Articles filed under Real Estate

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  • Millennials spurring Canadian condo boom bet on rates Oct 19, 2014 6:19 AM
    TORONTO — Qamar Qureshi is doubling down on Toronto’s condo boom. Qureshi, a senior finance manager at Sun Life Financial Inc., took out a mortgage this year for a C$360,000 ($323,000) one-bedroom unit plus den in downtown Toronto to live closer to work. Three years ago, he bought a C$320,000 luxury suite before construction started and will begin making payments when it’s finished next year. “It was worth it because interest rates didn’t seem too bad — you have to strike while the iron is hot, right?” Qureshi, 29, said from his car en route to his 12th-floor apartment overlooking Lake Ontario. “They won’t raise interest rates any time soon. I know it. People have been saying rates will rise for years and it hasn’t happened.” Qureshi is among the younger Canadians who, lured by record-low borrowing costs, are fueling a surge in Toronto condo sales. As the nation’s household debt nears an all-time high, these buyers may face a spike in mortgage payments and the possibility of default once rates begin to climb. “The younger millennials don’t have any recollection of any interest rate rise or shock and what impact that would have on their day-to-day finances,” said Jason Daly, vice president of product and marketing at Waterloo, Ontario-based Manulife Bank, where residential mortgage loans make up about 80 percent of its C$23 billion in assets. Many millennials, born from 1980 to 2000, don’t realize that when rates jump their debt servicing costs will go up significantly, he said. Condo sales in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, jumped 20 percent to about 2,000 transactions in September from the year- earlier period. That compares with 6.5 percent the month before and 14 percent in July. Developers, whose cranes crowd the Toronto skyline, have about 130 condo towers under construction. That’s the most in any North American city, according to industry researcher Emporis GmbH. First-time homebuyers are the most active purchasers of condos, according to Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto. They have been lured to the towers after mortgage restrictions in the last five years priced many first-time buyers out of the low-rise market. Today, half of those in Canada aged 25 to 35 are homeowners, according to data compiled by CIBC. The “robust” condo sales activity “is driven largely by investors and first-time homebuyers who see condo ownership as a cheaper alternative to unaffordable low-rise units,” Tal said in a Sept. 17 note to clients. Sales of existing homes in Canada grew in August at the fastest pace in four years, led by Toronto and Vancouver. The 1.8 percent rise to 42,295 units was the seventh monthly national increase in a row, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Vancouver sales rose 8 percent to 2,967 units in August and Toronto purchases climbed 2.1 percent to 8,259. The trade group boosted its 2014 sales forecast to 475,000 units from a June prediction of 463,400, citing a burst of activity fueled by a drop in mortgage rates after a “bleak” winter. Condo owner Paul McGuire, 29, said the renewed strength in prices has made many of his friends anxious about missing the chance to buy a home. “Some of them have been saying, ‘I need to get in because prices are only going up,’ “ said McGuire, a treasury manager at a manufacturing company. He owns a condo in downtown Toronto and lives in another two-story loft in the city’s west end that he bought last year. McGuire cautions friends against overbidding for units. “You don’t want to be house-poor,” he said. Borrowers have been attracted by mortgage rates that dropped to an average 4.8 percent for a conventional five-year term in April — an all-time low — and have stayed in that position since then, according to Bank of Canada weekly data. That compares with 6.3 percent a decade ago and a record peak of 22 percent in 1981. Lenders are charging customers as little as 1.99 percent for some mortgage products. Household debt rose to 163.6 percent of disposable income in the second quarter, approaching the record 164.1 percent last year, according to Statistics Canada. The rise has been fueled by a 1.4 percent rise in mortgage debt to C$1.17 trillion. Buyers today are less concerned about a possible housing bust since the Bank of Canada toned down its statements about possible issues, according to Toronto-based Douglas Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal. “Some of this year’s surprising strength and resiliency in housing is due to the fact that we are hearing much fewer warnings out of Ottawa this year,” Porter said by email. Finance Minister Joe Oliver told reporters on Oct. 1 he didn’t see “a housing bubble, neither does the governor of the Bank of Canada,” referring to Stephen Poloz. Poloz has said the housing market is Canada’s main domestic risk. Former Governor Mark Carney and the late Jim Flaherty, by contrast, spent a good part of their tenure issuing warnings about rising household debt. Manulife Financial Corp.’s Canadian bank in 2013 withdrew a promotional 2.89 percent five-year fixed rate under pressure from Flaherty, who said he didn’t want a “race to the bottom” on mortgage rates. The Bank of Canada’s overnight interest rate is forecast to rise to 1.5 percent by the end of next year from 1 percent now, where it has stood for four years, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. The 26 percent of Canadian mortgage holders with adjustable rates will be impacted immediately by an increase in interest rates. The 66 percent with fixed rates may feel the pinch when they refinance. When interest rates rise, “even though it’s going to be a gradual pace, it’s still going to be a hefty burden,” said Mazen Issa, senior Canada macro strategist at TD Securities in Toronto. Debt payments would eat up 52 percent of income for people holding mortgages insured by the government if loan rates rise by 2 percentage points. That compares with 45 percent in the first quarter, according to calculations by DBRS Ltd. The job market may not rescue younger Canadians having trouble paying their mortgages. Statistics Canada’s latest labor market report showed a surprise loss of 11,000 jobs in August, led by a record 111,800 in employees shed at private companies. The Bank of Canada in July said that the slack labor market has been tougher on young workers, leading to a bigger drop in their labor force participation rate. Average home prices were about five times greater than incomes in the second quarter, a record high and up from about three times income a decade ago, according to the Bank of Canada. If Qureshi’s mortgage payment increased by about 30 percent a month, he may not be able to afford his recently purchased 800-square-foot (74-square-meter) unit in Toronto’s City Place complex. Qureshi, who tracks his expenses in an Excel spreadsheet, now pays C$2,100 monthly and said he can afford up to C$2,800. That’s not taking into account the payments he’ll need to start making on his second unit next year. Qureshi isn’t shaken about the possibility of higher rates. “I’ve always been a positive person,” he said. “If I can’t afford paying off the mortgage, then hopefully my income will go up.”

