The Changing Face of the GTA Housing Market

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The headlines across local and national media outlets all agree. “The market has changed.” “One of the country’s hottest real estate markets might be cooling down.” “Toronto home sales drop most since recession.” The GTA housing market is finally cooling.

After years of extraordinary home sales and incredible price jumps in the GTA, we might finally be seeing the market even out. Potential GTA home buyers had got to be relieved when the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reported the GTA housing market’s declining numbers last month. For years, the red-hot housing market has favoured sellers (and new home and condo builders). It’s been a tough go for buyers, who have had to compete with investors and deal with rising prices and limited availability, and has contributed to the GTA market’s vast expansion. Now, with more homes on the market and prices going down, the market is starting to look more balanced.

These changes are being partially attributed to new rules put in place by the Ontario government to cool down the housing market – the Ontario Fair Housing Plan. The new rules include a 15 percent foreign buyers’ tax, rent controls that limit annual increases, and several other measures. Coupled with changes last year from the federal government to tighten up mortgage lending regulations, which restricted the amount of debt Canadians can take on, it’s natural to see demand for homes declining. There are many factors at play.

It’s too early to tell the long-term effects of this recent dip. It has definitely made an impact, and will make it easier for buyer demand to be met. But as Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis, reports, “the actual, or normalized, effect of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan remains to be seen.”

AI Video Development Is The Future Of Content Sharing

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It’s no secret that video is the king of shareable online content. Larger media publishing brands, like Mashable – for example – have been rolling with this trend, and developing daily, timely, and relevant video content that is generating unprecedented levels of engagement. In fact, Facebook reported, as of early January, that its platform has over 100 million hours of video watched each and every day. For smaller brands, though, such a high turnaround of videos can be daunting, expensive and unrealistic. A handful of new start-ups, however, are offering tools that eliminate the need for in-house video production, or any video production for that matter. Welcome to the dawn of artificially intelligent video making.

Two companies, Taiwan-based GilaCloud and USA-based Wibbitz, have developed online dashboards that allow you to turn articles your brand is already creating into visually compelling summary videos, complete with royalty-free background music. Both services use AI technology to scan your online articles for keywords, highlights, and overall tone, and instantly comb the net for corresponding images (from services like Getty Images and Reuters), video, or necessary sound bites. They then arrange them into a branded, HD video ready to post across all of your networks.

Granted, these services are far from free and don’t advertise their prices publicly. The costs, though, when stacked against the expenses of equipment, editing, and music/image clearances, are likely to be more than reasonable; as well, there’s the fact that you can develop an unlimited amount of content for a set monthly/annual fee. It’s unlikely that these two companies will be the only players in this field for long. Will AI become the future of video development?

Cardboard Offers Innovative Solutions For Brands

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Virtual reality – as cool as it is – definitely isn’t for everyone. For one, it isn’t free, which can limit the audience. Dependent on the system you choose to go with, there’s a headset to purchase, and customized experiences take engineering and programming to develop; however, the rise of Google Cardboard, offers a huge opportunity for brands. It leverages smartphones, which most consumers currently possess, and creates immersive, unique VR experiences without the need for a complicated learning curve or expensive hardware. For those who don’t know, Google Cardboard is a complete virtual reality platform developed at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris. It’s commonly used with low-cost viewers, made of foldable cardboard (hence the name), 45mm plastic lenses, and a magnet or taped lever to operate the screen.

Regarding real estate, builders could – instead of traditional brochures – offer branded cardboard viewers, complete with instructions for downloading a simple web based app for either IOS or Android phones. The app could take users on a Cardboard compatible tour of a virtual sales centre, complete with home designs, prices, and interactive site tables.

There are some 360-degree cameras which are currently available – meaning brands can develop their content in-house, and use hosting through YouTube to deliver the content to clients, or to third party apps. If you haven’t explored YouTube’s 360-degree video capabilities yet, you’ll want to go ahead and do that. VR is the future, but leveraging Cardboard’s potential is an excellent way to provide innovative experiences to traditional homebuyers without scaring them off.

Another Step Towards Online Home Purchasing

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Recently, to make the home buying process even more simplified, we introduced an online reservation system on the Pine River website for our clients Lancaster and Zancor. Our system is integrated into the builder’s CRM, so while browsing through the selection of towns and detached home designs, users can select their favourite and choose/reserve their preferred lot within a real-time community site plan. It is also programmed for architectural control, meaning users can only put home designs on appropriate lots. The tool is even able to tell them the grading, closing date and final price – including all premiums. To top it all off, the site lets users save/view their favourites, remembers recently viewed designs, and displays popular designs to buyers based on their browsing habits.

The next step is for buyers to visit the Presentation Centre (of their chosen builder) in person, and finalize the deal. Their hold is only placed until the Saturday of that week These innovative features provide more control than ever over the process by allowing prospective buyers to fall in love with – and lock in – a home and lot without any roadblocks.

This is extremely exciting for the team here at BAM, as we’ve been continuously working toward the inevitable ability for buyers to make a complete purchase online. With electronic signatures now being legally binding, the concept is entirely viable; there has already been some success with online home sales overseas. With the increasing complexity of the sites we’ve been building for clients, buyers are currently able to make a near-purchase decision, and in more than 80% of the cases, a full purchase decision before they step foot in the Presentation Centre. Allowing them to take the next step, right then and there, seems like a logical progression. It also opens up the possibility of virtual sales centres, or even just live chat attendants, which would let buyers talk to a representative right on their device and clear up any concerns or misunderstandings.

This online reservation system is an enormous accomplishment and an exciting look at what’s to come here at BAM. It’s one step closer to our goal of making the home buying process a fully digital, and seamless, experience.

Windows Are Getting Smarter

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We’re indeed living in a smart world. From ultra-intelligent phones, intuitive lighting that patterns itself to our lifestyles, and new-age home monitoring and heating/cooling systems, the market is ripe with a vast array of game-changing automation solutions. This trend is showing no signs of slowing down, and the newest thing to become smarter is something that many of us may never have considered – windows. Windows serve a vital role in our everyday lives, even if we never think about it. They’re a barrier to the elements, hold in heat and cool air, and provide natural light in our living and work spaces; however, they don’t always work the way we need them to. At certain points throughout the day, they may provide disproportionate amounts of light, causing potentially uncomfortable shifts in temperature, and rendering certain areas less than ideal for periods of time. Imagine having windows that adjusted to fit your needs, and worked in a way that is conducive to the lifestyles of those in spaces they service? Thanks to the well-funded start-up View, smart windows are becoming a reality.

View, which recently added over $150 million to their already large $500 million investment, is making dynamic glass powered by a sophisticated intelligence engine that responds intuitively to outside conditions, day or night. This type of customization and optimization of light helps to reduce glare, make the most of the daylight and provide energy savings. As well, you can reduce electricity usage by roughly 20% annually with these windows – huge savings. The windows can be controlled, monitored, scheduled – and audited for efficiency – from anywhere in the world, via a mobile app, which reduces reliance on individuals having to be physically at the location to make necessary adjustments. It also provides benefit to companies with more than one location, who may want to monitor or control multiple areas/spaces remotely.

Without a question, smart windows are a logical evolution. It’s interesting to imagine what other types of intricate “smart” development we can expect next. Perhaps, smart water modulation systems that monitor water usage? Regardless, smart windows are an excellent addition to every green developer’s arsenal, and it will only be a matter of time until they become widely available on a smaller scale/consumer level.

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