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REAL ESTATE ETHICS: Dealing with property stigmas and dark pasts

One year ago, almost to the day, the entire nation was rocked by the discovery of 33-year-old university student Jun Lin’s torso in a suitcase behind a Montreal apartment building. Luka Magnotta, 30, now faces first-degree murder charges with allegations that Lin was actually killed and dismembered in his apartment.

That bachelor apartment sat vacant for more than six months following the international manhunt that led to Magnotta’s arrest. The building’s superintendent, Eric Schorer, confirms that it has now been rented to a man he describes as a foreigner who may not know anything about the past of his current home.

I don’t know how I feel about this. As a Realtor, current legislation requires that I disclose to potential buyers or renters any physical defects of a property that may be hidden from view. That’s not a choice or a business decision. That’s the law. But there is no law that requires that I disclose any stigmas or dark pasts and revelations about a home. So do I let the new owners know that the property was the site of a murder? A suicide? It has nothing to do with the structure of the property itself, but even my appraiser agrees that certain events will impact a property’s value, even if it doesn’t impact the physical structure.

Talkative neighbours could impact future sales, and prospective buyers who aren’t even suspicious of any negative events could pull up an old news story just by Googling the address of a property. The financial impact is real, but even foregoing that element of a Realtor’s duty, in metropolitan cities like Montreal and Toronto, the number of buyers and renters with cultural backgrounds that could make them sensitive to these stigmas has to be taken into consideration.

I started this article unsure of how I felt about this topic. There are financial realities that impact both sides, and I suppose it comes down to a case by case issue as to what needs to be disclosed – the murder last year vs. the neighbourhood kids think the place is haunted. But in reality, it comes down to a pretty simple rule that should be guiding every decision I make in business.

It is my duty as a Realtor to do right by my clients and the individuals that I work with, and that includes following the letter of the law in addition to staying true to my moral compass and disclosing what I think needs to be disclosed to the young couple renting their first condo, the young family buying their first home, the business partners buying another investment property, and everyone in between. All hands on deck and all cards on the table – people deserve to know all the details behind what will most likely be the single largest transaction of their lives, and I have an obligation as a professional and as a good person to make sure that that happens.

 

Follow Chellie on Twitter: @ChellieMejia

We need to talk: The worst words you can hear in a relationship

“We need to talk,” are probably the four worst words you can hear in a relationship, whether that relationship is friendly or romantic literally nothing good happens after that sentence.

Last week I said those words, not to Boyfriend, but to one of my best friends. I told her that it was time we had a chat about her insistence on returning to her ex over and over and over again. They broke up a while ago because they have very different views on relationships and several other reasons that are not mine to tell. The day they broke up I was there for her and I was there for her every time she took him back after that but there comes a point when you just can’t do it anymore. So I told her, after seeing her falter and slide back into their old routine, that we had to talk, now.

There is no good time to tell your friend that you hate her boyfriend, there really isn’t, but after the break up you should feel safe to tell her that she can do better. Shouldn’t you? Not when she keeps going back to the same guy.

But you can only watch your friends hurt for so long before saying something isn’t really a choice but a necessity; our friendship now has a rule, no more talking about her ex and I can’t be the shoulder to cry on anymore.

The whole talk was short but I felt terrible. I felt like I shouldn’t be allowed to comment on someone’s broken relationship when mine is going so well, like somehow I lost my right to say something when I met Boyfriend.

In the end I want my friend to be happy, that’s it. I want her to see how beautiful and talented she is; I want her to walk away from the man who’s only made her miserable and my opinion wouldn’t be any different if I were still single.  I’m thankful that my friends never let me go back to some of the guys I dated before Boyfriend; one night my best friends spent two hours talking me out of a relationship with a boy who had been awful to me but I had never been able to see it.

Sometimes we all need a talking to–not all the time, but sometimes–and it helps. Maybe I couldn’t make my friend change her mind about her ex but at least someone finally told her the truth, at least finally someone said, “We need to talk.” If it had to be someone, I’m glad it was me. I doubt my friend knows how much she means to me but I hope one day to be sitting at her wedding watching her in love and happy.

Love isn’t easy. Some people are worth fighting for and some just aren’t. If you’re not happy, give up the fight and go find someone who will love you, someone who your friends can at the very least respect.

INVESTMENT BUG: The pros and cons of purchasing an investment property

We’re nearing the end of the second quarter now, and the real estate market is holding steady! And with more and more people looking at ways to invest their money and get the most for their return, I’ve had a few calls from clients considering investing their money in investment properties. I know from personal experience that the return on this type of investment can be great, and is definitely a great way to diversify your investment portfolio with an investment that will likely increase over time and pay for itself in monthly rental income, but I also know firsthand that the process isn’t as glamorous as it may come across on all our favourite real estate reality TV shows.

