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5 Reasons Why Selling Early Means you’re a Wise Owl

February 10th, 2017 by freemanrealty
  1. Inventory, what inventory?

Your home will be the belle of the ball in the current market which is crying for stock. It’s pretty simple economics: when supply is low, with high demand, you are in the most enviable driver’s seat imaginable. Given the bevy of buyers on the market, competition for your house will be fierce. So worries about keeping your home ship-shape for weeks or months on end while strangers roam through need not concern you.

  1. Mortgage rates

Too bad there wasn’t a crystal ball that could tell us what was coming. For years, forecasters have been crying about a rise in interest rates and rightly so. They really don’t have much room to go the other way so up seems a likely option. The question is when? When rates rise it will impact consumers’ buying power. Putting your house on the market while rates are low is a smart move as more buyers will be attracted to your property than if rates rise a point or two. More interest means more competition and more competition usually always means more money for you.

  1. It’s urgent

You could say that about buyers in February and March. Who else wants to trudge through snow, ice and cold, bundling up and unbundling with each new viewing? Those are some determined purchasers. Maybe they’re the result of a job transfer or an inheritance. Who knows? Just know that they’re more motivated.

 

  1. It’s speedier

In wintertime, many of those who support the housing industry are not nearly as busy as at other times of the year. We’re talking about banks and lending institutions, mortgage brokers, lawyers, home inspectors, contractors, realtors, surveyors, architects. Finding the professional for the task or service you need will be easier and quicker now as, quite simply, they’re not as swamped.

  1. House prices go up, up and away

High demand and low inventory add up to one thing: higher housing prices. That’s good news if you’re selling. Since you likely plan to buy another home, though, it may be best to sell now so that you aren’t affected by rising house prices or mortgage rates. Waiting could cost you more.

 

Radon: An Invisible Menace

February 10th, 2017 by freemanrealty

The cold winter weather traps many of us inside our homes till the first sign of spring. And being inside all that time may lead you to wonder about the quality of your indoor air.

In Canada, radon gas is something of a concern. In 2014, the CBC obtained data that showed over 1,500 homes had radon levels above Health Canada’s safety guidelines following a testing of approximately 14,000 homes across the country.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It’s estimated that radon is responsible for 3,000 deaths in Canada each year.

Radon is a radioactive gas created in nature that seeps into poorly ventilated basements and crawl spaces. Radon is created by decaying uranium found in soil, rock and water. Because these three elements are found in the ground, they are more likely to leach into their first point of contact which would be cellars and crawl spaces.  Radon filters into a home through cracks in the foundation and gaps around pipes.

The scary thing about radon is that it’s invisible, odourless and tasteless. The only way to know for sure if you have it is to do a DIY test or call in a professional at your own expense.

According to the CBC, recommendations that the government help fund homeowners in need of testing and cleaning up their radon issue have not been addressed. Nor has a recommendation that homes undergo mandatory tests for radon levels as a condition of sale, as is the case in several American states.

Radon gas levels are measured in units known as the Becquerel (Bq). One Becquerel is described as one event of radiation emission per second and it is minute.

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The old Canadian standard considered 800 Bq per cubic metre to be a safe standard. But ten years ago following a push to tighten guidelines the federal government changed its standard to 200 Bq per cubic metre, the same level considered safe by Russia and China. The U.S. pegs its safe level at 150.

For more information or to learn more about testing for radon visit Health Canada at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/radiation/radon/testing-analyse-eng.php

Head over Heels about Real Estate

February 8th, 2017 by freemanrealty

There’s good reason why buying real estate is considered such an emotional roller coaster of an experience.

It has something to do with the mechanics of the heart and how we respond to what we adore. Falling in love with a house or a neighbourhood happens all the time. It’s socially acceptable, expected even, to hear people talk about their affection for their home or the area in which they live.  Expressions of worship should be saved for big-ticket items that represent sentiment. When was the last time you heard someone say they became lovestruck by those blue bath towels or that vinyl siding stole their heart because it was the perfect shade of beige?

