It’s no secret that condo builders are designing condo units smaller and smaller. A recent study showed that the average condo size has shrunken as much as 20% from what builders were offering a decade ago. The reason for this is simple; builders realized that in the same amount of space, they can sell a lot more units by making them smaller.
Most people would argue that bigger is better, when it comes to condos. As much as I agree that bigger condos are better than smaller condos, it is important to point out that smaller condos are cheaper to furnish and easier to clean.
In this short blog post, I want to cover 5 cool tips and tricks I have made available to my buyers, who are looking to get the most out of their smaller condo units.
Think Twice, Buy Once – When it comes to small spaces, believe me – less is more. If you see something in IKEA which you would like to have in your condo, sleep on it for at least 3 days before purchasing it. If you still feel as strong about it three days later, go ahead with the purchase. Remember your condo must have consistency, so if your sticking to the modern look, don’t go out buying an old school style chair.
Bed Storage – Under bed storage compartments such as these ones are great for storing off-season clothing and things you don’t need.
Customs closets – If you have the privilege of having a walk in closet it may be a good idea to install a custom California style closet such as the ones offered here and here. These are not cheap to purchase, but when you are selling your unit, these will definitely help your unit stand out from the rest.
Vertical Space – The one advantage most smaller unit condos have is that they have 9 foot ceilings. Higher ceilings open the possibilities to use hanging bookshelves, DVD racks, upper storage in closets, track lights and more! You have the space, lets use it!
The Bed/Desk combo – One of the most common dilemmas owners of small condos in Mississauga face is what to transform their dens into. They like the idea of having a mini office, but at the same time, they want to have the option of another bed in the den, just in case a friend wants to sleep over. The solution? A desk which transform into a bed as seen here in the 2013 fall home show.
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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 and is filed
Since the New Year, the Mississauga condo market has been heating up. Over the past two weeks, I have been featured in several news publications, including The Globe and Mail and YourMississaugaBizz. Based on those publications, I have decided to release a blog for anyone considering selling their condo. In this blog post, I will talk about “upgrades” that seem to sell condos faster. I would argue that as much as 80% off condo buyers in today’s market look for the following upgrades (please keep in mind that this again does not apply to every condo buyer, but has been made based upon my individual observations):
1. Most buyers prefer dark hardwood floors, especially young people. The trend seems to have shifted away from lighter floors and light kitchens to darker ones. I noticed recently, that those that have lighter floors and a light kitchen have a harder time selling their unit as compared to those sellers with dark floors and darker kitchens. Therefore, make sure to choose dark colors such as a nice espresso or cappuccino for your kitchen and floors. Keep in mind that darker colors look more prestigious and chic.
2. Kitchen stainless steel appliances are another important upgrade in the unit. We are shifting away from white and black appliances and ultimately it seems that stainless steel appliances are preferred. Even though they get fingerprints on them, which can be cleaned by wipes, many say it just looks better with a dark kitchen, that it never looks outdated and that they are very durable and resistant.
3. Color excitement –Keep your paint colors neutral. A lot of times sellers like their paint creativity. Buyers on the other hand prefer to paint their condo themselves. Some colors are great. Sometimes you even find a buyer that likes one wall being a nice rich brown color and if not, no problem, one wall is a quick fixer upper they can look past. However, when your condo is a lime eco green, you have to keep in mind that not everyone has your taste. Sometimes it’s better to just take out those paint brushes and paint your unit white to get your unit sold quicker. Remember, that sometimes people cannot look past the walls and lose interest in your unit, even if it’s a great unit.
4. Upgraded bathrooms. Believe it or not, but you can make your bathrooms stand out in today’s market. A lot of buyers seem to like rain showers in their shower cabinets. Nice tiles, such as dark inside the shower and the floors with either white or dark cabinets seem to be fancy. Marble floors or sink areas seem to be very common. For those that don’t like dark tiles, cream tiles also seem to be “in trend” with darker cabinets and cream marble sink tops. You can also play around with the tile shapes. Some like long rectangular tiles, others prefer them squared and at an angle. Sinks can be round or a square. If they are undermounted – that’s a huge visual bonus for a potential buyer. Bathrooms definitely leave a lot of room for creativity when you choose to upgrade them.
