Life in Guelph. A Blog.

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Ontario’s Real Estate Industry to Remain Self-Regulated

In light of recent changes in the B.C. real estate market, the Real Estate Council of Ontario was put to the test. It passed with flying colours.

LOGO-RECOThe much-publicized growth in the British Columbia real estate market has led to a swift movement by the B.C. government, removing controls of the real estate industry there to self-govern & placing oversight in the hands of the provincial parliament. In doing so, B.C. cast a spotlight upon the Real Estate Council of Ontario, and perhaps TREB (The Toronto Real Estate Board) in particular. The question being: If sizable growth in B.C. can be, in part, attributed to misconduct by real estate industry players, does Ontario’s current governing body still have the means & morality to steer the ship?

In the eyes of the Ontario government, it’s a resounding “yes”.

With no planned changes to the governing model, recent statements from the Ontario government can be seen as a testament to the integrity and stability of the real estate tradespeople in our province. The comfort with the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s current operations likely stems from a variety of places, but there are two factors I point to when discussing why RECO is so effective.

Firstly, directors & disciplinary panelists come from both within and outside the real estate industry. This limits the favouritism and protectionism that can fester within close-knit industries such as this. It makes punishments & disciplinary decisions fair & equitable, ensuring the punishments fit the crimes where they’ve occurred.

Secondly, RECO is progressive and dynamic, ensuring that standards & upheld, and even instituted ahead of their time. For example, among a list of suggested changes to the B.C. industry’s regulatory processes, about two-thirds were already implemented voluntarily within Ontario. RECO’s inherent desire to protect consumers and the integrity of the industry among its members shines through in that regard.

For more valuable insight into the strengths of the Real Estate Council of Ontario, and how they compare to the challenges faced out west, I’d recommend the bulk of Mike Hager’s article from last week’s Globe & Mail, below.

Unlike British Columbia, Ontario real estate to stay self-regulated

Mike Hager, Globe & Mail, Vancouver, July 01 2016

Ontario has no plans to change how Canada’s second-hottest real estate market is governed, with its self-regulating body arguing it already has many of the safeguards that have been missing in British Columbia, where the industry has just lost the right to police itself.

Real estate agents in Ontario are licensed, investigated and disciplined by an agency run by their peers: the Real Estate Council of Ontario.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced this week that her government is taking back control of the industry, removing the Real Estate Council of British Columbia’s ability to regulate agents and brokerages. The province had been under pressure to act since a series of Globe investigations found the province’s regulator failed to protect home buyers and sellers from unethical realtors.

Marie-France Lalonde, Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services, said the province has no plans to change the role of the real estate council, whose jurisdiction includes Toronto, where the frothy housing market is also raising concerns about speculation, soaring prices and the possible realtor misconduct that comes with such conditions.

“We recognize the significant and effective role that the Real Estate Council of Ontario plays in regulating Ontario’s busy real estate industry and in enhancing consumer protection,” Ms. Lalonde said in an e-mailed statement. “Our government is not considering changes to Ontario’s real estate regulation model at this time.”

British Columbia’s overhaul came after an independent panel called for widespread change within the industry, concluding the Real Estate Council of B.C. is dominated by industry members who took disciplinary action reluctantly and tentatively.

While the panel did not recommend ending self-regulation, as that larger issue was outside its mandate, it did raise concerns about the role of real estate boards and trade associations. The boards have their own parallel – and private – discipline process.

The panel said the province’s 11 local real estate boards should relinquish this “quasi-regulatory” role, because they wield too much power in policing realtors, and the two separate tracks for complaints cause too much confusion for consumers. (In its 2015 annual report, a council survey of real estate clients found only 30 per cent of respondents knew how to file a complaint with the regulator.)

The Real Estate Council of B.C. currently includes 17 members, three of which come from outside the industry. The panel recommended it be split evenly between the industry and outside. The B.C. government has promised to go further, with a majority of non-industry members.

Three of the Ontario council’s 12 directors come from outside the industry.

