Monday, November 26, 2012

One More Post on Real Estate and Violent Death

A response to my two previous posts on real estate and violent deaths from thoughtful reader Kristian Gravenor:

Nice post, good topic, but I think you're greatly overestimating the issue.

People die in every pre-owned house in a lot of ways. It has no bearing on what happens when you live there.

In the USA there's a hodgepodge of laws from state to state concerning disclosure but I've never found a case in the files of a lawsuit asking for material damages from such a failure to disclose in Kweebeck.

Unless there was a Jim Jones-type body count inside the house I wouldn't be bothered a tiny bit by what happened before.

Yes, but there's a difference between people dying in houses and people dying violently in houses. I learned this lesson first hand a few years ago when I was given the responsibility of selling a home in which the owner had just taken his own life. In this case, the death was not violent, as these things go, but it was an unnatural death. The police and an ambulance were involved. All the neighbors knew what had happened.That raised the potential for neighborhood gossp and conjecture.

It was an interesting experience. The house was fully furnished but quite empty. People had what can only be described as "spidey senses". You could see them trying to put the story of this house together as they walked through. They knew something was a bit off about it.

If I sensed that there was an interest in making an offer, I would sit down and explain the situation. It was amazing the number of times people told me intimate stories of their own experiences with suicide - friends, family members, their struggles with dark thoughts. These are not the kinds of stories you tell complete strangers. Or maybe they are.

The first people who wanted to make an offer on the house were a Vietnamese family, elderly parents, young professional kids. As soon as they heard about the suicide, they said sorry, no thanks. Here's the thing, and it speaks to the point you raise, Kristian. They would not have been bothered by a death in the house. Had an old person died quietly in the house after a long, good life, that would have been auspicious. A violent death was not negotiable.

It took a while, but I sold the house to a family from Iran. The woman with whom I was negotiating had a cousin who took her own life in her early 20s. She had thought long and hard about what makes people kill themselves. Her only question before buying the house was whether kids in the local school yard were going to pick on her son or refuse to play at their house because of that event. I told her I didn't think they would. She bought a good house in a good neighborhood at a good price.

As for whether people go to court over the failure to disclose, you may be right, though I wonder how you would even check such a thing. The other option is that the parties settle out of court most times because if there's been a violent death and the broker hasn't disclosed, the buyer would win, hands down.

So there, you go, Kristian. Thanks for writing. You keep me on my toes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Few More Thoughts on On Dream Home as the Scene of a Crime

Yesterday, by pure accident, I stumbled upon an MLS property where the listing broker noted discreetly that the home had been the scene of a suicide. It was mentioned in a note to other agents, not visible to the general public.

I investigated a little further. Yup, the vendor noted the suicide in the vendor's declaration. Here's the interesting part. The suicide occurred before she bought the property. Date and details unknown.  That sent me scampering back through the previous MLS listings for this particular property (What can I say? It was a slow day and I didn't feel like vacuuming. Or folding laundry. Or raking leaves.)
None of the three previous listings mentioned the suicide, either in a note to other agents, or in the vendor's declaration.

It could be the the previous vendor verbally disclosed the suicide to the buyer. It is also possible that the info was written in the declaration but that the declaration was not posted to the MLS site.

I found it curious that the current seller has left an online signpost about the violent death, one that won't be easily erased. From now on, the house's sad history will be there for brokers to see. She gets points for honesty, though I suspect that honesty might make it harder to sell her house.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Your Dream Home Was the Scene of a Nightmare

Yahoo News picked up a Toronto Star story today about a Bowmanville, Ont. couple who bought what they thought was their dream home, only to discover that the property was the scene of a double murder 15 years earlier.

The owners are now suing their real estate agent, claiming she should have disclosed the house's sordid past to them. They are also suing the former owners, who purchased the property after the crime.

According to the Toronto Star story (link here until it goes dead): 

"The Real Estate Council of Ontario, which regulates the industry, issued a warning to (agent Mary) Roy last month on the grounds that she “deliberately withheld a material fact known to her” regarding the murders from the buyers, contrary to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. The decision followed a complaint by the (buyers) earlier this year.
The council cited several provisions in the act’s code of conduct, including not engaging “in any act or omission that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonorable, unprofessional or unbecoming a registrant.”

The Star story goes on to say that the case raises questions about what a real estate agent is obliged to disclose.

"Lawyers say the case involves a grey area in common law on the issue of “duty to disclose” — and how to assess what information that entails.
If the claim proceeds to trial, it could become a test case for the doctrine of “caveat emptor,” or buyer beware, and whether the couple’s situation is an exception to that general rule."

