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.

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.

21 November 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Understanding the Status Certificate When Buying a Condo

In Toronto when you make a purchase on a condominium, there should (almost) always be a condition in your offer on the ‘review of an up to date status certificate and accompanying documents’.

Why is this so important? There are way too many reasons to cover in this blog post, so I will highlight the most common concerns and what you need to be aware of when reviewing. (NOTE: you should always have a third party, like an experienced Realtor familiar with condo documents or your real estate Lawyer, review these documents).

The most often talked about concern is the financial status of the condominium corporation you just bought into. That’s right, you are now a legal shareholder in the liabilities and assets of said condo corporation! What is the amount in the reserve fund? Are fees projected to rise in the next budgeted year? Are any special assessments being considered? What does the budget look like? There are so many things to understand and to the untrained eye, it can be a daunting review.

How about the rules and regulations or by-laws of the condo? Consider this scenario as an example: while visiting the property before you purchased, you noticed that the neighbour’s balcony had a barbeque on it. You love to barbeque, so you are excited about doing so yourself! Don’t assume that this is permitted. It needs to be spelled out if it is.

How about pets and the associated obligations with owning them? Certainly no one can tell me what I can or cannot do inside my own unit? Wrong! Not only can a condo spell out what types of pets are permitted, but you also must adhere to sound and noise requirements. If your parakeet likes to squawk all day, you could be in for a rude surprise. One of you, maybe even both of you, could be asked to leave.

Here’s an interesting one that’s often overlooked by the uninformed: playing loud music inside your unit. Condo noise by-laws are different than those of the City of Toronto. Most parts of the city spell out that your neighbour should keep the music down after 11 PM. Not so in a condo. If your neighbor complains, regardless of the time of day, you need to dial it down. After all, each unit owner is entitled to quiet and reasonable enjoyment of his or her unit. This applies to video gamers as well, with the heavy bass of gunfire blasting at 1:00 AM! Landlords should always make sure that their leases include “that the tenant agrees to abide by the condo rules and bylaws”.

So, as you can see, a thorough understanding of the status certificate and documents is crucial when making a condominium purchase. Make sure that you are aware of the rules and by-laws, and also make to bring to your Realtor’s attention anything that might conflict with your interests. Keep in mind that condo living can be great, but it’s not for everyone!

14 October 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Toronto Traffic Will Hurt Real Estate Values

Toronto’s mayor John Tory recently announced another “blitz” targeted towards illegal parking during rush hour in Toronto’s downtown core. October 5th, my birthday, is the big day of reckoning to solve our traffic woes. Thanks John for the heads-up, wink-wink!!

There are so many things wrong with Tory’s Band-Aid approach in which he thinks is the cause of road congestion downtown.

More cyclists on the roads, more people living downtown, more cars on the road, more pedestrians on the streets, non-threatening parking fines, and finally my biggest pet peeve, poor planning on development projects and special events. This is why traffic sucks everywhere you go!

Whew! What a list. Add to this ignorant drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians who all now act like anything they want goes.

Its cheaper to park illegally, get a ticket, fight said ticket and either pay nothing at all or maybe 25% of the value, then to find a parking space and pay to park. Don’t believe me? Ask FedEx.

There are so many worthy charitable causes to consider for road closures, but why do they all have to be on the streets of downtown, truly baffles me?

The city encouraged development downtown to get residents jammed into every orifice imaginable, and their answer to congestion is bike lanes. Remove the parking spaces, build condos everywhere and people will cycle all year long! Brilliant!!

Buyers are starting to pay notice. Maybe downtown is a good place to rent. But not buy?

How have the roads we all pay to travel, walk and ride on have become all but ignored? When Adam Vaughan was a city councilor it was his hair brained idea to take the two roads best set up to move traffic, Richmond and Adelaide Streets and bring them to a crawl. Did I miss Adam’s advanced degree in Urban Planning?

Drivers are feuding with cyclists; cyclists are feuding with drivers and pedestrians; police are never anywhere to be seen, and above all the nitwits at city hall are planning their next taxi rally.

Keep putting up with this crap people of Toronto and you know what will be in store for us. Rob Ford 2.0.

