cherry tomato is a hybrid, and it’s the most prolific producer and, by far, the sweetest in its category. My favourite rose, the Bonica, is another hybrid. If you see ‘F1’ after the name of a plant, this means that it’s a hybrid that was created by crossing two pure parents. It takes growers many years to achieve a pure line before they can continue with their goal to produce an F1 hybrid. These varieties generally have outstanding characteristics, but cost more because they are expensive to produce.

Open-pollinated re-selections

Strange things can happen in the garden. A cucumber can cross with its close cousin, the pumpkin, and create a cuckin. The melon family are famous for family in-breeding. The reason is that they are open pollinated. This can happen if a bee or a hummingbird visits a flower on one plant, gathers its pollen or nectar, and then moves on to another.

Heritage varieties

Purists often go out of their way to find those varieties that have been around for more than 100 years. If you grow heritage varieties, be sure to keep a keen eye out for powdery mildew, and the like, as many can be susceptible to disease. Give your heritage plants lots of space in the sunniest positions in your garden to increase air flow and to help burn off disease spores in hot, dry weather.

Natural mutations

Plants will produce unpredictable changes as they evolve from one generation to another. It has been reported that Purina was growing a large field of sweet potatoes for use in their dog food products when one of the plants produced brilliant lime green leaves. A smart-thinking plant breeder isolated the plant, produced seeds from it that were true to their parent, and created a whole new ornamental plant category – the sweet potato vine has become a staple in floral containers with its vibrant, trailing leaves.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada, and provides gardening advice to more than two million Canadians each week. Ben Cullen’s specialty is food gardening. markcullen.com; Facebook @MarkCullenGardening and Pinterest @MarkCullenGardening.

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Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

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Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

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Outlook 2020 – it’s a new year and a new decade, and with that come new challenges and opportunities. When it pertains to the housing industry and homebuying, we’ve boiled it down to a handful of items to keep your eye on. Here are five things you really need to understand about real estate – specifically the GTA market.

1 REAL ESTATE IS LOCAL

This is a good place to start, because it’s a simple but important fact that escapes many consumers: Real estate is local. There is no such thing as a Canadian housing market, just as there’s no Canadian traffic or Canadian weather.

Sure, organizations such as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) are mandated to analyze what goes on across the country. But what’s most important to you is what’s happening in your market. When you buy a home, you don’t buy a national market. You buy one property, on one street, in one neighbourhood, in one city and region.

If you live in Ontario, why do you care that Alberta’s ongoing oil industry struggles are affecting sales and prices in markets in that province? Or that Vancouver’s affordability challenges are even more serious than those in Toronto?

Forget the national headlines. Examine what’s happening in your market. The same applies to the economy.

Why does this matter? Read on.

2 THE ECONOMY

Globally, geopolitical uncertainty and softening economic growth will mean Canada faces some challenges with export and investment, leaving the heavy lifting to the consumer, according to Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist at RBC.

RBC forecasts the economy to grow about 1.6 per cent in 2020. The unemployment rate remains at fourdecade lows, though may rise to 5.9 per cent in 2020 from 5.7 per cent in 2019. Companies are having difficulty finding skilled workers, leading to stronger wage growth.

Ontario’s real GDP growth is forecast to slow to 1.6 per cent for 2019 and 1.5 per cent in 2020, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Job creation remains strong, with the province adding more than 200,000 new jobs over the first 10 months of 2019, much of them in full-time work.

Ontarians are among the most positive about the economic outlook, according to a recent public opinion survey from the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute, with 22 per cent of respondents indicating they believe the economy will improve. Only residents in Quebec, at 30 per cent, and BC at 23 per cent, are more optimistic. In Alberta, by contrast, 79 per cent of residents expect their economy to deteriorate over the next year.

Keeping in mind what we wrote about real estate – and even the economy – being local, Ontario is looking strong on both counts for 2020.

Craig Wright, RBC
Craig Wright, RBC

“We continue to see strong employment gains, Ontario is leading Canada in terms of employment growth on a year-over-year basis, and strong population growth,” Wright told Homes Publishing. “So, strong fundamentals supporting it, in a low rate environment.”

The GTA’s robust population growth will continue to drive demand for both ownership and rental housing, Wright says.

Housing markets in Southern Ontario, in fact, led in home price growth last year, and are expected to continue to do so in 2020, according to a new report from ReMax.

ALSO READ: OUR TOP 7 REAL ESTATE STORIES OF 2019 

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Forecast 2019 – where are Canada’s hottest housing markets?

In Conversation With Deena Pantalone of National Homes

In Conversation With Niall Collins, President of Great Gulf Residential

7 factors that will affect GTA housing in 2019 – and 5 reasons to consider buying NOW

Behind the numbers, Breaking down the market in March 2019

HPG golf tournament cracks $300K in funds for Raising The Roof

“Southern Ontario is witnessing some incredibly strong price appreciation, with many regions still seeing double-digit gains,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Thanks to the region’s resilient economy, staggering population growth and relentless development, the 2020 market looks very optimistic.”

