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.

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Market conditions continue to favour sellers

Toronto’s housing has rebounded strongly in May 2019, with sales activity only marginally off from the month of May’s 10-year average. Prices on average are up 3.6%, which is much better than what you are seeing in the stock market.

In comparison to May 2018, with sales then at a 15-year low, sales activity is up a strong 18.9%.

This year is reminiscence of what Toronto real estate sales looked like ten plus years ago, when it seemed winters were much worse, and most home sellers waited until spring to list their homes for sale.

Yes, this winter (and spring) have not been super kind weather wise. More traditional at least winterwise, it’s not the only reason we see May and the early parts of June still tilted towards sellers.

Not enough property for sale! Are you getting tired of hearing this? I kind of am. There are qualified buyers out there anxious to secure a new home. But listing inventory continues to remain low, and we are not building enough new housing to meet the demand.

We all are aware of what happens with low supply, high demand and amazingly low interest rates. Higher prices will continue for now and unless our government either gets serious about correcting the supply issue or turns off the tap on immigration, look for more of the same ole same ole, sellers market conditions.

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Is the mortgage stress test making it worse for buyers in Toronto? Absolutely!

If you are someone considering entering the real estate market in Toronto as a first-time buyer, it’s completely understandable if you feel like you are being screwed over. You are, and let me explain why and how.

Toronto (and Vancouver) housing have much been talked about ad nauseam, both on how fragile and how expensive Canada’s two most popular cities are to own real estate in. You can now add renting in to the mix as well.

You sit idly by as decisions are being made that will drastically affect YOUR financial future, mostly by a generation of people who have benefited handsomely from the singular thing that has propelled their wealth and secured their financial futures. It sucks, and it’s completely misguided and unfair!

We all know that the city of Toronto is only going to become more expensive than it is today. Sure, there will be some bumps along the road, but without a doubt, in 10-15 years time, it will be way more expensive that it is today.

Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets Inc. is an economist I’ve been following for years. At an speaking event I attended about 18 months ago he noted, ‘Toronto could become a city of renters’ in ten years time. His meaning behind it was that real estate would probably become too expensive for the average citizen.

Why I am so bothered by this it that our governments and organizations that provide housing policy seem to be either ignoring or missing the obvious. A generation of potential home owners are getting screwed.

Everyone is quick to point out that Toronto is attracting about 100,000 newcomers on annual basis. It’s easy to find this by googling it. But when you look into how much new housing we are actually delivering (note: very different from what we are selling), it’s about a third of what’s needed on an annual basis.

Where do these people go to live? You know what, and this may sound a little “un-Canadian” of me, right now, my concerns are for the children of my clients, friends and family who are already here, and have little hopes of owning real estate in the city they have contributed to and have set roots in.

Friendships forged, communities set up, and most are being held back from taking that next step, which is actually the foundation and biggest step for their futures.

B20 was hastily put together in a time where little understanding or any actual accountability is taking place. Accountability, when was the last time we heard anyone in a position of power own up to that?

Listening to the likes of CHMC and select University Professors paint what’s an obvious complex issue, as one that is working fine, is a criminal act in my opinion.

Builders, Lenders and Realtors have all come out in support for changes to the current rules. To have CMHC CEO Evan Siddall brush it aside by stating it’s “plain self interest” of the above groups. That’s simply not accurate.

I’m not advocating for the elimination of the stress test, although I do think they need to make changes to it in order to allow for first time buyers and select others, to have a chance of home ownership in the regions they live, work and play.

Follow this link for an article from MSN Money related to this topic

15 May 2019 ~ 0 Comments

Sales Transactions Jump 16.8% in April

Toronto’s real estate market was back on fire with a substantial year-over-year increase in home sales in April 2019. The number of residential transactions jumped by 16.8 per cent to 9,042 compared to 7,744 in April 2018.

After a slower start to the year, April’s activity is encouraging for those looking to move. New listings were up slightly but in comparison to overall sales, still more housing inventory is needed before we start to see an overall flattening in sale prices.