5. Everyone prefers it neat and tidy, especially inside a closet. Of course women love the “Sex and the City” closet. However, those custom closets usually cost a lot of money or are just impossible to fit inside a condo. Furniture stores like IKEA have made it easy with closet organizers. These are just as good as Carrie’s big, shelved and spacious custom designed closet and also affordable. IKEA also gives the option of shelves, drawers, racks, or baskets to organize your closet and to allow you to design it so it fits into the closet space in your unit
Some things that sellers should really avoid when upgrading:
1. Window coverings. Many seem to invest in drapes and all kinds of window coverings. Keep in mind that not every buyer likes those outdated drapes or silk curtains. Rather have nothing in your unit, or at least take them with you to your new place. If window coverings are an absolute necessity, invest in simple blinds. The vertical plastic ones are not great, they seem to tangle and twist. Sometimes fabric blinds are simple and great.
2. Too many colors. Condos look nice if they are in the same color sequence or consistent. If you upgrade tiles in bathrooms, try to use one color. Ex: if you opt for dark cabinetry, then choose cream tiles and keep them consistent in the shower and on the floor. Too many colors just make it seem like you didn’t know which color to go with because you liked more than one. Also, try keeping it consistent by choosing similar tones for your kitchen and hallway. To make it less boring, as mentioned above, choose different tile styles. Go for rectangular ones, wide, narrow, small, big, put them in at an angle, choose a glossy/shiny finish or a matt one.
3. What seem to be really outdated are carpets. The trend has shifted away from carpets as well as rugs. Once upon a time rugs seemed to illustrate wealth, but today they just seem dull and simply put, not nice looking. If a buyer wants to buy a small rug then it is personal preference. The other thing with carpets is that they always seem to look dirty. Even the best carpet has spots and they are so hard to take out. If you have carpets in your bedrooms, opt for hardwood flooring. An extra room of hardwood is inexpensive and takes an afternoon to install.
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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 and is filed
The process of purchasing a condo can bring mixed emotions for many buyers. It’s very common for condo buyers to feel excited, indecisive and even at times confused. It is my job, as their Realtor, to step in and guide my buyers to see the “big picture” from an objective point of view. This includes several key elements:
- Making sure that my client gets to see the best condos which match their criteria
- Making sure that my client does not get “emotionally” attached to any property
- Ensuring that once we find a property we like, we end up purchasing it for the price and conditions which make sense
In this blog post, I want to focus on the first point – “choosing the best condo”. I will cover some of the things buyers often miss when selecting that perfect condo.
Selecting The Perfect Mississauga Condo
With over 50 condo building apartments in downtown Mississauga and over 450 active listings, it would take a buyer 56 days to see every single MLS listing. This would include visiting 8 properties a day, 7 days a week for almost two months straight! Clearly, this approach to finding the perfect condo, would not be very realistic or practical. The more sensible solution would be to hire a Realtor, who works in the area and who can narrow down this search. This is where I come in; and make the process of buying a condo as smooth as possible. Here are just some of the often missed, yet important, points I make my buyers vary of.
Elevators – Elevators are one thing many buyers take for granted. Condo shoppers often assume all condos have elevators which work in the fashion. This is far from the truth. The number of elevators, the speed of the elevators, and the number of people using the elevators can have a drastic impact on how fast one can get in and out of their condo. Thus, certain condos in downtown Mississauga are easier vertically accessible than others. Get a good idea of how the elevators function in the condo you like.
Underground Garage Doors – Many condo buyers are surprised to learn that a few of the newer condos do not actually have garage doors. For example City Gate’s garage is accessible from the street, and there is no physical barrier seperating the garage space from the street. It almost feels like your driving into an alleyway. Although there are many reason for this, I would argue that the primary reason would be to cut down on maintenance fees. Just imagine how many times those garage doors open and close every single day, and how much wear and tear is caused by this. After some time, condo garage doors fail, and fixing them is not cheap. Guess who ends up paying to fix them? You guessed it. The condo owners.
