Ashley Lo | Real Estate Solutions

Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Future of Transit

A lot of people have been asking me what areas will be developing and where there will be transit in the future.

Here is a summary of a couple of projects going on in Toronto that will be completed in the next couple of years. Something to think about if you’re looking to buy, sell or invest! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

  1. Spadina Subway Extention

    As you may know, the TTC will cross municipal boundaries into York Region.

    The Downsview Subway station will be extended past Steeles Ave West, all the way to Vaughan. This is expected to be completed by 2015.

    Below is the planned route map, with service levels expected to be every 4 minutes:

    You can obtain more information here: Spadina Subway Extension Overview


  2. Eglinton – Scarborough Crosstown

    Recently, it was announced that the crosstown light rail transit will now be made underground. As Canada’s most expensive infrastructure project, this will provide an added convenience for those travelling East to West and reduce the strain on the already overflown Highway 401.

    This 25km project will run from Kennedy to Black Creek in only 35 minutes, and is expected to be completed in 2020.

    Below is the route map:

    You can find an interactive route map and obtain more information here: What is the Crosstown?


  3. Air Rail Link

    The Air Rail Link (ARL) is an express rail shuttle service that will run from Union Station to Pearson Airport. It will link to major TTC and Go Transit stations for added convenience.

    Construction has already begun and is expected to be completed for the Pan Am Games in 2015.

    Below is the route map:

You can obtain more information here: Construction to start in Spring on Airport Rail Link

Official Site with additional information on other projects in the GTA (York/Peel): Transit Expansion Projects – Air Rail Link (ARL)


FOR SALE: 2 bedroom corner-unit available in a luxury condo (Leslie and Sheppard)

Aria Condos

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!!!

For those who demand an upscale lifestyle in the city without
compromising a natural setting at the luxury Aria Condominiums.

Beautiful 1140 sq ft corner-unit available at Leslie and Sheppard with a great layout:

  • 2 large bedrooms (walk-in closets in each room)
  • 2 baths with marble throughout
  • Eat in kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances
  • Beautiful NW view on a high floor with soaring 9 ft ceilings
  • Hardwood floors throughout
  • Over sized terrace (approx 180 sq ft)
  • One parking spot (rare second parking spot available at an additional cost)
  • One locker



Just steps from Sheppard subway, 401, 404 and DVP. Close to Bayview
Village, Fairview mall, schools, hospital, trails and much more!

State of the art amenities:

  • Large party room
  • Swimming pool
  • Virtual golf
  • Aerobic and fitness centre
  • Games room
  • Board room
  • Media room
  • Guest suites
  • BBQ area



Price: $570,000

Download the brochure here: 20 Bloorview Place Brochure

Virtual Tour:
20 Bloorview Place


4 Signs Your Home Is Overpriced

Source: http://financialedge.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1009/4-Signs-Your-Home-Is-Overpriced.aspx?partner=globeandmail#axzz1doP5dtWn

If your house has been sitting on the market for three or more tortuous months, your asking price may be to blame. Here are four tell-tale signs that it’s time to slash that listing price.


  1. No one is stopping by for a  look. Your house has been on the market for a month or  two, and showings have been scarce to none. Wait a second, do you hear that? Ah  yes, it’s the sound of warning bells ringing. If buyers are not even taking the  time to look at your house, it’s pretty sure sign that the price is too high.

    Of course, you may argue that this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no interest in your home. While you’ve had no  actual showings, that brochure box by your “For Sale” sign is empty and your  online listing has received hundreds of hits. If that’s the case, this only  proves that there is interest in your home, but something is keeping  buyers from scheduling a showing. What’s holding them back? You got it -your  absurdly high asking price.

  2. You’ve had plenty of showings but no  offers. So, your home has attracted a handful of  showings since it’s been on the market, but you still haven’t gotten an offer.  Of course, the Pepto-Bismol pink shower in the master bathroom or the turquoise  blue carpet in the living room could be to blame.

    Poor  design and color choices can certainly scare away potential buyers. But if your  home is tastefully decorated and updated, it’s more likely that your price needs  to come down. Some experts say if you’ve had 10 showings without an offer, your  home is probably overpriced. (Learn about alternatives to selling in Can’t  Sell Your Home? Rent It.)

