Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd, Brokerage
HELEN BRAITHWAITE - SALES REPRESENTATIVE
CHESTNUT PARK REAL ESTATE LTD., BROKERAGE
1300 Yonge Street, Suite 100 Toronto, Ontario M4T 1X3
416-925-9191 helenbraithwaite@chestnutpark.com

Toronto Luxury Real Estate: Know your countertops!


The options for countertop surfaces are more plentiful than ever today, with new products coming to market all the time. I’ve put together a rundown of countertop choices with a short description of each type. Hopefully this will help you educate yourself fully on the differences before making a selection. 

Natural Stones

Granite:

In terms of durability and cleaning, this natural stone surface is the hardiest of all. The biggest issue is that you have to make sure you see the actual slabs that will be installed as each piece is unique. I had granite for years and loved it. The environmentalist may not favour granite as these gorgeous slabs come from the ground and require large quarries in natural settings to extract the stone. The variety is extensive from veiny to speckled in numerous shades from browns to greys and even pinks. I used a simple marble and stone cleaner on mine and they cleaned up beautifully. You can just use soap and water for daily cleaning.

Marble:

Marble is another natural stone option. Both Calacatta and Carrara are very popular right now such that prices have gone up and the availability has become limited. There are many other types of marble, though, and colour and pattern options are plentiful. Marble is stunning but maintenance is required as marble is far more porous than granite and can stain. Some people are very happy with letting their marble become patinaed as it will tell the story of their life, while others want to keep its pristine look. Regular sealing will protect from staining. My feeling about that is that it somewhat defeats the purpose of choosing a natural product. Marble and stone cleaners do work well on this surface as do daily soap and water. 

Quartzite:

Quartzite is a natural stone that is often confused with quartz, a composite countertop material. Quartzite has very bold and busy patterns that don’t appeal to everyone, but in the right application they can look fabulous. Quartzite is much more tolerant to heat than quartz countertops, which is an important feature for many. It should be sealed as it can stain but it is a hardy surface. 

Limestone:

Limestone is a softer surface that is extremely porous so if you are planning on placing these counters in a high traffic area you may want to think twice. They will stain more easily than marble. It is suggested that you use a neutral pH cleaner and a microfiber cloth to clean. 

Soapstone:

Soapstone is a very durable choice for a countertop as it is a softer stone that is flexible and therefore is less prone to chipping. Be aware that soapstone darkens over time so if you are looking for a light counter this would not be a good choice.  A neutral pH cleaner and microfiber cloth are suggested along with soap and water for daily cleaning.

Porcelain:

When this product first came out, I was very impressed with it. The surface is hard, non- porous and can tolerate a hot pot. It comes in a variety of styles including a marble look. The problem with a surface mimicking a natural stone is that there is a lot of repetition in the pattern in contrast to the natural stone where each piece is unique. My other complaint with porcelain is that it can chip quite easily, just like a coffee mug, and cannot be repaired. This is not a choice I would recommend. 

Synthetic Stones

Quartz:

A quartz is engineered with the same quartz crystals found in quartzite, but a man-made process binds the crystal with resin, pigments and other materials such as bits of glass. Within the past few decades there has been a huge trend toward these counter surfaces. They are sold as durable, low-maintenance and non-staining. There are a few things I need to point out, however. They are sold as a quartz composite, which is true, but what the consumer also needs to know is that different manufacturers have different levels of quartz in their products. Caesarstone is a very popular brand that dominates in the synthetic countertop market; however, they have a very low natural quartz content (roughly 3%) and are actually almost all synthetic. Silestone another Quartz brand is on the other end of the spectrum with 95% natural stone but has a more limited selection of colours.  Quartz is a newer product so there are a lot of misconceptions about the durability. Caesarstone cannot have any acidic or abrasive cleaners used on it and it cannot tolerate any heat unlike a natural stone surface. Caesarstone touts that its surface is more heat-tolerant than natural stone, however they do caution not to put a hot pan (300°F) on the Caesarstone surface. My personal experience is a large crack on the counter near the coffee maker that only heats the coffee to 200°F. I spoke to a cabinetmaker that had attended a Caesarstone seminar and they were told these counters are not heat resistant. If you choose this surface understand you need to use a potholder for hot pots, cookie sheets, coffee carafes, etc., for if you do not protect this surface from heat it will crack. Unfortunately, contractors, designers and cabinetmakers were not all privy to this information and the product is sold as durable and heat safe. Hot water and Palmolive cleans stains very well, in addition to good old elbow grease. Abrasive or acidic cleaners should not be used.

