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.

17 May 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Who else misses the spring Home Show?

This past weekend I had a few hours to pass and to take advantage of the really nice weather we were having in Toronto, I decided to step out onto my balcony and give my windows a good cleaning. 

This twice a year routine is made easier by this window washing squeegee kit I purchased about five years ago at the Toronto Home Show. 

At the time I wasn’t sure the $85 price tag was worth it, or would it become another contraption collecting dust in a closet or my storage locker. Well, I can honestly say after five years of using it multiple times, I couldn’t live without it! It does wonders on cleaning the windows and cuts the time down greatly. 

It got me thinking of some of the other things I had picked up over the years at the show. Like the portable electric heater that has come in handy often during covid, as I sit out on my balcony social distancing with friends. I’m still getting great enjoyment using the T.V. and surround sound bar and sub woofer from the 2016 show. Thinking back, I’ve done quite well on my visits to the home show. 

Have you ever made any purchases while visiting the show, and if so, what? And do you miss it? Will it ever be the same post covid? I sure hope so. Oh ya, two of the times that we actually went to the show to specifically purchase items, such as a handy Andrew Richard designs deck storage box and a Weber gas BBQ, are now currently being enjoyed by others, along with a few other items no longer suitable with our current spaces.

Hopefully I will see you at the 2022 Toronto Home Show? I sure hope so. I’m excited to see what other cool gadgets are out there to buy and try. 


19 April 2021 ~ 0 Comments

It’s Time To End Blind Bidding!

What did you just say Mike!?

That’s right, my headline is correct. It’s time to end the process of blind bidding when a property is listed for sale and there is a set date for an offer(s) presentation.

Way back in the mid 1990’s when I started out in real estate, the sometime-used marketing tactic to list a property slightly below it’s market value, then setting an offer presentation time one week away, was used in situations that were considered unique.

A mother who had recently given birth and now at home with an infant child not wanting later evening showings over the three-four week (or longer) time period her home would be listed, for example.

Or the elderly couple or widower whose agent wanted to shelter them from constant pestering of questioning by agents and prospective buyers.

And finally the sell under duress for a variety of reasons: already purchased another property. Or were behind on mortgage payments to the bank and the threat of power of sale was right around the corner.

I’ve experienced all of the above and more at the time, and back then the real estate market was still reeling from the crash of 1989-1990. Properties almost always took 30+ days to sell and that was considered the norm. When the occasional listing came out where the sellers were holding back on offers, it was communicated and most of the time the reasoning was understood.

My very first sale was one in which I was up against two other agents. A small 2-bedroom bungalow in East York where we were the winning offer. We paid $159,500.00 which was $500.00 over the list price. And we got it accepted with conditions for 5 days on finance condition and a home inspection.

That’s how multiple offers and blind bidding worked back then. Fast forward to now and it looks more like this.

Property is listed for well under its perceived value and a presentation date is set a week away. Seller advertises that sure, they might be willing to look at a bully offer (pre-emptive offer in Realtor lingo). Seller agent may or may not order a pre-home inspection. The inspection report if done will be vague (and I don’t fault home inspectors on this as often agents do a poor job of explaining how an inspection works). Then the property hits the MLS.

As an agent who works both with sellers and buyers I have vast experience on both sides of the sales transaction. And buyers are often the ones at a huge disadvantage.

Any seller who has sold this way in the past 15 years has seen this first hand. There may be 10 offers on a property that’s listed for $899,000. and where the perceived value by the selling agent and seller is say $999,000. As an example: 1-4 of these offers will be between $899,000-$925,000. 2 will be in the mid $900,000’s. 1 offer will be great on price but have a condition (usually finance). Then 1 offer will be around the $999,000 or slightly higher. The winner will be $1,050,000 or more.

Now this by no means is this how it always goes down, but, often this can be the case. And now we are seeing the gaps even wider in the current selling environment. Sold over list prices of $500,000+ is way more common today on houses valued $1.5mil and up.