  3. Buyers shower your home in  criticism. You’ve had plenty of showings, but your  realtor has noticed that prospective buyers make the same negative comments  about your home time and again. For example, they may continually complain that  your house is plagued with a pungent odor reminiscent of wet dog and rotten  tomatoes. Or perhaps they all point out that the 1970s-themed kitchen, complete  with pea green appliances, is a little outdated.

    Be sure to ask your realtor to notify you of any negative feedback from buyers. While some  of the comments may be difficult to hear, a little constructive criticism may  help you sell your home in the long run. Remember, there’s no room for hurt  feelings in home-selling.

    It may turn out that other homes  in your neighborhood have remodeled, modern kitchens and a more inviting smell.  If this is the case, you’ll either need to freshen up your home, give your  kitchen a makeover or (you guessed it) cut your asking price. After all, if the  price is right, prospective home buyers may decide they can live with a  pea-green dishwasher – or buy a new one.

  4. You have the highest priced home on the  block Let’s say comparable homes in your area are  priced much lower than yours. Houston, we have a problem. If your house is the  most expensive three-bedroom, two-bath, 10-year old home in your zip code, it’s  probably going to be the last one to sell.

    Ask your realtor for regular updates on home prices in your area. He or she can show you the  closing price on homes similar in size and age to yours and notify you when  comparable homes drop their prices. This will help you decide if it’s time for  you to drop you price, as well.



So, after picking up on some of these warning signs, you  finally give in and drop your price. But you still haven’t received an  offer. What’s the deal? You probably haven’t cut your price enough.

Realtors say if you’re going to lower your price, don’t do it in small  increments. After all, there’s really no difference between $225,000 and  $224,900. Buyers won’t fall for that. If you’re going to slash your price,  you’ll have to lower it by at least $5,000 for buyers to take  notice.

Read more: http://financialedge.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1009/4-Signs-Your-Home-Is-Overpriced.aspx?partner=globeandmail#ixzz1icPlJVbN


Condo buyers can gain the upper hand by seeing through marketing

Contact me for professional advice and to avoid all of the pains that can come along with a real estate purchase.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/condo-buyers-can-gain-the-upper-hand-by-seeing-through-marketing/article1555910/singlepage/#articlecontent

“If you buy this condo, you’ll lead a glamorous life just like the hot model on this slick, glossy billboard.”

Most shoppers are smart enough to know that’s not necessarily what they’re signing up for when they drop thousands on a condo.

While many developers continue to use these “heavy on fantasy, light on information” marketing strategies, they’re on their way out, says Matthew Slutsky, condo marketing expert and founder/president of BuzzBuzzHome.com, an online directory of Canadian condo developments.

“Purchasers aren’t stupid,” he says, speaking of the intended allure of model-esque advertisements and slick showrooms. “Nobody’s going to go to a sales centre without doing their research.”

That research, if done right, will involve brushing up on the kinds of strategies developers use to help sell the condos – and they involve more than just the billboard. They’re not done maliciously to fool the buyer, Mr. Slutsky says. “It’s just marketing.”

Here’s how to see through and interpret sales strategies while you’re shopping for that condo:

Knowledge is power

If a developer isn’t offering any and all information, they’re likely not worth your time or money, says David Allison, president of Vancouver-based Braun/Allison Inc., which does marketing for residential developments.

“You need to demand that information. If you’re going to be putting down your life savings and you don’t have all that information, then you’re not making a smart decision.”

Make sure the developer has an informative website and don’t bend to those who ask you to call them or visit a sales centre for more details. Shoppers could also visit home builders association websites such as the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association, which should have information on the developer if they’ve built in the area before, says Carla Bury, director of marketing at Intercorp Inc., a developer in Vancouver.

Visit an existing development

If you’re buying before the condo is built, ask whether that same developer has a condo nearby. If so, get a tour, Mr. Allison suggests. It will help you gauge the quality of the building. If the hallways are narrow, you can tell the developer was stretching to make the rooms feel larger in a small unit, he says.

Thinking of buying a condo?