You will be glad to know that in Quebec there is no such ambiguity about what an agent is obliged to disclose to a potential buyer. The Real Estate Brokerage Act (REBA) says:

 A broker or agency executive officer must inform the party represented
and all other parties to a transaction of any known factor that may adversely
affect the parties or the object of the transaction.

In plain English, if I know something about a house,I must disclose it, whether the buyer asks or not.
The law goes further. Each time a client and I sign a brokerage contract before listing a property for sale, we also complete a Vendor's Declaration. This six-page checklist is where sellers declare everything they know about their house, from the age of the roof to - oh yeah, by the way -  someone was killed here.

"To your knowledge, has there ever been a suicide or violent death in the immovable?"

In case that is too narrow a question, the declaration also inquires:

"To your knowledge, are there any other factors relating to the immovable not mentioned in these declaration that are liable to significantly reduce the value or restrict the use thereof, reduce the income generated thereby or increase the expenses relating thereto (e.g. development or construction project, environmental problems (e.g. radon, abnormally high noise level, unpleasant odor, etc.)"

The latter question covers pretty much any other eventuality, whether the house was used as a brothel, a marijuana grow-op or a slaughterhouse for chickens. (Where did THAT come from?)

The vendor's declaration is attached to the listing so that other agents can see it. Buyers are given a copy before they make their offer and must sign and date the declaration as proof that they are aware of all a house's quirks and defects.

There's no gray area in Quebec law about whether or not you must disclose. When in doubt, disclose.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Free the Blackstrap BBQ Sign!!

Blackstrap BBQ sign, stolen shamelessly from their Twitter page @bbqblackstrap
There's a bit of a brouhaha in the Twitterverse involving Verdun's buzziest new restaurant Blackstrap BBQ.

The Wellington St. eatery is getting rave reviews for its authentic Memphis style ribs, brisket, pulled pork and such. Everything is smoked daily on the premises. As we say here in Quebec "Omnomnomnom."

It's great to see energetic young entrepreneurs making a go of it on our main drag, Wellington St. Given the number of slice pizza joints and 99-cent hot dog emporia, Blackstrap represents a quantum step up in quality. Just what a gentrifying neighborhood needs.

To make a long story short, controversy has erupted over Blackstrap's distinctive new sign. Apparently it falls outside the borough's regulations for signage. Language, you ask? No. Plywood. Verdun doesn't permit plywood signage. Too "ghetto", in the words of Blackstrap co-owner Clara Barron.

Word spread through the social media world, with the good folks over at the Decouvrir/Discover Verdun Facebook page (an invaluable resource for people interested in local doings) voicing outrage over the borough's small-mindedness. 

As several posters pointed out, this kind of nitpicking is no way to encourage small business. Photos of ugly storefronts were posted on the FB page, none of which appear to offend the delicate sensibilities of Verdun's signage tastemakers.

A few minutes ago, Blackstrap's Barron posted a Twitter update, saying that the SDC Wellington (Société de développement commercial) will go to bat for Blackstrap and try to persuade the borough council to approve the sign.

A happy ending? Not quite yet, but maybe. Now go get some brisket.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Listed! Point St. Charles 4-Bedroom Cottage

Just listed in Point St. Charles, a lovely four-bedroom Victorian. 582 Bourgeoys St., a bit south of Wellington, was built in 1885 and has been lovingly cared for by an attentive owner. It's big enough for a growing family though the easy flow of the main floor would make it a wonderful home for that sociable couple who like to entertain. The asking price is $524,000.

The floors, door and window trim, as well as a grand staircase that wends to the second storey, are all stripped original pine. The hot water radiators (super comfortable heat)  are hidden beneath ornate 19th-century brass and marble mantles. The ceilings are high, the windows and doorways are large. In short, like broad-at-the-beam Queen Victoria herself, this house was built for comfort.

The main floor features a spacious living room that easily accommodates a huge sectional sofa, ideal of family movie nights or gatherings of friends.

The dining room, with a view onto the back garden, can easily seat 12, without crowding.
The kitchen retains its original tall wooden cabinets. There's room for a breakfast table and a nook for a desk, computer station or spot where the kids can do homework while a grown up gets started on dinner.

The main floor also has a powder room. A door at the back of the kitchen communicates with the main floor laundry and to a large treated wood deck and flagstone patio in the sunny, fenced back yard. There's a lane behind the house and the flagstone patio can double as parking in a pinch. Street parking is easy.
 Upstairs, you'll find four real bedrooms, including a massive master bedroom that measures nearly 13 feet by 13 feet. The second and third bedrooms are equally spacious.The smallest room is irregular in shape. It would make a perfect baby's room or den/office. All of the rooms have high ceilings and large windows. This is a quiet residential street with two and three-storey buildings. The light pours in all day long.