One more important point about these synthetic counters I discovered while doing research for this blog article is that there is a huge health risk to factory workers manufacturing these surfaces. The silica content of these countertops gets airborne when the counters are being manufactured and workers are developing a lung disease known as “Silicosis” from breathing in this fine silica particulate. It is important to know where these countertops are manufactured and to stick to a reputable North American brand that takes the proper precautions for their workers.  Frustrating news, as you’d think by choosing a man-made product you are saving the earth from further depletion of natural stone. There are pros and cons to everything.

One more thing to note is that, much like the porcelain, the patterns imitating natural stone have a repeat to them. With a small surface it isn’t a big deal but on a larger surface it becomes a little redundant. 

Corian:

This is a Corian counter top with a marble back splash. A practical choice as Corian doesn’t stain and patina in the way marble does.

Corian is the first generation of synthetic countertops and it is having a renaissance. Architects love this surface as you can make an entire island, inclusive of the sink, with this product. Corian is not heat resistant at all, so trivets to protect the surface are very important. Corian can scratch but scratches can also be buffed out quite easily, and it is low-maintenance in that you can actually scratch out stains that occur. For a bad stain on Corian the manufacturer does suggest bleach but not to keep in on the surface for an extended period of time. Bar Keepers Friend is a useful product that works quite well to remove coffee and tea stains.  

Laminate:

This was the mid-century suburbia countertop of choice with Arborite being the industry leader.  This surface is still used for those on a limited budget and for areas such as the laundry room. It is heat-sensitive but is quite resistant to staining. This surface is a thin veneer over plywood or MDF so extreme humidity can cause it to delaminate.

Other countertop options

Wood:

For those looking for a rustic look this is a great and practical choice as you can chop and cut right on the surface. It is prone to staining, however, and too much water can cause warping and deterioration of the wood surface. You can’t put a hot pan on it as it could burn the surface.  I would never suggest an entire counter in wood, but a section makes a great prep area. Mild soap and water for daily cleaning; oil it regularly to protect the surface. 

Bamboo:

Bamboo is becoming an eco-friendly countertop choice. It is durable; however, it is not heat-resistant and is prone to scratches and warping from water. Bamboo is technically a grass and therefore is very renewable, so it’s a good choice for the eco-conscious. 

Metal:

Many find the look of a stainless steel countertop a bit industrial, but it does have its place in certain homes. It is also very practical from a health perspective as it is very easy to keep clean. If you do install stainless steel counters, do know that they show everything and will scratch easily. You must really wipe well to get the streaks off them. Simple hot water and soap with a microfiber cloth will clean up well until the next fingerprint arrives. Stainless can tolerate the heat of a pot.

Glass:

Glass counters are non-porous so they are not prone to staining, but they can scratch over time. I have seen some lovely glass countertops installed but you need to ensure you have a qualified company that is manufacturing the correct glass for a countertop application. There is a new product called White Glass that only comes in pure white. White Glass is heat tolerant, unlike the Simple White Caesarstone countertop that requires protection form extreme heat to prevent cracking. 

Concrete:

Concrete countertops are becoming very popular. They are very durable and heat-resistant if the proper finish is done. They make concrete in many different colours that can work with any palette.

Over the years, my countertops have included: honed granite, stainless steel, wood, laminate, marble, Corian, porcelain and Caesarstone quartz. My experience in living day-to-day with these surfaces puts granite at the top of my list of favourites in terms of durability and ease of maintenance. The issue is that sourcing a nice granite is becoming more difficult as quarries become depleted. Marble is my next favourite as I am ok with a little patina, but again the stone is becoming depleted. If I do put a quartz product in my home again, I will ensure that all measures are taken to protect it from heat as well as make sure it was manufactured in a factory that is taking the necessary measures to properly protect their workers. As much as I want to support an eco-friendly product l don’t think I could deal with the maintenance of bamboo on a countertop.  I am willing to explore concrete as I think it has become much more aesthetically pleasing now that there are colour options. 

