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.


Two Big Changes Geared Towards Real Estate

The Ontario government recently passed changes to the Ontario Consumers Act which strengthens consumers with regard to large purchases made. Two of the changes have affect on the real estate industry, and are long overdue and more than welcomed in my opinion.

One change is to how “multiple representation” is handled in a real estate transaction. For anyone who has bought or sold real estate in Ontario over the past 20 years, you would know that your chosen real estate agent could represent both the seller and buyer in the same sales transaction, with certain disclosures being needed.

In theory, this can work and keeping in mind that working under rules that govern all of Ontario, some regions this scenario not only works out well, but is actually necessary. But in a city the size of Toronto (and across the GTA), I still don’t think the changes go far enough.

It’s too complex of a topic to cover here completely but why the changes don’t go far enough in my opinion is that there is enough abuse throughout the GTA with multiple representation that it warrants stricter rules and changes. Yes, fines have risen dramatically for offenders convicted (now up to $50,000 for an agent and $100,000 for a brokerage) but getting someone convicted is always the challenge.

The stakes are high and competition is rampant throughout the GTA. It’s still fairly easy to obtain a real estate license and there is little to no accountability from most brokerages. Of course there are many ethical brokers (agents) and I have dealt with many of them. But poll most experienced agents (who’ve been in the industry 12+ years) and almost all I’m sure will tell you this is a huge problem. I don’t see this problem going away based on the recent changes, but only time will tell.

The second change has to do with the Tarion Home Warranty program. Anyone who has been involved with actually dealing with Tarion, knows how frustrating and stupid this organization is in it’s current setup.

The concept is one of value and importance, but it almost seems more like a rubber stamp in the new home buying process, rather than a consumer protection agency. The board of directors is better balanced these days (it used to be heavily made up of developers) but going through the claim process is expensive and the onus still falls mostly onto the consumer, who pays a very large fee for the insurance in the beginning.

Better transparency and consumer protection is better for all of us, especially those of us who work in relation to the real estate industry. Let’s hope 2018 brings better coverage for all.


Market Update: Good, Bad and some Ugly

With annual average price gains up 8.25% in October 2017 over the same month last year, the 416 area of Toronto continues to be on fire with healthy increases in value. But if we dig down and take a closer look into the numbers, a different story starts to appear.

Detached values are actually off a very nominal -1.1% year over year. Semi-detached prices are up a healthy 5.2%, Townhouses are up 8% and the condo market in Toronto is on fire, up a whopping 20.9% year-over-year!

Number of Sales are down about -21%, new listings are up almost 12%, active listings are up 78.5% and the days on market has increased upwards of about 38%. These statistics take into account the entire TREB coverage area (416+905) and there certainly is a bigger slowdown happening in most of the 905 area which skews the 416 a bit.

For the first time since I can recall, monthly transactions of resale condo units out totalled those of detached, semi-detached houses and townhouses, combined!

Total sales are down, inventory is up and days on market have increased, albeit with more condo sales this could add to the total as many condos take more time to firm up a sale. But this is a more accurate reflection of the overall market pulse.

The market is more balanced (Buyers, this is what you’ve been whining about for years, where are you?!) and in some neighbourhoods and streets, demand still trumps supply. This means that multiple offers for some are still extremely commonplace. But for most, plan your strategy on both the sale side and the buy side carefully, because the times are a changing.

I still think we have a supply issue more pronounced than the demand side. The Federal government has increased their target for immigrants from 2017’s 300,000 and we all know that a strong majority end up in Vancouver and the GTA. These people need places to live. As long as the supply isn’t adequately addressed, then it will continue to put pressure on rising values and rental rates in the housing market.

Conflicting information it seems and I should add that some analysts think the drop in activity (down 19,000 YTD) from last years record pace is mostly due to caution around the numerous government changes of late. Could be? But it’s crucial to know what is going on when you are in the market to buy or sell.


OSFI Unveils New Stress-Test Rules

The much talked about “Stress-Test” rules talked about over the summer by OSFI have been made official, and will take effect January 1st, 2018.

Many suspect this will have an almost immediate impact in the Toronto housing market which Government’s of all levels have been trying to cool with limited effect on fast increasing house prices.

In case you aren’t interested in reading this entire blog, I would suggest anybody even considering buying a piece of real estate (and this includes new construction condos as well) to immediately reach out to a mortgage broker and get your application and pre approval done NOW, to help protect against the changes to come.

So, what are the changes and what impact will they have?