It’s also smart to check out a view plan to make sure you’re actually going to see that sunset from your condo, says Ms. Bury, whose company is set to release a book to help condo shoppers make informed decisions when buying their new home. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to a condo owner or two in that building to see whether they got what they signed up for.

Watch the details in ads

If it’s really important to you that you can barbecue on your balcony, just like the happy couple in the ad, make sure you actually can after you buy, says Denise Lash, a condominium lawyer at Heenan Blaikie LLP in Toronto.

“They may show people on the roof so you assume your condo would allow barbecuing, but then you find out it’s only for certain units,” she says. If the ad shows a nice beach scene, check whether that development is actually near the water. After all, she says, “marketing is marketing and no one is legally bound.”

Look up

You walk into a model suite and it looks like a spacious cove of wonderful. That’s probably because it doesn’t have a ceiling, Mr. Slutsky says. “It gives a much airier feel to a small suite.” Model suites are often in industrial spaces, making it hard to envision where the ceiling would be. That said, there’s usually a little line on the wall denoting the ceiling height; ask the agent to point it out, he says.

Furniture size may vary

Layout plans will often feature furniture – a little window seat here, a breakfast nook there. Ask about the size of the bed drawn into the bedroom. “They may be using a double bed instead of a queen-sized bed,” he says. “You may not even be able to fit a queen-sized bed in the bedroom.” Other pieces of furniture may be smaller, too, even those featured in the model suite. “It’s to make it look bigger. They will put in furniture that will fit with that space.”

Love the granite countertop? That’ll be extra

Model suites are often peppered with upgrades that are not included in the price of the condo, whether it be gleaming countertops or slick pot lights in the ceiling. “The standards are often very nice,” Mr. Slutsky says, but it’s key to ask what’s an upgrade and what’s included in the price.

How big is this big?

Don’t be fooled by the majesty of the show suite – sometimes they’re bigger than what you’re hoping to buy, Mr. Slutsky says. “Usually the show suite is [the size advertised], but they may be showcasing a larger unit rather than, say, the 500-square-foot unit,” he says. It’s up to you to know whether the model condo you’re walking through is really the model you can afford. Don’t be shy to ask. Ms. Bury from Intercorp suggests walking through two or three different units to get a real feel for the sizes available.

How many ‘steps’ from the subway is it, anyway?

A lot of developers describe the proximity of the condo tower to restaurants and attractions with amenity maps. However, they’re not always drawn to scale, Mr. Slutksy says. “Often they’ll make the development look much closer to the amenities than it may actually be,” he says. Gauge the distance for yourself, he says. Take a drive to test it out or, better yet, spend a few days scoping out the neighbourhood to get a feel for where you’d be doing your shopping and restaurant-going.

Check out the layout

As in “don’t buy that big leather couch before buying the condo.” It just might not fit. Layouts on a piece of paper can seem a lot more ideal than the layout in real life, Mr. Slutsky says. It’s a conundrum often encountered when purchasing condos before they’re built. “There are a lot of two-bedroom, 520-square-foot units selling, which is very tight,” he says. Try to place yourself there “so you can get a feel for how the unit’s going to work, which way the doors are going to swing.”

Check the contract

“People get all carried away with the beautiful marketing and don’t really realize that what they’re buying is defined in the legal documents,” says the lawyer Ms. Lash. The model suite you’re looking at might be 800 square feet, but unless it says it in the legal documents, that may not be the case for yours. “If there’s something important to the purchaser that they have or they need, they should get it in writing,” she says. “If the dimensions of the suite are important or have a certain piece of furniture to get in, they’d better be clear what their specifications are.”

And a sales strategy that could come back

When interest rates were higher and the condo market not so red-hot, some developers held contests so shoppers could win their condo suite, Mr. Allison says. He even remembers one developer in Vancouver who gave away a free car with the purchase of a condo. “A lot of those promotional, attention-getting things are out of vogue,” he says. “But who knows what people are going to do when interest rates go up?”


Will Your Home Remodel Pay Off?

Source: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/add-value-to-real-estate.asp#axzz1duZ9Wd3o

Remodeling certain areas of a single-family house is an excellent way for homeowners to add increased functionality and beauty to a property at  someone else’s expense. By choosing the right project to enhance your living space, a significant portion of the expense can be passed on to future  owners in the form of increased property values. Read on to find out how.

