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Archive for the ‘Buying a Home’ Category

Changing Lanes

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Toronto is finally poised to embrace laneway housing.

The move to approve laneway houses across the old City of Toronto has been hard fought and a long time in the making. In 2006, the city rejected laneway housing imposing strict conditions that virtually made it impossible for most homeowners to build a separate dwelling in their back alley.

But the bull real estate market of recent years, which resulted in a housing crisis in terms of affordability, is credited with transforming the thinking on laneway housing and finally opening city planners’ eyes to creative housing alternatives.

Only a handful of examples of these secondary suites exist in the city now. The directive, if approved by council, means about 250 kilometres of Toronto laneways could be used as possible laneway housing projects. Currently, these back lanes are lined mostly with garages but under the new rules, they could be replaced by houses up to two-storeys high.

In early June, the Toronto East York Community Council voted to amend the city’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law to allow laneway suites in Toronto and East York. The issue must now be considered by the full Toronto council.

A laneway house is a small dwelling at the back of a residential lot that is detached from the main house. Its services such as water, electricity, garbage and mail all come from the front street that the primary house is on, not the laneway. Laneway homes can be used as residences for family members or as rental units. These dwellings cannot be severed and sold separate from the main house, however.

The advantages to laneway housing are numerous: it increases the quality of affordable rental housing, it lets people stay in pretty, well-established and low-rise neighbourhoods, it intensifies neighbourhoods and makes urban lanes more green, liveable and safe, it allows people to live near where they work, shop and play and they provides living space for household members at different age and stages of life.

 

Since 2009, Vancouver has been home to over 500 laneway homes. Ottawa has recently launched a laneway housing policy and Regina is close to doing so also.

 

 

 

Summertime and the Living Needs Real Estate

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

When the days are at their longest, warmest and most sun-drenched, we often feel like taking it easy.

This is the time to sit on the verandah with a tall glass of ice tea, or maybe it’s a good time to putter around your yard, extracting the odd weed and deciding what perennials need to be divided. The heat seems to slow us down a notch and force us to focus on the minutiae of life. If you’re a proponent of meditation, gurus might say it’s an ideal time to live in the moment.

Unfortunately, living in the now is not how most of us buy and sell houses. And while many think summer is a time for chilling, the commerce of everyday life often gets in the way. If you’re thinking of holding off the sale or purchase of a home until the fall, you may want to think again.

Did you know that estimates peg home sales during summer at somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent?  There are a number of reasons for this. The fact that these reasons all converge in summer is likely why. Let’s take a look:

Mild Weather

Say what you will about the weather but it’s a big factor in how we behave. Warm temperatures generally mean we’re out and about much more, possibly taking holidays or just enjoying the heat from our back patio.

If you’re taking vacation during the summer months, this gives you more time to house hunt or to get your home ready for the real estate market. If your windows need washing and your hallway could use a fresh coat of paint, now is the time to do it. If you can’t take holidays during June, July or August, you can at least take advantage of the long weekends summer offers to get some of these chores out of the way.

Boost curb appeal

Houses and neighbourhoods, in general, look most attractive in summer. Blossoms are in full bloom, trees are lush and full and lawns are green. Make sure you keep shrubs and bushes trimmed, weeds at bay and your windows washed. You might want to place some inviting furniture on your porch or a decorative wreath on your front door. This makes potential buyers feel more welcome and at ease.

Ideal time for moving 

For families with school-age children, summertime is the easiest and most convenient time to move. But it may also be a good time to hunt for a house or to sell one.  While children aren’t the main decision makers in a household, their opinions do count so it stands to reason that they should attend showings and open houses. On the flip side, if selling your house in summer, perhaps your kids can help you get your house ready for showings? Give them age-appropriate jobs like sweeping the walkway or straightening the pillows on the sofa. Remember details count and children can appreciate the finer points.

 

Make Your Move More Tolerable

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Summertime is when we experience a higher-than-normal volume of people moving from one house to another.

The reasons for this are because children are out of school in summer and the weather is moderate. It also happens to more closely follow the peak real estate sales season of spring.

Let’s consider ways to make the unpleasant task of moving a little more agreeable:

Compartmentalize

Sorting out your belongings is a big part of moving, though possibly one of the most difficult aspects. And why not use the chance to decide what stays, what’s recycled and what goes in the donation bin. Consider holding a garage sale before the move. The less you have to transfer to the new house makes moving easier, less expensive and much less time consuming.