Exactly.

As we observe Valentine’s Day this month, we thought it would be apropos and fun to draw parallels between the worlds of real estate and love.

Falling in love with a house happens all the time and no one can fault you or prepare you for it. The feeling comes over you like a soft breeze of fresh air in spring. You’re smitten and everything about the house comes into focus. Imperfections start to fade and suddenly you’re getting a clear picture of the joy you will feel living there. From the dappled light filtering through the living room window to the subtle street noises to the home’s layout and sight lines, it’s perfect. Your heart rate picks up a little.

House hunting is a lot like dating. You keep trying one on until it fits. And realtors are in the enviable position of playing matchmaker, introducing clients to a number of possibilities until they find the right one.

To play matchmaker, real estate agents must possess a laundry list of traits that might include persistence, friendliness and a sense of humour. They also need to read people well so that begs the question are they superior at dating and finding a mate themselves? In the spirit of sweethearts everywhere, let’s look at what online dating website eHarmony has to say about the benefits of dating a realtor:

  • You’ll learn more about your city. Date a real estate agent, and you’ll get an education in thriving neighborhoods, up-and-coming areas to watch, zoning laws and gentrification.

 

  • Can’t handle awkwardness? Real estate agents depend on their people skills to survive financially. Invite a realtor to a dinner party, and he/she will bring out the charm.

 

 

  • Real estate agents are smart — and good at math. They’re always updating courses and intentionally learning more about their business and the neighborhoods they sell in.

 

  • No 9-to-5 here. If you’re also a freelancer, a real estate agent’s unconventional schedule might appeal to you. Sure, she might be busy tomorrow evening, but she might also be able to swing a weekday brunch.

 

 

  • For realtors, beauty is more than skin deep. They can see the potential in a property that others can’t.

 

  • He probably doesn’t live in his parents’ basement.

 

  • According to Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, “Every realtor is just a ninja with a blazer.”

 

 

Keep Home Safe While Soaking Up the Sun

January 18th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Many of us spend January, February and March somewhere decidedly warmer than the GTA if only for a week or two of heat, sunshine and flip flops.

The rigmarole of preparing for a trip can be exhausting so don’t forget about the home you’re leaving behind. Many people simply lock their front door and hope for the best when leaving their houses for extended periods of time. But there are better ways. Here’s how:

Get to Know Thy Neighbour – Since they’re right there and can easily view anything that’s gone awry, it’s best to let them know you will be on vacation. Ask them to keep an eye on your house and clear away evidence (newspapers or dropped-off packages, for example) that show you’re not home. Get them to put out a garbage or recycling bin on garbage day so your place looks lived in. Give them your contact info so they can reach you should an emergency occur. If you’re not comfortable asking this of your neighbour, ask a friend or relative to stop by a few times a week to ensure your house looks occupied.

Shovel the Snow – If you’re the only house on the block with a snowy driveway, that’s a sure giveaway that someone isn’t home. Find a neighbour kid, family member, friend, or landscaping company to clear your drive and sidewalks of snow. Naturally you will need to offer to pay them for their time and trouble, but that beats coming home to find your door ajar.

Stop Mail – Overflowing mail on your porch and heaps of unread newspapers are a clear sign that you’re away. Be sure to cancel the newspaper and postpone mail delivery. Flyers and freebie newspapers should be disposed of by a neighbour or friend who’s checking in on your home every few days.

Keys and Locks – That spare key you have hidden in a fake rock by your garage should be brought inside while you’re on holidays. Burglars know where to find keys no matter how good a hiding spot. Locking your garage door is a good idea even though those doors that have an automatic garage door opener are quite secure. Still, thieves have figured out ways to get in so security experts recommend installing a deadbolt-style lock on your garage door.

Careful with the GPS – Don’t stash your portable GPS inside your vehicle that is parked at the airport. Thieves can break in and discover where your home is easily. Whether your unit is portable or built-in, you’re best to set home for a spot near your home, good enough to get you to familiar territory, while sending a potential burglar off course.