In my research I found a great website:

countertopspecialty.com that gives a full rundown on care for the variety of counter surfaces. For further details this is a great resource. 

 

Helen Braithwaite, Real Estate Representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Chairman’s Award 2017,2018 Director’s Award 2016


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Toronto Luxury Real Estate September Market Update

September Toronto real estate average sales price for the entire Toronto Market including the GTA rose 6% which is a little disturbing as wage and salary increases are only 3.5%- 3.8% which causes concerns about affordability. The Central Toronto Market (416) rose only 4.3% which shows that the 905 area has corrected to the point that value is seen in those areas.

We continue to have a lack of inventory down 4% year over year with just 17,254 properties listed for sale in the GTA which is just 1.9 months of inventory.  The average days on market for properties listed  is just 23 days in the GTA and just 19 days in Central Toronto (416) area.

It is also interesting the the Toronto Average Sale price is getting quite close to Vancouver and actually the average sale price for condominium apartments in Toronto and Vancouver are virtually the same $650,000 in Vancouver and $636,000 in Toronto ($719,00 in the central core). Semi Detached command a higher average sales price in Toronto $1,069,119 versus $767,000 in Vancouver. Detached homes in Vancouver are just a hint higher at $1,406,000 vs $1.360,623 in Central Toronto (416). Toronto will soon have the most expensive real estate in Canada!

There have been quite a few significant sales in the Rosedale, Leaside, Annex and Forest Hill, Lawrence Park areas. If you would like an update on recent sales in your area I am happy to provide full details for you and some have traded off market that I am aware of.

Helen Braithwaite

Chestnut Park Real Estate, Sales Representative

Chairman’s Award 2016, 2017


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Toronto Real Estate: Should We Welcome Sidewalk Labs?

UPDATE:

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto reach a deal to proceed with the Quayside Project.

The Sidewalk Labs have received city approval for the smaller scale development for their incubator of new technologies applied to an urban landscape. They had pushed for a much more ambitious project that was to include the Portlands area but public push back forced the plan to return to the original size proposed of just 19 acres.  TTC Transit to the area is not yet resolved. Sidewalk Labs are working with the city to come up with an LRT project for the Quayside project. 

ORIGINAL POST:

Sidewalk Labs  is a very provocative proposal to have a section of downtown Toronto revitalized using  cutting edge technology  and design to create a community that will be a testing ground for future urban development around the world.  I recently read  Toronto Life’s September 2019 Article, “Sidewalk Wars”. I was so excited by the prospect of this technologically-advanced “smart city” within a city when the Sidewalk Lab development was announced by the parent company of  Google, Alphabet Inc. The project had started with a mere 12-acre development site but the vision has now expanded to include the 153 acres of River District Quayside in the belief that 12 acres wasn’t enough to achieve their true goal of a completely technology-savvy community with sensors and cameras throughout.  This area is to be the test bed of new technology with the idea of creating efficiencies for urban living.  As with any change, there is controversy! Visionaries such as Richard Florida promote this idea, whereas privacy advocates such as Shoshana Zuboff are extremely against this progressive development.

Sidewalk Lab Toronto Waterfront Proposal (Toronto Life Sept 2019)

Years ago, Toronto city planners made mistakes by allowing condo development and the Gardiner Expressway to cut the waterfront off from the rest of the city. Attempts have been made to improve the waterfront with upgraded trail systems and access points. The Power Plant Gallery adds some culture to the area, but we have much to do to to improve access, utility and vitality to the waterfront.

The Sidewalk Labs project is planned for an undeveloped wasteland and is critical to maximizing useable space in Toronto to curb urban sprawl and provide housing for both owners and renters as well as some much-needed subsidized housing. Integrating living with services, restaurants, shops and community centres is wonderful, especially in the core and close to the waterfront.