Views – The one aspect you can never change about a condo is your balcony view. Thus, selecting your preferred view is one of the most important elements of the condo shopping experience in Mississauga. If you’re a morning person, then you would probably prefer an east or south/east view as this will allow sunlight to enter your suite in the early parts of the day. On the other hand, if you are an evening person and would like to see sunsets, I would advise going with a west or north/west view. Also, ask your Realtor about future nearby condo projects, which can potentially affect the enjoyment of your unit.
Accessibility & Lifestyle – Not all condos are the same. Some are known to be more “busy” whereas others have a more “relaxed” lifestyle to them. Some condos are known to have more young people and others are known for their mature crowd. Some condos are known to attract investors and have a lot of units rented out, while others are mainly owner occupied. The list goes on and on. For my clients, I ask a series of questions which enables me to narrow down the condo search and find the perfect unit in the shortest amount of time.
All of these 4 keys points are not only important to you, because they will affect your condo lifestyle but also they have direct affect on the future resale value of your unit. As always, I suggest working with a Realtor who specializes in a particular geographical area. As a final note, I would like to remind condo buyers, that my Realtor services are 100% free to you, as the seller is responsible for paying my commission. Interested in a condo in downtown Mississauga? Contact me, I can help.
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Saturday, December 15th, 2012 and is filed
The above is a picture of Square One taken back in 1973 of what is known today as “downtown Mississauga”! Back then, there were only two main streets – Hurontario and Burnhamthorpe and Square One’s food court was outside. Square One was also surrounded by farms all around it. Since then, much has changed; one of those being available parking spots. In this blog post I will cover everything you need to know about parking spots!
Before The Mississauga “Condo Boom”
Before the start of the condo boom in the 2000’s, parking spots where a dime a dozen. Many older condos came with 2 parking spots as a default, and adding another vehicle to the family was not an issue. There was less cars in Mississauga, thus finding an additional parking spot to rent for “cheap” was relatively easy. High rise buildings also had a healthy surplus of visitor parking spots just in case you wanted to throw that party and have guests sleep over. What is interesting is, that not only was there more free parking spots during this time, but also the parking spaces where larger in size.
Current State Of Parking Spots
Currently, as far as I know, all condos in Mississauga come with at least one parking spot with the unit. I would estimate 10-15% of newer condos in Mississauga come with 2 parking spots or 1 tandem parking spot (1 larger parking space that fits two cars behind each other). Additional parking is available around the City Centre area for roughly $60-100 per month in older condos, and as high as $120-150 per month in newer condos. If you wanted to purchase a parking spot you can expect to pay $15,000-$20,000 for an existing spot or $20,000-$25,000 for a pre-construction condo parking spot. For those who think that is a lot of money, in downtown Toronto parking spots are known to sell for $40,000-$60,000 per spot!
Here are 3 things you should know about parking spots:
- Prices for monthly rent for parking vary substantially. If you live in a newer condo you may want to consider renting a parking spot from an older building across the street.
- Owning your additional parking spot may cost you $25-40 extra per month in condo fees.
- Sometimes you might be better off renting a second parking spot as opposed to buying a unit with two parking spots.
Predictions For The Future
My prediction is that parking in Mississauga will soon become similar to parking in Toronto. By that, I do not mean our Square One mall will start charging for parking (like Eaton’s Center in Toronto), but rather parking spots will soon become optional for newer pre-construction condos. With pre-construction condo prices hovering between $425-$450 a square foot and steadily increasing, developers will look for ways to cut costs on the purchase price of newer condo units to attract buyers. This can be accomplished by not including a parking spot by default, and charging a premium to buyers who desire a parking spot with their condo purchase.
A brilliant move or a recipe for disaster? That is something you will have to answer for yourself, however keep in mind the following: The construction of the LRT, the rising costs of living and the strong demand for condos in Mississauga. However, there are still valid questions being raised with regard to Mississauga’s real estate growth.
Will parking spots become (as the Globe and Mail put it) an endangered species? That is something we will have to wait and see to find out.
