A Short Guide to Your First Apartment Viewing -Shawn Gandhi

Realtor Showing Hispanic Couple Around New Home

A Short Guide to Your First Apartment Viewing

One of the most important parts of finding an apartment is seeing it. You need to schedule an apartment viewing and thoroughly check out the space that will potentially be your home for the next year or longer. The viewing is the time to make sure that this is the kind of space you want to live in. It can be pretty daunting at first but I swear you’ll get a hang of it quickly.

Ask questions

If there is a time to ask questions, this is it! I always found it helpful to have a printout of the rental ad, so I could confirm what the landlord provides and what is missing from my own personal checklist. You will have someone to answer questions right in front of you, so take advantage of that. Ask  about parking fees, what utilities do they cover (water? garbage collection? internet?), are pets allowed, what is the noise level like, etc.  Also, clarify the costs that you will be paying. How much is the security deposit? How much is the monthly rental? What forms of payment do they accept for rent? Is there a late fee? How much is the estimated monthly electric bill? What paperwork is required for the apartment application process? Always get the name of the person showing the apartment, in case you have post-viewing questions.

Check out the apartment

During any viewing, it is essential to check out all the features of the apartment. One of the key things for me was looking through the cabinets and closets. You want to make sure that you are getting what you are paying for and that everything is in a good working condition. If you see anything amiss, say something. Try to spot any holes that indicate vermin or some other type of infestations. Look inside closets and under the sinks for signs of mold. See if any cabinets are broken, which indicates poor maintenance. Turn on the faucets and see what the water pressure is like. (That may seem like a minor detail but I guarantee you’ll be annoyed with a weak shower every day as long as you live in the apartment.) Test the oven and stove burners. Do the windows open and close and lock easily? What is right outside your window? Is the apartment on a main street or a quiet neighborhood with minimal traffic? Take a moment and listen. You may not hear the regular sounds of your neighbors but its always good to hear what’s around you. How is the exterior of the apartment? Does the landlord or the company take proper care of the facility? Is it evident that it needs maintenance? Is it older but well maintained? These are all things that are important when scoping out your new place.

Take pictures

We continue to document even the most insignificant moments in our lives, but apartment viewing is actually one of those times when it’s important to take lots of pictures. You do it for couple of reasons. First, this will help jog your memory when you look at many places and aid in making your decision. Having a visual will give you the opportunity to look back and see what you liked (or disliked) about a certain place. It will assist in visualizing the layout of one apartment compared to others that you viewed. Second, you’ll have a record of any problems you spot (chipped tile, stain on floor, etc.) so your landlord will not try to ding your security deposit for them when you move out.

Give yourself options. If they have other apartments in the building or complex that you can look at, go for it. See as many places as you can, so you’ll be sure when you sign the lease that you got the best one.

Please share in the comments your best apartment viewing tips.

How To Add Color To Your Condo With An Accent Wall


How To Add Color To Your Condo With An Accent Wall

Have you been looking for a change in your decorating scheme, to make your condo feel fresh, new, and invigorating, but just haven’t been able to decide on a design theme? Or maybe you’re about to move into your first condo and are ruminating on the best color schemes for your new place and can’t settle on just one.

Who can blame you? A full house paint job is a huge commitment – after all, you’re going to be living with these walls for years, it’s a lot of work and it’s not exactly cheap. A full apartment paint job can cost $800/room or more, when done professionally, and still cost $200 – $300/room when you do it yourself, and that’s not even counting the time, and the headache of making sure your belongings will be safe and un-splattered with drop cloths, trim tape, etc.

If you are looking to add a pop of color to your condo and sparkle up your existing design theme, an accent wall could do the job.

What Is An Accent Wall?

Have you ever walked into a home or office to be confronted with a bright, bold, colorful wall, different from the other three? That’s an accent wall and, if you’ve seen it, we likely don’t have to explain why they’re a good idea.

Accent walls are a simple and nearly foolproof way to make a design statement, without breaking the bank or requiring too much of an investment in time, energy, or resources. An accent wall can be wallpapered or even tiled, for example in the kitchen, but most often it’s painted.

