Dec. 17, 2009
What implication will this fact have for Toronto and its citizens?
Firstly, Toronto will become the top place of the world for two days, due to the visit of 20 of the top world leaders. The most popular of them is the US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama. Except for the important political personalities, many officials and journalists from the US, EU member states, India or China will come to Toronto. As said by Mayor David Miller, the even will positively influence the city's growing reputation worldwide.
Additionally, as the president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, Terry Mundel, said, the event will surely have good economic implications for Toronto. Approximately 10, 000 hotel rooms will be needed for more than 30 international delegations. As said by Mundel, the expected revenues for accommodation make up to about $17 millions. If we count food, drinks and basic entertainment, it sure is a nice sum of money. The pubs and restaurants in Toronto will certainly have a lot of customers during the event.
A noteworthy question definitely is that of security, too. In the words of Toronto police spokesman, Mark Pugash, all the aspects that anyone would await as being part of a global event are being worked on, and have been worked on for some period. Mayor Miller is thus convinced everything will go extremely smoothly. Undoubtedly, helicopters, closed roads, police cars and policemen will be present everywhere, but Miller believes the citizens will be understanding. Don't forget about the restrictions during the summit. Going and and to for example tour open houses will be almost impossible during that period.
Interestingly, the summit is not the only event to take place in Toronto in late June. Toronto Jazz festival is starting during the last weekend of June too. Let's hope the Toronto police don't mistake Jazz lovers for globalization protesters.
Nov. 22, 2009
First Time Home-Buyers Tax Credit was one of the governments action incentives to help with the property decline. Unfortunately this incentive doesn't seem to be a blessing next to the USA tax plan, as well as coming off as a bit of a joke. So do we find it just one massive laugh?
First, let’s examine the two tax credits. The Canadian First-Time Homebuyer’s Tax Incentive, presented by the Federal government, is formed on a $5,000 deductible. Multiplied by the lowest income tax rate (15%), it tots up to a net $750 credit for anybody who intends to buy a housing unit in Canada and didn’t own property during the last four years.
On the other hand, the American tax incentive can be as big as 10% of the real estate's value, to a maximum of $8,000. In the US the incentive is taken from the buyer's income tax (owing) whereby in Canada it's deducted from the tax base. The tax credit incentive is cashed back to the new house owner if tax owed by them doesn't top the $8,000. Whereas in Canada a person can't have owned a house for the 4 years before, in the US this is only 3.
While the Canadian real estate market rebound is credited by specialists generally to the Bank of Canada interest rate cut, the (still quite shaky) recovery of the American market was indeed fueled by their gigantic tax credit. The American plan decreased the pressure of finding a down payment for a property and paved the way for first time buyers to get on the property ladder. The question of whether the Canadian economic action plan shouldn’t take the tax credit more intently comes normally, but the answer is more complicated.
In the first instance, there is a question of requirement. Whilst both Canada and the US have both been in recession there has been a marked difference in the consequences of it. The Canadian market bounced back within a few months with the main losers being housing investors and estate agents; but the Americans have seen the slump hit home owners with a flood of short sales and forclosures.
Looking at the fiscal situation we also see a difference. With around 1.5 million taxpayers claiming the aid, the US federal government has lost around $10 billion in tax revenues so far, adding more weight to the already tremendous budget deficit.
To read the rest, please look at our original article "Is the First Time Home-Buyers Tax Credit Really as Good as It Sounds?" Thank you.
Image: Credits to leadenhall.
Nov. 17, 2009
The current level of interest rates is to remain at 0.25% after the last rate disclosure in October by the Bank of Canada. Many experts concur with the Bank of Canada's announcement.
The figure has been kept at record lows for half a year now and the Bank wants to keep it static at least till June 2010. As any real estate agent would tell you, one of the main factors in the property market improvement and continued prosperity in that area are these low interest rates.
Unfortunately there is always a few that clamour for interest rate hikes. Due to large economic growth in certain areas many individuals are being very cautious. Quite a few feel the best way to stop the bubble before it bursts is to increase interest rates. Taking this into account, even with higher prices in the real estate market and faster turnover, the experts still agree that the Bank of Canada has made the proper decision.
The most substantial reason is the confirmed growth of the GDP, which doesn’t seem to be following the BoC forecast of a 2% rise in the third quarter of 2009 (August growth was -0.1%). One of the other aspects concern the domestic industry which is still noticing very high levels of trade deficit and therefore a slower return to normal.
Also, financial pointers don’t demonstrate any signs of growing leverage (the risky use of debt to raise return on investments). Inflation is close to -1%, leaving all fears behind for the present. The other consideration, is all this is the real estate market, which doesn't seemed to have crashed as predicted. Real Estate prices are increasing nicely with a good supply on offer on realtors books. With the real estate downturn last winter there was an excess of properties which are now selling, as the demand is bigger so the prices rise.
Although there are never any guarantees it is fairly positive that the BoC will fulfil its pledge to keep the interest rates low for a good few months yet. At least now the home buyer can feel confident in purchasing their new property.
Oct. 25, 2009
The Canadian economy is being supported with fiscal stimulus by the projects within the Economic Action Plan. The Gross Domestic Income (GDI/GDP) in Canada is at over 4%, due to the stimulus package, higher than the USA and one of the largest worldwide.
Ways to reduce Canada's Tax Burden
Possibly the most substantial part of the Plan is tax cutting. The tax lowering lures related to the property market are: - Home improvement tax credit: $2.5 billion (for the year 2009-2010). - Increase in Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limitation: $15 million. - $175 million allocated for First-time Real Estate Buyers' Tax Credit.
Millions of Canadians have profited from these tax reduction lures already. Since earlier in the year, whilst not the most conspicuous, the First-time House Buyer's Tax Credit helped energize a very quick property rebound all over Canada. Real Estate owners making use of the property renovation credit have noticed their positions strengthened when coming to sell their homes, along with a rise in the market value of the property.
Provoke housing development
In spite of the fact that some realtors specializing in resale real estate are not too inspired about new construction, in the long term it is definitely crucial for a healthy real estate environment and also for real estate agents themselves. Including the tax relief mentioned already to boost and encourage the construction industry and private property ownership, direct spending on construction has further added encouragement which benefits the whole economy.
The action plan has watched over 4,000 projects in the property market begin with a further 3,000 planned. These also involve around 300 social housing projects, which have funds of about $1.025 billion in the fiscal year 2009-2010.