The main bathroom is divided into two rooms, a bath with shower in one room with a skylight and the WC in another little room of its own. The fixtures have been updated.

Point St. Charles has become one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in central Montreal in the last 20 years, in part because it is an easy 10 minute drive, 20 minute bike ride or 20 minute bus trip to the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine. The housing stock is older, with lots of Victorian charm and more modest homes that have been gussied up with sleek contemporary style.

582 Bourgeoys (the anglo old-timers pronounce it Burgess)  offers the luxury of space, a rare fenced AND sunny garden, carefully preserved cachet and four real bedrooms.

The basement is unfinished, but is easily 7 feet high, with interesting potential, if the square footage above ground isn't enough room for you.

As with all houses, it has a few quirks. There's a new chimney liner but the brick chimney itself will need attention in the next few years. The windows are older and still work fine, but aren't as energy efficient as newer models. We all have our little imperfections, don't we?

Check out the complete listing at Give me a call if you'd like to schedule a visit.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rosemont Duplex Just Listed

I've just listed a duplex at 4439-441 St-Zotique, at the corner of 28th Ave. in Rosemont. The property consists of  two 5.5 room dwellings, each with three closed bedrooms and large eat in-kitchens with patio doors that give onto large  rear decks.

The property has one tenant living in the ground-floor unit, and a live-in owner upstairs. Both the tenant and the owner will be leaving by July 1, 2013.

The tenant pays $850 unheated and has use of the basement for storage and laundry. He also has an outdoor parking spot on the rear driveway. The upper could probably rent for between $750 and $800. The owner uses the single-width double garage and a cold room in the basement.

The property has been co-owned by the same two families since the mid 1960s. They are generally well maintained, with newer windows, repointed brick, new balconies, stairs and guard rails. The ground floor has a 200-amp electrical box, while the upper has 125 amps.

There's huge upside potential in the unfinished basement, with room aplenty for a fresh new laundry room and family room or extra bedroom, as need be.

The asking price is $475,000. The vendors are open to negotiation. Don't hesitate to call if you have questions or would like to schedule a visit.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From the "Better Late Than Never" File

I just came across a heated email I sent off to CBC Radio's morning show, Daybreak, last spring. It was in response to a story that their breathless reporter Shawn Apel did about people who sell their homes themselves and can't believe that actual real estate agents dare phone them to try to persuade them to give them the listings.

The tone of the story was a little bit heated and indignant, in the vein of  "Pushy Realtors Won't Take No For an Answer."

Needless to say, it irritated the hell out of me. So I sat down and fired off this email. The reporter sent me a brief response but as far as I know, my comments were not read on the air or published on the Daybreak web page.

I am reminded of that snarky email, because I was just contacted by someone who found my name on the web and wanted me to recommend a building inspector. Strange, I thought. Why wouldn't she ask he own agent for some names?

I emailed her back and wouldn't you know it, she doesn't have an agent. She's buying directly from the seller.  She doesn't need an agent. BUT SHE NEEDS AN AGENT TO RECOMMEND A BUILDING INSPECTOR. Is it me, or is this the height of irony?

Here's the email I sent CBC. Note how high up on my hind legs I managed to get. I've used asterisks in place of the company's full name. They will get no cheap publicity from me. 

"Hello Shawn and CBC Daybreak

I listened with interest to your segment on D* P**p*o and the agents who "pester" homeowners who list with D* P**p*o. The word pestered is an interesting one. Is that like how reporters (I used to be one) "pester" people who might not want to speak to them. Isn't that just a matter of doing the job?

I am a real estate agent. I do not solicit people who choose to list with D* P**p*o. I have, however, had clients who listed with D* P*op*o and then asked me to represent them in the purchase of the next home. Interesting. They don't want to pay an agent to sell their house but they want an agent to advise them in the purchase their next home. Why?  The vast majority of properties are listed on the MLS system. Real estate agents have access to market information and the expertise to negotiate. Ironically, Nicholas Bouchard, D* P*op*o's co-founder, the guy heard chuckling in your report, uses a real estate agent when it comes time to sell his own property.*P*op*o+founder+listed+with+broker/6438622/story.html

(Note: This link, no longer live, is from an Allison Lampert story in The Gazette about Bouchard listing his cottage with an agent on the MLS. It went with another one about D* P*o*o's celebrity spokesthingy using an agent to sell her home, too.)

Hypocrisy, much?

Whenever I have a client selling through D* P*op*o I end up advising them on how to negotiate when it comes time to sell. It is not unusual to have to handhold them through negotiations, financing and inspection. I don't get paid to do it, you understand. I do it out of self preservation. If the sale of their house falls through, the purchase of their next house is put in jeopardy.

