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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle Realm’ Category

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.

Should Retirees Buy or Rent?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

A spate of recent news reports have suggested that Canada’s seniors and retirees would be better off to rent their living space rather than to own it.

Proponents say there are a lot of freedoms that come with renting: it frees up your finances and your time from all of the indoor and outdoor maintenance that comes with owning a home. The other perhaps equally big benefit is the amount of equity homeowners can have access to upon selling.

Using that equity to pay for rent and some of life’s pursuits such as travel, cars and dining out are an added bonus. Oftentimes, senior homeowners might have enough equity stashed away that the returns on their invested funds nicely cover the cost of rent.

According to Moneysense.ca, 68 per cent of Canadians are homeowners with the rate rising as people age. The home ownership rate peaks to 75 per cent at about age 65. Rates level off until age 75, where they begin to decline.

But being a renter isn’t all fun and games. As a tenant, you have far less control than an owner about such pursuits as decorating, remodelling and owning pets. Growing accustomed to that loss of control can be frustrating and hard to handle, especially for someone who has owned their own home most of their adult life.

And being a cash-poor retiree whose assets are largely tied up their home’s equity isn’t the doom-and-gloom scenario it once was. With home equity lines of credit and reverse mortgages, seniors can tap into their home’s equity so they can enjoy the kind of lifestyle they’ve come to expect.

The other advantage is that your fixed housing costs likely won’t rise, unlike your rent. This, of course, does not hold true for property taxes and maintenance costs but it will for your mortgage especially if your rate is fixed. In fact, many senior homeowners live mortgage free so mortgage payments aren’t even an issue.

If you’re still uncertain and your decision comes down to dollars and cents, do the math. For buying, factor in mortgage costs, property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance. Compare those numbers to rents in the area you’re interested in.  Use online websites to assess the rate increases that come with renting and be sure to include that in your calculations.

In the end, there really is no right or wrong answer to renting versus buying. Weigh the pros and cons of each and decide which suits you better.

Is Daylight Saving Time a Waste of Time?

Friday, March 9th, 2018

As we set our clocks forward an hour this weekend, will you grumble as you fiddle with the time on your programmable thermostat, bedside alarm clock, wristwatch and car radio? Or does adhering to the rules of daylight saving time (DST) not faze you at all?

The beauty of springing forward in March (the 11th to be exact) is that we can luxuriate in more sunshine with longer days as we head into spring and temperatures warm up. It also makes sleeping in easier since it keeps light at bay a little longer than usual.

But do we really need to continue with daylight saving time? It’s said that the practice was introduced to Canada in 1916 as a means to save fuel. But debate on this issue is somewhat contentious more than one hundred years later. About a decade ago, the National Research Council of Canada conducted a widespread study to see if DST truly saved energy. Its conclusion was ironically inconclusive.

Others have suggested that losing an hour of daylight in the fall actually serves to harm our happiness quotient. Some suggest that a lack of sunshine in the fall and winter months directly impacts people who suffer from depression, seasonal affective disorder and other mental health illnesses.

Some experts believe the lack of sleep may also be linked to a rise in heart attacks that occur in the first few weekdays after the clocks were moved forward.

Still others claim daylight saving time is a risk to our personal safety. Studies show more traffic accidents, for example, occur during the days after we spring forward. The thinking goes that the one-hour loss of sleep makes drivers and pedestrians less alert, resulting in more mishaps. And this doesn’t only happen in the spring. Pedestrians were reportedly more likely to be killed by vehicles during the fall when clocks fall back and darkness pervades.

Canada generally follows the U.S. when it comes to significant changes around DST. When the U.S. decided in 2007 to extend daylight saving by a month in the spring and a handful of days in the fall, Canada did the same so travel and trade between the two countries would not be disrupted.

But not all provinces follow DST. Saskatchewan and parts of B.C. do not observe daylight saving time. Should we follow suit?

 

 

Why Condos Are Having a Moment

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Condos often fit the bill where other housing is either too large, too expensive, too far from the action and often, for many, too much work.

That the Toronto condo market is having a moment right now makes sense. With an average selling price of just over $500,000, condos are a very affordable option for buyers seeking to own their own living space.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), approximately half of those hunting for a house in the city are comprised of first-time home buyers. It can be assumed then that these buyers are typically younger and, as such, possess less money and earnings to carry a single-family home in the million-dollar range. Condos are the perfect entry point to owning real estate in Toronto. As you pay off your mortgage, the value of your investment goes up, allowing you to eventually use your increased capital to buy a larger home or perhaps fund a vacation home or some other such comfort.