Think Before You Build

The return on investment (ROI) of any given renovation project is a function of local market characteristics, the condition of the residential real estate market when the property is sold and the quality of the work performed. Historically and on average, certain projects, such as the addition of a wood deck, kitchen  and bathroom upgrades and window replacement, have shown the greatest ROI regardless of the property’s location or the state of the residential property  market. However, unless the remodeling project is designed to fix a structural issue or design flaw, it is unlikely that a homeowner will earn back more than the cost of construction. If cost recovery is as important a consideration as increased enjoyment from enhancing the property, then  homeowners should consider the tastes of prospective purchasers when deciding  which projects to pursue.

For investors remodeling rental property, the cost of enhancing a property can be recovered not only through sale, but also through the increased rental rates commanded by updated residences. (Owning property isn’t simple, but there are plenty of perks. Homeowners, however, need to be  careful of which projects they choose to complete, since the potential value  gains can only be realized to the extent that there are buyers willing to pay for the renovations.

Consider Your Location

When considering any type of project, it is essential to make sure that any improvements made are appropriate for the particular type of dwelling and local property area. One mistake homeowners  often make is improving their homes well above the average of neighboring  houses. Buyers are attracted to particular neighborhoods because of the services  located nearby and because houses in that area are trading in that buyer’s price  range. Although a house improved well above others nearby may still receive the  same or more interest than others being marketed, it is unlikely that it will command a premium well above average because of the extra improvements.

Real estate agents will tell you that when depressed real estate markets rebound, percentage value increases are higher for the average- or below-average-priced homes in a given neighborhood and lower for houses priced at the top of their respective markets. It is during these periods  of increased economic activity and increased real estate demand that improvements will have the greatest impact on a home’s market value.

Time also will have an impact on the ability of an improvement to increase property values. Structural or design improvements, such as building additions or finishing raw space, will add value for much longer than projects like updates to kitchens and bathrooms or technological improvements, such as new air conditioning systems, because these risk becoming obsolete over time.

Geographic location will also have a great impact on which projects will have the quickest or greatest payback. For instance, the maintenance time and cost of in-ground swimming pools make it  difficult to recover the cost of installation and in some cases will reduce the overall value of a home. However, this may not be the case in the southeast and southwest U.S., where extended periods of very hot weather make swimming pools a valuable addition for some homeowners.

Government Incentives

Because of the deductibility of mortgage interest from income taxes, Uncle Sam may help to subsidize home improvement, making the cost of construction even less burdensome for property owners.

For the less risk-averse, property owners that have accumulated adequate equity in their homes can use financial instruments, such as a cash-out refinance or home-equity loan to finance their construction projects. Using these methods, the only cash necessary to complete the contemplated projects would be the interest payments to maintain the loans, which in most cases are tax deductible. The principal will be repaid when the property is finally sold.

Project Returns on Investment

The ultimate reason to take on any home remodeling project as an owner-occupant is the enjoyment received from living in an updated home. For those hoping to profit from a remodel as well,  there are several sources that will give some insight into expected payback for particular projects. For example, REALTOR® magazine publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value” report that compares the cost of common remodeling projects and shows the payback that homeowners can expect. These payback estimates are based on the residential real estate market fundamentals at the time and the average cost of construction.

Table 1 are national average estimates, but homeowners can find more specific information at Remodeling Online that will provide the same estimates for different geographic areas of the U.S. These average payback ranges for the most common remodeling projects give prospective sellers a broad indication of which projects have the greatest probability of returning a bulk of the project cost at sale. Differentials in average recoveries are explained by the scope and quality of work performed, with smaller, less-useful projects being on the lower end of the range.

Table 1
Project Avg. Recovery %
Wood Deck Addition 80-85%
Siding Replacement 75-83%
Minor Kitchen Remodel 75-83%
Window Replacement 75-80%
Bathroom Remodel 70-78%
Major Kitchen Remodel 70-78%
Attic Bedroom Remodel 65-76%
Basement Remodel 65-75%
Two-Storey Addition 65-74%
Garage Addition 60-70%



Improvements, such as office and bedroom remodeling had the largest recovery ranges: from 50-70%. The large spread is due to differences in the size of the renovations and the importance the room has on the overall design of the home, such as guest bedroom versus master suite.