Toronto is set to experience a strong housing market this year, thanks to lower unemployment rates, economic growth and improved overall affordability in the GTA. ReMax is forecasting average sale price growth of six per cent, two points higher than the increase from 2018 ($835,422) and 2019 ($880,841).

The Niagara region is also showing strong growth, with average residential sale price increasing almost 13 per cent, from $378,517 in 2018 to $427,487 in 2019. Value-conscious consumers from the GTA are buying in droves, with many choosing to live in the region and commute to Toronto.

3 INTEREST RATES

In its most recent interest rate announcement, the Bank of Canada maintained its target for the influential overnight rate at 1.75 per cent, where it has been since October 2018. Though there is some global uncertainty, the Bank says, the Canadian economy is resilient, citing moderately expanding consumer spending, stronger wage growth and housing investment, increasing population and continuing low mortgage rates.

Many experts foresee mortgage rates holding where they are throughout 2020 – if not declining.

Indeed, James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage, predicts BoC will cut the overnight rate by a quarter point in the second half of 2020.

In 2019, central banks around the world cut their rates, but Canada was not among them. Facing somewhat slowing economic growth driven by decreased exports and a slightly higher unemployment rate, Canada will follow this trend and cut the overnight rate by 0.25 per cent in the latter half of 2020, Laird says.

“These savings will be passed along to variable rate mortgage holders in the form of a lower prime rate,” Laird says. “Therefore, Canadians who are in a variable rate will see their interest rate drop in the second half of the year.”

The Bank’s rate policy will cause fixed mortgage rates to remain low throughout the year, he adds. This should provide peace of mind to Canadians who have a mortgage up for renewal or those who have plans to purchase a new home in 2020.

4 GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Ontario Home Builders’ Association, Building Industry and Land Development Association, Toronto Real Estate Board – and other relevant industry bodies – are all lobbying hard for the various levels of government to address the issues facing housing. Ranging from the First-Time Home Buyers’ Incentive Program, the mortgage stress test or land-use policies that affect the level of homebuilding – and therefore buying – one thing is clear: Federal, provincial and municipal levels of government are listening.

(Many of the executives in our Outlook 2020 Q&As in the following pages touch on these issues, and we’ll have another related special feature in our February issue.)

At least one major source says governments have little choice but to take action. The Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), a real estate investment education, analysis and research firm, cites increasing immigration as the catalyst for change.

“An increase in the influx of migrants amounting to over one million people in three years is tantamount to increasing rental demand,” says Jennifer Hunt, vice-president of research at REIN. “This is good news for rental housing providers, as migrants have higher tendencies to rent property rather than to purchase their own homes, especially within the first four years of settling in Canada.”

Once settled and secure in employment, however, many of these new Canadians want to become homeowners, which leads to higher demand for housing, including new homes and condos.

5 FTHBI & THE STRESS TEST

The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive is a shared equity mortgage through CMHC. The program is intended to reduce monthly mortgage payments for first-time homebuyers, without increasing the amount they need to save for a down payment.

Though some recent adjustments to the program, including raised purchase limits for high-priced markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, have helped, some are calling for further improvements to the plan.

REIN, for one, suggests watching for a potential increase of the FTHBI’s purchase price limit to nearly $800,000 in high-priced markets.

Ratehub is not convinced, expecting that the FTHBI will not be enhanced, and the existing program will see minimal traction.

“Less than five per cent of Canadians who are eligible for the FTBHI program will elect to use it,” says Laird. “Most Canadians do not want the government to own part of their home.”

REIN and Laird agree the mortgage stress test, which many in the industry have been calling to be changed, will likely remain unchanged.

Special Report: Outlook 2020:

Jordan DeBrincat, Director of Operations, Altree Developments

Fan Yang, Deputy General Manager (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd.

Nick Carnicelli, President, Carriage Gate Homes

Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes High Rise

Anson Kwok, Vice-President Sales & Marketing, Pinnacle International

Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp

Samson Fung, Vice-President Marketing, Tridel

Jim Andrews, Director of Sales & Marketing Fieldgate Homes

Shakir Rehmatullah, President Flato Development Inc.

Mike Parker, Vice-President Sales & Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

Brad Carr, CEO Mattamy Homes Canada

Deena Pantalone, Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation National Homes

Art Rubino, Contracts Manager & Marketing Manager Regal Crest Homes

 

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ReMax Housing Market Outlook Report

Ontario markets expected to continue to lead home price growth in 2020

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Ontario markets expected to continue to lead home price growth in 2020

ReMax Housing Market Outlook Report

Housing markets in Southern Ontario will lead in home price growth this year, and are expected to continue to do so in 2020, according to a new report from ReMax.

ReMax is expecting a leveling out of the highs and lows that characterized the Canadian market in 2019, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, as we move into 2020. Healthy price increases are expected next year, with the ReMax 2020 Housing Market Outlook Report estimating a 3.7 per-cent increase in the average residential sales price.

Some regions in Ontario continue to experience higher-than-normal year-over-year gains from 2018 to 2019, including London (10.7 per cent), Windsor (11 per cent), Ottawa (11.7 per cent) and Niagara (12.9 per cent).