The registrar of the Ontario council, Joe Richer, said his self-regulating body made many of the changes recommended in British Columbia long ago. That includes taking over any complaint from a member of the public regarding a realtor from the province’s more than 40 local real estate boards, he said. “What’s happening in B.C. really is very very similar to what happened to Ontario in the mid-1990s,” Mr. Richer said. “I’m pleased [that], by my tally, at least two-thirds of [the improvements B.C. is committing to] Ontario is already doing in whole, or in part.”

Dan Morrison, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said his private association is eager to help the province make the “progressive” changes, including creating just one track for consumer complaints.

“We’re happy not to get those phone calls,” said Mr. Morrison, whose board grants access to the MLS listings system for 12,800 of the region’s realtors. “The [thousands of agents] in Greater Vancouver were unfairly tarred with a negative brush this week because of the actions of a few who allegedly failed to act in the best interests of their clients.”

Earlier this year, the Greater Vancouver board voted to increase its maximum fines to $30,000, but its disciplinary decisions are kept secret, even from those who submitted the complaints.

British Columbia’s finance ministry is working to implement the 28 recommendations from the independent panel, foremost of which is creating a new, expanded office of the Superintendent of Real Estate and hiring a replacement for the current superintendent, Carolyn Rogers, who is leaving for a new job in Ottawa regulating the banking sector.

In the meantime, consumers such as Sukhjit Bassi of Richmond, B.C., are wondering what will happen to complaints they made to the real estate council. Mr. Bassi filed a complaint two months ago alleging one of New Coast Realty’s top realtors deceived him, selling his house for less than market value to a speculator with whom she had arranged deals before. “I don’t mind my complaint just getting closed and nothing happens, as long as these guys are now regulated properly,” Mr. Bassi said.


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Baby boomers – the force behind real estate trends

103455733-GettyImages-555799019.530x298Like many of my colleagues and friends, I am a baby boomer. We are the pig in the python; by virtue of our massive numbers, we have defined fashion, fitness, consumer goods – and real estate; we have been the tail that wags the dog.

We were born to parents who lived through WWII – about 71 million people in the United States alone! Born between 1945 and 1965, we represent two separate generations with the first group coming of age in the ‘60s and entering retirement age in 2010. The younger generation of boomers came of age in the 1970s with the traditional retirement years of the mid-60s still a decade or so away. Boomers gave birth to the Gen Xers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s who gave us Gen Ys/Millennials of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

The first set of boomers have kids in their 30s and 40s with their kids at the stage of having grandkids placing the first boomers at great-grandparent status. Today, the younger boomers have kids in their 20s and 30s. Some are finishing school while others are giving us our grandkids.

Boomer parents learned to live with less and make it more; they were savers, never knowing when another war might change their lives and way of living forever; they didn’t buy what they didn’t need or what they couldn’t pay for in cash. Putting their kids through school and providing them a life they didn’t have was their battle cry. As a result, they are passing on trillions of dollars in hard-fought investments and savings to their children – the baby-boomers.

The majority of baby-boomers benefit from post-secondary educations with well-paying jobs, nice homes, holidays and travel to exotic locations–with career and retirement-planning always in sight. In contrast to their parents, they enjoy many of these luxuries, purchased on credit, like homes, furnishings and cars. Without boomers, the microwave, VCR and even the sweat suit (gotta wear something comfortable after all those microwave dinners and hours sitting watching videos!) wouldn’t have made the impact they did in the 1980s.

This sets the stage for today’s real estate trends. With more disposable income because of higher incomes plus credit at every turn, holiday properties and travel to time-shares are high on the list of priorities. Main floor bungalow living with guest quarters above or below has been a design trend for almost 20 years. Executive townhomes allow independence and low maintenance without limiting luxury.

With options to holiday and travel, but still wanting to remain close to the kids and grandkids, the condo market is exploding.

The offspring of boomers are travelling further afield for employment, so boomer parents are holding onto homes or choosing condos with additional bedrooms and guest suites for those long-awaited visits. The guest room is a necessity of life in this new millennium.

If you’re located in a city like Guelph with a universities and college, you may be home to the grandkids for a few years while they attend school making guest rooms and renovated basements a common asset.

