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What $20 Million Buys You in Toronto

Address: 35 High Point Road

Neighbourhood: Bridle Path – Sunnybrook – York Mills

Price: $19,800,000

The Place:
A stunning mansion in the heart of The Bridle Path.

Bragging Rights:

The house has more amenities than some condominiums in the city. With its very own indoor pool and spa, exercise room, his and hers change rooms, party room with commercial grade kitchen, wine cellar, billiards room, home theatre and tennis court, it truly has something for everyone. It even features its own playroom with specialized rubber for the little ones.

Big Selling Point:

The exquisitely landscaped grounds makes living in the city feel like cottage country.

By the Numbers:

• $19,800,000
• 18,086 sq ft
• 2 acres
• 7 bedrooms
• 15 washrooms
• 4 parking spaces
• 1 wine cellar

Listing Agent: Ashley Lo


5 Cool Tech Gadgets for the Home

The holiday season is quickly approaching! If any of you are like me, you may be scrambling for some last minute gift ideas. Here are some cool tech gadget gift ideas for the home that I think are pretty neat!

1. Nest

Nest is the next generation in thermostats. This product is perfect for people who are eco-conscious. It learns your schedule and programs itself in a way which helps preserve energy. Activity sensors are used to activate the Auto Away feature, which ensures that your household is at an energy efficient temperature while you’re gone. Done correctly, Nest can lower your energy consumption by 20%!

To illustrate how advanced this thermostat is, during your first week, Nest will learn your heating and cooling habits. But, if you need to make one-off changes, you can also do so using their robust online app. The Nest is tiny (only 3.2 inches in diameter), but it’s loaded with a slew of features including a wifi radio, three temperature sensors, and even a humidity sensor. Best of all, you can control all of this using your smart phone.

Cost: $249 USD

Purchase at http://store.nest.com

2. Sonos Wireless

Sonos is definitely a product that is revolutionizing how we listen to music and is one of my personal favourites. I use this product at home and love it! It is a wireless multi-room music system that allows you to stream music from online sources and the music will play from different devices connected onto its network. You can either play different music in different rooms, or play the same music throughout your home. A base station is connected to your home network so that you can even access your library when your devices are shut-off. Whether you’re streaming your favourite song from Rdio or your iPhone, you can play it wirelessly in whichever room you’re in. All of this can be controlled on Sono’s smart phone application which makes it even easier to just sit back, relax and enjoy the music.

Cost: Variety of different products ranging from $59 – $749

Purchase at http://www.sonos.com/shop/

3. WeMo

WeMo is one of the coolest gadgets out there in the market right now because you can control essentially any plug-in product right on your mobile phone. WeMo has two main products: WeMo Switch and WeMo Motion. Buy the Switch product alone and you can control any product that is connected to it on your smart phone. Want to make your coffee from your bed? No problem. You can use the WeMo Motion to control the product when the motion sensor is activated. This is specifically handy when it comes to lighting. Already snuggled into bed but forgot to turn off the lights? Yup, WeMo to the rescue.

Cost: WeMo Switch – $49.95; WeMo Switch + Motion – $99.95

Purchase at Apple Store – Belkin WeMo

4. Samsung WF457 Washer and Dryer

The reason why I love this product is because it helps improve what I hate most about doing laundry – timing my wash perfectly so that I can throw it in the dryer. This Samsung Front Loading Washer is a game changer for the laundry experience as it connects wirelessly to your smart phone to tell you how much time you have left on your load and what part of the cycle it’s at. You can even schedule a wash so that it starts at a more cost-efficient time (no more needing wait until the weekend to do laundry). Just set it and forget it!

If you’re not sold on that, then how about the fact that the washer-dryer set is also highly energy efficient (using only 96 kWh per year) and uses less water than most other sets out there too!