There is nearly $10 billion budgeted for this area alone. Realtors are finding these moves interesting due to the property market impact. In one of our recent articles MoveOntario2020 we talked about the details on how infrastructure projects alter values of properties in their vicinity. Social housing broadens the supply of homes and alters both the resale and rental market, introducing more affordable housing for low income social groups.
The closeness of projects is something that some realtors find vital, when their business is directly affected by these sort of neighbourhoods. However, there is also more international impact on the labor market – construction projects support thousands of jobs and improve the financial situation of the workers, thus raising their ability to finance their own homes.
How effective is this action plan?
Canada's economy has seen the property market become it's driving force, hence it being one of the first areas that have seen a rebound in the current downturn. The monetary policy has been one of the driving forces behind the upward turn of the housing market so state realtors. Still, fiscal boosts plays its own part. Although the plan is very steep we can say it has a positive effect on the real estate sector and we know that a flourishing real estate market is an implication of a healthy national economy.
Oct. 18, 2009
Garage sales take careful planning if you want a successful, stress free event. Let’s start by looking at the preparation to be done: Start off by choosing whether you want to hold it by yourself or join forces with someone else. The date and time are critical factors and you need to check your neighbours have no problems as well as any official rules surrounding garage sales in your neighbourhood.
Any goods you are selling need to be clean and in decent condition. Label goods such as clothing with the size and box goods such as books, with their titles exhibited. Any sharp items such as knives need to be secured carefully. Clear price stickers and incentive offers such as 'buy one get one free' all assist with sales. Last but not least, find tables to display your items and chairs for your buyers to rest on. Goods such as clothes hangers to show clothing to its best advantage are a brilliant idea as well as packaging so you buyers can take the items home. Make sure you obtain a decent amount of change in coins and notes. If you are not going to box up any left over goods then ask a charity shop to collect them.
Then you need to think about promotion. Free and attractive garage sale signs are offered for customers by some real estate companies. As the signs are the first thing your buyers will see, by choosing these attractive signs your sale starts off with a polished feel. Find out if your local paper offers cheap or free ads and place posters up in the church, school and local shops. Provide as much information you can, ranging from the times and directions to a summary of goods for sale.
Empty the area of sale of any bits and pieces not for sale and make sure its clean and tidy. To stop yourself being run ragged ask friends and family to help on the day. On the day of the sale if you haven’t put out your tables and chairs then this is the first thing you should do. Allot a rest area where you will be providing drinks, an empty trash can nearby is also a good idea. Directional signs along the route to your home from the main street need to be set in place. Appoint someone to deal with paying purchasers and packaging their goods. Some buyers will want to bargain with prices, so make sure your helpers are aware of your views on this.
Make the area attractive, alluring and obstacle free. Spare batteries and access to an electrical socket are a must to confirm your items work. Show your items appealingly and try to separate them into groups such as household, clothing or gardening. People driving or walking by can be encouraged to stop by Exhibiting your most appealing products nearer your property entrance. It has been known for purchasers to try and return merchandise days later, therefore erect a sign that says 'all sales are final'.
Early arrivals are an inevitable problem when you host a attic sale. Be polite, welcoming and engaging with all your customers and be predisposed to negotiate on the prices. At the designated ending time ask last minute stragglers to politely depart as you are clearing up and packing away any of those unsold goods. Put away tables and chairs and clean up any garbage left lying around also pick up the direction signs. It's officially completed and now you can wind down. Tally up your money while drinking that well earned coffee and deliberate on what you are going to do with it.
Garage sale signs and a more detailed tips can be found at our main site.
Oct. 15, 2009
The windshield wipers of our car are attempting to slap away the pouring rain that's turned this part of Corso Italia into a place full of gravel and muck, as we make our way towards the Regal Heights Bistro on St. Clair, just east of Dufferin. The streetcar track/road improvement project on St. Clair Avenue West is still not finished, limiting the traffic to one lane. Fortunately the bad weather seems to have kept traffic light, and we're able to park just across the street from the restaurant. First we have to cross the no-man's-land of cracked pavement and orange cones, and then I can finally look at the building where I think the Regal Heights Bistro is housed. "There's no sign, there used to be a big sign, and it looks like a pub inside," I observe uneasily. "I hope this is still the right place." "Yep – Regal Heights Bistro," my partner confirms, pointing at a little hand-lettered sign inside the front window, and we see the trademark Jazz Brunch sign as well.
No sooner do we cross the threshold than a hostess is waiting to seat us, offering a choice of any table we want. At eight fifteen, most patrons are sitting near the bar, with the whole restaurant being about a third full. "Are you here for the fist time? The original sign blew down, and the new one we put out on a chalkboard was washed away by the rain." "Today you are in for a treat, we have a birthday celebration and a jazz band, it will be fun!" She reassures us that this is indeed the place we were looking for - though the interior looks more like in a pub than in an upscale bistro, and we can smell French fries in the air. Next we focus on our menus - a two-sided thing that quite disappoints my partner.
"They must've changed their menu," he remarks with a sad face. Maybe as an elitist jazz musician himself, he is just unhappy about the prospect of a live band. The name of the restaurant is written on the top of the menu. I check it again and again, just to make certain we are in the right place. Although I could find no website for the Bistro, and valuable little online information other than bare-bones positive reviews, I did dig up some posted menus: and these presented dishes like caprese salad, provencale escargots, chicken liver pate, smoked salmon crepes and black squid ink linguine. I don't need a menu to tell me that no homemade black squid ink linguine is coming out of this place. The actual offerings consist of normal pub food, perhaps gussied up a bit by special flavors and toppings, but pub food still.
Our hostess comes back to note our order and I note that the menus are very different from what we found online – what happened? Different ownership? "Oh no, same ownership," she assures us. "We haven't done anything on the website in a long time. Our menu has been this way for the last couple of years, we've just gone through a lot of different chefs. Our focus is always on fresh food; we shop every day, we cut our own meat, we make our own burgers, there’s no microwaves…we just want to have more of a casual dining feel." Although the whole pub is definitely casual, including the paper napkins, when I look at the wall signage from around the world, I would still expect a bit more sophisticated menu.
Our hostess smiles: "We shrink from that gastro-pub term," and puts us at her ease with a charming, friendly manner.
