8 01, 2017

How laneway houses could help solve Toronto’s real-estate woes


The GTA housing market has been operating within a policy of intensification for more than a decade now. This has caused a shift away from ground-oriented homes and moved the market toward higher-density housing, such as condominiums.

Our real-estate market has seen consistent increases in the cost of housing, with the average price of a detached home in Toronto increasing by over 32 per cent this past November from the same month last year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

While those who prefer urban living have embraced higher-density housing, folks looking for traditional ground-oriented housing must move farther and farther away from the city to find it.

So what if there was a way to introduce new ground-oriented housing in the heart of Toronto that could accommodate up to 100,000 people, and the solution was literally in our backyard all along? That is, if your backyard is along a laneway.

Laneway housing is an innovative concept first introduced in Toronto back in 2006. And while it ultimately went nowhere here, it did inspire Vancouver, Ottawa and other cities to introduce policies that embraced it.

The original concept a decade ago contemplated a separate dwelling being legally severed and requiring new municipal services, resulting in the digging up of laneways.

The new groundswell of interest in laneway housing (call it laneway housing 2.0) is focused on taking a different approach, where the new structures will be treated as secondary dwellings on the existing property.

That means the garage at the rear of the property could be rebuilt by the owner to include a secondary dwelling unit, potentially serviced through the existing municipal connections, limiting neighbourhood disruption and creating new appropriately sized, ground-oriented housing units that could range in size from 700 to 1,500 square feet.

This could represent one of the most innovative solutions to a wide range of the city‘s housing needs, including multi-generational households where the owner can provide accommodation for parents or children or introduce much needed rental housing stock and help generate new income from their property. And it would be creating new ground-oriented housing in areas close to transit and existing community amenities, with minimal neighbourhood disruption.

There is no silver bullet solution to solve all of our housing challenges in the GTA, but with approximately 300 kilometres of laneways in the City of Toronto, laneway housing could be a good start.

But this innovation will require that everyone works together: citizens, government and industry. And community consultations are underway. If you’re interested, you can participate by going online to: lanescape.ca/survey to learn more about the initiative and provide your input.

Remember: The best way to predict the future is to help create it.

SOURCE: THE TORONTO STAR

6 06, 2016

Toronto Real Estate Board ordered to open up online sales data

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The Toronto Real Estate Board must let its member brokers release more home sales data to the public via the internet, the federal Competition Tribunal ordered Friday, in a move that could resonate across Canadian real estate markets.

The tribunal’s order, which follows an April ruling that TREB was stifling competition by restricting access to data on its proprietary Multiple Listing Service, says TREB must let its members offer searchable online databases called “virtual office websites.”

Those databases allow access to important information held in MLS, including data like sales prices, broker commissions, and withdrawn listings, as well as archived data.

“We’ve always taken the position where the more information that consumers have, the better decisions they can make,” said John Pasalis, president of the Toronto real estate brokerage Realosophy and a witness in favour of opening up the data.

“We’re going to look at making it more widely available on our website now,” said Pasalis.

Some Toronto-area real estate agents are champing at the bit to take advantage of the Competition Tribunal’s order as quickly as possible. Ara Mamourian, owner of Spring Realty, wrote in his blog that releasing the previously restricted information via his company’s search tool will save time and hassle for brokers and buyers alike.

Even brokers outside of Toronto have their eye on the Competition Tribunal’s order, and expect it to impact their local markets.

“Most likely because TREB is the biggest board, I think it’s going to trickle down right to the smallest board out there,” said Mayur Arora, a realtor with Oneflatfee.ca and a member of the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board.

Limits on home sales data

Still, the Competition Tribunal’s ruling does set some limits on exactly which MLS data can be released online.

Consumers who want to access the data will have to have a password-protected account with the broker providing it, and individual home sellers can request that TREB exclude their home sale information from the online databases. TREB can also keep certain private information about a home seller confidential, including mortgage and security information.

