Bianca Marijan

Real Estate City Inc., Brokerage

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A Hundred Years of Toronto's Architectural Past
Tuesday, 10 June 2014, 10:20:41 AM

What would you experience if you were to stand in one spot in downtown Toronto for the past 100 years? This video answers that question for you. Journey through Toronto's architectural history, seeing both past and current landmarks. Some areas look familiar even today, and some don't.

A simulated time-lapse created with elements from thousands of pictures, each scene starts with a historical photograph from the Toronto Archives. From black and white to colour, streets like Bathurst and Queen and the Waterfront are transformed from horse and buggy to cars and streetcars. This amazing short film shows familiar landmarks like St. Lawrence Market and Yonge Street showcasing its original form and buildings. The video previously won for the Best Community Film at the Cabbagetown Short Film Festival.

Original article by Alana Charles

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Multi-Family Investing: Do Not Attempt
Monday, 02 June 2014, 12:01:58 PM

Multi-Family Investing: Do Not Attempt

Don’t misinterpret the title of this column; ‘do not attempt’ does not mean do not ‘do.’ When you decide to progress to multi-family investing the margin for error is much smaller than when buying single family properties, which means you must enter into the multi-family investing category not as something you are going to try, but armed and ready to do it, and do it properly.

The Hunt for Yield has led many an investor to look seriously at adding a multi-family investment property to their lives. The goal is often an increased ROI along with a reduction in management hassles. However, the reality is, if done incorrectly, it can bring the exact opposite and, due to the larger dollar amounts, can lead to financial catastrophe more quickly than a mistake in a single family home investment. Yes, the rewards can be spectacular, but only if you truly understand and implement a proven process.

Multi Family Investing Success Begins and Ends with Reputation

In the single-family home market there are so many players and so many properties that it is easy to make a few mistakes, maybe even leave some promises unfulfilled, and you can continue to operate. However, when you enter the realm of multi-family investing the market is much smaller, the number of players is smaller and most know each other.

This can be a real advantage if you become known in the industry as someone who fulfills their commitments, can get deals accepted and has the financial resources to close. However, if you build a reputation of not living up to that standard, your name will quickly move through the industry like wild-fire and suddenly you will find it much more difficult to learn of good properties or arrange good financing. Not a great place to be.

The Importance of an Experienced Realtor

You will soon discover, especially when first starting out, that there are a number of multi-family properties that change hands in your target city that you didn’t even know were available. These transactions occur usually with a select few realtors/brokers who have developed a quality reputation in their industry. They have their proven buyer’s list, often segmented between A Clients, B Clients and Others and therefore get contacted directly by sellers who wish to move their properties quickly and quietly.

Your job as a multi-family investor is to get to know who these realtors are in your target area and then prove to them that you are a ready buyer. Sounds quite odd, even as I write this. However, it is the reality in 90% of the markets across the country. You, in essence, are trying to sell yourself to someone who makes money selling you something. Bizarre, but true.

As you speak with these realtors, ask them what it takes to move up to their A Client (or first look) list. Each will have their own stipulations. Then, as your relationship grows and you begin to trust each other, a great multi-family realtor will ask you what you are looking for in a multi (size, location, age, condition) and will actively pursue properties that fit that criteria. That is where the hidden gold is found.

Hey, Wait, That’s MY Building!

I cannot count how many times I have received an email, or an actual signed offer on one of my buildings. Even though I don’t have it for sale and nor was it in the plan. This is the sign of a good and aggressive realtor working with a proven buyer. The realtor won’t risk their reputation doing this without a trust that their buyer can close.

I also discovered a great way for a realtor/broker to quickly prove they are out of their depth. He was aggressive yes; detail oriented: not so much. I received a telephone call and an email on a property that sounded like a perfect fit for my portfolio. Even though I had never spoken with them before, they had done enough homework to understand my geographic target market and thus thought this property fit the bill.

Well, much to my surprise when I finally received the proforma on this potential property, it turned out to be one I had already owned for the last 5 years. So, he was trying to sell me my own building at a price I would never sell at. Attention to detail and reputation out the window and now I no longer see him even mentioned in the industry.

Lesson is, you need to protect your reputation and at the same time ensure that you are using professionals with their own good reputation.