Privacy has become the hot-button issue right now and concerns about it could prevent progress, unfortunately. I understand the need for privacy and enjoy mine for sure, however a tool that tracks patterns to allow city planners to build infrastructure that allows for efficiencies in urban life is something I support.  To have garbage cans send a signal that they are full so we don’t have garbage or recycling spilling onto sidewalks is a good thing. To have synchronized traffic lights that change according to true traffic patterns is a good thing. To build sidewalks and trails based on the pedestrian walking patterns is a good thing.  I do not want video cameras inside my home, however I have no problem with putting them in public spaces where sensors and cameras are critical to both safety and acquiring the need for human patterns. I think the lines of privacy are currently blurred.  To me, sensors showing human patterns are not a violation of privacy as that is a measurement of human activity, not my personal pattern. The more we know about human activity, the better for urban planners.

I am frustrated that there are so many naysayers to this project. We have a unique opportunity to have this world-class testing lab of how we live to help design further developments to suit our living patterns in the most environmentally-friendly way, but Toronto may not be brazen enough to take this leap and I think that would be a shame. I understand the need to be cautious–but not obstructionist–with such a leading-edge project in our city. Those who travel have seen some leading edge urban planning in other major centres, such as self-illuminating pavement, underground waste systems, ice melting pavers, green build design, self driving vehicles and moveable awnings for inclement weather. I agree with Mohamed Lachemi, President of Ryerson University: Toronto needs to take a risk or we will miss out on the development happening around the world.

Sidewalk Labs isn’t the only innovative development happening at the Waterfront. First Gulf’s East Harbour development is another project which I discussed on my blog in 2018. The news this month is that Cadillac Fairview has purchased the development to continue on this grand plan for development near the Lower Don.

When met with any controversy the City of Toronto seems to shut down and choose the path of least resistance.  Toronto’s underdeveloped TTC subway system is a prime example of this. Please Toronto, let’s step up to the plate and embrace all this exciting development that will take our world-class city to the next level. All levels of government need to embrace innovative businesses and collaborate, because if development is left purely in the hands of bureaucrats, nothing happens.

Helen Braithwaite

Real Estate Representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Chairman’s 2017, 2o18

 


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Toronto Real Estate August 2019 Market Report

August real estate sales reveal a stable market with modest price increases and healthy sales. The biggest surprise is the growth in the number of sales in the 905 area versus the 416 area which is a result of both a greater number of properties available in addition to the perception of value as prices had been down substantially in that area since the foreign buyer tax was implemented in 2017. The 416 area continues to have a lack of supply which keeps the average sale price strong.

The 416 area of Toronto which includes a portion of Central, East and West district

For the full Chestnut Park market report
Toronto_Report_Aug2019


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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: Kitchens are worth the investment

Kitchens are probably the best return on investment if you renovate but do choose wisely and make decisions that accurately reflect the property. I have renovated my share of kitchens in my life and have seen a variety of options. I am currently embarking on a new build and have for the first time decided to work with a kitchen company rather than a cabinetmaker that constructs the cabinets based on an architect’s drawings. Architects are great at design but kitchen layouts and cupboard customizing aren’t always their strong suit.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. One thing about a cabinetmaker is that they can customize sizes to fit the kitchen dimensions like a glove, save for filler pieces that may be required as walls are rarely 100% straight. You can choose how you would like the kitchen constructed whether it be wood, MDF, stainless steel or even Corian cabinets. You can request things like dovetail drawers, upper-end hardware with soft close and any handle you would like to use. I have had some stunning wood customized kitchens done by cabinetmakers and we have been happy. Wood is always unstable, though; it is sensitive to heat and humidity so you need to choose a cabinetmaker that is capable of producing a product that withstands these conditions that are common in kitchens. There is a definite trend away from wood in kitchens to other materials such a stainless steel and even a composite plastic material as they are more durable than wood.

After visiting showrooms I realized there are definite benefits to using a kitchen design company versus a cabinetmaker. They have full optionality for drawers with a purpose as well as amazing corner cupboard units that make full use of space that is often wasted or difficult to access.