“Southern Ontario is witnessing some incredibly strong price appreciation, with many regions still seeing double-digit gains,” says Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice-President and Regional Director, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Thanks to the region’s resilient economy, staggering population growth and relentless development, the 2020 market looks very optimistic.”

As more Canadians have adjusted to the mortgage stress test and older Millennials move into their peak earning years, it is anticipated that they will drive the market in 2020, particularly single Millennials and young couples. A recent Leger survey conducted by ReMax found that more than half (51 per cent) of Canadians are considering buying a property in the next five years, especially those under the age of 45.

Ontario leading the way

Toronto is set to experience a strong housing market in 2020. Lower unemployment rates, economic growth and improved overall affordability in the GTA are expected to drive the market forward. ReMax is forecasting average sale price growth for 2020 of six per cent, two points higher than the increase from 2018 ($835,422) and 2019 ($880,841 ). While Toronto is experiencing a busy construction season this year, housing supply still falls short of the demands of the city’s rapidly growing population.

ReMax Housing Outlook Report

 

Cities such as Ottawa and Windsor are seller’s markets, showing substantial increases in average residential sale price at 11.7 and 11 per cent, respectively. This strong growth is expected to continue into 2020, with Ottawa’s new LRT system impacting surrounding development and Windsor’s continued affordability attracting young professionals to the area. Buyers are also not burdened by the mortgage stress test, as they were in 2018, ReMax says.

The Niagara region is also showing strong growth, with average residential sale price increasing almost 13 per cent, from $378,517 in 2018 to $427,487 in 2019. Value-conscious consumers from the GTA are buying in droves, with many choosing to live in the region and commute to Toronto.

REGIONAL HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS CANADA:

BC

Consumer confidence in regions such as Vancouver West in early 2019 was extremely low and remained relatively shaky throughout the year, resulting in an average residential sale price drop of 7.5 per cent, from $2.27 million in 2018 to $2.10 in 2019. However, consumers have acclimatized to the mortgage stress test, and confidence has begun to return and will prevail in 2020, with prices expected to rise four per cent.

ReMax Housing Outlook Report

Fraser Valley also experienced a price drop of almost four per cent year-over-year, from $724,740 to $696,502. However, the region is also expected to witness substantial growth, particularly in downtown Surrey, due to the high number of real estate developments catering to businesses and educational institutions. First-time buyers are expected to drive the market in 2020 due to the relative affordability of the region compared to Vancouver proper.

“The drop in sales in some key British Columbia markets represents the last of the ‘down’ market spillover from 2018,” says Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president, ReMax of Western Canada.

“Consumer confidence is poised for a comeback, leading to more healthy and sustainable growth, as more buyers come to terms with the stress test and interest rates are unlikely to increase in any meaningful way in 2020.”

Prairies

ReMax Housing Outlook Report

Alberta continues to experience slowing economic conditions, leading to a decrease in average residential sale prices in Calgary, from $478,088 in 2018 to $460,532 in 2019. Condos are the easiest way for first-time homebuyers to get into the market, with starter units going for as low as $150,000. While the city’s unemployment rate continues to remain high compared to the rest of Canada, the population is increasing, with more people moving to the city from other parts of the province.

Winnipeg, on the other hand, has shown a small increase in average residential sale price, both for freehold and condominium properties, by 1.5 and 0.8 per cent, respectively. Immigration to the city, in combination with reasonable prices and ample supply, is expected to drive sales going into 2020.

Atlantic Canada

ReMax Housing Outlook Report

Halifax, NS and Saint John, NB have experienced solid price appreciation of six and five per cent, respectively. Affordability continues to attract many buyers in the region, most of whom are buying single-detached homes. At the same time, the region’s condominium market is being driven by retirees. Conversely, the market in St. John’s, Nfld. is expected to recover in 2020, with increased consumer confidence expected to bring about stabilization. However, the city’s aging population and high rate of outbound migration is expected to have an impact on housing market activity at some point.

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Outlook 2020 – what’s in store for GTA housing next year?

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TCS Marketing Systems

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TCS Marketing Systems

With decades of experience, the people behind this company provide keen insights

In the fast-changing Toronto area real estate market, the team at TCS Marketing Systems always has their fingers on the pulse. The people behind this innovative sales and marketing consulting agency excel at anticipating coming trends, due to their three decades of experience, keen insight and extensive market data.

TCS Marketing Systems has been involved in numerous projects across the GTA and Ontario, including mid- and high-rise condos, townhomes, single-detached homes and master-planned communities. The company has a single guiding principle – integrity – and has set itself apart by being the first consultants in and last out on every project.

Mark Cohen (centre back row) and his TCS Marketing Systems management team.

Wealth of experience

Managing partner of TCSMS is Mark Cohen, a highly respected and well known expert in the industry. His wealth of experience includes key roles with powerhouse developers, including Bramalea Ltd., Menkes Developments, Concord Adex and Tribute Communities. Throughout his career, Cohen has pioneered many of the sales and marketing strategies that are now common in today’s marketplace and is always on the lookout for the next breakthrough.

