Green Renovations — Basements

Virtually all homeowners will find something of use in this detailed and practical fact sheet from Central Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC).  If you’re planning a basement renovation, it’s a must read, filled with time, energy and money saving tips, features and advice on how to green any project, from extensive, expensive renos to slower, more affordable and incremental upgrades.   The guide explains nine site factors to consider during the planning stage (structural conditions, air quality and circulation, moisture and water problems, mold, lead, asbestos and soil gases) as well as steps to remediate, when necessary, or incorporate corrective actions into your renovation plans.  There are specific suggestions for each type of upgrade including lighting, plumbing, flooring, painting, mechanical and electrical.   The fact sheet also details CMHC’s  five principles of Healthy Housing™ and  includes a concise checklist that all homeowners contemplating a reno can use.  To read more ...

Emotional Homebuyers Can Lose Out On The Best Deals

    When we really like a property, we can overlook or downplay its negative aspects.  This homeownership.ca post advises us to approach purchasing a home as a business decision and to remove emotion from the decision.   Before viewing any properties, contact a financial adviser to set your budget, a mortgage broker to get pre-approval for that amount and a real estate agent familiar with the area(s) you like.   Call and introduce yourself to 3 professional home inspectors – one should be available when you’re ready to bid, so you avoid stressful delays, and any temptation to skip the inspection.  The inspection is a critical step that ensures the structure, environment and operating systems of your dream home are safe and sound.   We are often seduced by facade, but the things we cannot see (outdated furnace, inefficient systems, roof defects, foundation problems, building code violations, mold) can ...

6 Sneaky Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive

  If you want to convert your home’s look from average to exceptional, this Realtor.com post by Jamie Weibe tells you how.  Remove mismatched decor items, store toys/magazines and organize your things to fix a cluttered appearance.  Clean and re-grout tile to make it look new.  Use traditional, neutral tones to freshen paint in areas that need it.  Upgrading hardware, faucets or countertops are all relatively inexpensive ways to give kitchens and bathrooms a more luxurious appearance.  Adding or rearranging lighting can create an illusion of space and separate rooms.  To read more click here.   ...

Underwriting insights! What Every Homebuyer Should Know Before Applying for a Mortgage

  This homeownership.ca post tells why an understanding of underwriting is a key advantage for home buyers seeking a mortgage.  Work with a mortgage professional to get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know your price range and can make an offer instantly.  The pre-approval process determines the size of mortgage and type of home you can afford.  You will need to assemble your credit report and other documentation (financial and employment history, creditworthiness, income) the lender or mortgage insurer needs to process the application.  The documentation required varies depending on individual circumstances.  For example, self-employed applicants should be prepared to prove a consistent level of income over at least two years.  To read more click here.     ...

Create a beautiful bathroom for the ages

  As people age, reduced mobility, impaired balance, failing vision and muscle weakness make them more susceptible to injuries in their home, and bathrooms are no exception.  This Consumer Reports article tells how the latest design trends are helping owners upgrade their bathrooms with changes that enhance safety while retaining their beauty and avoiding an institutional look. In addition, subtle name changes have made useful improvements like shower rails (formerly called grab bars) and higher-seated toilets (“comfort height”) more acceptable.   By widening the bathroom doorway, removing the raised sill and replacing knobs with easier-to-open handles you improve access. Installing slip-resistant tile or vinyl and/or shower bars will reduce the risk of falling.  To reduce glare, mount lights on the side of your mirrors, not above, and bring in natural light with windows or skylights.  Design the sink area to be suitable for all ages and abilities.  Wall mount sinks provide room ...

Why Cleaning Window Screens Should Be Part of Your Winter Strategy

  Should removing and cleaning the window screens be part of your winter maintenance routine? According to this houzz.com post, there are several benefits to be gained. Simply put, dirty mesh blocks light, heat and the view. For example, you get 30 to 40 percent more light coming in without screens on the windows.  More sunshine means you need less artificial light and can save on energy costs.   In addition, removing the screens increases the solar energy getting through to the windows. Improved solar heat gain reduces the need for mechanical heating saving on heating bills. Also, during a storm, snow gets caught between the window and screen which can damage the frame.   Wait until after the first freeze, to avoid bugs, and take the opportunity to inspect and repair the screens, where necessary.  To avoid damage, vacuum the screens with a brush attachment. Then, use a soft brush or ...