See the rest of the story at our original restaurant review
Oct. 14, 2009
Quince is one of the Toronto must-try places - a Mediterranean-inspired bistro with reasonable prices and fresh, innovative flavors. It has been evaluated as extraordinary by the Eye Magazine and after getting some mixed reviews from Toronto Life, also one of the Toronto's Best New Restaurants of 2007. The founders of Quince are Jennifer Gittins and Michael van den Winkel, a husband and wife formerly known from the high-valued Stork on the Roof. Their new place, opened in fall of 2006, is located just a few blocks south of the busy intersection at Yonge and Eglinton.
Enclosed by a pretty patio graced with teak furniture and plenty of cushions in bright, primary colors, Quince is directly across the street from the abandoned hulk that was once Cheaters, an infamous nudie bar. Only two doors down, we can find the famous place Coquine and a neon sign saying "Adult Video & Novelties" - I bet you wouldn't expect this in a region famous for its blossoming business district and parks popular for families. But in the last twenty-five years, there has always been an eclectic mix of shops on this part of Yonge Street between Eglinton and Davisville. Clothing shops, bead and paper shops, home decor, but also adult venues - all this can be found around here.
Just at the door at Quince's, we are warmly welcomed by a hostess and offered a spot near the bar on one of the low, cushioned banquettes. Even though it's a Saturday evening and we are in this lively neighborhood, we can still choose a table, pleading excessive height. “What’s downstairs?” I ask. We get a reply from our hostess: "Oh, that's our private dining room." It is available for lunches and dinners and it has its own bar and lounge, all elegantly decorated (although the tile floor will tell you it's located in the basement). Tonight it's off limits to couples, being available for corporate or private groups of maximum 40 people or cocktail receptions of 70 people at most. For these events, the staff offers you a menu along with matching wines, so that you don't have to care about all the details yourself.
Our waiter is approaching with a brief list of specials, just a moment after we have picked our table. I want to say a brief list of specials consisting of a long explanation of ingredients and preparation methods, and how the meals go together. We can see that the waiter is apparently an expert, he doesn't even need to refer to his notebook as he explains us what is garnish vs. a side dish. The waiter could be best described as personable, friendly and efficient. Left alone to ponder if a whole sea bream (“Most people choose a side with it, it’s just the fish,” our waiter cautions apologetically) is a good idea, we take a look around. I notice the cleverly designed lighting that enhances the whole space of the dining room and adds lovely warmth to it. The space seems to be noticeably large but still somewhat intimate at the same time. The volume level is very comfortable too – despite almost all the tables around us being full, we can easily hear each other and the background music (think D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder). The interior is decorated with modern art in earthy colors, gracing the loft-style brick walls and adding balance to the exposed ductwork, painted in chocolate brown to ease off all traces of sterility. Amazing for voyeurs, a semi-open kitchen offers a glimpse of the wood-fired oven behind the bar.
If you want to see the rest of our review, see the original article, thank you.
Sep. 28, 2009
The easiest option: Air-conditioners
The internal temperature of our houses can be decreased by more ways, let's take a short look at them. The most effective, but most expensive, is the well-known air-conditioner. If you want to get the best value possible from your AC unit, there are several tips to follow - of course if you decide to go this way. First, pick a machine of the correct size according to the size of your house or condo. If you have a common family home with two bedrooms, look for units with around 5,000 btu - that should be enough. Ideally, the unit should be placed in a window on the wall that faces north, if that is possible. This will ensure optimum conditions for the unit which will allow it to operate more efficiently. Clean the internal filters at least once a month to prevent house dust from building up and having a negative effect on its operation. If you know you won't be home for more than an hour, just turn the AC off and then after your return re-cool the rooms, this way it is more economical.
Solutions for green-thinking customers
But what to do if you think more eco-friendly and don't want to use precious energy for these power-hungry machines? Well, there are more ways to decrease the internal temperature without adding to global warming by excessive and unnecessary use of CO2 producing fossil fuels. We will begin with the top of your house and go downwards step by step.
As you might already know, the amount of heat transferred depends on the sort of material it goes through. Tiles, shingles or other sorts of roofing materials are a perfect example of this. If you wish to save on air-conditioning, think about applying a good-quality insulation to your attic space. A 12-inch layer instead of a 3-inch might reduce the cooling costs by as much as 10 percent.
To read the rest of the story, please follow the Keeping your Toronto home cool article.
Photo by jon starbuck
Sep. 22, 2009
The Stockyards is a new kid on the block that's surprisingly been voted Toronto's Best Barbecue by NOW Magazine, scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 n's. When you hear about new barbecue's your first thought is to be wary. I'm no different especially as I make great barbecues myself. Cluck, Grunt n' Low at Bloor and Walmer had the greatest southern food and barbecue I've ever sampled, and they're out of business, while some of the pulled pork offerings I've had lately tasted like sawdust coated in sauce. Poor quality barbecues seems to be normal in these places. Coating a thick smokey, sweet sauce over anything can hide the worst cooks mishaps. So I'm already a doubter, but definitely up for some good greasy meat, when I seize three friends and head to the Stockyards.
We go to St Clair West subway station and take the bus west, just following the stop that lets you off at the Artscape Wychwood Barns - a multi-purpose enterprise combining artists' lofts with a greenhouse, historical museum and gallery space, typical of the upswing of this area. The neighborhood is a bit destitute at the moment, but a Starbucks on the corner demonstrates that the St Clair strip is up and coming.
The place is very busy and we are squished tightly next to people consuming barbecue from paper-lined cast iron pans. The noise of a busy restaurant is awesome. The telephone never seems to stop ringing, customers talking, the cooks shouting orders and instructions to each other. The amount of people waiting to eat, eating, waiting to pay is outstanding. As there were four of us, none of us thought our chances of getting seats together were likely until a woman sitting at the counter grasps hold of me.
It is a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in years called Gail. "All the people I work together swear by this place," she says. I notice that she hasn't any food to which she answers that she is a vegetarian. Vegetarian choices are only available as side orders on the menu. Gail says she won't consume the chips because they are prepared in lard. Another thing that is not vegetarian accommodating is the rib night which is done three times a week. It's good to have an adviser because the restaurant has a frenzied feel, though there's method to the madness as the staff brown-box boundless take out orders to accommodate the herds.
When a vacant space opens up at the massive counter, directly across from the cooks, we nab it and put in our orders, then go to the front to pay. Stockyards has a wait-service and takeout which is re-mindful of a large burger chain. As it was busy I have to admit we overlooked the need to tip. We get our own drinks from the fridge; my friend has a homemade lime-ade infused with mint that she pronounces 'delicious' ($2.75) Fortunately none of us are drinkers, as The Stockyards doesn't yet have a liquor license four months into opening.
