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Even single Canadians who have enough money are hesitating about buying a home: Survey

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Frazer Hadwin is single, has an above-average income and $3,000 in debt. He’s looked and even bid on homes in Toronto, but Hadwin has put aside buying a place for the time being.

The 47-year-old project manager, who has worked on international events, including the London Olympics, Toronto’s Pan Am and Invictus games, doesn’t think the region’s housing market has caught up to the reality of the post-2016/2017 boom.

According to a new survey, 52 per cent of single Canadians say economic uncertainty and high home prices are making them hesitate about buying a home.
According to a new survey, 52 per cent of single Canadians say economic uncertainty and high home prices are making them hesitate about buying a home.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star File Photo)

He also has doubts about the global economy: Brexit, the unpredictability of U.S. President Donald Trump, pipelines and China are some of the international issues that trouble him.

Hadwin is among the 32 per cent of Ontario singles considering buying a home on their own and the 52 per cent of single Canadians (the number is the same in Ontario) who say economic uncertainty and high home prices are making them hesitate, according to the findings of a Leger online survey for Re/Max released Tuesday.

Hadwin says he’s not the most economically savvy guy. But, he said, “We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. Interest rates are low enough that a mortgage is still decent and even a variable rate mortgage is probably not that big a gamble. But the other side of that is that interest rates are low enough that you don’t make money on your money because the banks can’t turn it around and make more money off your money. To me it feels like we’re kind of in a stalled economy.”

The survey found that urban singles are more hesitant than suburbanites —48 versus 43 per cent — because of the high cost of ownership. Thirty-eight per cent of the singles surveyed saw a home as a good investment. Among urban residents, the number was higher at 51 per cent.

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Thirty-five per cent say they have saved the downpayment.

Among those surveyed, the 80 per cent of singles who want to buy a home indicated they have the ability.

Hadwin is one of those. He had more than $70,000 for a downpayment just before the Toronto region real estate bubble burst in the spring of 2017. He bid on a loft near Queen St. W. and Dufferin St. It was listed for $450,000. Hadwin offered $490,000. The condo sold for $650,000.

“What I’ve found is that the market hasn’t come back down to Earth,” said Hadwin.

He owns a car but doesn’t like driving in the city so really wants to live on a streetcar or subway line. He is just about to move into a rental near Roncesvalles Ave.

“I’m at the point now where (I am) talking to friends and colleagues about I’m probably never going to buy anything to live in, so maybe we should get together and buy something to turn into income,” he said.

Re/Max executive vice-president Christopher Alexander blamed government interventions in the housing market, such as the mortgage stress test that requires home buyers to qualify for loans above the consumer rates their banks offer.

“It’s concerning to see qualified buyers showing hesitancy toward home ownership. Price and economic factors aside, the additional unnecessary layers of government intervention have left many feeling pushed out of the market or uncertain of it,” he said in a release.

The survey of 590 single, divorced, separated and widowed Canadians was completed between Jan. 11 and 14. Forty-three per cent of the survey respondents said they had less than $5,000 in debt.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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