15 September 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Shouldn’t Toronto be Rich?

With the massive condo boom in the city of Toronto the past 10 years, it seems logical that our city’s property tax base has grown proportionately.

If you live or have lived in a condo, you have probably had that moment of thinking, ‘why am I paying $2,500 per year for 650 square feet again to the city in taxes?!’ After all, you don’t receive the same perks and services that a homeowner in the city receives.

But let’s focus for a moment on the money. We have been building at a massive pace and accumulating huge revenues in property taxes, and most of these increases are coming from land or buildings where the taxes collected have increased 500 fold!

Let’s conservatively say that 7,000 units are created per year and are actually brought to market where owners have taken occupancy. With an average tax base of $2,500 per unit (taxes are assessed on market value and not on market size; the wealthier you are, the more you pay) this would equate to $17,500,000. Yes, a paltry amount in comparison overall to the city budget, but this amount additionally would be added every year!

Over 10 years now conservatively we are looking at $175,000,000. This doesn’t include one-time fees charged to developers or a purchaser of the said units, and of course doesn’t include our lovely Toronto Land Transfer tax.

There is a massive amount of money being added to the city coffers, all the while we keep hearing about deficits and cuts to essential services. Our streets should be lined in gold and our waste pipes with imported rare metal and steel! Instead we get plastic tubing made in China.

Today they say we need tolls to afford our roads. Last week they threw out $20 million in parking ticket revenue and proceeded to announce the next day parking rates were going up because there is a $1.5 million dollar shortfall? Oh yeah, then they went and eliminated a massive amount of street parking spaces along Richmond and Adelaide streets to paint in bike lanes.

#WTFT.O.

I’m sorry, but it needs to be said. We are such a rich city that has no clue where the money goes. Thankfully we didn’t send that letter and commit ourselves to $50 million to ‘apply’ to host the 2024 Olympics. $10 billion + they say it would cost and converted to Toronto and Ontario currency that is about $15 billion Canadian. Go #Liberals!

Instead they should invite every Torontonian out during the Olympics and place big screen TV’s along Bloor, Yonge, Queen, and King streets etc.; every 10 feet and have us all dine and drink to our hearts content while footing the bill. Now that’s a party!

19 August 2015 ~ 0 Comments

7 Reasons Why Toronto Average Sale Prices are $1 Million Dollars

The Canada Housing and Mortgage Company (CMHC) recently came out with high-risk warnings for detached house prices in Toronto.

With the price of a detached house hovering around the One Million Dollar threshold, this warning seems to be plausible, especially in a city where some buyers can be seen with ‘crazy eyes’ like facial features (from the loveable character in Orange is the new Black).

What’s important to note is that the CMHC specifically mentioned that both the condo market and affordability are NOT a concern at this point, specifically referring to detached homes in the Toronto area.

There are some factors that have contributed to our 7-digit home price average that are often overlooked or misunderstood. I’ve listed below a few of the factors that I feel have helped push the average up.

The first two are obvious so I’ve listed them at the top. The rest are in no particular order.

  1. Low interest rates that have been low for so long that many consumers have forgotten what a normal rate looks like. Some say low rates may very well be the NEW norm!
  2. Scarcity of good housing in high demand neighbourhoods. Another obvious ones but the next point ties into this as well.
  3. Punitive high land transfer taxes that often force buyers to jump ‘ahead’ in the move-up cycle and go from first time home buyer/seller to their trophy home.
  4. A higher percentage of home sales in the $2.5 million and up range.
  5. A huge surge in Infill housing (tearing down a smaller/older home and rebuilding a newer larger one).
  6. Home renovations. Canadians spent $68 billion on home renovations in 2014 (HGTV effect) that was $20 billion more than was spent on new housing last year! (Read more about that here.)
  7. Growing income disparity. Two income families making $200,000/year combined offer options for higher priced properties and renovations.

As you can see from my list, it only takes one or two of these factors to push house prices higher. When you add four, five, or all seven, you can easily understand why prices are where they are.