The Tribunal also said “TREB may limit members’ use to being directly related to the business of providing residential real estate brokerage services.”

The order represents a victory for the federal Competition Bureau. In its original application to get the data released, the bureau said the data will allow real estate agents “to offer consumers the convenience of data-driven insights into home sales prices and trends via the web and to improve the efficiency and quality of their services.”

TREB has 60 days from June 3 to implement the changes, and was also ordered to pay the Competition Commissioner’s legal costs of more than $1.8 million. In a statement, TREB CEO John DiMichele said TREB has filed a notice of appeal, but is reviewing the order with its lawyers before commenting publicly.

An ongoing legal saga

The tribunal’s ruling is the latest development in a case that goes back years. In 2011, the Competition Bureau sued TREB, Canada’s largest real estate board, for restricting the ways in which its member agents could release data from the Multiple Listing System.

The Competition Bureau said TREB’s practices were anti-competitive, and kept customers from accessing information that would help them buy a house. At the time, TREB said it was “legally and morally required to respect” the private information involved in real estate sales. The Competition Tribunal dismissed that case, but hearings began again in 2015 following a successful appeal by the Competition Bureau.
SOURCE: CBC NEWS

28 03, 2016

What Is UFFI?

Urea formaldehyde foam insulation is injected as a mixture of urea formaldehyde resin, an acidic foaming agent, and a propellant, such as air. It was commonly used in existing houses by injecting the foam into areas, such as behind walls, where it was impractical to provide conventional insulation. The insulation was approved in Canada for use in exterior wood-frame walls only. It has a reasonably good R value (thermal resistance). Some formaldehyde gas is released during the on-site mixing and curing. Formaldehyde is colorless, but has a very strong odor, which can generally be detected at concentrations above one part per million. It is this by-product of the curing of the foam that became a controversial issue.
Formaldehyde is both a naturally occurring chemical, and an industrial chemical. It is found in dry cleaning chemicals, paper products, no-iron fabrics, diapers, pillow cases, the glue in particle board and plywood, cosmetics, paints, cigarette smoke, and the exhaust from automobiles, gas appliances, fireplaces, wood stoves. It occurs naturally in forests and is a necessary metabolite in our body cells.

Ambient formaldehyde levels in houses are typically .03 to .04 parts per million. By comparison, typical levels in the smoking section of a cafeteria are 0.16 ppm. Houses with new carpeting can also reach these levels.

The rate at which formaldehyde gasses are released from materials into the air depends on temperature and humidity. The higher the humidity levels and the higher the temperature, the more gas is likely to be released.

The insulation was used in the 1970?s, most extensively from 1975 to 1978, during the period of the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP), when financial incentives were offered by the government to upgrade home insulation levels. The insulation was banned in December 1980, in Canada. It is estimated that over 100,000 homes in Canada were insulated with UFFI (commonly pronounced “you-fee”).
The insulation was also used extensively in the United States during the 1970?s, and has been used in Europe over the last thirty years. UFFI is still used in Europe, where it was never banned and is considered one of the better “retrofit” insulations.

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of UFFI in the United States in 1982, and shortly thereafter a law prohibiting the sale of urea formaldehyde was enacted. In April 1983, the U.S. Court of Appeal struck down the law because there was no substantial evidence clearly linking UFFI to health complaints. UFFI is not widely used in the USA today.

UFFI was not a do-it-yourself product. The foam was machine mixed on-site, and injected into wall cavities where it expanded to fill the cavity. Like many new and fast growing industries (particularly those supported by government grants), workmanship and quality control were often less than perfect.

One of the first problem cases involving formaldehyde was in the United States. This involved an extremely air-tight and poorly ventilated mobile home, apparently with a poorly-mixed, half-formed UFFI. This started to raise government suspicions about the insulation. (In other mobile home studies, any elevated levels of formaldehyde were traced to the panelling or carpets, not UFFI.)
A laboratory study which produced nasal cancers in rats that were exposed to high levels of formaldehyde, increased the concern. Following some press releases and cautioning by authorities, a number of home owners began to report problems that included respiratory difficulties, eye irritation, running noses, nosebleeds, headaches and fatigue. Very quickly, fear and suspicion led to the conclusion that a problem must exist. Few issues have stronger impact than a potential health concern, especially if the suspected cause is new, poorly understood and widely used.

