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Toronto home sellers are hiking their prices – The Globe and Mail



172 Roxborough Dr. in Toronto sold for $5.625-million, or $131,000 more than the asking price of $5.494-million.

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

Real estate prices are rising so quickly in Toronto, some sellers are raising their prices to keep pace.

The risky strategy reaps rewards on some occasions and alienates buyers on others.

James Warren, a real estate agent with Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd., recently had three buyers competing for a house in the upscale enclave of Rosedale – after raising the price.

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The four-bedroom house at 172 Roxborough Dr. sold for $5.625-million, or $131,000 more than the asking price of $5.494-million.

That’s the same asking price set in September before a reduction to $5.25-million in October. The property remained on the market through the Christmas season, when sales and price growth was unusually robust for a month of December.

By January, the seller perceived strength in the market, Mr. Warren says, and reset the price back to $5.494-million.

“We sensed the market was starting to go up.”

Mr. Warren and his partner, Christopher Killam, showed the house to three prospective buyers on different occasions and, when one offer came in, they notified the agents of the other two parties, who also rushed to the table.

Mr. Warren says the road to a sale was longer partly because of the hurdles the coronavirus pandemic threw up along the way. The homeowner first listed the house with an asking price of $5.9-million in June when the market started moving again after the spring shutdown.

Tenants were still living in the house when Mr. Warren relisted the property after Labour Day.

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Not only do parents and kids need more room for work and school under their own roof, people just crave more space.

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

“The tenants were a little bit anxious about people coming in,” Mr. Warren says.

There were also 44 listings above $1.8-million in the area after the Labour Day weekend, Mr. Warren says, compared with 24 to 26 in a typical fall market.

“That was a bit of a concern,” he says.

The tenants moved out during the fall and when the owner cut the asking price, he also decided to offer the house for lease at $14,000 a month.

By that time the house was empty, and that can make it harder for potential buyers to imagine living there, Mr. Warren says. It helped that the photos were taken while the tenants’ furniture was still there.

The owner received a strong offer to lease but by then was committed to selling.

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Mr. Warren also received a few calls from house hunters who were wondering if the homeowner would accept a lower price.

“I told them, ‘there’s no deal here – the owner doesn’t have to sell’.”

So why did buyers compete for a property that they could have had for $5.250-million in the fall?

By February, the mood of buyers had changed, Mr. Warren says. Listings were tight in Rosedale and Moore Park, and buyers were keen to move on with their lives. Families with children also time their moves to synchronize with the school year, he adds.

“People have made the decision that it’s time to make a move to a larger house.”

Not only do parents and kids need more room for work and school under their own roof, people just crave more space. One new trend he has seen is the creation of the “Amazon room,” which has come along with the rise in online shopping.

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“The Amazon room is where you can have your parcels dropped off – and you don’t touch them for 24 hours.”

And while the comfort of their homes has become even more important to people during the pandemic, Mr. Warren says that sellers who contemplate raising their asking price may or may not be successful. He advises them to assess demand in their particular pocket and look at recent sales. Some properties are listed on an exclusive basis but he recommends listing on the Multiple Listing Service of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board in order to draw the largest possible pool of buyers.

Properties with a high asking price give buyers the impression that they can wait around to see if the price comes down.

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

“You put it on the MLS and see if there’s an appetite. You’ll know very quickly within a day – we either got it right or we got it wrong.”

He says buyers keep a keen eye on dynamics in different neighbourhoods and overpriced properties will languish.

“If you’re at market value or slightly under, you will get attention,” he says. “Buyers are just not going to waste their time with a seller who’s not realistic or motivated.”

Raising the price can be successful if there are few listings and lots of buyers in a particular neighbourhood. The Roxborough house sits next to Chorley Park.

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“It was a superior location,” he says. “You can’t go wrong with 13 acres next door. There’s only so much Rosedale real estate and it’s a heritage district.”

He adds that properties with a high asking price give buyers the impression that they can wait around to see if the price comes down.

“You have to create that sense of urgency. You have to look at your merchandise.”

Andre Kutyan, a real estate agent with Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., recently took one set of clients to see five houses in one afternoon. Four of the five were showing higher sticker prices at their relaunch in 2021 after sitting on the market in 2020.

Some homeowners, he says, appear to be looking at the latest data on sales and prices and figuring that the same trends extend to every neighbourhood and price range.

In reality, Toronto is made up of micro-markets where the dynamics change from one pocket to another. In areas where properties sit longer, he says, the price hikes are mystifying.

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One of the properties Mr. Kutyan’s clients considered was a North York home near Yonge Street and Steeles Avenue that was listed in September with an asking price of $2.697-million. The house languished for five months at that price until the listing was cancelled and was relisted with the price bumped up to $2.75-million.

In the third quarter of 2020, household real estate assets rose $400-billion from the same quarter a year earlier.

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

A few streets away in the area known as Newtonbrook, they went to tour another property that has been on the market – on and off – since May, 2018.

The first asking price of $2.77-million was gradually reduced over the ensuing two years to $2.588-million in October, 2020.

The house was taken off the market for a few weeks and launched again in mid-January with an asking price of $2.748-million.

