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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle Realm’ Category

Be True to Your School

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Empty Nest Solution

Monday, June 6th, 2016

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

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

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


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

Privacy

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

Family not so much

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

Sign a lease

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

Don’t lowball

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

Do your research

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

Inform insurance

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

Research the tax repercussions

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


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

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

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

Grass without the Work? It’s Possible

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doggy Do’s & Don’ts for Condo Dwellers

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

As Torontonians, we love our dogs and we love our condos so how do we learn to reconcile the two? Living with a dog close to several neighbours means navigating the needs of you and your canine in addition to those of neighbours you may not even know.

Since there are no finishing schools for canine etiquette, you will need to employ some good, old-fashioned common sense for starters. Bear in mind, how you would feel if someone did that to you. The old golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you bears repeating.

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Here’s is our list of rules for canine etiquette in condos:


Be a Bark Buster – This ranks as one of the top annoyances especially among neighbours living in close quarters. Your Chihuahua or German shepherd is known to bark more than other breeds and though you don’t mind the noise, your neighbours will grow to hate you and your animal for it. Consider crating your pet or send Charlie to doggy daycare. The Toronto Dogwalkers Association recommends hiring a trainer or perhaps a dog walker to give your dog a midday reprieve that may help it relieve some of its energy and anxiety. If your dog is staying in your condo most days, try to keep him away from the door in an effort to minimize the amount of stimulus he gets.


Poop Patrol – If you have a dog, dealing with their feces and urine is a matter of course. But it’s a small price to pay for the love of a furry friend. Generally speaking, nothing turns neighbours off more than another animal’s excrement. Only allow your pup to relieve himself in designated areas. Be vigilant about not letting Fido whiz on posts, shrubs and just about any non-moving vertical structure, especially those that are close to the condo entrance. It may be a fact of nature, but neighbours don’t want to see it or smell it.

Because dog waste carries disease and parasites, you must be vigilant about picking it up and properly disposing of it. Make it a habit to always carry poop bags on you. They’re inexpensive and small so they are easy to obtain and store.


Show Restraint – Your neighbours, condo staff and service people are not uncommonly fearful, nervous and uncomfortable around dogs that are not restrained. Keep your canine on a leash in hallways and lobbies or whenever walking outside of your condo. Your dog may be the best-behaved canine but why prompt fear among strangers and neighbours? Remember that some people are allergic to dogs, or possibly have reactive dogs of their own that need space away from other animals. Train your dog to sit while in the elevator, keep Scruffy on a short leash and try to exit the elevator first.


Naughty Dog Owners – When you’ve seen a pet owner doing something objectionable you’re best not to confront the person but instead report the incident to management or the condo board. While tattling doesn’t feel great, know that it’s advisable because nothing is worse than creating hostility between you and a neighbour.


Reactive Rover – Got a dog that barks or jumps on people or other dogs? Perhaps it’s time to seek a dog trainer, who can help you work on changing your pet’s behaviour. This is a highly awkward problem for condo dwellers given that they live in such close proximity to others. Try to use back stairs, side doors and entrances and exits not commonly used whenever possible. In the meantime, as Rover is learning to behave, show extra consideration and respect to your neighbours rather than reacting defensively. You’ll earn more brownie points and keep relationships with neighbours civil.

 

A Neighbourhood Goes for Green

Friday, April 29th, 2016

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The Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) is aiming to imprint a great big collective green thumb on its neighborhood by replacing concrete and asphalt with plants, grass and trees.

Harbord Village, which is bordered by Bloor, College, Spadina and Bathurst Street, is a neighbourhood that while lush with greenery and private gardens has little public green space, except for three tiny parkettes. The residents’ group decided to approach the city about developing a green plan and with the input of the Harbord and Bloor Annex BIAs, the 2015 Harbord Village Green Plan was born.

“We’ve done the plan and now it’s a matter of mobilizing the community,” says Tim Grant, chair of the association. “We already have an active effort on Croft Laneway where neighbours there have already gotten together and planned three different plantings scheduled for this spring. It’s neighbours helping neighbours and I hope to use that as a model to encourage others.”