In the case of UFFI, the uneasiness and uncertainty were especially difficult to fathom or control, since the material was hidden from sight, and the reported symptoms were identical to those often experienced in our heated, dry indoor air.

Although there were no substantiated problems clearly attributable to the foam, urea formaldehyde foam insulation was banned as a precautionary measure. Research was initiated to evaluate the problem, and to determine what should be done.

No one knew exactly how many homes had UFFI, and it was often difficult to find out whether a home had UFFI. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the foam was often used somewhat inappropriately in walls of solid masonry houses, in attics, in cavities where freeze-up of pipes had occurred, and even as an acoustical insulation in party walls in row houses, and in the ceilings between the first and second floor of the house.

The fears of cancer and other health problems were only the beginning of the story. These fears caused a reduction in the value of real estate. The costly “remedial” measures and the long term stigma attached to UFFI houses became a marketplace reality because of the perceived health problems.

The federal government set guidelines for reducing formaldehyde levels in houses, and removal techniques were specified. The initial threshold level set for formaldehyde gas was 1.0 part per million (ppm). As testing methods improved, the level was brought down to 0.5 ppm and, eventually, 0.1 ppm. The threshold level became very conservative, indeed.

A court case which eventually set records was initiated in Quebec, in which the claimants accused the federal government, manufacturers and others of bringing a dangerous material to the market.

Those charged with the task of designing and refining remedial measures set out to find the worst cases to test their theories, but they encountered an unexpected problem. They couldn’t find any UFFI insulated houses with formaldehyde gas levels above 0.1 ppm, let alone 0.5 ppm or 1.0 ppm. Even in the few houses that tested at levels approaching 0.1 ppm, these results were rarely duplicated in subsequent testing.
It became known that the levels of formaldehyde decrease rapidly after the foam has been installed. Within several days of the application, formaldehyde levels typically return to ambient house levels.

As the body of information grew, it became clear that finding a single house that exceeded this very conservative threshold level was going to be a challenge. In fact, in reviewing several thousand files, not one house was found with levels of formaldehyde which remained above 0.1 ppm! The highest levels were found in homes with brand new carpeting which were tested on a hot summer day. The same house tested two weeks later showed levels typical of any house, with or without UFFI.

The presence of UFFI does not affect the amount of formaldehyde in the indoor air. Indeed, while not statistically significant, the homes tested were found, on average, to have formaldehyde levels slightly below that of homes of similar ages without UFFI.

In a study in Britain, people who worked in environments with high formaldehyde levels, such as morticians and laboratory technicians, were studied for possible health effects. These subjects were found to have a less than average number of respiratory diseases, and actually lived slightly longer on average, on the whole. (Again, while this may not be statistically significant, it suggests that low levels of formaldehyde are not harmful.)

A number of studies have been done examining the health effects of UFFI. Studies using random samples of UFFI and non-UFFI homes done before the ban showed no impact of UFFI on health. However, studies done after the ban showed increased reporting of symptoms, even for such things as constipation and deafness which have no biological basis.

When no correlation could be found between formaldehyde gas and health problems, other possible problems related to UFFI were investigated. mold and fungi, dust mites, and un-named “UFFI gases” were all investigated as possibilities. None were linked to UFFI. There was no damage to house framing or materials caused by UFFI.

UFFI is one of the most thoroughly investigated, and most innocuous building products we have used. After the longest and most expensive civil case ever held in Canada (eight years) was concluded in the Quebec Superior Court, not only was no basis for a settlement found, but the plaintiffs were obliged to pay most of the costs.
The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that urea formaldehyde foam insulation has not been shown to be a health concern.

