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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Roll Out the Barrel

August 4th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Given the hot and dry summer we’re experiencing, keeping your lawn and garden fresh, healthy and hydrated can be a costly and time-consuming chore.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. In fact, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, more than 40 per cent of residential drinking water goes to watering lawns and gardens. And while many of us know that using tap water is something of an environmental no-no, it’s hard not to turn on the tap when thirsty plants and flowers are crying for a drink.

Just know that your tap water didn’t get there easily. By the time it reaches your home, it’s been tested and treated and purified and distributed via a complex system of water treatment plants that treats more than one billion litres of potable water a day in Toronto alone.

You may want to think about using a rain barrel to capture and store rainwater since it’s one of the kindest things you can do for your wallet and the world. Here’s why:

  • Not only will you cut down on the quantity of water that undergoes costly and energy guzzling sewage treatment, you will also save on your water bill. The typical gardener can save 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season thanks to a rain barrel’s catch.
  • During a dry summer, a rain barrel allows you a water source during times of water restrictions or drought.
  • The pollutants from rainwater runoff increase the growth of algae in lakes, changing the habitat for fish and in extreme cases making bodies of water dangerous for recreational vehicles. Using a rain barrel helps reduce this runoff.
  • The use of rain barrels contributes to the prevention of erosion efforts. The runoff created by rain can be an issue where land erosion is a concern.
  • Your rain barrel water is one of the freshest and greenest ways to wash pets and your car.  Believe it or not, but rain water is free of salt and other chemicals found in municipally treated water.
  • Collecting rain water around your house helps reduce moisture so dampness, flooding and mold are reduced.
  • Rainwater is good for your plants and soil as it is highly oxygenated and free of the salts, inorganic ions, and fluoride compounds contained in tap water that accumulate in the soil over time and potentially harm plant roots. Rainwater dilutes this impact, making plants more drought-tolerant, healthy, and strong.
  • Keep in mind that the overflow from the rain barrel should be directed to a suitable discharge area. During winter months, remove and store your rain barrel to avoid freezing and breaking. After removing the rain barrel, add an extension to your downspout to ensure proper drainage away from your home.

You can purchase a rain barrel at just about any large home and garden supply store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

If you’ve been thinking about reducing your municipal water usage, you may want to gauge how much you use thanks to a city website that lets residents and businesses track their water use online. Log on today at www.toronto.ca/mywatertoronto

 

Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, Epoch Rain Barrels, City of Toronto

 

Window of Opportunity for You & Your Home

July 15th, 2016 by freemanrealty

If it’s true that windows are like the eyes of a house, then it’s time to take those peepers a little more seriously.

At Freeman Real Estate, we’re a bit obsessive about windows and eaves, so much so, in fact, that we’re offering a 20 per cent discount on window and eaves trough cleaning when services are purchased through Maple Window & Eaves Cleaning.Image result for cleaning windows

“Windows really lend character and aesthetics to a home,” says Elden Freeman, president of Freeman Real Estate.”And while their shape, size and colour all contributes to the overall appeal of a home’s exterior, one of the easiest and cheapest things a homeowner can do to improve the look of their house both inside and out is to clean their windows.”

The FreemanTeam, which comprises more than 30 full-time realtors, is sponsoring the discount offer, which expires July 31, 2016. Ranked number one for real estate services in midtown/downtown, according to sales data from the Toronto Real Estate Board, the acclaimed real estate team is co-headed by broker Daniel Freeman and broker of record Elden Freeman.

The family-run boutique realtor has been a fixture in Toronto real estate since 1972 and is part of an exclusive community as one of a small number of family-owned and operated brokerages in Toronto.

The FreemanTeam offers a different approach to the Toronto real estate market, specializing in the unique homes, character properties, and condo developments that make up the city’s downtown, midtown, and uptown areas.

The team’s style is distinctly urban in flavour, and its team of professionals are in tune with the diverse lifestyles and opportunities that make up Toronto’s most colourful communities in the core of Canada’s largest city.

Call 647-222-5678 or visit www.maplewindowcleaning.com to schedule an appointment. The discount is available only when doing both window and eaves trough cleaning to your home.

Brexit & Canadian Real Estate

July 13th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Instability in the UK in the wake of the recent Brexit vote could actually crank up the heat on Toronto’s real estate market, say experts.

The uncertainty in global markets thanks to England’s decision to leave the European Union could serve to fuel Canada’s red-hot housing market because interest rates will likely remain low, according to BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“In that event, the Fed will remain on ice even longer and Canadian rates will again probe all-time lows, keeping mortgage rates at an extremely low ebb and thus further fanning the flames in the domestic housing market,” said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter and senior economist Robert Kavcic.

The pair issued the warning in their latest report, which dealt with the various factors driving the out-of-control price increases in Vancouver and Toronto.

