My Agent Mike

Hi! I'm Mike Rapkoski.

Sales Representative, Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty Inc., Brokerage

I have spent the past 18 years assisting clients build their wealth through making wise choices with their real estate buying and selling. I am passionate, dedicated and committed to providing world class service to my real estate clients.

19 September 2016 ~ 0 Comments

CRA On The Hunt For Real Estate Tax Cheats

This past week I attended a presentation that covered tax implications when doing assignment sales, buying fixing, and flipping property and selling pre-construction condos.

Often we hear of friends or family who have made money in some form of one of the above scenarios, but we don’t talk much about the tax implications that are triggered when doing so.

Canada Revenue Agency has a new state-of-the-art computer system that is designed to review every sale of residential property. This to me is not shocking to say the least, as I would expect our government to use modern tools and techniques to recover the taxes owing when investment or speculative sales occur, of any nature.

What did make me sit straight up in my seat were the underhanded ploys, dishonest goading and straight up trickery to get what I suspect are mostly honest but ill-informed taxpayers to part with substantial sums of money.

The CRA seems to use tactics that resemble some of society’s worst case stereotypes when it comes to scamming people out of money. I understand this tactic when used on someone who clearly is trying to cheat the government out of paying tax. But to be a blanket approach strategy that is meant to fling poop against the wall and see what sticks, seems fairly shady to me.

I always advise my clients whenever they have questions or need tax advice to consult the appropriate professionals for expert guidance. There is the potential to make amazing gains in buying and selling investment real estate. You should certainly always factor in the tax payable before you sell and even often before you buy!

If you have any questions around this matter feel free to reach out me and I will gladly share my resources, or contact your tax advisor or related professional.

18 August 2016 ~ 1 Comment

The Value of Continuous Learning

Some of you know that I recently returned from San Diego after attending yet another training and learning session. I write ‘yet another’ as from time to time, I’ve been asked by some friends and colleagues: why after 20 years of being a successful Realtor do I still go to such events? What else is there for me to learn? My usual response is this: I learn plenty! Read on and I will explain why for myself, I would not use the services today of ANY professional that isn’t committed to continuous learning!

For starters, I believe that in the world we live in today, with such ease to information (and much misinformation) there is always something of value to learn. While I haven’t attended more basic levels of education in many years, I have over the past 15 years attended conferences, coaching, training, and educational sessions on a variety of real estate, business and personal matters (note: each and every one of these are completely different) that are both of value to me and the clients I serve.

Amongst the sphere of professionals whom I interact with – brokers and Realtors from within my brokerage as well as outside of it, lawyers, mortgage professionals, financial planners and condominium boards, I am often sought out for my opinions on the real estate industry. I typically stay away from media requests for my own personal reasons, but I am committed in doing my part to raise the bar of my profession in ways that I can.

Commitment to learning is not cheap. We are all aware of the expense of higher learning. With the amount I have invested in my growth I am certain I could have bought 2-3 MBA’s, but this is life as we know it today.

In my industry alone, there have been more advancements and changes in the past 3 years than there have been over the previous 50 years! Digest that for a moment and then look around at what industry you are in. How and what will it look like 3 years from now?

Is all change good? Relevant? I don’t think so. But gaining an informed opinion through access to more than one side, I have personally found to be invaluable. And adding value is what we do. Without this, we are average. In an ever-competitive world where average can be replaced easily and inexpensively in most fields of work, what are you doing to become irreplaceable?

Now is the time to act on it! Change isn’t easy, I’ll be the first to admit that. I recently went through a business change that was solely based on going from successful to significant. A change that most people I know possibly won’t even notice, but I am committed to being invaluable to those that I serve and who depend on me.

No one succeeds alone. All success comes with the help of others. I’m always here for you and happy to share my thoughts if interested – just reach out!

18 July 2016 ~ 0 Comments

TREB Appeals Tribunal Decision And Maintains Privacy Position

The following is a press release originally published by TREB on July 11, 2016:

The Toronto Real Estate Board is appealing the decision ordered by the Competition Tribunal to release property sold data and pending sold data (where the transaction hasn’t yet closed) for broad dissemination on the Internet without requiring the explicit informed consent from the consumer.

