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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle Realm’ Category

Grass alternatives are greener and better

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

As our climate heats up every year, the matter of lawns invariably creeps into our consciousness.

As spring approaches, homeowners’ heads fill with questions and concerns about their grass. Is aerating worth the money? Can I keep pests away in a manner that is eco-friendly? How can I find the extra time to maintain my lawn and keep it looking like a lush green emerald carpet? My neighbour paved over his grass. Can I do the same?

Our view toward lawns is changing. Not the ultimate landscape material it once was, grass is less popular compared to its heyday as homeowners now look for ways to save time, money and the environment.

We’re not trying to dump on traditional lawns, but there are clearly some great alternatives available that look attractive and are more environmentally sound than traditional turf grass. Just think of the time and money you’ll have for other pursuits.

Here are some options worth considering:

Fake grass 

It’s green, it’s even, it’s soft. What’s not to like? Artificial turf can easily be mistaken for the real deal. No cutting or weeding required, the turf can last up to 15 years. Your only maintenance is keeping it clean by hosing it down or vacuuming it. Artificial grass is expensive to install but you’re initial investment is rewarded in time and money saved from not having to water or fertilize the lawn or to cut it.

Hardscaping your lawn 

This technique essentially describes the addition of elements to your lawn and garden that consist of paved areas, decks, wood chips, stones or fountains. These dry gardens are further enhanced by adding any combination of native ornamental grasses, plants and shrubs alongside hard elements such as stone chips, pea gravel and larger decorative rocks.

While folks either love or hate the look of a paved-over front lawn, there are plenty of environmental reasons for not turning your grass into a tarmac. And, according to the Toronto Star, the process of getting approvals for paving your front yard is not an easy one.

Garden of Edibles

Talk about eating the fruits of your labour. Installing a garden that yields fruits and vegetables has its own set of benefits, perhaps the foremost being the sense of satisfaction you get from growing your own food.

Native plants and ground covers

The beauty of these species is that they survive, and thrive even, with very little outside help. Ground covers come in a variety of shapes, colours and blooms. Consider Creeping Potentilla, a drought tolerant low-growing plant that produces yellow flowers, Scotch Moss, perfect for growing in the cracks between stones or Thyme, which attracts insects and can withstand moderate foot traffic.

If you prefer taller plants, try indigenous flowers and shrubs. Asters, Coneflower, Milkweed and violets make for a colourful garden that will attract bees and butterflies. For bushes and shrubs and to fill bigger spaces, try Chokeberry, Dogwood, Honeysuckle and Yew.

While the transition may take some getting used to, know that you are free to pursue more enjoyable pastimes than lawn maintenance. Know also that you are doing your part for the environment as half of all residential water usage in summer is due to lawn watering with much of that water lost to evaporation and run-off, according to Environment Canada.

 

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,

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,

Save Water and Money with these Summertime Tips

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Summer is here and the time is right for watering lawns and gardens, washing our cars and topping up pools.

Did you know that city water use doubles in the summer thanks in large part to grass and garden watering? While there’s nothing wrong with keeping your plants and lawn hydrated, homeowners often overdo it when it comes to H2O. The result tends to be water wasted due to evaporation, run-off and over watering.

In an effort to avoid wasting water and to cut costs, here are some guidelines set out by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation:

Watch Mother Nature

It’s a good idea to assess your weekly rainfall by keeping a measuring container in your yard that is emptied each week. Established lawns, for example, need about 2.5 cm or 1 inch of water per week. To determine the measurement set out a can of tuna on your lawn and after an even watering, when the water reaches the top of the can, you know you’ve reached the limit. Time how long that takes and use the timer on your sprinkler next time. If you get a good rain, you can skip watering for one full week.

Timing is everything 

Water before 9 a.m. as this cuts evaporation and the scorching of leaves.

Don’t be a hoser 

Set up your sprinkler or hose so that you’re not watering your walkway, driveway or sidewalk. Talk about throwing money down the drain!

Roll out the barrel 

Rain barrels can cut your municipal water usage incredibly. They collect rainwater from your roof thanks to eaves troughs directed into the barrel.

Soak it

Apply a soaker hose to the base of plants, rather than to the leaves, as this reduces evaporation. Drip or trickle irrigation systems work well because they bring water slowly and directly to the roots. This will ultimately create deeper roots which heightens a plant’s drought resistance. If you prefer a sprinkler pick one that sprays close to the ground and that has a timer.

Don’t cut too short

Short grass doesn’t absorb as much water as longer grass so it’s best not to trim it too short. Set your mower blade so that it cuts no lower than 6 to 8 cm or 2.5 to 3 inches. Shaded roots can hold water better.

Use mulch

Mulch does a lot more than simply retain moisture in the soil. It’s also good for moderating soil temperature, erosion and weed control. Try wood chips, bark and crushed rock, though there are other choices for mulch as well.

