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Should I Buy or Should I Sell First?

October 21st, 2016 by freemanrealty

The real estate market offers consumers a laundry list of questions, decisions and quandaries, some large, some small. Perhaps one of the first such that springs to mind for the home buyer is the not-so-simple question of should you sell first or buy first.


How you approach this issue depends on a number of factors. Should you buy before selling, your main consideration has to be whether or not you can afford to carry two properties should your existing house sit on the market for an extended period.

A second, though equally compelling factor, centres on how active the real estate market is in the area in which you’re buying and selling. The GTA’s very active market has prompted something of a reversal in the traditional approach which dictated that you sell your home first before shopping for another. This turnaround has occurred thanks to the speed with which homes are being sold.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to either choice. Let’s take a look at both options:

Buy First:

There’s nothing like shopping for a new home. Each dwelling offers endless possibilities and it’s important to hold out for those must-haves on your list. Without a closing date hanging over your head, this makes the house-hunting process all the more enjoyable. If your offer is unsuccessful, you can wait it out until the next perfect home comes along.

But the downside to buying first is that you could end up with two homes. Can you swing two mortgage payments in addition to the other expenses associated with owning two homes? That is a consideration you need to address before shopping for a new house.

While you can protect yourself by making your offer conditional on the sale of your current home that would be a tough sell especially in Toronto’s overheated market.

The final consideration is that buying first may force you to sell below true market value because you feel pressured to meet the closing date on the house you bought.

Sell First:

As mentioned, this was the traditional approach, when homes sat on the market for weeks and sometimes months.

Perhaps one of the biggest pluses to selling first is that it gives you a better idea of what you can afford for your next home. It also automatically removes any risk of you owning two homes at the same time.

The disadvantage, of course, is that you may feel under the gun to buy a house in order to accommodate your closing date. That’s never a good strategy and can result in you paying more than you should have for a home you’re not crazy about. One way around this is to seek a closing date that is longer than the usual 60 or 90 days. That way, you have more time to find your dream home. Another less desirable option is to rent until you find your dream house.

Either way, it’s wise to always have a plan in place should you find yourself with two houses or needing to bunk temporarily with family or friends.

The Ghosts and Haunted Houses of Toronto

October 14th, 2016 by freemanrealty

There is nothing like the month of October to bring out thrills, chills and tales of things that go bump in the night. Toronto has its share of real estate that is reported to be haunted so in honour of this bewitching month let’s take a look:


Perhaps the most known haunted house is the Keg Mansion, a popular Jarvis Street restaurant and former home to the Massey family. It is said that a brokenhearted maid hung herself in the front foyer after the death of Lillian Massey. Restaurants patrons have said they’ve seen a frightening apparition hanging and some have reported hearing the voices and laughter of children from the upper floors.

This 200-year-old Georgian manor, now known as the Grange is reputed to be home to the undead. Witnesses report seeing a man, who may be Goldwin Smith or Algernon Blackwood, both writers who lived there at one time. Reports of a lady dressed in black haunting the second-floor bedrooms exist as well as accounts of other ghosts in and around the staircases.

Old City Hall is believed to house the spirits of many, including Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, who were the last two men to hang in Canada. It’s said judges have heard footsteps and felt tugs on their robes, while the frightful moans of locked up prisoners have been heard in the cellar. Some say a presence is felt in the northwest part of the attic.

Gooderham and Worts Distillery co-founder James Worts committed suicide in 1834 following his wife’s death. Legend has it that Worts makes his presence known by opening and closing doors, making odd banging noises and turning lights on and off.

The historic house known as Colborne Lodge on the south side of High Park is said to be home to the spirit of Jemima Howard, a former mistress of the house. More than 100 years after her death in 1877 she has been seen staring out of one of the upper storey’s front windows — that same room in which she died. Other ghosts are said to haunt the main staircase, the hallway leading to Jemima Howard’s deathbed and even the grounds outside.

Christie Mansion is perhaps the creepiest tale of all. The Victorian home at Wellesley and Queen’s Park Crescent was the home of Robert Christie, of Christie cookie fame, who despite having a wife and family, managed to keep a mistress locked away in a hidden windowless room in the same home. She was not allowed to leave the mansion and her only visitors were Robert and his servant. Eventually Robert lost interest and she hanged herself out of loneliness. It’s said Robert had her buried secretly somewhere on the grounds of Queen’s Park. When the home was converted into a female residence for the University of Toronto some say they were haunted by her spirit in the hidden room otherwise known as room 29.  Reports say the room’s door would slam shut and lock, imprisoning the student till daybreak.