In the 20 years that I’ve been helping people buy and sell real estate in Toronto, I have come to believe that the key to successful home ownership is simple. First, figure out if it’s the right time for you to make a purchase; this is something that a good Realtor can assist with. Next, make a purchase that will meet your needs depending on where you land in the home buying process. These two things help to ensure that you sleep well and enjoy the experience of being a home/condo owner.

17 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

4 Ways to Protect Your Documents, Photos & Media

Planning for the unexpected can save your valuables and help put your mind at ease when you need it most. Take a look at these four digital and age-old backup and storage solutions. Unexpected accidents do happen, so take the steps to protect your computer, home office files, music, or important keepsakes now.

Go Paperless

Take advantage of receiving important documents (such as your bank statements) electronically. Choosing the paperless route allows you to log in to your accounts instead of worrying about losing that folder full of important documents stashed in the back of a filing cabinet.

For added peace of mind, create digital backups of important physical documents such as your passport and birth certificate, as well. Scanners are now smaller than ever (no more taking up half of your desk!), making it easy to go paperless in a short amount of time. When in a rush, snap a photo of that important document with your smartphone.

Backup Externally

External hard drives connect to your computer via a USB port, allowing for easy onsite backup of documents, photos, music and other media. When deciding what type of external hard drive works best for you, consider how much space you’ll need, as well as the drive’s compatibility with your computer.

To be extra safe, use two external drives and store your redundant backup in a safe or at work. Tip: Set a digital calendar reminder for yourself to regularly back up your external drives — once a week or month, for example.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage allows your data to be transferred and stored virtually, offering easy access to your information anywhere, anytime. And an added perk, you don’t need to be logged in on your computer to access your cloud. As long as you have your cloud username and password, you can recover your files on any computer, tablet or smartphone. There are more cloud service options than ever before, so compare multiple providers to decide what’s best for you. Google Drive allows a generous 15GB of free storage and acts as part online collaborative suite, and part cloud storage platform. Other options worth considering are Dropbox, iDrive and Apple iCloud for avid Apple app users.

Low-tech Standby

If the tech world intimidates you, or you just want extra protection for physical documents and treasured keepsakes, then a fireproof safe is your best bet. Safes can protect your precious keepsakes from harm for many hours in extreme temperatures — something your external hard drive couldn’t do. But before you run out for a fireproof safe of your own, consider all of the items you may want to keep in it and where you’ll store it in your home.

Ultimately, it’s best to utilize multiple backup options to keep your valuables safe. Going paperless, using external hard drives and cloud storage, and keeping items in a fireproof safe will give you the protection you need should the unexpected strike.

17 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

R.I.P. Zoocasa

It may be considered to be old news by now, but earlier this month a Rogers-owned Real Estate Company announced they were shutting their doors.

And I say good riddance.

From the get go, Zoocasa was a flawed business model. I won’t go into details as to why, as others have flogged their demise to death, but I will say this: they weren’t the first and they won’t be the last entity to try and capitalize on the lucrative real estate industry without offering ANYTHING of value to the consumer.

What hasn’t been spoken much of is how dysfunctional they operated: the hiring and firing (‘parting of ways’ in corporate speak) of a well-known consistent flop in the real estate community, the breaking of laws and lack of adherence to privacy laws, the agitation and isolation of the very real estate community in which it publicly claimed ‘were partners’ and not competitors, and so on.

Recently, the Huffington Post wrote a ‘fluff piece’ on this development and how detrimental it will be to consumers now that they are gone. Pu-leassseeee! Sadly this is what happens in today’s business aligned world: the media (especially online media outlets) are there to stroke the bruised egos of the advertisers who pay them.

Rumour has it that Zoocasa was hemorrhaging a loss of a million dollars per month. This doesn’t surprise me. They advertised like crazy, yet at the best of times, they only had 100 agent members aligned to their services (who were not the cream of the crop in the business).

In addition, I’m certain that Rogers Communications took a huge hit in the business quality they offered to the Realtor community. When word leaked that they were competitors to agents, many fled to other non-competing carriers. Bell Media quickly encouraged realtors to switch to Bell and threw in a marketing jab by ‘promising not to compete with you, only provide great cellular service’.