The main change will be the setting of a new minimum qualifying rate, or “stress test,” for borrowers making a down payment of more than 20% of the home’s value. In the past, stress test requirements only applied to insured mortgages (those with down payments of less than 20%,) most variable mortgages and mortgages with terms less than five years.

Is it needed. In a nutshell I would say yes, it is. Brining financial stability to the housing market is a good thing for almost everyone. Is it overkill with what’s happening in the housing market in Toronto of late where interest rate increases over the past 6 month’s, and rumours of another on its way, have already helped play into a slowing of the market alongside other government implemented changes?

This is the part we will have to wait and see. None of the changes we are seeing of late address the supply side of our housing crisis. It seems only the demand side is consistently been targeted. Our city and our country continues to grow, the multiple levels of government through legislation such as the Greenbelt Protection Act and other municipal restrictions on development, are curbing the ease to build.

This is why areas such as Hamilton, Guelph, St Catherines and Kitchener/Waterloo have been booming on housing as many buyers are being pushed out due to affordability. In many of these regions housing is now considered unaffordable as well!

You have government who are opening the doors aggressively through immigration and refugee to bolster our ranks in numbers, also restricting the volume of housing to meet the demand of a rapidly growing population, also implementing aggressive rules on rental restrictions. Draw your own conclusions but much of this doesn’t seem to add up?

Reach out to me if you have any questions on how this might impact you on a personal level, I’m always happy to be of help!


A more balanced market ahead?

With the month of September behind us and looking at the statistics provided by the Toronto Real Estate Board, the overall market looks to be heading into a more balanced territory.

September’s Sales-to-New Listings ratio was similar to those of May, June and July, which were all off from the torrid pace set at the beginning of the year (see graph).  Keeping in mind that these statistics take into consideration the Greater Toronto Area. When you drill down into cities, and even further into neighbourhoods (and even some streets in particular neighbourhoods), we are still seeing a strong sellers market in some areas.

Real estate has always been and will continue to be first local, then regional, national then a global market.  Values rise and fall at different times throughout these markets and understanding the premise behind this, can help you better understand where and why prices are either rising or falling.

Not only are there “submarkets” to consider when it comes to houses, but even more so when we look into the condo market.

TREB’s Director of Market Analysis Jason Mercer says this “With more balanced market conditions, the pace of year-over-year price growth was more moderate in September compared to a year ago. However, the exception was the condominium apartment market segment, where average and benchmark sales prices were up by more than 20 per cent compared to last year.”

If you actively work in the condominium market you would well be aware that condos priced under about $450,000 are selling like hot cakes the past few months. Down-sizers? Investors? First Time Buyers? Who is driving it? 

This next graph sheds light on this a little better. Only 14% of all sales across the GTA were under $400,000! 85% were $400,000+. That’s quite an impressive feat. This further shows why Toronto condos are selling so fast. These figures don’t include new condo development sales and prices, but would you be surprised to hear that in the downtown core a luxury new build that hasn’t even broken ground yet sold out recently at an average of $1,150 per square foot! There are countless other examples of sold out developments happening over the past few months on product that won’t even be built (or may never?) for the next 4-5 years.

This is a very different story to what the general overall GTA housing market is reporting.

Get local. Get very narrow in your focus. Truly understand your market, and then be confident in your buying or selling decision. No has a crystal ball but you will feel better when you have a better grasp on what’s happening around you.









Stress Test on all Mortgages could soon be coming!

A rule already in place for insured mortgage borrowers (those that purchase with typically less than 20% as a down payment) could soon be coming to all mortgage borrowers.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is contemplating brining in changes that will make it mandatory that all mortgage borrowers go through a “Stress Test” (as if anyone who has gone through the buying process over the past many years haven’t experienced enough stress!) when qualifying for a mortgage.

Talk on the street is that everyone will need to show they can cary a monthly payment that’s 2% higher than the rate they are looking at. Some are saying this could knock approval amounts down by as much as twenty percent! Many think this could flatten the Toronto real estate market.

What will this mean for house prices, it’s too early to say. But it seems that both at the Provincial and Federal levels, governments are hell bent on cooling the housing market.

We should know more soon but for anyone contemplating making a purchase, make sure to reach out to your mortgage professional to find out what this could mean to your affordability.
For questions on what effect this might have on the sale price of your property, contact me and I would be happy to discuss further.

With many changes on the mortgage side over the past few years these seem to have been effective like jabs in a boxing match. Will this new change amount to the knock out punch they’ve been looking for? Time will tell.


Toronto Real Estate Board does away with weekly and mid month statistics – Why??

Recently TREB did away with its reporting on weekly and mid month statistics, and they did so with very little explanation to it’s members.