So what’s the solution? Here are a few of my suggestions for property being listed with a hold back on offer date:

  • No bully offers or preemptive offers before the set time and date
  • A mandatory pre home inspection carried out by an independent 3rd party inspection company (one can be created just for this) that are neither loyal to the seller or the buyer
  • An appraisal to be carried out during the one week period and either made available only to those who have registered an offer, and/or a clause that allows the buyer to withdraw their offer before the presentation time if they are unhappy with the appraisal.

All of my examples are quite extreme in nature but if what was once used as a some-time-marketing tool (the holdback on offers), then it should be part of the long list of other rules licensed real estate agents have to abide by already.

I don’t think we are ready for an open auction type process as of yet, and this I will cover in a future post.

What do you think might be helpful changes that can ensure both buyers and sellers interests are being met? Supply and demand arguments aside, something has to be done, that’s for certain.

19 April 2021 ~ 0 Comments

The Covid Affect March 2021 vs March 2020

To no surprise, March 2021 Toronto Regional Real Estate Board number of sales and average home prices continue on it’s meteoric rise.

What is surprising (to me at least!) is that March 2021 was the single most active month EVER for number of property sold across the GTA. A whopping 15,652 properties changed hands last month. And not a peep from TRREB about it.

Average sale prices have increased again, and this year alone are up $132,000 over December 2020. That’s just plain nuts.

Whenever in the past I’ve seen a combination of both (albeit this is my humble and unscientific opinion) a record number of sales are happening and while prices are escalating drastically, pent up buyers become very active. That being said, we may be borrowing from the down the road buyers and sellers. It’s too early to tell.

We all though are aware that money is cheap and our country’s financial situation requires a vibrant real estate sector. The offshoot from the housing market is huge to our government and today’s federal budget will be interesting to see what becomes of it. Many are asking the Fed’s to help cool an out of control housing market. Will they?

Back to Toronto and the GTA for a moment.

Active listings roughly remained the same from March 2020 and new listings were up 57% over 2020’s numbers. Why is this?

Some are using the low rates and higher prices to sell and move up in value. Take for example if you currently have a $500,000 mortgage and are paying 3.25%. Over 5 years, you would be paying down $70k in principal and about $75k in interest.

Compare that to a $1,000,000 mortgage at 1.85%. Sure, your monthly payment increases about $1650/month. But your principal payment would be roughly $165k after 5 years while only paying an extra $10k in interest.

So, using rough numbers of $20k more a year in mortgage payments, while paying down about $95k year more than before, adding back in the extra interest payments you would be out about $15k over 5 years but in a larger house or better located home.

Of course my advice as always is to check with a competent mortgage broker. They for sure will be able to provide a more accurate picture on the finance side. But you get the idea of where I’m going.

More new listings + more sales + escalating prices = more people able to move up or into a better suited property. This might help partly explain some of the madness we have been seeing in the hot pockets of the GTA?

17 March 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Housing Bubble? B.O.C. says no, then says watch out for escalating prices.

There is so much information floating around about housing bubbles in places like Toronto, you can’t blame buyers or sellers on what and who to believe?

Last year CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing) predicted house prices would drop anywhere between 9%-18%, before picking back up in 2021. 

A few short months ago, the Bank of Canada stated: ‘Bank of Canada doesn’t see housing bubble but its watching out, deputy governor says’.

Since then both the CMHC and BOC have adjusted their forecasts. So, who and what are we exactly supposed to believe? Well to be fair to both, we are certainly living in unprecedented times. And even in the best and more normal of times, pegging what is going to happen with house prices is almost impossible to predict.

Now, what’s been happening in the Toronto market in February? Well, pretty much a continuation of the past few months. One clear exception is that the demand in the condo resale market is back pretty much to pre pandemic levels, albeit the supply side still has some access to rid of. But condo sales are way up, and the deals are becoming much harder to find.

Everyone said people wouldn’t want to return to living in communal spaces (condo buildings) and working from home is the new thing. Well, I have some news for you. People’s want for affordable housing is the bigger focus and condos meet that need for many buyers. And eventually, what suits employers best will determine where you work. 

Even the condo rental side is picking back up. It’s still going to lag onwards for a bit, but it’s encouraging to see the activity.

How about the house side in Toronto? February sales were up 52% as well as new listings almost matching it at 43%. Now we could just be borrowing from the buyer and sellers who would have been on the market in April and May, traditional strong months in sales. We’ll have to wait and see but it’s interesting to note that active listings are flat (new supply is being eaten up by demand).