Firstly, let me make the difference between flipping properties, which has been popularized in the last few years, and owning an investment property. “Flipping” a property refers to the common practice of purchasing a “fixer-upper” property below market value with the intention of fixing it up to raise the value and re-selling in a relatively short period of time for a profit.

Owning an investment property that you plan to hold on to long term can be anything from purchasing a condo, duplex, triplex, building, etc. with the intention of renting out the unit or units on an ongoing basis.

If you’re looking at purchasing an investment property for the first time, it may be worth noting that most lenders won’t approve financing for properties of more than four units. So purchasing a triplex to rent out may be a good start, but maybe save the three-story low rise until you’re a little more experienced. Most lenders will require a minimum of 20% down, and if you’re looking to avoid mortgage insurance premiums, it might be worth it to put down more. Throw in land transfer taxes and closing costs, and you’ll see why it becomes super important to know your numbers and be sure of what your upfront expenses are going to be.

When it comes to tenants, I have one golden rule for all of my clients: you need the RIGHT tenant, not a tenant RIGHT NOW. In Ontario, the laws are usually on the side of the tenant, so do your background and pay the $29.99 for a credit check to cover your bases. If you don’t have a thick skin, develop one, quick! Complaints will come and you’ll need to know your tenants’ rights and your rights as well.

Be prepared for maintenance costs and repairs. Be prepared to put in work. Get yourself an agent who has knowledge of the type of investment property you’re looking to get into and who knows the area enough to work with you through area rental rates and capitalization rates. If you arm yourself with the right team and proper guidance, it could be the best financial decision you ever make.

 

Follow Chellie on Twitter at @ChellieMejia and Women’s Post at @WomensPost

Monday blues? Here’s a baby skunk to cheer you up

Mondays can be rough, but nothing is cheerier than seeing a baby pet skunk desperate for some love from his adopted mom.

The little guy, Jasper, can’t get enough of him mom’s toes as he whines to be picked up.

Jasper even has his own Facebook page, written in the first person of course, where he details his adventures as a house-skunk. Check out more videos of Jasper on S Decker‘s YouTube channel.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest news in adorable animals. @WomensPost

DENIAL: Mayor Rob Ford says he is not a crack addict

Rob Ford addressed the media Friday at 3:30 p.m. to address allegations of his crack cocaine use and the video that was viewed by Star and Gawker reporters.

In a prepared statement Ford, flanked by his brother Doug Ford, flat out denied the allegations of him using crack and also added that he is not a crack addict.

He used the press conference to express his displeasure with what he described as hardships endured by his family as a result of this scandal and thanked his supporters for “calls and e-mails” he received.

He noted that his week long silence was the result of advice from his lawyer.

The Mayor also took this time to continually thank the people of Toronto, along with Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday who he described as the best the city could ever ask for. This comes on the heels of Holyday expressing concerns over Ford’s state and expectations that he may have to fill the top slot should Ford step down.

Mayor Ford left the room promptly amidst shouts of rehab related questions from the press and his brother took to the podium, giving a stern look to the press gallery, and answered a short few questions. When reporters shouted out to correct inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies  in his answers, he stuck to the trope that the Star is after the Fords. He asked that they ask the questions and he give the answers, covering no new ground with the press before ending the press conference.

This conference comes after more than a week of silence from Mayor Ford on the matter.

It remains to be seen whether Ford can recover from this scandal. As Councillors have urged him to seek help, co-operation at City Hall may not be possible for long if Ford remains mayor.

5 craziest tweets from Amanda Bynes from the last three days

While we here in Toronto have been watching a meltdown of our own over at city hall poor Amanda Bynes has been steadily losing it south of the border for quite some time.

The star’s Twitter account has been her outlet for a lot of her rambling and rantings, along with racy, sexy photos of herself, not to mention a blow by blow of a surgery she got for something involving her eyes and/or nose that we’re pretty sure no one ever noticed but her.

The starlet, who isn’t really doing much these days after retiring from acting, was arrested Thursday, May 23, in New York City. The cops were called when people complained that she was allegedly rolling and smoking a joint in the lobby. When the cops went up to her apartment on the 36th floor they reportedly saw a bong on the counter. According to the cops she ran to it and threw it out of the window right in front of them.

She says it was just a vase.

Um. Amanda. you can’t do that either.

Here are five of the combative, odd, and confusing tweets she sent out in the days before her arrest.

 

 

 

If you’re following the timeline here it would have been a few hours after that last rant that she allegedly chucked a bong streetside from 36 floors up.
 
You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

HAPPY FRIDAY: Here is a blog dedicated to photos of sloths

As you may have guessed from our previous articles, we here at WP had a love-on for sloths. Luckily we aren’t the only ones. That Sloth Blog is a Tumblr dedicated to bringing you photos of sloths doing sloth things and being slothdorable and slothcool. They sum it up pretty well by saying: “Us, we’re sloth people.” Yup.

Yes, there is a sloth-on-branch cursor on this website.

You are currently counting down the hours until you can use some of these relaxing sloth moves on your couch.