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 and is filed
Before I take my clients out for showings, I always ask a series of questions which help me select the right units for us to see. One question, which seems to always come up is whether my clients want an “older style” or “newer style” condo. By older style condo, I mean; any condo in Mississauga which was build before 2001 and by newer condo, I mean; any condo in Mississauga which was built after 2001. In this blog post, I will cover the advantages and disadvantages of older and newer condos.
Older Mississauga Condos
Most condos in Mississauga built before 2001, are 1,000+ square feet in size, have baseboard heaters and glass enclosed solariums instead of balconies. They offer a great solution for those looking to raise a family or perhaps entertain many guests. Many of these condo units that are found inside older condos, have been extensively renovated to look and feel newer.
Advantages of older condos include; good sized units, affordable pricing, and lower condo fees per square footage compared to newer condos. Older condos usually have a formal dining room where the entire family can sit down and eat supper. These condos typically allow the owners to have pets and the condo rules and regulations tend to be more lenient.
On the other hand, disadvantages of older condos include; having a dated building, dated amenities and possibly no balconies. Not having a balcony can impose a challenge to smokers and to those who are claustrophobic and afraid of enclosed rooms. As a final note, older condos tend to have a lower appreciation rate compared to newer condos.
Newer Mississauga Condos
After 2001, developers really re-examined the way condos were designed. They decided to make the individual units smaller, the building more visually appealing and expanded the common elements. Newer condos are designed to target the young couple, the successful entrepreneur, or the elderly person looking to retire and live a worry free life-style.
The most obvious advantage of buying a newer condo over an older condo, is that the newer condo has a “newer” feel to it. This includes; an up-to-date gym, concierge, an upscale interior lobby, a newer kitchen and a newer bathroom. Also, Square One condos that have been built after 2001, have balconies, which many older condominiums lack.
The biggest disadvantage, for many, of a newer condo is its small size. Newer condos in Mississauga are known to sell for more than $400 per square foot, whereas older condos sell for about $200 per square foot. Therefore, old condos appear to be a “better value for your money”. Some critics point out that newer condos do not have enough storage and closet space, which often poses challenges in a small 600 square foot 1 bedroom unit.
There are obvious pro’s and con’s to both older and newer condos. When determining which type of condo is right for you, it is important to keep in mind three main points:
1) How much space do you really need?
2) What is your budget?
3) What type of condo lifestyle do you desire?
If you are still unsure, which type of condo is right for you, I suggest you ask your Realtor to show you both older and newer condos, so that you can get a better understanding of which style is right for you.
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Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 and is filed
One of the most common overlooked downfalls of living in a condo is the possibility of having a weak cell phone reception signal. The reason that I call it a “downfall” is because, unlike houses condos are known to have thick concrete walls which can at times prevent your cellular phone from operating properly inside. This can include users experiencing dropped calls, poor signal reception or dead zones. If cell phone reception is a priority to you, I would strongly suggest taking your cell phone with you when viewing condos for sale. By doing so you can make sure that the condo you are planning to purchase can provide adequate cell phone coverage.
I was experiencing cell phone connection issues in my own Square One condo (Skymark West) so, I decided to dig a little deeper, and try to locate the source of the problem and find a reasonable solution. What I found out is as follows: cell phone reception is dependent upon the distance and projectile signal path to the nearest cell towers, carrier and plan, carrier load, weather conditions and finally the phone model itself.
Square One Cell Phone Tower Location
Having a direct unobstructed projectile signal path from your condo to the nearest cell phone tower should be your number one priority. Since I was using an iPhone 4s on the Fido / Rogers GSM network, I decide to download an app from apple called “FindTower”. Within minutes I pulled up all the nearby cell phone signal towers pointing to downtown Mississauga (see Figure 1). Using this data, I knew that I had to find a way to amplify the signal from the nearest tower into my condo. Below I will discuss the device that I decided to test.
The Z-Boost complete system goes on eBay for around $300, and is based on the principle of taking an already existing strong signal near a window or on a condo balcony and amplifying that signal inside the condo. I have owned this piece of equipment for several years now and used it in my previous house that I lived in. At the time, I found it to be very helpful since it took my lousy 1-2 signal bar that I received in my Mississauga basement, and amplified it to a full 5 bar solid reception. However, once I moved into my Mississauga condo I found that the device did not work as well as it did in the house. I later on found out that the external antenna and base of the system required a minimal 25 feet of separation between the two for a successful amplification of the signal. I soon realized that I could not achieve this kind of distance in my condo, thus I had to look for another solution.