"Is it always this lively, even from day one?" My friend asked a man. The man introduces himself as Tom Davis, the proprietor. He is a very solicitous, energetic and frank kind of person, who said that it had.
For the rest of the Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder review, please visit our main website.
Photo source: Sifu Renka
Sep. 21, 2009
Sep. 3, 2009
In our first text of this series, we have focused on the profile of a typical condo purchaser. The features of a typical house owner will be the concern of our today's article.
Susie likes living in a house.
Having a personal space is one of the things Susie likes the most. She left communal housing behind in college and hasn’t looked back – who wants to be separated from their neighbours by just a single wall? Susie just wants to have her privacy and enough space, and she doesn't mind having to spend some more time for commuting to work. Also shopping has to be done weekly, but it is no problem for her to take her SUV to the supermarket and fill it up. Her two kids are what Susie values the most, and she wishes to have a safe yard for them to be able to run and play around, just the way she did during her own childhood. Susie and her family also live in a neighbourhood where they know the other families nearby which is really useful, because there is always someone at hand to give advice about the best babysitters, school sports or the new off-leash park. And also Susie's family may still grow in the future (although they still haven't really planned it yet with her husband Stuart), they might decide to have another baby or maybe Stuart's mom may need help and move in with them. Therefore they definitely need enough space for the family to expand. Also the family members have different hobbies - Stuart works on his vintage car in the garage and their daughter Jenny plays the drums, which would be impossible to do in an apartment - it is loud enough in the basement, so Susie is thinking about getting it soundproofed and putting in a bathroom, then they would have a great teen retreat. On weekends, Susie loves to tool around in her garden, which is really her pride and joy – there’s nothing like picking fresh vegetables for a salad while Stuart fires up the grill. Susie and Stuart also consider very important the fact that they legally own the land they live on. Well, if the roof leaks (as it did last year after all those storms), it's still their own roof and they had some money for such emergencies saved aside. Occasional house reparations just come with the territory. Susie and Stuart don’t mind staying on top of the maintenance work, because they each have their own tasks and responsibilities (Susie cuts the grass and Stuart takes the recycling to the curb). As far as safety is concerned, Susie believes that their new system will keep the burglars out of their house. And also there is a residents' association that keeps an eye on what's going on in the neighbourhood. She is just happy in their secure neighborhood and wants to stay there long-time and put down roots.
So now which one of our two profiles felt closer to you - Hari or Susie? None of them? Well, in that case you might like to consider living in a condo town house, which has some benefits of both a condo and a house.
Final advice If you decide to purchase a house, then we recommend that your mortgage combined with all property taxes shouldn't eat up more than 25 per cent of your monthly income, just to make sure you have enough money left for any necessary up keeping. First try to estimate the necessary up keeping expenses and also to what extent you are able to keep up with the repairs needed, as all the responsibility (from a leaky faucet to a flooded basement) will be just upon you. And how much will be your expenses for transportation? Don't forget about these, as it is important to be considered, mainly when moving to a suburb. Always ask for a new home inspection and examine it in detail, so that you won't come across any ugly surprises that would ruin your carefully planned budget. For example, a fixer-upper with an ancient furnace, old wiring and insufficient insulation will demand a more or less immediate cash infusion just to make the house livable.
Photo Source: sssteve.o
Sep. 2, 2009
Deciding between the choices of a House or a Apartment Specifically for first time purchasers, this can be a hard question because each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide what’s best for you, we’ve assembled profiles of the ‘typical’ happy condo and happy home owner. Both options will help give you an vision of what works for you even if they don't match your circumstances exactly. This first report looks at a apartment buyer.
Hari needs a apartment.
Hari left home and sub let an apartment. He is a professional who is always on the go. Many of his friends still lease, but some have gotten into lasting relationships which led to bigger apartments and even homeownership for them. Suddenly, Hari’s single person pad feels a little closed in and sterile (as his mother always points out). He is now looking to the future. A more spacious place, one that he can call home. A place he can entertain, decorate and buy some furniture for. Hari works drawn out hours at the office, so it’s important for him to minimize the commute and the time spent running jobs, shopping, picking up healthy take-out, grabbing his dry cleaning, and going out for fun. Hari's hobbies do not require a lot of room, so room is not something that he needs. He also doesn't like the idea of the upkeep and money needed to maintain masses of room. In the space department, Hari only really wants closet space and a nice large wall for his flat-screen TV. Simple, sleek with new accessories are the main aims. Caring for an outdoor area is not something he desires to do. He needs a apartment that has all inclusive services so if something goes askew its fixed and at no extra charge. Hari gets on well with other people but he’s not all about making lifelong bonds with his neighbours; he’s fine keeping to himself. A bit of noise isn't an issue. But he draws the line at personal protection – that’s why he really likes knowing that the apartment building he’s considering is patrolled and monitored 24 hours a day. When it comes to taking care of himself, Hari cares about fitness, so it’s great that the building has state of the art training facilities and a nice pool – there’s a savings on his gym membership right there, because the monthly apartment fees cover all the resources! Looking to the future, a parking space would increase investment profit to the property. Hari doesn’t plan to be in his apartment evermore, after all. Who knows what the future holds? For someone in this situation now, the benefits of apartment life make sense.
If you determined that a apartment could be a better fit, never let the monthly apartment fees, combined with property taxes, mortgage and insurance, outstrip 30% of your monthly income. Always look at the fiscal health of the Homeowners Association (HOA) to see if the monthly apartment fees actually cover pricey repairs to the building, or whether residents have to pay an additional premium every so often (this depends on the health of the reserve fund, which your real estate lawyer can examine for you, as well as the apartment by-laws; sometimes, for grave or unexpected repairs, plans are made for special assessments to cover these costs). What is made available in your fees? If there are extra amenities included do you really want them? Make sure your proposed building is pet-friendly if that is an issue for you, and find out the probable utility costs for anything not covered in the apartment fees (i.e. heat, hydro). If your condo has many of windows there could be significant heat loss so your expenses could rocket if heating is not covered.
In the following article we will look at a usual house owner profile.
Photo source: mannequindisplay
Aug. 27, 2009
The conditions on the Canadian real estate market in 2008 and the first half of 2009 are analyzed in a report recently published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It deals mostly with the housing starts and with the affordability to rent & buy.