Get Quotes 

Be sure to get multiple quotes from different moving companies. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what kind of insurance is included. Explore what options and services they offer such as packing and unpacking services, moving boxes and packing supplies.

Drill Down 

Find out what items your moving company won’t touch. You will either have to throw out those items or find a way to move them yourself.

Pets 

Whether you’re moving relatively close by or far away don’t forget to make travel plans for your pets. And remember to accommodate your furry friends once you get to your new place. Try to find them an out-of-the-way spot where they won’t be distracted or disturbed by all the comings and goings of moving day.

Move-In Musts 

Consider assembling a sort of first-aid kit for moving day. You’ll want to include necessities such as toilet paper, tissue, a flashlight, cleaning supplies, rags and cooking supplies. Mark them ‘open first’ so you can quickly find these essentials.

Find a Babysitter 

Though kids aren’t in school in summer, younger ones may be more of a hindrance than a help on the big day. You may want to leave them with mom or perhaps a friend or babysitter. Plan that ahead of time.

Clean-Up 

As a gesture of goodwill, it’s a good idea to hire cleaners to clean your house once you’ve moved out and before the new homeowners arrive. You may want to consider having the carpets cleaned as well.

Unpacking 

This should be done based on your needs, but kitchen and at least one bathroom makes sense. Also, at some point, you’ll want to make up the beds since you will be spending your first night in your new home. Once these essentials are done, you can relax. Remember unpacking doesn’t need to be done in one or two days.

Source: www.moving.com,

Buying a Condo Resale versus Pre-Construction

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Now that your heart is set on purchasing a condo you need to decide if you want to buy resale or one that hasn’t yet gotten off the ground.

Each has their pros and cons. What you select probably depends on your personality. So let’s examine both.

Resale

I can see it 

This option allows you to visualize what you are buying up close and personal. No guessing, no trying to picture yourself walking through the condo based on a 3-D rendering and wondering if you will truly like the layout, space and design elements. Same goes for the neighbourhood. You will get a sense of the kind of commercial activity and green spaces currently in your area as opposed to projecting possibilities with a pre-construction condo that can take years to materialize.

Waiting Game 

With a resale condo, you can move in right away or as soon as you close so there is little waiting, if at all. This is perfect for the patiently challenged among us.

Math Made Easy 

Calculations are a breeze as your mortgage is pre-approved and you can then figure out your monthly payments so you know what you’re dealing with.

Room to Breathe 

Older resale condo units typically contain more square footage in terms of living and storage space. If size matters to you, this may be a factor worth considering.

Renovation Expenses 

Odds are if you unit was lived in for any length of time, you may want to invest in some home renovations and repairs.

Pre-Construction

It’s Tailor-made 

One of the big benefits to buying a condo before it’s built is that you can customize to your heart’s content. Being able to select that bamboo flooring you’ve always loved or certain appliances and cabinetry can really add to the charm of buying this way.

Save Your Pennies 

Pre-construction gives you more time to save for your condo. This is because you pay the builder a number of payments which total a deposit in the neighbourhood of 20 to 25 per cent of the purchase price.

Appreciation 

There are no guarantees, of course, but often the value of your condo increases from when you buy it to when you actually move in.

Delays

It’s not uncommon to experience setbacks that impede the progression of construction so being sure you have a stable place to hang your hat as your condo is being built is important.

What are the Fees? 

With pre-construction you don’t know what your maintenance fees and property taxes will be. Of course, you can guess but they will likely change by the time your building is ready. Also, pre-construction units are subject to HST.

Dust, Dirt & Chaos 

You might have the keys to your unit, but the builder still have lots of work to do. If you don’t mind the commotion and the mess and can handle living in a condo that still needs some tweaking, this may not be a problem for you.

 

Sources: www.sunlife.ca, www.baystreetblog.com, www.lowestrates.ca

 

Make Your Move More Tolerable

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Summertime is when we experience a higher-than-normal volume of people moving from one house to another.

The reasons for this are because children are out of school in summer and the weather is moderate. It also happens to more closely follow the peak real estate sales season of spring.

