FML Listings – Telling It How It Is

FML Listings

Sick and tired of all BrokerBabble online and in the blogosphere?  Can’t justify paying $1,000,000 for that one bedroom bungalow? … you’re not alone!

Last week, @BigVeech suggested I check out FML Listings – an anonymous Tumblr blogger who shares their opinion on everything from the high prices of buying in the city to the broker exaggerated choice of words in the listing. The blog launched this month and already The Grid TOBlog TO,  TorontoistMove Smartly have picked up on their postings!

I reached out to FML Listings and asked a varitey of questions about their thoughts on the current state of the TO market.  Check out our chat below!

How long has the blog been up for?

The blog has only been up for about two weeks. There are about 2 or 3 pages of listings at this point, and I’m finding more and more each day, along with all the amazing submissions people have been sending in. I had no idea there’d be this much content, and it’s almost sad in a way that I have about 20 listings ready to go up as I type this.

What made you start FMLL in the first place? Was there one listing that pushed you over the breaking point lol?

Well, I’ve been looking for houses on and off for a couple years and lately every listing I see is just crazier than the last. Then a few weeks ago I saw one that just killed me—it was a really old run down (and tiny) semi-detached house near the Danforth (listed as “in the beaches”) being sold for almost a million dollars, and I just couldn’t keep that one to myself. I wanted everyone to see how insane that was. The feedback I got when I posted it was so overwhelming; it made me realize that a lot of people didn’t know what was going on with real estate in this city. So I just kept posting more listings, and unfortunately there are tonnes of them.

Is there a goal to the blog?

Mostly for personal sanity. Every time I go to an overpriced open house, I tell myself “no one’s going to buy this.” Then it actually sells for at least asking price. So, seeing all the feedback I’ve been getting agreeing that the market is completely out whack makes me feel just a *little* bit better about the situation, and a little less crazy. That’s always great.

But more so, now that it’s getting so much exposure, I just love that word is getting out on what’s going on. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize how insane the market has gotten, so my ultimate goal would just be to spread the word to as many people as possible, and start that conversation of “wait a minute, is that house really worth a million dollars?”

Realtors loooove to promote the level of sales they’ve achieved through titles with very little value to the public (like platinum broker, 100% club etc) Have you considered giving an award of your own for crappiest listing?

Haha, that’s a great idea!! I would love to do that, but I think about 70% of the listings would win that award. It’d be so hard to narrow it down. When I write each listing out it seems I always start with “and this one is my favourite of all time!!” Then, as a new candidate comes along, I have to take a step back and tell myself that they all can’t be my favourite.

Any examples of listings done well?

It’s hard to say, but I’ve seen a couple good listings here and there. Recently I saw one out in the west end that was overpriced because the owners had just renovated it, but it was beautiful and the realtor was honest and upfront about everything, which is a nice change. But more often than not, most listings I see are very poorly done and rarely represent the actual home and price the home *should* be.

What do you expect out of your realtor when listing your home?

Well, I’d first and foremost expect honesty. I think in this market, agents are just getting lazier and saying whatever they want to make the quick sale. I first used an agent over 5 years ago to buy a condo, and they did a lot of work for me. But now I feel like the market just sells itself, and some agents are taking all this commission and not doing much work for it. I mean right now, I’m about to put my house up for sale (it’s a semi-detached in Richmond Hill), but I’m finding it so hard to justify paying a Realtor $25,000 commission to put a typo-filled, incorrect information, skewed-imaged listing on MLS and just wait for the offers to come in.

What your biggest pet peeve with MLS listings?

Just the lack of honesty in the listings, or the abundance of errors. I mean, if you look at some listings, they’re mapped in the wrong area, have incorrect photos (or none at all), or completely incorrect information. I’ve had agents tell me that to carry a million dollar property I was in, it would be $1600 a month, which I know just isn’t true. Or other agents say in their listings that houses in Newmarket are only 10 minutes to downtown Toronto. Have they ever driven on the 404 during the morning rush hour?? They’re selling inexperienced people a lifetime of debt they can’t afford, and a lifestyle they’re not prepared for. There needs to be some accountability there.