Condo sales prices continue to lead with prices going up 5.8% with the average condo price in Toronto now at $637,181.00. Encouraging news on the detached home sale front in that activity was up 20% although year-over-year prices remained the same with the average being $1,355,764.00

Combined overall average sales prices are up 1.9% which is a healthy and reasonable rate.

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How To Invest in Real Estate the Right Way.

It’s of no secret to anyone that knows me, that I am a huge fan and advocate for investing in real estate as a future wealth builder.

My very first investment property was a joint venture with four friends, all of us chipping in a modest amount equally to cover enough for a 10% down payment and closing costs on a semi-detached home on Spadina Road in Toronto.

I still remember the day we firmed up our purchase, it was December 24th, 1997. Merry Christmas to us! And what an amazing gift this start in investing in real estate turned out to be.

Our initial modest start has done us all, and although we no longer hold any shared investment properties together today, we all learned the true value and power of real estate as a wealth builder.

Over the years I have presented the benefits of investing in real estate to countless clients, friends, family and even other real estate agents. It’s really become a passion of mine and one in which I’m always happy to share my successes about.

And from what I have gathered, the most common stumbling block on getting started, is the simple point on “where do I start?”

For the high majority, I truly believe there are multiple ways to get started. The very first step is to assess “which type of investor” do you want to be? This may seem like a simple enough question, but when I walk my clients through this process, a deeper sense of self discovery often emerges.

For the sake of not making this a novel about investing, let’s just say that once we cover all of the potential areas regarding investing, and then the pros and cons of the narrowed few, a clearer picture presents itself and it is from there that we can craft a blueprint for their investing success.

Investing in real estate the “right way” is all about making sure your chosen investment path is not only financially sound, but one that also suits your personality, beliefs and lifestyle.

Today, we have vast amounts of information floating throughout internet clouds on how you should invest in real estate. My advice would be to make sure that where you gather your information is not only a valid and trustworthy source, but advice that relates to you as an individual and is both practical and applicable to you and where you want to invest.

I would be happy to discuss my thoughts and feelings on the topic, and to share my path on what’s contributed largely to my wealth. Investing in Real Estate has truly been an amazing gift to me, and one that continues to offer opportunity and wealth in times of uncertainty. It can do this for you as well.

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TREB still arguing “OFSI Stress Test” impacting market

As we head into the normally crazy active spring market in Toronto, the Toronto Real Estate Board recently sent out notice to its members through its April Market stats newsletter, giving perspective to why sales activity is down about one percent from March 2018.

“The OSFI stress test continues to impact home buyers’ ability to qualify for a mortgage. TREB is still arguing that the stress test provisions and mortgage lending guidelines generally, including allowable amortization periods for insured mortgages, should be reviewed. The supply of listings in the GTA also remains a problem. Bringing a greater diversity of ownership and rental housing online, including ‘missing middle’ home types, should be a priority of all levels of government. TREB is happy to be taking part in the City of Toronto’s consultations for the Housing TO – 2020-2030 Action Plan, and will certainly be raising the supply issue during these discussions,” said Mr. Bhaura, the TREB President.

“While the City of Toronto’s recently announced Housing TO – 2020-2030 Action Plan is exciting and commendable and TREB looks forward to contributing solutions as a Member of the External Advisory Committee, the recently proposed increase to the Municipal Land Transfer Tax on higher priced properties is problematic. As the recent City budget process showed, the MLTT is not a sustainable revenue source from which to fund municipal programs. On top of this, additional MLTT on higher priced homes could have a trickle-down effect on the supply of homes throughout the housing price continuum,” said TREB CEO John Di Michele.

I’ve been saying for at least the past two years, that we have a housing inventory shortage in Toronto. Plain and simple, meaning that there is more demand than supply for most housing types.

This doesn’t necessarily translate into educated Buyers paying “any price” for property. Moreso, that well priced property in good locations, condition and in demand, will see either quickly or within a reasonable time period for that area.

Hopefully the attention the provincial government alongside that of municipal government, the needed action will taken that organizations like TREB and its members have been saying for years, we need more supply.