Let’s consider ways to make the unpleasant task of moving a little more agreeable:

Compartmentalize

Sorting out your belongings is a big part of moving, though possibly one of the most difficult aspects. And why not use the chance to decide what stays, what’s recycled and what goes in the donation bin. Consider holding a garage sale before the move. The less you have to transfer to the new house makes moving easier, less expensive and much less time consuming.

Get Quotes 

Be sure to get multiple quotes from different moving companies. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what kind of insurance is included. Explore what options and services they offer such as packing and unpacking services, moving boxes and packing supplies.

Drill Down 

Find out what items your moving company won’t touch. You will either have to throw out those items or find a way to move them yourself.

Pets 

Whether you’re moving relatively close by or far away don’t forget to make travel plans for your pets. And remember to accommodate your furry friends once you get to your new place. Try to find them an out-of-the-way spot where they won’t be distracted or disturbed by all the comings and goings of moving day.

Move-In Musts 

Consider assembling a sort of first-aid kit for moving day. You’ll want to include necessities such as toilet paper, tissue, a flashlight, cleaning supplies, rags and cooking supplies. Mark them ‘open first’ so you can quickly find these essentials.

Find a Babysitter 

Though kids aren’t in school in summer, younger ones may be more of a hindrance than a help on the big day. You may want to leave them with mom or perhaps a friend or babysitter. Plan that ahead of time.

Clean-Up 

As a gesture of goodwill, it’s a good idea to hire cleaners to clean your house once you’ve moved out and before the new homeowners arrive. You may want to consider having the carpets cleaned as well.

Unpacking 

This should be done based on your needs, but kitchen and at least one bathroom makes sense. Also, at some point, you’ll want to make up the beds since you will be spending your first night in your new home. Once these essentials are done, you can relax. Remember unpacking doesn’t need to be done in one or two days.

Source: www.moving.com,

How to integrate condos and pets

Friday, May 11th, 2018

There are a million considerations to mull over before deciding to buy a condo. One you should not neglect centres on your furry and feathered friends and how warmly they’ll be welcomed, if at all, in your new digs.

Not all condominium corporations love domesticated animals equally. So if bringing your four-legged friend or pet turtle with you is a priority that is definitely something you need to discuss with your realtor, who should be able to advise you. If they can’t or won’t, it’s time to get a new agent.

At Freeman Real Estate, where we encourage staff to bring their pets to work, we’ve even dedicated part of our website to finding the perfect pet-friendly Toronto Condo. We know the public loves their pets and will go to great lengths to accommodate them. In fact, a CBC.ca report from 2017 cited a city estimate that there are between four to eight pets living on every high-rise floor in the city.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The thing to know is that every condo building varies in its rules about pets with some banning them altogether. In order to get the low-down on a particular building you need something called a condo status certificate which outlines the dos and don’ts of your condo. Your real-estate agent may already have copies of the certificates but if not you can get them for a small fee.

So what kind of regulations do condo boards typically have? They vary and cover a wide assortment of items. More common restrictions include rules about leashing pets and ensuring that they are registered and guidelines as to how many pets you can have in your unit and what size and weight your pets can be. There are even some that govern the type of pet so goats or chickens are forbidden because they would be deemed to be livestock.

If you’re something of a rebel and you think the condo board members will fall in love with your 90-kilo English Mastiff and disregard their weight restrictions, think again. Unless you can prove that your pet is with you for medical reasons (as recognized by the Human Rights Code), you may be in for a bitter and pricey fight. In 2015, The Toronto Star reported on a case that ended when the dog was ordered to be removed from the condo. The judge awarded $47,000 in court costs to the condo corporation “which can be collected by way of a lien” against the condo unit in question. The legal costs incurred by the condo dwellers could have easily doubled their bill, the story reported. They argued that their dog, Peaches, should be permitted despite weighing 15 pounds more than what the bylaws allowed.

It just goes to show you that it’s important to be mindful of the rules. Besides there are plenty of GTA condos that are very pet friendly, offering a host of amenities such as nearby parks, pet-washing stations and pet spas.

Sources: www.torontostar.ca, www.zoocasa.com, www.cbc.ca

Plan Your Garage Sale

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Is this the year you finally cut the clutter? Are you keeping a list and checking it twice in the hopes your home will once-and-for-all be a model of organization envied by all? Does the thought of downsizing give you a bad case of jitters?