Reasons To Feature An Accent Wall In Your Condo

  1. Highlights Interesting Architectural Features: One common reason people don’t want to paint an entire room is there’s an element in the existing interior design they’re hoping to maintain. If you’ve got a fireplace; built-in shelves; a mantelpiece; or vintage architectural features that you’d like to preserve, an accent wall is a way to draw attention TO these interesting features, rather than covering them up.
  2. Becomes A Backdrop: One of the most common uses for an accent wall is to draw the eye towards a focal point, often behind a bed or sofa. If you’ve got some furniture you’d like to highlight, or you just enjoy the sense of flow that comes from a well-designed room, a backdrop accent wall is a surefire way to add a bit of drama to your condo.
  3. Create New Patterns: Accent walls do not all have to be minimal, modern monochrome designs. You can accent your room with absolutely ANYTHING. If your room features patterned textiles, in the furniture or drapery, or has some kind of elaborate floor covering, or even patterned hardwood floors or tiles, playing with a similar effect in your accent wall can be your friend. You might not necessarily want your entire room to complement those tweed curtains, but a nice little emphasis can be that extra touch that ties the whole room together.
  4. Define Different Rooms: In condos with open floor plans, it can be hard to know where one room ends and another begins. Are you in the kitchen or the living room? It can be hard to tell. An accent wall is a simple and surefire way to distinguish between two rooms, without having to have a sharp, jarring contrast.
  5. Adds Color: We save the most obvious for last. For the better part of the 21st Century, minimalist design has reigned supreme. Our condos resemble either an Ikea catalog or an advertisement for a Nest thermostat – favoring either a stark palette with white, black, grey, and silver; or, rather, an earthy naturalist look – raw woods, hunter green, taupe, or cream. If you’d rather not feel like you’re living in a Scandi-cool furniture store OR on Walden’s Pond, perhaps an accent wall might be the perfect change agent for you!

Toronto Condo Prices Soar 28%, Pass Half-Million Mark

TORONTO, ON - MARCH, 17   Condo buildings clog the downtown core where the CN tower is often obscured from the street.  This is at the corner of Yonge street and Queen's Quay.  condo apartment housing balcony living downtown        (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Forget single-family homes: Even condos are moving out of affordability range for Toronto’s middle class.

Despite the slowdown in the broader market, new data from the region’s real estate board shows condo prices in the Greater Toronto Area have now passed the half-million-dollar mark, after soaring 28 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

The average condo in the region sold for $532,032 in the second quarter, up from $415,454 in the same period of 2016.

TORONTO, ON - MARCH, 17   Condo buildings clog the downtown core where the CN tower is often obscured from the street.  This is at the corner of Yonge street and Queen's Quay.  condo apartment housing balcony living downtown        (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

TORONTO, ON – MARCH, 17 Condo buildings clog the downtown core where the CN tower is often obscured from the street. This is at the corner of Yonge street and Queen’s Quay. condo apartment housing balcony living downtown (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

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This makes condos unaffordable for many middle-class households.

With an average household income of $75,000, a typical Toronto family can afford some $380,000 to $420,000 in insured mortgage debt, following the federal government’s new mortgage rules announced last fall.

“Despite the recent dip in overall GTA home sales, the condominium apartment market was quite resilient, especially when compared to low-rise market segments,” Toronto Real Estate Board President Tim Syrianos said in a statement.

“Condo apartment sales accounted for a greater share of overall transactions during the spring compared to the same period last year. Market conditions also remained tight, which resulted in the continuation of strong annual rates of price growth.”

Condo slowdown ahead?

But those tight conditions in the condo market may be coming to an end.

In June, the last month covered in the period of TREB’s report, condo sales turned downwards, with sales activity down 23.4 per cent from the previous June. Prices, however, were still up 23.2 per cent from the same month last year.

It may be that the slowdown in the overall Toronto market is beginning to infect the condo market.

According to preliminary mid-month data for July, Toronto’s housing market continued to sputter, with sales down 39.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.

Single-family home sales are down 45 per cent, and the average price has fallen 17 per cent from its peak earlier this year, BNN reported, though it’s still 6.5 per cent higher than it was a year ago.

Too much regulation?

The sudden slowdown in Toronto’s market has some experts worried the government may be taking its mortgage reforms too far.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Canada’s banking watchdog, has proposed a “stress test” for conventional 20-per-cent down mortgages that would require borrowers to qualify at a rate two percentage points higher than the one being offered.

That follows a similar rule put in place last fall for insured mortgages, which have less than 20 per cent down. But many housing experts note a majority of mortgages in Canada are conventional, and the proposed OSFI rule would have a significant impact on how much money households can borrow to buy a home.

Condo towers on the shore of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto.

Mortgage expert Rob McLister estimated it would shave 18 per cent off the buying power of conventional mortgage borrowers.

The rule has “the potential to notably slow down growth in mortgage originations,” CIBC economist Benjamin Tal wrote in a report last week.

“Given current slowing activity in the market, it might be advisable to rethink the timing of the implementation of those policies.”