It is not the purpose of this paper to determine why or how all of this controversy arose without any proof. Suffice to say that people with the best intentions were working in the public interest, and perhaps erred on the conservative side. In retrospect, although the results were unfortunate, we would hate to think that people responsible for the health of consumers would err on the other side.

We believe that those who have urea formaldehyde foam insulation in their homes should enjoy their houses, and sleep well at night. It is the sincere hope of the authors that the market place will respond appropriately. The owners of properties with this type of insulation should not be penalized financially, and no stigma should be attached to these homes. We would further urge real estate associations and boards across Canada to consider dropping the UFFI clause from purchase contracts. Similarly, we would ask mortgage lenders not to penalize those who have UFFI in their homes. UFFI is simply not the problem it was once feared to be.

While we do not believe UFFI to be a problem, other household materials and products can produce formaldehyde, and other air pollutants for that matter. If you suspect your indoor air quality to be poor, there are Environmental Consultants listed in the Yellow Pages of your phone book, often in the Business and Industrial section.

By: Alan Carson Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd. and John Caverly, Building Inspection Consultants & Associates.
The purpose of this paper is to provide home owners and home buyers with the facts, and some guidance, concerning the use and safety of urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI).
SOURCE: CARSON DUNLOP

9 02, 2016

Getting Ready To Sell This Spring? Here Are Some Household Cleaning Tips!

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1. To clean bathroom tiles and grout naturally, try a solution of 1/2 cup of baking soda in 2 gallons (approx. 8 litres) of warm water. Apply with a clean rag or soft toothbrush.
2. To scrub out or blot a stain on a cushion with a slip-cover, put a sheet of plastic between the cushion and the fabric, to prevent the stain from becoming absorbed by the cushion.
3. Most shower curtains are machine washable. Wash yours with some water, detergent and a bit of bleach (for disinfecting), plus add a few towels for abrasion.
4. To clean your dishwasher, consult your dishwasher manual for cleaning instructions, as the methodology may differ based on the interior finish of your machine. Most recommend running the machine with either vinegar, a light bleach-in-water solution, or a brand-name cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.

13 01, 2016

TOP 5 LOFTS IN LESLIEVILLE

Top5LoftsInLeslieville
Working in the Leslieville/Riverside area, we often have clients ask us which condos and lofts we think are the coolest in the neighbourhood. After a recent meeting with a new client who asked us this same question, we decided it would be a good idea to write a list of our Top 5 Lofts In Leslieville. It wasn’t easy because there are a lot of great ones to choose from but here’s our top 5!
1
68 Broadview was built in 1914 and the building originally served as a Rexall Warehouse. In 2007, The Sorbara Group converted this building in to true hard lofts that are absolutely stunning! They salvaged several of the building’s original fixtures and hardware, and redistributed them within the building.

images_broadviewlofts

What makes The Broadview Lofts so cool?
• Tongue and groove wood ceilings
• Exposed brick walls
• Fantastic management with current maintenance fees around $0.39 per square foot
• Roof top terrace and large party room with unobstructed views of the Toronto skyline

# of units: 154
# of storeys: 6
Walk Score: 86

2
The Wrigley building dates back to the early 1900s and was once home to a Wrigley’s chewing gum factory. The building was converted to hard lofts in 1998 and maintains its authenticity from top to bottom. As soon as you step inside the front entrance and onto the original elevator, you feel like you’ve gone back in time. The Wrigley Lofts have been known to attract photographers, fashion designers and entrepreneurs to name a few.

images_wrigley

What makes Wrigley so cool?
• Massive warehouse windows
• Concrete mushroom columns
• A wide array of different sized units with different finishes
• Open concept living
• 14 foot ceilings
• Live/Work building

# of units: 79
# of storeys: 5
Walk Score: 95

3
The Garment Factory was converted into residential units in 2008. Atria Developments did a phenomenal job of integrating the old and new parts of the building seamlessly with a combination of traditional old brick and modern additions of steel and glass on the upper levels.