Here are some of our favourites from the blog.

Follow Travis on Twitter: @TravMyers

 

Why don’t people believe a man can be raped?

Not too long ago we saw that the people of Toronto have no sympathy for a male rape victim. In a disgusting display the Toronto Twitterverse summarily dismissed the idea of a male rape victim by telling him he should be so lucky as to be attacked by four women, that he was lying, that he was gay or a prostitute, and that his victimisation doesn’t matter.

Cretins like Rosie DiManno came forward to say that “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s fantasy come true” and display a fundamentally flawed understanding of the very basic understanding of what rape is. Rape is forced, unwanted sexual interaction. You cannot want to be raped, because if you wanted it, it wouldn’t be rape.

The man, who decided (for what seems to be good reason considering the amount of ridicule he received) to stay anonymous, was a laughing stock to his peers, men and women who thought simply that a man can’t be raped. This reaction leaves me wondering just how many male rape victims have refused to step forward or seek police intervention or even counselling simply because they have been told time and time again that a man cannot be a rape victim, that they should have enjoyed it, or that in the stereotype of a man always wanting sex they were asking for it simply by being male.

With all of the time, energy, funding, and attention that is given to preventing rape why is it that the average Joe or Jane still can’t wrap their head around this?

Well first let’s take a quick look at the definition of rape. Until recently this was what Google returned:

 

Google’s victims are gender neutral; however, their aggressors are male.

A Google Image search for “how to stop rape” also brings up countless images where men who might otherwise be aggressors are told not to rape or are congratulated on stopping when told.

What is surprising is the heteronormative gender binary approach to rape as a topic. Men rape, women are raped. There is very little discussion in between for men who are raped by men, women who are raped by women, and men who are raped by women, like the victim in Toronto.

The response I’ve heard is that because the number of rapes that is reported in these scenarios is lower that it isn’t worth the time. I can think of one young man whose experience and entire existence was deemed worthless by the internet who might disagree. This notion may also be a beast that feeds itself: if no attention is given to these matters because they are reported less, when it does occur victims might be less likely to report it because they have no concept of a precedent.

If we want to do right by victims like Toronto’s John Doe we need to break away from this male vs. female conversation. In schools, posters, and awareness campaigns we need to stop addressing men as aggressors and potential aggressors and women as victims or potential victims. Instead we need to think about it simply as rapists and victims outside of their genders.

You’ve heard a thousand times before that rape isn’t about sex (sexual intercourse in this sense) but instead about power. Power isn’t limited to one sex or gender. The idea that “we need to teach men not to rape” ignores scores of victims who don’t fit into that construct and encourages the mentality that men and boys can’t also be victims like what we saw happen in the aftermath of the Toronto gang rape victim.

My heart goes out to this poor soul in the hopes that someday in the future a man can come forward as a victim without being victimised continually through social media and the press for simply being the wrong gender to feel sorry for.

Until then we need to teach people that rape is a genderless crime.

NEW SUMMER TUNE: We love the new Jennifer Lopez/Pitbull summer song

We’re ready for summer, and what better way to say “hello sunshine” than to crank a new beach tune from Ms. Lopez and Pitbull. Throw in producer RedOne (you know, the guy who is responsible for every great Gaga hook) and you’ve got #LIVEITUP, an easily-to-hashtag summer dance party anthem we can certainly get into.

Be warned, there are a couple swears in the song.

If you need me I’ll be at the beach with my good friend JLo.

30 disturbing and disgusting tweets about Jason Collins coming out

 

Jason Collins shocked the world this week by becoming the first openly gay pro athlete (besides baseball player and inventor of the high-five Glenn Burke who was out to his teammates) and has been met with hate from ignorant people along with the praise he has received.

The hate being spewed at him is sadly not a surprise.

This collection is not intended to change any minds. The people who wrote these tweets think that what they are doing is okay and right, and it would take a lot more than simply holding up a mirror to them to get them to change their minds.

This collection of tweets is intended to open the eyes of anyone who is passively indifferent to gay causes or may be on the fence about vocalising their support for gay people in their lives.

Gay people wake up every day knowing that there are millions of people in the world who hate them for what they are. Gay people in other countries wake up every day unsure if they will be alive at the end of it. Kids here in Canada are bullied to death with words like these.

After reading these please do your part to let your friends and family know that you support gay people and gay rights. Send a positive tweet to Jason Collins, for example, or just do something simple as update your Facebook status to say that you love and care about the gay people in your life.

These are 30 disturbing and disgusting tweets about Jason Collins coming out.

Jason Collins should die

Jason Collins is a Faggot

Jason Collins is disgusting, certainly not a hero

 

Jason Collins will burn in hell

It is attitudes like these that make his coming out all the more important.

Hopefully someday soon a gay athlete, actor, politician, or person won’t require the fanfare, but until then every single gay person needs the reassurance of your love and support. Their life could depend on it.

@travmyers