Install Timers – Your lights and electronics should be wired to turn on a certain random times of the day and evening because a dark, quiet house for a week straight is a sure sign you’re not there.  Install timers not just on lighting but also on your radio and TV. The noise and flickering light associated with radio and television will detract would-be robbers.

Say No to Social Media – Tempting as it may be, bragging about your fun in the sun on social media is not wise as it broadcasts the fact that you’re currently not home. Even though all of your accounts are private, you’re best to wait to share photos and word of your vacation until you get home.

Hire a House Sitter – It’s ideal if you have a friend or relative who doesn’t mind leaving his or her home for a week or two for a mini vacation at your house. This option is pricier than others as you will need to compensate well for the inconvenience. But the price will be worth it, knowing that everything is being looked after. There are also professional companies that offer this service, which is likely even pricier. You will need to spend time inquiring about a service’s reputation, though. Check references, read reviews and background checks.

Save Money & the Planet this Winter

January 12th, 2017 by freemanrealty

You may still be recovering from excessive holiday spending so now might be the perfect time to look at ways to save money this winter.

Keeping comfortable in our homes in winter not only costs money but also wreaks havoc on the environment. What better time than now to look at ways to help you save while sparing our planet.

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Keep it Simple – We may not get lots of it, but winter sunshine can be a good friend for those trying to heat their homes economically. Open curtains, shades and blinds and let in the free, natural light. When it gets dark, you should close your window coverings, which provide a layer of insulation against the cold.

Is your couch blocking a heat vent? If you’re trying to save coin and do so in a way that is eco-friendly, that’s not how to do it. Let the warm air circulate more freely by moving away couches and furniture that blocks the vents.

Try a draught excluder. They run the length of your door and prevent draughts from getting inside. You can buy them fairly cheaply or make your own. These long sausage-shaped draught excluders can be made from something as simple as an old pair of tights stuffed with socks, rice, kitty litter or lentils. Naturally, you can pretty them up to match your décor if that’s more your style.

Area rugs help prevent the heat loss that comes from bare hardwood floors.

Don’t forget to let ceiling fans do their work. By reversing the direction they turn to clockwise in winter the fan will push warm air back down from the ceiling height. Use on a low setting.

Don’t mean to sound all 1930s on you but throw on a sweater and some wool socks. Walking around your home in shorts and a t-shirt in -15 degree weather doesn’t do your furnace any favours or your wallet.

Windows – New ones can be pricey but there are other means to help you control your expenses. Inspect your windows for cracks and leaks and caulk if needed. Also consider weather stripping to reduce air leakage. Window insulation kits are a cheap alternative to replacing your windows. A thin layer of film adheres to your window, blocking warm air from escaping. The film, which looks like plastic wrap, doesn’t block or impair your view. Another option for windows is to hang heavy curtains that prevent the cold from coming in.

Hot Water – Turn down the temperature of your water setting. Did you know that heating your water accounts for about 18 per cent of the energy consumed in your home?

What’s the Temperature? – When you’re home try to keep the furnace temperature on the low side. When you’re sleeping or out of the house, turn down the temp considerably. Try setting it back between 10 and 15 degrees F for eight hours daily and you could save five to 15 per cent on your annual heating bill.

 Block the Fireplace – In many older homes, fireplaces make for attractive rooms but are highly impractical when not in use. Be sure to keep the flue closed or buy a chimney balloon, which blocks cold air from getting in while allowing ventilation.

There are plenty of simple, eco-friendly ways to save money this winter while keeping the earth green. Stopping to think before cranking up the thermometer is a good start.

It is Possible First-time Home Buyers

January 12th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Being a first-time home buyer in Toronto can be a challenge with detached homes going for close to $1 million. To get in the market at that level, your household income needs to top six figures and you’ll need a sizable chunk for a down payment and your closing costs.