Cost: MSRP Washer $2,149.99, Dryer – $1,749.00

Purchase at your local Samsung retailer or <http://www.samsung.com/ca/consumer/home-appliances/washers-dryers/washers/WF457ARGSGR/AA-buyonline>online

5. Rogers Home Monitoring

This last holiday gift idea is for the security cautious techie! The Rogers Home Monitoring system is superior than traditional systems because it allows you to have full control on its tablet product as well as on your smart phone. Arm and disarm your alarm even when you are away from home. You can even keep track of what’s happening at home! Notifications can be set when the door opens (or does not open) between a certain time, perfect for parents who want to keep track of their children. What’s even cooler is that if the door does opens, a photograph can be taken of whoever enters. Need more convincing? Their online application has additional features to control your lights and even monitor the carbon monoxide levels right from the palm of your hand. Pretty neat from the same company as your wireless provider!

Cost: Starting at $19.99/month + installation

Purchase at Rogers.com

What are some of your favourite gadgets for the home?

Have a safe and wonderful holiday!

Higher property assessment…but does this mean higher taxes? Not necessarily.

Ontario property owners may be in for a shock as they receive their new property assessment notice with an average increase of 4.5% phased-in over the next four years. This is after a report was released by the Ontario Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) that property values have risen 18% since 2008.

“Our values reflect local real estate markets and confirm that most homeowners in the province have seen the value of their homes increase over the last four years,” said Larry Hummel, MPAC’s chief assessor.

How high property taxes will climb won’t be known until the spring, when the new budgets and the property assessments are discussed. The last time properties were assessed was in 2008, when a two-year government freeze on tax assessments was lifted.

Although this may mean a property tax increase for some home owners, it may not necessarily be the case for everyone. The assessed value are based on what a property would have sold for on January 1, 2012. If a home has risen by the same percentage as the average in a given municipality, there may not be an increase in taxes. If the assessed value of the home is higher than the average, then the difference in the increase will be phased-in over the four years. Owners can check the accuracy of the assessment at www.aboutmyproperty.ca which allows owners to compare values in their neighbourhood.

“Property owners should ask themselves if they could have sold their property for its assessed value on Jan. 1, 2012. If the answer is yes, then their assessment is accurate. If not, we are committed to working with them to get it right,” Hummel said.

Additional questions? Feel free to contact me.

What Toronto’s skyline will look like in 2020?

Found this awesome and very interesting post of what the Toronto skyline will look like in 2020.

We are definitely seeing intensification in Toronto! A lot of people compare Toronto to New York City and I can see the similarities. What do you think?

This is from a forum post by innsertnamehere (yes, that’s the username). You can see more photos there. All credits to this user!

Innsertnamehere even color-coded the buildings (amazing!)
WHITE = the project has had preliminary renders, but no application has been submitted.
RED = the project has submitted an application to the city
GREEN = the project has been approved, but has yet to start construction
YELLOW = the project is currently in sales
BLUE = the project is currently under construction

The “Manhattanization” of the Entertainment District

This is what Yorkville will look like:

5 Reasons why home ownership is better than renting

Why use your hard-earned cash to pay the landlord’s mortgage when you could be using the rent money to buy a home of your own? Although home ownership is not right for everyone, it does make sense in many cases.

Here are 5 reasons why home ownership is better than renting:

  1. Home ownership is a great investment. Although short term real estate prices may follow similar patterns as an economic cycle with peaks and valleys, there has always been a general upwards trend. Especially with cities such as Toronto, urbanization and gentrification become more predominant over time, and scarcity of land drives prices up. Over the past 40 years, the average Toronto home price increase per year still remains at 7%, even after a couple of recessions!

    1. Leveraging your money. With interest rates at an all time low and with as little of a down payment as 5%, you can still have completely control of your property. Act fast though, because lending rules are becoming more stringent!

 

    1. Home ownership acts as a method of forced savings.By getting into the real estate market early (imagine having your income trying to catch up with a 7% increase a year!), you are able to save for a more expensive home in the future by paying down your mortgage every month and leveraging your current home equity. Monthly costs of owning are often only a little more than what you would pay for an equivalent rental.

