Are Townhomes the Future of the Canadian Dream?

Oh, the times in the Canadian real estate market are a-changin’. As land available for building coveted detached homes dwindles – along with inventory – builders and buyers are having to look elsewhere; for example, at row housing/townhomes.

The trend is more evident in urban centres, where low inventory and lack of available land is much more pronounced than in smaller municipalities. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the average detached home in the city sold for $898,332 in March 2014.

But when it comes to townhouses, the average selling price for a Toronto unit was $483,639 – a marked difference in affordability. And it’s not just Toronto; Vancouver and Calgary are also feeling the detached housing pinch, as are many larger Canadian cities.

Slowly but surely, prospective buyers are catching on. TREB reported that sales of townhomes had increased by 8.5 percent in March 2014 compared to sales in March 2013.

While many still dream of owning a detached home, there are definite benefits to purchasing a townhome beyond the smaller price tag. A townhouse blends the best of both a detached home and a condo unit: there are often front or back yards to take advantage of, but with a lot less maintenance required.

There’s a sense of community and security that comes from living close to others, but without the feeling of being overwhelmed by living among hundreds of others as you would in an apartment condo. Maintenance fees are often less than a condo, while square footage is higher.

Beware of Rogue Movers and Their Scams

Moving? Beware the estimate that is too good to be true, and do your homework before your goods are loaded on the truck.

According to the Canadian Association of Movers, criminals are infiltrating the moving industry with scams galore to separate you from your money – and maybe your household goods as well.

Across Canada, “rogue movers really have become more of a problem,” according to Jim Carney, a member of the Canadian Association of Movers’ board of directors. Complaints to the Better Business Bureau have mushroomed, and the moving industry now represents the BBB’s fifth-most-complained-about sector.

Quoted in a CBC News report, John Levi, head of the Canadian Association of Movers, complained that criminals are posing as movers. Levi is pushing for more coordinated enforcement to protect consumers from these fly-by-night companies.

Often discount brokers sub-contract the move to another company, so you don’t really know who you’re dealing with should something go wrong. In a 2013 CBC Marketplace investigation of discount movers, delivery was delayed, goods were damaged, valuables disappeared, and stressed out consumers were charged extra before companies would unload their cargos.

Police usually see the issue as a civil matter rather than a criminal one, although the Association insists many of these activities are criminal. Movers in Canada aren’t licenced, and there is little oversight other than the Association and the BBB. Effectively, you’re on your own.

So what do you do to protect yourself?

Your first step should be contacting the BBB and the Association. Find out the movers with complaints against their names and avoid them. Instead, ask for referrals from friends or, better still, your real estate agent. Get three estimates in writing. Ensure you have a valid contact name and number (and test it). Move your valuables yourself. And remember, cheaper is not always better. Caveat emptor – buyer beware.