I wish people understood that once D*P*op*o puts up the sign and takes the pretty pictures, they leave the seller to sink or swim. You end up getting less money for your house because most people are not good at selling real estate. It is harder than it looks. I wish people would stop pretending that any fool can sell their own house.

By the way, you are soft selling when you describe D*P*op*o as a company "that helps people sell houses". They sell a range of advertising services, that's it. D*P*op*o is a wholly owned part of Power Corp. The same Power Corp that owns La Presse and makes lots of money selling real estate ads every week. Kind of a win-win situation for Power Corp., if you ask me. Not necessarily for sellers, buyers or real estate professionals but I'm sure Paul Desmarais sleeps just fine at night.

P.S.  I know your story had its genesis in the press release D* P*op*o put out May 25th about how real estate agents bother people who list with them. The company issued a retraction on June 1 for some of the more inflammatory things in that press release. "

I feel much better for having shared that with you all. Good night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Horse Palace to become working museum | Montreal

Horse Palace to become working museum | Montreal 

This makes me happy beyond all reason. As much as renewal and construction are part of the life of a city, there's something to be said for safeguarding those funky, grotty corners that give Montreal its soul.

Do Bother Me, Please!

I'm listening to one side of a phone conversation going on about 15 feet away from me.
My colleague is talking to a professional contact about a new condo that has just been listed. The contact wants to know what my colleague thinks about the location and the price.

If I understand correctly, the person on the other end of the line has just said she's going to go over and have a look at the place and then maybe she'll call back if she's interested in making an offer.

I can hear my colleague explaining politely, but with rising vehemence, that if the person wants to visit the condo she would be most pleased to visit with her,

She isn't just being nice, you know. The agent really, really, really would like to visit that condo with her.


I've heard the story too many times to count. It is the story of people who don't want to bother a real estate agent until they've seen the place they like. Then and only then will they ask an agent to negotiate the purchase on their behalf.

Too late, folks. Too. Freaking. Late!

Here's a little bit of inside baseball type information for you. If you want me to represent you in the purchase of a property, I have to be the one to make the appointment to visit the place. I have to go with you for the visit and I have to be with you for all subsequent visits.

(The exception to this rule is the open house. You can go to an open house without your agent, but you should tell the agent at the door that you are working with your own agent.)

Those are the rules. The Real Estate Brokerage Act, the regulations that govern the industry, are very clear about this. The agent who is the "effective cause of sale" is the one who gets paid at the end of the day. Being the effective cause of sale can mean showing the property, pointing out the pros and cons of the property, gathering supplementary and pertinent information that helps the buyer make up his or her mind and, finally, negotiating the deal.

Being as I sell real estate to feed my family, I am really, really, really interested in getting paid at the end of the day.

Early in my career I negotiated on behalf of a family who had a really hard time buying their first home. I held their hands through the whole process and, when their bank refused to give them a mortgage, helped them find a mortgage broker who could get them good financing.

I worked very hard on that file. And I never got paid. Why? Because they buyers had visited the property once before they met me and had spoken to the agent after their visit. The listing agent had a prior claim on them,

It was a painful and expensive lesson.

So by all means, call me to talk about properties that interest you but please do take with you to visit. You won't be wasting my time. Au contraire, it's how I earn my living.  I like visiting properties with my clients and will visit as many as they need to see before we find the right one.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Masala Comes to Point St. Charles

I was doing errands on Centre St. in the Point this afternoon and stumbled upon a new restaurant near the corner of Shearer.

Imagine my delight in finding that Masala, a well-known downtown Indian eatery and cooking school has decamped to the Le Sud-Ouest.

 Let the debate about the merits of this Indian restaurant versus that Indian restaurant rage on Chowhound, I love Indian cookery and anything that multiplies the offerings of dhal and chicken masala in my part of the world, is alright by me.

Bring your friends. And your own wine.

The Home Inspection, A Vital Step in the Buying Process

 I recently sold a century-old home in the Plateau Mont-Royal to a buyer who opted to do his own home inspection.

It is not something I would ever recommend one of my clients do, but this gentleman, a foreign-trained architect new to Montreal, was not my client. I had no voice in the decision.

The house passed inspection with the usual quirks that one finds in a 100-year-old house that has undergone wave after wave of renovation.

A week after the sale closed, I began receiving calls from the buyer in which he sought basic information about the property. Where is the main water shut-off? Where is the electrical panel? There are three hot water tanks in the basement. How can I tell which of them is actually in use?

Do I look like Mike Holmes?

His were the type of questions that a competent building inspector would have answered on the spot and again in the written report submitted after the inspection.

The buyer opted not to hire a professional inspector.