Ottawa Real Estate Update: November 2015

Mild weather and post-election enthusiasm spurs on home buyers!   Statistics are useful in establishing trends but should not be used as an indicator of an increase or decrease in value of specific properties. If you are curious about the value of your home and/or specific neighbourhood statistics we would love to help. Contact us.         Information below provided by the Ottawa Real Estate Board December 3rd, 2015 Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 990 residential properties in November through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 891 in November 2014, an increase of 11.1 per cent. The five-year average for November sales is 944. “Mild temperatures in November, combined with increased activity post-election, were key factors in the Ottawa resale market performing exceptionally well in November,” says David Oikle, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “The positive increase in condo sales may ...

Not Only Millennials Want Walkable Communities

  A walkable community is well-planned, compact and designed for people to walk to work, school, parks restaurants and activities as a form of everyday transportation.  According to a National Association of Realtors survey, more and more buyers want to live in walkable communities.  The study found that fully 12% more Millennials, the generation born between the mid 1980’s and early 2000’s, would rather walk to their destination than drive.  But, fitness enthusiasts and eco-friendly individuals also desire walkable neighbourhoods.   Aging In Place   Older Canadians want neighbourhoods that better fit their changing requirements.  As baby boomers enter their retirement years, they will increase demand for senior housing and neighborhoods where they can more easily reach amenities, take care of daily needs, and access health care.  The physical and/or financial requirements of maintaining their homes may be too much.  Many cannot, or choose not to drive, so a development that is ...

Higher electricity costs: how to circumvent them

  Because the cost of electricity is expected to rise as a result of the federal Liberals’ green energy policies, prudent investors should pay attention to the energy consumption of their rental properties. This Canadian Real Estate Magazine post advises landlords to find ways to become more energy efficient such as installing programmable thermostats and motion sensor lights. More important is to pass the higher cost of hydro on to their tenants, whenever possible, and to implement an energy consumption ceiling for their all-inclusive leases.  To read more click here. ...

9 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Appliances

  This slide show from Bob Villa is an excellent visual representation of how NOT to treat your appliances. For example, an overloaded washing machine stresses the bearings and misaligns the drum. Overfilling the freezer can block air vents, restrict the flow of cold air and overtax the condenser. Clean spills right after using the oven as they can damage the heating coils. To read more click here.   ...

Ottawa Named 3rd Best City in the World for Quality of Life; Here’s Why

  In this Point2Homes post, Nadia Balint attributes Ottawa’s stellar, but unsurprising (to locals),  ranking in the recent Numbeo Quality of Life Index to three characteristics: Ottawa is young and fun with almost half the population under 35, it promotes and supports family life and the housing is relatively  affordable.  The Index rates factors like purchasing power, safety, property price to income ratio, and pollution.  To read more click here. ...

Your Complete Guide to Pest-Proofing This Fall

  To prevent an onslaught of pests from occupying your house as the weather cools, simply  follow the National Pest Management Association guidance presented in this post from Bob Villa. Seal cracks in the exterior envelope, especially where utility pipes enter, with silicone caulking.  Fill larger gaps inside your home with steel wool. Pests avoid the roughness of the steel fibers and rodents cannot gnaw through it. Repair ripped window screens, door sweeps and loose mortar in the basement foundation, screen dryer vents and chimneys and replace weather stripping to seal these ideal entry points. If you suspect an infestation, hire a licensed pest control professional to assess the situation. To read more click here. ...

Your Guide to 10 Popular Landscape Paving Materials

  If you are considering landscape paving, this excellent Houzz.com post by landscape architect Falon Mihalic includes guides to 10 of the most popular materials.  Focused on cost, climate, maintenance and functional application, the guides explain the pros and cons of cast-in-place concrete, the cheapest option, pre-cast concrete, gravel, limestone, brick, slate, tile, bluestone, granite, and travertine.  Mihalic also notes that many of the materials can be reused and suggests where the cost and/or environmentally conscious consumer can find them.  To read more click here. ...