How to Stay Cool in an Overheated Real Estate Market

October 14th, 2016 by freemanrealty

With the average price of a detached home in Toronto pushing well past the million-dollar mark it’s understandable how we all might get a little frenzied when buying and selling our homes.


Low housing supply mixed with high demand means you have houses selling for more than their asking price, a phenomenon driven by multiple buyers attempting to outbid each other.

If you’ve ever been involved in a bidding war, you’ll appreciate the emotional roller coaster consumers experience on either side. Whether you are trying to make financial gains for retirement or simply hoping to get your family situated in a neighborhood with good schools, today’s highly competitive real estate market is not for the faint hearted.

But are consumers able to keep their cool when everyone else is getting swept up in the commotion? A recent study by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) suggests not. In fact, 57 per cent of GTA respondents told RECO they would think about offering 10 per cent over their budget for the right home, while 38 per cent said they’d up their numbers by 10 to 20 per cent. The numbers were only slightly more conservative in the rest of Ontario with 47 per cent indicating they would consider paying 10 per cent more while 31 per cent said they would look at offering 10 to 20 per cent more to outbid the competition.

To help consumers overcome the challenges of a hot market, RECO has launched the Be Home Smart Tour, a community outreach campaign that will travel to 13 locations across Ontario this fall and into 2017. The campaign includes an interactive display booth targeting those in the buying and/or selling stage of their lives – engaged/newly married couples, new parents and downsizing boomers.

“Buying or selling a home can be a rollercoaster of emotions,” says Joe Richer of RECO. “People tend to let their heart rule their heads, especially first-time buyers.”

The RECO survey found that 35 per cent of homebuyers said they let their emotions sway them more than they should have when they last bought a home. For millennials, that number jumped to 42 per cent.

Here’s a quick look at RECO’s five tips for consumers:

  1. Leave your emotions at the door
  2. Read and understand everything before signing on the dotted line
  3. Be sure you and your representative are on the same page
  4. Know your tolerance risk
  5. Be flexible and have a back-up plan in place

Other upcoming stops in the RECO Be Home Smart Tour include the Zoomer Show in Toronto at the Enercare Centre on October 29 and 30 and the BabyTime Show in Toronto at the Metro Convention Centre from November 11 to 13.  More shows will be added in 2017.

A Foreclosure Ain’t What it Used to Be

September 29th, 2016 by freemanrealty

At one time in Canada finding a power of sale or foreclosed property could provide deep discounts for buyers wanting to pick up real estate for the cost of a car. Okay, not always quite the cost of a car, but certainly bargain- basement prices.

On the heels of the 2008 financial crisis, Americans were losing their shirts in the real estate market. Homes were going for much less than the mortgages people held on them so what did they do? They walked away. Some left behind big palatial houses, while others were more modest. Either way, at the height of the housing crisis streets were lined with vacant homes and the only run on anything was for plywood used to board up windows.


But that saying that from tragedy comes triumph certainly applies to those who snapped up foreclosure sales in the U.S. for a song. And plenty did. But foreclosure sales south of the border are quite different than in Canada. There, foreclosed homes need only collect the amount that’s outstanding on the loan and buyers stand to make sweet deals at cut-rate prices.

Selling real estate far below what it’s worth won’t cut it in Canada. That’s because lenders are mandated to sell power-of-sale properties for fair market value following strict guidelines that prove the foreclosed building is being sold for a fair and reasonable price.

Buyers of foreclosed properties in Canada bear more of the burden because these homes are sold as is, with no warranty or representation. That means you get what you see so hidden deficiencies, chattels such as appliances and issues around encroachments or land surveys all fall on your back. While these issues can happen with any purchase, a buyer can list these items as conditions in the offer to purchase, which pushes the responsibility back onto the seller. Ensuring all appliances are in working order, disclosing the home’s serious defects and allowing the buyer the time to obtain home inspections and reports that check for encroachment and building codes then become the responsibility of the seller.

While there’s no guarantee, foreclosed homes are often in sub-standard shape in terms of coming with appliances, fixtures and other items you might expect in a regular home purchase. Often this is because the when homeowners are alerted that their lender is foreclosing on their home, angry homeowners sometimes respond by damaging the home and taking everything with them.

The courts typically give the foreclosed homeowner six months to repay the loan and reclaim their property. Sometimes, though, a home will go on the market in that time so the new buyer could be left high and dry if the original owner pays up.

That power of sale you’ve been thinking about isn’t as appealing as you may have thought. Unless you’re buying south of the border, you may be better off purchasing a fixer-upper that’s been on the market for a long time.