The 600-plus member association hooked up with city councilor Joe Cressy in addition to local BIAs to devise its plan, which includes the greening of street corners, laneways, planters and derelict and under-used areas in the neighbourhood.

The first plan of attack addresses the often unoccupied paved space where residential streets meet commercial strips along Bloor, Harbord and College. The green plan calls for planting opportunities at 13 different locations in which in-ground planting, raised container beds, bicycle parking and seating might be provided.

As Harbord Village is home to over 25 laneways, the plan calls for a number of initiatives aimed at improving and greening the neighbourhood’s network of corridors and passages, with current emphasis on Croft Laneway and Sussex Mews. These include encouraging neighbours to plant containers in free spaces next to garages or in paving gaps along building walls, hanging flowering baskets from light standards where appropriate, creating punctures along the centre of laneways and introducing resilient plant species, introducing vining along walls and fences and seeking opportunities for rain barrels and other catchments to provide water.

The plan recommends the replacement of pitchpoint planters. These concrete planters, many of which are marked with graffiti, are only marginally effective at slowing motorists. The residents’ group would rather see an in-ground pitchpoint, which allows ample space for plants, shrubs and trees. These in-ground street features effectively slow traffic and discourage graffiti.

The development of parks in under-capacity parking lots, abandoned recreational courts and sections of surplus lawn around apartment buildings all have potential when it comes to green space.

On May 18, the HRVA is holding its annual spring meeting at the Kensington Health Centre at 45 Brunswick Ave.

“We’re excited about this,” Grant says. “Now we need to get boots on the ground and make things happen.”

 

 

 

The Ultimate Top 5 No-No’s when Selling

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Brisk real estate markets like Toronto or Vancouver are great for sellers because of the high level of interest among buyers, many of whom are hungry, perhaps desperate some might say to capture their own properties.

Given this seller’s market, it’s understandable that a seller might be inclined to slack off a bit when it comes to keeping their home in tip-top shape. That’s never advisable. When buyers observe signs of neglect and carelessness they begin to question a property and suddenly your highly sought-after house is not so hot to trot any more.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Top 5 No-No’s sellers need to correct or address before putting their house on the market.

  1. Filth & Junk – Even though the dirtiest of messes can be eventually cleaned up, this has to be one of the top sins. Hide your dirty laundry from plain view. If you don’t have time to wash dishes, put them in the dishwasher.  If that’s not an option hide them temporarily in a bin in your oven. Take out the trash; make your beds and scrub sinks and toilets. As for clutter, it comes in varying degrees. Ask your realtor for suggestions about what areas you need to tackle first.
  2. Doggy Do’s & Don’ts – As cute, lovable, fun and furry as your pets may be, others are apt to approach pets with a high degree of caution. There are a wide range of reasons why strangers won’t like your pets, from matters around cleanliness and safety to everything in between. Some buyers find pets and their messes a huge turn-off so knowing that your house houses one can be cause for concern. It may take some effort, but you’re best to hide any signs of animals, especially when it comes to property damage such as scratch marks on doors or urine stains in carpeting.  Take care of pet-related issues before listing your house and try to take your pets with you during showings.
  3. Don’t Be a Stalker – Interested buyers feel the need to keep their distance from the seller so don’t be tempted to shadow them as they tour your home. Nothing could be worse. You are not being helpful by pointing out technical features of your basement sauna or interesting gossip about the celebrities that live on your street. This is the job of the realtor. Use your agent to communicate selling features. Having the seller linger around the house while it is being shown is detrimental as the purchaser will never feel 100 per cent at ease, which will encumber how they feel about your house in general, no matter how beautiful and reasonably priced.
  4. Stinkeroo – The thing about bad smells is that the only way to escape them is by leaving the dwelling. This is not a good message to convey to a prospective buyer. And yes, you may love garlic and eat it at every meal, but the smell can be overpowering and, believe it or not, offensive to some people. Other olfactory insults can include such cooking smells as bacon and fish. Try not to cook those strong-smelling foods right before or even the day before a showing.  Even more disgusting is the smell of cigarette smoke. Take your butts outside. Animal smells from litter boxes and dirty pets are also highly off-putting.
  5. Reality Bites – Don’t be unrealistic about your house. Yes, it’s a hot real estate market but that doesn’t mean a way-too-high asking price coupled with a property that is rarely available for showings will get you what you want. Try to take the emotion and ego out of selling your home. Price it realistically and make it ready and available for showings.