Hurontario Light Rail Transit Project Update: Preparing for Procurement

Hurontario LRT - Shawn Gandhi

City of Mississauga staff reported to General Committee today on the Hurontario Light Rail Transit (HuLRT) Project. The project, led by Metrolinx, is moving into the next phase of the procurement process. Included in the report, is a staff proposal for additional design refinements and corridor enhancements that go beyond the initial project scope.

“We are excited to reach this next stage of the Hurontario Light Rail Transit Project,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “The design refinements and enhancements staff brought forward are placemaking opportunities that link to key downtown destinations to achieve a civic identity and sense of place. The proposed additional municipal infrastructure is an opportunity to complete work efficiently and good use of our resources. The Hurontario LRT is building and connecting our city and ensuring it remains competitive and offers our residents efficient and modern transit.”

The City of Mississauga has been working with Metrolinx on refining the reference design to address localized concerns prior to the next phase of the procurement process.

“Before Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario identify a successful bid team, an agreement will need to be in place with the City of Mississauga to address the detailed aspects of project delivery and long-term operations,” said Joe Perrotta, Director, City of Mississauga LRT Project Office.  “The additional municipal infrastructure being proposed can be integrated with the overall procurement process.  Separate budget approvals will be required through the 2018 Budget.”

The design refinements and proposed corridor enhancements include:
• Review of the Port Credit and Cooksville HuLRT stops to improve integration opportunities to the GO rail network
• Maintaining paid on-street parking in the Downtown Mississauga areas with the HuLRT, where appropriate
• Developing an enhanced corridor design for Duke of York Boulevard in addition to reconfiguring the track design to a centre roadway configuration
• Addressing constraints at the Highway 403 crossing with the proposal for a new separated HuLRT structure
• Maintaining additional on-street MiWay capacity at the City Centre Transit Terminal
• Ensure consideration for a context sensitive design adjacent to the Britannia Church and the Britannia Farm Lands

Metrolinx identified a Public Realm Amount (PRA) of approximately $10.6 million to be used towards enhancements for the Hurontario corridor in Mississauga. The City of Mississauga capital budget also identified up to $25 million in funding for related HuLRT project enhancements beyond the scope of the project. Departmental staff, working through the Metrolinx design process, have used this opportunity to identify and evaluate potential corridor enhancements and upgrades that would benefit the overall project and communities. These enhancements have been assessed and prioritized for Council to endorse and include in the Metrolinx procurement process. With a set commitment on funding, the City will not be held responsible in case of project overruns. The staff report, Hurontario Light Rail Transit Project Update: Metrolinx Project Procurement, includes $1.61 million in additional funding. Final approval of the staff report will be on the July 5, 2017 Council agenda.

Additional Municipal Infrastructure
A list of additional municipal infrastructure projects were identified that would have normally been scheduled through departmental budgets to be integrated with the HuLRT project. These include:
• Incorporating municipal storm sewer (new and upgrades)
• Incorporating uninterrupted power supply or backup systems at all or primary signalized intersections
• Including noise walls that are not a requirement of the HuLRT Project but still meet the criteria through existing municipal policy
• Protecting for variable message sign systems within stop platforms to communicate MiWay information

As agreements are finalized through the procurement process, budget approvals will be required by respective service areas during the 2018 budget cycle.

Procurement Update
Infrastructure Ontario (IO) is leading procurement and Metrolinx is leading implementation of the HuLRT Project. The project is funded by a $1.4 billion capital commitment from the Government of Ontario. Since the previous update, IO began the procurement process with the release of a Request for Qualifications in October 2016. The three short-listed consortiums were announced by IO on June 6, 2017.

Metrolinx and IO anticipate the release of the Request for Proposals (RFP) in the summer of 2017.  The HuLRT Project procurement process is anticipated to be completed mid-2018 with a contract award to the successful consortium. Construction is expected to begin later that year. The successful consortium is expected to complete construction and testing by the end of 2022 and will then be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the system for the duration of the 30-year contract.

Duke of York Stop Reference Concept Design

Britannia Stop Reference Concept Design

Cooksville Stop Reference Concept Design

Tips for Preparing to Sell Your Condo – Shawn Gandhi


Tips for Preparing to Sell Your Condo

The condo real estate market in big cities and their surrounding areas, like Toronto and Mississauga are currently very strong. Condo ownership provides many benefits to traditional single family homes, like being able to live close to public transport, parks, entertainment venues, and more.

It is important to take the time to understand how selling a condo differs from traditional homes so you can make your home attractive to numerous potential buyers.