How to Stage Your Home for Fall Showings

  This Zillow.com post by Nathalie Wise suggests that the time and cost of staging your home can result in higher sale prices and less time on the market.  Remove clutter, store items that could distract viewers and move furniture away from walls to make your spaces appear larger.  Clear counters and deep clean everywhere because it’s still the best way to make a house shine.  Allow potential buyers to visualize themselves in the home by taking down family pictures that could impede their imagination.  Open curtains to let in natural light and hang mirrors to bring light and life to a space while making it look larger.  To read more click here. ...

8 Deer-Resistant Elegant Evergreen Shrubs to Plant This Fall

  Shrubs bestow privacy, a sense of enclosure and a splash of colour during winter.  In this houzz.com post, Brian Barth gives hope to discouraged homeowners who are tired of watching the local deer population feast on their shrubs.   Needle-bearing shrubs like the juniper will survive deer grazing, but they can lack artistic appeal.  Barth identifies 8 other options that have at least one redeeming aesthetic trait besides being evergreen.   Heath and heather are an unusual group of low shrubs with colorful flowers and needle-like leaves that change colour as the weather gets cold.  Doghobble spreads as it grows,  making it ideal for erosion control, and forms a 2 – 4 foot high copse of glossy green foliage with white flowers and branches that have a graceful arching quality.   Boxwood can be pruned into any shape so it is perfect for elegant hedges (10 inches to 10 ...

How Will Real Estate Markets React To The Liberals’ Election Victory?

  The Liberal Party’s successful election campaign included a promise to stimulate the economy by increasing infrastructure spending with deficit budgets. How will these changes effect the country’s real estate market? Until details are released, the exact consequences are difficult to determine, but some possibilities have emerged.   Foreign Investment   We don’t know what will follow the Liberals’ change in fiscal direction (deficit spending versus balanced budgets), but, if the promised infrastructure spending materializes, it could boost annual growth in 2016 and 2017 “by up to 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points respectively,” according to a TD Bank report.   However, the $10-billion annual spending promised by the Liberals won’t significantly impact the overall valuations of the Canadian economy. So, foreign investors are not likely to be frightened.  As evidence of that, the Canadian dollar dropped on election day and throughout the night as results came in, but the loonie ...

Winter Lawn Care: 4 Steps to Protect Your Turf

Home owners may be surprised to discover that fall is the most important season for lawn maintenance.  But, as we learn in this houselogic.com post by Lisa Kaplan Gordon, it is much more important than spring.   Aeration allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach roots, and gives seeds room to sprout.  Turf roots grow best in fall and winter when the soil temperature is cooler, so fall seeding ensures optimal growth.  Fertilize in late fall with phosphorous or nitrogen rich (10% – 15%) product.  Finally, mulching, rather than raking and removing the leaves is preferred because the shredded leaves will protect and feed your lawn during winter.  To read more click here.   ...

Seven Monthly Bills Most People Have, and Seven Ways to Reduce Each Bill

  In this article for The Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm targets energy, water, car, mortgage/rent, internet, insurance and cell phone/telephone payments and gives specifics on how to lower each monthly bill.  Insurance costs drop if you increase your deductible. Reduce phone costs by using Skype, lowering usage and ditching the landline.  Save on energy bills with programmable thermostats, timers and energy-efficient lighting.   To read more click here. ...

6 Misperceptions About Home Staging

  In this insightful Realtor Magazine post, interior decorator and professional stager Patti Stern explodes six myths about home staging.   The Cost of Staging For example, some sellers consider staging too expensive.  In reality, it actually saves you money because 95 percent of staged homes sell in 11 days or less and sell for 17 percent more than homes that are not staged.  Thus, staging costs are lower than the carrying charges (mortgage, utilities) you will pay if the house takes a long time to sell.   The Difference Between Decorating and Staging She also points out that decorating and staging are different since professional decorators consider the home owner’s tastes while and a professional stager understands the marketplace and has the experience to prepare a home so it appeals to as many potential buyers as possible, regardless of taste. They also have the objectivity to neutralize and remove items ...

Home Improvements – Do It Yourself Or Hire A Professional?

