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RioCan CEO places bets on building more rental housing as retail sector lags

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For the past 25 years, Edward Sonshine has been known as Canada’s shopping mall king.

Now, the chief executive of one of the country’s largest real estate investment trusts wants to be known for something else too: housing.

“It’s not me that changes,” Sonshine said in an interview at RioCan REIT’s head office in Toronto.

“Change in our strategy has always been a reaction to the world changing, business changing, the economy changing.”

Since it was founded in 1993, RioCan has built a portfolio of about 250 properties of retail, warehouse and office properties.

For the past year, the company has been eyeing how it could better use the prime locations of its retail and plaza malls, many of which sit on existing or soon-to-be built transit lines.

A worker walks past a gate at RioCan’s ePlace project, a commercial/residential development, in Toronto in December 2017. Since it was founded in 1993, RioCan has built a portfolio of about 250 retail, warehouse and office properties. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Sonshine said it was a no-brainer for RioCan to turn these retail outlets into mixed-use properties by adding rental units and office space to meet a growing demand for housing, especially in the country’s biggest cities.

Last month, Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. reported that demand for rental housing continues to outpace supply due to growth in immigration, the senior population and millennials.

“When you make it harder for people to buy, they are going to rent. They have to live somewhere,” said Sonshine. “The population of big cities continues to grow. We look at it as, the rental market has nowhere to go but be good.”

‘Demand for retail space … will not grow’

Sonshine says the shift is serendipitous because the company is already looking to reduce its exposure to retail, as consumer habits continue to move toward online shopping instead of shopping at a big-box mall.

“There is no question in my mind that the demand for retail space over the next five to 10 years will not grow,” he said.

Sonshine said this first crystallized for him in 2015 when the company’s major tenant, U.S. retailer Target, announced it was shutting down its Canadian locations.

Since then, RioCan has been pulling out of cities like London, Ont., and Grande Prairie, Alta., and reinvesting in the country’s six major urban markets, where it projects the biggest growth. By 2020, RioCan wants more than 90 per cent of its rental income to be generated by properties located in these big cities, up from the current 75 per cent now.

There are currently eight purpose-built rental projects, or 2,300 units, under construction in Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary. The first two developments will launch in the first quarter and the summer of 2019.

The Frontier building is seen in the Gloucester neighbourhood of Ottawa. Within five years, Sonshine sees RioCan’s portfolio being made up of 10 per cent residential properties and five per cent office properties, with the vast remainder still coming from the retail market. (RioCan via Canadian Press)

Within five years, Sonshine sees RioCan’s portfolio being made up of 10 per cent residential properties, five per cent office properties, with the vast remainder still coming from the retail market.

Although the company’s purpose-built rental properties will still be a minority stake in the company’s portfolio, Sonshine still sees it as a big departure for the company.

“The truth is we’re really changing the mix,” he said.

“It’s a five- to 10-year process to really get things going. Sometimes I feel like a juggler. I’m trying to turn this big ship and move forward in the reinvention of things. It’s a big juggle.”

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The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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