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Hot housing market attracts real estate investors to northeastern Ontario –



Southern Ontario-based home buyers, who offer cash to purchase houses in poor condition, have started to make inroads in northern Ontario, due to the region’s hot real estate market.

Devin Labranche, a Sudbury-based realtor with eXp Realty, started his career in London, Ont., where he said the practice of cash offers for homes was already common by 2017.

“We started to see the market grow there quite a bit and we could kind of tell through demographic distribution that people were spreading out through the greater GTA area to other areas due to the housing crisis,” he said. “So it was just a matter of time before they came here [to Sudbury].”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Labranche, said he has heard from clients and family members who have seen advertisements from companies that offer cash buyouts for homes with no strings attached.

The companies include SLG Home Buyer and Cash House Buyer. Some use roadside signs, and others send out mailers, which are often made to look handwritten. 

“It’s just a great way for people to feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve been hand-picked for somebody who wants to buy my house,'” Labranche said. “They tend to prey on vulnerable people who don’t know the market or who are in distress and need to sell right away.”

Labranche said people looking to sell their homes should speak with at least three local realtors to find out what comparable houses have sold for, and what they might expect in the open market.

Labranche agrees buying and renovating homes can be a good business model, but cautioned sellers should be diligent if they want to get the best possible price for their home.

Tyler Peroni, chair of the Sudbury Real Estate Board, says home sellers should speak with a local realtor before making any big decisions. (Tyler Peroni Sudbury Real Estate Broker/Facebook)

Tyler Peroni, chair of the Sudbury Real Estate Board, said homeowners should meet with a local realtor before they make any decisions about selling their property.

When asked if companies buying homes for cash were preying on the vulnerable, Peroni was more cautious.

“I hate to make an allegation against anybody that’s doing this,” he said. “We want to see the best in any business model or any business that operates in Sudbury. As long as there’s full disclosure and transparency, I don’t think that we can necessarily knock any business practice.”

A growing northern Ontario market 

Real estate investor Ammar Beg owns a Markham, Ontario-based company called Canada Fast Offer. He has advertised in Sudbury and other parts of northern Ontario, and purchased homes from the region. 

Beg said there are several reasons businesses like his have had a greater presence in northern Ontario since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The first reason, he said, is that the increase in house prices has made it worthwhile for investors to buy homes in the region, invest in renovations, and resell them at a profit. 

“In the past, let’s say a couple of years ago, if I looked at a property in Sudbury or Timmins or North Bay or some of these areas, even Sault Ste. Marie the value just wasn’t there,” he said. “Now that the numbers have gone up it’s starting to make sense.

“We can give them a reasonable price where they can pay off their debts, they can have some cash in hand. They can move forward with something, and we can still turn a profit.”

The second reason companies like Canada Fast Offer have entered the market, said Beg, is that more people have turned to real estate investing in the last 18 months.

“Now with the pandemic, I think what’s happened is that there are a lot of people who are either on CERB, or maybe their business has gotten some grants, and now they have that time and ability to find these off-market sellers and market to them,” he said.

Flyers from real estate investors, often designed to look hand-written, have become a more common sight in northern Ontario cities, according to realtors in the region. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

The business model

Beg said his business focuses on homes that are not in a liveable state. He offers a cash buyout, renovates the home, and either turns it into a rental property or sells it on the market. He said more often than not, he resells the home.

“We’re actually adding to the inventory of liveable homes,” he said. “We’re not taking away from the housing market, we’re actually adding to it, because these are not properties you would live in.”  

He said many of the sellers he works with prefer not to go through the traditional route of selling through a realtor, and find it simpler to accept a cash offer for their property.

“If you live in that situation and you’re classified as a hoarder, and the place is a mess and it’s not liveable, the last thing you want is a rotating door of people walking through your home,” Beg said. 

As for those mail-in flyers, Beg said direct mail marketing rules mean companies have to cast a wide net. Real estate investors can’t target specific homes with direct mail marketing, but must instead cover entire postal routes. 

Homeowners who have no intention of selling, and who may not require major renovations, can get caught in the marketing blitz.

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US real estate heir Robert Durst convicted of murdering friend – Al Jazeera English



A California jury has found multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murdering his longtime friend Susan Berman in 2000, the first homicide conviction for a man suspected of killing three people in three states over the past 39 years.

Durst, 78 and frail, will likely die in prison as the jury also found him guilty on Friday of the special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, which carry a mandatory life sentence. Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, set a sentencing hearing for October 18.

The trial came six years after Durst’s apparent confession was aired in the HBO television documentary series The Jinx, in which Durst was caught on a hot microphone in the toilet saying to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.”

The nine-woman, three-man jury had deliberated for seven and a half hours over three days for Friday’s decision. Durst, who has been in jail for the duration of the trial, was not present for the reading of the verdict because he was in isolation after having been exposed to somebody with COVID-19.

Windham decided to have the verdict read in Durst’s absence. Speaking to lawyers for both sides later, he called the case “the most extraordinary trial that I’ve ever seen or even heard about”.

Lead prosecutor John Lewin, who had pursued Durst for years, credited The Jinx filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their revealing interviews with Durst, telling reporters after the verdict: “Without them having conducted the interviews, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

In closing arguments, Lewin called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an attempt to cover up the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in New York in 1982.

Judge Windham receives the verdict from the bailiff before finding Durst guilty of murder [Genaro Molina/Pool via Reuters]

Durst was only on trial for killing Berman in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbour in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was hiding from the law.