 

    1. Pride of ownership and being in full control. Any improvements or decoration changes need no approval from your landlord. Feel free to upgrade as your please! (Amen to that!)

 

  1. Tax benefits. Especially as a first time home buyer, there are many perks from a tax perspective such as RRSP withdrawals and land transfer tax credits. In addition, there are no capital gain taxes on a principal residence. Even for investment properties, there are significant tax deductions which can make property ownership a great investment strategy.

Buy vs. Rent Example


Featured listing: Gorgeous 2 bedroom + den at Yonge/Finch for sale at $299,000

MLS # C2437195

More information on this property: http://www.ashleylo.com/5785yongest202

Comparison

Purchase Price – $299,900
Down Payment 5% 10% 15%
$14,995 $29,990 $44,985
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage Amount (including Mortgage Insurance; Interest at 3% for 5 years)
Property Taxes
Maintenance Fees
Total Monthly Expenses
$1,479
$157
$886
$2,522
$1,367
$157
$886
$2,411
$1,281
$157
$886
$2,324
Annual Cash Spent
Average Annual Savings From Principle (based on 5 year term)
$30,268
$8,278
$28,929
$7,843
$27,890
$7,407
Annual Cost of Ownership
vs.
Annual Cost of Renting at $2,150/month
Savings From Home Ownership
$21,989
$25,800
$3,811
$21,086
$25,800
$4,714
$20,483
$25,800
$5,317

As you can see, even with a down payment of 5% and having to pay mortgage insurance, it would be more beneficial to purchase vs. rent, even without taking into consideration home price appreciation! As GoC bond yields decrease (which is what our fixed-mortgage rates are based on), interest rates will be even lower, allowing an even greater gap between this buy vs. rent scenario. In addition, this example is based on the first 5 years, with additional savings as time passes as you pay down more of your principle and have less interest in your mortgage.

Questions? Feel free to contact me at anytime!

Building code changes for glass balconies

The Ontario housing minister announced just last week that interim measures will be changed on the Ontario building code beginning July 1st, 2012 to prevent glass panels from breaking off on balconies. These regulations are meant to be temporary, as the province has asked the Canadian Standards Association to develop national guidelines that could then be adopted under Ontario’s code.

The rules follow recommendations made to the province by an expert panel on the glass-panel issue after 30 balconies on 11 buildings have shattered in Toronto. The new and safer standard require builders to use the same type of glass used in car windshields for outside panels. Construction firms will also have to use laminated or tempered glass meant to withstand high temperatures for inside panels.

These changes will only affect new construction developments only, but anyone with concerns can contact the city. The City of Toronto also plans to send letters to condo developers and owners built in the last five to seven years to voluntarily inspect the balconies.

The advisory panel also mentioned that the risks from falling glass are small, as tempered glass is meant to shatter into small pieces – where the liklihood of injuring anyone is small. One woman had minor injuries after being hit by falling glass on Bay Street last year.

What are your thoughts? Do you think these measures are good enough to protect the residents of Toronto?

Ashley Lo | Real Estate Advice, Real Estate Solutions


What the new mortgage rules mean for the Toronto housing market

The federal government announced today that they will be tightening mortgage-lending rules in order to address rising debt levels and housing prices. These changes will take in effect on July 9th, 2012.

The four measures will only be applied to new government-backed insured mortgages with loan-to-value ratios of more than 80 per cent:

Reducing the maximum amortization period for a government-insured mortgage from 30 years to 25 years. Reducing the amortization period will increase monthly payments, but reduce the amount of total interest paid on a mortgage. Ottawa expects the change from a 30-year to 25-year amortization will, on a $350,000 mortgage loan at four per cent, increase the monthly payment $177 but reduce total interest costs by nearly $47,000.

Under the new rules, Canadians can spend a maximum of 39% of their gross household income on home expenses such as mortgage, property taxes and heating, and a maximum 44 per cent of income on housing expenses and all other debt. It will be more difficult to quality for a mortgage after July 9th, but it will better protect Canadian households that may be vulnerable to economic shocks or an increase in interest rates.