Step 1: Hire a Real Estate Agent with Experience in Condos

One of the most common reasons some condos do not sell successfully is selecting the wrong real estate agent. Sure, any licensed realtor can list your condo, but not all are successful at knowing how to market it to attract buyers, like one with expertise in selling condos.

Step 2: Review the Selling Process

There are specific processes required to sell a condo that do different from traditional single family homes. Your real estate agent will review these with you in greater detail. Make sure to ask any questions if you are unsure of any process.

Step 3: Review Condo Association Regulations, Rules, Assessments, and Fees

It is beneficial to obtain a copy of the current condo association regulations and rules and have these available for potential buyers. In addition, you should note any special or annual assessments you pay annually, as well as monthly fees in the listing.

Step 4: Prepare Your Home for Sale        

Work with your realtor to correctly stage the home for potential buyers. This is also a good time to make sure all maintenance is up-to-date on appliances. Additionally, make any minor repairs and do a deep cleaning of the home.

Step 5: Prepare for Inspections

Home inspections are part of selling a condo and you need to be prepared for these. If you already took the time to complete Step 4, you should be in pretty good shape.

Step 6: Retain the Services of a Real Estate Lawyer with Experience in Condos

At some point you will need to hire a real estate lawyer to assist with closing processes. The sooner you retain one, the better, as they can assist with reviewing sales proposals and other documents related to the sale of your home.

Step 7: Trust Your Realtor and Their Marketing Expertise

Part of selling your condo is how it is marketed, which if you chose a realtor, who specializes in condos, you will be covered. Aside from listing the home through multiple channels, open houses can be beneficial to attract more potential buyers.

Step 8: Decide on a Listing Price

Working with your realtor, you can determine how much to list the condo for initially. Part of this price has to do with comparing data from comparable condos in your area that have sold recently. Another factor that determines listing prices is the current real estate market in your area.

For more information about how to successfully sell your condo or to check out the latest listings if you are looking to buy a condo, contact me, Square One Mississauga realtor, Shawn Gandhi, who specializes in condo selling and buying, by calling 905.795.1900 today!

The Difference Between Pre-Approved and Pre-Qualified When Purchasing a Condo or Home – Shawn Gandhi


Whether you are shopping for a traditional single-family home or a condo, there are several differences between being pre-approved and pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. Unfortunately, people often confuse pre-approval and pre-qualified and assume they mean the same things, but they do not, and these are major differences between the two terms.

It is important you understand these differences and how they can affect your buying experience, so you can determine which one is the best to use to fit your particular needs. Once you have learned the differences, you are sure to avoid any confusion and guarantee your home buying experience is fun and exciting while remaining stress-free!

Pre-Qualifying for a Condo or Home

The first step to securing, and being approved for an actual mortgage is to get pre-qualified. It is not too difficult and only requires minimum documentation. At this stage, you provide your bank or other mortgage lender with a general overall picture of your current financial situation including your current housing costs, debts, assets, and income.

The lender will review this information and put together an amount to give you an idea of how much of a mortgage you could be approved for, along with how much money may be needed for a down payment. Oftentimes, this step can be completed either over the Internet or the phone and does not require an actual face-to-face meeting.

However, and this is where you need to take note: Pre-qualifying for a mortgage DOES NOT review your credit history. As you probably can guess, this means the initial amount you pre-qualify for and the type of mortgage program could easily change once you get ready to apply for actual financing. As such, being pre-qualified is not as significant for sellers compared to being pre-approved.

Pre-Approval for a Condo or Home

The second step to securing a mortgage is getting pre-approved. Even if you were already pre-qualified for a loan, you will still need to take this step. Pre-approval processes take a more in-depth look into your financial situation and DO review your credit history. You WILL complete an actual mortgage application to get pre-approved.

The main benefit of pre-approval is the lender will issue you a conditional approval letter that details an exact loan amount and anticipated down payment amount. Once you have found the home you want to buy, you supply the actual purchase price and other details to the lender and your pre-approved mortgage becomes a completed loan application.

In addition, once you have this amount, you can focus on condos and homes within your pre-approved price range. Furthermore, sellers place a greater value on pre-approved buyers since they are only a few steps away from closing on the home once an offer is made.

Keep in mind neither process takes into account certain costs, such as home appraisals, inspections, and closing costs, so you will need to make sure to budget accordingly. For assistance in finding the perfect condo or home, contact experienced Square One Mississauga realtor, Shawn Gandhi today at 905.795.1900!