Despite long being a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst was never charged. Prosecutors said he killed her, then decided to kill Berman 18 years later because she had told others that she helped Durst cover up the crime. Berman, 55, was shot in the back of her head inside her Beverly Hills home.

Shortly after the verdict, the McCormack family issued a statement urging prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst.

“The justice system in Los Angeles has finally served the Berman family. It is now time for Westchester to do the same for the McCormack family,” the statement said.

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office.

Her office issued a statement on Friday commending those involved in securing the conviction, but a spokesperson said the Westchester investigation “remains ongoing and we will have no further comment at this time”.

‘Sick old man’

Defence lawyers portrayed Durst, a cancer survivor who testified from a wheelchair wearing a baggy jail uniform, as a “sick old man”. But he withstood 15 days as a witness, nine of them under cross-examination.

During a 58-day trial spread over a year and a half, including a one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, Durst testified that he discovered Berman’s murdered body when he went to visit her but did not call the police.

The prosecution also delved into the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbour in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of murder, even though Durst admitted he chopped up Black’s body and dumped it in Galveston Bay.

Durst said Black pulled a gun on him and was shot accidentally when the two men wrestled over the firearm.

Black’s death marked the second time Durst had a dead body at his feet, according to his testimony.

In both cases, Durst said he at first tried to call the 911 emergency number, but later decided against it, fearing nobody would believe he was not guilty.

Besides The Jinx audio, two other pieces of evidence appeared to damage Durst’s defence. One was the recorded 2017 testimony of Nick Chavin, a mutual friend who said Durst admitted to him in 2014 that he had killed Berman.

“It was her or me. I had no choice,” Chavin recounted Durst telling him.

Durst also admitted he authored a handwritten letter to Beverly Hills police with the word “cadaver” and Berman’s address, directing them to her undiscovered body. Durst had denied writing the note for 20 years.

Durst is the grandson of the founder of The Durst Organization, one of New York City’s premier real estate companies.

He long ago left the company, now run by his estranged brother Douglas Durst, who testified at trial and said of his sibling: “He’d like to murder me.”

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Detached home in Toronto is attainable for $700,000 says real estate agent – NOW Toronto



The two-bedroom listing at 15 Beechwood is appealing to renovators and first-time home buyers

A detached home listed for just under $700,000 sounds too good to be true in the Toronto real estate market. The average price for a home in the city is at $1,000,008, the lowest it’s been since February, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB). Meanwhile the average for detached homes in the city is still hovering around $1.7 million, a full six figures more than the listed $699,900 price for 15 Beechwood in the Jane and Eglinton area.

According to WE Realty broker of record Odeen Eccleston that price may actually be attainable, even though similar lots on the street sold between $865,000 and $880,000 over the summer.

 “We don’t have enough information yet about the condition inside the home,” says Eccleston. She adds that any potential buyers should consider booking a home inspector, especially since the listing is marketed to investors and renovators along with first-time buyers without providing any photos of the interior.

Listing agent Lino Arci of Re/MAX Hallmark Lino Arci Group Realty told NOW that the home is currently being rented, which is why photos of the interior have not been made available. He understands that the tenants will be moving out in a couple of weeks. He also adds that the house has been priced fairly, and is not purposefully priced hundreds of thousands below its value to spark a bidding war, a practice that buyers have been wary of in this heated market.

“If we get the asking price, they’ll probably sell it,” says Arci. “I always like to price it right on the money so we sell it quickly.”

The two-bedroom bungalow with a mutual driveway was already listed earlier in the summer, sitting on the market for 48 days before being taken off the market, which Eccleston says bodes well for buyers. Arci explains that the sellers were not happy with their previous real estate agent.

“These are older people,” says Arci. “Sometime a seller expects their agent to be there when they call them and take them through step-by-step. We’re a small team. We can do that.”

Eccleston adds that the bungalow resembles other common listings on the Toronto real estate market, where a home that has been in the family for nearly a century is finally being sold by the family or estate.

Several listings in the Toronto real estate market appeal to builders to tear down old dwellings and build modern new homes. But Eccleston warns buyers to do their math before considering such a venture. Building prices have risen to between $250 to $350 per square foot. On the lower end of the spectrum, a 2,000-square-foot home could cost $500,000 plus soft costs such as municipal permits, surveys and architectural plans, which could add up to upwards of $1.2 million when you add the purchase price. For comparison’s sake, a newly renovated home on the street sold in 2020 for $1.1 million.

But Eccleston says this house could appeal to buyers who have no interest to tear down and build anew, and instead just choose to buy the property cheaply and spend less to renovate the interior.

“Some people are paying more than that for 600-square-foot condos,” says Eccleston. “So they may be willing to put up the money to renovate a detached home that frees them up from paying condo fees.”

“Anyone thinking of getting into the marketplace, they should,” says Arci. “Rates are good. Just jump in.”


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Special Feature: Safety net invaluable in current real estate market – Canadian Lawyer Magazine



Real estate has always been considered a high-risk area of practice, and in 2020, real estate reached its highest recorded portion of claims in the market. Running a successful law practice that deals in real estate comes with unique challenges and competition.

Lawyers must ensure that all internal processes are properly adhered to, but it’s not uncommon for experienced lawyers to accidentally overlook details.

This special feature from FCT highlights the benefits of E&O products in real estate practice.

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