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Archive for May, 2018

Unlikely Canadian city attracting foreign buyers

Ottawa is experiencing a rental shortage, and savvy foreign investors are swooping in.

“There’s a shortage of inventory in the rental market here, so there’s a need for rental properties,” said Chris Lacharity, a sales representative with Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, which deals in the luxury market. “An astute buyer knows that. There are a lot of foreign buyers who buy for personal use, but there’s a lot of investment, too.”

The nation’s capital is situated between Toronto and Montreal—two cities with significant foreign buyer activity—so the presence of non-resident investors shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

“Ottawa is growing faster than it ever has, but there’s still growth potential,” said Lacharity. “It has a ways to go, in terms of growth, but it’s also a capital city, a government city. It has rivers and lakes, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. If you have a family, it’s safe and hasn’t experienced all the issues that come with large metropolises. It’s also close to Montreal and Toronto.”

Montreal has arguably the hottest real estate market in Canada right now. Government initiatives brought in to cool skyrocketing housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto are believed to be responsible for that. But Ottawa is another city in the midst of a renaissance. In addition to an LRT project, it has a thriving tech sector, robust student population, and well-paying government jobs.

It is also very stable—and given investors’ distaste for volatility, that’s perfect.

“Real estate doesn’t just shoot up, it conservatively rises here 3-5% on average,” said Lacharity, adding foreign buyers park money in the city’s real estate. “It’s a pretty safe bet for that.”

Bernadette Deschenes of Your Choice Realty notes overheating in Toronto and Vancouver are catalysts for foreign buyer activity in Canada’s capital city. But the city’s two universities have also impelled foreign buyers into action.

“They buy more student residences, like condos or townhomes,” said Deschenes. “Most of our foreign buyers are buying for their children who are attending university. We have a huge student population in this city. There’s a fair bit of older brownstone that’s near Ottawa U in the Sandy Hill region.”

May 9th 2018 – by Neil Sharma of REP magazine



OREA rallies voters ahead of election

The Ontario Real Estate Association is leading the charge to remedy the unaffordability crisis that’s gripped the province, and especially its largest city, just in time for the provincial election June 7.

Unaffordability has become especially acute among millennials aged 25 to 34, and OREA believes several of its proposals are the panacea they need.

“Housing has one of the highest taxes after alcohol and tobacco, so lower the tax burden on first-time homebuyers,” said OREA’s CEO Tim Hudak. “The second suggestion is to increase the supply, particularly for starter homes, and put more and more options into the market. The third is to focus on the missing middle – these are often stacked townhouses or mid-rises in our cities. Too often, outdated municipal zoning bylaws restrict them, but they’re a perfect solution for millennials looking for their first homes, and also for empty nester parents who want to stay near their grandkids but can’t find a place.”

Missing middle housing could free up homes and succour mobility – and, in the process, lower prices. However, inefficiencies must first be addressed.

“To their credit, the government is putting a lot of money into subway expansion and LRTs, but it makes no sense to limit development around them to two or three storeys. They would be the perfect location for mid-rise housing. A lot of Canadians would love to live above a subway or GO station, given our weather patterns.”

The Ontario Real Estate Association has launched an initiative called Keep the Dream Alive in which citizens can lobby their MPPs with open letters elucidating their concerns.

Hudak, a former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, says that homeownership is a priority for all three political parties, but an accumulation of policies has resulted in soaring price points.

“Over time, there’s been an accumulation of government actions that have made finding a home more expensive and more difficult, or even getting a mortgage more challenging for young people,” he said. “That has accelerated in the last two years. Affordability is always a concern, but it was nowhere near as high on the priority list as a political issue as it is today. That comes from a lot more demand, millennials coming of age, more immigration, a stronger economy, and sustained low mortgage rates combined with lack of supply. There are a lot more people chasing fewer homes.”

A poll commissioned by OREA found 83% of millennials aged 25 to 34 still believe in homeownership but lament its unaffordability. The poll also revealed housing affordability ranks highly with environmental degradation.

“For the first time in 130 years, the dominant form of housing for millennials aged 25 to 34 is still with mom and dad,” continued Hudak. “The old homesteading days have come back. Again, I’m not talking people just out of college; these are people with careers and who are thinking of getting married and having kids.”

Royal LePage has studied ‘peak millennials’ (aged 25 to 30) at length and one of the findings was that 61% of them were willing to relocate and change jobs to own a home.

“What I believe we will see happen, because people desire homeownership so greatly, is some migration of people to other areas other than our biggest cities,” said Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage. “We will see migration of young families from Vancouver and Toronto to, say, Kelowna and London, ON. That’s going to happen. Moving to Oshawa or Burlington doesn’t change the cost dynamics enough for a lot of people.”

Soper added that people have already become tolerant of longer commute times, and that it will continue into the future.

“They live farther than the city cores in order to own a home,” he said. “They’re allocating personal time to commuting.”