You’re not alone and that’s why thousands of Canadians from coast to coast begin planning their spring and summer garage and yard sales now. Here’s how to pull it off:

Talk to Neighbours:

A multi-family sale is better than a single-family sale. Buyers rightly think the pickings are better and they’re correct. There is simply more to choose from. You will likely have more traffic as a result. Rally your neighbours early on and get them excited and involved in the process. Be sure to delegate some of the chores such as signage or entertainment to your neighbours.

The Gathering:

Round up your stuff and store it in a little-used room or garage. Go through your house with a very critical eye. Do I really need 13 butter knives? Will I ever use those barrels I’m storing at the side of my house? Take a serious look at your possessions and ask yourself if they are still serving you well or are they just taking up space?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign:

You don’t want to forget yours. Unless you live on a busy, well-trafficked street, the only way folks will discover your sale is with signage that points them in the right direction. Make it big, bright and clear with a minimum of words. Your realtor may also offer garage sale signs so talk to them first. Don’t forget other forms of advertising, too. You could try promoting your sale in a newspaper, though that can be pricey. Put up flyers at your local grocery store and library. And finally, be sure to post info on social media sites.

Safety & Security:

Keep even your back door locked during your sale as you just never know who’s lurking around. Don’t use a cash box. Instead, carry your money with you at all times. Keep your curtains and blinds closed during your event and you may want to post a sign that says, ‘No public restrooms.’ As an alternative, figure out where the nearest public washroom is so you can point folks in the right direction.

The Price is Right:

You’re best to put a price on everything rather than have bargain hunters ask about every last item. For small miscellaneous items place bits and pieces of similar value in a box or container of some sort. You could display a 50 cent bin, and bins marked with a one dollar, two dollar and five dollar price tag. It’s said that a good gauge is to price stuff at about 20 per cent of what you paid for it. So if you bought that salad bowl for $10 then you would ask $2 for it.

Get into the Groove:

You want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the shoppers. That way, they will be more at ease and potentially more likely to part with their money. Play upbeat music in the background. Have bottled water for sale. If you’re really into it, you could do a barbecue with hotdogs or another crowd pleaser and donate some of those proceeds to a local shelter or non-profit children’s organization. Above all, greet shoppers and be friendly. Make small talk if they’re amenable but don’t follow them around or watch them shop. That kind of behaviour makes them nervous.

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Old vs. New Condo

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

You’ve decided after much mental maneuvering that a condo is for you. Now the question is should you purchase an old or new one?

Landing on your decision to buy a condo may have been dead simple or it may have taken twists and turns along the way. Either way, know that condo living is growing in popularity as young and old home owners look for affordable housing options that keep prices below the seven-figure mark.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

So let’s address some highlights of old vs. new:

More Room: There are a number of advantages to buying into an older condo building and space may be the biggest one. Expect to see living spaces that have been earmarked for certain tasks separated. So instead of the living room-kitchen combo you often see in newer builds, an older condo design would likely keep these two areas separate and distinct from one another. Bedrooms and balconies will also likely be larger in older models. The overall square footage of older condos is typically larger than newer models. However, if you can live without a design space that is open concept, than a newer condo is definitely for you.

Building materials have also changed. Where today’s condos boast floor-to-ceiling glass walls and steel frames, older buildings commonly used brick and cement.

Maintenance Fees: In newer models these fees will be on the relatively lower side as there should be little in the way of maintenance to be done. Granted, condos still have day-to-day maintenance such as snow removal and window cleaning but these expenses are covered by the fees that comes from the collective purse. As a building ages, it faces higher costs in terms of its upkeep. Will it need a new roof? Likely. A new heating and cooling system? One day, for sure. It’s probably best not to think short term when it comes to fees. Select the building that bests suits your needs and figure out if the higher cost of a mortgage on a new condo outweighs the higher maintenance fees on an older model.

Location: Is your condo shoehorned beside bridges or an on-or-off ramp? Is it situated on a busy street in which traffic rarely sleeps? Older units can be found on quiet, tree-lined streets. And besides the actual street, what neighbourhood is the condo in?  Is it up and coming or has it seen better days?

While newer buildings can boast modern-day amenities, they can sometimes take years before the surrounding neighbourhood becomes a pleasant place to reside. Lacking are schools, community-centred organizations and conveniences such as restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners. You may also have to endure the slow evolution of the neighbourhood, putting up with constant construction and other nuisances that go with it.

