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Pope Francis formally strips Vatican secretariat of state of financial assets, real estate holdings – The Globe and Mail

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This photo taken by the Vatican Media on Dec. 21, 2020, shows Pope Francis during an audience for Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia, in The Vatican.

HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis has formally stripped the Vatican secretariat of state of its financial assets and real estate holdings following its bungled management of hundreds of millions of euros in donations and investments that are now the subject of a corruption investigation.

Francis signed a new law over the weekend ordering the secretariat of state to complete the transfer of all its holdings to another Vatican office by Feb. 4. The law also calls for all donations to the pope – the Peter’s Pence collections from the faithful as well as other donations that had been managed by the secretariat of state – to be held and managed by the Vatican’s treasury office as separate funds that are accounted for in the Holy See’s consolidated budget.

The changes are a response to a spiralling Vatican criminal investigation into years-long allegations of mismanagement of donations and investments by the Vatican’s secretariat of state which has resulted in losses of tens of millions of euros at a time of financial crisis for the Holy See.

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Francis had already ordered the transfers in August and followed up in November by appointing a commission to put the changes into effect. The new law makes the changes permanent and sets a firm date for their execution.

Francis said he was making the changes to improve the administration, control and vigilance over the Holy See’s assets and ensure a more “transparent and efficient management.”

Francis moved against his own secretariat of state amid an 18-month investigation by Vatican prosecutors into the office’s 350-million-euro investment into a luxury residential building in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood and other speculative funds.

Prosecutors have accused several officials in the department of abusing their authority for their involvement in the deal, as well several Italian middlemen of allegedly fleecing the Vatican of tens of millions of euros in fees.

The scandal has exposed the incompetence of the Vatican’s monsignors in managing money, since they signed away voting shares in the deal and agreed to pay exorbitant fees to Italians who were known in business circles for their shady dealings.

Francis’ decision has been an embarrassing blow to the secretariat of state’s standing as the most powerful Holy See office, reducing it to essentially any other department that must propose a budget and have it approved and monitored by others.

The outcome is essentially what was sought years ago by Cardinal George Pell, Francis’ first economy minister who clashed with the secretariat of state over his financial reforms and efforts to wrest control of the department’s off-the-books funds.

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Pell had to abandon those reform efforts in 2017 to face trial for sexual abuse in his native Australia, but he was acquitted and recently told The Associated Press he felt vindicated that the wrongdoing he tried to uncover was being exposed.

The Holy See is facing a major cash crunch as its main source of revenue, ticket sales from the Vatican Museums, evaporated this year due to coronavirus closures. The Holy See last year narrowed its budget deficit from €75-million to €11-million.

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Why Real Estate Professionals Are Turning To Virtual Property Tours – Forbes

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I’ve done virtual keynotes for many real estate conferences in the past year and one of the key trends I’ve noted has been the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

High-contact industries are among those that can benefit the most from VR and AR technology

 Prior to the pandemic, virtual property tours weren’t uncommon, but most individuals still preferred to see property in person. Today, that mindset has shifted, with countless buyers turning to virtual property tours first, before committing to see a home in person. Virtual tours have their roots in the computer gaming industry, providing the residential sector with the ability to use 3D and in some cases, VR headsets, to help bring spaces and surrounding areas to life.

While COVID has certainly been the most urgent and immediate factor influencing the rise in VR real estate tours, it’s not the only one. As Millennials and Gen Z become a larger percentage of home buyers, the demand for virtual and mobile real estate services is increasing. These generations have come to expect virtual options for nearly everything, and home buying is no exception.

The next evolution of virtual tours

One of the most advanced companies to bring virtual tours to the masses is Guided Virtual Tours, a rapidly-expanding Tampa-based startup.  

Guided Virtual Tours is different from other virtual tour platforms—unlike traditional virtual tours that require users to click through to different points, this solution guides the prospect through the tour, selling the property just like an agent would. There’s no clicking from point to point or dragging to see different perspectives.

Instead, the prospect sits back and looks around as the VR leasing agent takes them through the tour. 

In addition, this platform is also the first proactive touring solution in the industry. Because these virtual tours can be posted on a property manager’s YouTube or social profiles, it can automatically generate new leads while giving tours 24 hours a day. 

Founder Chris Vasilakis, an American Mensa member and Marine Corps combat vereran, has a deep background in VR, having implemented it in various scenarios—including hip-hop artist management.  

After founding multiple startups in different industries, he eventually went all in on virtual reality with Guided Virtual Tours. 

According to Vasilakis, tours on his platform can be created at an affordable price, which hasn’t always been the case. “This is the future of touring all properties, allowing thousands of prospects to tour each day while reducing the need for human leasing agents,” he says. “It’ll be global—and it’s going to change the industry.”