For my money, the $400 - $600 cost of a pre-purchase inspection is about the best money you'll spend. You'll walk away with a better understanding of how your home is built and what to do to keep it in good shape.

An inspector will look at all of a home's components and systems for signs of trouble. The inspection usually begins on the outside with an overview of the roof, chimney, exterior cladding, foundation, windows and doors. He or she looks for signs of water infiltration, because water, if not kept at bay,  leads to other problems like mold, mildew and rot.

Inside, he or she will check the wiring, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Is the wiring safe? Is the plumbing leaky? How efficient is the furnace? How old is the hot water tank?

Inspectors read things like plaster cracks, uneven floors and interior doors that don't close, looking for signs that a building is moving, sagging or is structurally unsound.

They can spot things like asbestos found in some insulation and in heatproof pipe and furnace coverings, or urea formaldehyde foam insulation, which can give off nasty gases. In some areas, pyrite is a problem. An inspector will look for signs that pyrite has led to heaving in the basement slab and recommend further testing.

Inspectors don't open walls and ceilings. They don't take things apart. They only report on the things that are visible to the dilligent eye.

A good inspector can talk you down when a problem is small or send you scurrying if a problem is severe.

Last year, I had buyers who put a bid on a fixer-upper in Lachine. Only after they had placed their bid did the listing agent mention "Oh, by the way. There's vermiculite insulation in the attic."

Vermiculite is a thing that a vendor should mention up front because some granular vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If disturbed, asbestos fibres become airborne. Breathing asbestos, not such a good idea. There are two schools of thought when it comes to asbestos. A) Don't disturb it ot B) Have it professionally removed by guys in HAZMAT suits working in a controlled environment.

In this case, the vendor made the declaration late but with an interesting offer.The sale prices is $329,000 and we take care of removing the vermiculite, or the sale price is $289,000 and the buyers take care of the vermiculite themselves.

After some thought, my clients opted for the second option. Their inspector, a true pro, made his way to the attic saying this: "Knowing what I know about this neighborhood and the year this house was built, I would be very surprised if there was asbestos in this attic."

Vermiculite insulation. No asbestos here.
He grabbed a handful and said "Nope, you've got nothing to worry about."

A sample of the vermiculite was sent for lab analysis and came back negative for asbestos. The house had a clean bill of health.

My clients had saved $40,000 on the purchase. They were able to shovel the vermiculite up and dispose of it at their local eco centre without any fear of breathing in asbestos.

I recommend that clients talk to friends, family and co-workers to get names of inspectors. You can also go to the web site of the AIBQ, the Quebec Association of Building Inspectors to find a good candidate.

Whichever way you go, consider the pre-purchase inspection an integral part of the buying process. It is money well spent. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

What If My Co-owner Wants to Rent Out His Flat?

One of the most popular posts on my blog is the one dealing with the differences between Properties Held in Divided Ownership Versus Undivided Co-Ownership

Here's the latest question. I thought it deserved its own entry. 


I own the lower portion of an undivided co-property. The owner of the upper is moving and has has been trying to sell his section. Since he has not had any offers he is now considering renting. According to our co-prop agreement he requires permission from the institution with which he has a mortgage and from me. I do not feel comfortable having someone who is a tenant rather than an owner living above me. Therefore I do not want to give him permission. According to him he says that he does have the right to rent out his apartment regardless of any reason I give. Is this true? Can he challenge this if I don't want to give him authorization?

Thank you for any help

Hello Anonymous,

There are two issues. First, if the agreements says you must consent, then that should be the end of the story. I would hope that your neighbor would  drop the matter there.

The second issue has nothing to do with you but is equally germane and potentially waaaay more scary for your upstairs neighbor. What does the mortgage lender say? Generally speaking, lenders (and in Quebec that means either National Bank or Caisse Desjardins) do not allow owners of undivided co-owernship properties to rent their places out because there is no automatic right for a financial institution to repossess the unit, ie to get a tenant out. That makes it harder for them to sell if a borrower defaults on a mortgage.

You have the same mortgage lender, presumably. What does your mortgage say? If there is a prohibition against renting, it will be there in black and white. If your upstairs neighbor violates the terms of his mortgage the bank could, in theory, call the mortgage loan.

I would be surprised if he has the right to rent.I would be surprised if he would want to go up against his bank. That doesn't generally go well.

Hope this is helpful.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Hero! Century 21 Agent Amy Barratt Jumps for Kids

Every year Century 21 puts its corporate clout behind the Easter Seals campaign, raising money to help handicapped kids and their families, in one way or another. Last year, the company launched a new campaign, Drop Zone, in which C21 agents across the country suited up and rappelled down tall office buildings. Each jumper pledged to raise a mimimum of $1,500 to send a handicapped child to camp.

