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Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Garden

June 17th, 2017 by freemanrealty

If you’re looking to heighten your level of environmental good-deed doing this summer, why not consider establishing a garden or flower bed that welcomes bees and butterflies.

Little thought they are, bees and butterflies are incredibly important to our ecosystem.  Did you know that 75 per cent of the food we eat, from fruits and nuts to herbs, need pollinators? Bees do this quite well. The fruit and vegetables you grow will be delightful with more bees around.

Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers, especially those that are strongly scented, are red or yellow or those that produce a healthy dose of nectar from which to feed. It’s believed that an abundance of butterflies is a sign that our ecosystem is doing well.

So let’s look at ways to create a bee- and butterfly-friendly space in your garden:

Make a Bee House

Paint a wooden house a bright colour with low-VOC paint. The bees will buzz around and make mental snapshots of their new home before nesting in their new dwelling. Once the temperature hits 12 to 14 degrees C hang the house at eye level out of the rain facing south or east.

Dig down below the soil near your bee house to expose the clay soil. This will encourage the masons to use it as construction material or you can also keep a bowl of moist clay near their house.

Offer Food

Grow a variety of plants that flower at different times. That way there’s always a snack available for them.

Showy flowers are sometimes the worst food providers for bees. Look for native plants or heirloom varieties. Consider planting flowers in clumps. Bees especially love blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. A variety of flower shapes are good for a diverse bee population with different tongue lengths.

Here are a number of bee-friendly plants categorized based on their bloom times. Early bloomers include blueberry, crabapple, foxglove, heather and willow. Good mid-season bloomers for bees are chives, dahlia, lavender and sunflower. Late blooming plants include coneflower, cosmos, pumpkin and sedum.

Butterflies like alyssum, bee balm, delphinium, hollyhock, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, Shasta daisy, verbena and zinnia, among others. Don’t forget to include plants like dill, fennel and milkweed that butterfly larvae feed on.

Create a Bee Bath

Bees and butterflies needs fresh water to survive. Because of the way they’re built, though, they need something to land on when trying to touch down in bird baths and the like. Try lining a shallow bowl with rocks or stones, leaving the rocks to stick out in spots so bees and butterflies have landing pads on which to settle.

The bath should be at ground level in your garden. Better yet, place the bath near your problems plants, those that get aphids and such, and these beneficial insects that are flying in for a drink will also take care of your plant’s pests.

Refresh the water daily.

 

Sources: www.gardeners.com, www.davidsuzuki.org,

Are Home Inspections Worth It?

June 17th, 2017 by freemanrealty

There was a time not too long ago when homes were bought and sold without the assistance of a professional home inspection. Your trustworthy and handy brother-in-law kicked the tires, so to speak, and his opinion was pretty much all that mattered.

Then all that changed in the ‘90s when home inspections became more and more common, to the point where the majority of Ontario resale home buyers (nearly 65 per cent) hire an inspector.  But Toronto’s red hot real estate market saw the trend change again as buyers skipped inspections to present clean, condition-free offers in an effort to win bidding wars. In this market, homes come with a pre-list home inspection obtained by the seller, which meant a significant drop in the number of home inspections overall.

There has been a good deal of controversy swirling around the profession. Critics say its lack of regulation means unqualified inspectors can set up shop and perform inspections with little expertise. And up until now, home buyers had little recourse if a problem was later discovered that a home inspector should have red flagged.

In April, the Ontario government finally passed a law that will impose new rules on the profession. The Putting Consumers First Act will require home inspectors to be licensed, carry insurance and abide by a code of ethics. The legislation will introduce minimum standards for home inspection reports, contracts and disclosures. Inspectors who breach the code of ethics could face fines of up to $25,000.

According to the Toronto Star, there are an estimated 1,500 home inspectors in Ontario charging between $350 and $600 for a home inspection.

So is spending a few hundred dollars for a home inspection worth it?

That depends.  Many believe it’s a relatively small investment given the cost of real estate. Home inspectors are especially useful for first-time home buyers, who know little about the process. A home inspection can help calm the nerves of a buyer who has no idea what shape the roof is in, where the water shutoff is or how to replace a furnace filter.