It’s safe to say that virtual reality has enormous benefits for the year to come as our real estate landscape recovers and adapts to what I believe will be a big business boom in the near future

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What $500,000 buys in today's Canadian real estate market – Vancouver Sun

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This home is located at 80 Jenkins Drive in Killarney Road, New Brunswick.
This home is located at 80 Jenkins Drive in Killarney Road, New Brunswick. Photo by Courtesy Rebecca Steeves /PNG

Killarney Road, New Brunswick

80 Jenkins Drive ($499,900)

Located a four-minute drive from Fredericton, this New Brunswick home is reminiscent of a New England farmhouse. The five-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom two-storey features red cedar shingles and tiled floors and, in the kitchen, red shaker cabinetry with accent glass doors, stone backsplash, porcelain floors and new appliances. The kitchen opens to a formal dining room with red pine plank floors. A spacious living room and den/potential bedroom complete the main level. The upper level offers a newly refinished bathroom with porcelain floors, tub/shower with white subway tile and three bedrooms. A large master comes with a private ensuite, complete with large vanity, soaker tub, tile shower and porcelain floors. The recently finished lower level includes a generous-sized family room, two more large bedrooms, and a third full bathroom, also with tub/shower with white subway tile. Outside, a back deck and two covered front porches look out on a landscaped yard.

This home is located at 2410 Rue Ste-Catherine E., in Montreal.
This home is located at 2410 Rue Ste-Catherine E., in Montreal. Photo by Courtesy César Balbin /PNG

Montreal

#202-2410 Rue Ste-Catherine E. ($499,700)

This two-bedroom, one-bath Montreal condo offers 1,232 square feet of open space with large bedrooms and a private 20′ x 8′ terrace. It’s located in the Ville Marie neighbourhood, home to Montreal’s central business district.

1420 Dupont St.
This home is located on 1420 Dupont St., in Toronto. Photo by Courtesy Cam Woolfrey /PNG

Toronto

#1112 -1420 Dupont St. ($499,900)

Located in the Junction Triangle in Toronto’s West End, this one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo features exposure to an abundance of natural light. Panoramic views of the city are on display from the bedroom and balcony. Freshly painted with upgraded bedroom storage and glass roller door, the unit is near shops and grocery stores as well as subway and transit. Parking included.

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These are the most affordable cities for real estate in Ontario – blogTO

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If you’re looking to take the dive into homeownership but, like the vast majority of us, can’t possibly afford housing in Toronto, there are a number of nearby cities where you can get more bang for your buck (and won’t have to spend a million dollars).

While prices have continued to skyrocket in Toronto and other parts of the GTA as if there isn’t a global pandemic and worldwide lockdowns taking place, there are parts of the province where homes can still be purchased for fairly reasonable prices.

Take Kingston, for example, just halfway between T.O. and Montreal and under two hours’ drive from Ottawa.

Known for being home to Queen’s University and the Kingston Penitentiary, the city of less than 200,000 people is rich with history and beautiful heritage architecture. It also has the benefits of low crime rates.

As noted by RE/MAX, the average price of a residential property sold in Kingston in 2020 was only $464,083, compared to a whopping $986,085 in Toronto — a huge difference that just may make the move a few hours east worth it.

Then, there’s somewhere like Windsor, the most southernmost locale in Ontario.

Separated by the Detroit River from the U.S. — which actually sits to the northwest of the city — the border crossing in Windsor is the busiest commercial land crossing between the two countries, meaning it’s bustling with Americans and provides easy access to the states.

Slightly larger than Kingston, Windsor is known for its auto industry and its cheap real estate, with houses in 2020 going for an average of just $406,861, which is actually way up from the year previous.

As the experts at RE/MAX state, “when you consider that this price will not get you any house or condominium in Toronto or Vancouver, this market could be considered a steal for first-time homebuyers.”

If you’re willing to move further north in the province, things get even cheaper, even while staying in an urban centre. The average home in Sudbury, an old mining settlement that’s a four-and-a-half hour drive north of Toronto, sold for a meagre $311,940 last year.

If you’re really looking for a steal but still want to live in an Ontario city, you’ll have to go another 11 hours northwest of even Sudbury, all the way to Thunder Bay, which has a population of around 120,000 and abuts Lake Superior. It is also known for its scenic views and nearby hiking trails where residents can get in touch with nature.

While Sudbury has a giant nickel, Thunder Bay is home to a giant curling rock, as well as the cheapest home prices in Ontario: just $248,462, on average. For comparison, you can buy a coveted parking spot in Toronto for a third of that price, or the average detached home for about $1.5 million.

But, with population forever on the rise and municipalities across the province growing, housing costs are expected to increase in many Ontario housing markets this year, some of them significantly, so things may not be so affordable for long.

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