“To raise the price by almost $160,000 makes no sense,” he says.

Another a little farther east arrived on the market with an asking price of $2.499-million in September, had one price bump in November, and came out at the even higher price of $2.588-million in February when it didn’t find a buyer.

Mr. Kutyan took another set of clients to see houses in Don Mills and saw the pattern there too. But he says the strategy is more common north of Highway 401 in areas such as Willowdale, Newtonbrook and West Lansing. A lot of the traditional small bungalows have been replaced in recent years with infill homes, and these tend to be the properties where prices fluctuate.

Mr. Kutyan says some sellers clearly sense the overall market has improved, but he believes agents should be managing the clients’ expectations.

“It’s not just the sellers, it’s the agents who are drinking the same Kool-Aid.”

As for his clients, Mr. Kutyan says they’re not tempted to make an offer immediately because they’ve only recently started their search. And he doesn’t expect properties with price hikes to inspire competition.

“I don’t think a lot of these listings are heading out the door any time soon.”

At Royal Bank of Canada, senior economist Nathan Janzen and economist Claire Fan point out that higher-income households have been much less impacted by job losses during the pandemic. They are also benefiting from the era’s low interest rates.

In the third quarter of 2020, household real estate assets rose $400-billion from the same quarter a year earlier – more than four times the rise in mortgage debt over the same period, the economists say.

They are predicting that the country’s economy will be supported in the future by the massive savings stockpile that Canadian households, in aggregate, have accumulated over the last year.

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry



British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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Facebook downplays ‘old’ breach exposing info on 533 million users



Facebook is downplaying the significance of a data breach that saw the personal information of 533 million of its users accessed online, saying the information is old and the vulnerability that was exploited was closed almost two years ago.

Over the weekend, Business Insider reported that personal information of Facebook users in 106 countries was found on a low-level hacking forum, free of charge. Cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock calculated that almost 3.5 million Canadians were included.

Information included names, phone numbers, locations, birth dates, email addresses and other identifying details. No financial or payment information was accessed, Facebook said.

In a statement on its website Tuesday the social media giant said the information was gathered via a vulnerability the company fixed almost two years ago, and disputed that it was a hack.

Data scraped, not hacked: Facebook

“It is important to understand that malicious actors obtained this data not through hacking our systems but by scraping it from our platform prior to September 2019,” said product management director Mike Clark.

Scraping refers to the act of gathering information that is already out there but somewhat hidden on public databases.

The company said whoever collected and assembled the data did so by abusing the contact importing service, which allows users to find other people in their network on Facebook.

Facebook said whoever did it seems to have uploaded a large set of phone numbers to see which ones matched Facebook users.

David Masson, director of enterprise security at cybersecurity firm Darktrace, says the information has likely been out there and spread widely for a while, before being outed recently.

“It’s been on the Web for quite a while, probably for sale to people,” he said. “But now somebody’s just offered it up for free.”

Building a profile

Greg Wolfond, CEO of data security firm SecureKey, said that in a vacuum, much of the information taken can seem innocuous and harmless, but when taken together can be very dangerous.

“What the hackers do is they try and get little bits of data about you in this case something like your phone number,” he told CBC News in an interview. They can then combine that with other bits of information — an address, a full name — and start building a profile.

What’s most dangerous is once they have gathered enough to attempt to gain access to a cellphone account. With the right combination of information, a telecom company may allow someone walking in to port the account number to a new phone.


Cybersecurity expert David Masson with Darktrace says Facebook users shouldn’t assume the company’s size and scope make them better at fending off attacks. (Darktrace)


“They take over your phone, and within minutes of taking over your phone, they’re trying to get into your bank account, to get into your Facebook account, your Google account, whatever you use that phone as your recovery for,” he said.

Typically, consumers are urged to fight data theft by doing things like changing passwords frequently, and making the complex. But those things are of little use when companies claim the right to reams of data about their users, and promise to keep it safe.

“Empowering individuals to share their data and putting a responsibility on parties that have the data to keep it secure,
is super important,” he said.

Not Facebook’s first user-info incident

Although the company is downplayed in the incident, it is far from the company’s first misstep with user info.

In 2018, the social media giant disabled a feature that allowed users to search for one another via phone number following revelations that the political firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed information on up to 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.

In December 2019, a Ukrainian security researcher reported finding a database with the names, phone numbers and unique user IDs of more than 267 million Facebook users — nearly all U.S.-based — on the open internet.

Spark15:32Digital security expert shares tips on how to protect your data while working remotely 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are spending more of our time at home online than ever before – and according to Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton, this makes us vulnerable to privacy and security threats. 15:32

Facebook says it will “continue aggressively go after malicious actors who misuse our tools,” and touted its dedicated team focused on this work” but  Masson says users shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that the company’s size and scope somehow make them better equipped to keep user data safe.

“It doesn’t matter how big or sophisticated you are, they can be attacked,” he said.

Like many breaches, this one was only discovered long after the fact, and that’s because the technology company’s use isn’t keeping up with the ones the hackers are using.

“There are better technologies that actually work on what happens once the bad guys get inside your network rather than when they’re banging on the door outside. So people [have] got to realize this will happen again.

Source: –

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