But if you’ve bought a few homes in your life, you can probably make due with a Seller Property Information Statement instead. Also known as an SPIS, these optional forms protect the seller down the road should the new owner try to pin a problem on the seller.  Filling one out also demonstrates to buyers that you’re being honest and open because you’re willing to disclose defects or issues.

The SPIS is a two-page document that covers questions regarding zoning, taxes and encroachments. Questions are asked about soil contamination, flooding, oil tanks and grow houses. Other questions focus on moisture problems, types of insulation and renovations or addition made to the house.

So get a home inspection if you’re new to real estate of feeling a bit leery about a property. If you know what to look for, skip the inspection and request an SPIS.

8 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Leave Your Home

June 9th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Leaving behind the family nest is never easy.

But there are circumstances when the need for a new nest becomes quite apparent. Let’s look at signs that it’s time for a move:

There’s no room

Space is tight and you’re practically tripping over each other. Simple everyday chores turn into a big production as you reorganize your possessions just so you can find a butter knife.   Maybe you’ve had another child or maybe dad has moved in, making space all that much more precious. It’s probably time for a bigger place.

Too much space

When you call your partner’s name do you hear an echo? As empty nesters, leaving behind the family home with its many years of memories is never easy. But when you think about the time, money and effort spent on maintaining a large, empty home, it seems kind of wasteful. Think about all the other activities and pastimes you could be enjoying by moving to a smaller home.

Better schools

It’s not uncommon for families to move into neighbourhoods that are known for having good schools. The education of children is high on the priority list for many households. If you think your son or daughter isn’t getting a top-grade education, then maybe it’s time to find a neighbourhood that’s known for its high marks.

Is your neighbourhood safe and sound?

Safety is of paramount concern so if you feel your neighbourhood falls short on this count, you might need to consider moving. Are your neighbours noisy and disruptive? Do dogs bark at all hours? Time to get out.

The suburbs

Lifelong city dwellers may find it hard to imagine, but sometimes a slower pace is welcome. You’re bound to get more real estate bang for your buck in the suburbs with comparably greater square footage and outdoor space in addition to a lower cost of living and increased safety.

Time to upgrade

Maybe you want an extra bathroom, more storage space, a newer kitchen or perhaps it’s amenities such as an in ground pool, bigger yard or garage that you’re after? Rather than renovate, it may actually be more practical to move.

Downsizing

Do your bills cause you grief? Are you tired of being short on cash in order to pay your mortgage, utility and repair bills? It might be time to move to a cheaper home. Just think of the things you can do the equity you’ve built up.

Shorter commute

Tired of long drives to and from work? Does your Monday to Friday routine feel like a miserable treadmill from which you can’t break free? You might want to think about moving closer to work. If your job prospects are good, why not consider a shorter commute.

Good New for Home Buyers

June 7th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Buyers eying the GTA will be happy to hear that the Toronto real estate market finally appears to be taming down somewhat.

The Toronto Real Estate Board reported that existing home sales fell in May by 20.3 per cent from the previous May, while prices edged down by about six per cent from April to May.

Though it’s too early to tell for sure, it’s believed the provincial government’s institution of new rules designed to control the housing market is the reason for the cool down.

“The actual, or normalized, effect of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan remains to be seen,” said TREB’s market analysis director Jason Mercer. “In the past, some housing policy changes have initially led to an overreaction on the part of homeowners and buyers, which later balanced out.”

In April, the province announced a 16-step plan to tame Toronto’s out-of-control real estate market. The plan targeted foreign investors with a 15 per cent non-resident speculation tax on property purchases and more rent controls which serve to restrict rent hikes.

While home buyers will be pleased with softer prices, they can also expect to benefit from a greater housing supply. Active listings rose nearly 43 per cent in May from the previous May. As for the breakdown, low-rise homes including detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses were up considerably in May from a year ago, while condominiums were down.

“The increase in active listings suggests that homeowners, after a protracted delay, are starting to react to the strong price growth we’ve experienced over the past year by listing their home for sale to take advantage of these equity gains,” Mercer said.