With over 110,000 agents in Canada, even if a small percentage jumped over to Bell (I was one of them) it would be a ding to the bottom line. Realtors pay a small monthly fortune on cell phones, home Internet, mobile data packages and tablets, so it adds up quickly. Not including cable TV and Internet I was paying over $250 per month alone to Rogers. Add another hundred for my home services… You do the math.

In my opinion, what Zoocassa did accomplish was exposing the potential flaws of a pretty antiquated real estate industry. The good times have been very good (read profitable) for Real Estate Boards, Brokerages, affiliated industries and of course, some licensed sales representatives such as myself.

Who will be the next threat or disruptor that will cause the real estate industry to wake up and get with the times? This I don’t know. But I am certain it won’t be long before someone else comes along looking for a piece of the pie.

17 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Pan Am Games, Traffic, Real Estate

With the Pan American games about to descend on our city in a few weeks, there seems to be uncertainty about how the events will affect traffic in and around the city.

From June 29th through August 18th many of us who live, work and play throughout the downtown core are going to witness firsthand what athletes and delegates from 41 participating countries, media and visitors from around the world, and increased security personal feels like.

I’ve had numerous conversations with colleagues, friends and other business owners and employees responsible for keeping things ‘humming along as usual’, and there seems to be no consensus and mixed feelings on the impact of the games; instead, a ‘wait and see’ attitude is forming.

So how will this impact the buying and selling of real estate during the games? For starters, July and August are typically not strong months for sales in Toronto. Yes, we may be crazy for real estate but we also enjoy our beautiful summer season and on average, sales take a back seat during this time.

In terms of travelling and commuting, it’s inevitable that the added visitors to our city will have an impact on our normal routines of going to work and outside activities outside of work, such as going out for dinner or grocery shopping. Line-ups for transit will be longer, roads will be more congested with temporary road closures and foreigners trying to navigate unfamiliar areas, and parking will be difficult to find or nonexistent.

My feelings are this: the market is going to be typical, which means slow or slower than usual. In reality, certain segments of the market have already showed signs of slowing down: condos are on the market for longer, semi-detached homes in the midtown area and central prices are hitting a plateau, and detached home sales (including bungalows) are still going strong but with not as many bidders.

Last week I had a client looking at a completely renovated 2-bedroom bungalow in East York. It showed like a brand new home and had a 2-bedroom basement apartment to boot. Come offer night, it sold for about $25,000 less than what I expected with only 3 offers. Two months ago, this would have sold for more money and with more offers on the table.

If you absolutely have to sell, make sure your home is priced aggressively well (caution: this doesn’t mean lower and holding back for multiple offers). I’m certain there will be fewer buyers looking and fewer agents working, which will mean fewer sales. Enjoy the summer months and if you have the opportunity, take in an event or two of the games! I’m already booked for the court and beach volleyball finals, and I’m looking forward to it.

18 May 2015 ~ 0 Comments

The HGTV Effect

I recently met with a friend and past client who was tasked with helping an aging relative sell her condo as she prepares for the next stage of her life in an assisted living facility. Emotions usually run high; as inevitable as these next steps can be, it’s never an easy transition.

Over the past few years, I’ve handled four to five of these sales per year and you may have even seen my video listings of these properties. They are the ones where typically, the house or condos decor is from a different era, and almost always the home has been very well maintained and cared for.

Whenever I am brought in for a consultation, one area of discussion is what should be done or what absolutely needs to be done to enhance a property’s marketability and eventual selling price.

Without going into detailed reasoning, all I will say is what needs to be done (or should be done) varies greatly from property to property as well as neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

Without a doubt, HGTV and their programming have had a huge influence and impact on setting consumer expectations on topics such as staging, de-cluttering and upgrades and home improvements. However, it’s crucial to be aware that this isn’t always in the seller’s best interest from a bottom line perspective.

Buyers today are often called out for lacking ‘vision’ or being able to see through the ‘clutter’ or personalization of a home. Yet time and time again, I have consulted my seller’s clients to take an approach that best reflects their desires, and leave the task of finding the right buyer to me.