Smaller Families = Smaller Homes

September 14th, 2016 by freemanrealty

The 1950s might have been a good decade for traditional families comprising a mom, a dad and, let’s say, two or three children.

But today, the family that gathers around the kitchen table comprises a diverse make-up of individuals that include common-law couples, a stepfamily, gay couples, single parents, and a household with grown kids and grandparents, according to the 2011 census.

It’s perhaps no surprise that families have grown smaller.  In 1961, the average family size was 3.9. In 2011, that number shrank a full percentage point to 2.9. In fact, the most typical family in the census was a couple with no kids, which represented 44.5 per cent of Canadian families.

This may surprise you but did you know one of the fastest growing family sizes are those Canadians that live alone? One-person households comprise 27.6 per cent of all homes. The census showed that there are more people living alone in Canada than there are couples with children.

So what does the country’s shrinking family size mean for real estate? Believe it or not, but in the early 2000s, Canadians lived in some of the world’s biggest dwellings, even though the typical family size was one of the world’s smallest. Those monster homes of the 1990s will ultimately fade away or exist only for the very wealthy. House sizes are getting smaller and less elaborate. According to the National Post, the post-2008 U.S. housing crisis resulted in the elimination of mud rooms, home theatres and outdoor living rooms. In Canada, builders are witnessing the slow demise of walk-in closets and hobby rooms. Living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens have morphed into great rooms. And, unless you’re Donald Trump, forget large landings and grand sweeping staircases.


McGill architecture professor Avi Friedman told the newspaper that homebuyers are physically and psychologically ready to live in smaller spaces. He predicts more growth in condo towers and row houses. And as baby boomers retire, moving out of their larger suburban dwellings, he foresees apartments, duplexes and laneway houses in their place.

According to the Toronto Star, Vancouver is the leader in Canada with more than 1,000 downsized laneway homes, many of which are located where unattractive garages one stood. The building concept, which was approved by Vancouver in 2009, allows for smaller homes to be built on pre-existing lots, typically in backyards. They are named laneway houses because they open onto back lanes.

In Vancouver, where single-family house prices have skyrocketed well beyond affordability, the city receives 50 new applications each month for laneway houses, says the National Post.

While laneway houses are a tougher sell in Toronto, proponents believe this form of small-scale housing is an affordable means to help people live near transit.

Prepare Your Home for Winter Savings

September 9th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Now is the time when we slowly begin to close up shop on our lawns and gardens, and start to prepare for winter’s big chill. But given the warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing, it may seem more like the start of summer as opposed to the end.

Still, as we wait for the show of fall colours and the leaves to drop, there are still plenty of chores we can tackle in anticipation of winter.  And with the rising costs of energy, let’s focus our attention on those jobs that help use conserve energy and trim costs.


 Weather stripping should be installed now. If yours is old, bent and/or loosened replace it with new material. Double-pane windows may not need weather stripping but if you feel cool air coming in, head down to the nearest hardware store.

Seal cracks and crevices in which mice can enter. Now is the time to inspect your home’s exterior and foundation. Look for openings large and small and be sure to cover them properly. Use a strong screening material or hardware cloth to cover exterior vents. Consider installing door sweeps to prevent pesky bugs and critters from invading your residence and preventing warm air from escaping.

Clean and install storm windows. They will help you prevent warm inside from escaping outdoors and they are a good deal less expensive than installing brand new double- and triple-pane windows.

Inspect your furnace and chimney. If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with hire a professional. Chimney fires can be especially dangerous so don’t give in to temptation on a chilly night before have your fireplace checked and, if needed, cleaned.

Dress up your windows with heavier window treatments. Thicker fabrics and materials will help your home retain its heat and save on your heating bills. Consider layering curtains over your blinds or swapping out lighter window coverings for heavier materials.

Install a programmable thermostat. These help you save on heating and cooling because the thermostat can be set to automatically change your home’s temperature, allowing temperatures to reduce when you’re not home or sleeping

Host a yard sale. Take advantage of the milder temps to rid your home of unwanted clutter. You likely won’t earn boatloads of money, but you will free up space in your home and garage and recycle once-loved items. If you are so inspired, get your neighbours in on the action and hold a mass end-of-summer lawn sale.

Earlier this year the province of Ontario announced a new program to help Ontarians improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The province is investing $100 million from the Ontario Green Investment Fund to provide rebates for home owners who conduct an energy audit on their property and then complete retrofits recommended by the auditor. See http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/saving-energy-for-home/energy-saving-rebates-and-resources/ for more info.

