Windsor Ontario News / Buildings, Homes & Real Estate

Bidding war exhaustion spurring new home sales and higher prices overall

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 13 2020

Bidding wars aren’t for everybody. Despite the fact the Windsor-Essex real estate market has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, generating huge bidding wars, new statistics from the real estate association imply that fighting over property isn’t for everyone. Lorraine Clark, president of the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors and Century 21 agent, said people are “getting tired” of the property fights. It explains a major reason the third and fifth highest dollar categories saw the most home sales last month. For example, 163 houses were sold in the $420,000-$549,999 category – the third highest. The next highest was the fifth priciest category - $300,000-$359,999 where 120 homes were sold. The same categories held true for the year to date sales, with 523 and 485 sold respectively. Clark says it comes down to not only bidding war exhaustion but the fact bidding wars are taking place over resale properties that are nowhere as nice as, in many cases, brand-new properties. “They don’t want to pay $350,000 for an old home when they can get into a new home. And of the new homes, you can’t buy anything under $395,000,” she said. So while a buyer many have wanted to originally spend less for a property, by spending a little bit more – and bumping up the price range - they get a brand new house that essentially is problem free. Covid-19 or no Covid-19, Clark said, people have rushed into the market late this spring just the way they were prior to the pandemic. “Lately from what I’m hearing out there the bidding wars are right back to the way it was,” she said. But bidding jacks up prices, another irritant, especially if the home is only so-so. “So many people are overpaying again, they’re paying way over asking, it’s crazy,” Clark said. She pointed to one buyer who picked up a $350,000 house with no basement and no garage. “You could go to a town home and get a two-car garage and it’s brand new for $395,000.” So it makes sense to pay a little bit more. Therefore the two most popular price ranges are simply reflective of the most popular market categories, albeit a little bit higher because so many of these sales are brand new homes, not resales.

Former Danny's site on hold - for now

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 23 2020

Re-development of the former Danny’s nightclub site on Riverside Dr. and Hall Ave. has been slightly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mid-South Land Developments purchased the property almost four years ago and demolished the long-time male strip club that was a landmark along the riverfront and attracted legions of women customers from Windsor and Detroit. Mid-South, with a track record of largely commercial projects under its belt for decades, is owned by the Maggio family. It also recently re-developed the Old Fish Market downtown. The concept on Riverside is a very handsome, with historical flourishes, four storey office building encompassing 38,000 sq. ft. and tailored or subdivided to meet clients’ needs, Anthony Maggio said. But that’s part of the problem right now. Beyond the shock of the immediate shutdown of busines because of the pandemic, once businesses get back on their feet they might change their priorities for office space compared to what they would have wanted pre-pandemic. “Nobody knows how to handle what’s going on right now,” he said. “Whether they need 10,000 sq. ft. or whether they go down to 5.000 sq. ft. because half the people are going to stay home? Or do they need 20,000 sq. ft. because they need to spread the people out further from each other? So these are things that a lot of these companies are dealing with today.” Maggio said there definitely has been interest and he has been in talks with one significant would-be tenant and said if there was enough overall interest, pandemic or not, construction could begin even later this year. He said ideal tenants are professional offices such as legal, engineering, architecture, and consultancies. He lauded the site as being close to downtown with a spectacular river view and easy access. It's surrounded by residences but has been zoned for offices. “If we had an anchor tenant then definitely we would proceed,” he said.

Photo: Mid-South

Biggest challenge of new $45M city core apt complex? Building a snake pit

WindsorOntarioNews.com May 27 2020

You might think building a $45 million, six storey 152-unit apartment building - the first such structure in the city’s core in three decades – would be welcomed enough. And the City of Windsor certainly did help developer Rob Piroli, who called its help “just wonderful” for getting the project through the site plan control and rezoning process. In addition, the project qualified for valuable property tax incentives. But constructing a brand new building on a three decade old deserted 3.4 acre lot at the corner of Wyandotte and Crawford didn’t go entirely perfectly. A major challenge wasn’t at the city level but at the provincial. It was found that there was an endangered species at risk on the lot, the Butler’s Gartersnake. “So, we had to do a lot, a lot, a lot, of environmental work to get our approval,” Piroli said. First, the company had to prepare environmental studies “to see if there was snakes there, there really wasn’t but we had to go forward as if there was and then there were some sightings,” he said. Then the company had to design – over three quarters of an acre – a snake habitat. “So, we had to build snake hibernaculum which are underground snake pits filled with rubble and (snakes) can get in there to hibernate. We have to build (massing) areas above ground (where) they can sun and eat,” he said. But that was “not enough.” Piroli also had to build a snake crossing in another area of Windsor. “So, I’ve got to improve the site forever and then I also have to improve an off-site area forever,” he said. However, cooperating with ministry protocols wasn’t good enough. He found the Ministry of Environment dragging its feet. The ministry was “not understanding” the challenging nature of the project and that he had to meet construction deadlines, especially if the building, known as West Bridge Place, was to open by this August. Frustrated, Piroli sought help from MPP Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent-Leamington) to move the project ahead. It has cost Piroli $150,000 for the studies and he probably will spend another $100,000 on the snake project. “It’s been a very large challenge but we’ve gotten through it.”