All of these factors contribute to a less frenzied buying model, which means less pressure plus more time and room to think for those looking to purchase.

Some say the Toronto market is echoing Vancouver, which also slapped foreign buyers with a 15 per cent tax last August. While the market subsequently softened it appears to have recovered with sales and prices again on the rise last month in Greater Vancouver.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

The Ontario government introduced a housing plan late last month that aims to protect home buyers and renters from being priced out of the turbo-charged Toronto real estate market.

The 16-point plan targets actions that are expected to cool the city’s overheated market with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help more people find affordable homes, increase supply, protect buyers and renters and bring stability to the real estate market.

Included in Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan is a 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax, similar to the one introduced last year in Vancouver. The tax in Ontario will be levied against all foreign-bought properties within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as they too have been affected by unprecedented price growth.

Home buyers should like the plan as it is expected to cool the housing market, which has experienced double-digit gains in the past few years. In April the average Toronto house price hit nearly $921,000, almost 25 per cent more than a year ago.

Renters may like it even more so as rent control will be expanded to buildings constructed after 1991, which were previously not covered by rules. Given the city’s tiny vacancy rate – 1.3 per cent, the lowest in 12 years — some landlords were commanding astronomically high rents, even doubling rents once a lease came due.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan includes additional measures, such as introducing a targeted $125-million, five-year program to encourage the construction of new purpose-built rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.

The government will also work to better understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market, such as “paper flipping” — a practice that includes  entering into a contractual agreement to buy a residential unit and assigning it to another person prior to closing.

The province is also introducing legislation that will allow Toronto and potentially other municipalities to introduce vacancy taxes.

The Fair Housing Plan will also include a new Housing Supply Team of dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.

Toronto: Home to World’s Fastest Growth in House Prices

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

 

Toronto is number one for many reasons. The New York Times deems it a first rate travel destination. It’s also pretty good on the scales of diversity and gender equality. And – no surprise here – it earns high marks as one of the best cities in the world to live.

That could be why it also is number one when it comes to having the world’s fastest pace of house price growth.

According to research conducted by analytics firm CoreLogic, Canada’s largest city beat out Sydney, New York, even Tokyo in terms of how quickly its house prices escalated last year.

According to the research which was carried out for The Daily Telegraph in Australia, Toronto’s median house price climbed 19 per cent in 2016, surpassing next-in-line Sydney at 18.4 per cent and third-place Vancouver, where house prices rose by 14 per cent.

According to the Huffington Post, the survey measures median house prices, which is a different measurement than the average figures used by real estate boards in Canada. And average prices show even stronger growth in the GTA with a year over year hike of nearly 28 per cent in February to almost $876,000.

Naturally, these figures are not sustainable. House prices will begin to slow. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) is forecasting slightly lower house prices over the next three years and the strong possibility of a market correction.

The FAO envisions a correction that could see house prices decline by 10 per cent within three years or a worst-case scenario of a 20 per cent drop, says the Huffington Post.

In its report, the FAO expects “a leveling out in residential investment over the next several years, consistent with a modest decline in housing prices,” but “a sharper housing price correction remains a significant risk, both for the economy and the province’s tax revenues.”

Kill Weeds without Killing the Earth

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

It’s May and we all know that means buds are bursting, seeds are sprouting and grass is growing at a breakneck pace.

Of course, so are the weeds. But before you apply harmful toxins, there are ways to eradicate them that are kinder and gentler on the environment. Let’s look at how to wipe out weeds by killing them with kindness, so to speak:

Dandelions:

In full bloom right now, these pretty weeds can be a nuisance. If you’re feeling energetic you can pluck them out by hand. Also try decapitating the yellow flower heads before they germinate and spread thousands of seeds. Corn gluten is said to suppress dandelion growth as well as other weeds. You can also try a stronger vinegar solution that is 15—25% acetic and available at most home and garden centres.

Boil Water:

Believe it or not, this extremely simple and inexpensive method is recommended by many. This is especially effective for weeds growing in sidewalk cracks or driveways or a larger area that you would like to replant once the weeds have died. The great thing is water doesn’t leave any harmful residue.