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If you’re just entering the real estate market for the first time those costs can seem impossible but there are ways to get a piece of the rock as a first timer. For starters, why not consider a condo? This more economical choice gets you into the market and lets you build equity while your property value increases as you pay down the mortgage. As your income also increases over time you will be in a position to trade up and move into, say, a semi-detached home.

As for how to calculate how much you can afford, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) suggests that your monthly housing costs not exceed more than 32 per cent of your gross monthly income. The CMHC deems housing costs as your mortgage payment, interest, property taxes and heating costs, also known by the acronym PITH. So if you and your spouse make $120,000 per year, your total monthly housing costs (PITH) should not exceed $3,200 per month.

The CMHC’s other rule is that your entire monthly debt load should not exceed more than 40 per cent of your gross monthly income. So if with other loans and credit card debt plus your housing costs, your debt load exceeds, in this scenario, more than $4,000 each month lending institutions may look upon your file unfavourably.

Know that help is available. If you are looking to buy in Toronto, there are four first-time home buyer programs available thanks to federal, provincial and municipal governments:

  1. The federal Home Buyers’ Plan is a program that lets you withdraw up to $25,000 per year in RRSPs to buy or build a home. With your partner, that could be as much as $50,000. See http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/hbp/ for details.
  2. The federal First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit is a rebate of approximately $750 to help first-time home purchasers with costs such as legal fees and land transfer taxes. For more visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/bdgt/2009/fqhbtc-eng.html.
  3. The Ontario land transfer tax rebate is a new program instituted by the province to assist first-time buyers with a refund on all or part of the tax. For info see http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/bdgt/2009/fqhbtc-eng.html.
  4. The Toronto Municipal Land Transfer Tax Rebate is a reimbursement program of up to $3,725 that applies to first-time purchasers of both new and existing homes. See http://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/77/101000050177.html.

Before you begin visiting open houses you probably should get pre-approved for a mortgage. The reason this is important is that it will help guide you when house hunting. There is nothing worse than thinking you can afford a certain price and then finding out that that is not the case. Based on monthly income, your down payment and the mortgage interest rate, you can figure out what you can afford thanks to mortgage affordability calculators, which are available online. Also, don’t forget to account for the other costs associated with buying a home. These include property insurance, condo fees, home inspections, appraisal fees, legal fees and moving expenses.

Finally, if you don’t have a second income to rely on or if your total household income isn’t enough and you still really want to purchase a home consider doing so with a friend or another family. While this would clearly pose numerous challenges and you’d need a real estate lawyer to manage all the scenarios (how are home maintenance expenses divided and what if one side decides to sell?), this set-up is one way to get your foot in the door. Remember it doesn’t have to be forever and it may be your first step toward financial independence.

Give the Ice Rink a Whirl

January 5th, 2017 by freemanrealty

There’s nothing like a spin around an open-air ice rink come winter’s cold. Whether you’re gliding mitten-to-mitten with your sweetheart or teaching your wee ones how to balance on blades, nothing says wintertime fun quite like an outdoor ice rink.

Did you know Torontonians are quite enamoured of al fresco skating? We must be because the city has 51 open-air ice rinks. Here, in no particular order, is a peek at a few of the finest:

Christie Pits Park is an 8.9 hectare park located at 750 Bloor Street West and Christie Street, across from the Christie subway station. The park features the Alex Duff Memorial Pool, three baseball diamonds, a multi-sport field, basketball and volleyball courts, a community garden and an artificial ice rink. The sides of the pits are highly sloped and are used in winter for tobogganing and related activities. There’s street parking on the outskirts.

Founded in 1954, the Phil White Arena at 443 Arlington Ave. in Cedarvale has an outdoor rink for free skates adjacent to the Cedarvale Park Ravine system. The City of Toronto offers various Learn-to-Skate programs as well as Drop-in Skating for Older Adults, Drop-in Skating for All Ages and Drop-in Hockey.