Commercial landlords aided, still waiting for help for residential owners

WindsorOntarioNews.com May 7 2020

While a new provincial-federal aid program helps out commercial landlords those who rent to residential tenants are still waiting for support. The new commercial program begins mid-May. It allows commercial property owners who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic to apply for a forgivable loan of up to 50% of rent payable by their small business tenants. The Ontario Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (OCECRA) will be available until September 30, 2020 and will be retroactive to April 1. Those eligible include landlords who have experienced at least a 70 percent drop in revenues due to the impact of Covid-19 and tenants who are paying less than $50,000 per month in rent. Meanwhile the Ontario Real Estate Association has called on the provincial government to aid residential landlords. “A significant number of Ontario’s rental-housing providers are mom and pop landlords who have saved tirelessly to purchase their income property and depend on it for retirement or income today,” association CEO Tim Hudak (photo) says. “There is also an unfortunate risk of more evictions once the State of Emergency expires if rental-providers are unable to recover foregone income.” Such a program should include “clear accountability measures” to link funding to individual leases and shortfall verification. “Strong penalties should apply to anyone who tries to take money from those who need it by falsifying claims,” Hudak says in an open letter to Ontario’s housing minister Steve Clark. Other jurisdictions like British Columbia and Prince Edward island have brought in such assistance.

Photo: OREA

Home builders still on the job, but

WindsorOntarioNews.com April 3 2020

Most local home building contractors are still on the job though some employees have opted out of coming to work because of the Covic-19 pandemic, says the head of the Windsor-Essex Home Builders Association. Ryan Lane of Cutting Edge Insulation said the industry employs about 10,000 people from supply chain through construction. And there are about 1,000 housing starts currently underway. He said he has let employees in his own firm, who don’t feel safe coming into work, stay home. But virtually all local home builders and most subcontractors are still on the job. However, major commercial and residential construction firm Petretta decided yesterday to close doors. Lane said project timelines are tending to stretch out as sub trades extend their work one by one rather than in a group. He said one factor in contactors’ continuing to work is fear that if they close shop a competitor might take the work and then they’d be locked out of future business. Lane said construction is still deemed an essential service although some in the industry “would like” if it wasn’t so they could shut down without ramifications. Lane said the province might revise that criteria soon. And while construction may seem like a business that could run fairly effectively despite coronavirus social distancing measures, that isn’t true for many jobs. For example, installing drywall – “where two guys have to hold a panel” – or hanging windows, require less than two metres distancing, he said. Also, smaller contractors might only have a few crew trucks and therefore employees must ride together in close proximity.

Former student residence also awaits Ambassador Bridge wrecking ball

WindsorOntarioNews.com March 25 2020

The hulking gray and brown building in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge is perhaps the biggest example of numerous vacated, boarded-up and fenced-off properties in the neighborhood just west of the bridge in Old Sandwich Town. The building at 2856 Riverside Dr. W., has been fenced off for some time. The name of the former occupant, Waterfront Villa, A Student Residence, is still attached to signage and to the building itself. Previously, the building was the Villa Maria Home for the Aged. As a student residence it was privately run and not part of the nearby University of Windsor. “The University of Windsor never had any ownership or stake in that building or its operations,” Lori Lewis, a university spokeswoman, said. In fact, the building – just like numerous homes in the adjoining area – was purchased by the Canadian Transit Company, the company that owns the Canadian half of the Ambassador Bridge, some time ago, and awaits demolition for a new bridge span. “It is located within the Federal (Canada) Ministry of Transportation permit area for the bridge company's second span,” the city’s chief building official John Revell said. The bridge bought up some 120 properties, had them vacated and boarded them up for demolition. The bridge seeks to construct an entirely new bridge. A bridge company official did not reply to a request for comment.

Local winery sells highly unproductive north shore Lake Erie vineyard land

WindsorOntarioNews.com March 3 2020

After almost 20 years of trying to cultivate almost 200 acres of vineyard, Colio Estate Wines has thrown in the towel. The oldest of Essex County’s modern group of wineries that dates from 1980, Colio found it was just too difficult to get good grape crops from vines planted almost literally along the “north shore” of Lake Erie. Ironically, the Essex County wine region is known as “Lake Erie North Shore” and includes 11 wineries. That of course doesn’t mean there is inferior local wine product. But certain vineyards, such as those in one area of Colchester immediately north of County Rd. 50, proved extremely unproductive. Colio’s president Jim Clark said the acerage “has not performed at all” and likened cultivation difficulties to a “perfect storm” of elements that conspired against grape growing. “Just bad luck, we just couldn’t catch a break there,” especially in the last several years. The company recently sold the land to an Ottawa-based agricultural land investment company Bonnefield Farmland, which buys property and leases back to growers. “It wasn’t for a lack of investment and want … Polar Vortex, Siberian Express, and hail are three things you don’t want to talk about when you own a vineyard,” Clark said. “We experienced every one of those in the last 10 years.” Clark said other wineries have found the immediate area unproductive as well. He said losing the property, despite investing about one million dollars, will not effect the winery’s grape supply. He said Colio also has a smaller vineyard near the actual winery site in Harrow and contracts with independent growers for most of its grapes, like most Ontario wineries, and those grapes come mainly from Niagara. “There’s not a lot of fruit down there,” he said of Essex County. The Colchester property sold for $2.4 million. Meanwhile Colio continues to expand its Thornbury Village Cider & Brewery near Collingwood with a 50,000 sq. ft. addition where it sells Thornberry branded beer and cider in the Blue Mountains region. Colio bought Thornbury in 2016.