Zap Em:

Direct heat will wilt and with repeated applications kill most weeds. Most home and garden stores carry flame weeder torches that allow you to torch weeds directly without burning down your house.

Sodium Chloride:  

Common table salt is an effective herbicide. You need to be careful, though, not to soak the soil and other plants when applying this solution and that’s why salt is often recommended for killing weeds on driveways and sidewalks. Dissolve one part salt in eight parts of hot water  and add a small amount of liquid dish soap to help the solution adhere to the weed. Pour into a spray bottle and then spray the leaves of the weeds you want to get rid of.

Pickle Them:

Vinegar is a good solution for weeds. Even common white vinegar with its 5 per cent acidity will do the job, though you can purchase more acidic vinegars at garden stores. A good recipe for killing weeds that crop up in concrete and stone patios, driveways and sidewalks is four litres of white vinegar mixed with one cup of Epsom salts and a quarter cup of dish soap. Mix the ingredients in a large grab-and-go container with an attached sprayer wand and keep it on hand all summer long.

Borax:

Sold mainly as a product for cleaning and laundry, borax is an effective herbicide in the garden. Mix 10 ounces of powdered borax with 2.5 gallons of water and pour some of the solution in a container that has a sprayer. Simply spray the leaves of the weeds you want to kill being careful not to spray other plants or soak the soil with the solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: www.mydandelionisaflower.org, www.treehugger.com,

Average Toronto house price hits $921,000

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Here’s a strange anomaly for you: Even though more homes were for sale this April compared to one year ago, home prices were up by as much as 24.5 per cent that month compared to a year earlier.

If you’re still in the market for a house you may have noticed that significantly more homes – 33.6 per cent to be exact — were for sale last month compared to April of 2016. But the greater supply did little to stem the upward flow of the city’s house prices, according to figures released by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

Based on TREB data, the average cost of a home in Toronto climbed to nearly $921,000 last month, up almost $200,000 from last April’s average house price of $739,762.

April also saw sales nudge down by 3.2 per cent compared to a year ago, a sign, say some, that the Toronto real estate market is finally cooling off.

Any which way you look at it, more listings will inevitably signal a positive note for the Toronto real estate market, says a TREB economist.

“It was encouraging to see a very strong year-over-year increase in new listings,” said Jason Mercer, director of market analysis. “If new listings growth continues to outpace sales growth moving forward, we will start to see more balanced market conditions.”

Still, the board is not expecting any downturns in home prices. In fact, Mercer says the spring and summer months will see the growth of house prices well above the rate of inflation.

A greater housing supply could be a reaction to the market’s big year-over-year price jumps and the province’s newly implemented Fair Housing Plan, though it’s too early to tell.

Another indicator that the market is cooling showed in sales of detached homes, which slipped slightly from March to $1,205,262 from $1,214,422. Semi-detached homes also dipped a bit last month, while condo prices increased by 4.3 per cent.

Buyers Take Heart

May 2nd, 2017 by freemanrealty

In today’s scorching hot real estate market it’s easy as a buyer to become discouraged as each house you love gets lost under a pile of bids that come in at ridiculously high sums over the asking price.

Take comfort knowing that there are situations, though rare, where it’s not always about the top dollar for the seller. An American couple made international headlines in March when they opted to sell their Oakville home for $150,000 less than the highest bidder thanks to a heartfelt letter they received from the buyers.

The Sohs, a family of six with four children between 9 and 14, told the sellers that the family had returned changed from a six-week missionary trip to Africa, where they visited slums and taught in village schools. Returning to their 3,600-square-foot home, the Sohs realized the space was too large. They decided they would sell their current home and find something cheaper so the family could use the money saved for good works.

Here is some of what they wrote:

‘Our desire is to downsize and live simply so others may simply live,’ they wrote. ‘The gift of your home would allow us the freedom to do more mission trips and it would free up more of our finances to take care of the poor and needy and build His Kingdom. This would also allow us to further build in our children what has been planted in their hearts, to love those in need more than the things of this world.’

They are trading in 3,600 square feet for a home of 1,983 square feet.