TREB’s official posted explanation on our member website was “These intra-month statistics are more susceptible to volatility, and are not necessarily reflective of the monthly and quarterly market activity TREB captures and reports in its suite of reports, including the monthly Market Watch publication.”

That’s it. All of a sudden we are in a market with uncertainty, and our Realtor board decides to do away with information, that personally, I found quite helpful. Yes, it was a singular tool in a box composed of many, but still, it was of value when needed. And if was so susceptible to volatility, why only are they cancelling its use?

In an environment where providing relevant and timely data is of premium importance, cutting off a branch from the tree doesn’t help the very so members who pay costly dues to operate the real estate board. This is yet another example of TREB being out of touch with its memberships needs. I mean, come on, at least put up a poll and see what the members think?


18 September 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Sellers you should never let your agent “double end” your sale

NOTE: I originally published this in May 2014. With recent talk of Mandatory Designated Representation being potentially introduced to the Ontario Real Estate industry, below is an example by me on why we need this in the Toronto marketplace.

A few weeks back an extreme example of a multiple bid scenario played out on a detached home in the Avenue Road and Eglinton Road area.

For those that may have heard, the home was listed at “not seen pricing since the year 2000” which was $699,000.  In the agent’s words, “we listed it at this price to get attention”.

10 days later, 72 offers, 71 pissed off Realtors and their clients, the Selling broker double ended the sale which then sold for 195% of the list price.

Okay, so why shouldn’t a seller want their agent to represent both them and a buyer you ask? After all, everyone thinks you will save some money off of the commission right? This often becomes the case, and most likely in the above scenario the seller might have saved 1%(?) in fees which would amount to about $14,000. Buyers also want to benefit in the savings so the sellers piece of the pie can be even smaller. Peanuts compared to the sale price and even what might have been if the agent focused all their efforts on pushing the other 71 agents harder in achieving a top dollar price.

A recent sale on a newer built house sold for about $2,300,000.00 dollars. One with a smaller lot to boot!

What if the focus was on working solely in your Seller clients’ best interest and instead of focus on saving $14,000 you could fetch and additional $50,000 or $100,000 from a motivated buyer? In the end, your client nets more money, and your focus and attention as a Realtor lies where it should be, on your Seller client.

Today I was in a similar situation where the exact same scenario could have played out. Instead, I opted to inform every agent who called on my listing as well as every potential Buyer who called without an agent, that I would only be representing the Seller in the sale. No offers would be presented by me to the Seller. Everyone would have to have their own agent.

It took a lot of effort but in the end, we had a fair and transparent offer presentation where each Buyer had their own representation, and my Seller had me. The results were amazing! The Realtors, whose clients didn’t win out, were appreciative of the fact that they all had an even and fair field to work from. My client was thrilled and was appreciative that all of my attention was focused on her and her alone.

Without a doubt I think the time has come to outlaw double ending or multiple representation in offers. Anything we can do in our industry to enhance the professionalism should be a top priority. Hopefully this way of working will catch on.


Sales down 40% in July

To anyone who follows Toronto’s real estate market, it will come as no surprise that sales transactions are down when tracked over the comparable month of July’s sales last year. Down by a whopping 40% on the other hand, can lead one to wonder if Toronto’s sizzling hot real estate market is starting to crumble!

5921 reported sales at first glance for a month that traditionally throughout the year is one that falls towards the lower side in sales activity, isn’t eyebrow raising in itself. But it led me to scour through the archives to research that the last time the hard working members of the Toronto Real Estate Board posted less sales in July was in the year 2002. Fifteen years ago! Even in the recession summer of 2010 sales transactions were 9% higher than 2017’s numbers!

Okay, so what could this mean?

In February, March and early April of 2017 Toronto’s market defied logic to most. It’s well known that it triggered multiple policy changes amongst governments, regulators such as OFSI – The Office of the Superintendent of Financial institutions ( OFSI)
and even our beloved City of Toronto chimed in by increasing the Land Transfer Tax collected on our hard working citizens. After all, I mean you must be filthy rich to be able to purchase real estate in Toronto right?! Sucka!!

Most of the changes came with good intentions (not Toronto’s, sorry) to help balance a very hot real estate market. Have they achieved this? It’s still too early to tell, but a closer look reveals something that was mostly overlooked in the mainstream media, but played out through social media amongst those in support of, which I am, which is attacking the supply side of the issue (create more housing) and not the demand (buyers) side alone.

Back to July’s numbers. Most of the price appreciation in the early part of the year recorded in the 905 regions (they count in TREB’s numbers) has been given back with detached homes trading at 2.4% higher than July 2016. In Toronto, they are 8.5% higher. Looking back since March where it peaked in the 905 (April for Toronto) prices are trading 33% lower year-over-year. Almost the entire gain has been wiped out.