Other ways to save water

Don’t hose down paved surfaces to get rid of dust, dirt and debris. Use a good old-fashioned broom. When washing your vehicle, use a water-filled bucket instead of a hose. Finally, cover your swimming pools when not in use. This decreases the water’s evaporation.

Why bugs are good for your garden

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

It’s easy to understand why we cringe, swear and swat at creepy crawly insects. But in reality, if they didn’t exist our eco-system would be an absolute disaster.

Clearly, there are pests we don’t want in our lawns and gardens such as mites and aphids, which do a great job at destroying plant life and spreading disease. But there are plenty of bugs that do good. They’re known as beneficial insects and they help your garden strike the perfect balance of creating a chemical-free garden that displays healthy looking and abundant plants.

Using beneficial insects to control other less garden friendly bugs is a method known as biological control. By using living organisms to control malicious insects you create a garden that is free of pesticides and other garden chemicals. Essentially, you are creating an organic garden.

We’ve all heard about the shortage of bees in recent years. These garden must-haves are essential for pollinating vegetables, fruit trees and other crops. To attract more bees and other pollinators such as butterflies plant a wide variety of flowering plants as well as pollen and nectar sources. Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, white, yellow and violet. Leave a section of your garden free from mulch so as to attract ground bees. A dead tree or rotting log will supply prime nesting for bees. Provide them with a shallow water source such as a bird bath or saucer filled with water.

Beetles are another beneficial insect you should welcome on your property. These nocturnal bugs help to keep night-time pests at bay. They prey on about 50 types of pests such as snails and slugs. Attract beetles to your garden by using mulch and planting perennials. They nest and lay their eggs in decaying plant matter and will overwinter there as well.

Ladybugs are another garden friendly bug you want to have. They enjoy munching on a number of pests such as aphids, white flies, mites and mealy bugs. Their larvae are equally important in your garden as they are as ravenous, if not more so, than their parents. One thing to keep in mind is that the ladybug larva looks remarkably different from its parents. In fact, the larva looks like a tiny red and black alligator and not at all like its parents, which are often considered the darlings of the bug world.

Don’t let the large size and scary shape of a praying mantis scare you. They are harmless to humans. Not so much to other bugs, though. In fact, a praying mantis will eat just about any insect in the garden. They’ve been known to catch small frogs and birds as well.

Sources: www.organiclesson.com, www.thespruce.com, www.care2.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

Show off your house with May blooms

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The list of plants, shrubs and vines that flower in May is as long as a Canadian winter. But with so many to choose from it’s easy to become overwhelmed and perhaps even give up on the notion of having an attractive outdoor garden.

Don’t. Nothing is as inviting as a well-tended lawn and garden. An abundance of colour, eye-catching plant shapes, sizes and textures and well-placed lawn and garden ornaments will keep folks turning their heads. And if you plan to sell your home during one of the hottest buying months of the year, that’s even more reason to pick up your rake and head outside.

Gardening experts will tell say you are better to select plants that are native to Ontario because they are more likely to thrive, pick up fewer diseases and need less water. Indigenous varieties are much easier to maintain and they contribute to biodiversity.

That said, nothing says springtime like those gorgeous blossoms found in April and May on tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils. Though these flowers may not be native to Ontario, they grow very well here and provide the perfect pop of colour after a long, cold and bleak winter season.

Perennial flowers that you can depend on year after year include early-blooming peony. These easy-to-grow and disease-resistant plants are showy and beautiful in colour and they can last forever. You will likely need to stake your peonies, but the effort will be worth it.

Bleeding Hearts lend an old-fashioned flavour to your garden what with their arching stems and dangling heart-shaped blooms. These plants work well in shady areas.

Columbine come in a variety of colours but are known for their showy, intricate flowers. These flowers are ideal as they are a native species of Canada.

Wood Anemone is part of the Buttercup family and since they grow low, they make a nice ground covering. This native variety sports a five-petal blossom of white flowers in early spring and is usually found in forests.

Bloodroot is showy eight-to-twelve petal white flowers that bloom from April to May. These photogenic flowers with a bright yellow centre are named as such because the roots contain juice that is a blood-red colour.

When it comes to shrubs that produce pretty flowers in May virtually nothing beats the forsythia. With its bright and welcoming yellow blossoms, these shrubs looks fabulous whether neatly trimmed for size or left to grow wild. Flowering Dogwood, Lilacs, Bridlewreath Spirea, Heath, Azalea and Weigela each offer showy blossoms that will draw the eye.

For a vertical aspect to your garden consider growing flowering vines on fences, light posts, walls or on an arbour. Trumpet vine, which is named for the shape of its red-orange flowers, will attract hummingbirds to your garden. Wisteria produces beautiful purplish-blue-to-white flowers that are quite fragrant, although these plants can take years to develop. Clematis also turns out beautiful showy flowers in a wide variety of colours.

But if you are simply looking for a way to cover an unattractive fence, consider these non-flowering vines, Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy. They grow quickly and their foliage is quite attractive, especially in the fall.

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 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.