The average selling price for condos in the city was $510,206 in the third quarter of 2017, up by nearly 23 per cent compared to the average price of $415,894 that condos sold for during the same period a year earlier.

“The condominium apartment market segment has exhibited the strongest average rates of price growth since the spring, relative to other major market segments,” says TREB president Tim Syrianos. “Competition between buyers remains strong, as listings remain below last year’s very constrained levels.”

Syrianos also touched on the fact that the condominium apartment housing market is not protected from the ravages of a listings shortage. And this factor is also likely driving the condo market.

According to TREB, there were 5,684 condominium apartment sales reported through the MLS system in the third quarter of 2017. This was down from 7,991 sales reported during the same period in 2016.

New condominium apartment listings were also down on a year-over-year basis by 10 per cent to 9,845 in the third quarter of 2017 compared to 10,967 in 2016.

A consumer poll taken for TREB by Ipsos last spring indicated more interest in buying condos.

“Condominium apartments will likely account for a greater share of home sales as we move forward,” says Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis. “With this in mind, it is not surprising that we have continued to see robust price growth, as demand has remained strong relative to available listings.”

As with any type of housing, there are issues with these vertical homes, but if you’re looking for a space that is centrally located, low-maintenance and affordable, condos can’t be beat.

See Freeman Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – Condos to learn more about our condo listings.

How Technology Helps Green Our Homes

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

There’s no doubt that when historians look back on this time it will be deemed the Age of Technology or some such name that indicates the era as a whirlwind of rapidly changing automation.

Perhaps nowhere is that revolution more evident than in our homes with how technology has served to make them warmer yet more eco-friendly. Let’s take a look at some of the tech advances that are helping green our homes:

Temperature-Controlled Living

Saving us money and time, but perhaps most importantly, saving our planet from environmental ruin are home automation systems that allow you to cool or warm your home remotely. What’s unique about smart thermostats is that technology allows you to be eco-smart so that you are not heating or cooling a space when you’re not there. Sync these thermostats with your iPhone so that your habits are remembered. Some tech companies allow you to use your smartphone to link your temperature controls with your lighting for added savings. Just think: no more fiddling with tricky timers or leaving lights on at all hours to fool people into thinking you’re home. With this technology, you can easily control the timer from anywhere with a simple click.

Tiny Bubbles

While laundering your clothes will never be a snap, there are smart washing machines now that don’t guzzle energy like their predecessors. Equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, these machines also allow you to use your smartphone to detect any issues that crop up with your washer.

Ditch the Dryer

While that is much easier said than done, dryer chugs through an inordinate amount of energy that rivals your washer, dishwasher and refrigerator combined. Try using folding racks to hang and air dry your laundry or simply hang clothes such as shirts from hangers. Or consider hanging half your laundry and machine drying the other half. Just be sure to air dry the heavier items and let the lighter loads in the machine, which will cut down drying time.

Skip to the Loo

Dual-flush toilets are all the rage and with good reason. Instead of flushing away six gallons of water with each flush, dual-flush toilets only use up either.8 or 1.6 gallons. Let’s say a family of three each uses the toilet five times a day. If they are using an older style toilet then they are flushing nearly 100 gallons of water down the drain each and every day. Dual-flush toilets allow you to select the level of water required for each flush. Another great technological advancement is the toilet that uses gray water from your bath and shower in order to flush.

Eco Padding Your House

While spray polyurethane foam insulation is a workhorse of a product in terms of helping keep homes draft free and temperature controlled, environmentalists don’t look too kindly on it for its greening properties. Soybean-based spray foam is a good alternative as it does not contain the chemical (MDI or diphenyl diisocyanate) that causes off-gassing. Castor-oil based lcynene is also a good option. Cotton denim batting is a good green insulation, though it can be expensive to install and not nearly as easy as foam. Similarly, sheep’s wool is a good eco-friendly alternative, but like denim, it is not as easy to install.

Sources: Mother Earth News, Better Homes & Gardens, Organic 4 Greenlivings, Eco Building Pulse, Green High Five

Second Annual GREAT TURKEY GIVE

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Freeman Real Estate is reprising its community giving this holiday season with a charitable gift that is even bigger and better than last year’s.

The family-run boutique realtor is stepping up its contribution to the community this year on Sunday, December 17 with a GREAT TURKEY GIVE that will see some 9,000 pounds of turkey given to members of the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is the second annual turkey giveaway for the Bathurst Street realtor, which launched the GIVE in 2016 as a way of giving back to the community and keeping the tradition of Ed Mirvish alive.

Freeman is located at 988 Bathurst Street, just four blocks north of the former Honest Ed’s store, which gave away free turkeys during the holidays for many years. Freeman is a company with a reputation for supporting community causes, charities and interests.