In addition, many of Ontario’s electricity and natural gas utilities also offer incentives to help you save energy and save money on your electricity bill. Contact your local electricity or natural gas provider to learn more.

Falling For Fall

September 8th, 2016 by freemanrealty

You’d have to be living the life of a hermit to not know that when it comes to buying and selling residential real estate the spring market is a fierce one.

There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps the largest of which is that most families want to move into their new home by summer. But September and October can also be great markets and a prime time to sell or buy a home. Here are the reasons why:


The Beauty of Autumn – They say spring is the optimum time to show off your house thanks to springtime blooms but we beg to differ. At no other time is our landscape a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colour than in fall. Rust, gold, red, green, orange are nature’s way of giving back and transforming neighbourhoods into picture-perfect communities. In many ways, the show of colour is evocative of fall’s many pleasures – fires, crisp cooler temperatures, warm sweaters, football and brandy.

The Rascals are Occupied – We’re referring to school-aged children, of course. There’s a fair bit involved whether buying or selling a home and having children to contend with only makes it more complicated. A lot can be done while they’re occupied at school or with extracurricular activities.

The Living is Easy –While fall has its fair share of festivities and holidays what with Labour Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween, these celebrations aren’t too disruptive or intrusive such as, say, Christmas. So your day-to-day living is actually pretty normal. What better time than to sell or buy a home?

Less Competition – The bulk of sellers list their properties in the springtime so that means there’s less on the market if you’re thinking of selling during the fall. That puts you in the driver’s seat, especially given the crush of buyers clamouring for a home.

Move in Dates are Flexible – Many people buy in September and October with the hopes of being in their new home by the Holidays. Typically, though, sellers tend to be more flexible because they understand families don’t want to move on Christmas Eve so expect more wiggle room on dates and deadlines.

Motivated – Homeowners who list in fall are known to be more motivated. They are also more likely to negotiate a little more with buyers.

The Benefits of Mulch

August 23rd, 2016 by freemanrealty

Mulch, thanks to its many benefits for your soil and plants, can be a gardener’s best friend.


Generally speaking, mulch is spread or laid on the surface of the soil as a type of covering. Its benefits are many, from retaining moisture in the soil to suppressing weeds to keeping the soil cool and improving the aesthetics of your flowers beds. If you use organic mulch, you also have the added benefit of improving the soil’s fertility as the mulch decomposes.

There are many different kinds of mulch — bark, wood chips, sawdust, hulls of cocoa, straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, crushed stone, gravel or volcanic rock, black plastic and landscape fabric all qualify as effective mulches for your garden.

Characteristics of good mulch are mulches that are economical, readily available, easy to apply and remove, one that stays in place, mulch that provides your soil with organic matter and one that is free of weeds, insects and diseases.

Summer or growing mulches are normally applied after the soil begins to warm in the spring. The primary roles of summer mulches are to warm the soil, reduce weed growth, and retain soil moisture.

Other considerations for selecting the right mulch include the type of location you are covering. Vegetable gardens or small fruit plantings suit black plastic and straw. The area around shrub beds and trees is well suited to mulch made from wood chips, bark and pine needles. Flower beds of annuals and perennials are best covered in finer mulches such as bark granules, wood shavings, cocoa shells and buckwheat hulls. In rock gardens, fine gravel or crushed stone look best and most natural.

As for what quantity to apply, it depends largely on your soil, how much rainfall you get, the type of mulch and the quantity of weeds your garden produces. Generally speaking, you’re safe to go with a three- to -four inch depth of mulch. If you have dry soil, be sure to water it before applying the mulch so those weeds pull out easier.

As for timing, you can lay mulch just about any time. Just be mindful that if you apply it in early spring the earth might be slower to warm up.

If you use mulch in winter, wait until the ground is frozen. Mulch could delay this process and cause roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damage them. Winter mulch is great for weed control and reducing the ravages of cold weather on your garden beds.

Sources: www.gardening.about.com, www.bhg.com, www.gardening.cornell.edu

The Right Way to Investigate a New Neighbourhood

August 19th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Your kitchen is too small and awkward for even the simplest of meals. Three kids and two adults fighting for a single bathroom put undue stress on your family’s morning routine. The neighbours regularly hold weekend jam sessions in their yard and not only do you hate the music you also work shifts.

These are all good reasons to think about moving. But a move comes with certain fears and apprehensions, a big one of which is wondering if you will like living in the new neighbourhood. Are there things about the neighbourhood that might affect the resale value of your home down the road? Will you enjoy the vibe?