Still, I’m not sure I’m convinced?

Well, over the past ten days or so, there has been a notable uptick in viewings in not only my properties listed for sale, but those of other agents whom I’m in contact with. The demand side is still there, albeit buyers are slightly frozen on what they should do. They feel in their gut it’s a good time to buy now; and it really is, assuming your reasoning for buying in the first place is a sound one. Maybe motivated by talks of more interest rate hikes, or the stress test for all mortgage holders to qualify against, or maybe even because right now you can even pick up a property without major competition or even none at all! Whatever the reason, people are out looking.

The demand is there, the supply side hasn’t been adequately addressed (and no, I don’t mean let’s build more condos everywhere) and something I didn’t even touch on, is that we have a strong local economy happening around us. This all points to stability on the housing front and now that the madness of the FMA (February, March and April) is behind us, go find and purchase your next home and get back to experiencing the true joy of what owning a property long term brings.




What The Heck Happened to Toronto’s Hot Real Estate Market?

You may have heard that in the month of May, sales activity across the GTA was down. This is true. When compared to year-over-year sales comparisons in which the Toronto Real Estate Board utilizes, sales are down a staggering 20% from those recorded in May 2016.

Wait! Wasn’t May 2016 the busiest year ever for sales in the month of May? Yes it was. It was about 10% higher than May 2015 and was part of a record year last year in total sales. Also about 10% higher than the total of 2015, which was the second busiest year ever recorded for sales.

This year started out on the same record-breaking pace as January, February and March all surpassed their 2016 monthly totals. April 2017 was a tipping point and sales activity dropped moderately. The first 2 weeks of June we’ve seen a 50% drop in sales activity.

New listings are increasing (which this in itself can be slightly deceiving as TREB counts a re-listed home as 2 listings). More listings are welcome news for Buyers who have been in the market the past two years and have been in constant multiple offer situations due to a lack of inventory.

Well, the inventory is finally building. Where are the Buyers?

For starters, the Toronto Real Estate Board tracks numbers from a wide stretch (mostly GTA with limited exceptions) and in the surrounding areas of Toronto is where there have been large upticks in new listings. Toronto proper listings are not sitting long on the market and prices in May were up all across the board on prices from May 2016.

In Toronto proper the averages sale prices are as follows:

  • Detached homes $1,503,868 up 16.6% over 2016
  • Semi-detached $1,062,318 up 27%
  • Townhouse $741,211 up 18%
  • Condominiums $564,808 up 27.7%

Sales activity is down, prices are still higher than the previous year albeit it looks like the crazy price gains we had at the start of the year are subsiding and we are certainly moving to a more balanced market.

The demand for Toronto real estate remains high and all other economic indicators point to this being more a pause for the time being, than an all out souring on the housing market. There is opportunity in every market depending on your individual situation, and if I were a Buyer I would take advantage of the pause if possible. After all, we need a place to live and call home.


What are Rental Rates Like in Toronto?

With all the talk of the heated real estate market we are starting to hear more and more about the options of renting a home or condo, instead of owning one.

With Canadian Home ownership rates around 66.50% roughly two-thirds of Canadians are Homeowners.

My thoughts about renting for those who have the option of owning their home verses renting, is that it can be a viable option for some, based on a variety of factors.

As of late, the topic of discussion seems to be, do I try and sell in a high market and rent until the market subsides; and then buy back in when real estate goes on sale?

That’s a tough question and that doesn’t come with an easy answer. It really depends on your personal beliefs and financial situation.

To help in your decision here’s what it will cost you to rent on average throughout Toronto.

  • 1 Bedroom condo (450-500 square feet) $1600-$1800 per month. Look to the higher end if parking is needed.
  • 1 Bedroom + den (500-700 square feet) $1800-$2300 per month.
  • 2 bedroom condo (700-1000 square feet) $2500-$3000 per month
  • House rentals vary on size and condition more so but a bare minimum starting point would be $2200 per month + utilities.

Luxury condo rentals of late have seen a surge in demand with monthly rental rates between $4000-$5000/month. Even with the recent proposed rental legislation rental rates are only going to continue to rise. The demand for good housing (including rentals) is on the rise and it will continue to be difficult to find a deal.

Not all decisions to rent are financially based, nor like purchasing a property to live in should it be so. But if that is the reason you are thinking of doing so, carefully think through all of the costs involved and I suspect you will find that owning versus renting in the long term is a much better option.