I am so proud to say that Amy Barratt will be taking part in this year's Drop Zone challenge. She will be rappelling down the side of 1981 McGill College Ave. in the heaty of Montreal on Saturday, September 20. You might also know 1981 McGill College Ave. as the 20-storey glass building with the marzipan/margarine people sculpture out front.

I've already sponsored Amy in this endeavor and have encouraged her to wear a super hero costume as she makes the leap.

Check out her Drop Zone page by clicking on this link

Here's a video of last year's event. It makes the thing look hardly scary at all.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mortgage Rules Change Today

Starting today, borrowers face a new set of rules when it comes to mortgage lending in Canada.
The changes will have particular impact on younger/first-time buyers and could make it harder and/or more expensive to buy that first home.

As of today, buyers with less than a conventional 20-per-cent down payment will no longer be able to spread their mortgages over 30 years. The amortization period is being shrunk to 25 years. This is the measure that has been making headlines since June when the new rules were announced by Finance minister Jim Flaherty.  Funny thing is, the 25-year mortgage was the norm until relatively recently. The 30-year mortgage was introduced to stimulate the housing sector. Now that the job is done, we are reverting to the old rules.

 If you have 20 per cent to put down and thus don't need the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to insure your mortgage, you can still get a 30-year term.

The second change to the mortgage game is that home owners will no longer be able to take quite as much equity out of their homes. Starting today, owners will be able to refinance up to 80 per cent of the value of their homes, down from 85 per cent.

 Flaherty put the new measures in place to A) cool key overheated housing markets. B) to discourage Canadians from taking on too much debt C) to persuade homeowners to stop treating their houses like ATM machines and pay off those pesky mortgages.

Flaherty announced the new measures largely in response to overheating in the Toronto market. Not everyone thinks they were the best approach.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Philip Soper, the head of Royal LePage, said that Flaherty used a hammer, when a fly swatter might have done the job.

 “The market is clearly cooling on a national basis, and I’m concerned that what is essentially a Toronto problem is being attacked with a blunt instrument that’s going to hurt the housing market nationwide,”

Maybe so. Mortgage industry insiders say the tightening will have the same effect as a one-per-cent interest rate hike. The government says the more stringent requirements will have an impact on about 5 per cent of new buyers, forcing them to the sidelines until either they save more or have higher paying jobs.

Some think the tighter lending rules will result in a market slowdown that would make it easier for young/first-time buyers to get into the market. Guess we'll see.

Several of my buyer clients have asked me what the mortgage rules will mean. I'm not convinced it will have much impact in Montreal. I don't see too many buyers opting for 30-year mortgages. I think I've had two clients over the course of the last two years. In Greater Toronto, some 40 per-cent of first-timers opt for 30-year mortgages. Different market, different circumstances. If clients ask my opinion, I encourage them to put down as much of a down payment as possible and to opt for as short an amortization period as possible. Call me crazy but I don't think it would be a terrible thing if marginal buyers were forced to the sidelines.

One last point. As of today, the CMHC will no longer insure mortgages priced above $1 million. It boggles my mind that the federal government was up until now insuring houses worth that much. Whatever happened to buying within your means. scraping and skimping to buy that first home? Seems to me that a $1-million home ought to be a move-up property. It would be in Montreal, but I suppose that in hotspots like Toronto and Vancouver, that kinda cash will get you a crack house or shack.

Check out  Crack Shack or Mansion and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

I've been saving them up, folks!  Sometimes the details are a little fuzzy, but this is ridiculous.

Friday, July 6, 2012

6348 Hurteau, Ville Emard, A Shoebox Bungalow with Soul

Don't be unduly fooled by its cuteness! This brick bungalow is as rock-solid as a house can be.

6348 Hurteau is a typical early 20th century bungalow, flat-roofed and longer than it is wide. I coined the term "shoebox house" a few years back to describe this quintessential Montreal bungalow because of their simple, straight-lined design.

This property has been in the same family for more than 65 years. Four sisters grew up sharing one of the bedrooms. Their father had walled off one end of a double room to create a windowless tailoring workshop. Their mother, an amazing gardener, grew roses, peonies, hydrangeas, columbines and raspberries in the fenced yard. Earlier this week, I picked about three cups of raspberries and baked them into a really tasty pie!

This house has two real bedrooms, with the possibility of creating a third by dividing one of the double rooms.

It has a compact but very clean bathroom which has been recently freshened up with paint and new tile.

There's a combined living and dining room. as well as a spacious eat-in kitchen that gives onto an unheated sunporch that is usable during three seasons. The ceiling height throughout is at least nine feet, which gives this compact row house a definite feeling of spaciousness.