Never fear because there are ways you can investigate a neighbourhood before signing on the dotted line. Here’s how:


Question Potential New Neighbours – While that might seem a bit intrusive, so is spending your life’s savings on a house in a neighbourhood you don’t enjoy. So buck up and introduce yourself and tell them flat out why you’re investigating the neighbourhood. They’re bound to understand. Ask the neighbours if they know of any problem neighbours. Ask them their opinion of the neighbourhood. Do they know of people who have home businesses on the street such as a daycare that might impact noise levels or other businesses that might take up street parking? Ask them if they know of any other neighbours who might be considering selling their home. Who knows? That place may be even better.

Drop by at All Hours – Okay not really but you should see what your neighbourhood is like at different times of the day. Is your street noisy or quiet in the evening? Do cars use it as a thoroughfare during rush hour? It’s a good idea to visit the area on weekends too. If you can, also check it out in early morning.

Visit the Town Crier – Neighbourhood news might be available in a local newspaper or online blog or newsletter of some kind. Find out. Read up on the community and find out its stories, its highs and its lows.  Pay close attention to crime stories or reports of break ins and sexual assaults. Read the classified section if there is one. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot about a community thanks to the wide assortment of ads found usually at the back of the paper.

Find the Crimes – Last year, the Toronto Police Service unveiled a new tool for tracking crime throughout the city. The Toronto Police Service Maps and Data Portal provide an interactive map of the city and show a variety of major crime indicators for each week. The map includes information about such crimes as sexual assault, robbery, break and enters and auto theft, among others.

Schools – Whether you have kids or not, don’t underestimate the value of good schools. You may eventually have a family and you’ll want them to get a good education. But even if children aren’t in your plans, schools, especially good ones, add value to your home. There are plenty of websites on which to explore the best city schools.

There is nothing like living in a neighbourhood to get a real sense of what the community is all about. While that’s usually not possible, doing your homework before you move into a new neighbourhood is the next best thing.


Burglar Proofing Your Home

August 8th, 2016 by freemanrealty

August is often a favourite holiday month for cottagers and families looking to take a summer vacation outside of the city. Many homes will be left vacant this month so what better time than now to talk about home security.

There are countless gadgets and gizmos available from those within the home security industry. They are usually costly and sometimes vexing but security equipment can include video surveillance cameras, wireless alarms and infrared motion sensors.


Fortunately, Toronto is a relatively safe city. In fact, the rate of break and enters in the city declined in 2015 and hasn’t grown at all in the first half of 2016, according to Toronto Police Service crime statistics.

Still, it pays to play it smart and there are some simple, relatively easy and economical ways to help protect your family and secure your home.

  1. Cover Up – Install window and door coverings that make it hard for someone to peek inside. The shades, blinds or curtains should let some light in so that at night the house looks occupied.
  2. Lights On, Lights Off – Pretend there is someone living in your house by using timers that will turn TVs, lights and radios on and off.
  3. Control Outdoor Lights – Nothing says we’re not home more than a porch light that’s been left on all night long. Install infrared or motion-controlled lighting.
  4. Prune It – Shrubs, trees and plants that block your front door and window makes for a great hiding space for thieves. Get rid of them and create a more open setting.
  5. Never Leave a Tip – Giving out info about your whereabouts on your answering machine is simply looking for trouble. Also, never leave notes for friends, family or service people on your door. Who knows who’s reading them? And never announce on social media how charming your Lake Rosseau cottage is.
  6. Garages and sheds – They may not be as big as your house but they certainly contain valuables. Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home so burglars are prevented from seeing items they find attractive. It’s a good idea to lock up expensive grills and bicycles separately with a chain and padlock.
  7. A Clean Sweep – Get neighbours or friends to pick up flyers, newspapers and mail. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign you’re away.
  8. Tell the Neighbours – Let your neighbours know that you’re going away. It never hurts to have another set of eyes keeping watch.
  9. Spare key – If you’ve thought of a clever hiding spot, likely so has the robber. You’re better to leave it with a neighbour.

Install Window Stops — These prevent windows from being opened more than six inches — perfect for ventilation, but not for a criminal who wants to slip inside.

Fake Your Trash — Intruders have been known to watch on garbage days to see which houses aren’t putting out any trash. Ask a neighbour to occasionally put out your trash so it looks like you’re home.

Fake Your Signage — A “Beware of Dog” sign or a bowl and chain by your back door can be enough to scare off burglars. Also think about posting a sign that your home is protected by a security system, even if it’s not.

Sources: Bob VilaHGTV, Home – How Stuff Works




The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.