The report finds that after the shock of last year, now our real estate market is recovering again, however slowly. The new home market began the year of 2009 some 43% lower than in the first six months of 2008. However, in July 2009, the MLS sales already grew bigger by over 17% than in July 2008.
The general trend on the real estate market is growth now, and this goes also for the new housing price index. The average price in Canada has changed from -0.6% to -0.1% between January and May. In conformity with the improving resale market, the new housing price change in Toronto was slightly over zero for most of the time.
Economic conditions: Unemployment
We can be rather optimistic at the moment in regard to our economy. First, the unemployment growth seems to have got under control. In July, the number of net losses was 13,000, whereas during the first quarter of 2009, the fall reached 273,000. Moreover, the Bank of Canada describes the positive outcomes of the stimulus packages that were brought out by many countries during the last year.
Affordability to rent
Affordability of home ownership or renting is based on calculations of how many hours one needs to work in a month to bring the average cost of 2-bedroom apartment rent or the average mortgage payment down to 30 per-cent of gross monthly income. In 2008, the average hourly wages has increased by more than 5% up to $23.69 (Ontario: $24.65, Toronto: $24.93)).
Generally, the average number of working hours required to earn the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment down to 30% has declined from 114 to 113 hours per month. The biggest decrease has been observed in St John's, Brantford and Guelph, whereas in Toronto the number of hours declined from 149 to 146, meaning that Toronto ended up as the second most expensive city in this "competition", just after Vancouver.
Affordability of home owner-ship
While the number of hours required to rent didn't decrease so distinctly, the same number for average mortgage payments down to 30% of gross income was more distinct - between 2007 and 2008 it declined from 255 to 240 hours. One of the cities where the amount of hours required to own declined the most, was Toronto: from 299 to 286. But yet Toronto stays 4th among the most expensive cities to own after Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford.
As an overall result of real estate market recovering from the second half of the year 2008, also new housing made a step towards better affordability, which I really welcome, being a Toronto realtor. If we look at the numbers for the first half of 2009, we can see steady or slight decrease of prices and slight improvement in affordability of both renting and home ownership. As the interest rates are still staying quite low, it is now a good time for purchasing a property, before the market takes a second breath.
Photo source: Rantes Aguirre
Aug. 13, 2009
Even after your bid for the property you decided to buy has been accepted by the seller, there's plenty left to do before you can rightfully move in. In the following article, as an experienced realtor from Toronto I can familiarize you with the most important steps of the process.
After your offer has been accepted, the next thing to do is to meet with your legal adviser and have her/him explain you all your responsibilities following from the contract. Your solicitor should help you to understand all the costs related to the closing procedures, including Land Transfer Tax, disbursements and legal fees.
It is also necessary to verify the absence of any arrears or outstanding charges, such as gas, water or hydro expenses. Your legal adviser does this by sending letters to the municipal or regional utility departments. Another purpose of these letters is to find out if the equipment on the property is rented or owned, and also to inform the utility departments about the scheduled closing date, the new owner's name and the name of the seller's legal adviser. Information about the billing type and whether the billing is metered, all this is also demanded by these letters.
Taxes is another serious topic. You will have to provide a Tax Certificate, which will verify the amount of the current year's taxes and any arrears and outstanding charges for the current year and any previous years.
BUILDING & ZONING
The Building and Zoning Department will need to get involved as to the particulars of zoning by-laws and restrictions relating to the distance from the street and side and rear lines, type of construction, lot areas and building areas, lot frontage and depth requirements and permitted uses. Another letter is sent by your legal adviser to this department, together with a copy of the survey to reveal all this.
TITLE & EXECUTION SEARCH
The appropriate division of the Land Registry Office will start a Search of title to the property in order to establish whether or not the seller is the owner of the property and whether or not he has the legal right to convey the property. The search also reveals if the property is not a subject to any encumbrances, encroachments, easements, liens, agreements or mortgages that were not disclosed in the Agreement or Purchase and Sale. Also an execution search is done in the appropriate Sheriff's Office to ensure that there are no executions against the seller or previous owners of the property that would affect your title.
While your legal adviser is completing his initial searches, it is your responsibility to make necessary arrangements for financing. The amount of financing you will qualify for and the amount you will need to finish the transaction should be clear already before you have signed the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. On the day of closing, you might not be aware of all the fees related to mortgage financing. Your legal adviser can advise you of these fees when the financial institution that you chose provides you with a Mortgage Commitment Letter.
BEFORE THE DAY OF CLOSING
A few days before the closing, you will need to come to your legal adviser's office to sign all the necessary documents and to produce a certified cheque to confirm the balance of closing funds.
Your legal adviser will agree to meet with the vendor's legal adviser at a mutually convenient time at the appropriate Land Registry Office where he will sub-search title and complete final execution searches. They will exchange documents, keys and cheques and your legal adviser will make sure all the necessary documents are registered. As soon as this has been completed, you can get the keys and the seller will get the finances.
Now your legal adviser will provide you with a reporting letter that acknowledges your title and explains all the transaction details. Then you are finally free to move in to your new house! Just make sure to check that all items that should be included in the purchase price, as described in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, are left on the property by the seller. Let your legal adviser know without any delay if you think something is missing.
Aug. 9, 2009
MoveOntario2020 is the name of the key part of this overall transportation outlook. It has been announced in June 2007 (is that a coindicence that liberals were reelected just in October after that?) and people are now impatiently anticipating the new reality. $17.5 billion is the total budget set apart for the 52 projects of the total plan ($11.5 billion covered by Ontario’s budget). 1. GO Transit upgrades and extensions; 2. Major municipal transit expansions; 3. Cross-boundary subway expansions; and 4. Rapid-rail link between Toronto Union Station and Toronto
Real estate and transit system
The real estate in Toronto is a very complex industry and can be influenced by many different attributes, either only a little, or the impact may be bigger. It may often be difficult to identify the effect of a concrete change in the local or global economic environment, but clearly there are some factors that are more relevant than other ones. One of the key attributes is the transportation system.
You all can imagine the way in which transportation system positively influences the quality of living. For instance, the direct expenses on commuting are smaller, just as indirect expenses such as time consumption. Moreover, we can mention easier accessibility of public facilities or cleaner air and generally healthier environment, whereas there only a few minor negative short-term aspects.
There are a number of research papers attempting to quantify the effect of various improvements in transportation system. One of the papers from Tinbergen Institute, dealing with railways, offers a number of 25% - that is how much the positive effect of railway accesibility on house price can be. Every house's value can grow by 2.5% on average, provided that the public transport frequency is improved twice. This is valid just one year after the works are completed.
