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the listing

A realtor calls out a system of inaccuracy in how living areas are measured, and Zillow rolls out a stripped-down Canadian site

529 Silvertip Pointe, Canmore, Alta.

If you spend any amount of time searching for condos in the Toronto area you'll soon notice a glaring imprecision in size ranges. A unit will often be described as "600-700 square feet," or "1,100-1,300 square feet."

Toronto real estate broker Ralph Fox, thinks that's not good enough, and it might rise to the level of misrepresentation particularly when some condos in the city are selling for $1,000 per square foot.

"I've been a broker for 10 years … it's always been an issue," Mr. Fox says. "Most recently I had a client who's relocating from Vancouver, they were commenting how [there] it specifically states the size of the floor plan. Here, there are pretty broad windows where you are really left to scratch your head. A condo is a commodity, they are really based on a per square foot basis."

Tim Syranios, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), described the range as something designed to ease searchability in the database, so users don't have to search for the exact number of a property. But he does acknowledge that while including a square footage range is a mandatory field to fill out when an agent registers a new listing, there is no requirement that an agent post the exact number. "It's not mandated, but there are many places where you can put the square footage exactly."

Mr. Syrianos says there have been no conversations at the board's committees on changing the system. "It's very possible the exact square footage is there, very likely, but not guaranteed."

Mr. Fox doesn't have detailed data to refute that claim, but a snapshot he provided of 33 recent listings in downtown Toronto showed that 13 did not have the exact square footage listed.

David Fleming, who has been a real estate agent for 14 years, says he was on TREB's condo committee in 2011 when it tried to craft a set of listing rules to provide more clarity per square foot: back then there were no mandatory square footage fields and the ranges that existed were overly broad to the point of uselessness (some agents would post a range of 500-1,000 square feet, as an example).

"I think the fear among the real estate board is: Who's the moral authority on square footage? Where do you get it from? What if the builder's floor plan says one thing, but any company that specializes in square footage comes in at more or less? Most agents would tow the company line and put a line in that says, 'The buyer is responsible for verifying all measurements.'" – Shane Dingman

Zillow moves ahead with stripped-down Canadian site

When Seattle-based Zillow Group Inc. begins showing listings of Canadian homes to U.S. buyers in 2018, those listings will likely be missing some of the critical sales data the site's 170 million users have gotten used to.

Zillow has said that is not building a full site just for Canada, but is moving cautiously begin adding Canadian listings. But eager American home buyers crawling through Zillow's pages can see the sales history of any listed U.S. property: that data simply isn't available to the public in most Canadian communities.

This remains true even after Friday's ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal that TREB cannot stop realtors from sharing home sales history with the public.

The country's biggest real estate board has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, in the meantime a number of smaller sites have raced to offer sales data, others say they are holding off until TREB has exhausted its legal options.

"It's next to impossible, for a company, domestic or foreign, to introduce a Zillow-like site across Canada … if you look at comparable sites in Canada, most don't have anywhere near the depth," says Bill McMullin, CEO of ViewPoint Realty Services Inc., based in Bedford, N.S.

His site is the only one in Canada that compares to Zillow's data offerings, and that's because province's two real estate boards are also the only ones in the country that allow the release a home's sales history to the public.

A Zillow spokesperson said this week that "our plans are unrelated to the TREB versus Competition Bureau case." – Shane Dingman

Spike in Western Canada ski properties: report

517 Silvertip Pointe, Canmore, Alta.

Sotheby's International Realty Canada is reporting a rebound in sales of luxury homes in major Western Canadian ski destinations this year. According to the company's 2017 Top-Tier Ski Real Estate Report, resort areas such as Canmore, Alta., which suffered a decline in sale volumes and pricing after 2008, are on the rebound.

"What has been interesting has been the overall return of the luxury market," said Sotheby's senior vice-president of sales and local Canmore agent, Christopher Vincent. "This year, there have been ten sales above $2-million and only four for the same time last year."

Five of those sales above $2-million were conducted in September and October this year.

"There's a lot of pent up demand for those larger homes and more luxurious properties," Mr. Vincent said. "As soon as one person jumped in, we started to see a turn in the market up there and renewed confidence in other buyers."

For instance, 517 and 529 Silvertip Pointe – both on south-facing lots abutting Silvertip golf course – sat on the market a few years ago, but Mr. Vincent's team sold them for $3.076-million and $2.825-million respectively. – Sydnia Yu

Lamb kills plan for 37-storey Edmonton tower

Plans to build a 37-storey tower in Edmonton by Lamb Development Corp. have been cancelled because of Alberta’s economic issues.

The cancellation of a Lamb Development Co. condo project in downtown Edmonton may offer further evidence that market remains overbuilt and undersold.

After a three-year struggle to obtain the proper zoning permissions, the company headed by Toronto condominium promoter Brad Lamb said last week it was cancelling a 37-storey tower project planned for 106 Street north of Jasper Avenue and refunding buyers who purchased preconstruction contracts for the Jasper House Condominiums on the Park.

Lamb blamed the economy for the demise of the project, which was intended to have begun construction this fall: "The unfortunate economic circumstances that unfolded in Alberta over the last three years negatively affected our sales projections," a company statement said.

In January, 2017, Mr. Lamb sounded a more bullish note on the city's condo market in an interview with CTV news: "The plan isn't to do two buildings in Edmonton, the plan is to do 10 buildings in Edmonton over time." The company say the cancellation doesn't mean it is done in Edmonton; it hopes to try a new project on the Jasper site, and says there's no change to another downtown tower project called North that's still in the planning phase. – Shane Dingman