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Real Estate and Business

Big City Versus Small Town Living

The Big City Versus Small Town Living Decision

Once in a while a client comes along who is struggling with making a choice between big city life and country living. Let me start by saying that not every big city is the same and just because one may suit you, it doesn’t mean others will. The same can be said for small towns. In other words, it is a matter of suitability to your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Green Acres is the Life for Me - Big City versus Small Town Living
Courtesy TVGuide.com

If you are faced with deciding between big city life or small town living, I encourage you to consider a couple of things. Firstly, it takes a while to get to know a big city, such as Toronto and to establish a routine. As a student of urban planning and real estate broker, I can tell you that Toronto has more options to offer for all types of lifestyles than any other city I have visited inside or outside Canada. If you want a laid back lifestyle without crowds, Toronto can provide that. There are some very low density neighbourhoods with lots of green space where a large portion of the pockets have lived there for 30 years or more.

In regards, to Ottawa (Canada’s Capital), It is a city that some people can live in comfortably, but it is certainly not a city I would find interesting, to put it politely. The city is full of politicians, bureaucrats, academics and consultants. Though I do really appreciate the Rideau Canal, especially during winter skating season.

Niagara-on-the-lake provides a very good laid back lifestyle while being accessible to several large cities and the best of both worlds.

Why people Live In Big Cities

I myself, was born in a smaller town in Southern Italy, which is as grass-roots and community-centric as you can get. In fact, to this day it is mostly an agrarian community with a tourism component because it is on the mediterranean ocean. In fact, when I go back to vacation and I have for as much as 2 months at a time, I have enjoyed it immensely. However, I could not stay any longer because of what I was not able to have while there. The high-speed internet, access to social networks of world experts in every field, free medical care, cheap and readily accessible public transportation, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the small community feel and that is why I vacation in non-urban communities. Fortunately, I have been able to find the small community lifestyle within Toronto by making specific life-choices, such as which neighbourhood to live in, which activities to pursue and groups to join.

What Your Giving Up In Small Towns

Here is more to add to the list of what you’re giving up when you choose small town living:
– world class doctors able to give you the best treatment and possibly save your life in different medical situations
– the highest paying jobs
– the largest pool of jobs
– the largest selection of restaurants representing every culture of the world
– sizeable ethnic communities representing every group in the world
– public transit
– huge selection of community centres and resource centres
– thousands of street and inside festivals
– world scale concerts, performances, trade and consumer shows
– police force equipped to help you in any situation
– large selection of educational institutions (and courses) Toronto has more of these than any other city in Canada and possibly the U.S. (when you consider all the private schools, which explains the tremendous number of foreign students); University of Toronto, York University (where the world renowned Schulich School of Business is based), Ryerson University, Seneca College, Centennial College, George Brown College, and the list just keeps going.
– large selection of shops and the latest in fashion, gadgets and more
– being able to find something to eat within 5 minutes
– huge competition among grocery chains and independent grocers offering great pricing and quality of product
– quick emergency services response
– being able to find something to do 24 hours a day

Conclusion

These are things that are important to many people, but not to all people. In fact, there are lots of people that move out of the large cities. Many of my clients are corporate executives looking to retire and they’re buying country homes in preparation for a move down the road. There are three communities that they seem to be attracted to post-Toronto. However, these people have already made their money, raised their children and used the ‘big city’ for what they needed. Now they are kicking back, doing their fishing, gardening, travelling. Yet, they seem to come back to the city when it is time for health care.

5 Things You Can Do To Drastically Increase Your Home Security

Those that have experienced home invasions, break-ins or robberies know all too well the tremendous emotional and financial impact it can have on your life. Though you can get insurance for the value of your belongings, you can’t replace their sentimental value. Even more significant is the impact it can have on your sense of personal security and privacy. The thought of a criminal going through your personal belongings, knowing they were going trough your bedroom, diaries, and who knows what else can leave you feeling extremely vulnerable.

In most cases, a homeowner can prevent burglary with some common sense measures. Some of these measures are so simple, yet surprisingly, most people don’t bother. Hence, the increasing degree of home burglaries.

5 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Home Security

1. Visibility – Keeping your doors and windows visible to neighbours

It has always been known that most criminals do not want to be seen breaking and entering into a home. However, in recent years, burglars have become more brazen with daytime break-ins. Often they’ll call a home or knock on the door and if there is no answer, they’ll assume no one is home. That’s when they’ll break-in. Even then, they don’t want to be seen by nosy neighbours.