This is often met with relief and sometimes, even joy. It seems that these days, with everybody being an expert in selling real estate, what we are seeing more and more is older sellers being told to upgrade the countertops to stone, rip up the carpet and refinish the floors, move out their existing furniture and ‘stage’ with more modern pieces.

This is ridiculous! Costs are being driven up on the seller’s behalf, and unless you can clearly justify the return, often the added expense and hassle isn’t worth it to the bottom line for the seller. Also, what gets lost in this process is the transition period for a seller who has spent the better part of their life in this home! It’s difficult enough coping with a move at this age; adding additional stress through upgrades and staging is hardly sensible.

This year I helped a seller who has lived in her home for 43 years. Last year, there were two where the sellers had been there for 64 years and 53 years. In all cases, due to both a strong sellers market, as well as doing the correct things to position their homes for sale, we have achieved amazing sale prices that have exceeded ALL of the sellers’ expectations involved.

The take away is this: when selling your home or condo, every property is different. Make sure the efforts put into selling your property for the most money and in a timely fashion are approached with an open mind. If someone is presenting only one option on how to do this, perhaps it’s time to interview other agents. Ultimately, go with what feels the most comfortable to you, and what you feel will best suit your situation.

21 April 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Paying More Than The List Price versus Paying Above Market Value

It seems today in Toronto’s frenzied real estate market that Buyers have become ‘numb’ with the understanding that most houses, as well as some condos, will sell for above the listing price.

Years ago I used to describe to clients of mine that the list price of a property was simply an “asking” price: a place to start and to get qualified potential Buyers through the door. Depending on many factors, the final sale price could be lower or slightly higher than the asking price.

Today I am convinced that many real estate agents don’t have a bleeping clue on what the value range for property is. Before my email inbox starts getting filled with F.U. emails please note I say “many” not “all”.

This leads me to discuss the difference between paying “over list price” for a property and paying “over market value” for a property. There is a big difference between the two and based on many conversations with both consumers and first hand knowledge while representing Sellers on the listing side, not everybody fully understands this.

Lets start with the popular notion that in the past few years Buyers have had to overpay to get the desired home or condo that they have deemed to be the “one!”

One can argue that this is true in some cases and not so true in other cases. There is a lot of strategy that goes into pulling off what I call the perfect multiple offer scenario.

This is where:

  • The goals of the seller are met (they can be varied and not entirely just financial)
  • Adequate market exposure is had for the property
  • Buyers have had ample time to make a sound and educated decision
  • A final sale price that falls within or very close to actual market value of the property

Why these four points are crucial in obtaining the perfect multiple offer scenarios is that everyone should come out in the end happy. The Seller will be happy that they received market value and a qualified content Buyer ensures that come closing, things go off without a hitch. The financial lender is happy, as the property has sold within market value range. Both real estate Lawyers are happy. And with all of these parties happy, both Realtors will be thrilled!

Certainly a Win-Win for all! Sadly, today this is becoming less and less the norm.

Pricing a property both on the selling side and buying side is no easy task. But for real estate professionals who are committed, experienced and knowledgeable about the countless factors that make up a properties desirability and value, this is crucial.

Without dealing with someone who has a deep understanding of this often leads to a buyer paying an exorbitant purchase price.

We’ve all seen the headlines or heard the second hand stories of a property that has sold for $200,000, $250,000 or more above the list price. Some of these may fall within market value for the property, which is fine. For those that do not, often a consumers reaction will be something along the lines of “that’s nut’s” or “WTF?”

An experienced Realtors reaction will be “Good luck getting the property to appraise!”

In the end, all I can say is choose your representation carefully as Carpe Diem, “Let the Buyer beware” prevails in Ontario real estate law.

Michael Rapkoski is a licensed Realtor and sales representative of RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd; in Toronto. REMAX Platinum Award winner for sales achievement 2006 thru 2014. Top 2% of TREB members for sales volume*


Michael Rapkoski is a licensed Realtor and sales representative of RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd; in Toronto. REMAX Platinum Award winner for sales achievement 2006 thru 2014. Top 2% of TREB members for sales volume*

*IMS Stats Inc.