Do Home Renovations Hike Property Values?

Friday, February 5th, 2016

As with just about anything in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. When it comes to remodelling your home, you need to consider a number of factors, which are often complex and challenging, before deciding if a home renovation is of value.

It’s a good idea to start off by thinking about how long you plan to live in the house. Do you intend to raise your children there? Or is this home simply a stepping stone to something bigger and better? Perhaps you want to downsize now that the kids are gone or maybe your house is outdated and a little tired and in desperate need of some TLC?

Next consider your budget. Are you willing to spend $5,000 or $50,000 on that main-floor bathroom reno?

Now you need to devise a plan that honours your purpose and your budget. If you’ve always dreamed of cooking meals in a deluxe, restaurant-style kitchen and you have the funds to support this costly renovation and you think it’s well worth the expense, go for it. But be aware that changes you make today may not net you great gains five or ten years from now when you go to sell your house.  If, however, you’re updating your kitchen with the hope of selling quickly, nix the gourmet kitchen and go for something more modest and economical.

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There is plenty of online information about how to determine the dollar value of a renovation. But there is no easy formula. Most of us know that in-ground swimming pools, wall-to-wall carpeting and sunroom additions aren’t the best remodeling projects, investment-wise. Getting the most bang for your home-improvement buck can be influenced by many factors, including your local real estate market and the style of home in which you live.

Knowing your neighbourhood before setting out to refurbish your home is critical. This will help you in your decision making and prevent you from making an alteration that may cause your house to stand out like a sore thumb. Also, understanding your neighbourhood will stop you from installing a $75,000 home theatre in a house that’s worth $400,000.

The Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) warns homeowners about spending too much for a home renovation:  “If the value of your house exceeds the average market value in your neighbourhood, your renovations will not yield much return. But if your house value is below the average, you can recover a larger part of the renovation costs.”

The AIC recommends choosing renovations that have a long life expectancy such as roofing and new windows, updating your kitchen and bathroom, cheaper upgrades such as paint and landscaping, and energy-efficient improvements.

It’s something of a real-estate mantra that reasonable kitchen and bathroom improvement projects tend to offer the highest rate of return on your investment. But remember not to overdo the remodel. Refurbishing your home to accommodate a separate apartment is also a good idea that will likely increase the value of your house in addition to your earnings thanks to the rental income.

In the end, you need to evaluate your finances and your current and future housing needs. And know that the only sure thing when renovating is having a home improvement project that will be anything but easy, cheap or fast.

Hibernate No More!

Monday, January 25th, 2016

It’s easy to understand why Torontonians want to crank up their heat and stay indoors during January and February. But don’t let cool temperatures and a little snow accumulation prevent you from exploring the city.

Despite the chill, there are plenty of fun and fascinating events taking place. Here’s our look at some of the more unique ones:

New Height for Rooftop Skating Rink

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There is something decidedly exciting about skating outdoors but when you’re gliding amidst other towering rooftops there’s an added kick. Check out Molson Canadian’s 100-by-45-foot ice pad set 32 stories high atop the financial district at 120 Adelaide St. W. You can purchase ice time between January 29 and February 7.

The Hills are Alive with Toboggans

Toronto has a surprising number of great spots, from baby hills for real beginners to steep cliffs that only old seasoned sledders can navigate. Cedarvale Park, Winston Churchill Park, Christie Pits and Bickford Parks all offer good variety in terms of different size hills.