Brexit could be good news for those interested in investing.  According to Mortgage Broker News, there is a phenomenal amount of capital looking for commercial real estate and those foreign investors think an investment in Canadian real estate is a sure thing. Expect foreign investment in Vancouver and Toronto to continue.

As for how Brexit will impact mortgage rates, Toronto’s mortgage planner David Larock suspects the vote would not have any damaging effects on Canadian borrowers, at least not for the foreseeable future.

“Over the longer term, while the Brexit heightens global financial risks and raises the potential for increased volatility in financial markets, any related flare ups should trigger a capital flight to safety that would be expected to put downward pressure on our bond yields and therefore our mortgage rates,” the analyst wrote.

Given the state of Canada’s economy, which the Bank of Canada warned will push the country back into a recession in the second quarter, it’s very likely interest rates will remain at historically low levels.

“As we’ve grown to expect, rock bottom interest rates are expected to keep mortgage lenders busy for the foreseeable future,” wrote Sam Bourgi at www.canadianmortgages.ca

 

Finding a Good Tenant

June 22nd, 2016 by freemanrealty

It almost goes without saying that landlords want trustworthy tenants, who will be quiet, pay their rent on time and be respectful of their space.

But having that perfect tenant can be an awfully tall order.

Now is probably one of the better times to be a landlord in Toronto because vacancy rates are super low, rents have increased significantly and you have a larger pool of potential tenants from which to choose.

To find that ideal renter, you need to market your room or apartment effectively. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, you should differentiate your property from all others in some way. When compared to other rentals in your area, is yours newer, bigger, more stylish, cheaper, cleaner and safer? Does it have better appliances, amenities and scenery? What is the neighbourhood like? Is it a quiet, family-geared area or a bustling neighbourhood filled with restaurants and galleries?

There’s nothing wrong with advertising your property on Kijiji or Craigslist but be cautious of scammers.  There is a good variety of rental sites, some of which require payment in order to advertise. Viewit.ca is a great website with plenty of photos.

To find the perfect tenant, consider placing a ‘for rent’ sign on your property or try newspapers. You can also post flyers at the local library or grocery store. If you’re interested in renting to students, visit the campus housing office of your local college or university.

You can always hire a realtor to help you. At Freeman Real Estate, we offer a range of leasing services such as pricing, advertising and negotiating. If finding an awesome tenant is too time consuming or bothersome, this is a great way to go.

Be sure to screen your potential tenants. Doing this properly in the beginning can save you the risk of loss in future. You will need to do a credit check. Be sure to ask for a confirmation-of-employment letter in addition to references and first and last months’ rent. Ask your potential renter to fill out a rental application form, which requires information about the applicant’s job, supervisor, income, government identification and next of kin.

While the process of finding your ideal tenant may seem too finicky and tedious, remember that being scrupulous early on may save you headaches down the road.

 

Be True to Your School

June 9th, 2016 by freemanrealty

A private school may be too costly, a public school too basic and a catholic school, too religious. There are clearly a number of options parents have today when choosing a school for their little ones. But the question we want to address is whether or not the quality of a school should affect your decision to purchase a home.

Believe it or not, this is a growing trend among home buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors in the U.S., proximity to top schools is one of the most influential factors in making a decision to purchase a house. The association found that 29 per cent of buyers listed school quality and 22 per cent cited closeness to schools as deciding factors in purchasing a home.

Often a good school means the neighbourhood in which it resides is also a good one. Look for safety stats and services such as Neighbourhood Watch programs, access to public transportation, and amenities such as parks, restaurants and places of worship.

It’s said a great school district can buoy a neighbourhood’s prices even when the market turns down so there is good reason to choose an area based on its schools.

A good school often means you can ask a higher selling price.  Though resale values and home equity may seem like far-off notions to you now, they are something you should always be thinking about when buying a home. Homes situated in good school districts are not only valued higher, they also take less time to sell.

But perhaps the best reason that should influence you buying in an area known for its schools is your children. It’s natural to want a better life for your kids and school is a defining part of their formative years so choose wisely.

Thanks to the introduction of standardized testing in Ontario schools in 1995 parents have an easy way to evaluate schools, though educators and non-educators alike will tell you that EQAO results shouldn’t be the only determining factor of a school’s quality.

Still, the scores are worth noting when schools are a top consideration for which neighbourhood you will choose to live in. Once a year, the Fraser Institute publishes a national report card on elementary and secondary schools across the country. Thanks to data gleaned from mandatory province-wide literacy and math tests the FI awards public schools a ranking out of 10 with 1 being the lowest.

For the full FI report visit https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/ontario-secondary-school-rankings-2016.pdf

For info about its interactive school website rankings visit  http://ontario.compareschoolrankings.org/secondary/SchoolsByRankLocationName.aspx

The Empty Nest Solution

June 6th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Isn’t it funny how that space you so wanted 30 years ago seems all a bit much today?