The Hidden Benefit of Multi-Family Investing

Strategic investors are always looking for ways to increase the stability of their portfolios while at the same time maximizing their ROI and cash flow. Over the last 22 years we have been working with investors across the country. We have seen economic ups and downs, interest rate gyrations and real estate market swings. That means we have been blessed to discover what strategies work best in economic good times as well as downturns. Access to real life data, such as that created through our Members’ $4.2 Billion portfolio, reveals some very interesting facts.

In a study we completed after the most recent economic downturn that many called the Great Recession we discovered just how important having multi-family properties in your portfolio is. Sure, there are the obvious management and financing benefits we discussed in last month’s column, but there also turns out to be a positive unintended consequence of hold some multi-family buildings.

The reality is in times of turmoil, confusing market signals and economic downturn, those who have a combination of single-family and multi-family properties in their portfolio had better results than those just solely in single family properties. Interesting initial result, which prompted further investigation. This is where the ‘unintended consequence’ revealed itself.

“Why Would A Portfolio Combining Multi-family and Single Properties Perform Better?”

The answer to that question was both surprising as well as enlightening. It proved to be a real lesson from which investors at all levels can learn. It wasn’t that the owners of these mixed portfolios were smarter, wealthier or more experienced. It turned out that the difference was that when you own multi-family properties you are literally forced (by finance companies, CMHC, property management companies and government regulations) to run your portfolio like a business.

These outside agencies force the investor to put checks and balances in place which include regular reporting, maintenance upkeep and professional management. There are market ‘norms’ that are monitored and measured, providing the investor benchmarks against which to measure their performance. And some of these outside agencies will want to know that you will be meeting or beating those benchmarks.

All of these controls, in place before ownership as well as after, force even the least detail-oriented investor to monitor their portfolios, and if they also own single-family along with their multi-family properties, these systems and the underlying analysis is transferred over to them, which makes the whole portfolio perform more like a business.

You Will Be Forced To Be A Better Investor By Adding Multi-Family To Your Portfolio

Following a system and having a business mindset makes your portfolio perform better in both upswings in the market as well as downturns. Systems, especially those that are step-by-step and proven, will make you a better and more successful investor… that’s the bottom line.

We know it, but so do the financing companies, quality property management companies and government regulators. They want to ensure that you are using systems because when you are successful, so are they. It just took the most recent economic downturn to make investors acutely aware of this fact. That is why when adding multi-family properties to your life it feels like your hands are more tied, but over the long haul you will discover that your results improve.


Multi-Family investing can add some stability to your portfolio, however it is not as simple or as inexpensive as investing in single family properties can be. I urge you, before you make the foray into your next multi-family property, that you ensure you have learned the process, language and proven systems so you not only protect your valuable reputation but you also build it along with your portfolio

Original by Don R. Campbell of The Real Estate Insider Blog

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City Brokerage has a new location!!
Thursday, 01 May 2014, 09:54:51 AM

After almost a full year at our old James St. location, we've decided that it's time for a change of scenery!

City Brokerage has moved to 793 Main Street East as of this past Monday.

New location

Bigger and better than ever before. Beautiful, isn't it?


For All Your Real Estate Needs!

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Recap of Around the Bay 2014, Hamilton Road Race
Monday, 31 March 2014, 09:55:21 AM
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Around the Bay 2014

Thousands upon thousands of runners, from Olympian alumni to complete novices, came to downtown Hamilton on Sunday morning for the race. It's the oldest of its kind in North America, and features both 30-kilometre and five-kilometres courses, as well as two relay races, depending on what sort of running style you prefer.

The starting gun for the 30-km race went off at 9:30 am, with top competitors ensuring they were the first ones out of the gate. The Around the Bay Road Race is an athletic competition just as much as it is a 'festival of fitness' if you will. Runners have the option to take it in a competitive light or to simply go to enjoy themselves and be healthy.

More than a few participants wore neon running gear: gleaming pink, orange, yellow, green blue...others even came dressed in costumes! The event also drew politicians looking to appeal to the general public. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wished contestants good luck before clocking in at 27:01 on the five-kilometre course.

After our unusually cold and stormy winter, the weather on Sunday was surprising. Sunny and around 5 degrees celsius was certainly cause for celebration on its own.

The true excitement arrived when winners of the 30-kilometre course strode past the finish line, pride held high. Inside of FirstOntario Place, fireworks and cheers from the audience erupted as the first-place finisher arrived. Toronto-based and Kenyan-born, Paul Kimugul took the top time at an amazing 1:35:34. The top women's time happened when Brantford's Krista DuChene clocked in at 1:47:13.