“When Mark is in the room with the architects, he thinks about what people do after they come home and throw their keys on the table,” says Onkar Dhillon, vice-president of operations and one of The Condo Store’s founding members. “He thinks about how they live. We are designing with consumers in mind. For example, Amazon delivery is the way people get parcels, so we’re adding automated parcel delivery rooms. That’s the kind of thoughtfulness required in design.”

Dhillon has been working with Cohen for 20 years, since they met when Cohen was vice-president of sales and marketing for Concord Adex’s Cityplace, the largest residential highrise development in Toronto history.

Better projects, better designs

Condos used to be subordinate to lowrise homes, Dhillon says, but condos are a lifestyle choice and the challenge is to create better projects and design better spaces to serve consumers.

“Our philosophy is there is a condo for every person, and there’s a purchaser for every condo,” says Glen Buttigieg, vice-president of sales. “We make a case for every condo, whether it’s to take in the morning sun, to see the lake, or the advantage of being near the rooftop terrace. We painstakingly comb over every suite, trying to find the advantage and tailor it for each buyer. Our agents are listening to buyers and determining what suite would serve them best.”

For TCSMS’s developer clients, Cohen and company get in early, sitting in on all of a project’s marketing and design meetings and then create a rationale. They continue working with the same care and commitment until the last unit is sold, understanding the importance of making the projects profitable for their clients.

“What I influence is the design, marketing, sales and customer relationships for different projects,” says Cohen. “Instead of working on 12 projects for one person like I used to, I work on 12 for 12 different builders.”

Bungalow on Mercer Street in downtown Toronto.

TCSMS is equally well-versed in selling and marketing high-, mid-, and lowrise developments. Buyers’ expectations are changing. Due to constraints on land available for building and affordability, people are realizing they don’t have to aspire to 4,500-sq.-ft. houses in rural settings and can live well in smaller homes.

“The market doesn’t want space for space’s sake,” adds Serena Quaglia, vice-president of marketing. “People want common space, a study nook… that’s the challenge for the lowrise market. It’s not going anywhere, but the designs are not what they used to be.”

Quaglia brings more than a decade’s experience in the design, marketing and sales of master-planned communities and believes today’s buyers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable when it comes to evaluating properties. “The most important role we play when working with developers is our ability to accurately represent the needs and desires of each and every buyer. And that starts with being great listeners.”

Altered approach

For example, Bungalow is an ultraluxury condo project by Kalovida Canada Inc. in the heart of the Entertainment and Financial Districts, with just 13 units, just one per floor. Cohen recognized that buyers spending $2.5 million for a suite – hedge fund managers, athletes, entertainment industry types – would likely not be using them as primary residences, but as places to entertain and relax when they were in town. This type of clientele wants a certain type of wine cellar, concierge and modest, rather than overthe- top luxury.

In another example, construction is starting soon at 293 The Kingsway, a luxury condominium by the Benvenuto Group. The Kingsway is a classic Toronto neighbourhood with lush, green streets and good schools, and 293 reflects the prestigious area, with large units, a park-like setting and stylish contemporary design.

And for Wycliffe Homes’ Promenade luxury townhouse development in Thornhill, TCSMS largely focused marketing around the developer, wellknown for its white-glove treatment, first-class finishes, exceptional locations and the opportunity it gives buyers to customize. Staying true to the prestigious Thornhill neighbourhood, Promenade’s townhomes are classy and tasteful, with top-notch features and finishes.

Whether it’s dealing with super luxury projects or condos geared to first-time buyers or investors, TCS Marketing Systems brings the same level of dedication to each one and works until the last unit is sold.

“Real estate is one service that hasn’t been greatly altered by technology,” says Cohen. “Homes are still sold by people, not machines. The quality of renderings is better, the ways to communicate more extensive, but at the end of the day, whether you are selling something to a client or to a customer or pushing a consultant to do something, most of it involves eye-to-eye contact. People move people to move mountains, and that hasn’t changed.”

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Tarion names winners of 2019 Homeowners’ Choice Awards

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Tarion names winners of 2019 Homeowners’ Choice Awards

Tarion web

Tarion Warranty Corp. has named the winners of its annual Homeowners’ Choice Awards for outstanding builders who received the highest ratings from homebuyers across the province. These are the only awards that focus solely on customer service and are based on feedback from homeowners.

The recipients of the 2019 Homeowners’ Choice Awards are:

  • Brookfield Residential – Highrise Category
  • Hayhoe Homes – Large Volume Category
  • Timberland Homes – Medium Volume Category
  • Chris King and Sons Construction Ltd. – Small Volume Category

In 2017, Tarion introduced a new honour – the Ernest Assaly Award – for an Ontario builder that demonstrates a commitment to building quality and innovation, customer service and community involvement. Similar to a lifetime achievement award, a builder can receive this recognition only once.

The recipient of the 2019 Ernest Assaly Award is The Daniels Corporation.