For those on a budget I must say IKEA kitchens have come a long way. If you have just bought your first home in Trinity Bellwoods, Leslieville, Riverdale, Roncesvalles or Dovercourt Village an IKEA kitchen may well be the best way to provide a nice return on investment. There are a few other cabinet companies that provide quality without a huge expense. I had my laundry room cabinets updated by Summerhill Kitchens and they did an excellent job with great attention to detail at a reasonable cost.

IKEA Cabinets

For a luxury property in an upscale neighbourhood it is important to invest in a quality kitchen with quality appliances as buyers are expecting that. Trust me, the discerning buyer notices the difference.

Poliform Kitchen

In my search for a new kitchen for a home we are building we looked at three European kitchen manufactures as we like the contemporary style: Poggenpohl (German)  Poliform(Italian) and Bulthaup(German).

Poggenpohl Kitchen

I liked the aesthetic of all three of these and they all provide a quality product. However Bulthaup stood out to us as it provided a balance of a quality product with the highest level of customization in every aspect of the kitchen. Bulthaup offers unique wood cabinet door fronts that are solid core with a veneer of the same wood laid vertically to the horizontal piece to add stability. A lacquered white MDF cabinet will complement the wood cabinets and lighten up the kitchen but the wood cupboards will add warmth. Both Poliform and Bulthaup provided an amazing corner pantry mechanism to utilize what can become dead space if not properly accessible. We plan to enjoy the home we are building for a few years, but maybe not forever, so I feel a branded kitchen will be a great marketing tool when we go to sell the home.

Bulthaup B3 Kitchen

For loft-dwellers Bulthaup offers two lines, B1 and B2, a moveable, open-concept kitchen idea in which the pieces are more like furniture and can be moved with you when you sell. In a luxury home a kitchen should be fixed so the B3 option is the one for us; customized to make perfect use of the space we have and every drawer will have a purpose with the appropriate dividers.

Bulthaup B2 Moveable Kitchen Furniture Pieces

For those looking to support a homegrown talent right in Toronto, Downsview Kitchens provides both contemporary and traditional cabinets. They have been so successful providing a quality product that lasts over the years that they now have showrooms in Palm Beach, Philadelphia and Boston.

Downsview Traditional Kitchen

Smallbone kitchens from the UK are perfect for those looking for a more traditional look. Nigella Lawson would be very happy cooking in a well-appointed, signature Smallbone kitchen! They have been around for years and are a high-quality product. A Smallbone kitchen goes hand in hand with a stunning Aga Stove.

Smallbone Cabinetry

A quality kitchen requires quality appliances and Sub Zero,Wolf, La Cornue, Miele and Gaggenau seem to trump most other brands. With a more modest property, your money is  better spent on solid traditional brands like GE, LG, Fridgidaire, Dacor, and the slightly more upmarket Viking appliances, but not a luxury property. Appliances are a big part of the budget but you will make it up on resale by choosing quality.

Make sure as you do your kitchen you plan for each appliance you own and that the doors around the appliances are unencumbered,  the cupboards have the height requirements for you mixmaster, juicer, etc. as well as storage for you big pots and pans. A good kitchen designer will guide you through the planning so the end product is seamless.

Helen Braithwaite, Sales Representative, Chestnut Park Limited

Chairman’s 2017,2018


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Toronto Red Flag Campaign assists with Pedestrian Safety for Back to School

I am sure many people have seen the red flags at crosswalks around the city. I was confused as to what they were until I witnessed a little boy crossing the street by grabbing the red flag and waving it as he crossed the street on Summerhill Avenue by “The Ramp”. I realized how brilliant this is. It is hard to miss a red flag waving therefore makes it very clear to drivers there is a child crossing the street.

The bright orange flags are located at each corner of the intersection in canisters strapped to the Streetlight poles  It is quite simple for pedestrians to use: Take one flag, look both ways, maintain eye contact with the driver, cross street with flag held up in the air, place flag in the canister at the other side of the street. Further details can be found in this BlogTO post. 

As kids head back to school in September we should all be mindful of kids crossing at intersections. This red flag project will help us all notice young kids on there way to the schoolyard.