The biggest news and probably no surprise, is that the average price through the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board is now $1,045,488. This average has been hovering around the mid $900,000’s for the past seven months. Then it shot up this past month. This of course includes the GTA, which the 905 has been leading or holding their own when it comes to activity and price growth. 

In Toronto, where almost two thirds of sales last month were in the condo market, the 905 that number sits at about 15%. 

It will be interesting to see how this trends out as we approach the historically busy spring market. 

18 February 2021 ~ 0 Comments

To no surprise, January sales were Hot Hot Hot!

Once upon a time in a not so distant past, the real estate housing market in Toronto (and the GTA) followed a seasonal path in activity.

Buyers would start their home purchasing search in the spring, as the winter remnants melted away and the return of the sun made all things pretty again. Along came Summer, and we would slow down, as we rushed outdoors to bask in the beauty of Canada that June ushers in. Fall rolls around and we pick back up, getting those final buyers and sellers taken care of, then we would settle down for a slight winter hibernation.

Boy have things ever changed! The mad dash to get a property on the market today mirrors that of  pharmaceutical companies and the rush to get covid vaccines out into the world, making for an extremely stressful time for all.

Buyers are stressed. Sellers are stressed. Realtors, Lawyers, Inspectors, Appraisers, Mortgage Brokers. All stressed. 

How stressful has it gotten? Well, this past December 24th, Christmas Eve, I was presenting an offer on a property on behalf of a buyer client, ours which was one of twelve!! Never in my 25 year career have I presented an offer mere hours before holiday festivities. Typically I would be doing my last minute Christmas shopping then, not shopping for a house.

Houses (mainly detached and semi detached) are still the current darlings of choice. For the lucky few who can afford the sticker price plus thirty percent. Semi detached sales are up 84% over January 2020. Townhomes saw a 46% increase in a activity. Detached homes, the rarest gem in Toronto real estate saw a 30% increase. How did condo sales do you ask?

Up a mind blowing 85%! Yes, you read that correct. Condo sales surged 85% over January 2020 numbers.

Now, it’s not all rainbows and puppies on the condo front. Prices are still down, roughly 8% on the condo side. But the deals are getting more difficult to find than you could pick up, back in the fall of 2020. I think we’ll see prices to start to bounce back a bit on the condo side as the gap widens between low rise and high rise housing types. Average condo prices are around $625,000.00

House prices continue to rise and semi’s led the charge with a whopping 21.5% price increase, putting the average semi detached house price across the 416 at just over $1.2 mil. Detached prices are up a hefty 16% making the average price $1,581,000.00. 

The healthy part to all of this is that new listings actualy increased by 20% to help offset the lower inventory, but the demand is so high, a 50% increase in monthly activity still causes a shortage pointing towards even higher prices ahead.

Spring has sprung in the real estate sales market and it will be interesting to see how long this can hold up. Stay tuned. 

15 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Current real estate market conditions and what to expect moving forward

The year end numbers are in and 2020 will go down as I had noted previously, as the third best year ever for sales volume and house prices through the GTA. 

The higher demand for low rise housing (detached, semi-detached, attached/townhome) widened the price gap between high rise (condos apartments) and this was especially felt in the City of Toronto. 

Sales even shot up in the suburbs as people scrambled for houses they thought they could afford, and often faced stricter competition in competing bids than many Toronto buyers were facing. 32 offers on a house in Oshawa. 47 offers on a house in Guelph. There are countless similar stories I’ve heard that would leave even the most pro leaning real estate people with questions. How long can this go on?

Pre covid we actually had the exact same problem, and for those of you who read my newsletters frequently, you could probably point back for years on what that issue is. 

SUPPLY.

We simply have way more demand than supply for certain types of housing and have had this problem for at least the past decade. So this fire has been burning for a very long time. Then a worldwide pandemic comes along and governments do their best to stabilize their economies by adding fuel to the fire with stimulus and super low interest rates. Ask anyone who has either renewed a rate or recently purchased what they are paying and you’ll start to see how sale prices are are selling for $250k-$300k above the list price, including in some parts of the 905!