“A new home is a place to make memories,” says Tarion President and CEO Howard Bogach, “and a builder has a big role in determining whether a homeowner’s first memories are positive ones. Thanks to their exemplary customer service, this year’s award recipients not only met – but exceeded – expectations and by so doing set an example for others to follow.”

The Homeowners’ Choice Awards are presented annually based on the results of surveys completed by new homebuyers from across the province. In 2018, Tarion polled 54,518 new-home buyers, asking them about their builder’s performance before, during and after they moved into their new home. More than 11,376 homeowners responded and their feedback determined the recipients for outstanding customer service in the four categories.

The Ernest Assaly Award recognizes the highest level of excellence in Ontario home building while honouring the legacy of Ernest Assaly, a highly respected leader in the residential building industry who was Tarion’s first Chair. Only a select number of Ontario builders met the rigorous criteria required to receive an invitation to make a submission. The recipient of the Ernest Assaly Award is determined by Tarion’s board of directors.

“A well-built home backed by excellent customer service equals a satisfied homeowner,” says Bogach. “Through Tarion’s awards program, these happy homeowners are able to recognize their builders for going the extra mile, and this helps build confidence in the new home building industry as a whole. We congratulate this year’s recipients for their success in creating a positive home-buying experience that their homeowners are happy to share.”

For the full list of Homeowners’ Choice Awards finalists, click here. For the full list of the Ernest Assaly Award finalists, click here.

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Consumer Protection: The Homeowners’ Choice Awards

 

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Yes, you do need a home inspection

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Yes, you do need a home inspection

With the surge in home prices in Ontario over the last few years, buyers have often opted to forego the inspection part of the process in order to make their offer more appealing to the seller. Once all the papers are squared away, though, the home will be yours to take care of – including all the good and bad.

Having an inspection will ensure that there are no unseen damages that will end up costing you in repairs in the future. When buying an older home, it’s easy for a standard renovation to turn into a costly one when you find out what’s behind your walls is no longer up to code. This will also make sure your family is living in a safe home that is up to current standards right when you move in.

An inspection will also include checking the roof and the foundation for any leaks or repairs that need to be made. This includes the attic and any exterior damage that you may not notice for years. Electrical, heating and cooling will be checked for efficiency as well, so you know what you might need to change in order to lower annual costs.

You can then make an informed decision on your purchase, and whether you decide to go with it. This knowledge could then allow you to lower the offer and save money for future renovations, if needed.

Vahid Azari is the founder of All Season Inspection, a full-service property inspection and energy auditing service organization.

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Resale Market: Homes sales fall in 2018

Resale home sales fall in 2018

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Resale home sales fall in 2018

Highlights:

  • National home sales fell 2.5 per cent from November to December.
  • Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down by 19 per cent from one year ago.
  • The number of newly listed homes was little changed from November to December.
  • The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) was up 1.6 per cent year-over-year in December.
  • The national average sale price fell by 4.9 per cent year-over-year in December.

Home sales via Canadian MLS Systems fell by 2.5 per cent in December 2018 compared to November, capping the weakest annual sales since 2012. Monthly declines in activity since September have fully retrenched its summer rally and returned it near the lowest level since early 2013.

Transactions declined in about 60 per cent of all local markets in December, led by lower activity in Greater Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Ottawa, London-St. Thomas and Halifax-Dartmouth, together with a regionally diverse mix of other large and medium sized urban centres.

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down 19 per cent year-over-year in December 2018 and stood almost 12 per cent below the 10-year average for the month of December. Sales were down from year-ago levels in three-quarters of all local markets, led overwhelmingly by the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Okanagan Region, Calgary, Edmonton, the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton-Burlington. This decline, in part, is due to elevated activity posted in December 2017 as homebuyers rushed to purchase in advance of the new federal mortgage stress test that came into effect on January 1, 2018.

“What a difference a year makes,” says CREA president Barb Sukkau. “Sales trends were pushed higher in December 2017 by homebuyers rushing to purchase before the new federal mortgage stress test took effect at the beginning of 2018. Since then, the stress test has weighed on sales to varying degrees in all Canadian housing markets and it will continue to do so this year.”

“The Bank of Canada recently said that it expects housing activity will stay ‘soft’ as households ‘adjust to the mortgage stress test and increases in mortgage rates,’ even as jobs and incomes continue growing,” says Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist. “Indeed, the bank’s economic forecast shows it expects housing will undermine economic growth this year as the mortgage stress test has pushed homeownership affordability out of reach for some home buyers,” he added.

The number of newly listed homes remained little changed (up 0.2 per cent) from November to December, with declines in close to half of all local markets offset by gains in the remainder.

With sales down and new listings steady in December, the national sales-to-new listings ratio eased to 53.3 per cent compared to 54.8 per cent in November. This measure of market balance has remained close to its long-term average of 53.5 per cent since the beginning of 2018.

Considering the degree and duration to which market balance readings are above or below their long-term averages is the best way of gauging whether local housing market conditions favour buyers or sellers. Market balance measures that are within one standard deviation of their long-term average are generally consistent with balanced market conditions.