Wishing everyone a great end to summer and a smooth transition to your fall routines.

Warmest Regards,

Helen Braithwaite, Sale Representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

 


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Toronto Real Estate: July 2019 Market Report

A summary of July 2019 Toronto Real Estate Market

PREPARED BY:
Chris Kapches, LLB, President and CEO, Broker

CHESTNUT PARK REAL ESTATE LIMITED, BROKERAGE | CHESTNUTPARK.COM

July marks the 5th consecutive month of recovery in the Toronto and area residential resale market place. It started in March with 7,138 reported sales. Since March there have been substantive positive monthly variances compared to 2018, culminating in July’s performance.

In July there were 8,595 reported sales, a dramatic 24.3 percent increase compared to the 6,916 sales that were reported in July of last year. Reduced mortgage stress testing thresholds, marginal declines in mortgage interest rates, a strong economyand growing consumer confidence are some of the factors responsible for this string of positive monthly results.

Another market positive is that we are seeing increases in the average sale price for homes in the greater Toronto area, but modest increases consistent with the rise in wages and the consumer price index. In July the average sale price came in at $806,755, only 3.2 percent higher than the average sale price of $781,918 achieved last July. This is the forth connective month where increases on a year-over-year basis have averaged about 3 percent. These increases are very encouraging because they ensure market stability and sustainability.

Market disparity between the Toronto market (416 region) and the greater Toronto area (905 region) continues, although it is not as extreme as it was in 2018 and early 2019. For example: the average sale price in the City of Toronto was $840,000, but only $807,000 in the greater Toronto area. The months of inventory in the City of Toronto is only 1.8 months, and 2.4 months in the 905 regions. All properties sold in the City of Toronto, including all condominium apartments, sold for 100 percent of their asking price (on average) and for only 99 percent in the 905 regions. Lastly in the City of Toronto all new listed properties spent only 20 days on market before being reported sold, while in the 905 regions they spent 23 days on the market. To repeat, although the disparity persists it is declining and not as marked as it once was.

The most sought-after housing type in the greater Toronto area are semi-detached properties. There was a startling increase of 42.3 percent in reported sales of semi-detached properties in the City of Toronto compared to similar sales in July 2018, although price growth was restrained at 5 percent. At months end there were only 257 semi-detached properties available for sale in Toronto. This is very problematic, since 276 semi-detached properties were reported sold in July, more than the total inventory of available properties in August. Unless a plethora of properties come to market in August and the fall, semi- detached properties will be like unicorns in Toronto’s resale marketplace.

The lack if inventory continues to be a concern for the greater Toronto market place. In July 14,393 new listings came to market, almost 4 percent more than the 13,873 that came to market in 2018. Unfortunately, due to the string of absorption numbers over the last four months – over 36,000 properties have been reported sold since March – we enter August with only 17,938 active listings, almost 10 percent less than the 19,725 listings that were available to buyers last year.

Although strong sales numbers were reported for detached properties in July – detached property sales were up by almost 30 percent compared to last year – average sale prices declined by almost 10 percent. Detached property prices are experiencingthe whiplash effect. Leading up to April 2017 detached property values increased substantially higher than other propertytypes. During 2019 there has been a downward pull on detached property values, bringing them in line with other housing types, correcting the pre-April 2017 run up.

As has been forecast in these reports for the past few months, the future of the Toronto and area residential resale market is clear – anticipate monthly increases in sales volumes of at least 10 percent and increases in the average sale price of about3 percent compared to the same month last year. I do not believe that the fall election will have any significant impact on

Toronto’s housing market and any stimulation that might be experienced by further declines in mortgage interest rates will be tempered by the mortgage stress tests that remain in place.


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Welcoming Michelle Phillips to the team!

I would like to welcome Michelle Phillips to the team. Michelle graduated from Queen’s University with an Honours Science degree, specializing in Geography. Upon graduating, Michelle began working as a customer service representative at Tridel, the largest builder of condominiums in the Toronto area, where she gained significant knowledge of condominium construction and design. She assisted purchasers with the entire process from construction to occupancy in various Tridel buildings, including the Sherwood at Huntington. 

