An Ottawa-based startup is looking to shake up the real estate industry by hosting online auctions for homes, with one small difference—all the bids are in real time and public.
The company is called Unreserved, and they’re hoping to take a piece of the hot housing market.
Anamika and Ashish Srivastrava moved to Canada six months ago. They used Unreserved to buy their first house, on the first try.
“I thought why not? Let’s go ahead and lets go with some numbers,” says Anamika.
Here’s how it works. By using public online auctions, buyers can see others bids, allowing potential buyers to bid more, or bow out.
“And that’s the best part,” says Anamika. “We get to see the numbers on the screen. And that’s when, you know there was like half an hour left and we were like, all game. And it was fun actually.
“I mean, imagine a scenario just sitting casually on a Friday just putting in some numbers. It started as a game. But then when you actually win it, at the end of it you have a house,” Ashish says, laughing.
Founder and CEO Ryan O’connor says he’s created the first ever transparent online housing auction site in Canada.
“The buyers have total confidence knowing that they’re not overpaying $50,000 or $100,000,” says O’Connor. “It’s working. We’re excited that we’ve been able to remove the blind bidding and give buyers the confidence that they needed because a lot of buyers were pulling out of the market. So this is able to bring them back in.”
Unreserved, charging one per cent of the sale price, auctioned its first house a month ago. The company says it is on pace to sell close to 25 houses in September alone.
“All the bidding that happens seems to happen in the last hour, the last half our, the last 10 minutes,” says O’Connor.
Andrew Lemoine just recently sold his house using Unreserved.
“Down to the last second,” says Lemoine. “You know, to sum it up in one word, it was pretty exciting. My whole family was over for dinner. My mom was there, my brother, the kids; everybody was just glued to the screen watching the offers come in, in real time. It was quite an experience, for sure.”
Real estate agent Geoff Walker has been selling houses for 20 years, he says this business model might work now, but could end when the hot housing market does.
“You’re going to drive the price up higher,” says Walker. “That’s what buyers have been wanting to avoid right? Versus a traditional market, where you can work one-on-one with a seller, it gives you a better opportunity as a buyer to be able to not only take your time, but potentially get the property at a price that is not only satisfactory to the seller, but to you as well, without the pressure of other buyers.”
Ottawa Real Estate Board President Debra Wright says she has concerns about this method.
“Real estate sales by auction are not regulated and do not have the same regulatory regime of public protection legislation that real estate by realtors have,” says Wright. “So, this is something that is of concern to us as an industry of course.”
O’Connor admits he had a rough start in business. In 2009 he was convicted of fraud connected to a used car business called “Find a Car”.
He says he’s learned from the experience.
“Not everyone gets second chances and I’ve been very blessed to rehabilitate my name over the last 15 years. Not just in Ottawa, but also in the Canadian automotive community,” he says. “It was that auction experience that lead to Unreserved being born and we look forward to earning the trust of Canadians”
For the Srivastavas, they say this was the perfect way to become brand new homeowners.
“We’re new to Canada,” says Anamika. “New to the system. It’s difficult to navigate the system otherwise. So, I think we felt a lot of reassurance with respect to this particular buying. And we’re excited.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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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