Based on a comparison of the sales-to-new listings ratio with the long-term average, about two-thirds of all local markets were in balanced market territory in December 2018.

The number of months of inventory is another important measure for the balance between sales and the supply of listings. It represents how long it would take to liquidate current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

There were 5.6 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of December 2018. While this remains close to its long-term average of 5.3 months, the number of months of inventory has swollen far above its long-term average in Prairie provinces as well as in Newfoundland and Labrador. By contrast, the measure remains well below its long-term average in Ontario and Prince Edward Island. In other provinces, sales and inventory are more balanced.

The Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index (MLS HPI) was up 1.6 per cent year-over-year in December 2018. The increase is smaller but still broadly in line with year-over-year gains posted since July.

Apartment units posted the largest year-over-year price gains in December (4.9 per cent), followed by townhouse/row units (3.1 per cent). By comparison, two-storey single-family homes posted a small increase (0.4 per cent) while one-storey single-family home prices eased slightly (-0.3 per cent).

Trends continue to vary widely among the 17 housing markets tracked by the MLS HPI. Results were mixed in B.C. Prices are now down on a year-over-year basis in Greater Vancouver (-2.7 per cent) but remain above year-ago levels in the Fraser Valley (+2.5 per cent). Meanwhile, prices posted a year-over-year increase of 6.4 per cent in Victoria and rose 11 per cent elsewhere on Vancouver Island.

Among housing markets tracked by the index in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area, MLS HPI benchmark home prices were up from year-ago levels in Guelph (6.8 per cent), the Niagara Region (6.8 per cent), Hamilton-Burlington (6.4 per cent ), Oakville-Milton (3.3 per cent) and the GTA (3 per cent ). Home prices in Barrie and District remain slightly below year-ago levels (-1.1 per cent).

Across the Prairies, where supply is historically elevated relative to sales, benchmark home prices remained below year-ago levels in Calgary (-3.2 per cent), Edmonton (-2 per cent), Regina (-5.2 per cent) and Saskatoon (-1.2 per cent). The home pricing environment is likely to remain weak in these housing markets until elevated supply is reduced and becomes more balanced in relation to demand.

Home prices rose 6.9 per cent year-over-year in Ottawa (led by an 8.3-per-cent increase in townhouse/row unit prices), 6 per cent in Greater Montreal (led by a 9.1-per-cent increase in townhouse/row unit prices) and 2.5 per cent in Greater Moncton (led by a 12.2-per-cent increase in townhouse/row unit prices).

The MLS HPI provides the best way to gauge price trends because average price trends are strongly distorted by changes in the mix of sales activity from one month to the next.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in December 2018 was just over $472,000, down 4.9 per cent from the same month in 2017. The year-over-year decline reflects how the jump in sales in December 2017 in advance of the stress test was more pronounced in more expensive markets. The national average price is heavily skewed by sales in Greater Vancouver and the GTA, two of Canada’s most active and expensive markets. Excluding these two markets from calculations cuts almost $100,000 from the national average price, trimming it to just under $375,000.

For more information, visit crea.ca/housing-market-stats/


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2019 web

Forecast 2019 – where are Canada’s hottest housing markets?

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Forecast 2019 – where are Canada’s hottest housing markets?

2019 web

Wondering where Canada’s hottest housing markets are, as 2018 comes to a close and 2019 is just around the corner? Well, that all depends on who you ask.

Two of Canada’s large realty firms – Royal LePage and ReMax – both issued their 2019 housing market outlooks on Dec. 11.

Yes, the very same day.

Rather than produce two stories on the exact same topic, just from different sources, we thought it would be interesting to compare them. And while there are some commonalities in their forecasts, there are also some interesting discrepancies.

There is no ‘Canadian’ market

Let’s begin with the headline of ReMax’s 2019 Housing Market Outlook: “Canadian home prices expected to increase by 1.7 per cent in 2019.”

Yeah, about that. Forget that headline. As we recently wrote, those national numbers are pretty meaningless. It’s like trying to summarize the weather, temperature or traffic as “Canadian.”

But, just for comparison purposes, ReMax estimates Canadian home prices will grow 1.7 per cent in 2019; Royal LePage, 1.2 per cent.

National numbers that do matter are interest rates, GDP growth and employment. Then there’s immigration, which affects some markets more than others, mortgage regulations and housing supply. All of these factors are the key drivers of real estate. But more on that later.

Now let’s take a look at some of the regional highlights.

GTA

ReMax says:

  • Toronto average prices down 4% in 2018 to $789,181
  • Toronto average prices forecast to rise 2% in 2019 to $804,964

In Toronto, rising interest rates and the mortgage stress test were the two major factors affecting market activity in 2018, with average sale prices dropping by four per cent from $822,572 in 2017 to $789,181 in 2018, and unit sales down by 16 per cent. Lack of affordability in the single-detached segment will make it difficult for buyers wanting to enter this market. Resale condos, on the other hand, now represent almost 37 per cent of total sales, fueled by affordability.