Michelle has a passion for design and is currently attaining her Advanced AutoCAD certificate for design and drafting. She will have the ability to create and read floor plans and layouts, an asset when working with clients in real estate. 

Michelle is very driven, and is known to push her limits with running, fitness, basketball and waterskiing. This approach will inform her work with clients as she will always be driven to do her best for them in any real estate transaction. 

I am excited to watch Michelle achieve success in her real estate career. 

Warmest Regards,

Helen Braithwaite,

Sales Representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Chairman’s Award 2017, 2018, Directors Award 2016


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June 2019 Toronto Real Estate Market Update

The June market report represents a very healthy Toronto real estate market with an increase in the number of sales and a modest increase in average sales prices. Toronto continues to struggle with affordability and even with the introduction of the first time buyers incentive program that will not help out first time buyers in the central core of Toronto.

Chris Kapches Market Report discussing the entire GTA

Central Toronto Statistics


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Luxury Real Estate: Thinking of a Toronto Condominium Purchase?


As an alternative to home ownership, many people are now looking to condominiums for a variety of reasons, chief among them being affordability, turn-key features and location.

Based on what I have seen in the entry-level condo market, I think it’s important to discuss that although condos are lower maintenance than a detached home, they, like all investments, do require some care and maintenance.

Whether you live in a condo or a house, when you own your property, you do need to invest in it. It’s important to know that a condo owner is responsible for all maintenance within the unit and that the condo corporation only maintains the common elements.

Some regular maintenance problems I have come across when showing condos…

  1. Most condo units have a heat pump within the unit. It can either be owned or rented, and you should make sure you are clear on which it is when you are buying. A rented unit can become another cost in addition to the maintenance fees.  Either way, the heat pump needs a service call every six months to have the filter inspected and cleaned so that it continues to work properly. If you have done any pre-move-in construction there may be a lot of dust clogging the filter. Mark on your calendar the times you need to get this inspected! The cost of the service call will always be less than the cost of major repairs.
  2. Make sure you clean your dryer ducts from time to time and always be sure to empty the dryer filter after each use.
  3. In a condo, your appliances are a big part of the investment. Be sure to clean them regularly and try not to ding them up. Poorly maintained appliances will devalue your unit.
  4. Bathroom tiles need cleaning regularly or calcification can occur, doing irreparable damage to them. If you are too busy, a bi-weekly cleaning service would be a prudent way to protect your investment.
  5. Kitchen drains are not designed for grease to be poured down them! This could cause grief in your entire building. Make sure grease goes into a can and is thrown in the garbage rather than dumped down the drain.
  6. Windows on your balcony are not always cleaned by the building’s semi-annual window cleaning as they are considered “exclusive use”. Take the time to clean them  seasonally or as dirt accumulates.
  7. Be respectful of the common areas. Part of your condo unit investment depends on a clean and pristine common area. Treat the common areas as you would your own space. I have been in condo buildings just a few years old with deep stains in the carpets. That will ultimately add to your maintenance costs as carpets will need replacing ahead of schedule.

If you notice a maintenance issue in a common area, let your building management know as soon as possible so that the issue can be quickly remedied.