A full list of housing measures announced by the Ontario Government – Shawn Gandhi


TORONTO — The Ontario government has announced what it calls a comprehensive housing package aimed at cooling a red-hot real estate market. Here are the 16 proposed measures:

— A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.

— Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.

— Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for “landlord’s own use” evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.

— A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.

— Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.

— A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.

— A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.

— More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.

— The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.

— An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.

— A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.

— The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed.

— Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.

— A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.

— Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.

— Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.

Mississauga to Receive $58 Million in Public Transit Infrastructure Funding


Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $58 million in Government of Canada funding for transit services in Mississauga through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF).

City projects approved through PTIF include the acquisition of up to 80 new 40 and 60-foot buses, the rehabilitation and replacement of more than 200 buses, improved pedestrian and cyclist access to Mississauga’s Transitway and GO stations, improved and enhanced MiWay stations and systems as well as trails and sidewalks.

“On behalf of the City of Mississauga and Members of Council, we welcome today’s news that the Federal Government has allocated unprecedented funding to help Canada’s cities, like Mississauga, press ahead with important city-building priorities like breaking gridlock and building transit,” Mayor Crombie said. “Mississauga’s Council-approved pre-budget submissions to the Federal Government repeatedly advocated for increased funding to build transit and infrastructure and we are seeing the priorities of Canada’s sixth-largest city reflected in today’s announcement.”

The PTIF program is an equal cost-share funding program that will see the Government of Canada and the City of Mississauga each contributing $58 million to complete the 51 approved Mississauga projects.

“I am pleased about the funding Mississauga has received through PTIF. This substantial infusion of funds enables us to deliver projects that maintain and enhance the City’s transit infrastructure, assets and systems; helping deliver on our Strategic Plan by having transit influence and shape the form of the city,” said Janice Baker, City Manager and Chief Administrative Officer. “Mississauga, like many cities across Canada, is looking to the federal and provincial levels of government to provide predictable and sustainable funding.”

The PTIF program is part of the first phase of Investing in Canada, the Government of Canada’s $120 billion plan to support public infrastructure across Canada over the next 10 years. Under the program, the Government of Canada will contribute more than $200 million for the 312 projects approved in Ontario, representing 50 per cent of the total eligible costs.

“The City is pleased to receive this news. In anticipation of this announcement, we’ve carefully planned and built this funding into the 2017 Business Plan and Budget,” said Gary Kent, Commissioner, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer. “The timelines for the program are tight so with Council approval, we’ve already begun many of the projects on our list. We will be working closely with the Federal Government who has indicated there is some flexibility on the completion dates for the projects.”

Tips for Renovating Your Condo’s Patio or Balcony – Shawn Gandhi


Choosing the right furniture, lighting, patio tiles, and so on is an important aspect to updating your patio or balcony. The possibilities and combinations of options are endless and only limited by your own imagination, tastes, and preferences. You will want to keep several things in mind, when selecting the materials you want to use for your patio renovation project.

What procedures must you complete before starting your renovation?

Each condo association and building has its own specific requirements for making improvements to outdoor patios and balconies. You will also need to obtain approval from your condo association ahead of time prior to starting any work.

How much do you want to spend on renovating your patio?

You need a project budget to ensure you have the necessary funds to complete the renovation. Your budget should include how much you want to spend on lighting, furniture, decorative items, flooring, and so on, as well as the costs of labour, if you intend to hire a contractor.

What work hours are allowed by your condo association?

Most condo associations have specific hours and days where you are permitted to work on renovation projects. Make sure to verify these with your condo association prior to starting any projects, as this can influence your decisions whether to do the work yourself or hire a contractor.

Do you want to hire a contractor or do the work yourself?

There are benefits to hiring a professional contractor to do the actual labour involved with a patio renovation. One of the main benefits of using a contractor is they will provide you with a schedule and anticipated completion date, weather permitting, so you will know exactly how long the renovations will take.

Which types of materials are suited for exposure to Canadian weather?

If you want to protect the look, appearance, and finish of furniture, lighting, tiles, and other materials you want to use to remodel your patio or balcony, verify they are designed for outdoor usage. Furthermore, keep in mind some materials may require various forms of preventative maintenance to help keep them protected and preserve their original appearances.

Renovating your patio or condo will add years of enjoyment to this outdoor area of your home. Additionally, the improvements you make could increase the value of your home and will benefit you should you decide to sell your condo in the future.

If you are considering putting your condo on the market or are shopping for a new condo, please feel free to contact me, Square One Mississauga real estate agent, Shawn Gandhi by calling 905.795.1900. I have a comprehensive knowledge of every condo building in the area and will know exactly how to help you sell or purchase your next home!