Paul Kimugul, Krista DuchenePaul Kimugul (top men's, left), Krista Duchene (top women's, right)

It seems as though everybody involved had a great time. Everybody's a winner in these kinds of events and it's great to see native Hamiltonians and those not living here working together to make something like this happen. The annual run boasted blasting music, cheering event-goers, lots of water, bright colours, and lots of effort.

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Hamilton to host the 2015 JUNO Awards! We sure love our music
Friday, 28 March 2014, 09:43:00 AM
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Hamilton was recently selected as the city that will host next year's JUNO Awards! Just further proof that we love our music.

The Juno Awards are presented annually to Canadian musical bands and artists in order to acknowledge their artistic achievements. This week, Hamiltonian representatives will be travelling to Winnipeg for this year's JUNO Awards in order to help generate excitement for next year's awards here in Hamilton.

Next year will be the 44th JUNO Awards, held on March 15, 2015. The events will take place at FirstOntario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum) and will be broadcast nationally via CTV. This is going to be Hamilton's sixth time hosting the national music awards, the other 5 being between 1995 and 2001. This announcement helps to distinguish Hamilton as a leading destination for musicians and music-lovers alike. People will be able to celebrate the city's deep musical roots.

The JUNO Awards bring great economic news to us, with an impact of $11.9 million for Hamilton including 5,200 hotel room nights for nearby hotels. Adding onto the Awards show being held at Copps, Hamilton will host numerous JUNO-related industry and fan events, using venues across the city from March 9 to 16.

Fun Facts

  • Hamilton recently hosted the nationally-broadcasted 2011 Canadian Country Music Awards.
  • Hamilton hosts many high-profile annual festivities such as: SuperCrawl, Festival of Friends, Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, Boris Brott Festival, and the Hamilton Music Awards to name a few
  • There are approximately 200+ live music venues in Hamilton; ranging from bars, pubs, clubs, to theaters and large stadium venues.
  • The 2015 JUNO Awards will mark the 20th anniversary of the first JUNOs held at Copps Coliseum back in 1995.
  • 2013 JUNO winners from Hamilton include Monster Truck, Steve Strongman, Elliott Brood and The City Harmonic.
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Venues of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games
Thursday, 27 March 2014, 10:15:00 AM
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Pan Am

Toronto is preparing itself for the upcoming 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. Many participating venues are anticipating the Summer Olympic and Asian Games hosted by our very own city. Some locations are currently under construction, like the University of Toronto field and the new Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough. The city's budget for all of this is $1.44 billion, with over $674 million used to build new venues and renovate existing ones.

There's an interactive map with 26 different locations pinpointed onto it, over on the Curbed Toronto article about this. This one isn't interactive, but it's still informative and you're only a click away from the real deal:

Venues of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games

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Knob-and-tube wiring in a nutshell
Wednesday, 26 March 2014, 10:09:00 AM
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Knob-and-tube wiring is popular among older homes, but it is controversial to say the least. Having knob-and-tube wiring isn't always a problem, and in many ways it isn't inferior to modern wiring despite what people seem to believe. It's a good idea to understand knob-and-tube wiring and its issues in order to determine whether or not you should keep or replace it.

So what is knob-and-tube wiring? It was used in homes until roughly the 1950s. It gets its name from the ceramic knobs that support it, as well as  the tubes that protect the wire as it passes through wood framing members (i.e. floor joists).


One of the main differences between our two wiring types are how the wires themselves are run. In knob-and-tube, the black and white wires are run separately, spaced several inches apart. In modern wiring, the black wire, white wire, and ground wire are collectively wrapped up in one cable. Another difference is wire insulation. In knob-and-tube, it's insulated with rubber. In modern wiring, it's insulated with plastic.

There are distinct advantages to knob-and-tube wiring in comparison. The biggest one would be that the copper wire used is typically a significantly larger diameter than that in today's wire. Larger wires stay cooler as electricity flows through them. A disadvantage for knob-and-tube, however, would be that the wire is older and has been in service for many years. Another would be that it lacks a ground wire, which typically creates an emergency path for stray electricity. Modern cabling has a ground wire.