Things you need to know when investing in a condo…

  1. Who was the builder? Are they reputable? Ask people who have bought units in the building or another building constructed by the builder.
  2. Is Airbnb, or any form of short term rental, allowed? Unless you are an investor, you want to make sure that Airbnb is not allowed. A minimum 6-month lease term would be ok, but 1-year is preferable. Short term rentals generally just add wear and tear to a building.
  3. What is the actual size of the unit? Make sure you understand how they have calculated the measurements. Builders have been known to take creative license, by including things like an outdoor space for instance, measuring from the interior wall.
  4. Do you want to buy pre-construction or re-sale? This is tricky.  There are benefits to buying straight from the builder in terms of price and having the opportunity to choose your finishes. You have to be quite savvy in reading plans and understanding exposure, however. Currently, construction costs have risen to the point that the value in buying pre-construction has diminished and you can actually find re-sale for less. If your priority is brand new, however, then pre-construction is the only way to go. Just be prepared to have occupancy dates change due to construction delays.  You are less likely to experience delays with a more experienced builder, but they do happen.
  5. What exposure is best? Southwest gives you the lightest and brightest spot but you have to look as what is being built nearby. Is there a chance a new building will be constructed and take the light?  North views in this city are actually lovely, frequently with nice ravine vistas. The indirect light is easier on your artwork and upholstery too.
  6. Do you want a large high-rise or a boutique building? If you want views, there is no doubt a high-rise is the way to go. One caveat about high-rise buildings is the possibility of lengthy elevator wait times. Ask the concierge about this or go view the unit at 5pm to see how busy it is. Boutique buildings offer a slightly quieter existence and, if they are a little older, can provide much larger units on a price-per-square-foot basis.
  7. With every condo purchase there is a Status Certificate that provides a rundown of the building’s financial statements, a review of the individual unit and a summary of the rules and regulations.  A very important thing to know, for example, would be if the building allows pets and if they do, what are the restrictions?
  8. Older buildings tend to offer more generously-sized units and for a lower price per square foot, however they also have higher maintenance costs. It will take a little number-crunching to decide if the large size is worth the additional maintenance fees.
  9. It is easy to get wooed by the fancy ammenities in new buildings. Gyms, pools, rooftop decks with BBQs, pool tables, screening rooms, sound studios, craft rooms, meditation rooms, guest suites, squash and racquetball courts, yoga studios…and the list goes on! A purchaser has to think long and hard about what value those amenities provide, and, more importantly, if they will use them. Also think about whether those amenities will require a refresh, update or repair in 5-10 years, which directly affects maintenance fees and/or whether an assessment is required.
  10. There are many small condos created from converted churches and old mansions in Toronto neighbourhoods that provide a unique condo experience that feels more like a home. Before stepping into a cute small condo building situation, however, make sure you meet the neighbours and feel comfortable that you all will make good business partners, because if there are a mere four units in a building, that is exactly what you will be.
  11. Parking. How important is it downtown? I always say having a designated owned or exclusive-use parking spot is very important for resale. New developments are now allowed to build without providing parking for all units. The trend is for walkability and leaving the car out of the model. Based purely on supply and demand, a coveted parking spot will only go up in value. If you are a true environmentalist and don’t want a car, that spot can be rented to someone within the building, but make sure you know the parking rental rules first.                                                     
  12. Downsizers, if you are considering making a shift from your suburban home to a city condo make sure you get a feel for the neighbourhood and condo life before taking the plunge.  There are many cool neighbourhoods in the downtown core but giving up a large lot, a wide driveway and lots of outdoor space is a big change! Test it out by staying in a hotel for a few days in the neighbourhood you are considering, do the math on the annual maintenance and tax costs and compare that to the costs of running your current home. Also understand that a downsize to a condo is exactly that if your plan is to take money out of the market. Go visit a few spaces to determine what square footage you are comfortable with. If you are buying based only on floor plans, ask to see some re-sale condos of similar size to make sure you can live with the space.
  13. If you view a condo that is in disrepair or just plain dirty it could be an opportunity to get the unit for a good price. It is not that expensive to get cabinets re-painted or to change out hardware or even update a countertop. A few minor improvements combined with a good industrial cleaning can enhance the appeal and value of a condo.
  14. When buying a condo many people don’t think it’s worth getting a home inspection done, but I disagree. At a minimum, they will walk you through to show you how things work in your unit. They will also notice things even a keen buyer may not, such as moisture or electrical panel issues. Sometimes builders do things like double-tapped wires when they are in a rush to finish. I agree it can be hard to find time for an inspection in this fast-paced market but it will be helpful in the long run, especially for a first-time buyer.


Toronto condominium life is here to stay and is growing steadily! Condo sales are the most active part of the market right now, based mainly on affordability and convenience. They are a great option, but make sure you do your due diligence!

If you are interested in looking into a house in the sky, or even one a little closer to the ground, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Cheers,

Helen Braithwaite, Sales Representative Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited, a Christies Real Estate Affiliate. cell 416-561-3114  office 416-925-9191

Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Chairman’s award 2018


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