The condo market offers unique opportunities that address many boomer needs. With little or no maintenance worries, they can lock the door and travel south to join other snowbirds. It also makes it easier to visit their kids and grandkids who are further afield.

While boomers perceive themselves as ageless, it’s a fact of life that it does happen. One-level condo living eliminates stairs.

Fitness and health defined the boomer generation and also gave birth to fitness clubs. Condo developers are not oblivious to this. Well-appointed buildings feature state-of-the-art fitness centres while some include pools and saunas. Condos are located close to Walking trails and recreation areas are popular features.

And the guest room? They are also a popular feature in condominiums along with party rooms so family gatherings will also be a way of life along with a lifestyle that accommodates more life and leisure.

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First-Time Buyers Facing Stiff Competition

Gen-Y-Home-Buyers-journeytofinanceFirst-time buyers face trying times in a hot sellers’ market, but have distinct advantages over their competition.

Wow. What a time to be a buyer. The resale real estate markets in Guelph & K-W are on fire at the moment; and it feels like every house that has appeal to first-time buyers is winding up in a competitive, multiple offer situation.

Competitive offer scenarios can either be man-made or organic; depending on the seller’s strategy- determined in consultation with their Realtor. If they seek to artificially create the competitive situation, they tend to under-price their home when it hits the market, to stimulate both interest & demand for it. Simultaneously, they advise buyers that they won’t look at offers for a period of roughly a week to allow for broad exposure to the marketplace. This often results in a number of offers being submitted on the property, provided there was a good marketing plan in place that included ads, open houses, and social media buzz to maximize the reach.

The prime advantage of creating a multiple offer scenario is that the listing agent effectively removes the ceiling for the price of the house. In a traditional listing, the asking price is typically the upper limit for the price of the house barring an organic multiple offer scenario. But here, as far as everyone is concerned, the list price becomes more of a price floor. It’s virtually an expectation from the seller that offers exceed the posted list price. And, because the bidding process is blind, sellers must place their best foot forward and try and guess the moves of all other bidders. This means that if a buyer really wants a house, they often wind up having to over-pay to get it. If executed well, the selling price can be much greater than a house would garner under a traditional pricing model.

Now, the market is so hot, that even houses that have been priced appropriately are being sold in competition. Here, offers are not held back for any period of time, but there may be so much activity on a house immediately that more than one party may submit an offer within the first few days on the market. In this case, the listing agent must notify all the other groups that have shown interest in the property & alert them to the existence of an offer. There typically isn’t the same degree of competition for appropriately priced homes, but even 2 or 3 offers can see the price escalate considerably above the ask.

For first-time buyers, this can be overwhelming. Especially the first time you wind up in competition. Even my own first offer experience wound up in competition, and I didn’t wind up getting that house. I lost by a mere $1,500 that I probably would have paid, and I would’ve made a lot of money if I sold that house today. However, the nature of the process doesn’t often allow for second chances & there’s never a multiple-offer situation where the buyer feels like they got a deal- which can be a tough prospect for your first foray into home ownership.

However, there’s a number of reasons why first-time buyers have a distinct advantage in these types of scenarios, if they can get over the hurdles of their reservations:

  1. Liquidity

You might not have the resources & savings of your parents, grandparents or the older buyers you’re competing against. In fact, its a virtual certainty that you don’t. But what you do have is liquidity & freedom. Chances are, much of your downpayment is in a chequing or savings account, or at worst, an equally-accessible RRSP (see: Home Buyers’ Plan). Meanwhile, some of the competition may not be able to tap into their RRSPs, and may have much more overhead in their daily lives (kids, bills, other loans) than you do. This is all to your advantage. Get pre-approved, and take out a financing condition. This can simplify your offer and give it a non-monetary boost in the eyes of a seller.