As expensive as housing has become, Hudak does not believe the point of no return has passed.

“The provincial election is June 7 and municipal elections are in October,” he said. “It’s the perfect time for millennials, and their baby boomer parents who love them dearly but want them out of the house, to push for commitments at a political level.”

by Neil Sharma, reproduced with permission. May 4, 2018

Majority of young Ontarians feel home ownership is unattainable


The results of a new study conducted by Nanos Research Corporation for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) showed that despite the provincial government’s plan to help make residential properties more affordable, 68.5% of young Ontarians agree or somewhat agree that home ownership remains unaffordable in their neighbourhood.

OREA stated that the research underlines the importance of affordable home ownership among voters who will participate in June’s provincial election this year. Fully seven in 10 Ontarian millennials agree or somewhat agree that they are more likely to vote for a political party that is committed to helping them own homes.

“The dream of home ownership is slipping away for an entire generation of young people,” OREA CEO Tim Hudak said. “Nearly half of Ontarians between the ages of 25 and 34 are still living at home with their parents. These are people who’ve done everything right – gone to school, worked hard, paid down their student loans – yet they’re struggling to take that next step in life to own a home. We need action to address this problem.”

78% of Ontario’s millennials agree or somewhat agree that the government needs to do more to help young people overcome the housing affordability hurdles. Saving enough for the down payment is the most significant obstacle to owning a home for 41% of young Ontarians, followed by getting a mortgage approved at 22%.

Moreover, the problem extends beyond the young generation. 58.7% of non-millennials in the province agree or somewhat agree that home ownership is unaffordable in their neighbourhoods.

“To date, most government action has been around higher taxes or making a mortgage more expensive – none of this is helping people get into the housing market,” Hudak explained. “It is time to take a different path. Keeping home ownership within reach comes down to increasing housing supply in Ontario, particularly ‘missing middle’ housing, like townhomes and mid-rises, and providing first time home buyers with some relief like increasing the first-home buyer tax rebate and helping with down payments.”

By Ephraim Vicina

with permission from REP magazine

22 unit owners living in condos registered to someone else

In a Toronto townhouse development, 22 unit owners are living in condos registered to someone else — their real estate lawyers were not showing due diligence.

How is it that 22 condominium owners in a north Toronto project do not own the units they are living in?

This is the case at Liberty Walk Condominiums, an attractive stacked townhouse development. It was completed in March 2003 after a disastrous fire two years earlier destroyed the entire project during the course of construction.

In a letter to unit owners last month, the property manager reported that the condominium corporation has been made aware that the location of and registered title to a number of townhouses in the project do not match the physical units in which the owners are residing.

The affected project is Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 1513. To date, the corporation is aware that 22 unit owners are living in townhouses that someone else in the complex owns. 

Back in 2014, two owners in the project discovered that they owned each other’s units and exchanged deeds with the help of their lawyers.

In addition to the 22 affected townhouses, the same issue may affect other blocks of townhouses and some of the parking units may have been transferred to the incorrect unit owners.  The number of affected units is currently unknown.  

This situation did not suddenly arise. In the 15 years since the creation of the condominium, many of these units have changed hands four, five and even six times – and at no point was the discrepancy discovered.  That means that in more than 80 or 100 transactions, the purchasers were probably not shown the floor plans of the condominium to verify the location of their units.

How did this happen? In my view, it is the obligation of the real estate lawyer and perhaps even the real estate agent, to obtain a copy of the condominium plans and review them with the buyers to make sure they are buying the correct unit. Unfortunately some real estate lawyers are not doing so.

Back in 2011, in a court case in which I was an expert witness, Justice Darla Wilson wrote in her decision, “I agree with the opinion expressed by Aaron that it is the lawyer’s responsibility when acting for a purchaser of a condominium unit to ensure that the client is getting title to what they believe they have transacted for.   In order to confirm this, the client must be shown the plans to ensure that their unit is the one identified, in the correct location, the size, whether it has a terrace which might be an exclusive use common element, whether it is a single storey unit or multi-level.”

That decision, and my opinion, was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers for purchasers can obtain copies of condominium plans to review with their clients for $15.  Despite this nominal cost, it appears from the Liberty Walk situation that some real estate lawyers may not be spending the money or taking the time to ensure their clients are buying the correct dwelling, parking and locker units.

Who is going to pay for correcting the titles?  The Liberty Walk condominium corporation has reviewed the problem with its lawyers and, despite the contents of hundreds of status certificates issued over the years, has denied any responsibility. 

The property manager’s letter to unit owners says that this is a matter that “unit owners’ real estate lawyers (should) review in any purchase or sale of condominium units.”

A notation of this issue has been added to future status certificates issued by the corporation.

Ultimately, the title insurers for the buyers will have to spend the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to exchange all 22 deeds, and discharge and re-register the mortgages on each unit.

Written by Toronto real estate lawyer Bob Aaron, a frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents. 
He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.