Conclusion

When contemplating any remodeling project, homeowners should consider the value they will receive from the project over any cost recovery that may be available from sale. However, when contemplating two equally useful changes, homeowners should research local real estate guides to determine which projects are most likely to pay for themselves. Remember that bigger is not always better, and spending more does not always ensure a greater amount of value creation. Home prices will always reflect the tastes of local property buyers and the amounts that buyers are willing to pay in a particular neighborhood or subdivision.

Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/add-value-to-real-estate.asp#ixzz1icJzDCYO


Tips for First Time Home Buyer

So you have finally decided to make the big step and buy a home! This will be one of the most exciting moments of your life!  But before you make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, make sure you consider the following:


  1. Get a pre-approved mortgage!

    Talk to a mortgage specialist to see how much you qualify for! This depends on how much you have for a down payment and what current interest rates are.

    A general rule is your monthly payments towards your home (which include mortgage, property taxes and utilities) should not exceed 32% of your monthly gross income. Your total monthly debt should also not be more than 40% of your monthly gross income.

    Investment Property?

    There are many people out there who are quite financially savvy and want to purchase their first time as an investment property. Keep in mind that with investment properties, you must have at least 20% for a down payment and that you will not be eligible for land transfer tax rebates if you are a first time buyer.

  2. Find a Realtor that suits your personality!

    This is the single largest purchase you have made to date, so make sure you find a knowledgeable Realtor that you also trust and get along with.  This is the biggest financial decisions of your life, so make sure it is a rational and well informed one! (hint hint…ME!)

    Home buying is an extremely complicated process with many different parties involved. Your Realtor is your first contact point to get you in touch with other experienced industry experts such as lenders, lawyers, home inspectors and movers.

  3. Make a list of ‘must haves’, ‘wants’, and ‘do not wants’

    Sit down and think of what you must have, want and do not want in a home. This list may change as you look as different properties but it is a good start in terms of where to begin! A couple of things to consider include:

    What you think your lifestyle will be like in a few years’ time? Will you be starting a family? Will you need to move for work?

    Are there upgrades to the home you can make yourself?

    It is important to remember that your home will probably not encompass everything on your list and that many things can be done to your home to make it your dream home!

  4. Home buying process

    Make sure you sign a Buyer Representation Agreement (BRA). This document outlines the duties the brokerage owes to the buyer. Included in those duties includes full disclosure of all property information known to the brokerage. It protects homebuyers to ensure that your best interests will be protected and reassures you are making the right decision.

    Acceptable / unacceptable problems. A qualified home inspector will be able to gain an objective view of the property. Limitations include problems beyond the walls of the property. Sometimes properties listed way below market value require extensive repairs.  With the help of your Realtor’s knowledge, you can gauge a good idea of what are quick fixes or costly repairs.

    Consider your future needs. What will your needs and lifestyle be like in the future? Will you be requiring extra space to start a family or create a home office? Thinking about this now will help with your decision for what type of mortgage you will be looking for. It may also be easier and less costly to take these changes into account now than to adjust for them in a couple of years time.

    Proceed quickly! Good properties sell fast. Realtors have the latest technology to track down the latest listings within hours which allows you to save time and effort! A great agent makes sure you have all the information you need and that your finances are in order so that you can make act fast when you find your dream home!

    Isn’t my only cost my mortgage? Don’t forget about closing costs! These costs are typically between 1.5%-4% of the purchase price. You will be responsible for items including mortgage insurance, appraisal fees, legal fees, inspection fees, transfer taxes, title insurance, inspections, property tax, fire insurance, increased bills, etc. A couple of days before closing, your lawyer will send you a list of adjustments that will outline the final costs.

    Happily Ever After? It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of home buying that other factors may not be considered until after your property is purchased. For example – how is your credit now? What are some ongoing costs you will be expecting? Do you have savings to ensure that any unplanned repairs can be taken care of? If you live in a condo, are you taking into account that maintenance fees may rise? A good Realtor and a proper home inspection can help you prepare for a future without many surprises.



For more information on home buying, please visit the CMHC website: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/