TREB asserts the Tribunal erred in fact and law in determining that TREB has lessened competition. TREB does not compete in the real estate market. Its rules are designed to foster
competition among its 45,000 active Members. TREB has always supported competition among its Members, as reflected in the market place.

Privacy laws and decisions of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada are clear in their requirement for consumers to provide their consent prior to the release of their personal financial information and specifically the sold price of your home. The new Digital Privacy Act which came into force in 2015 further buttressed the privacy rights of consumers. Canada’s privacy law regime requires that any disclosure of personal financial information for uses not previously identified to the consumer requires the consumer’s informed consent. It is TREB’s view that the decision of the Competition Tribunal, with respect, does not respect this right of consumers within the GTA.

Furthermore, when disclosing sold and pending sold information, REALTORS® must comply with the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA 2002), Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) rules and guidelines, and contractual obligations. REALTOR® compliance protects consumer personal financial information to avoid compromising the position of property sellers and buyers. Moreover, TREB has copyright in the TREB MLS® System as supported by case law in Canada and the United States.

To ignore any of these laws is wrong. Any disclosure or release of personal financial information
without explicit informed consent is against the law. When consumers within the GTA entrusted
TREB REALTOR® Members as the custodians of their personal financial information, broad
dissemination, as ordered in the Competition Tribunal decision, was not a contemplated use.
While some may dismiss these concerns, there are others who feel strongly about keeping their
information private for personal and other legitimate reasons. TREB, in accordance with the law,
respects this choice. Why should homeowners in the GTA be entitled to less privacy protection
over the personal financial information than those homeowners elsewhere in Ontario, elsewhere
in Canada?

“This order provides little protection for the consumer and opens the door to misuse and abuse of their sensitive personal financial information and the content of an Agreement of Purchase and Sale contract that has not closed. The consumer has privacy rights and only the consumer should be the one to determine, with clear understanding, when and where their personal financial information is disclosed,” said John DiMichele, TREB’s Chief Executive Officer.

If the Tribunal’s order stands, TREB cannot prevent personal financial information or other
confidential information of residential property sellers and buyers within the GTA, such as pictures from being copied, sold, or misused once this information is made available on the Internet. The Tribunal acknowledges and agrees that once this data is online, it is gone. The laws state, and TREB believes, that buyers and sellers have a right to privacy – a right that only they may waive. In TREB’s view, this case is about protecting personal financial information of consumers within the GTA by adhering to Canada’s privacy laws and respecting consumer privacy rights. The Tribunal also accepted TREB’s claim that the display of “pending sold” information would expose home sellers to being targeted by unsolicited approaches by other service providers, or even unsolicited offers by other purchasers. Yet, the Competition Tribunal is ordering this personal financial information of consumers within the GTA be broadly disseminated on the Internet. Once that information is available on the Internet, its use for other purposes cannot be controlled or protected.

The Competition Tribunal recognized in its decision that there is a high degree of competition in
the market, and the focus of the Competition Bureau in this matter is on non‐price competition.
TREB believes that the GTA has a very competitive housing marketplace and there is substantial innovation being applied by Realtors® to market their services while abiding by Canada’s privacy and consent regime.

“The issue for TREB is about duty of care and professional responsibility. TREB has grown to more than 45,000 Members across the GTA and does not discriminate between business models used by its Members. In fact, we welcome and support all innovation and business models. Make no mistake, this decision should raise concern for all consumers about informed consumer consent and disclosure of confidential content within an Agreement of Purchase and Sale contract that has not closed. TREB believes the case law is clear and the Digital Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) are very specific on consents. TREB believes it’s the consumer’s information and they have a right to choose. Choice and consent with respect to personal financial information does not impede innovation,” Mr. DiMichele continued.


This matter has been flying under the radar a little. I would love to hear your thoughts on below in the comments or via email at mikerap@mikerap.com.

17 June 2016 ~ 0 Comments

When Will Toronto’s Market Cool Off?

With so many headlines about the crazy hot real estate markets happening in Vancouver and Toronto, It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of the conflicting theories that deluge us on an almost daily basis.