2. Flexibility

Somewhat tied into liquidity, the ability to be flexible is paramount. A large (refundable) deposit can speak volumes, especially if you’re including conditions with your offer. It shows that you’re very serious about the house, and willing to commit to tying up a good deal of cash while you’re working towards securing it. Additionally, a seller may occasionally require an exceptionally long or quick closing which can be hard for many buyers to meet. Whether you’re renting or living at home, you have much more flexibility than someone who owns another house and is trying to coordinate closing dates with their own sale. Meeting these kinds of requests doesn’t cost you a cent more, but can give your offer a huge lift.

3. Time

If you still think every investment is a winner, you have some other financial lessons to learn before you dive into home ownership. Sure, real estate is one of the safest & most profitable long-term investments, as recognized time and again; and chances are very good that your house will be too. You don’t have to hit a home run & you don’t have to watch every penny. As a homeowner, you’ll soon learn that a few hundred dollars can seem like a rounding error at times. It may seem like a big deal now, but down the road, you probably won’t miss even a few thousand dollars, and chances are, it’ll all come out in the wash. If your target home is desirable now, it’s likely it’ll maintain a good bit of that intrigue when you go to sell. And when you factor in how quickly your home appreciates, you’ll realize that the worst thing you can do is not act. You don’t lose money sitting on the sidelines waiting for a deal, but you sure don’t make any either; and while you’re waiting, the houses aren’t getting any cheaper.

The market doesn’t wait for you to be ready to buy, it’s one of those things you just have to do. Take the leap. While the foray into home ownership is a bit of a risk, you have to bet money to make money- and there are few scenarios where real estate purchasers have lost. Take an investment lesson from casinos: the house always wins.

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Tricar Group Launches LEED Certified Condos

azureLondon, ON; – In just over two years, the heart of downtown London will proudly display a landmark 29 storey, 180 unit condominium highrise that will shine above the city’s skyline. That highrise will also be the first LEED registered condominium building in our city.

Honorable Mayor Matt Brown, City Councilors, Staff and local business people were on hand as The Tricar Group officially opened their new Azure Presentation Sales Centre and announced that they have elevated their environmental commitment by registering this project with LEED.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in 150 countries. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

LEED homes are thoughtfully designed, are located near public transit and in areas that improve community connectivity. Azure residents will enjoy a comfortable home with balanced heating and cooling systems and improved indoor air quality. Amenities such as a 29th floor green roof and water efficient landscaping are both healthy and appealing and also save water consumption. Green power will provide at least 35% of required electricity from off-site renewable sources saving homeowners money. Construction and demolition activities ensure that materials are recycled and minimal waste is produced throughout the entire construction process. And with an ideal downtown location, environmentally friendly transportation is encouraged with available electric car charging stations and secure bicycle storage space. Owners of a LEED certified home can also count on higher property values when it comes to future resale and increased energy savings on their utility bills.

“At Tricar we have long prided ourselves on being innovators in the high rise condominium industry and have always been committed to improving communities on economic, cultural and environmental levels. To have an opportunity to further raise the bar through the commitment to sustainable technology and environmentally responsible practices as a LEED registered building is something we are very excited about. We are proud to bring an innovative and green technology to a great residential development in the downtown core.” – Adam Carapella, Vice President Operations, The Tricar Group
Tricar has been developing and managing award winning multi-family high-rise buildings for 30 years.

An industry leader and a catalyst in the revitalization of downtown cores through the redevelopment of under-utilized sites, Tricar has earned the reputation as a progressive, responsible builder. Innovative and quality craftsmanship have earned them numerous awards for architecture and design excellence while personal, dedicated attention to customer care has earned them the most coveted award as Ontario High-Rise Builder of the Year by the Tarion Warranty Corporation in 2014 and again in 2015. Azure Condominiums will mark Tricar’s 5th highrise residential tower in downtown London. Picton Place marked the 1st, followed by Wellington Park at 250 Pall Mall and Renaissance I and II at King and Ridout. Sales have begun for those that registered online and the interest has been fantastic with an overwhelming 50 suites sold in the first day. A Grand Opening is scheduled for May 7th.