At 875 Dufferin Street just south of Bloor St. W. is the 5.3-hectare Dufferin Grove Park. It features a multipurpose sports field, a basketball court, a picnic area, a wading pool and a children’s playground. At the north end of the park is the Dufferin Grove Park Artificial Ice Rink and Clubhouse. Don’t forget delicious fresh, local foods for sale and its Friday-night community dinners.

The city’s grand dame of outdoor skate rinks is probably Nathan Phillips Square, a high-profile space that is enjoyed by the public all year long. Enjoy the tranquil sights and sounds of the outdoor water fountain in summer, then lace up during winter and coast to your heart’s content. Skating is free here. Skate rentals are not.

Trinity Bellwoods Park is located on Queen St. W. at Strachan Ave. The 14.6 hectare park features three ball diamonds, eight tennis courts, an off-leash area for dogs and owners, a picnic area and an artificial ice rink. The southwest section of the park houses the Trinity Community Recreation Centre.

Two artificial ice rinks are featured at Wallace Emerson, a 2.7 hectare park on Dufferin south of Dupont St. The ice rink offers changing facilities. In addition to skating there is a children’s playground, three bocce courses and a motocross bike area.

The Evergreen Brick Works at 550 Bayview Ave is a new kid on the skating block with skate rentals available and a green conscience that donates all of its rental fees back to its free skate program. Thanks to its trees, this spot feels like a winter oasis.

At 76 Wychwood Ave., you’ll find a natural ice rink that is maintained by volunteers. Known as Wychwood Barns Park, the rink’s conditions can vary depending on weather and the availability of volunteers. While the city offers support by providing access to water and shovels, community-made rinks such as this one shoulder no liability so use at your own risk.

The Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trailat 3131 Lakeshore Blvd W. is a unique outdoor rink shaped in a figure eight and covering 250 metres of chilly adventure. The facility features a rink change area which includes a large change room with benches and washrooms.

At the foot of Lower Sherbourne Street between the Gardiner and Lakeshore East near Sugar Beach is the city’s newest ice rink at Sherbourne Common Park.

At 235 Queens Quay W. is the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront, which is located on Toronto’s harbour. Admission is free. Skate rentals are on hand as is sharpening.

Enjoy and don’t forget the hot chocolate afterwards!

Green Ways to Handle Snow this Winter

December 16th, 2016 by freemanrealty

As pretty as fresh-fallen snow looks, we clearly don’t want it around for too long once it’s hit the ground. That’s when it gets grey, muddy and slushy and those descriptors don’t rank high on anyone’s list.

Granted it’s difficult for people to come and go when streets and driveways are clogged with the white stuff. Whether its gas-guzzling tow trucks, noisy snow blowers or not-so-environment-friendly de-icing salt, we all have our favourite ways to remove snow and ice.

So let’s look at some of the better ways of getting rid of snow without causing too much damage to the environment:

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Some Snow Blowers are Better than Others: Use battery-, electric- or hybrid-powered snow blowers instead of those operated on gasoline. Don’t use your snow blower for small areas such as your walkway. While electric machines consume energy, they don’t eat up gas or emit greenhouse gases.

Buy the Most Efficient Gas-Powered Snow Blower: If your space necessitates a gas-run machine, make sure it’s a two-stage, four-stroke engine as opposed to a single-stage, two-stroke.

Invest in a good quality blower with a neighbour. That way you can share the costs and benefits of an eco-friendly machine.

Kick It Old School: Shovels, ice crackers and brooms will help you clear snow from sidewalks, porches and driveways. Use an ergonomic shovel or hire the neighbour’s kid to do the job. It’s best also to shovel early and often.

Eco-friendly Snow Removal Service: Try to find one in your neighbourhood or ask that your current service use eco-friendly products.

Use a Salt Substitute:  Sprinkle birdseed, clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace ash on walkways and driveways in order to gain some grip. Use these substances carefully as they can be harmful to vegetation and waterways and messy when the snow melts.