ReMax Housing Market Outlook, select major markets

Region 2018

 Average Home Price

 

2019

Average Home Price

(Forecast)

Year-over-Year

(%)

Vancouver $1.05M $1.01M -3.0%
Edmonton $379,539 $360,562 -5.0%
Calgary $487,399 $487,399 0.0%
Saskatoon $333,187 $343,182 0.6%
Regina $322,500 $322,500 0.0%
Winnipeg $323,001 $335,921 4.0%
Windsor $299,750 $329,725 10.0%
London $379,654 $398,636 5.0%
Kitchener-Waterloo $473,275 $487,473 3.0%
Hamilton-Burlington $707,949 $849,538 2.0%
Barrie $477,839 $492,174 3.0%
Oakville $1.08M $1.13M 5.0%
Mississauga $705,406 $733,622 4.0%
Brampton $577,846 $600,959 4.0%
Durham $594,585 $612,422 3.0%
Toronto $789,181 $804,964 2.0%
Ottawa $678,670 $705,816 4.0%
Halifax $299,982 $308,981 3.0%
St. John’s $265,523 $265,523 0.0%

 

Elsewhere in Ontario

Rising interest rates and the stress test continue to make it difficult for prospective buyers in Barrie, Oakville and Durham regions.

“This is particularly true for first-time buyers and single Millennials, as evident in cities like Brampton, Kingston and Durham,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

Hottest in the province

The hottest market in Ontario? Windsor, which showed price growth of 13 per cent in 2018, to $299,750, with another 10 per cent increase forecast for 2019. London is also expected to be strong, with prices to increase another five per cent next year, after rising 17 per cent this year to reach $379,654.

 

Royal LePage says:

  • GTA average price in 2018 $844,000
  • GTA average price forecast to rise 1.3% to $854,552

“Compared to the record pace of home appreciation seen in 2016 and 2017, the GTA housing market is now positioned for much healthier and sustainable growth in future years,” says Chris Slightham, broker and owner, Royal LePage Signature Realty.

Many regions outside of Toronto’s core saw price declines in 2018, a result of overshooting in previous years. The continued population growth should cause the suburbs to stabilize and reignite price growth. In addition, the potential subway expansion into the suburbs should stabilize and increase home prices in close proximity to new transit infrastructure.

Elsewhere in Ontario

The median price in Ottawa is expected to increase 2.5 per cent in 2019 to $487,910, benefitting from the city’s healthy economy and high income per household, driven by the public and technology sectors.

Interestingly, Royal LePage also notes that neither the new mortgage rules nor recent interest rate hikes have notably affected Ottawa’s housing market.

 

Highlights from other Canadian markets

The star performer of all major Canadian markets in 2019? Montreal, according to Royal LePage.

“Quebec will out-perform the nation in 2019,” says President and CEO Phil Soper. “Like other regions of the country, the economy is strong and people are working. What is different is affordability. We have to remember that Montreal sat out the rapid home price inflation we saw in Vancouver and Toronto this decade, and in Calgary the decade before.”

As for the ReMax outlook for Montreal, Quebec did not participate in this year’s forecast.

 

 

Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast

Region  

2018 Aggregate Home Price
(Year End Estimate)


2019 
Aggregate
Home Price 
(Forecast)
Year-over-Year (%)
Canada $631,000 $638,257 1.2%
Greater Toronto Area $844,000 $854,552 1.3%
Greater Montreal Area $409,000 $421,306 3.0%
Greater Vancouver $1.28M $1.29M 0.6%
Ottawa $476,000 $487,910 2.5%
Calgary $484,000 $473,104 -2.3%
Edmonton $386,000 $378,691 -1.9%
Winnipeg $306,000 $309,829 1.3%
Halifax $321,000 $326,096 1.6%
Regina $327,000 $311,505 -4.7%

 

Influential factors

Now for more on those national factors that do influence real estate.

“I would call attention to two factors influencing our forecast that deserve special consideration,” says Soper. “Firstly, home prices are appreciating, albeit at a snail’s pace. Secondly, the Canadian market is supported by strong economic fundamentals, including a robust rate of new household formation and excellent employment growth.

“The future for Canadian housing remains bright, perhaps too bright. With an increasing number of gainfully employed people looking to put a roof over their heads, and the scarce availability of rental accommodation, policy makers in our major markets will once again be struggling with housing shortages. More than an affordable housing problem, we will once again be facing an overall housing supply crisis.”

As for interest rates, the Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate of 1.75 per cent on Dec. 5, citing a weaker than expected energy sector. Further rate increases are expected in 2019, making it more difficult for Canadians to buy a home in 2019.

The Bank forecasts GDP will increase 2.1 per cent in 2019, a modest increase over 2018, while Canada’s unemployment rate fell to 5.6 per cent in November, the lowest on record since 1976.

RELATED READING

5 things we can learn from real estate in 2018

7 factors that will affect GTA housing in 2019 – and 5 reasons to consider buying NOW

GTA moving into balanced market for 2019

GTA new home market gains further momentum in October

Delays in approval process contributing to housing affordability issue in GTA

What the GM plant closure means for Oshawa economy and housing market

 

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2018 web

5 things we can learn from real estate in 2018

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5 things we can learn from real estate in 2018

2018 web

With much of 2018 in the rear-view mirror, It’s been quite the year for the housing market in the GTA and elsewhere in Ontario. From sales and price fluctuations to supply concerns to rising housing costs. As 2019 approaches, here are five things we can learn from real estate in 2018.