For more information and to register visit

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Millennials moving back home to springboard home ownership


The millennial generation has taken its share of flack for being slower and more reluctant to purchase homes than their parents were at the same age. This lag has contributed to fears of a housing market slowdown, as an aging population may not be supplanted by equal numbers of younger buyers- particularly as the baby boomers approach & enter retirement and look to downsize from larger homes.

In the interim though, prices in most places around the country; and especially locally, are as high as they’ve ever been. This is likely the single biggest detriment to millennials’ home ownership aspirations, and it’s pushed a large number back home into their parents’ basements.

To say there’s a stigma associated with mature kids living at home would be an understatement, but what many older Canadians don’t realize is that it can be a large part of a successful entry into home ownership. And not only that, but it can significantly speed up the ownership process.

For example, if a recent graduate were to live at home for a period of 1 year, rent-free; instead of renting a $1,200/month apartment condo; in one year, they would save $14,400 – or the equivalent of a 5% down payment on a $300,000 property. That $300,000 budget would give the first-time buyer a healthy budget to shop with locally, and that’s before any added benefits of the new home buyer tax credit & the home buyers’ plan, should they have an established RRSP.

So let’s shed the stigma around moving home. And parents, if you want to sell your house for top dollar when you retire, help your kids get into the game. Otherwise, there’ll be nobody left hanging around to buy it.


Below is a brief, relevant Q & A from the Globe & Mail (March 28, 2016) between writer Rob Carrick & financial author Christine Romans on the needs of millennial buyers:

You say that moving back home is the single best economic decision that young people can make. What does this tell us about the challenges facing young adults?

It tells us the economics are all upside down for them. The big lever they have for their finances – the only lever they have after they get a degree – is moving home and keeping the rent down.

Millennials moving home got a lot of attention back in the recession, much of it negative. Six years later, is there a stigma attached to moving home?

I don’t think so, and there shouldn’t be. Because you’re smart if you move back home and you bank your income or use that money to pay down debt. It’s the smartest thing to do.

Is there an argument for moving home even if you’re working?

If your rent is more than 50 per cent of your income, you need to move home. I would like to see rent at 25 per cent of income.

You talk in your book about millennial “haves” and “have nots” based on the wealth of their parents. How big a factor is parental wealth in determining the financial success of millennials?

It’s more important than it should be. If parents can send a kid to college without student debt, that kid has a leg up. It’s a sad fact.

How important is it for parents to save for their children’s postsecondary education to cover at least part of their tuition costs?

I think parents should be saving and paying part of their kids’ tuition bills – it’s an investment in your child. There’s nothing wrong with having the kids pay some of it. It might be a way for them to learn some money management.

Once a young adult is working, should paying down student debt take precedence over retirement saving?

I say do both. Some people wrongly assume you can’t invest until after you’re done paying down your debts. Young people have a lot of time ahead of them. They should be practising investing.

What are the rules for parents on charging rent to kids moving home?

If you think your child is financially responsible, maybe they don’t have to pay you rent. Maybe you have them pay cable and Internet – what I call the technology bill. Or, you can have them put money aside in an account every month to go toward first and last month rent when they move out. Some families even do a little contract that says “you will contribute one meal a week, you will supply your own snacks and drinks.”

What’s your message to millennials about being supported by their parents?

Don’t ask your parents for money if they’re not saving for their own retirement. The children need to be aware of the sacrifices their parents are making. You want to avoid being an extra burden on your parents.

What’s your view on parents paying cellphone bills and other monthly costs for their adult children?

I don’t really have a problem with it as long as the kids appreciate it and it’s not putting parents in the poorhouse.

You say in your book that the cardinal rule of personal finance is to never sacrifice your own retirement to pay for things for your own children. Do you think parents are following that rule?

I know they’re not. Parents have been giving their kids more than they can afford for a long time.

We’ve talked about moving back in with your parents – what are the signs that it’s time to move out?

It’s time to move out if the arrangement is wearing on everyone’s nerves, or if the child doesn’t appreciate the sacrifice made by the parents. It’s also time to move out once the child has sprouted the wings to be able to do it. Once there are savings in the bank, and once they’re able to get an apartment. I say your target [for living at home] is two years.