The roof was redone in December, 2011. The floors, all hardwood, are original.The basement has a laundry room, workshop and storage, with a separate door to the back yard. The house has electric baseboard heating, as well as an updated panel.

The asking price is $257,000 and the vendors are very motivated to sell. I'm having an open house on Sunday, 2-4 p.m.. Drop by for a peek. I'm thinking of putting a raspberry pie in the oven.  Maybe I'll offer you a piece. Maybe.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Just Listed! Location, location, location.

Looking for an oasis in the middle of the Plateau action? Look no further.

Amy Barratt and I have just listed a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, 2-level condo in Chateau Esplanade, the impressive tan brick complex at 4433 de l'Esplanade, just south of Mont-Royal Ave.

The Chateau is made up of a number of  connected three-storey buildings, set around landscaped coutryards. They are protected heritage buildings.

The unit we have for sale is a coolly contemporary condo, with a large open living and dining room with fireplace, master bedroom, kitchen; laundry and bathroom on the main (1st floor). Downstairs, there is a second generously proportioned bedroom, an office corner with library, second bathroom and storage.

The asking price is $379,000.

This could be an ideal set up for a first-time buyer who wants to take in a roommate, university students, or a family with a teenager. Because of the very practical division of space everyone can have privacy.

The unit has undergone several smart renos in recent years, including new hardwood floors in the living and dining room. The laundry and storage area were reworked to impove functionality and dressed up with custom-made floor-to-celing sliding doors.

The bathroom has been entirely renovated. In the kitchen, a quartz  counter with a glass tile backsplash, undermounted sink and high-end faucet were installed. The property is being sold with the refrigerator, dishwasher and stove included.

 There is so much to like about the area. First, the building faces Jeanne-Mance Park and all that the city has to offer. Pick-up soccer in the park, a kids' wading pool and playground and the gateway to Mount Royal, for starters.

Then there's everything else. There's grocery shopping at the corner of St. Urban and Mont Royal Ave. The shops and restos on St. Laurent Blvd. are steps away. Park Ave is nearby and the funky boutiques and metro stop are a short walk away on Mont Royal.

There's a Bixi stand on the corner and at least 4 bus routes - the 11, 57, 55, 80 and 129 - are all within steps of your door.

The Chateau Esplanade is a well managed building with an involved board of directors made up of building residents, as well as a professional management company. In the last two years, owners voted to repoint the brick on the building's main facade and also undertook a large project to reinforce the building's stone foundation by pouring 100 linear feet of concrete. These projects have been paid for. The roof was redone in the last six years. There are no other major repair or renovation projects on the horizon.

Have a taste for a condo that combines the best of heritage architecture and contemporary design?  Come have a look at our listing. Check it out at by punching in MLS #8750675.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

I have automatic listing searches set up for several buyer clients. I get an email alert every time a new listing hits the market. As always,  I clicked on the link for this new listing with a little flutter of excitement. Then I saw the photos.
Good God, where to begin? The toilet seat is up. There's piddle in the potty. The picture is time stamped September 28, 2010. How many ways can one agent devise for their photos to not help sell a property?
For $500,000 someone should at least have flushed the toilet.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day in Montreal

Here's an awesome video of people gathering to mark Earth Day in Montreal yesterday. We've enjoyed unseasonably warm, dry and sunny weather through most of March and April but Mother Nature snapped back to normal yesterday with rain, colder temperatures and a blustery wind. That didn't keep an estimated 100,000 people from marching along Park Ave, though.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Signs of Spring in Verdun

You can keep your $5 lattés. You can keep your night clubs and restos that rock until  2 a.m. I live in Verdun where we see herons stalking the edge of the water. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

 Today is March 30. It has been 96 days since Old Saint Nick shimmied down the chimeny of this Villeray condo.  What does it tell you that the listing photo of the living room still has a Christmas tree?
A) Christmas lives in our hearts always?
B)  Don't complain. There's something much, much worse hidden behind it.
C) The agent wants buyers to know exactly how long the property has been on the market.

It's beginning to still look a lot like Christmas!

Monday, March 12, 2012

After 47 Years, Verdun Ends Prohibition

It has been two years in discussion but it looks like Verdun is finally ready to lift the ban on bars and brasseries in place since 1965.
Benelux, a craft brewery with a location at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Sherbrooke St. in the Plateau will be opening a second outpost on Wellington St. sometime this spring.
This is fantastic news for local merchants and residents who complain that the ban on booze has held back development on Verdun's main drag. People wanting to step out for a post work drink or get-together have been forced to look outside the borough's friendly confines. No more.
There's an article with some of the details in today's free commuter rag, 24.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Verdun banned short shorts.