Can others send crappy listings to you?

Yes. I added a submission page for people to email me listings. So far the response has been overwhelming; the content is just overflowing at this point. It’s great that I have blog content, but more so it really makes me upset that there even are this many unaffordable trash houses. And now I’m getting listings from people in Brampton, Mississauga, and other 905 areas. So now it seems like it’s much more than just a Toronto problem.

Have any Realtors contacted you about seeing their listing on the blog?

Not yet, thankfully. I’ve actually had a lot of Realtors contact me praising me for what I’m doing! It’s an amazing feeling, and so validating. I mean, the back-story is that we’ve been looking at houses for years and we just never understood what was going on. Surely agents must know that these properties are overvalued. So to see these realtors email me and praise the site, it’s a great feeling.

I'll Belive it when I see it Rob Ford

photo from http://opeklife.com/

Oh Robert, you always seem to surprise me!

Two years ago, I was sitting in a room full of Realtors listening to the mayoral hopefuls “ouuu and ahhh” the crowd.  It was politics as usual with outlandish promises and stops to gravy trains.  Admittedly, I was more interested in my twitter feed than what was being spoken on stage… until, the golden question was asked: “If elected, will you remove the land transfer tax”

Now before I go further with the story, I want to pause and let you know where I stand on the tax.  For starters, it should have never been introduced in first place.  The tax penalizes the very poeple who not only support the City but also the Country.  You see, when you buy a home it’s not only the seller (and their Realtor) who make money…but the entire economy.  Tons of people are employed simply because of our strong housing market.  Trades people, contractors, furniture manufactures etc etc.  The way I see it is anything that slows that process down, slows the whole economy.

Unfortunately, the politicians of the time didn’t see it the same way and passed the tax in 2008. The result of this was an additional sum of money that purchasers had to pay the City of Toronto at time of closing.  Now some may argue that the effects of the tax haven’t really slowed down the economy and that the market is still strong. We can thank the low interest rates for helping many first timers get into the market.  These same first timers also have the incentive of a reduced Land Transfer Tax. Many purchasers haven’t felt the true effects of the tax on their purchase… it won’t be until many of these first timers purchase their second home that the pinch is felt!

Exactly how much is this Land Transfer Tax costing Torontonians? On a $500,000 purchase, buyers must shell out an additional $5,725 on their purchase!  Keep in mind that this cost must be paid on closing and can not be mortgaged!

Now back to the story…

Ford was the first candidate on stage to quickly promise and end to the Land Transfer tax… this sent the crowd wild!!! I too supported the idea by proudly taking to twitter and letting everyone know that finally a candidate had stepped up to save the day!

Being naive, I never asked my self how the heck the City would function without the revenue it’s become accustomed to receiving each year. That was until George Smitherman pointed out that cutting the Land Transfer Tax and delivering the same services Torontonians were used to was practically impossible.

Unfortunately Smithermans logic wasn’t imbraced my the masses and as we all know, Ford went on to win the the race… though I think the outcome may have been different had the candidates SAID WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE DONE WITH THE MONEY INSTEAD OF SIMPLY CUTTING IT OUT!  And by this I mean giving more disclosure of where the $300,000,000 is being used. Communication is key, if they promised to be more transparent with how it was being spent, I’m sure more support would have been had. Instead the candidates tried keeping up with Fords cost cutting promises.

It’s been almost a year since Rob Ford has been elected and talks of removing the Land Transfer Tax have been sparse.  On Thursday, Ford surprised us all again by bringing the topic back up.  He said “I campaigned we’d get rid of it by the end of my term and if we do it in pieces, we’ll do it in pieces, but I’m going to keep my promise.”

So what’s my take on this supposed “good news”… it’s worth as much as the paper it’s written on – NOTHING! I don’t buy it for a single second!

