My Agent Mike

Hi! I'm Mike Rapkoski.

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

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

19 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.

16 March 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Spring Market Strong as Sales Surge

The Spring market continues to show strong results as well priced new listings are being snapped up in days, and sometimes even hours!

The confidence amongst buyers is high, as sales across all of the pockets I follow and work in are doing very well. Houses in the Toronto area continue to shine as well as demand pockets in the most desirable of our suburbs. Oakville and parts of Vaughan centered around GO transit lines are seeing houses being snapped up, almost always in multiple offers with anxious and determined buyers.

Condo sales continue to be strong with price points of under $375,000 and over $750,000 doing exceptionally well.

For the most part, sellers seem to be realistic on pricing, and well-informed buyers are not going crazy (well there are the exceptions) paying unrealistic prices.

The condo rental market is also very strong, but remember that when looking at potential condos for investment purposes only, the factors can vary on what makes for a good investment unit.

I think the next few months are going to continue to be strong with activity, as I know some of my buyers are rushing to beat the insanity of what is going to ensue once the PanAm games arrives in July.

For more specific area statistics contact me directly.

13 March 2015 ~ 0 Comments

13 Spring Cleaning Tips

With spring right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about reorganizing, de-cluttering, and maintaining your home. To make spring-cleaning a little easier, here are 13 tips that will help keep your home in tip-top shape at any time of year.

Take Care of Stainless Steel
To keep your stainless steel appliances bright and clean, try using a light mist of wax-based aerosol spray once or twice a week. Be careful not to put on too much as you don’t want to soak the surface and make it greasy. Wipe the mist with a clean, lint-free cloth, and never use oils to keep away fingerprints, or else lint will stick to the oil. Finally, don’t use anything abrasive – you don’t want to scratch or ruin the surface.

Organize Closets
Get rid of unused clothes and accessories, and organize the rest by how you get dressed in the morning and by colour. Your closet will look appealing, and your everyday routine will be easier.

Remove Stains and Odours
Blot up as much of the odours immediately. While blotting upholstery, put a plastic liner or garbage bag between the cushion and the fabric to avoid pushing the contaminant into the cushion. Next, flush with cold water as best you can. Blot and flush again. Try using a portable spot cleaner or wet/dry vacuum, or if there’s still a residual odour, use a half-vinegar, half-water solution and rinse again. If all else fails, call in professionals.

Clean Painted Walls
Start with a clean cloth or sponge and water. If this doesn’t work, dip the rag/sponge into water mixed with a little dishwashing liquid (the milder the better). If the stain persists, apply a few drops of soap directly onto the west sponge or cloth. For more stubborn cases, try applying a little soap right onto the stain. Be aware that stronger products like Fantastik have strong solvents in them and can soften the pain surface. Whatever you do, make sure to rinse the wall afterward with plain water.

Create a Different Mood
Changing bedding, towels, or table linens can make easy makeovers. Switch things out seasonally or for a special event, or whenever you want to play with a certain colour or pattern.

Clean the Carpet
Take off your shoes when you get home, but leave your socks on or wear house slippers because walking barefoot leaves natural oils that attract dirt. For less-trafficked areas, cleaning the carpets once or twice a year is acceptable, and every 18 months for a bedroom. Although once you see that the carpet is dirty, have it cleaned for health reasons.

Care for the Tiles
Clean bathroom and kitchen tiles with a cleaner that has ‘neutral pH’ on the label. You can also mix baking soda and water for a homemade cleaner: pour ½ cup baking soda into 2 gallons water and mix very well. Apply the liquid with a string or sponge mop.

Remove Stains from Countertops
This can be tricky, but the key is to wipe up stains immediately. Have your countertop sealed a few times as soon as it’s installed – you’ll know it’s properly sealed when water beads and forms droplets on the surface. For most coffee or juice stains, use a little hydrogen peroxide in water, plus a few drops of ammonia. For everyday wear-and-tear, buff away small scratches with superfine dry steel wool.

Reorganize Bookshelves
Sort books by size and subject. Remove and discard any ripped dust jackets. Line books, some vertically, some horizontally, in a rhythmic pattern – this will relieve the monotony of rows.

Care for Area Rugs
It’s ideal to clean area rugs every 4-5 years, or every 10 years if a rug is not walked on much. Over cleaning contributes to wear and tear. Fine silk rugs need cleaning only 20-30 years. For treating stains at homes, keep a bottle of club soda on hand. Stains caused by pets, coffee, orange soda, red wine, and anything with dye or an acid base are the toughest to remove, and the key is to act quickly.

Care for Wood Floors
Avoid over sanding and use trivets or saucers under plants to avoid water damage. Use furniture protectors to avoid scratches, and damp-mop once a week with a mild soap.

Polish your Silver
Use a toothbrush and Hagerty Silver Foam on your silver because it’s not too abrasive and it’s water-soluble. For really bad black tarnish, try Silvo Metal Polish. Never put your silver in the dishwasher, and store it in anti-tarnish cloth bags when they aren’t in use.

Make the Most out of Cleaning Time
Really clean your home when you set aside time to do so – polish silver, wash windows, wipe down the light bulbs in the lamps, and wipe down the walls.

18 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

HOT HOT HOT, to start off 2015!

2015 is off to a frantic pace in home sales and prices, which in my opinion were to be expected, as long as the winter weather played nice enough.

If you recall last January and February we were buried deep in snow and this pushed back our market in sales a bit. This year in January new listings were up by almost 10% over last year, which is notable as January isn’t typically known as a busy month. Sales activity was up 6% and prices up 4.9% year over year.

Expect a very busy spring market with similar conditions as buyers continue to outnumber sellers on desirable properties. 

With the Pan Am Games coming to Toronto in July and August, this too can play in sales activity and pricing. Although summer months, like January, tend not to be as frantic as spring or fall.

If you have further questions let me know?

16 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

10 Ways to Avoid Distractions and Stay Focused

Sometimes it seems that for as many hours there are in the day. We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed by distractions. In order to get a little clarity and quiet the buzz in your brain, there are strategies that will help you keep a quiet focus. In addition to feeling calmer and more focused, you’ll probably be more efficient too.

Turn off the background noise
What you thought was “white noise” from the TV or radio could be a bigger distraction than you realize.

Have a calming mantra
Post a sign or post-it near your workspace that says something along the lines of “quiet mind.” That will be your signal to take a deep breath and try to relax.

Clean up
Organize space so it’s attractive, well organized and well lit. Make sure your office or desk is orderly, comfortable and well lit, so you are in the optimal space to be productive. Outer order contributes to inner calm.

Take it one thing at a time
If you feel that you are getting pulled in different directions, just stop and focus on one task until it’s completed.

Switch off your cell phone
Or if you can’t turn off your ringer for whatever reason, shut off the tweet/text/e-mail alerts, especially if you know you jump every time you hear it. Hearing your cell phone ring is a big source of jumpiness. Turning off your email for some parts of the day will also help.

Take a break
Go through your to-do list and prioritize. Ask yourself, does this really need to get done today or can I do it tomorrow?

Use the Internet sparingly
If you know you’ll only need it for a specific bit of research, get it out of the way and then unplug while you do the rest of your work. This will help you avoid the urge to go down a browsing rabbit hole.

Stop counting
Avoid looking at clocks, contracts, bank statements, bathroom scales or anything that has to do with numbers in order to let the other part of your brain take over.

Exercise
Taking regular breaks is good for focus, but within limits. Consider taking a short walk every hour or so, or stretching at your space.

Flee temptation
It’s important to have dedicated space in which to think and work.