The home, in original condition on a pool-sized, pie-shaped lot, was listed for $789,000. The Sohs paid $200,000 over asking. They were one of 14 offers on the property.

The Crofts, who now live outside of Denver, said they wanted to sell their home to a family who would treasure the community they lived in for 15 years. They had a dollar figure in mind that would make for an easy move and purchase of a home in Colorado. They don’t see taking less money as a loss. “When that number was met, we thought, ‘What’s enough? What’s the point?’” Michelle Croft told the Toronto Star.

Adding a personal touch to an offer is nothing new in Toronto real estate. And while it seems like a lot of extra work, it may just be worth the effort. Work at winning over the seller but please be authentic because most people can smell phoney baloney claims, lies and insincerity.

Be creative and original. Tell the sellers what you love about their home and how you plan to enjoy it. Introduce them to your family. Include a photograph, as the Sohs did.  If writing is not your thing, consider introducing your family and your story to them via video. Who knows? Your story may just give you the added edge.

Common Gardening Mistakes

May 2nd, 2017 by freemanrealty

There is nothing like springtime to get motivated about working in the garden. The birds are singing, the air is fresh and mild, the sun is shining. Signs of rebirth are all around you.

And nowhere do you see our unbridled passion for the outdoors more than in our garden, flower bed and landscaping displays. But some of us tend to go overboard, spending piles only to learn over time that certain plants don’t grow in certain areas or the flowers on that Weigela are the wrong colour. At the other end of the spectrum, there are folks who think that lone boring hedge sitting next to the front steps is a big contribution to the world of horticulture.

There’s a happy medium somewhere between the two extremes. So let’s take a look at those common mistakes made by home gardeners and see if we can work to avoid them this year:

Don’t Be A Quick-Change Artist

Try to live in your house for a full year before making any big changes to the lawn and gardens. It takes a complete year to realize what your plants, shrubs and trees look like in bloom and whether you want to keep move or discard them.

Not Planning Ahead

Earmark 10 to 20 per cent of your budget for construction of a new addition for landscaping. Sadly, construction can eat up your total budget with gardens and landscaping looking like a sad afterthought. If you can’t afford another expense right now, plan garden beds and landscaping in phases.

While you’re at it, draw up a blueprint of your garden plan. Include patios, out buildings and pools in addition to trees, bushes and flowers that are best suited for your soil and climate. Get advice from your local garden centre or hire a landscape designer to help with your plan.

Ignoring Soil Health

Adding supplements to your soil will save you time and money in the long run.  Add in peat moss which helps with water drainage in clay soil and helps sandy soil retain water. In new gardens add two or three inches of organic matter such as compost or manure to the top 12 inches of soil. Be sure to add mulch to your flower beds and gardens. Mulch keeps your soil cool and retains water.

Overwatering

If you’re an enthusiastic gardener you may be guilty of this oversight. Plant roots will drown if sitting in water as, like humans, they need air to survive. If your plant is wilting, though getting plenty of water, that may be the culprit. Leaves will turn brown or yellow and feel soft to the touch with too much water.

Too Little Watering

You are better to water less often but thoroughly. Shallow watering is a common mistake made especially by those who use a handheld garden hose. In this scenario, the top of the plant and the dust and dirt on the leaves gets washed off but little water goes to the roots. This will cause shallow roots which results in plants toppling over and wilting because their roots haven’t grown deeply into the ground which anchors them and lets them draw water from deep in the soil.

Incorrect Pruning

According to Mark Cullen, almost anything can be pruned in the fall without worry of harming the plant. But that rule gets a little dicey when it comes to flowering shrubs. Prune fall flowering shrubs such as Rose of Sharon in the fall. Early flowering shrubs like forsythia should be cut back in late spring or early summer after they have bloomed. Prune perennials in spring but keep sturdier flowers as a food source for birds and visual interest through the winter. Roses are typically trimmed in spring.

Planting sun lovers in shade or vice versa

Those info tags in plants at the garden centre are there for a purpose. Please read them. Though the information is sparse they tell you whether the plant thrives in sun, shade or a combination of the two.

 

 

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.