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Tricar Group a Finalist for Major Award


Tricar’s River Mill Condos in Guelph will begin occupancy in 2016.

Each spring, the Tarion New Home Warranty program awards industry standouts for their commitment to quality and craftsmanship in their delivery of new homes. For the past 2 years, The Tricar Group has been awarded Ontario High-Rise Builder of the Year by Tarion- a distinction determined by survey responses from actual buyers of their new products. These victories have come over major Toronto & Ottawa builders such as Daniels Group, Tridel & Domicile. This year, Tricar has once again been named a finalist, and seeks to stake a back-to-back-to-back claim to this award. These are the only awards that give Ontario’s new home buyers the power to have their new home builder recognized for customer service excellence.

To be recognized in the High-Rise Builder category, Tarion requires more than 100 possessions per year. In 2015, Tricar had 228 possessions.

“These awards have always been about new home buyers in Ontario and their level of satisfaction with their individual builder,” said Tarion President and CEO Howard Bogach.

‘We are honoured to be the named a finalist for Tarion’s 2016 Homeowners’ Choice Awards’, says Tricar Vice President, Adam Carapella. ‘This is the fourth consecutive year we have been nominated, winning back to back in 2014 and 2015. We had a record number of possessions last year and to hear that we were successful in exceeding our homeowners’ expectations again is just exceptional and a true testament to our dedicated staff. We look forward to celebrating with all of the very deserving finalists on April 28th when the winners are announced’.

Finalists were determined based on the results of a comprehensive survey sent to more than 56,000 Ontario homeowners who took possession of a new home between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. Almost 12,000 completed survey responses were received, representing a high response rate of more than 21 per cent. The results were tabulated by Crunch Research and Nielsen.

Survey questions focused on homeowners’ satisfaction with their builder, covering every stage in the homeowner-builder relationship from the signing of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, through construction and the pre-delivery period, to after-sales service.

Congratulations Tricar!

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Learning Guelph #StepBiteStep: Taste deTours

taste detoursThe age old frustration with not knowing where to go for dinner; or getting stuck in a rut of frequenting the same places time and again for fear of branching out and being disappointed; has met its match in Guelph’s Taste deTours.

The new way to explore Downtown’s exceptional offerings is To The Core, a comprehensive lunch tour that stops at some of Guelph’s finest eateries, bakeries and artisanal shops. Launched in October, this tour stops at some well-known Guelph favourites: Ouderkirk & Taylor, Wellington Cakes & Atmosphere Cafe + Etc. But it’s also a chance to indulge in some newcomers like Eric the Baker & Miijidaa Cafe + Bistro. This all-in-one tour begins on Friday and Saturday mornings at 11:30, and wtakes just over 2.5 hours to complete, finishing between 2 & 2:30 pm. Weekday & weekend availability means that any and all can partake in this delicious experience together.

Lynn Broughton, the founder of Taste deTours, spent 8 years with Downtown Guelph, promoting the shops, restaurants and great events that take place in the core. This new venture has spawned from a passion for all things downtown; and a lifetime love of food, events & tourism. As a certified Food Tour Professional, not only do you have a tour guide who is passionate about the material, but one who also has the skills and polish to provide a top-shelf experience as well.

In addition to the “To The Core” tour, the “Little Bites” tour stops at some of my personal favourite places downtown for a twilight engagement. In this smaller tour, you’ll again find Ouderkirk & Taylor; plus two of Guelph’s premier establishments in Bin23 & Babelfish Bistro, before winding up at the Woolwich Arrow pub (affectionately referred to as “The Wooly” by locals). A Thursday evening tour, this sets the table for a perfect night out in the core, for girls’ night, date night, or just because!

So, the next time you’re starved for ideas, let Taste deTours enlighten you to the variety of tremendous local options at your fingertips. And if you’re in town to learn the area in consideration of relocating- there’s no faster way to get a crash course on Downtown Guelph than to spend an afternoon with someone who knows it better than anyone.

For more information, or to book a tour today; visit Taste deTours online, email or call 1-866-736-6343!