Winterlicious

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One of the city’s favourite foodie festivals gets underway January 29 and runs to February 11. Winterlicious offers delicious cuisine and unique culinary events at more than 200 restaurants. For more details, see website for details .

Want Fries With That?

La Poutine Week is the crème de la crème of fried foodie festivals that begins Feb 1 and goes to Feb. 7. For $10, you get to try a poutine dish from participating restaurants and then vote on the best Poutine Week location.

Spot of Tea

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If your tastes fun a bit more refined, perhaps you’d enjoy exploring the world of tea at the Toronto Tea Festival. The two-day event at the Toronto Reference Library takes place January 30 and 31. A one-day pass is $15; two-day pass is $25. For more info, click here.

Try the Castle on for Size

Casa Loma offer two popular escape games for the adventurous at heart. Blending fact with fiction and gaming with theatre, the escape games offered here – Escape from the Tower and King of the Bootleggers – require advanced bookings. If gaming isn’t for you, consider the January 23 Robbie Burns celebration which includes a four-course Johnnie Walker scotch pairing dinner. See website for more.

 

 

A Bird’s Eye View of Toronto Neighbourhoods

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Since the business of real estate is a big part of our DNA at Freeman Real Estate we are always looking at new ways to showcase our products and services.

And what better way to do so than with videos that capture the essence of a neighbourhood and bring life to buildings, houses, condos and commercial spaces. That’s precisely what you’ll find at www.annexrealestate.com, Freeman’s latest website featuring the videos of ten key neighbourhoods thanks to a high-flying drone camera. The videos, which are set to music, feature both wide aerial shots of neighbourhoods and close-up views of houses, businesses, parks, public spaces, institutions, people and streetscapes.

“The vantage point you get is just spectacular,” says Elden Freeman, president of Freeman Real Estate. “The videos really do tell a story of each neighbourhood. I think people who aren’t particularly familiar with certain areas will definitely want to view these short films. They give you a better feel for an area and might help you decide if you would want to live or do business there. And if you are familiar with these neighbourhoods, I suggest viewing them as a reminder of how amazing, vibrant and beautiful our city really is.”

While nothing surpasses visiting a neighbourhood in person, the aerial views in each of the two-minute videos can’t be beat. Neighbourhoods featured include the Annex, Hillcrest, Casa Loma, Wychwood Park, Humewood-Cedarvale, Oakwood-Vaughan, South Annex, Little Italy, Seaton Village and Christie Village.

The website also includes plenty of information that will help you make an informed decision about your next real estate venture. Each neighbourhood’s average list price and sale price are posted in addition to the number of homes for sale and the number of homes that sold during the previous month. You can also search listings based on price and the number of bedrooms and/or bathrooms you require.

Happy watching.

Come Skate With Us

Monday, December 7th, 2015

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Freeman Real Estate is once again inviting the community it serves to join its realtors, managers and owners for a free skate this weekend at the Bill Bolton Arena on 40 Rossmore Road in Toronto.

The free skate takes place on Saturday from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Refreshments will also be served.

A fixture within the business community of Seaton Village and Toronto’s independent real estate brokerage firms, Freeman has a long-standing tradition of community outreach and giving thanks to the clients and customers it has proudly served since 1972.

“The span of time we’ve spent on Bathurst Street has been good to the Freeman family,” says Elden Freeman, president of Freeman Real Estate. “And I think that goodness funnels back to the customers we’ve acquired in real estate. This is one small way we can show our gratitude and wish all of our clients and customers a Merry Christmas.”

The Freemans enjoy staging local community events year round and have organized historic tours of noteworthy neighbourhoods and sponsored dance performances as well as educational seminars that are open to the public.

Bear in mind that skating is great exercise because it’s easy on your joints and terrific for improving balance, coordination and muscle strength. You can also burn calories on ice skates. Be sure to dress in warm, light layers so you can adjust your clothing depending on how hot or cold you feel. You may want to consider a helmet as well.

Since space is limited at the free skate, you’re best to RSVP your intention to participate at frontdesk@freemanrealty.com or call at 416-535-3103.

See you on the ice!

 

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.