Thanks to Nadine over at the Decouvrir Verdun Facebook page who dug up this Radio-Canada news report from 1963. Listen as a tight-laced civic leader discusses a new bylaw banning the wearing of "short, short shorts."  The report is filmed at the Natatorium, Verdun's lovely and well-used swimming complex on the edge of the St. Lawrence River. Local youths weigh in over whether they are for the rule or against it. Opinion seems to run against the anti-short shorts rule, especially among the teenaged boys. 

Just Listed! Mile End Cottage 4+1 Bedrooms.

Amy Barratt and I have just listed a stunning 4+1 bedroom stone cottage in the heart of Mile End.
This lovingly cared for family home is located on Jeanne-Mance between Fairmount and St-Viateur, steps from the world's best bagels, excellent coffee and all the other good things the 'hood has to offer.

They don't build houses like this anymore, with gracious proportions, high ceilings, big windows and a fenced yard big enough for a vegetable garden, a patio and a parking space, should you so desire.

The ground floor features a large living room with bay window, spacious dining room, eat in kitchen with gas stove and custom wood cabinets and an all-season sun room that looks onto the back yard.

Upstairs you'll find four good-sized bedrooms, including a master bedroom that was made by joining two rooms into one. Two of the bedrooms have balconies. The bathroom is newly renovated.

The basement has a separate entrance and could be used as a living space for a teenager or young adult. There is a full bath with tub, laundry room, storage room and a finished family room that could also be used as a fifth bedroom. Tons of space!

 The heating system is gas and hot water radiators, for my money the best and most comfortable way to heat in our damp, chilly climate.

The asking price is $850,000. It will not linger on the market long, I don't imagine.
 You can find out more by checking my Century 21 website here.

UPDATE: Here's a slide show Amy put together that really gives a sense of the space.

To book a visit call me at (514) 978-6522 or call Amy Barratt at (514) 718-6522.


Divided versus Undivided, A Reader Asks about Taxes

MontReal Estate reader Sabrina read a post I wrote about the differences between divided and undivided properties. One of the most interesting differences about the two is that the property taxes on undivided properties are generally substantially lower on undivided than divided.

Sabrina wrote to ask how much of a difference there is. So here goes.

I can't give you a precise mathematical answer to the question, Sabrina. If you own a condo, your property taxes will be based on a formula the city works out every three years when it adjusts the property tax rolls.

For example, if you look at Plateau Mont Royal, the basic 2012 tax rate or mill rate is .8183 cents per $100 for evaluation if your unit is in a building with five units or less. Add to that .1403 cents per $100 of evaluation for water tax and a road improvement tax of .0047 cents per $100 of evaluation.

If you live in a condo, also known as a divided property, the city will base its evaluation on the value of your property alone, though the truth is that evaluations generally trail market values. Thank goodness.

If you have an undivided property, the property tax will be based on the value of the entire building and will be divided among the co-owners according to what percentage of the building they own. If your property is part of a triplex, that might work out to 31 per cent for the middle floor, 35 per cent for the ground floor and 34 per cent for the top floor. (The percentages can vary, depending on if the person on the ground floor also gets access to a basement, or whether the second floor is smaller than the third floor because of the staircase etc.)

Have I bored you to tears yet, Sabrina?

Here's a more visual illustration. I looked up four properties that sold within the last 6 months in the Plateau. All sold for between $345,000 and $350,000. Two are divided properties and two are undivided. Have a look.

Berri St. undivided. Sold $350,000.  Building evaluation $754,000. Ownership share = 30 per cent. Taxes= $2230.50

De Bullion St. divided. Sold for $350,000. Evaluation $343,000. Taxes= $3,965

Waverly St. undivided. Sold for $345,000. Building evaluation $510,300. Ownership share = 30 per cent. Taxes = $1567.

Henri-Julien Ave. divided. Sold for $350,000. Evaluation $270,3000. Taxes = $1,747.

As you can see, there can be wide differences in property taxes, depending on whether your evaluation is low or high. A low evaluation today will be corrected next time the property rolls are updated. The one thing that doesn't change is that the taxes on an undivided property are lower than those on a divided property that sells for the same price.

 I hope that helps, Sabrina. Thanks for writing!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Were They Thinking? #13 in a Series.

Needlepoint nudes, really? This listing photo for a condo in trendy Plateau Mont-Royal is making the rounds on Facebook this weekend.
My favorite comment came from the guy who said "That room looks like it would smell of chlamydia and yoghurt."
Others were equally disturbed by the wooden duck on the air conditioner, the spotlights and the fake brick wall.
Handy rule of thumb. If you're thinking of selling your house, hide that boudoir art away.