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New Condo Developments Dropping Like Flies

If you are one of the unfortunate buyers of Step condos, you just found out your completely sold out new condo project has been cancelled by the developer.

A few weeks back, On The Danforth condos, suffered the same fate. Another sold out project, cancelled by the developer.

What’s going on you ask? Well…there’s not a simple explanation that applies to the rash of cancellations happening across the GTA.

In 2018 there were 17 projects cancelled totallying 4,672 units. Now before you start feeling too sorry for all of these ‘displaced soon to be home owners’, keep in mind that close to 75% of most new condo sales are to investor buyers.

But there is an alarming trend at hand, where completely sold out projects are dropping like flies. In 2017 the number was 1,678 units and a mere 379 the year before that. In the GTA where housing is at a premium and shortage, this is very concerning.

We have low availability in rental accomodations, shortages in active listings for sale, and a declining sales market in new construction buys in 2019. On the new construction side you can’t blame buyers for shunning the purchase of property that won’t be built for at least four to five years, if at at all?

When your developer cancels your project, all you are entitled to is the return of your deposits. If you made your purchase three years previously, you are not only out the gains in market value (property appreciation), but you’ve also lost out on three years of mortgage paydown and cash flow.

Projections for 2019 are that the number of cancellations are going to be higher than last years total. Hopefully, if you are one of the unlucky ones whose project isn’t going to be built, you at least get the return of your deposit back.

Even though Tarion insures deposits up to $20,000.00, in many cases your deposit can be four times that amount. Buyers who bought from the now bankrupt Urbancorp developer know the sting of that first hand. It could take years to get your money back, and maybe not in its entirety.

Developers have always targeted the investor buyer and over the past eight years, they’ve upped their focus in this area. Targeting buyers through slick marketing campaigns, above average compensation to agents (many whom work entirely in the interest of the developer, even though they appear to have a third party arms length relationship) and finally, a combo of savvy investor and naive buyers looking to score that VIP price.

Buying a new construction condo today has become more of a speculative investment, due to the high cost of purchase, and the current rental rates being paid. Most units are operating at a monthly loss, with many in the 50% per month range. It baffles me why an investor who could purchase a fairly new resale unit between $800-$900/sq ft opts instead to pay $1100-$1200 and has to wait four years to make money?

All this being said, the key to purchasing new construction if that’s your preference is to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable developer who has a history of delivery their sold units. Don’t be caught up in the greed of VIP pricing, and suspect locations. Stick to those that have made developing a long term business, this should help ensure that your purchase isn’t cancelled after years of a project being sold out.

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Are Zillow and Redfin Agent Killers?

It’s March 2019, and what an exciting time to be transacting in real estate, either as a consumer in the buying or selling of property, or for those who represent and help consumers on the sales side.

A great real estate professional will add value to both buyer and seller clients alike, assisting them with the myriad of intangibles that take place during a typical sales process.

The advancement of technology in real estate is like that of technology in many other areas of our lives, helping make the transacting of real estate easier and for the betterment of all.

From time saving apps and programs, to more transparent access to vital information such as past sold prices, the advancement in technology should be seen as beneficial for all!

We all are consumers. And what do most consumers want? Easy access to vital information for one. Great, tech can check that need. What else? How about options on varying levels of service? Tech can check that off as well. How about saving time and money?!

Saving money you say? Now this is a biggie! And it’s big because in my opinion, this is where the breakdown in belief stems from. Confusion around how saving money for consumers might lead to the elimination of your average Realtor.

I’ll start by saying personally I think the days of the “average” Realtor are numbered. Sorry Realtor friends, but it’s all a part of evolution. As we streamline to more tech enabled services, casualties will happen. Agents who haven’t invested in continuing education or streamlined their businesses to allow for tech to be part of their offering, and other business must do’s, your days are numbered. I won’t go into detail on the factors that will contribute to the demise of this type of agent, yet instead let’s look at what the thriving and surviving Realtor will look like.