Welcome to the empty nest, that stage in life where your kids have flown the coop and where you and your partner are examining your next phase in life. You may be looking at retirement or far from it. One thing’s for sure, you’re starting to wonder if the house you’re in is too big for your reduced family size.

Renting out a basement apartment or a bedroom is a great option for empty nesters. Not only does it provide added income, but it can also offer solitary empty nesters company or at the very least a psychological buffer knowing that they’re not home alone.


Here, according to real estate investor Don Campbell, are some aspects you need to consider before hanging up the ‘For Rent’ sign.

Privacy

You will likely have to forgo some of it. Is that something you can live with? Will the extra income be worth your diminished privacy? You need to decide if you can handle having a renter in your residence especially if your rental space doesn’t come with its own separate entrance.

Family not so much

It’s difficult to enforce eviction or collection rules with a family member without it ruffling feathers throughout the family. Avoid if at all possible.

Sign a lease

A properly written lease signed by you and the tenant or tenants is a must. Make sure it outlines the rules, late rent penalties, expectations, and length of term.

Don’t lowball

If you offer the lowest rent you attract tenants whose only focus is on dollars. This will likely lead to quick turnovers as your renter leaves for the next lowest rental. Look online at other similar rentals in your area and set your price in the middle or higher end.

Do your research

Read up on landlord-tenant legislation so you know the rules. You should also bone up on local municipal bylaws and learn about guidelines and standards for fire and building safety, zoning and permits. Call your municipal office or go online to find out more.

Inform insurance

Be sure to let your home insurer know that you are renting out a portion of your home.

Research the tax repercussions

Once you become a landlord you have to claim your rental income on your taxes.  Also know that a portion of the capital gain when selling the property could be deemed taxable.


Being a landlord isn’t for the faint of heart. You will want someone who pays their rent on time, leads a reasonably quiet life and respects your property as if it was their own. While that may sound like a tall order, how you seek out a tenant can make a difference.

Advertise your rental with a sign on your property or house. Consider placing a classified ad in newspapers or post a flyer in grocery stores, libraries and places of worship. Be sure to let your friends, family and neighbours know that you’re on the hunt for an ideal tenant because sometimes word of mouth is the best advertising.

If you are looking for a student, contact campus housing offices at colleges and universities near your home. And don’t forget online platforms.

Grass without the Work? It’s Possible

May 19th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Is there really and truly such as thing as a maintenance-free lawn?

Probably not. So instead let’s consider reducing the amount of maintenance on our yards because that is definitely doable.

Lawns are labour intensive and resource hungry. According to Sheridan Nurseries, to have great grass you need to water, mow, fertilize, control weeds, bugs, thatch, aerate and seed. The list is exhausting.

But there are ways to control the amount of time, money and resources spent on lawns by shrinking their size. Consider using low-maintenance ground cover in spots that are shady such as under mature trees. Replacing grass with gravel along the side of the house where it’s always shady will go much easier on your back than reseeding every year and engaging in a losing battle to have green turf where it’s not really suitable.

Wider flower beds filled with shrubs, evergreens and ground covers will help reduce the size of your lawn. Small lawns can be completely replaced with stone, paths, birdbaths and benches in addition to a number of slow-growing and drought-resistant plants.

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Of course, there’s always artificial turf, paving and rock gardens and drought-tolerant grasses that look like the real deal but need far less water and maintenance.

One of the first things you’ll need to do when moving to a low-maintenance lawn lifestyle is learn to chill. If you are used to high-maintenance yards in which every blade of grass stands at attention and all of your time, considerable resources and expense are exerted to get it just so, you will need to make an attitude adjustment. Know that what you are doing is good for the environment and your peace of mind.

In fact, the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation conducted a study in 1998 and 1999 on different residential landscape types. The study compared the maintenance of five conventional lawns with four low-maintenance ones. Residents with low-maintenance lawns spent 50 per cent less time, 85 per cent less money, and used 50 per cent less fuel, 85 per cent less fertilizer, 100 per cent less water and 100 per cent less pesticides per year than residents with conventional lawns.

The first thing you need to do to get a low-maintenance lawn is select a diversity of lawn species that are hardier and more drought tolerant. While there is no sure-fire formula for the best low-maintenance lawn mix, the CMHC recommends a general guideline of 40 per cent fescues, 40 per cent other grasses and 20 per cent broadleaf species.

It is possible to convert a high-maintenance lawn to low. The first thing you need to do is expose as much bare soil as you can by raking it. Top it with compost and overseed with low-maintenance lawn species and water. You may have to overseed every year for as many as three years, depending on your type of existing grass.

If that’s too long for you, you can strip off your existing lawn. Or try mowing it really close and then covering it with a thick black plastic sheet held down with rocks. Leave the plastic on for two months. Remove the sheet and dig the dead grass into the soil. Your lawn is now ready for seeding for sodding.

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.