For starters, let’s look at the Vancouver conversation and how it’s becoming incredibly impossible for locals to own real estate there. Vancouverites, speak to natives of Hawaii – you have a lot in common. It’s also worth noting that many other communities across Canada (both big market and small) are doing okay when compared to their historic norms.

Now let’s look at Toronto, where there seems to be confusion and uncertainty. Just ask any knowledgeable Realtor about unaffordability in the market place – they could probably chew your ear off on how many of their buyers are maybe hitting 50% of what their expected wants or wish list had when they started their search.

There is even a joke floating around about the Barenaked Ladies hit song, and what it would sound like if it were released today: “If I had a million dollars, I would put me a down payment on a detached house in Toronto…”

The unaffordability signs are everywhere, yet the demand – and trust me, the demand is very high for both houses and condos in Toronto – is nowhere near letting up anytime soon.

I do think we are seeing some buyer fatigue in the market, where fewer buyers are recklessly placing offers on properties, but the viewings are not down. Earlier this week in the Toronto Danforth area, I had a house listing that had 10 fewer showings on it all compared to all of the combined sales year to date!

No one can predict when the market will actually cool (sorry TD Bank with your inconsistent attempts). As always, the key is to pay attention to what’s happening overall in the local economy across a variety of key indicators.

The reason people want to know when it will cool down is mostly due to their own agenda – mainly, when can we expect or be able to move and or to buy something? This conversation is truly an individually-based one. Good Realtors are becoming more advisory/consultants to buyers on aligning when the right time is to buy or move. There are so many things to contemplate than simply, I want to own my own home.

For now, the frenzy will continue in Toronto, so reach out to your trusted Realtor as to what this could mean to you. And I say trusted because today, you need an advisor/consultant, not a traditional salesperson who is going to just ‘sell you a house’. You need to fully understand: when is the right or wrong time for me to buy or make a move?

24 May 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Want to Airbnb Your Condo? Think Again.

The rapid growth of property sharing sites such as AirBnB have started to change the way investment properties are being evaluated. Not so much on the selling side as of yet, but astute property investors on the buying side are starting to calculate R.O.I. (return on investment) in ways that make some traditionally ‘unattractive’ rental properties look like goldmines.

One targeted group who have been quick to quick to adapt to the Airbnb demand are condo owners. For various reasons (mainly ease of setup and operation), condo investors and some owner-occupied units have decided to cash in on the ‘rent-from-me’ craze.

What most condo owners are unaware of is that they are breaking the law – specifically the condo by-laws that they willingly agreed to when they purchased their unit.

Most condos have restrictions in place when it comes to rental timelines, which generally run from a minimum of six months and can go up to one year. I’ve seen few that allow for less than six months, but they do exist.

A problem that has started to pop up in downtown Toronto (and I’m sure across many similar sized cities) is the criminal element that use condos rented through Airbnb as their mobile crime dens – the attractive female who is ‘visiting’ Toronto for the weekend and sets up her escort shop, or the drug dealing couple who plant themselves inside a unit in the heart of the entertainment district – make it extremely difficult to police.

Next weekend it’s a different building, or even a different floor in the same building… You get the idea. Regardless, the owner of the unit is not only breaking the by-laws, but are legally liable for any damage or harm caused. This is a very serious matter that has drawn little attention, while government and condo managers and boards figure out what to do to stop it.

The takeaway is this: make sure you are completely aware of your responsibilities as an owner and protect yourself accordingly. I see many condo boards coming down heavy on condo owners who are knowingly breaking their by-laws.

21 April 2016 ~ Comments Off on Stay Connected In A Scorching Hot Market!

Stay Connected In A Scorching Hot Market!

In this day and age, information as we all know is everywhere and easily accessible. While most of what we see and read on the internet is correct and (mostly) truthful, much of opinion-based data can be subjective. Let’s consider homes that are listed for sale and use the public website Realtor.ca as an example, where we can easily access hundreds of properties every day from the comfort of our homes.