MoveOntario impact on the real estate in Toronto in upcoming years
Our expected outcomes can be based on a recent research made by REIN Canada. One of the key means of transport to decrease the commuting time is a rail commuting system, in Toronto represented by subway and GO Train system.
This kind of system has a positive impact on areas about 800m around from every station, with price maximization in 500m range. The areas that are impacted the strongest are older neighbourhoods or places where people earning less money live. Speaking about real estate prices effect, we can mention Toronto neighbourhoods around Spadina and Younge subway lines extensions. For GO Train it’s more complex; there are 17 projects involving capacity expansion, new lines and/or lines extension and there are 9 more projects involving GO Bus Rapid. In Waterfront and Eglinton neighbourhoods, we suppose a similar effect brought about by new light train transit lines.
All the effects of MoveOntario 2020 on Toronto real estate market are just not possible to be described in one text. The REIN study shows that the most positively affected areas will be around Vaughan, Scarborough and Barrie. Coming next should be the regions of Milton, Brambton and Uxbridge&Stoufville, these will also enjoy high influence. These regions can await 10-20% price rise. The third group is represented by all Toronto quarters which lie along the new lines or along the old lines, which capacity will be improved. Positive effect on real estate prices should appear 1-3 years after the particular project is completed.
And we still haven't described everything. With more neighbourhoods being easily accessible thanks to the new transport system, also the quality of life near the old parts will be better. Some 175 000 jobs are expected to be created thanks to MoveOntario, which may again positively impact the Toronto area real estate prices. With well-functioning transport system we are going to attract more people, more investors and more business. The whole Toronto will profit from the improved transport system and the house values in the area may grow for the next decades.
Jul. 23, 2009
There were two basic motives for this uncertainty. First, Canadian real estate market, as our whole economy, has powerful attachment to the situation in the USA. The second reason is originating from the progress of the property market in Canada between the years 2006 and especially 2007. The situation indicated a likelihood for a similar bubble to develop here. Now let's look at the situation almost twelve months later.
The way how things were developing between 2008 and 2009 didn't really appear too good, which only reinforced all the negative prophecies and only a few people still managed to keep their confident viewpoint. If we look at the monthly year to year sales statistics, we can identify a clear fall with its peak in January 2009: -47% compared to the same month last year. So it's apparent that the "depression panic" from fall 2008 has reached Canada. No wonder that most people were reluctant about making any important financial decisions, resulting in the property market almost coming to a halt. Under these circumstances, some “experts” foretold Canada facing similar collapse as in the USA. However, the reality is quite different. Let’s examine the 2009 figures.
Number of sales and year-to-year change
These are the most characteristic and closely watched indicators. Looking at these indicators, it is evident how the market froze in during the winter months. However, the sales in June sprang to more than four times of the volume in December. May was the first month in this period when we observed sales growth (compared to the same month in previous year) and June's +27% indicated the Toronto housing market is back on the horse.
Days on market
Another important indicator. While the previous ones draw the bulk of the market, Days on market show us the speed and freshness. These are important characteristics, since if we had only the whole market volume numbers available, we wouldn't be able to predict how long any property would be out on the open market. It is like another side of the same coin. In January, during the most problematic times, an average home stayed on the market just 14 days longer. Confronted with South Florida or Detroit, where days on market value got close to 120-150 days, our slowdown was ridiculous.
Active listings flow change
This figure indicates the mood of the real estate market. It is based on observing the number of new listings on the market. If the home owners are scared that their property price would decline and they want to save their investment, the inflow is naturally growing, while the opposite situation is generally considered as a favourable time to buy property. The future of other market's attributes can be predicted from the active listings flow change. For instance the positive change after January was seen as a market turn signal.
This one usually attracts the greatest attention from my real estate clients. Usually, one of the biggest items on people's property list is their home, which means that every market change can result in the owner getting thousands of dollars more or less. When the prices declined in autumn 2008, already the next April they rose back and higher.
Why is the market doing so well?! Even now, pessimistic news about the state of our economy are printed almost daily. So why has such a quick recuperation of the housing market occurred? We can find two basic factors:
1. Failed expectations
Many Canadians observed the collapse of US housing market and presumed the same scenario at home. However, what is crucial to emphasize here is the fact that the problems in the USA originated from the subprime sector. Few defaults at the beginning caused a chain reaction. It started with a price decline, and as a result foreclosures and short sales were not covering all the toxic mortgages, so the banks were pressed to put even more foreclosured properties on the marked, which decreased the prices even more. I dare to say that Canada has a very healthy financial system, which in cooperation with very limited subprime sector where there are only a few foreclosures occuring makes our real estate market a secure one. Homeowners became aware of this fact very soon and relaxed.
2. Stabilized economy and buying opportunities
Now we will briefly analyze the figures about inflation, unemployment, GDP predictions and interest rates. Real estate market largely depends on this data, as follows from real estate prices explanation. Despite the fact that these figures concerning employment or economic growth could look even much better, we can be quite relaxed: our economy is far from a collapse, it is only slowed down, in a stagnation period. All these facts also helped to stop the winter real estate fuss.
Conclusion and the future
We can say that in addition to enduring the winter depression, Toronto housing market has recovered very quickly and now it is growing again. We can even call the condo resale market as hot now. The previous "one year break" has resulted in low interest rates and favourable prices, which means especially first time buyers can enjoy terrific opportunities. Now it is also terrific time for investors to pick some cherries, as their prices still haven't recovered. Due to the market speed, most homes are now sold during the first month on the market and the selling price is usually quite good. So the vendors can feel comfortable too. On the other hand, slower labor market and pertaining level of uncertainty will hinder sudden price burst and bubble creation in next years. From the exceptional market growth of 27% in June we can tell that the market is trying to get to its previous speed and volume and it is likely to get steady soon. Toronto housing market forms a solid foundation of stability for Ontario's economy in wild times.
Jul. 13, 2009
One of the reasons is that the ordinary flu is usually dangerous to only very small babies or old people or those with a compromised immune system. The problem with the swine flu is that it is especially dangerous for young and strong people as opposed to small babies, elderly or weak, and that's why WHO takes it so seriously. Also, the WHO is trying its best to anticipate the big pandemic of so called from 1918 to repeat. That's why the WHO has previously advised on using facemasks to reduce the spreading of the dangerous flu.