Homes that have enclosed veranda’s, tall hedges and other ornaments that block view of the doors and windows from neighbours are preferred targets for burglars.  So, trim down or better yet remove shrubbery, trees and other items blocking your windows and doors.

2.  Lighting – Keep it lit brightly

Bright LED lights around the outside of your home are a strong deterrent for burglars. Even better are LED lights with motion sensors, because then it catches your attention and the attention of neighbours when a light comes on unexpectedly. Use several lights in a tiered field approach. For example, near the home the LEDs stay on and then at certain access points or perimeters of the property used LED lights with motion sensors. That way the burglars know everything is well lit and in case they still try to approach they’re surprised by the unexpected extra LEDs turning on.

3. Reinforced Doors Specifically Designed for Home Security

Sometimes burglars will stake out your home for days, recording your patterns and those of neighbours before breaking in. In that situation, the lights and visibility will not work. Then you have to go to the second stage of defense with hardware. Heavy duty metal doors or Doors reinforced with metal are much more difficult to break into than most popular doors. By the time a burglar breaks through one of these doors, the whole neighbourhood would have heard the commotion. They’re more expensive but when you’re facing the possibility of an armed intruder or burglar, you’ll wish you had installed them. Just remember that you also have to get the reinforced door frame, otherwise the door won’t hold.

4. Heavy Duty Locks & Bolts Specifically Designed for Home Security

The quickest and easiest way to increase your security is by upgrading your entry door locks and bolts. In the past lock companies focused on avoiding being picked open, now with burglars simply kicking doors open, they seem to be focused more on the mechanical engineering. Look for things liked thicker and longer bolts that lock into the frame, larger and longer screws that secure the both receptacle into the frame, expanded metal plates for the frame and wrap-around and extended metal braces for the door itself.

Then there are the traditional deadbolts which are well-used in cities like New York and which seemed to have been more used in Toronto’s days past. However, they are effective, especially when used with reinforced frames and doors. These will make it harder to kick in the door without having to replace the whole door.

5. Home Security Cameras

Over the last few years the design of security cameras has significantly improved with increased sharpness, night vision and even internet access. You can get them in wired or wireless format. The price has dropped significantly over the last 3 years and you can now get a complete 4 camera with internet connectivity for as little as $300 Canadian. Some of these cameras allow you to identify zones on your property which if movement is detected it’ll set off the alarm, email, text you or all three. You can then check out the cameras’ live feed through your mobile app or even search past video footage.

These security cameras may not stop every break-in, but it will deter some of them and even help police in catching the burglars and perhaps recovering your property. It also helps with your insurance claim and may even help lower your insurance premiums.

The sooner you start implementing these measures, the sooner you’ll have greater home security and piece of mind. Stay safe in your home sweet home and sleep well at night.

#homesecurity #homesafety #antitheft #theftdeterrent

Paying Extra to Own a Home: Renting Versus Owning

It is well-known that in the long-run it has been proven over hundreds of years that it is more lucrative to own your home than it is to rent it. This is especially the case in Canada given our capital gains exemption on principal residences. However, though this is usually the case an the case in the long-run, it isn’t always the case at specific points in time.

It is more lucrative to rent, rather than own your home when the market is in a bubble and it is about to go through a correction. That is something that hasn’t happened in Toronto for decades.

The belief and desire that home ownership is the best thing to do drove millions of Americans to purchase homes they could not afford leading up to the 2007-2008 liquidity crisis and  housing crash in the United States. This blind desire to own a home, fueled by the media and misunderstanding of the economics of home ownership, contributed to the skyrocketing of real estate prices. What made it worse was the government’s willingness to help families buy homes when it made more financial sense for those families to rent. Yet, the calculation of whether one should buy or rent is very straight forward.