  • Protect yourself from liens by requiring waivers Oct 19, 2014 12:01 AM
    Q. We have hired someone to build a three-season room. I have a friend who did this and he ended up with a couple mechanics liens recorded against his property and a messy legal battle. What is the best way I can protect myself from having this happen to me?

  • Sweep away clutter for instant fall cleaning results Oct 19, 2014 1:01 AM
    Ever heard of fall cleaning? As the weather gently cools, somehow I’ve acquired the desire to straighten up and do a deep clean. How does that relate to small living spaces? Turns out the single best thing you can do to increase the sense of largeness in a room is to get rid of all the clutter.

  • Family no longer knows who owns late-sibling’s house Oct 18, 2014 12:01 AM
    Q. My sister, who I hadn’t seen in years, died recently in North Dakota. The neighbor who phoned me said the house was vacant when she died. I don’t know if she still owned it. How can I find out without making a trip to North Dakota?

  • Unit owners can attend any board meeting Oct 18, 2014 12:01 AM
    Q. Can the board assemble outside the presence of unit owners to discuss association matters?

  • Newest light fixtures are works of art Oct 18, 2014 12:00 AM
    LEDs are taking over the world. Long-lasting, environmentally friendly LED technology allows lighting designers to create fixtures that are more like pieces of art that hang from the ceiling, said Benson Littman, co-owner of Littman Bros. Lighting in Schaumburg.

  • How to eliminate third party-settlement costs Oct 18, 2014 1:00 AM
    In a recent article I proposed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be removed from limbo and given a new mission: to create a better primary mortgage market. Among other things, this would include the elimination of third-party settlement costs.

  • Winberie’s closing after nearly 30 years in Buffalo Grove Oct 19, 2014 2:59 PM
    After 28 years in Buffalo Grove, Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar is closing. The parent company announced Winberie's will serve its last meal -- brunch -- on Oct. 26. But Select Restaurants plans to bring a new eatery to the same location on Lake-Cook Road.