One of the problems I am seeing more often lately is that some of my Buyer clients are opting to forgo the realtor MLS search options via email in favour of searching passively (or aggressively) on their own through Realtor.ca (Please note: if you are one of my Buyer clients, this may not necessarily pertain to you as I do work with 10-12 Buyers at any given time). Once they do find something they’re interested in, they will shoot it over to me to ask for my thoughts and opinions. If I think it looks good and suits them, we will then take it further and arrange to view it together.

I must interject here to say this: for anyone who has sat down with me for a Buyer consultation over the past 5-7 years, you will know that a combined effort approach – between my Buyer clients and me, your Realtor – is of the utmost importance to me when it comes to deciding on homes to look at. There are various methods in discovering properties to view such as: the Realtor MLS, Realtor.ca, networking through agents, FSBO’s (‘For Sale By Owner’) and many, many more. I believe that it is not about a Realtor defending an antiquated position on who finds the property; rather, it is about being left behind in a fast-moving market where buyers are priced out of neighbourhoods and missing opportunities to purchase (and then possibly sell) under favourable conditions.

One of the services that I provide to my Buyer clients is a weekly email summary of all of the properties that have sold in the area(s) in which they are looking – some of which we may have seen, others we may have chosen to pass on. This helps to enrich a Buyer’s education by allowing them to get a feel for the ‘pulse’ of the market on a weekly basis, and to help them understand sold prices better. Over time, patterns emerge. I do not do this for every Buyer on a manual basis as it would be too difficult an undertaking. As such, some may miss out on the information, but they may also potentially miss the ‘hiccups’ the market has from time to time… Yes, this does actually happen!

I am not an intrusive Realtor. I have built a sound business on putting my clients’ needs first. I realize and appreciate that not everybody ‘moves’ at the same pace, and life situations can change (and change back) from time to time. For these reasons, I take a flexible approach to each and every Buyer client I work with. Some of my clients look at very specific properties or communities that we may spend up to 2 years or more in our search together.

Prices continue to increase and currently, there are no imminent signs of this changing. If you are one of the many Buyers who have experienced, or are currently dealing with the challenges of being priced out of the market, perhaps it is time to reevaluate how you search for your next home, and consider utilizing all of your resources in order to increase your odds of getting that new home. If you do prefer to search on your own, that’s okay – just realize and accept that certain opportunities might be missed from time to time.

24 March 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Should I List My Property Now, Or Wait Until It’s Perfect To Show?

Sellers often wonder whether they should list their property as is, or wait until it’s ideal to show. In my opinion, this depends various factors: is the demand very high currently for your type of house, condo or loft? Is there limited supply in the market of comparable properties that will be competing with you for coveted buyers? Where are we in the yearly sales cycle? Considering these factors that can help us decide what is the best strategy for you when it comes to putting your home up for sale.

There are numerous components that come into play when it comes to deciding when the right time is, and the way to present your property for sale. Not every house, condo or loft has to have that HGTV glitter and glam.

There are circumstances where it might be in your best interest to hit the market 85% to 90% done!

As a real estate agent who mainly works exclusively by referral or with repeat (past) clients, I’m often consulting with my clients on maximizing their bottom line when it comes to the amount of money they are going to net from the sale of their home.

Each and every consultation is different as no two selling situations are the same. The problem today is that most agents and sellers are brainwashed to take the same approach when it comes to selling – from home prep, staging, open houses (both weekend and evening meet-and-greets), right down to furniture types and placement… So cookie-cutter! But our homes are anything but cookie cutter! Our homes are meant to be individual expression of our personalities. Admittedly, some personalities are in need of tweaking, and this is discussed on an individual basis.

Having a thorough understanding of who your target market (buyer types) are will certainly help you net the most amount of money, with the least amount of inconvenience to you (the seller), and a reasonable time frame that best suits your needs.

Are you ready for an individualized home selling experience? Contact me to set up a personal consultation.

21 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

First-time Buyer Home Is a Condo… And This Can Be Smart Financially!

Over the past 6-7 years, I have been sharing with clients that the first-time buyer “home” is now a condo (and no longer a house). The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) in its first ever year-in-review which recently came out, confirms this.

Why is this important? For starters, it helps set realistic expectations when discussing affordability, and it helps promote a positive home ownership experience for the first-time buyer.