“For over 40 years, starting with my father, the Freeman family has been practicing real estate at this very location on Bathurst Street,” says Elden Freeman, Broker of Record. “The community we serve means a lot to us. Giving away turkeys is our way of saying thank you, engaging with those we serve and hopefully inspiring others to spread generosity and goodwill during the holiday season.”

Freeman has partnered with Bathurst Street organizations Spirit of Math, 918 Bathurst and A Nerd’s World for the giveaway. Spirit of Math is a leader in after-school mathematics education. Located in the Annex, 918 Bathurst is a centre for culture, arts, media and education. A Nerd’s World is a one-stop shop for all your online marketing needs.

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

On hand to help give away the turkeys will be Toronto city councilors Mike Layton, Joe Mihevc, Joe Cressy and a number of other political figures and local celebrities.

The GIVE begins at 9 a.m. at Freeman Real Estate located at 988 Bathurst Street.

 

 

Pros & Cons of Owning versus Renting a Water Heater

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

When making a significant purchase the decision to rent or to own can be an easy one. Own or rent your house? If you live in Canada, most people would say it’s better to own. How about a car? Again, many would say owning is the better option, unless, of course, you use your vehicle for work. You may want to lease it then.

In Ontario, most of us rent our water heaters, paying in the neighbourhood of $15 to $30 per month. According to Rob Engen of the Toronto Star, most Ontarians rent their water heaters, while most Albertans buy theirs. Why? It’s force of habit.

The top argument for buying your own water heater is that over time you end up paying less than if you rent yours indefinitely. Let’s say you spend $1600 to buy and install your own water heater. The average lifespan is about 15 years, so providing nothing goes wrong with the water heater, you are paying $8.88 per month to own that appliance.

According to Direct Energy, a water heater requires servicing every five years.  And parts and labour can escalate, costing several hundred dollars. But know what repairs and breakdowns to water heaters aren’t all that commonplace.

Even if your water heater leaks and creates damage to your home, rest assured that your house insurance policy will cover the repairs.

According to Hoerner Heating & Plumbing, the beauty of owning your own heater means you can make the switch to a tankless water heater, which thanks to its on-demand system, will save you money in energy costs. At $4000 to $45000, they are at least double the cost of conventional tanks, yet they are more efficient as they provide households with an infinite supply of hot water.

The other benefit is that a tankless heater has about double the lifespan of a conventional one. Finally, a tankless system means more space in your home as these heaters are tiny compared to the tank size of a standard hot water heater.

Companies that are in the business of renting water heaters naturally offer numerous arguments in their favour. They say the advantages range from a rental fee that is affordable, same-day service, no charge for parts and labour and peace of mind.

What you decide on will depend also on how long you plan to live in your home. If it’s only for a few years, renting your heater might be a better choice. If you intend to stay longer, you can finance the appliance so your payments are the same as a rental fee.  Either way, be sure to take the time to read rental plans and compare contracts. If you’re thinking of buying, talk to an experience plumber.

Sources: www.torontostar.com, www.hoerner.ca, www.yellowpages.ca

Fall TLC for Lawn and Gardens

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

October is here and besides giving thanks and paying tribute to our ghoulish side, the month’s changing leaves and falling temperatures are a steady reminder that winter is on its way.

So let’s consider how to give our lawns and gardens a last bit of TLC before the snow flies.

Hydration

As living organisms, we all need it. It’s important to give all of your plants and especially your trees, a good watering this month. Their roots will need lots of moisture in the coming months so make use of those rain barrels and start collecting water. Fall is also the perfect time to aerate your soil, which allows oxygen, water and fertilizer to get at the roots of your grass.

Put Roses to Bed

These garden beauties not only deserve but need some extra care. Clear debris and leaves from the base of the plant as not doing so can help harbour disease and create problems for the plant next year. To avoid damage due to freezing, pile soil or mulch on the plant base. Do the same for other shrubs and perennials that might suffer from freezing temperatures.

Trim Grass Lower

A lower cutting height makes leaf-raking much easier, inhibits diseases and helps dry out the soil more quickly in springtime.

Fertilize 

Fall is the best time of year to do this. But you want to make sure the product you use has minimal impact on the environment. Switch to lawn fertilizers that are high in slow-release nitrogen and ones that contain no phosphorus. Both are designed to give lawns nutrients as needed which reduces run-off that harms waterways.

Cover Bald Spots

The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mix sold at most home centres and garden spots. The ready-to-use mixture contains grass seed, fertilizer and organic mulch.