  • Market turmoil: A gift for mortgage refinancers? Oct 18, 2014 10:44 PM
    A sudden plunge in mortgage rates this week raised an urgent question for millions of Americans: Should I refinance my mortgage? Across the country, homeowners and would-be homeowners eager for a bargain rate fired off inquiries to lenders. The opportunity emerged from the tumult that seized financial markets and sent stock prices and bond yields tumbling. Rates on long-term mortgages tend to track the 10-year Treasury yield, which fell below 2 percent for the first time since May 2013.

  • Sometimes, homebuyers have no time to wait Oct 18, 2014 12:01 AM
    Purchasing a newly constructed “spec” home — one a builder has constructed on speculation, without having a buyer lined up beforehand — can be a great option for many people. It works well for those of all generations who want to purchase new construction, but have a limited time frame.

  • Old paint cans may cause buckets of legal problems Oct 17, 2014 12:01 AM
    Most cities and counties can now levy heavy fines on homeowners who don’t dispose of a half-used paint can properly.

  • A flip waiver nears its end Oct 17, 2014 12:01 AM
    WASHINGTON — Can you still do a short-term house flip using federally insured, lowdown payment mortgage money? That’s an important question for buyers, sellers, investors and realty agents who’ve taken part in a nationwide wave of renovations and quick resales using Federal Housing Administration-backed loans during the past four years.

  • Pros and cons of home inspection insurance Oct 17, 2014 12:01 AM
    Q. In some of your articles, you advise people to hire home inspectors who have errors and omissions insurance (E&O). I’ve been a home inspector for 15 years and have avoided E&O insurance for four important reasons:

  • Lombard to take its time to study DuPage Theatre site options Oct 17, 2014 8:12 AM
    The Lombard village board agreed to move forward with a marketing analysis Thursday in hopes of gaining more guidance on what to do with the vacant downtown property where the DuPage Theatre once stood. During a workshop discussion, village staff presented the board with various options for marketing the property at 101-109 S. Main St., along with a proposal from Tracy Cross & Associates to do a marketing analysis of the 2-acre site for $17,500.

  • Model profile features Pleasant Square Oct 17, 2014 12:01 AM
    Homebuyers looking for luxury townhouse living will find a gem in Schaumburg — the new Pleasant Square community with two showstopper models that are stunning visitors. The Caldwell and Aldine models have been receiving rave reviews from customers, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes.

  • Districts 211, 214 agree to change boundary for Arlington Downs Oct 17, 2014 5:30 AM
    Officials from two Northwest suburban high school districts have agreed to shift attendance boundaries so families who might move into apartments at the former Sheraton hotel site now known as Arlington Downs are not split into separate schools. The boundary dividing Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 now runs directly through the building.

  • Forklift company relocating to Elk Grove first to get new TIF funds Oct 17, 2014 5:55 PM
    A forklift and lift truck dealer planning to move to Elk Grove Village could benefit from at least $1.6 million in tax increment financing proceeds, under a deal inked with village officials. Company officials say it will cost more than $17 million to acquire and redevelop the property and relocate their operations there, and without public funding, the project wouldn’t be economically feasible.

  • New Bartlett restaurant blends French, Indian Oct 15, 2014 4:32 PM
    To get a sense of his vision, watch Bartlett restaurateur Rakesh Chopra make rumali roti. He folds the delicate bread like a burrito instead of the usual handkerchief. The concept? Indian food on the go. "There's nothing like this," Chopra said Wednesday.

  • Barrington project gets started with coffee, not cement Oct 15, 2014 5:26 AM
    Village officials and developers intended to have the “first pour” ceremony for The Barrington Village Center, the long-awaited retail project at Hough and Main streets, but the dreary Tuesday morning weather forced organizers to change plans. Instead of the first pour of concrete, village officials and other VIPs poured a few cups of coffee. “We took a bit of poetic license with that,” Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.

  • Gene & Georgetti to replace Rosewood in Rosemont? Oct 14, 2014 5:24 PM
    Rosewood restaurant and banquet hall in Rosemont is planning to close its doors as soon as January and a possible replacement is a Gene & Georgetti restaurant, officials said Tuesday. If a deal goes through, it would be the first time Gene & Georgetti opens a second location in the restaurant’s 74-year history.

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