 

1 Get used to the affordability issue

Get used to affordability challenges, especially in the GTA. This oft-cited issue is not going away any time soon, despite lobbying from the likes of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

Key economic fundamentals such as population and employment growth will continue to drive housing market demand. Over the next decade, almost 700,000 first-time buyers will target the GTA or Hamilton markets, according to a report from the Ontario Real Estate Association. Meanwhile, the supply of new homes is not yet being addressed, which contributes to rising prices.

With recent interest rate hikes and other changes, sales and prices in the GTA saw some moderation in 2018. But this will be short-lived, and a return to price growth is expected.

 

2 Increased government involvement – finally

Government lobbying by BILD and TREB seems to be paying off, in the sense that the Province is increasingly aware of the issues facing the industry – and buyers.

Buyers, you may not realize it, but you should thank BILD, TREB and other associations for that.

In late November, Ontario announced it was committing to a housing action plan “to help create more housing faster, give people more choice and bring down housing costs.”

Like anything involving government, though, this process will likely be slow moving – meaning, some of the challenges, namely increasing housing supply – will take time to be resolved.

But at least the issues are on the agenda.

One real example of this improved awareness is Ontario’s recent plan to change the 40-year-old apprenticeship system in the province – a move the home building industry says is a “game changer.”

It’s a game changer because the new one-to-one ratio, a significant change from the existing 3-to-1 ratio, will enable home builders and renovators to more easily hire and train new apprentices. Besides creating more job opportunities for trades workers, the move also helps builders and renovators operate their businesses

 

3 Fixing on interest rates

The Bank of Canada raised its overnight rate three times in 2018 – January, July and October – to where it sits now, 1.75 per cent.

Canada’s major banks, as is usually the case, responded by immediately raising their own rates.

Naturally, all of this has Canadians feeling a little uneasy.

The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Index of Consumer Confidence confirms that rising interest rates and weaker wage growth have started to take their toll on confidence. With interest charges squeezing Canadian wallets and weakening wage growth offering little reprieve, consumers have become hesitant to make major purchases and are less positive about the state of their finances.

In its latest rate announcement on Dec. 5, the Bank of Canada noted that global economic expansion is slowing, and the effects of the “oil price shock” are being monitored.

“We expect that the Bank will not move the overnight rate until the effects of the declining energy sector are known,”according to interest rate comparison website ratehub.ca. “However, the Bank makes it clear that they still plan on raising the key interest rate in 2019, likely more than once.”

This moderated stance might put downward pressure on fixed rate mortgages, however, so Canadians may see better fixed rates in the coming weeks, ratehub.ca says.

 

4 Real estate is more local than ever

It’s a simple point that escapes some consumers: Real estate is local, and in 2018, it became more local than ever.

What do we mean?

Well, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) and other major real estate bodies are mandated to oversee the national market.

So, when CREA issues a release that says Canadian home sales are down by X per cent, or when CMHC reports the national vacancy rate is down for the second consecutive year – and major media report such headlines – people tend to worry.

It’s essential to remember, however, that when you buy a home, you don’t buy the national market. You buy one house, on one street, in one neighbourhood, in one city and region.

If you live in Ontario, why do you care that Alberta’s ongoing oil industry struggles are pulling sales and prices down in markets in that province? Or that prices in Vancouver are even less affordable than in Toronto?

Forget the national headlines. Drill down into what’s happening in your market.

And why is real estate more local then ever? Because…

 

5 Lessons from Oshawa

General Motors Canada’s November announcement that it was closing its Oshawa assembly plant sent shockwaves not just through the province but all of Canada. To be sure, the loss of at least 2,500 jobs – not to mention untold positions in related suppliers – in a community of 170,000, is going to hurt. Hurt whom, and how badly, are the only questions.

This development should serve as a stark reminder to us all – of how important it is for cities to develop diversified, modern economies. Overdependence on any one ge, singular industries leads to overexposure in the case of downturns or, in GM’s case, outright shutdowns. It hurts the local economy, which impacts employment and wage growth, which impacts the housing market.

Oshawa, thankfully in recent years, has been diversifying its economy and expanding in technology, education and other industries. It will help, but the impact of the GM closure will likely play out over many months, if not years.

These developments could push housing in Oshawa into a buyers’ market, and prospective buyers could benefit from more options and softening prices.

In new homes, builders remain undeterred, encouraged by the longer-term growth and development throughout the Durham Region. Still, some may offer incentives such as discounts or inclusions to entice qualified buyers.

 

RELATED READING

GTA moving into balanced market for 2019

GTA new home market gains further momentum in October

What the GM plant closure means for Oshawa’s economy and housing market

New home buying opportunities abound in Oshawa and Durham Region

Where are interest rates headed in 2019?

 

 

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