Sources: www.zoocasa.com, www.whichmortgage.ca, www.dominionlending.ca,

Celebrate Mother Earth

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Did you know the first Earth Day was marked 48 years ago in 1970? To help celebrate this April 22nd observance, why not head outdoors and do something green?

Begin with your own property. By now, hopefully winter’s assault is over and what you’re left with is the promise of spring mixed with the remains left by snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Take a mental inventory and begin to prioritize what needs tending first.

Prune dormant trees, non-flowering shrubs and vines such as wisteria, clematis and climbing roses. Rake up leftover curled fall leaves caught in your flower beds, shrubs and hedges. Now is the time to feed your garden so try an organic fertilizer on trees, vines, roses and other plants. Trim summer-blooming shrubs such as hydrangea. Also don’t forget to divide perennials that have grown too big.

April is also a good time to begin trying to keep weeds at bay. According to Mark Cullen, weed control comprises a four-step approach:

  1. Kill them when they’re young.
  2. Mulch is so effective at preventing weeds. It’s also not a chemical and easy to apply. Cullen says the secret is to apply four to five centimetres of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch. The sooner this is done, the better.
  3. For grass weeds, he recommends removing all loose debris from the area and getting grass blades to stand up on end. Smoothly rake on three to five centimeters of lawn soil or triple mix. Use quality grass seed on the area. Rake it smooth and then step on the patch to ensure the seed comes in contact with the soil and water until germination. Keep it damp and be sure to fertilize.
  4. Consider trying biologically based weed killers.

Once your lawn and garden is spring ready you may want to tackle the neighbourhood. Consider organizing a spring clean-up on your street or in your community. It’s likely in desperate need of a polish what with coffee cups, dog poop and plastic bags now on full display now that the snow is gone.

The city is also encouraging spring cleanup with drop-off depots for items such as electronics, books, dishes and toys. Beginning April 7 in Scarborough-Rouge River and Parkdale-High Park wards will take turns hosting these Community Environment Days until the end of July. Free compost collected thanks to the city’s yard-waste program is also available.

According to the CBC.ca, about 200,000 volunteers from Toronto schools, businesses and community groups participate in Community Cleanup Days, which are local city-run events that clean up public spaces. They take place from April 20—22.

 

The Lowdown on Lead-Based Paint

Monday, April 9th, 2018

It’s for good reason that Toronto is known as the City of Neighbourhoods with some of those many communities dating as far back as 200 years. Given that lineage, it’s safe to assume that lead-based paint could be in your home.

If your house was built prior to 1960 chances are pretty good that lead-based paint was used. Homes constructed between 1960 and 1990 may have lead in the exterior paint, though paint used inside could still contain some smaller amounts of lead. Residences built after 1990 should not have any lead in their paint as North American manufacturers were producing lead-free paint by then.

The danger with lead paints is highest among children because they absorb it more easily and because they are still developing.  According to the federal government, even small amounts of dust with lead are dangerous to babies and children. Unborn infants could also be at risk if a pregnant mother-to-be consumes lead. Lead poisoning causes anemia in addition to brain and nervous system damage. A simple blood test is how you determine your level of exposure.

There are ways to detect if lead-based paint was used in your home. Having paint chip samples analyzed at a lab is a possibility as is hiring a contractor who has the appropriate x-ray equipment to detect lead on painted surfaces.

The federal government recommends taking action if your lead paint is chipping, flaking or within reach of children who might ingest it. But it also stipulates that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone when it comes to lead paint, as long as the safety of children is not compromised. As an added protection home owners can cover lead-based painted areas with wallpaper, wallboard or panelling.

If you plan to do the work yourself, know that it’s a tall order. Remove all furnishings, rugs and window coverings on which lead dust might cling. If you can’t remove a belonging or furnishings make sure they are covered in plastic. Cover your heating and cooling vents and doorways as you want to prevent scrapings and paint particles from travelling throughout your house. Open your windows. To trap the dust and keep yourself protected you will need tarps, a respirator, protective eye coverings and gloves.

It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks, every ten minutes or so. Exit the work area immediately if you begin to feel dizzy, sick or have trouble breathing.

Use a chemical paint stripper paste and apply it with a brush. You want to avoid sanders, heat guns or blowlamps as they create toxic dust and fumes.

Then again, you may decide to hire a lead abatement company to get the job done. You’ll find them online. Be sure to check references.

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.