Feed the Birds

As food sources grow scarcer, don’t forget our feathered friends. Wild bird seed mixes, black or striped sunflower seed, peanuts and suet in balls or blocks are good choices. Also be sure to empty and clean your bird feeders and fill with fresh seed.

Divide & Conquer

Now is the time to dig up perennials that have grown too large for their space or to move plants that aren’t working where you originally placed them. While you’re at it, now is also the time to plant bulbs for colourful springtime displays.

Let the Air In

Don’t forget to winterize irrigation systems in an effort to prevent frozen pipe damage.

A Realtor’s Take on Gratitude

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Oprah and the other of our world insist that having gratitude in our hearts is the means to a happy and fulfilling life.

That sounds reasonable. After all, gratitude is an emotion that expresses thanks and appreciation for what you have. It focuses on your glass as half full, not half empty. At the same time, being grateful is a constant struggle for many because it is in direct conflict with our consumer-driven culture that perpetuates a never-fully satisfied desire for more.

Let’s look, for example, at where we live. How fortunate are we to live in a vibrant, culture-rich city that’s only volatility has been the real estate market. Believe it or not, as realtors, we’re happy to see the market returning to some sense of normalcy. The unpredictability of the spring market was never sustainable and it’s good for everyone now that cooler heads prevail.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, in the spirit of expressing gratitude, here’s a lighthearted look some of the people and things we want to publicly appreciate:

The Media: Buyers and sellers need to sit up and listen. The real estate market is no longer what it once was. You want scores of multiple offers and how much over your asking price did you say you wanted? Probably not going to happen. We’re glad the media continues to harp on the GTA’s cooling market but is anybody paying attention to the news?

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out is a common and repeated folly of not just social-media addicted youth. FOMO also takes root in the real estate market. Just look at the frenzied April market in which more than 77 per cent of Toronto sales went for over asking. FOMO fuels real estate activity so we kind of love it. Sorry.

Foreign Buyers: We are most sympathetic to your plight given the Ontario government’s move to curb foreign ownership with a non-resident speculation tax.

Condos: What’s not to love? They’re attractively and affordably packaged homes minus a lot of the work, often with great amenities and views to boot. And the condo market is still experiencing somewhat of a boom with increased prices and sales. Your kingdom for a condo? You bet.

Pumpkins: Dotting streetscapes and front porches from St. John’s to Victoria, these big orange jack-o-lanterns add a pop of happy to neighbourhoods as fall foliage displays a variety of warm colours in preparation for winter. Best of all, is the gastronomic enthusiasm with which people use the gourds. From ravioli, cookies and salsa to potato chips, candy and bagels, if there’s a food that can be pumpkinized, someone has already thought of it.

Hope everyone had a well resting Thanksgiving!

 

 

Green Ways to Control Outdoor Pests

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Summertime can’t be beat for backyard barbecues, enjoying the cottage and tending to your lawn and garden. But that’s not to say that summer doesn’t come without its challenges and perhaps one of the most annoying are pesky pests.

To be fair, most lawn and garden insects are beneficial with some naturalists claiming that fewer than two per cent are considered harmful. In fact, many insects, including ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps will actually keep harmful insects from devouring your lawn and will also help to pollinate your plants. But it’s that two per cent that can wreak havoc on your plants, flowers and grass, making your best gardening efforts a big waste of time and money.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to handle unwanted pests without hurting beneficial insects and the world in which we live.

If your lawn is victim to a small infestation of unwanted bugs, you can try picking them off by hand. If that sounds unbearable, you can try homemade garlic and pepper sprays. You can also try insecticidal soap on pests.

Traps are another good eco-friendly option. The kind that allow an insect to enter and not leave are best for wasps and other bugs. Place insect traps around the periphery of your property so that the pests are taken out of commission before they’ve chewed up your grass and plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis or more commonly named BT is a naturally occurring soil bacteria ideal for controlling cabbageworm, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, tomato hornworm and other leaf eating caterpillars.

To control beetles and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of already minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans. Different bugs are susceptible to different extents (even beetles differ somewhat), so check before buying.

To identify a grub problem in your lawn, look for brown patches. If you’re still uncertain, dig up a bit of sod near the brown patch. If you see more than ten grubs per square foot, you should take action. Below that, there’s no need.

Use beneficial nematodes, which are tiny worms that feed on the larval, or grub, stage of the beetle. It takes a few weeks for nematodes to establish themselves in the soil and to parasitize their grub hosts, so it’s best to apply them before the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Be sure to carefully read the instructions for applying nematodes. Since they are living things they can also die. Follow the directions otherwise your time and money will be wasted.

 

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.