The thriving and surviving Realtor is one who is consumer first focused. Everything they do, and in turn offer from a professional standpoint, has their client’s best interests in mind. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Mike, I’m sure this is a basic fundamental for being a Realtor, this isn’t earth shattering news, but don’t all Realtors operate this way?”

The short answer, is ah No, they do not. And here’s the kicker. Most agents who fall into this category don’t either think, or know that the way they are currently operating, isn’t aligned with the mindset needed for survival.

Sure, in some areas I’m certain most Realtors are under the belief that they are operating just fine. And, I know for a fact of some Realtors who believe that they know best, not only for themselves but of those in whom they represent. But in the ever changing real estate industry, the reality is, they don’t.

Companies like Zillow or Redfin, are filling a void and meeting a need that is being demanded by consumers. And as a Realtor, you need to ask yourself; “Are my service offerings in alignment with what my consumer wants?”

Nothing tech based can replace the complexities of a competent human being. And this is where most agents end the conversation. But this should be the beginning of the conversation. If you were to ask the majority of experienced and active agents on how easy it is for a buyer or seller to transact without an agent, 99% would reply, not very easy at all. Those in the know, actually know how difficult of a process it is from start to finish, and doing so without being sued.

Yet too many agents (and Brokerage companies) just stop at that. Why change when we know they need us? Because that’s not being consumer first focussed.

Opening up one’s mind to a future where what’s successfully worked for you in the past, may not be the right mode of operation in the now, is a step in the right direction.

There are so many things the average Realtor does today that is not in the clients best interest, yet they continue to do so because that’s the way it has always been.

The syndication of listing data is one such thing. Ease of access to information is in everyone’s best interest, especially those who are not trained or as knowledgeable (the consumer) about transacting in real estate.

Traditional organized real estate could build a better, or equally advanced system, but sadly they are not consumer first focussed. They are Realtor first focussed, and more specifically, they are Brokerage business first focussed.

And what is such a simple and now frustrating dilema for many real estate agents like myself, is a potential outcome of throwing the baby out with the bath water scenario.

The good news in all of this is that being a Realtor, or being involved in the real estate business is one of the truest forms of entrepreneurialism.

The industry attracts hard working, creative thinkers who are programmed and have accepted the notion that each and every day, they wake up virtually unemployed. They invest their time, money and energy in advance, with the expectation of earning a living, and with the reality of that not always being the case.

And as the numbers have reflected for a very long time, 10% of us are successful at it, and the other 90% are still trying to figure it out.

Personally, I think the future is bright for those willing to adapt to the change at hand, change that will continue to present itself as we continue to evolve in this tech happy era.

Be consumer first focussed and your future will be fine. And one day, when we finally reach a point where a weary buyer or panicked seller can turn to their trusted robotic ally, and get the valued support and hand holding needed to see the sale through completion, we can retire happily. Until then, go at it.

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The new ‘First time Home-Buyer incentive’ program. Will it help?

The much anticipated budget release yesterday by the Federal Liberal party turned out to be of little value for home buyers in Toronto. Obviously it’s too early to tell how successful such a plan will be, but I have doubts it will be anywhere near the 100,000 households over three years the government seems to think will take advantage of it.

It should be noted that British Columbia tried a similar plan a few years back and it was cancelled in 2018 after failing miserably.

For taxpayers across Canada, it’s added more risk through CMHC and the potential for losses covered by the Federal program. But then again, CMHC fees on uninsured mortgages have been as lucrative for the Feds as cocaine is for drug cartels.

For first time-buyers in the Toronto area, forget about this budget. The reality is, it won’t be of any help to you.

On the resale buying side, if you were purchasing a property for $400,000 and had saved 5% for a downpayment, the government would partner with you up to a maximum amount of 5% ($20,000) and in theory, you would be purchasing with a 10% down payment.

It’s not clear if the CMHC fees would be paid at the 5% amount invested, or the 10% total? Oh yeah, as it’s currently proposed, you are partners with government on any increases or losses when it comes time to sell. Also not clear is at what stake. Is it a 50/50 partnership?

