Saturday, February 28, 2015

Toronto Home Prices Up 10 per cent - February 2015

Figures published by the Toronto Real Estate Board said that the annual price growth continued to be driven by the tight low-rise market segment, with double-digit growth reported for detached and semi-detached homes.

The average selling price for a house in Toronto for the first half of February 2015 was $602,110, a 10.3 per cent increase compared to the average reported for the same period in 2014.

"With tight market conditions continuing to prevail in most parts of the Greater Toronto Area, especially where low-rise home types are concerned, it is no surprise that we continue to see strong competition between buyers leading to robust annual rates of price growth," said Jason Mercer, TREB's director of market analysis.

TREB also reported a 14.9 per cent increase in the number of sales entered in the Toronto MLS system during the first two weeks of February compared to the same period in 2014.

There was a total of 3,120 home sales during the first 14 days of February 2015.

The number of new listings entered into the system was also up on a year-over-year basis, but by a lesser annual rate of 3.5 per cent.

"As households continue to take advantage of the great diversity of homeownership options in the Greater Toronto Area, home sales have continued to trend upwards," said Paul Etherington, president of TREB.

"While home prices are higher compared to this time last year, borrowing costs are lower. Homebuyers are still finding affordable options to meet their housing needs."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Furnace working overtime this winter? Here's how to keep it in fighting form

When the temperature gets this cold, the first thing homeowners should do is head to the basement.

Sounds like an old-timey advice for cooling down on a sweltering summer day, but in this case it’s important that Ontarians take some preventative measures with their heating systems. In this very cold weather, furnaces work overtime to keep a house warm, especially those homes that are less-than-optimally insulated (as many of our area’s older houses are), and if your furnace has been neglected, it might be worth a trek downstairs.

Last winter in Ontario, when the temperature fell below -15°C, Direct Energy says it saw a 24% increase in heating system calls compared with days when the temperature was -14°C or warmer.

To avoid having the furnace break down during this week’s cold weather, here are some helpful tips about your furnace.

Know the warning signs. Listen for strange noises, frequent cycling on and off, signs of rust, leaks and trouble reaching the set temperature. Get on the phone to a licensed service person pronto.

Change your furnace filter every three months. We all know this, but do we do it? (Clearly the owners of this furnace above, didn’t.) Clean filters help air flow and ensure the furnace isn’t being over worked.

Make sure cold air return vents aren’t blocked. Don’t even place a cabinet or dresser in front — let it breathe. The furnace needs to be able to draw air in to rewarm it.

Correct installation and maintenance Use a pro, and only a pro. It can be a safety hazard if anything is done incorrectly, and that can also make a big difference to the furnace’s efficiency — and as a result, your heating bill. Make sure regular maintenance is done on it, generally in the fall before the long heating season begins.

Clean the air ducts. Dust, debris and pet hair can clog the ventilation system; cleaning the ducts helps ensure adequate heat is circulating throughout the house.

Clear debris and snow from outdoor vents. Yes, you must go out into that frigid weather.

Seal all window leaks with caulking and weather stripping. Caulking one window that’s more than 10 years old can save as much as 5% to 10% in heating costs.

And if you should have to replace a furnace, here are some tips to help you choose the right one for your home:

Size matters Let someone else make the decision about which furnace would be best for your house. A pro will examine the size of the house and determine the size of the furnace necessary. A furnace that is neither to large nor too small will be able to regulate a constant temperature.

Don’t buy on price alone Always ask a pro about annual operating costs for any new furnace. While price should not necessarily be the determining factor for a purchase, know that its efficiency can be low if you pay a low price; if you pay more now, your savings on heating costs will still be evident in 10 or 15 years.

Get the right documentation Any reputable installer or manufacturer will include the purchase agreement and warranty information and explain in detail what you are getting with your purchase. If you feel confused or unsure about anything, ask. It’ll be too late once it’s installed.

Fewer emissions If you’re trying to be environmentally conscious, especially at the cottage, research some dual-fuel or alternate-fuel options. One Napoleon furnace, the Hybrid 150, switches from wood to oil or electricity automatically, and if the furnace runs out of wood a second thermostat will keep the house nice and toasty even if you are not at home.

And of course, improve your home’s insulation. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to stay warm and cut down on energy bills. Probably can’t do that this week, but it’s worth doing soon, as we know our winters can be long.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Price Gap Between Toronto Houses, Condos Hits Record High

The growing price gap between condominiums and houses hit a record high last year in the Toronto area, as the market saw a huge jump in the number of newly built condos and buyers battled over a persistent shortage of houses.

The average price of a low-rise home in the Toronto area hit $705,813 in 2014, up 8 per cent from the year before, while the average price of a high-rise unit rose just 4 per cent to $454,476, according to new data from real estate research firm RealNet Canada Inc. and the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

The gap between condos and houses grew 16 per cent in December compared to a year earlier, hitting a record of more than $251,000. (Low-rise homes consist of houses, including detached and semi-detached houses, townhomes and link homes, while high-rises encompass all condos and lofts.)

The growing price divide comes as developers have been under pressure to shrink the size of new condo units to keep costs down, while an insatiable appetite for houses, coupled with a shortage of supply, has driven up the cost of low-rise development.

“It’s creating a bit of an extremity condition in the market,” said RealNet president George Carras. “Living in a ground-oriented home is really becoming further and further out of reach.”

The story is largely one of government policy, not of low interest rates and easy credit, Carras says. Provincial intensification and land-use policies have limited new development in the greenbelt around the Greater Toronto Area and encouraged more density, helping to drive up the price of new homes and increase the supply of new condos. Last year saw a near-record number of 25,571 condo completions in the region, up from about 16,668 the year before.

While much of the jump in condo development is concentrated in the downtown Toronto core, the price gap between the two forms of housing has been spilling outward into suburbs like Mississauga and Vaughan, where detached homes can sell for as much as $1-million and a shortage of available land has also driven development toward high-rise projects.

Despite the growing price disparity, 2014 was a good year for sales of both houses and condos, with house sales jumping 46 per cent to 17,745 and condo sales up 38 per cent to 21,991. After years of shrinking condos, the average unit size increased slightly last year, from 796 to 816 square feet. The average price per square foot jumped 2 per cent to $557. Condo developers also shifted back toward building more two-bedroom condos after years of building mainly one-bedroom units. The proportion of new condos that were two bedrooms rose from 31 per cent in 2013 to 40 per cent last year, while one-bedroom units fell from 61 per cent to 48 per cent.

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