The new king of the castles

Michael Kalles (MBA ’97) has been gradually taking over Harvey Kalles Real Estate since the late 1990s, but the turbulent market in the past year put him through his first major management test, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 19 in an in-depth feature. The firm came through strongly: Kalles was the No. 1 brokerage in Toronto from January through September, eclipsing all the franchise operators.

Michael grew up in the business, said the Globe, which noted his mother, Elise Kalles, is the closest thing to a celebrity agent that Toronto has. After getting a general degree, he wanted to join the company, but his parents were against it, urging him to study something else first. He nevertheless enrolled in a realtor training program, then did an MBA at the Schulich School of Business at York University in development, followed by a related post-MBA diploma.

James McKellar, academic director of the graduate program in real estate & infrastructure at Schulich, thinks Michael Kalles is significantly underplaying the threat of technology on the real estate industry, the Globe reported. “Any process in which there are so many intermediaries is subject to technological change,” he says. “These people are brokering information, and technology is going to erode their ability to control it.” From Web sites and social media – which let people advertise their properties – to Google’s Street View feature that enables buyers to explore homes and neighbourhoods by simply typing in addresses, consumers are gaining more and more power over the process. “It’s like going to Ikea,” says McKellar. “If you can do some of the work yourself, you’ll save money.”

The shift toward consumers handling more of the purchase or sale workload will likely erode agents’ ability to demand five per cent of the purchase price, the standard commission that hasn’t changed much over the years. “Brokers are petrified that someone will challenge that five per cent fee,” says McKellar. “How many other parts of the business world can say, our fees never change? It’s like some sort of secret society.”

The big leap from quick peek to search warrant

When I first saw the media coverage of last week’s door-to-door visits conducted by the police in search of clues to the disappearance of Mariam Makhniashvili, I was puzzled, wrote Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in an article in the Toronto Star Nov. 19.

I…could not understand the concern until I came across an article in which the lead investigator suggested that a refusal to invite police into one’s home for a “quick peek” could lead to the issuance of a search warrant to force entry into the home.

A quick peek upon invitation may or may not be an effective law enforcement technique for the tragic disappearance of Mariam, but it is not outrageous or Orwellian. However, a veiled threat of a raid upon refusal to allow a peek is an affront to constitutional rights.

Where fridges are reborn

What goes on at the Oakville ARCA Canada facility…is almost reminiscent of the traditional philosophy of First Nations people toward nature, which was respectful of the natural resources and ensured that every last possible bit of it went to good use, wrote the National Post Nov. 19, in a story about the refrigerator recycling company.

“Recycling the metal as much as possible is very desirable because you achieve huge savings in energy and other environmental impacts by making steel from secondary steel, and with aluminum that’s even more so the case,” says Mark Winfield, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

Rex Zero character has a new home in the Diefenbunker

Imagine being a kid living in Ottawa in the early 1960s, wrote the Perth EMC Nov. 19. The Cold War was everywhere. People were building home bomb shelters. Air raid sirens were strategically located around urban centres. Schoolchildren were taught how to crouch to protect their heads from flying debris after an explosion.

The Canadian government fuelled the hysteria with public messages warning residents to be prepared.

That’s the world that Rex Zero called home. A fictional character created in the mind of Canadian author and York fine arts grad Tim Wynne-Jones (MFA ’79), Rex Zero is the central character of a series of books that bring the era to life.

Though Wynne-Jones was born in England, he was raised in Canada, primarily in British Columbia and the Ottawa area. He started writing professionally in 1979 after winning the Seal First Novel Award for his suspenseful adult novel Odd’s End.

“I felt the $50,000 prize was a good way to begin a writing career.” Since then he has completed two more adult novels, nine children’s books, as well as an opera libretto, a children’s musical and a dozen radio plays for CBC. He has also won the IODE Book Award, the Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award and an ACTRA Award.

On air

  • Ashwin Joshi, director of York’s new Schulich MBA Program in India, spoke about the program, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Nov. 18.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the space shuttle’s latest mission, on CTV News Nov. 18.