Yes, there are exceptions as to where a home will be purchased in the Toronto proper area for buyers with either high incomes or large down payments (or both). But for now, the norm is that first-time buyers in the six should be directed towards condos.

In 2015, TREB set a record in sales with 101,299 condo sales reported. Note that these numbers can be slightly confusing because TREB tracks sales from as far as Halton and Peel Regions, Simcoe County, as well as York and Durham Regions, in addition to Toronto.

What I personally find surprising is that in Toronto proper, 60% of condo sales were with first-time buyers! I would have expected the percentage to lie in between 50% – 53%, which is a longer-term norm. When you include the GTA area, the percentage is still a healthy 47%.

Anyone who has been shopping for a home in Toronto is well aware that the average price for a house is above $800,000. Because of this, many buyers are choosing condos as the starting point in their home ownership journey.

Condo values in Toronto have risen at double the pace of inflation last year, which is better than many think at first glance. Most people add very little in appreciative upgrades when entering the condo market. It’s safe to assume with the for majority of first-time buyers (being first-timers), condos are more suitable than houses.

Much more often than not, many first-time buyers who purchase houses find that home improvement costs are not only necessary, but incredibly high — we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars needed upfront to improve the house to current insurable standards (don’t get me started on this…), which can skew the appreciative gains on a semi or detached house. This is not a debate on which is a better investment; but rather, more of an eye-opener.

Predictable upfront and carrying costs on a property for a first-time buyer can help ensure a positive home-ownership experience. Many buyers have shunned condo ownership because of the price appreciation versus a house. When making this decision, what we should be looking at is an apple-to-apple comparison.

Often, what also adds to the confusion for some buyers are maintenance fees. Many buyers mistakenly think that the entire fee is a “lifestyle” fee; but when properly understood, a predictable monthly expense that typically rises with the inflation rate can be the best thing for the first-time buyer.

So, keep an open mind and don’t miss out on a potential opportunity to enter the home ownership market, and consider choosing a condo as your first home.

15 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Are We to Expect Another Active Year in Toronto Real Estate Sales and Prices?

With winter now in full force across our city and the start of a new year behind us, those of you thinking about making a move or adding an investment property in 2016 might be wondering: what will be in store for the real estate market in Toronto?

Let’s start with a brief recap of what happened in 2015: sales activity was up a whopping 9.2% over 2014 and for the first time, we surpassed the 100,000 mark. Total sales for the year came in at 101,299. This is a phenomenal amount of activity which blew past the previous record year in 2007, which saw 93,193 sales.

Average sales prices were up almost 10% over 2014’s averages, and today we have an average sales price of $622,217 in the GTA. However, if you are looking to purchase a home in the old city of Toronto boundaries, the average price is $1,039,638 for a detached, $743,738 for a semi-detached, and $400,088 for a condo apartment.

It’s safe to say that Toronto house prices are beyond reach for many, but the demand remains strong for those hoping to live in the 416, and supply of high-quality housing continues to be in short supply. Like many other major cities throughout the world, a good amount of Toronto real estate is being held in the hands of foreigners.

About 5 years ago, I read an article which stated that only 4% of Manhattan real estate was owned by native New Yorker’s. Is Toronto starting to follow that path? Personally, I don’t think so.

In my opinion, what is happening is that consumers are truly buying into living within a reasonable commute of Toronto’s downtown core, and businesses and other amenities are following suit. Lifestyles are improving, and respective of our high real estate prices, people are happy with where they are living. From what I’ve seen so far this year, this won’t change anytime soon.

Just over 10% of all sales last year in the GTA were above $1 million. It is becoming more the norm, rather than the exception, to see million dollar sales in the 416. Currently, one of the most ‘in-demand’ markets are Toronto homes in the $4 million range and up! Buyers have bought into the stability and overall safety of Toronto real estate, and money continues to be invested in housing, which many see as having better long term security than the financial markets.