The cost of renting your home usually includes:

  • Monthly rent
  • Utilities used
  • Tenant insurance

The cost of owning our home usually includes:

  • Mortgage payments (principal and interest)
  • Maintenance fees (if a condo unit) or maintenance costs
  • Insurance
  • Property taxes

When you add up the costs if you were to rent or own a specific home there are years when it is cheaper to rent and years when it is cheaper to own. Theoretically, the cost of renting should be equal to the cost of owning a home (less the principal repayment component of the mortgage payments). Leading up to the devastating collapse of the United States real estate market the comparison clearly showed a significant premium in owning a home. In other words, it was about 25% cheaper to rent than to own. So, home prices were over-inflated and out of equilibrium. It was only a matter of time before the market adjusted itself.

In Canada, the situation includes two additional significant factors; 1) the heavy immigration rate driving increasing demand and 2) the capital gains tax exemption on primary residences. These two items work to drive demand and produce a higher financial return on home ownership.  With increasing demand comes increasing prices for rent… and for home prices.

Very simply, the more people that need a place to rent, the more a rental unit will rent for. The more a rental unit rents for, the greater the value of the unit and the property it is located at. Though in Canada, the price of housing increased at a greater pace than rent, due to rent control. After a few years of rising housing prices, the pressure was put on by tenants to offer more rent to secure under-priced rental units.

In Toronto, the housing market continues to be in a state of disequilibrium as demand outpaces supply, which is kept tight by regulations and policies of all levels of government and the development and tax costs forced on developers by those governments.

Though a young professional might be tempted to rent a lower-cost unit in Toronto (if they can find one), the reality is that if they don’t buy their own place, their chances of home ownership might be worse in the future and certainly their accumulation of wealth will be significantly hampered.

To take advantage of the housing market returns, many millenials are renting in Toronto to live and buying in smaller communities where prices are low and they can get a rental income as the property appreciates in value. They can then use the equity in that property to buy their Toronto home down the road.

Signs of a Hoarder

It is important to know the signs of a hoarder because hoarding is a dangerous behaviour which can lead to fires, insect and rodent infestation, disease and other serious health, safety and legal consequences. Recognizing a hoarder will help prevent a situation which can be costly, if not disastrous for landlords, partners and housemates.  In my work as a Real Estate Professional and Property Manager, I sometimes come across homes where hoarders are living. Sometimes they are owner-occupied and sometimes they are tenanted, but in both situations they require a lot of time and effort to deal with the situation. This post will help you recognize the signs of a hoarder, understand the impact of hoarding and will provide some references for the process to deal with the situation and useful techniques.

Hoarding living room
Example of hoarding in a living room. Attribution: Shadwwulf at English Wikipedia

Definition of Hoarding

Hoarding is more accurately known as Hording Disorder or Compulsive Hoarding. It is a behavioural pattern expressed through excessive accumulation of, and inability or willingness to discard, large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of one’s home, causing significant distress, and/or persistent discontent resulting in impairment to one’s quality of life and ability to function. Hoarding behaviour is often associated with not just health risks and impaired functioning, but also workplace impairment, economic burden, as well as, adverse effects on family members and friends. At extremes, hoarding can prevent intended use of space to the point that it limits activities, such as sleeping, moving through the house, cleaning, cooking and entertaining.

Though in most cases, hoarders are aware of their irrational behaviour, the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects is much greater than the motive to discard the items. In fact, the underlying attachment may not be about the items themselves, but the need to simply accumulate items for a sense of security and/or stability.

Though it remains unclear whether compulsive hoarding is a separate, isolated disorder, or simply a symptom of some other condition, from my experience I have found that it is tied to some traumatic event or ongoing dysfunctional situation that occurred in one’s past. Regardless, it is considered to be a Compulsive Obsessive Disorder. Importantly, hoarding only gets worse with age. Getting to the underlying cause of this behaviour is essential to dealing with hoarders. However, you’re not likely to cure them and should recruit the help of a qualified and experienced mental health professional or coach.

Signs of a Hoarder

There are some red flags or signs that you should be aware of when identifying a hoarder. Some of these signs are easier to identify than others and they should never be considered conclusive proof that an individual is a hoarder. Use them as red flags to explore the possibility as part of your due diligence process in dealing with individuals.

