A Good Home, Dream House, First Home, Toronto Homes

Home ownership: An Impossible Dream?

Thanks to ASHLEY FOY for this post on owning a home in Toronto, where even a 500-square-foot condo sells for $400,000.  Ashley, 24, is a real estate assistant. 

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We grew up picturing what home would be when we were older.

Blog Photo - AFoy as little girl

Many of us pictured a nice house and a great job. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to aim for? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to want? Barbie has a dream house. She’s a doctor, a chef, and a veterinarian after all. 

But it’s not easy for young people in Toronto to achieve the “dream house” scenario. It borders on impossible. Increasing rent prices (the average rent for a one bedroom is reported to be over $2000), school payments, low-paying jobs, and unstable work make home ownership a distant dream.

Blog Photo - AFoy house1.jpg

So what does “home” mean for young adults in Toronto? I can tell you what I’ve observed, and what the new conversations about our futures have become.

Many young people in the city aim for a start in their chosen field of work, while working temporary or low-paying jobs. Some rent a place with many roommates to help share the high costs of rent (like the characters I once idolized on TV show Friends). This is especially the case for people who move to Toronto for school or work opportunities.

Others choose to stay with their parents instead of paying high rents. This is the scenario I find myself in. It seems like a good idea to put away the money I make to one day buy my own home, rather than throwing it away on a rental I can never really call mine. Parents often accept this, since it might be the only way their child can save enough to own a home.

Many do still hope to buy a home one day. In Toronto, a house is out of the question unless you’re lucky enough to have a high-paying job. (I personally don’t know anyone in their 20’s who has one of those yet)!

Blog Photo - AFoy condo buildings

So, condos are on a lot of our minds. They are centrally located, come with attractive amenities, and are still comparatively less expensive than a house. Also, they are perfect for someone who doesn’t want to worry about maintaining a property.

To achieve this new vision of home, we have to save a lot of money. It can take many years, and if you’re paying rent it will take even longer. Fortunate people will wind up getting a loan from their parents for a down payment once they can afford monthly bills. One thing remains the same though — no one dreamed of today’s reality: paying more than $2000 a month.

Blog Photo - AFoy On Stool

The other option arises: move out of the city. I have considered this. A 500-square-foot Toronto condo ($400,000) costs more than a four-bedroom (fully renovated) house with a huge yard in Midland, Ontario. The difference seems insane. However, there are fewer jobs outside the city.

It comes down to income and lifestyle. If you can get a good job in a smaller town, a house out of the city could become home. Yet, most people I know still want to live where the “action” is, and where the jobs are. So home might be a parent’s house, a small condo in a lively location, an apartment with a bunch of friends, or a house outside the city.

What does the future hold? I still have a “dream house” vision, but it isn’t what it was.  My dream-house vision has evolved — much like Toronto, much like young people ourselves.

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A Good Home, Housing, Real estate

When House Prices Go Crazy

At this time of year, people in Southern Ontario usually talk — ad nauseum — about the weather. This year, it’s real estate prices. 

In a village store 90 minutes east of Toronto yesterday afternoon, a woman mentioned a small house in her neighborhood whose price had almost doubled in recent years.

“It’s unbelievable, what’s happening,” she said. 

The house recently sold, after a bidding war, for $100,000 more than the asking price.

House prices in the Toronto area are crazy. And there’s a huge downside.

The prices of some homes have increased by a third in the last year alone. 

It’s affecting the rental market too. Last week, I read that some Toronto landlords have nearly doubled their rents. 

So I wonder: where’s the average person supposed to live?

Many families and single people are moving away — up to a couple hours’ drive away from their work — for affordable housing.

But that’s having an impact too. House prices were a lot lower in regions east, west and north of the city just a couple years ago. But the newcomers’ arrival  in those regions has pushed up prices there too.

 

Blog Photo - House sold sign

Last evening, at a small gathering roughly 2 hours from Toronto, the host seemed to still be in shock when he told visitors that two houses in the nearby village had recently sold for more than a million dollars. A few years ago, they would have been around $600, 000.

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Foreign speculators, investing in Toronto’s real estate, were blamed for causing the huge increases. There oughta be a law, some people said.  The government, fearing a real estate crash, now requires house buyers to have a 20% downpayment – or pay for very costly mortgage insurance.

Blog Photo - House 2

If you’re well-off, that’s not a problem. But for first-time buyers, 20% is $140-thousand downpayment on a $700,000 dwelling… if you can find one. 

No-one’s yet instituted a law against bidding wars.  These fierce competitions bring an intense ‘auction fever’ to every house sale — the kind of panic that leads to foolish decisions.  Many families today, after paying their mortgages, are barely making ends meet.

And now there are bidding wars in the rental market too.

So who benefits from these out-of-control price increases? Well, some sectors do.

  • Sellers moving out of the region to a more affordable community.
  • Realtors, whose percentage (5 or 6%) is usually fixed. That means huge increases for them when house prices explode.
  • Some landlords.
  • And government, through taxes. 

But if you’re an average-income, would-be buyer (or renter), you’re scrood.

There outghta be a law.

A Good Home, Buying a Home in Toronto, Canadian Gardens, Canadian Homes, Living in Toronto, Multicultural Toronto at Home, Personality Profile, Toronto Homes

Selling “Home”

These days, Toronto is well-known for two things: an extremely multicultural population, and a very hot real estate market.

Blog Photo - Roncesvalles Street

It’s an interesting time to be buying or selling homes.

Blog Photo - Loraine Story Neighborhood and tree

Loraine Lee visits nearly 200 homes a year. Her clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Blog Photo - Toronto neighborhood2

“The first thing that strikes you is the cuisine.  Once you enter the house, you can tell who lives there – by the smell of the cooking. Although nowadays, sellers are very aware and try to either open windows to get rid of the smells or by masking them.”

Blog Photo - Loraine CU2

Born and raised in Jamaica of Chinese parents, Loraine and her family moved to Toronto in the 1970’s.

She’s a gifted writer and former publisher who decided to pursue her passion for real estate 10 years ago. Doing so has opened up the world’s cultures to her, right here at home in Toronto.

The first time she saw an altar in a linen closet, it surprised her. Now, it’s just one of the many religious practices she sees in Toronto homes.

“At one home, the wife was from the West Indies and the husband from India. She had Hindu and Buddhist statues, but also crucifixes and statues of the Virgin Mary. I think she was trying to cover all bases.”

Blog Photo - Loraine and Tree2

With Toronto’s large Chinese population, Feng Shui beliefs about design dictated what houses some people would buy.  But that’s changing. Blog Photo - Condo bath

“In the last three to four years, the market has been so hot because of low inventory that Feng Shui seems less important. If the price is right, no one seems to be bothered anymore about the number 4 or that the house is a T-Junction house. There are remedies for those “blockages”, so it’s no longer an issue.

There are many ways of creating a home. Loraine appreciates them all.

“Some men putter around continually – either willingly or at the behest of their wives – painting, changing floors, renovating bathrooms, laying stone walkways, etc. Some people’s homes are always spotless.  There are the folks who spend hours in their garden all Spring and Summer, and the beautiful colours reward them.”

Above photos by Hamlin Grange

Loraine loves figuring out the diverse needs and values of her clients and her clients’ letters show that they value her going the extra mile:

Blog Photo - Loraine and clients at home

“Loraine had a way of making us feel as if we were the only clients she had! She really took the time to know us and understand our needs and budget!! With Loraine we didn’t only find a new home… but also a new friend!”

Congrats, Loraine.

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Dedicated to everyone who is trying to buy/make a home in Toronto’s complex housing market and to realtors who do their best to help you.