A good colleague of mine, Todd Lee, suggested I explore bluetooth options in order to improve my cell phone signal. After doing some online research, and hearing good things about the product, I decide to try the Panasonic KXTG773B with the link-to-cell feature. This home phone which sells for roughly $100 at future shop, works by linking your cell phone to your home phone via Bluetooth. Meaning, if you set it up, you can have your cell phone near a window where you have a good connection transmit the phone call to your home phone which you can use anywhere in the condo. However, unfortunately this product did not work for my problem as I expected. The sound quality was choppy and people could not hear me well. I believe that in order for this setup to work, it required a near perfect signal for the iPhone, which was located on the window ledge. Unfortunately the best signal I could achieve in my condo was only about 60-70%.
At this point I thought I was out of options, until something unexpected occurred. Last week, a good friend of mine came by my condo, and while he was here he made a few phone calls from his cell phone. Unlike myself, he experienced no signal problems whatsoever. I was amazed. It then occurred to me that he was using a very simple non-smart phone and he was on the Public Mobile network (a much smaller provider than Fido). I decided to do some research further online and for reasons unknown to me; I soon came to a conclusion that simple basic phones generally outperform complex smartphones when it comes to signal strength.
My solution for now is to forward all phone calls from my iPhone to a basic cell phone by Public Mobile while I am in my condo. I also found Public Mobile plans to be very cheap ($19 a month for unlimited talking) and the phones are very simple to use. On the downside I now have to pay for two cell phones and remember to carry them around with me everywhere I go.
For those looking for an even simpler solution, I would recommend forwarding all your cell phone calls to your home phone while you are at home. The only thing is you always have to remember to turn “call forward” on and off, while you leave or arrive at your condo.
Have you been experiencing cell signal issues inside your Mississauga condo? Got different suggestions how to improve reception in condos? Please share below.
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Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 and is filed
One difficult choice that buyers are faced with when shopping around for a Square One condo is the decision as to which floor to purchase the condo unit on. Although, I do not promise that this article will give you a straight answer as to which floor to select, it will make your purchase decision more clear as you will become more aware of the pro’s and con’s of high and low floors.
Low Floors in Condos
Let’s start off with the lower floors. Those who choose to live on low floors mainly do it for the safety and convenience. Typical responses vary from “I’m afraid of high floors” to “what if my kids were to fall off the balcony”. Lower floors are also better accessible for elderly people or people in wheelchairs. Unlike with high floor condo units, the option to use the stairs or elevator is always there, which is also a plus. The other day, I had a customer joke that if a condo fire occurred, the fire truck’s ladder would only reach the seventh floor, so he advised me that he wouldn’t want to live higher than the seventh floor.
On the other hand, other people see low floors, particularly first level units, as invitations to burglars. They assume that the first level condos provide easy access for those looking to break into units.
It’s important to note that the chances of an extreme fire or a first floor break-in are rare in a condo; however this artificial threat perpetuates a real fear which influences the decision of many condo buyers.
High Floors in Condos
The most obvious advantage of owning a high floor condo unit is the beautiful view that it can offer. For many, having big floor to ceiling windows and a gorgeous “million dollar view” of the Toronto skyline is important when shopping for a Square One condo. It only makes sense that the higher you go in a building the more spectacular the view.
For those who wish to be high up, point out that it is a bit quieter from all the commotion that might be going on the street below. Also, they claim that the plumbing (ie. someone flushing their toilet or showering) can’t be heard as loudly as on a lower floor. Others say that they cannot hear their neighbors above them walking or moving furniture.
Some disadvantages for higher floors are that they have lower ceilings as compared to the lower floors. The wait for the elevator is much longer and noise from the AC or other machinery on the roof can be heard.
Are Floor Premiums Worth the Money?