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Major multi-unit complex to transform south Windsor

Castle Gate Towers, a large multi-unit several story residential and commercial complex, should finally get under construction next spring, and has the potential to transform south Windsor. Abdul Habib of Karim Homes and Royalty Homes, a longtime Windsor area home builder, said he has rejigged the project from three buildings to two buildings and eliminated underground parking. He now will go back to the city for re-approval. “This is a really unique area,” he said of the greenfield site near Windsor Airport and the South Windsor big box retail complex. – 7/7/20

Recycling changes shouldn't affect area

Don’t expect much change in local municipal recycling as a result of future changes to the system at the provincial level. The province is negotiating with the commercial producers of the recycling product streams that go into blue and red boxes to have them take over the entire cost of recycling. Currently they split the cost 50-50 with municipalities. The Globe and Mail says “draft plans” have indicated that small communities under 5000 people, as well as public schools, could lose service. But Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority GM Eli Maodus says that shouldn’t be a problem locally. First, there are no communities under 5000 because all (amalgamated) municipalities have populations 20K-plus. As for schools, “I personally believe that this matter will be resolved somehow through a collaboration between the province, municipalities and producers so that those recyclables do end up being collected by one of the parties,” he said. – 6/4/20

Res development proposed for former Science City building

A developer wants to turn the former Canada South Science City building in a dense residential area of the city into an institutional residence. The one time 1970s era two story De Santis School at 930 Marion on the southeast corner of Niagara St. would become either a senior retirement home with 81 units and 67 parking spaces, lodging facility with 81 units and 67 spaces or residential apartments with 40 units and 67 spaces. Single family homes mostly surround it. The proponent is Michael Anobile with his agent Vijay Vasantgadkar Architect Inc. In a report, the police service welcomes a 24-hour residence. The building’s current vacancy status makes it prone to crime and a “review of our police incident response records to the property reveals this (to) be occurring to some degree now.” A rezoning request from institutional to residential district goes before the city’s development and heritage committee May 11. (UPDATE June 4: City Council this week gave approval for an 81-unit seniors' assisted care facility.) – 5/4/20

Iconic Dearborn hotel owned by Canadian

The Edward Hotel but for most Windsorites who remember, the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, is owned by a Canadian. The hotel opened to great fanfare in the 1970s and included a monorail connecting it to the adjacent Fairlane shopping mall. The monorail shut down in the late 1980s. The owner’s name is Xiao Hua (Edward) Gong. The hotel was shuttered more than a year ago by the City of Dearborn for a plethora of violations. Gong, a Chinese-born businessman who emigrated to Canada, bought the crescent-shaped hotel for $20 million in 2016. But city inspectors found plumbing leaks, damaged ceiling tiles and broken elevators. The Detroit Free Press reported that the Canadian government has accused the businessman of a $200 million fraud scheme “by selling health supplements, such as seal oil and anti-smog pills, and nearly worthless stock certificates to would-be investors, who were mostly in China.” Money from the scam was allegedly used to purchase the hotel. Gong has denied all allegations. A spokesman for Gong said the hotel has virtually completed massive repairs and hopes to be able to reopen “within the next couple of months.” That was in February. With the coronavirus outbreak that opening has likely been put on hold. The spokesman Odey Meroueh said city inspectors were “very impressed” with the “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions” building upgrades. – 4/3/20

Hot realty market has chef turn house flipper

The hot Windsor area real estate market has been a boon to one Windsor man, who has changed careers to profit from it. Chad Price is former culinary chef at a couple of Windsor eateries. But now his focus is on flipping real estate. (Price, as a hobby, also had a new children’s book out - his first - 'Just My Imagination' - see WON Arts & Entertainment). “I’m on a new venture right now (with a partner), we’re buying and flipping houses,” he says. “The market’s so good.” The only difficulty is being yet another buyer in a major buyer’s market. “It’s just tough getting a house because always we’re dealing with 15 people bidding on a bouse, so it’s just outrageous. Sometimes a house goes for $60,000 more than what they’re asking so it’s more like a lottery.” Price has long been doing home improvements so moving into flipping was a natural. Despite any buying obstacles – i.e., major competition from other potential buyers - Price and his partner are closing in on acquiring their sixth house. – 2/12/20