images_garmentfactory

What makes The Garment Factory so cool?
• Exposed concrete ceilings
• Restored concrete floors
• Large terraces and balconies
• Strong community feel
• Extremely pet friendly
• Live/Work building

# of units: 150
# of storeys: 8
Walk Score: 95

4
The Sync Lofts were completed in 2013 by Streetcar Developments. The exterior of the building is an esthetically appealing mixture of brick and glass and the interior is sophisticated and chic with modern advancements including built-in iPod docking stations and pre-wired speakers. You can’t beat this location with so many great shops, restaurants and bars just minutes away as well as Dark Horse Espresso Bar conveniently located on the main floor of the building.

images_sync

What makes The Sync Lofts so cool?
• Great layouts that maximize usable space
• A dog wash on the main level
• High-tech modern finishes
• Private rooftop terraces
• Large communal rooftop terrace with views of the iconic Riverside Bridge and the downtown skyline

# of units: 98
# of storeys: 8
Walk Score: 97

5
The IZone lofts were converted to residential units in 2002 by Atria. They are a cultural hub to artists, tech professionals and entrepreneurs. As you walk down the halls, you immediately look up to the industrial style lighting and exposed ducts that compliment the industrial and raw feel of the building.

images_izone

What makes IZone so cool?
• Ceilings ranging from 16 to 30 feet
• Skylights in many units
• Roof top decks on some of the units
• Large industrial double doors
• Open concept floors plans
• Live/Work Building

# of units: 104
# of storeys: 2
Walk Score: 95

15 11, 2015

WHAT TO CHECK ON YOUR FINAL PURCHASER VISIT

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When you purchase a home in Toronto, your Realtor will likely include at least 2 purchaser visits in the agreement of purchase and sale to occur before you close on the property. These visits can be used to make sure furniture fits, bring your family to see your new home, select paint colours, etc. You should plan to do your final purchaser visit a day or two before the closing date to ensure that everything is in order. Your Realtor will attend the purchaser visits with you and can help to answer any questions you might have. Now remember, you don’t own the home yet so there is a good chance that you will see moving boxes scattered around and the place might seem to be in disarray. This is normal (within reason). If your final purchaser visit takes place a day before closing and the house is full of garbage, no furniture has been moved and there is a car in the driveway with no tires on it, your realtor should definitely investigate further as it’s not likely that all of this will be resolved in one night.

Here is a list of things to look for during your final purchaser visit:

• Inspect ceilings, walls and floors for any damage that did not exist at the time you made your offer
• Turn on and off every light switch
• Test heating and air conditioning
• Test any exhaust fans
• Test all appliances
• Open and close all windows
• Test all of the outlets
• Check around all visible piping for leaks
• Run sink and tub water. Flush toilets
• Test the garage door opener
• Check for things that you thought would be included (appliances, light fixtures, etc)

10 06, 2014

Pros and cons of renting vs. buying a water heater

Buying a water heater may pay off over the years, but Ontario homeowners have, traditionally, preferred to rent.

In Ontario most homeowners rent a water heater, but in Alberta virtually nobody does.

It’s hard to explain the difference other than habit. Whether one or the other is a better deal depends on how you look at it. In straight cost terms, over time buying is a better deal. When you factor in convenience and hassle-free service for many people renting may be worth the extra cost.

The cost of renting in Ontario is between $13 and $26 a month from Direct Energy or Reliance Home Comfort depending on the size of the heater. You don’t have to worry about maintenance or replacement. When you buy you’re on the hook for any issues that arise after the warranty expires.

The heaters cost between $800 to $1,200 depending on the size, plus $300 to $400 to have them installed. Since a typical heater lasts about 15 years, owning trumps renting after six or seven years, assuming no maintenance is required over that time.

Warren Healy, president of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), says it’s important to read and understand the contract before you rent because it can be long and sometimes difficult to understand.

“Take the time to read through the document, have a friend or neighbour read it, and ask questions to ensure you understand what you are signing,” he said.

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