Completing a DIY project can be tremendously fulfilling and financially rewarding. But, bite off more than you can chew, and you might be looking at some major expenses to fix the damage or, even worse, a catastrophic incident. Before grabbing your toolbox, accomplish a quick risk-reward analysis. Then, determine if you have the skills and tools for the project. Finally, decide if you have the available time and are inclined to invest it in the task. These guidelines will help you decide whether to swing a hammer or write a cheque. Reno Risks And Rewards First weight the expected benefits and savings against the costs and potential risks. Rule out certain types of projects right away: those that have the potential to seriously injure you or severely damage your home. These include anything involving main electrical lines or natural gas pipes. You don’t want to burn your house down or ...

Holiday Entertaining Made Easy

Is the whole family coming to your home for the holidays? Or perhaps you’d like to share some festive cheer with your neighbors? Whatever the reason, ’tis the season, so now’s the time to start planning. Stock Your Pantry — Get ready for hosting with a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Must-haves include quick, no-cook appetizers; basic baking ingredients; spices and marinades; and frozen puff pastry, pie and cookie dough. Set the Mood — Keep decorative accessories handy during this season of entertaining. A vase with fresh-cut flowers and tea lights in frosted glass holders are enough to add that festive touch. Pre-Plan and Prep Cook — Come up with a few go-to holiday menu plans and try to prep cook many of the elements in advance. This will prevent you from spending the day slaving over a hot stove and allow you to enjoy your guests. Find a Place for Everyone — Consider your holiday hosting capacity. ...

4 reasons to buy a home before the end of the year

Does cooler weather mean that you should cool down your house hunt?  Absolutely not!  Sellers who have homes listed during the colder months are usually motivated to sell and list prices are typically lower in December…but wait…there’s more! Traditionally, housing markets cool down at year end, but this Business Insider post suggests taking advantage of four factors that could work in your favour.   First, borrowing rates are exceedingly low and that means you save a bundle. In addition, the seasonal slowdown means fewer buyers submitting competing bids for choice properties which could put you in a strong negotiating position. There are also the tax benefits of home ownership and inexpensive low down payment options to consider.   To read more click here. ...

How Will Legalized Pot Affect Canadian Real Estate Markets

No matter what you think about the ethics or morality of legalizing marijuana, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has promised to do just that during their first term.  The fact is, we started down that path when medical marijuana was legalized. So, how will this impact real estate markets in Canada?         The Colorado Housing Market Exploded We see clues to the impact of mainstreaming the recreational marijuana business in Colorado, the first state to replace prohibition with regulation. On 01 January 2015, they celebrated their first year with operational adult use marijuana stores and, perhaps coincidentally, there was also a huge increase in real estate prices. Though it’s difficult to separate the pot boom from the growth of other industries, in Denver, the city’s economic health has led to a serious increase in home values. The median home price in Denver is up 15.9% from last year. Vacancy rates ...

Market Update | Ottawa Real Estate Stats October 2015

  Here are the latest statistics from the Ottawa Real Estate board.  Statistics are useful in establishing trends but should not be used as an indicator of an increase or decrease in value of specific properties.  If you are curious about the value of your home and/or specific neighbourhood statistics  please contact us anytime, we would  love to help.   Information below has been provided by the Ottawa Real Estate Board “October Home Buyers weren’t spooked by election results.” Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,161 residential properties in October through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 1,119 in October 2014, an increase of 4 per cent. The five-year average for October sales is 1100. “Our October numbers show we outpaced last year and the five year average,” says David Oikle, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “Buyer activity was expected to taper off leading up to ...

Home Buyers: To Inspect, or Not To Inspect

To Inspect, or Not To Inspect You’ve just purchased your dream home and your salesperson is recommending an home  inspection before signing the final conditions. Is it worth $400-500? Now is the time to ignore your emotional attachment to the property, and make this a business decision. The answer is, “Absolutely!” The inspection is a critical step that ensures the structure, environment and operating systems of your dream home are safe and sound.  We are sometimes seduced by facade or the presentation of a property , but the things we cannot see can lead to expensive repairs or health concerns. Remember, this is the environment where you and your loved ones will live. So, this is also the time to identify air quality concerns, safety hazards or health and environmental risks. Understanding the inspection process will help you set realistic expectations, while taking steps to protect your family and finances. ...

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