Some other common problems with knob-and-tube wiring includes:

  • Damage - invariably old, may have been subjected to multiple handymen, mechanical abuse, wear and tear...
  • Poor connections - problems almost always result from amateurish connections made after installation
  • Circuits extended - older electrical systems had fewer circuits, so they've likely been extended over the years, increasing the possibility of poorly-made connections
  • Brittleness - rubber insulation can become brittle, often in high-heat areas, including connections above ceiling light fixtures

All of the above can cause wires to overheat or short circuit. If you have any concerns about these knob-and-tube related issues, contact an electrician.

If you don't have any specific issues with knob-and-tube wiring but would like to replace it nonetheless, the best time to do it is when you're remodeling your home. This makes it far less expensive when the walls, floors, and ceilings are all open and readily accessible.

While knob-and-tube wiring is older and has its problems, it is rarely necessary to replace simply because you have it in your house. If you're worried, have it inspected and evaluated on an annual basis. Some insurance companies don't insure homes with knob-and-tube wiring, so you may want to replace the wiring for insurance reasons. Look into this before making any pricey decisions.

Information like this is always important to know as a homeowner. You never know when it might come in handy, and if you ever have any wiring-related problems it's better to know relevant info ahead of time. Become an expert on home care by staying informed with tips like these!

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Bad neighbours can ruin your chances of selling!
Tuesday, 25 March 2014, 09:40:00 AM
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Bad Neighbours

A bad neighbour can not only be a nuisance, but can also completely destroy the chances of you selling your house. Irritating neighbours easily wreck the value of nearby houses, dropping the price considerably through even the smallest of acts.

Bad neighbours can appear an any price range or type of neighbourhood there is, be it a lower-income townhouse subdivision or an upscale 'golf community' neighbourhood.

Any of these following scenarios can definitely be turn-offs to potential buyers:

#1 Barking dogs

#2 Cars

#3 Noisy

#4 Busybody

#5 Loudmouths

#6 Unmowed

#7 Abandoned

#8 Party house

#9 Cluttered

#10 Ugly

So what do you do about any of these situations?

You can try talking it out with the neighbour in question. Often times small problems can be solved with a little conversing. Some people don't realize that what they're doing can be taken offensively.

You can contact the Homeowners' Association. You can also contact your City Department depending on the severity of the issue. Last but not least, foreclosures are always an option.

Don't let bad neighbours ruin a sale for you...if you're a buyer or a seller you deserve better than that sort of interference.

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Ravenscliffe Castle, 1881, now for sale!
Monday, 24 March 2014, 10:14:00 AM
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Most people love castles: they look amazing and are great historical and architectural reminders. The visual appeal is unbeatable (even for modernists) and the inside makes you feel cozy. That's why it's big news that the Ravenscliffe Castle here in Hamilton has recently went up for sale again. The price is $1.75 million, and that's surprisingly not bad a price. Hell, I've seen bachelor pads in NYC that have costed more.

The Ravenscliffe Castle was built in 1881, designed by Hamilton architect James Balfour. It spans 11,000 sqft. with six bathrooms and eight bedrooms! It first hit the market in 2010 for $3 million dollars and wasn't bought at the time. Definitely one of the city's most notable properties, and it is one of few castles here in Hamilton. It seems like the property could do with some work put on it, but given that it's over a hundred years old I wouldn't really expect otherwise.

Here are some floor plans for the castle:


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How the real estate market is changing Hamilton
Tuesday, 18 March 2014, 09:45:42 AM

Hamilton real estate

Hamilton's real estate market right now is definitely a seller's market. A good example of this is that for seven years, 446 Dundurn St. S. had trouble selling. It went on the market a few times in the past decade, once as low as $105,000...still no sale. Last year however, a developer bought it for $200,000 and after some work (and time) it is currently expected to go for about $600,000.

That's the true strength of Hamilton's booming real estate market. Ten years ago, houses in that neighbourhood near Locke Street averaged sales of around $185,000. Today, that number is nearly doubled at $320,000!

The previous developer in question is Greg Hart, owner of Skyway Construction. He said "Locke and Dundurn are very desirable areas. People have always wanted to live here...but in the last few years, it's just been crazy."

Times have changed when it comes to house prices in Hamilton. To some, the hot market is a welcome sign of optimism and ecomomic progress for the city. Along with all the good are some challenges however: worries about accessibility for first time buyers, dramatic changes to local neighbourhoods, and the impacts on affordable housing and rents and how higher market value taxes will affect those on fixed incomes.

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