Actually this past week a townhome in Mississauga sold for $177k over list price and had 70 offers on it! Four months ago you could have bought two exact same style houses for $141k-$186k less!

We have a massive supply problem still, and the demand has only increased through these pandemic level interest rates. And it’s just not here in Canada. The U.S. has seen an increase in sales and prices and are expecting 2021 to increase again. And they are the brinks of a potential civil war!

So, where are the opportunities in the market over the next year? Well for move-up buyers who are above the “hot spot” of buying activity in Toronto, which is to say if you are looking to buy in the neighbourhood of $1.8-$2.5 million, you currently could trade in your existing home for a tidy profit and move up into something either larger to suit your needs or in a better locale, all while capitalizing on these lower interest rates. One thing I’ve noticed but would need to speak more with people on the finance side is traditionally speaking, native Canadians are debt cautious. Meaning the thought of a seven-figure mortgage is scary to them. I also think well played out larger condos (2 Bedroom+) in the right locales will see a spike in a activity. I’ve been consulting with more “right sizing” clients of late whom location and lifestyle needs are more important than an aging house and a patch of grass out back. For you it could be something entirely different?

One thing for sure is eventually our current state of lockdowns will be behind us and our wonderful city, Toronto, will be back to blooming and booming. With regards to your real estate needs, maybe it’s best to heed the advice of an overused quote by Canada’s great one, Wayne Gretzky. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been’

16 December 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Why Toronto/GTA real estate prices will continue to rise into 2021

For those of us paying attention to the goings on with the real estate market throughout the GTA, most are putting away our crystal balls usually taken out and dusted off readying for what’s to come in the year ahead.

With me, I’ll save you the drama. Prices are going to rise. Plain and simple. Ontarian’s have proven our appetite for owning real estate is so strong, that even during a once-in-a-century pandemic, it couldn’t make us hit pause on purchasing real estate.

Fact: If December’s sales continue along the torrid pace we’ve seen in the second half of 2020, this year will go down as the 3rd most active year in the Toronto Regional Real Estate Boards history. And all this during a world wide pandemic!

Average prices are way up, slightly above $100,000 over 2019 and currently sits at $929,433.00 for the year.

Governments have learned that real estate contributes quite heavily to our GDP, and plenty of money (think taxes generated) flows into municipal and provincial coffers through many tax and revenue streams.

One stream, Land Transfer Tax, yes this same dreaded tax the former Mayor Miller brought in as his gift to his beloved people of Toronto, will net the municipal and provincial governments some serious cash during these trying, but housing crazed times.

How much you ask? Well, in November alone and only taking into account the city of Toronto sales through the TRREB MLS sold, roughly $96 million in LTT tax was generated. Now, this doesn’t include rebates given to first time buyers, but given our high average prices and the lower rebate threshold, it’s safe to say that even if this number were adjusted downward, to say $75 million, its still a crapload of money in one month!

And this doesn’t included Land Transfer Taxes collected on sales in the 905 (which are more than sales in the 416 but they don’t have the double LTT tax). Add in new construction or commercial sales, development and permit charges, along with income taxes generated from the various spinoff industry related (construction, realtors, lawyers, mortgage brokers, inspectors, appraisers etc) and we can see how JT is throwing money out like Oprah Winfrey used to do with cars! He’s feeling pretty flush is what I mean.

Once you really dig into it you can see why and how much our governments need real estate moving. It also helps explain how we’ve been the leaders in cranes in the sky in North America on and off for years.

In order to fill this housing we need immigrants to come and buy or rent to keep the party going. Watch for these numbers to be at record high levels in the years to come, is my guess.

The demand for low rise housing is creating a wide gap between prices for houses and condos. As this gap continues, watch for condo prices start to rise again and then overflow head back into the new construction side on the high rise side.

Money is so cheap right now, and who really knows for how long this will be? But it’s fuelling massive bidding wars throughout stable and demand neighbourhoods in Toronto.

This past week a client of mine who was considering offering on a semi detached home in the Pocket area in Toronto, decided to pass mere minutes before the offer presentation. 10 offers were already registered and with a list price of $949,000 the house eventually sold for $1,276,000. An average condition house needing at least $25k in immediate work, and then a similar amount over the next few years. and by the way, the house has no parking of its own as well.