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our Cities councillors for a minute… You know, the one’s that would have to vote on such a thing! Let’s say you already have a shortfall in your budget.  Would you promise to give back roughly $300,000,000 of it putting you further in the hole?  Honestly, I wouldn’t…but Ford wants to! But wasn’t his campaign all about “balancing the books”? He’ll have to get that $300,000,000 from somewhere else, right?  hint hint, wink wink – higher property taxes or more service cuts!

Another surprise came in the form of a press release Toronto Real Estate Board.  Part of it read: ““Mayor Ford deserves to be applauded for sticking to his convictions and delivering on campaign commitments. That is what Torontonians elected him to do. The Land Transfer Tax is not good for Torontonians or the City. We look forward to working with the Mayor and Council to get rid of this unfair tax,” said Richard Silver, President of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

I belong to TREB, and truly do like the work Richard Silver has done as our president… BUT I totally disagree with how quick he was to applaud him.  We have nothing on paper except for a blank promise during a TV interview. Which brings me to another point:

If in some small way the Tax is removed (partially or whole), the announcement would have to be almost instant, with it’s removal coming just as fast! When the tax was introduced in 2008 there was a rush from home buyers to purchase before the tax came into effect.  The removal of the tax would have the opposite effect… a drastic slowdown as purchasers will wait for the tax to be removed.

These “drip promises” just don’t cut it. The removal of such a tax is a HUUUGE move.  To only mention it during a TV interview is a little suspicious… and just before the holidays?

In my opinion, this announcement was nothing more than political comment, to boost his ratings with Toronto’s citizens. Remember, It was almost a year ago that Ford was voted in.  At my families Holiday gatherings, his name came up quite a bit as each side made points on whether Ford was going to stick to his promises.  The timing of his latest promise is a tactic to gain sympathy from Toronto’s tax payers and to boost his approval ratings over the holidays.

But wait… wasn’t I all for the removal of the tax in paragraphs 2, 3, and 4?

Yes, but kinda no!  In 2008, I was totally against it.  We should have tighten the budget then and never introduced the Tax in the first place.  But we did, and we got comfortable with it…and we rely on that $300,000,000 of extra income each year!  I don’t think we should have brought it in then, but I also don’t think we can do without it now…then what should we do?

I have a few suggestions:

Keep the tax, but allow it to be financed by the homes mortgage. Yes, people will need to qualify for an extra $5000 (on average) but the pay out can be spread over time… like the CMHC Insurance fee purchasers pay on high ratio mortgages.Can’t finance a tax you say? Then change the name of it – Toronto Investment Fund sounds good to me.  The City benefits from the “tax” today and the purchaser get’s to pay it over time leaving them with more money to reinvest the spin-off economy created by way purchases of furniture, appliances, home improvements etc.

Oh, and the difference in monthly payments on a $500,000 house as opposed to a $505,000 home – $21 per month (assuming a 20% down payment, 25 year mortgage and a 4% mortgage rate).

If Rob Ford is confident the City can function without the $300,000,000… let’s take it out of our budget and put it directly back into improving our City’s infrastructure and make Toronto even better! In order for our City to grow, we must rely on strong immigration patterns.  Better infrastructure and a more commutable system are just two of the areas that the money can be used for.

Or even better… Go after the Provincial government and get them to cut out or at least reduce the Ontario Land Transfer tax that we’re ALSO subject to. Plus the rate of the Provinces land transfer tax is higher than Toronto’s!

Implementing a few of these ideas keeps the revenue coming for the City yet still allows home owners some flexibility at closing!
In short, I don’t think Mayor Robbie will abolish the tax nor do I think he should because put simply – the City can’t afford to do without it … If he really wants to respect taxpayers dollars he should be putting are money to work and improving the City with it!

Sage Logo PNG copy Mark Savel - Sales Representative - Sage Real Estate LTD., Brokerage - 1820 Bayview Ave. Tor, Ont, M4G 4G7 - 416-483-8000