Pillar of Salt: If you must use salt, choose the type you use carefully. Some contain cyanide while others increase algae growth and lead to clogged waterways. Whatever you use, be sure to avoid landscape plants especially those that are salt sensitive such as maples, dogwood and rose bushes.

Sources: www.sustainableamerica.org, www.esquire.com

Buying and Selling in January? Why not

December 9th, 2016 by freemanrealty

January is the month of new beginnings, warm-weather winter holidays, winter sports and cutting back just a little on those items that aren’t so good for us.

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January is also a good month for real estate activity, despite what you’ve heard. If you’re thinking of selling or buying a home in 2017, you may want to give January a try.  In markets like Toronto and Vancouver virtually any month is a good month to buy or sell. Real estate activity naturally slows in late December and very early January. But by the end of January’s first week it’s back to business as usual.

One big reason you want to sell your house in January is because you will have less competition. What does that mean? You can likely command a higher sale price thanks to fewer homes on the market.

On the flip side, for buyers, your odds of getting into a bidding war with multiple buyers are reduced because many purchasers are dealing with post-holiday debt.

Gone are the days when buyers waited for warmer temperatures because that’s the time when the majority of homes became available. Buyers today are more tech savvy than ever and as a result they can view real estate around the clock on their phones, devices and computers. Why wait for spring?

Keep in mind, too, that as a buyer your realtor will be able to really focus in on your needs, compared to the spring market when the market is saturated with buyers looking to purchase a home and real estate agents are juggling a heavy load.

If you’re selling, you know those buyers trotting through your house and yard are serious. No one braves the bitter cold and snow, donning boots and parkas as they schlep from house to house as a fun winter pastime.

Try to keep your exterior tidy and, if possible, decorate with outdoor arrangements and seasonal greenery. Clear ice and snow off walkways and steps and make sure your property is well lit. Also be sure to provide pool reports and try to provide photos of what your house looks like in spring and summer.

While it may be counterintuitive, it’s said that homes actually sell quicker in winter. Low inventory may be the reason. In addition, buyers tend to be more motivated and not as willing to slog from home to home to home.

Happy to Pick Up Where Honest Ed’s Left Off

December 7th, 2016 by freemanrealty

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Freeman Real Estate is launching a brand new community event this month that pays tribute to the memory of a much-loved retailing icon and honours the Freeman Real Estate spirit of community giving.

On Sunday, Dec. 18, Freeman is hosting a free turkey giveaway at the real estate company’s office at 988 Bathurst Street. The event, which begins at 12 noon, will see 500 turkeys given away to members of the public.

Located just four blocks north of Honest Ed’s, Freeman Real Estate is a family-run boutique real estate firm with a reputation for supporting community causes, charities and efforts. Honouring Ed Mirvish’s memory and the real estate company’s tradition of community giving helped plant the idea for the turkey giveaway.

“We always admired Ed’s charity and we thought this was a good opportunity for us to keep the tradition going,” says Elden Freeman, Broker of Record.  “We’re big believers in our local community. As residents and business persons, we benefit a good deal from our community. This is one way we can pay back and say thank you.”

Spirit of Math is also getting into the holiday spirit by sponsoring a portion of the gobbler giveaway.  Spirit of Math is an innovative leader in after-school mathematics education with more than 40 campuses in North America.

The turkeys are completely free of charge and for each turkey given away Freeman will donate 50 cents to St. Alban’s Boys & Girls Club, an organization that provides programming for children and youth.

On hand will be Ward 20 city councillor Joe Cressy. St. Alban’s executive director Chris Foster and boys and girls from the club will also be there to help give out the turkeys.

The Annex landmark, Honest Ed’s, gave away free turkeys at Christmastime for 28 years, ending the tradition this year. The retailer at Bathurst and Bloor Streets will close in 2017 to make way for condos and commercial space.

If this year’s giveaway is a success, Freeman intends to make the event bigger and better for next year.

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.