For refinancing or Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs), the government will lower the maximum Canadians can borrow against their home to 80% of its value, from 85%, in an effort to encourage them to keep more equity in their homes.

Ottawa will limit the availability of government-backed insured mortgages to homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million.

The government believes less than five per cent of home buyers will be affected by these stiffened rules.

These changes will probably have the biggest implication for first time home buyers who may be struggling to save up for that down payment and to get into home ownership. However, for those who have the down payment ready, this may be welcomed news with hopes of real estate prices cooling slightly or remaining stable. I expect to see a lot of buying activity between now and July 9th.

For the most part, this clapdown is good for all of us. This will help ensure that the all-feared bubble burst will not occur and that Canadians will not mimic the US sub-prime crisis.

Have questions on how this affects you? Contact me for more information.

Ashley Lo | Real Estate Advice, Real Estate Solutions


Beware of Bylaws!

In my last post, I wrote about things to look out for when purchasing a condominium. This week, I’d like to write about municipal bylaws. Every city is different, so be sure to talk to your Realtor if there are differences if you move to a different city. Not obliging to bylaws can be costly and stressful, and should be looked into before purchasing a property.

With real estate prices being so high nowadays, many are looking to purchase a fixer-upper to renovate. Depending on the municipality, certain bylaws may deter some of your plans such as renting out your basement apartment.

Other bylaws that may affect a purchase may include:

  • dividing a mutual driveway
  • constructing of a basement apartment
  • adding a backyard deck
  • number of windows allowed in a house
  • a below-grade garage
  • tree removal


  • Believe it or not, there are even rules for the number of garage sales per year (most municipalities allow for a maximum of 2 per year)

    Navigating bylaws can be extremely overwhelming and intimidating so be sure to discuss any future plans with your Realtor to ensure a smooth transition to your new home. Contact me for a simple and smooth home buying experience!

    Ashley Lo | Real Estate Advice, Real Estate Solutions


    Beware: Hidden risks in condominiums

    Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about things to look out for when buying a home. In this post, I’ll talk about condominiums, since I have been hearing some horror stories of how people aren’t made aware of the financial health of the building when they purchase, or their needs aren’t properly understood by their Realtor to find a building that is a good fit.

    Let me get something straight – not all buildings are the same. Every building is very much unique, even if it may have the same builder or have the same property management company as another building. There are a lot of considerations when searching for your perfect home, not only within each individual unit, but also when deciding if a building is right for you. Knowing what is expected of a building’s residents ahead of time can help eliminate surprises and disappointments down the road.

    Luckily, there is a document called a Status Certificate which outlines the financial health of a building, one measure being the Reserve Fund. It also includes a copy of the condominium bylaws, where condo owners and renters are expected to abide by. These rules can dictate what, if any, pets are allowed in the building or what items residents are allowed to place on their balconies, such as barbecues.

    Make sure you speak with a prudent Realtor and trustworthy experts before making a purchase. Contact me today for further information and advice.

    Ashley Lo | Real Estate Advice, Real Estate Solutions


    E Condos – Yonge/Eglinton VIP Access to prices & floorplans



    E Condos is located in one of Toronto’s most sought after locations – Yonge & Eglinton. This mid-town condominium project will have direct access to subway and with the expansion of the much-anticipated Eglinton Crosstown below grade LRT, there will soon be another added convenience to the east-west transit link. This project is just steps to the Yonge / Eglinton Centre, an energetic entertainment/shopping complex with movie theatres, bookstore, supermarket and shops.

    Contact me today for VIP access to prices & floorplans of this highly anticipated project!



    Development Name: E Condos

    Developers: Bazis Inc., Metropia and RioCan

    Address: 8 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, M4R 2H1

    Estimated Completion: 2017

    Number of Buildings: 2

    Storeys: 64, 44

    Architect: R. Varacalli Architect


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