The program is capped at the max of $120,000 income x 4, which equates to $480,000.00. Good luck on finding much in that price range. Actually, for those on the cusp, it could be argued that your government just screwed your chances of getting into the market as prices will certainly rise due to the changes.

Oh yeah, even know the fine print hasn’t been disclosed on many parts of the program, it wouldn’t take effect until the fall of 2019.

It seems the government is trying to force people into the new construction side of the market. Here the incentive is higher and the government will pony up to 10% ($40,000). Which for them makes sense, as all levels of government rake in lottery sized winnings on fees collected from development charges, permits and taxes.

Who should rejoice? Homebuilders for one. They have been raking it in for years and as of late, the slowdown in new construction sales has hit them hard. For the rest of the market and economy, it’s going to be wait and see.

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Sellers, Who exactly is preparing the market evaluation on your Home?

A few days ago I was in discussion with a cooperating agent on a property listing I have for sale. I was answering for him a few questions about the property that weren’t noted on the MLS listing, but were important to his client in nature.

After the questions were answered our conversation turned to the highly competitive marketplace and the angst sometimes felt by a buyer looking to bid on a property in a hotly contested market.

He thanked me for my time and professionalism in my understanding and responses to his questions, but after we had hung up it got me to thinking further on the subject, and specifically about a podcast I had recently listened to on the topic of virtual assistants, or VA’s, and the tasks that they are handling.

Now I’ve been around the Toronto real estate industry as a full time agent for 24 years, and before I continue on, I want to be clear and upfront that the majority of agents I know personally, and myself included, carry out first hand the evaluation on a property.

But there are some agents who utilize the services of an administrative assistant (non licensed/licensed) to do so, or as this podcast guest had been touting, “it’s a task you can have your VA carryout”.

Absolutely NOT! Yes, a capital NOT!!

I don’t care if you as the lead agent review the evaluation after its been completed, this is a major no-no in my opinion. Contrary to what online sites will try and tell you, algorithms cannot put a value on your home that should be considered accurate if one were to place their home for sale. Don’t believe me? Google it and look for the lawsuits on behalf of those who thought their computer could spit out fair market value for their home.

If the person who comes over to your property isn’t asking you thought provoking questions on the state of the property, regardless if you understand their intent or not, you should raise a weary brow.

Realtors have a duty to view a property in person and ask questions about potential defects, which are defined as either Patent or Latent in nature.

A brief description of both, are:

Patent defects are those that can be discovered by inspection and ordinary vigilance on the part of the purchaser. With respect to these, the ordinary rule is caveat emptor.

Latent defects are those which would not be revealed by any inquiry which a purchaser is in a position to make before entering the contract.

So, as you can see, without an in person inspection of the property and using one’s trained eye and experience, there is potential for some serious problems.

This is not meant to scare you. There is the potential for something to be missed even by an experienced Realtor, Professional Home Inspector (I’ve seen it) even an unwitting seller. It can happen. But having a virtual assistant, or anyone for that matter not trained in putting a value on your property, prepare yourself for the lawsuit ahead.

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TREB releases February numbers and

Today the Toronto Real Estate Board released its sales figures for the month of February and as I’ve written about over these past six weeks, it’s been busy. And this month is no exception.

Prices are edging up for both houses and condominiums where demand continues to be strong throughout the city.

Inventory levels continue to drop and this is what’s helping push prices slightly up. I’ve been in multiple offers in many neighbourhoods across the city, and the demand is strong for Toronto real estate.

Last night we were unsuccessful on a bid for ahome that was listed at $1.8 million, had seven offers on it and was sold for $2.225 million. Yes that’s a staggering $425,000 above the list price!

It seems the stress test rules put in place have constrained the market in many ways, and some that were unintended. Renewals for mortgage financing is making it more difficult to move for some, and that’s all we need in a city that’s already short in supply.

With many of the properties I’ve been involved with of late, it’s not uncommon to have anywhere from 6-12 offers competing. Imagine if we had more available listings? Sales would be up. Prices might even moderate as we’ve all been hoping for.