Last year, semi-detached homes increased in value by 20.8%, followed by 12.7% for townhouses, 11.8% for detached homes, and finally, up by 3.2% in the condo market. Pretty amazing increases in value across all platforms! I truly believe that you should not look at your principal residence as an ‘investment vehicle’ only, as there are many other factors that come into play when measuring the complete value of owning a home. That being said, if you are taking a hit in the financial markets and are financially comfortable, we may want to discuss the wealth building benefits of investment real estate. In my personal experience, this area has been my greatest wealth builder.

Bear in mind that not all real estate is created equally, and the averages noted above are just that – averages. Knowing what to buy, where to buy, and how much to pay, demands serious attention and knowledge of the real estate market. Be careful and don’t over leverage. Be prudent in your purchasing decisions and remember that real estate is always safer when bought with a long term perspective in mind.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to discuss your neighbourhood more specifically, contact me and I would be happy to set aside the time to talk about your specific needs.

21 December 2015 ~ 0 Comments

A Very Big Threat to the Real Estate Industry

One of things I thoroughly enjoy in my role as a Realtor is the quality of people I get to assist; whether they are interested in buying, selling, or investing in real estate, I’m happy to help with all of their real estate needs.

I often get asked to share my thoughts on the foreseeable future of the real estate industry in this ever-changing, Uber-like world that we live in. Here’s what I think: in the next five-or-so years, the way we have known real estate to be bought and sold will evolve in a way that will meet consumers’ demands and be more favourable to their individual needs. No more ‘one size fits all’ motto.

The role of the Realtor will be affected, but not eliminated, and those who can clearly define their value proposition and position themselves positively in the marketplace will not only survive, but thrive in this environment where highly competent, professional, tech-friendly agents will be sought out.

I strongly believe that a high number of today’s Realtors whom I encounter in my real estate dealings do not fit this mold. These minions will be relegated to a fragmented role which will be suitable to consumers looking for a ‘piecemeal’ level of service, and chances are that consumers will approach these agents via an online aggregator, which will command a high portion of the real estate fee earned.

Personally, I think that the biggest threat to our industry are the incompetent agents who fill the ranks of almost every brokerage in the city, and our industry has not taken any steps to discourage this; rather, they have encouraged it at almost all levels!

The Canadian Real Estate Association, Ontario Real Estate Association, Toronto Real Estate Board, and Brokerage firms, have all encouraged mass agent enrollment by any means necessary, and to a large degree, they have all benefited from it. However, for the most part, once you obtain a real estate license, it’s the wild West! Accountability is low for the new and inexperienced, and often, it is other agents in the brokerage who end up being the trainers and support systems for the newbies. This is not always a good thing.

The bigger problem lies with most part-time agents, or those who are just ‘trying out real estate’ between stints in their ‘real’ careers. I remember reading an article about one-and-a-half years ago where the CREA president actually endorsed the part-time agent and stated that real estate sales is a viable part-time option! Yeah….

Every brokerage I have worked at over the past 19 years have part-time agents working in it, or hire part time agents. Few brokers will actually admit to this, but trust me, it’s there. All it takes is about $2,000 invested in a third party statistical company to find out how many actual sales individual agents partake in.

Personally, I am fed up! This year, I’ve had three clients affected in a hugely negative way because of the incompetence of other agents. Sadly, this low level of professionalism reflects badly on us all!

Don’t for a minute think that consumers aren’t paying attention, because they are. In the past, the percentage of incompetent agents may have been small, but I am certain that the percentage is much higher today. In my experience, roughly half of the agents I converse with daily have limited experience and understanding of the current real estate market.

You know what else sucks? As a competent, professional, full-time agent who invests heavily in myself on a yearly basis by staying up-to-date with relevant facts, data, rules, and countless training sessions on ‘keeping my skills pencil sharp’, there is only so much I can do to protect my clients’ interests.

A day of reckoning is coming, and I will welcome it with open arms. I’m not certain that many of today’s agents will survive this new age, and as a result, many brokerages will falter as well. CREA, OREA and TREB, will also be affected. Big, wealthy tech companies have had their eyes on the real estate industry, and it’s starting to look ripe for the picking! The consumers of the future will demand it as well.

I issue this warning to the real estate industry: welcome to the world of Uber! I hope you’re ready.