  1. Avoid guests and visits to their homes.
  2. Indecision about what to keep or where to put things.
  3. Distress or feeling overwhelmed or even embarrassed by possessions.
  4. Wearing shoes, accessories or clothing that is worn beyond reason.
  5. Fear of contamination or superstitious thoughts.
  6. Fear of change.
  7. Suspicion of other people touching their items.
  8. Obsessive thoughts and actions, such as fear of running out of an item or needing it in the future, checking the trash for unintentionally discarded items.
  9. Significant difficulty organizing or categorizing possessions.
  10. Social Isolation.
  11. Family or Marital Discord.
  12. Financial Difficulties.
  13. Serious anxiety when attempting to discard items – watch people that save packaging or bits of leftovers.
  14. Take free items even when they don’t need them.
  15. Appears to be more common in those with psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  16. Associated factors may include alcohol dependence, paranoid schizotypal personality and avoidance traits.

A Hoarder Home

Though it may be too late for landlords to avoid ahead of time, these are the signs of hoarders inside their homes (in addition to the above):

  1. They hold onto a large number of items that most people would consider useless or worthless, such as:
    • Junk mail, old catalogues, magazines and newspapers
    • Freebies and promotional items
    • Worn-out or outdated cooking equipment
    • Things that might be good for making crafts
    • Clothes that they might want to wear one day
    • Trash and broken items
  2. Their home is cluttered to the extent that many areas are inaccessible and no longer used for other than storage, such as:
    • Unsanitary washrooms
    • Showers, sinks, and tubs filled with items and can no longer be used for washing or bathing
    • Kitchens that cannot be used for cooking or food preparation
    • Beds that cannot be used
    • Tables, chairs, or couches that cannot be used for dining or sitting
  3. Their clutter and mess has reached an extent that it can cause distress, illness, and impairment, causing the hoarders to:
    • Keep the shades drawn to hide their clutter from the outside
    • Get into a lot of arguments with family members about their clutter
    • Not allow visitors in, even family and friends, or repair and maintenance workers, because they are embarrassed by the clutter
    • Are at risk of fire, falling, infestation, or eviction
    • Feel anxious or depressed because of the clutter
    • Be reluctant or unable to return borrowed items

It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of all adults are hoarders. So, if you deal with tenants or homeowners, you’re likely to come across hoarders more often than you may think. It is good that you be prepared by having a process, techniques and professionals in place to help deal with these situations.

 

I’m working on my next post to discuss the process, resources, and techniques in dealing with hoarders. Follow me on social media or visit my website regularly to be notified of when it is published.

Baldo Minaudo, M.B.A.  (Direct: 416-564-0245)

Real Estate Broker, Real Estate Homeward Brokerage Inc.

Property Manager specializing in downtown Toronto rental condos and Toronto east-end rental detached homes (not affiliated with Real Estate Homeward Brokerage Inc.)

#hoarding #hoarders #hoardingdisorder #compulsivehoarding

Gymnasium Space Available During Ontario Teacher's Strike

CUPE, The Canadian Union of Public Employees announced yesterday that they are willing to escalate their work-to-rule campaign and launch a “full strike action” if a deal cannot be reached. Laura Walton, who has led negotiations on behalf of the union stated, “Make no mistake, CUPE members are prepared to go on strike. We are ready.”

Already, three major school boards have announced they will be closing schools during the strike action. This will potentially affect the education and physical activities of hundreds of thousands of students in Ontario, mostly in the Greater Toronto Area.

Thousands of activities affecting students, parents and adults that have been using school facilities will be affected by this strike action. Don’t let it interfere with your scheduled activities.

Available now for rent for Leagues, Meetings, Gatherings, Sports, Workshops, Exercise Classes, Dance Classes, and more.

There are spaces that are available, including private clubs and sports centres. However, they will book up fast.

There are two spaces available in Toronto’s Upper Beaches on Main Street.

  1. Traditional Full Size Gymnasium: This large gymnasium is 80 feet long and 47 feet deep. That’s a whopping 3700 Square Feet plus!
  2. Theatre Space: Has a traditional raised stage and can accommodate an audience of 248 individuals with an attached fully equipped commercial kitchen.

On site parking with access from Main Street and rear entrance.

For details on both these spaces visit this post: Available Space

If you’re interested, contact me directly, Baldo Minaudo, M.B.A., Broker, Real Estate Homeward Brokerage. Direct: 416-564-0245.

Note: A standard gymnasium size is 50 feet by 84 feet. Some high school gymnasiums are larger with dividing walls and can accommodate regulation size basketball games. This gymnasium was built in the 1950s to accommodate the youth of the Calvary Church community in the upper beaches.