Before we go on more about the mask, yesterday you maybe heard of or read about some two farmers from the Saskatchewan province falling ill with a new kind of swine flu. The farmers only suffered from very light flu and the officials do not think this new flu will spread.
The mask: what is it for?
Influenza, or simply flu, is a respiratory illness. It is mostly spread by inhaling the virus from the mist created by coughing & sneezing of an ill person, or by touching your face (eyes, nose or mouth) after you touched a surface contaminated with the virus. But there's the rub: a sick person is contagious already 24 hours before any flu symptoms shop up, and up to 7 days after the first symptoms. So before you knew you were sick, you might have infected other people at home, work or school or wherever you were, since you didn't feel ill.
The whole idea about the facemask is to provide a barrier between you and the air around you. The basic facemask isn't too effective in filtering the air you breath in, so it's not so very efficient to prevent you from catching the virus. But the good news is that the mask is quite good when breathing out - it does help to block the virus effectively when a patient needs to sneeze or cough. Considering the fact that people might be spreading the dangerous virus while still feeling OK, it might be helpful to wear the mast even before one gets sick.
What mask should you choose?
There are so many kinds of surgeon masks and respirators that choosing one might be a bit of a problem. You won't make a mistake if you go for a N95 mask/respirator instead of a basic type. This kind of mask guarantees the minimum of 95% filtration of the particles that could possibly make you sick.
But relying totally on the protective equipment you chose is not enough without following some ground hygiene procedures. Not forgetting to often wash your hands using soap or alcohol sanitizer is essential. Always use a tissue when sneezing or coughing and discharge the tissue straight after use. Also don't go out if you feel sick and avoid crowded places if possible.
Jun. 26, 2009
How to calculate the next price move? How does one determine when it is best to invest? What majority buyers do is they simply watch for the previous direction of prices. In other words, their expectations are mostly affected by the previous movement. If the prices rise they expect the growth to continue, and vice versa. Although such a strategy does not consider the real factors that have an impact on the price, it is applied. Relying on this method alone can produce very painful experiences, just as we saw not too long ago. (picture by kevinzhengli)
Fundamental economic factors
What economic factors have the most significant impact on how prices are formed?
- Economic growth
- Nominal interest rates (before inflation) and structure of mortgage products
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
The stronger the state of economics, the better it is for business as well as for real estate. One of the reasons is that when economics is stronger it raises property prices because the buyer gets reassured that there will be a rise in the demand for housing, and a rise in the value of his property which will enable him to sell it again for a profit. In accordance with BIS Quarterly Review, 1% of GNP increase is connected with 1% to 4% property price rise after 3 years.
Nominal interest rates and structure of mortgage products
In order that property prices grow, the very first thing needed is eager buyers. One implication of the fact that house lones have to be made when anyone wants to buy property, is that there will be many buyers who will go rather for houses with interesting mortgage products that includes low nominal rates. According to the mentioned source, a 1% drop in the nominal interest rate can be linked with 1/2% to 1% rise in property prices after 1 year. Equally, the buyers seem to be very sensitive to even a slight rise of nominal interest rates, causing the property prices to settle. But there are exceptions to the rule. For instance - a credit crunch occurs when official interest rates become of less importance and the loan market gets driven by different factors. Likewise is the real estate market.
Property prices are strongly impacted by the rate of interest while changes in interest rates are influced by inflation. High inflation has a varied impact in different countries. Some countries see investing into property as balancing inflation in which case higher inflation will result in a rise of property prices (for instance Germany). Such countries may be characterized with fixed interest rate loans with no equity withdrawal. Although, high inflation will have a bad impact on property prices in countries where interest rates are floating, as in the UK, or with equity withdrawal as in the USA.
As with most rules there are exceptions and numbers and values do not always have to apply to your area. It is realtor's business to see the exceptions and differences. However, it is important to note that a general system is used by means of which real estate prices are created on the market. Don't let shallow attitude get thebetter of you. Think about every aspect of the market.
Jun. 24, 2009
Important: Get pre-qualified
Prospective clients who can get prequalified for a bank loan always have a better chance of getting the deal than candidates without a proper financial background. Of course, it wouldn't make a good impression if your financing was not sure and the vendor found out about it - in that case all other tricks won't be able to save you.
Explore the seller's wishes
Try to find out about the seller's expectations, as it would be a waste of time if there were some details that you were not able to meet. It is therefore advised to find out all the prerequisites accompanying the sale of a property you want to bid on. It is better to stop trying in case you find out you are not able to meet them. However, if you can satisfy all the requirements, contact your realtor and ask for help writing a letter to go with your bid. That will give you a chance to let the seller find out more about you and will highlight the positive aspects of your offer.
No low-ball, no even cut off marks
Now it is important not to propose an offer that is significantly below the fair price of the home, as this would probably make you an unsuccessful candidate and the seller would choose another buyer. And that's even if you deliver a comparative offer in a later stage. Thus the best way is to offer around $1,800 to $4,800 more than the highest estimated bid. For example the most the owner expects is about $470,000. Try adding some money and come to $473,164 - the offered price doesn't have to be an even number!
The usual, best looking amount of the deposit is between 10% and 20%. Of course in most cases you can try to bargain the final amount of your down payment with the seller after the contract has been secured and usually with a success outcome. The crucial point is that you actually pay the deposit after you sign the contract, otherwise you wouldn't seem to be a respectable buyer.
Good faith deposit
The next technique is quite aggressive but produces some great results. Try to make the earnest money deposit as big a part of the down payment as possible (this deposit is not returnable if you back out later). You have to pay this money anyway, as the earnest money deposit is included in the down payment, but it sends a strong signal to the owner. It tells the owner that you really want to go through with the deal. After closing the business, you can usually rearrange the down payment value, so what matters here is the good faith deposit, showing how interested you really are in the property.
Come up with a free lodging offer
In the summary accompanying your offer, propose a free-post occupancy agreement to the seller in case they need a week or two in the property after it's been sold to settle their affairs. This might be the final aspect that plays for you to win the deal, as in a different situation the seller would have to pay some rent, being no longer the owner of the property.
Jun. 10, 2009
This financial product may be also called "Equity Release", as in England, where it is quite popular. If you are older than 60, you feel you don´t have enough funds and the idea of monthly payments is somewhat horrifying for you, the reverse mortgage might be the right solution for you.