So, the remainder of December should continue to show strength and those 9 other Buyers who didn’t get the house, plus any current others like my client who decided to pass, as well as new buyers entering the fray in the New Year will continue to make for a strong real estate market is my thinking. And we might end 2021 with another $100,000 increase in average sales price. I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see.

16 December 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Changes in how we do real estate

Even though 2020 has been an active year on the sales side, how we transact in the buying and selling of real estate has changed in many ways due to covid. Some of these changes I think will stick around post covid and once we return back to some sort of semblance of our early lives. 

Let’s take a look at some of these changes and my thoughts on if they will stick around or not? Let’s have a look.

Public viewing on Open Houses. This quickly became a hot topic amongst Realtor groups on social media as many Realtors shared their opinions against those still doing them when we first went into lockdown. There were some very angry exchanges and opinions shared, some pretty downright ugly. I actually had to remove myself from one of these groups as it quickly became so toxic in nature.  O.H.’s tend to  be favoured mostly by real estate teams so they can generate leads (buyers for other properties) for their junior team agents, or agents who don’t have clients to run around with on the weekend. 
My prediction: They will fall out of favour and probably only be done on lower end property or vacant homes. With the advances in technology, virtual tour and photography quality, savvy agents will turn instead to leveraging these tools and to only “by appointment viewings”. We may even see an increase in shorter viewing times and ones in which the selling agent is present (I like this for many reasons). For most of 2020 we haven’t been allowed to do public open houses and this will be a top 3 year ever in sales. So they’re not needed. Broker opens will continue as they offer more value.

More virtual meet ups and less face to face. Out of necessity and mandate I went to virtual meetings immediately, along with many other Realtors. Technology platforms adjusted quickly and the user friendly zooms or google hangouts became the norm through much of the first half of the year. When summer hit we all longed to get outdoors a bit…but the virtual meetings kept on. 
My Prediction: This one is here to stay. We can now consult pretty much from anywhere, and at more flexible times. Also anyone who has bought or sold this year would have seen that meetings with lawyers were virtual as well. This as historic in nature along with the changing of banking changes to allow the ease of wire transfers. When was the last time you met in person with your bank or mortgage person? Video meetings are here to stay and will continue to evolve over time. 

Privacy. This has always been a hot button topic and has wide reaching consequences. Access to sold prices through public portals, reverse address searches to pull up names and contact info, social media searches on names for lifestyle and personal information are all free flowing today. It’s pretty easy to get a lot of valuable information in a family quick manner.  
My Prediction: I’ve long rallied against the weakening of privacy around information that flows around and out of real estate. I’m now waving the white flag on this, as individual privacy rights are eroding. This change is not only here to stay, but will only become more invasive. For example, on our Realtor Fintrac forms that must be completed on every purchase or sale, its now required that we ask for banking account details on where the funds were drawn for with the property deposit. For now, you can politely say no thank you…you don’t need my full legal name, current address, valid picture ID and banking information. But soon enough, this will become mandatory. Also, if you were getting help from someone else with the deposit (even if it were say a short term loan as your money is tied up in RRSP’s, they too need to fill out a full Fintrac form. Some say its to crack down on money laundering. I call bullshit on that. Laundering has been rampant and Fintrac has been around for a long time. These forms are only required to be filled out by SOME groups, such as Realtors. You want to launder money? Go buy/sell a house privately. Your good. 

~ 0 Comments

A walk in the trenches with me series

Over the years I have built a business that serves seller and buyer clients of all sorts, ranging anywhere from a first time buyer all the way through assisting a family sell a home through an estate sale.

Some clients are more savvy than others, which doesn’t affect the outcome from my perspective, as my career long positioning as your real estate consultant for life, affords everyone that I work with the surety that I’m looking out for your best interests at all times.

A few weeks back a client of mine closed on the purchase of a condo in one of the hottest pockets of Toronto, in a building where the condo corporation, due to no fault of their own, are navigating through multiple lawsuits that can have a negative outcome on the condo unit owners, and possibly resulting in a special assessment. I’ll come back to this a bit more further on.