With pre-construction condos in Mississauga, a $1000 floor premium is the industry standard. Meaning, new builders typically charge $1000 per floor, starting from the first floor or second floor. From my observations, the low floors and the high floors sell out first, leaving the floors in the middle to sell over a longer period of time.
With resale condos in Mississauga, the option to find a condo on the desired floor may not be as easy. Usually there are only a few units available for sale in each condo and they may not necessarily be the number one floor choice of the buyer.
How do floor premiums translate into resale and market rental value? Through my close market analysis I came to a hypothesis, that with newer condos people do justify paying the floor premium for a higher floor. They also do not experience difficulties regaining that money back should they sell their condo within a few years. However, as the condo gets older (and by older I mean 20+ years), the justification behind paying for a higher floor does seem to deteriorate, and people do seem to entertain a low floor condo unit with a lower price over a higher floor condo unit with a higher price.
Strangely enough, floor premiums have very little effect (if any) on the condo rental market in Mississauga. People who are planning to rent typically do not put huge weight on the floor level on which they will be renting on. This might have something to do with the fact that they do not plan on staying there forever, as well as, the low vacancy rate on the Mississauga condo rental market.
In conclusion, it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of high and low floors. Consider not only how you (the purchaser) can benefit from the selected floor, but how it will impact the future sale of your condo unit. Remember that if you are planning to buy a condo as an investment and want to rent the unit out, my advice is to not over pay for floor premiums. Hope this article gives you a clear insight in floor premiums found in Mississauga condos.
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Monday, February 20th, 2012 and is filed
I often get the following questions asked by buyers looking for Mississauga Condos. What is the best condo layout? What is the worst condo layout? What should I look out for in a condo layout? I always like to say that it all depends on personal preference and style. However, some points are good to keep in mind.
1. Well managed layout – Space is not wasted. Example – too many hallways. Location of the washer/dryer should not be inside a bedroom.
2. Walls – Ideally two bedrooms should not share a common wall between them. It is much nicer to have one bedroom on one side and the other bedroom across from it.
3. Amount of lighting – Having a window in the Master bedroom for more lighting is a must. However, sliding doors where light comes through should be avoided. It is also essential to have lighting or extra lighting in walk-in-closets.
4. Kitchens – Open kitchen concepts have become very popular over the last few years. It makes the entire space look bigger and you are not shut off from view.
5. Spacing – Wide units appear to be more spacious and look great compared to long and narrow units, where you might feel like you live in a corridor.
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Monday, January 23rd, 2012 and is filed
When purchasing a brand new condo, also known as a pre-construction condo, there are a few things to look out for while deciding on the perfect unit.
1. Location – Once you buy any property, you may change many aspects of that property. However, one aspect that you can never change is its location. A condo such as the Absolute Towers at Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario, will be a lot more active and busy, than the Miracle at the west end of Mississauga. Do not be fooled by condo pictures as they are mere artist impressions. It is a good idea to take a look at the neighbourhood and see what is out there.
Therefore, the number one priority when purchasing a new condo in Mississauga is to decide on the lifestyle that you want, and to keep in mind the surrounding area.
2. The floor plan – Memorize your floor plan and take a look at already constructed market comparables. Over the years, condo suites got smaller, yet the price per square foot increased rapidly. In turn, condo developers started to play around with different aspects of floor planning, such as shrinking the size of the furniture on the picture layout. Therefore, what appears to be a queen size bed in the picture, is only a double size bed in reality. Also, a 600 square foot condo may look a sufficient size on paper; however, when built and ready to move into, some might find the space too small for their needs.
3. Pay attention to ceiling height – When buying a new Mississauga condo, know the difference between 8, 9 and 10 foot ceilings.
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Thursday, January 19th, 2012 and is filed
With Square One condo prices on the rise, it’s no surprise that this in turn has sparked a debate over the efficient use of square footage within units. Over the past decade, we have seen bedroom sizes shrink, and secondary washrooms along with walk-in closets become mainstream. This transformation has Mississauga condo shoppers closely scrutinizing condo unit layouts, trying to decide how to get most for their money. Let’s examine some of the advantages of having a 2nd bath and a walk-in-closet.
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Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 and is filed