Briefly explained, when using the equity release, you get paid the money according to the value of your home, while the interest is accumulated as the time goes. The client or his/her spouse is allowed to stay in their home as long as needed, since the liability has to be paid back only after they sell the house or the client (or spouse) moves out or passes away. Typically, clients can take credit ranging between $20,000 and $500,000. It should not exceed 30% of the home price, or 40% if the client is over 70. In the next part of this article, we will examine some pluses and minuses of the reverse mortgage.
The mortgage is tax-free. You don't have to pay any monthly amount. The ownership of your home does not change. If you still have a mortgage on your home or any other debts, this may be a perfect form of paying them up, while freeing yourself from the monthly payment obligation. The interest can be paid step by step. In this case the debit sum does not increase. Another realty may be mortgaged instead of the original one (full price or part only). If you wish to end your mortgage any time, you can do so with no additional charges, provided that you have used this product for the minimum of 3 years.
Gradually, the interest rate becomes smaller. The financial institution has no chance of foreclosing in case the client borrowed more money than his home is worth. If it happens that your home loses part of its market price with time, the bank cannot demand more money than the market value of your home.
Before you enter the program, you have to pay about $1,300. After a few years' time, the amount of money you had borrowed may be equal to the value of your home you bought using your lifelong savings. If you borrowed $50,000 at the interest of 10%, the loan reduplicates every 7 years. In specific numbers, the loan will equal $100,000 after 7 years and $200,000 after only 14 years. Even if you are lucky and the home price is growing gradually, the debt is growing too and finally there might be nothing left.
Briefly, for home owners who don't have enough money and need to get some in a short period of time, the reverse mortgage might be the right way to go. Differently to the home equity line of credit, your home still remains in your property as long as you live there, and you can get the release mortgage no matter how insufficient your salary might be or how much you owe elsewhere. It is important to acknowledge the fact that the debt multiplies within not such a long time, therefore if the client starts using the reverse mortgage when still young and with insufficient income so that he/she is not able to keep the regular payment schedule to pay off the interest rate, the debt may become close to the total house value, leaving the client with not much financial supply left. If you are interested to find out more about this option, contact your financial planner.
Jun. 7, 2009
May 15, 2009
Have you ever noticed how many events there is in Toronto over the summer?Thousands of different events fills the summer in Toronto every year, offering meaningful recreation to over 5 million inhabitants the GTA.I cannot cover or even mention every single festival or concert (for complete listings see toronto.com.Why not have a look at 5 very different festivals instead. Maybe you'll find just what you were looking for.
When: June 13th and 14th
Where: St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood
Doggies wherever you look! For the 7th time already, Toronto will be hosting the largest outdoor festival for dogs in North America. This year there’s a chance to win a honeymoon weekend package for two at the Le Meridian King Edward Hotel during the festival. All you need to do is participate at the Woofstock Wedding High Tee on June the 7th and be the owner of the best dressed doggie bride or groom! Good luck!
When: June 5th – 14th
Where: various places
Have you heard of Luminato?For 10 long days, get ready to celebrate all kind of arts in the streets, squares and parks of Toronto once again.With over 100 of events lasting for 10 days, casting over music, films, dance theatre, visual arts food and more you can forget the boredom.Tickets available for sale already.
Northern Ink Xposure
When: June 19th – 21st
Where: Toronto Hilton
The annual gathering of tattoo artists and tattoo lovers from around the world is much more than just a tattoo show – it is a life style show for tattooed people. This year’s theme is ‘Tattooing and contemporary fashion with good ol’ Rock n’ Roll’. Most of the events are open to public, but only VIP passes (only a few hundreds!) will get you to the many after parties. If interested, check out the N.I.X. fan profile on facebook!
Fan Expo Canada
When: August 28th – 30th
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre
This year celebrating the 25th anniversary of Terminator, Linda Hamilton cannot be missing! The 15th annual multigenre fan convention covers popular arts such as comic books, fantasy, science fiction books and movies, horror, anime, video games and many more. Plenty of workshops and seminars, autograph sessions, masquerade and with a long list of featured guests you can experience the perfect weekend.
Casa Loma’s Renaissance Festival
When: July 4th – 6th
Where: Casa Loma
This family fair festival offers great fun for everyone! Come and enjoy dueling knights, magician shows, medieval music, comedy, Renaissance Shoppes, ongoing games and much more. Tickets also available online.
Apr. 28, 2009
Apr. 24, 2009
It is worth mentioning that Toronto sticks to its Agenda for Prosperity for nearly 3 years now. By seizing its diversity Toronto can possibly become a great place for global economy since it also enjoys all the advantages which businesses would require to choose their location. The most important of these advantages is that Toronto is the heart of one of the most rapidly growing economic regions of North America. Amongst the reasons why Toronto is now so successful lies the fact that big investments were made the previous century.
This new century is called "the century of cities". Why? Because in the context of it cities all around the world will be trying to become the actors to shape global economy. Toronto has the realistic ambition to be one of them and, moreover, inspire for solving metropolitan challenges like climate change and human wellness and security. Under these circumstances, tourism as well as real estate in Toronto can easily flourish. What is needed to succeed in them again? It is obvious that the answer is broader level investment. Economy should keep growing.One year ago the mission to present Toronto as a gateway to North America and attract investment from Chinese enterprises started. This is a good sign, although it is not enough. After all, Toronto is lately believed to be the next Dubai...Can this be true? Statistics say that in 2025 Canada will be a leading oil-producing country and maybe more needed for the "oily-hungry" United States.
Feb. 15, 2009
Jan. 3, 2009
You may simply ask somebody around you - family, friends, colleagues - for their experience with real estate agent in the desired neighborhood. Probably you can get some information. On the other hand, a mediocre referral is worse then none. In that case, you should look farther afield.
Better place for seeking a reliable agent is online. You can find there some hard data, which doesn't lie. All good realtors are proud to present their done deals, testimonials bios, awards, education...
And all good realtors are happy when you contact them and ask question. Don't be afraid to be very detailed, you are going to buy an important service.
Ask for the:
-marketing strategy. MLS is not enough!
-time schedule. Are you going to need your agent in the evenings? Sundays? Does he have enough time for you?
-additional services. Arranging house inspection, mortgage, real estate lawyer meeting. You are going to spend your money, so ask for complex service!
-prince range. Is your potential agent dealing condos in your price range?
Don't hesitate to refuse agent's services, if you are not completely satisfied. It's the only way how to ensure smooth process of buying/selling your property.