I’m going to add that having an experienced real estate lawyer on your side is of utmost importance and it is why I heavily recommend the lawyer I do. He is one of the absolute best there is, not only in navigating through the legal side of a real estate transaction, also having a thorough and deep knowledge of deciphering through a condominium status certificate, where potential red flags can be had.

This particular condominium corporation, the units are selling at a huge discount in lieu of the complicated status certificate and the problems the building has had to overcome over the past few years.

We’ve had our on eye on this building for most of the past two years, and have waited patiently for the right opportunity to present itself. Having been on the losing end twice previously we finally succeeded in purchasing a unit that checks all of my buyer clients needs. And the cherry on top is that it has one incredibly amazing skyline view!

My clients intent is to take a smaller sized 2 bedroom unit with 2 baths, and renovate it in to a more useable friendly 1 bedroom plus den. In the end, he will have a newly renovated suite, with an upgrade in parking and a locker from his previous condo, adding a balcony to the mix plus that amazing city view.

Here’s where the savvy part ties in. Looking out longer term (five + years) the potential building issues will be behind him. In a worst case scenario we are budgeting $5,000 should the lawsuits not be settled and each owner is asked to contribute via a special assessment. Keep in mind that if there were no issues, this unit would be around $75k more, so we are already ahead. Best case scenario, there is no special assessment, and a building that is in a prime locale with a suite that includes parking, locker and a balcony, plus the amazing view, are all an upgrade over his current living arrangement. As an added bonus, we were able to sell his current condo in a matter of days (yep!!) for the full asking price, which is slightly less than that of his new purchase.

A happy past client who has moved up the property ladder by seeking out opportunity slightly off the beaten path. The end.

20 September 2020 ~ 0 Comments

The beloved detached home and its pursuit by Toronto buyers

With the covid 19 pandemic still hovering around us, what impact has it had on real estate values throughout Toronto? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Are you a buyer looking for the coveted detached house, or are you a seller looking to move from your two-bedroom condo? Ask the condo investor seller who is looking to cash out one one of their rental condos ‘where have all the buyers gone?’ that were lining up twenty deep on some units only a mere six months ago. The answers vary.

Herd mentality has been prevalent in Toronto’s real estate market (and I suspect elsewhere as well) for as long as I can remember. When hoards of buyers are out shopping for their dream home, they often find themselves tripping over other buyers as we navigate in and out of the select few homes currently for sale. When turbulence shows up, its crickets, except for the bold and savvy few.

When they do get the butterfly in the belly feeling about finding “the one”, and move forward with placing an offer to purchase, chances are high that our offer won’t be the only one.

So how can a buyer capitalize as best as possible in a scorching hot marketplace? Step back and possibly reassess your needs. There are always opportunities to be found.

For example, detached homes have always been high on many a buyers list, which isn’t an unrealistic expectation to have before one sits down with me during our consultation and discusses their plans on buying. After going over the many variables that go in to mapping out the plan of action, I sometimes get the sense that buyers feel owning a detached home insulates them against any potential downturns in the value of a property.

Yes there are tangible reasons as well that go along with their wishes, but for some reason detached has trumped out owning a semi-detached, townhouse or well laid out floorpan of a condo.

Lifestyle needs aside, all of these other housing options provide opportunity to make a happy and comfortable home, along with the hope over time of an increase in price appreciation.

Detached homes average above $1.5 million in the 416 area code. The 905 average is currently just shy of $1.1 million. These are the averages! When you look year-over-year the 21.4% increase looks absurd, but pandemic fever along with a summer market filled with springtime sellers and buyers, and it’s not a typical apples to apples comparison.

The good news if you look at the other property types through the same lens, is that prices are holding up and all have increased year over year.

Interest rates are truly at rock bottom making owning real estate better than putting your hard earned savings into the bank. With so many buyers competing for property, looking for the opportunities can lead to savings.

Needs aside as mentioned above, if you can lock down that much coveted detached home, kudos to you! If not, consider the other opportunities that exist. Come 2021 if the average value has increased another 20% across the board, many will be kicking themselves as their rate of savings will come nowhere close to what would have been lost gains in the market.