Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Leaving Toronto

So we have decided to take the leap and buy a home here in Canada. Home prices are continually rising, and we figure we'd better start sooner than later.

Real estate is pretty scary here - the cost of a home is out of reach of most Canadians earning average wages. From our (limited) observations, a "single family home" here is almost 4 times the price of a similar home in Joburg. A 3-bedroom single detached home will cost you at least C$250,000 (R1,6m) - and this is not taking location in to consideration. For an upper middle-class neighbourhood and outside of the main city (suburbs) , it's at least C$350,000 (R2,3m). Within Toronto, the prices start at C$450,000. As a comparison to our R650,000 two-bedroom townhouse in Douglasdale: something similar in a comparable neighbourhood in Toronto would sell for $395,000 (R2,5m). Unlike Joburg, the further out you move from the Toronto city centre, the more affordable it is. So, we looked around in Toronto and have decided to move to the 'burbs.

After much deliberation, we have chosen to buy a semi-detached home in the city of Vaughan.
Vaughan is the "city above Toronto" in the so-called "905" area (where Toronto is the "416" area). The numbers refer to the telephone dialling codes (i.e. Joburg would be the 011 area and Pretoria would be the 012 area). Based on the 2001 census data, Vaughan was the municipality with highest growth in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and 6th highest in the 2006 census. Although Vaughan is north of Toronto, it's much of a muchness in terms of distance to work - Brendon and I both work in the northern part of Toronto, and in fact we will still be within 15 kms of our workplaces. The only difficulty will be public transit, as we will be in York Region which has its own transit authority.

We have chosen an area called "Thornhill Woods" (you can read more about the area in the GTA New Homes magazine or here) where there is a lot of development - the area having been established as recently as 2001. Our home is in phase 2 and is set to be finished and ready to move in in September this year. This works out well for us, as our current lease expires at the end of September. We have signed an Agreement to Purchase, and then starts the fun of figuring out Canadian mortgages and real estate law. On the plus side, we will soon have to go to the builder's decor centre to select fittings, finishes and 'upgrades.'

Then there'll be regular drives out to the site to check on progress - we'll keep you posted as things happen!

This was our lot a few weeks ago...

This is it 4 few weeks later (this past weekend):

Monday, 23 April 2007

Seasonal Temperatures

We have just had a fabulous weekend, with temperatures in the 20's. Unseasonably warm.
Yet, this week is set to cool down again, to... unseasonably cold. I've come to the conclusion that seasonal temperatures mean very little in Canada (well, Toronto at least). We did not have a White Christmas, but instead celebrated a White Easter.

Speaking of which, Good Friday is a statutory (public) holiday here, but Easter Monday is not. It was strange not having the extra long weekend, especially since SA has so many holidays around April/ May. Easter Monday means banks and government agencies are closed, but us plebs still have to go to work. I do find it ironic that the US does not even have a Good Friday holiday, whereas India does. Well, now I know... I almost made a huge mistake by giving my staff the day off on Easter Monday.

My Easter weekend was upset by the news of SA's loss to Bangladesh in the Cricket World Cup. We drove out to Guelph (about 120 kms north west of Toronto) to visit Anita (my sister-in-law) and family and heard the news on arrival there. Arrghhh!

Anyway, cricket is very low on the horizon of Canadians, even though there is actually a Canadian team in the World Cup. This team is very representative of the immigrant population ;) Well, with so many South Asians in my office, at least I have people to chat to about the cricket, who know what I'm talking about. (Try explaining the game by comparing cricket to baseball that the North Americans do understand!) The worst part is not having freely available access to watch the cricket matches. In order to watch, you need to subscribe to the CBN cable channel which launched a special channel package for the World Cup - a grand sum of $180 (about R1200).

Oh well, we're apparently not missing much. Good luck to the Proteas on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Seasonal Changes

At last.... Winter seems to have passed. However, the weatherman has predicted some light snow for the upcoming Easter weekend, so it's not yet time to pack away the coats and gloves. Some work colleagues have scared me by telling me there have been years with snow still in May!

The past week had some beautifully warm days. It was quite amusing to see Torontonians eagerly strip off their jerseys and coats, and rush out of the office early to bask in the sun at some outdoor cafe. Funny how 12C in spring is 'warm', but 'freezing' in autumn!

The snow has all melted away, with only a few large lumps of snow in some parking lots. All it took was one weekend with mild weather (i.e. above zero celcius) and sun, and all the pretty white snow disappeared, leaving the ground wet and squishy. With the milder weather has come rain and grey overcast days. I can hardly wait for full-blown Spring with its promise of colourful, sunny days.

What is a bit strange for me, is feeling so 'down' at this time of year. I'm used to an energetic start to the New Year, but with the cold weather here, it's hard to get motivated and moving.
Our apartment, while not much smaller than our old place, feels more cramped because it's long and therefore dark as there are only a few windows at the front and back. I really do miss the sunshine, and I'm craving the summer - although most likely I will be complaining about the humid heat in a few months' time... ;)

Daylight Savings kicked in a lot earlier than usual, with Canada following the US's early switch in an effort to conserve energy (So Toronto is now 6 hours behind SA instead of 7.) Now, in early Spring (April) it is still light until 19h00. By July it'll still be bright until 21h00... it's going to be strange leaving work late with the sun still shining!