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Archive for the ‘Featured Articles’ Category

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 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 Selling in Winter is a Smart Move

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Just because your house in covered in snow and ice doesn’t mean you need to wait for spring to put it on the market.

In fact, some real estate experts believe the December-through-March months actually pay off when selling your home because at least one study by an online brokerage firm suggests that’s when sellers net more above asking and that’s also when houses move more quickly. The reason? Buyers trudging through frost and snow piled knee-high are motivated. They are looking at houses during the deep freeze because they have to. It’s as simple as that.

With fewer homes on the market in winter, your house could become a hot commodity, particularly if it’s in a desirable neighbourhood or if it has good bones and features today’s home buyers want.

Another big advantage to selling in winter is that the outdoor maintenance on your house is much reduced. With the exception of shoveling snow and keeping walkways clear and slip-free, you save time on the grass cutting and weed pulling typically done in spring and summer.

Be sure to keep pathways, stairs and driveways clear of snow and ice. Nothing is more off putting to a potential buyer than having to slip, slide and slog through ice and snow. If need be, make sure you scrape up the ice especially in areas where potential buyers might walk. Be sure to clear a path in snow banks and snow drifts that form due to shoveling and plowing. So whether they’re parking on your driveway or on the street try to clear an area so they can step out of their vehicle easily. You don’t want to annoy house hunters by forcing them to climb over a three-foot mound of snow.

It’s a good idea to warm up your home during viewings. While setting your thermostat above 20 degrees C might seem wasteful and not the most eco-friendly thing to do, keeping your space a degree or two warmer than usual is good practice for showings as buyers will enjoy the warmth and coziness of your home. If you have a fireplace, light it. That adds warmth and ambiance. Just be sure not to leave a wood fireplace unattended for too long.

Winter buyers will be especially on the watch for issues relating to heating so it’s a good idea to have your furnace and HVAC inspected. Be sure to change air filters and weather strip windows and doors. As heating costs will be on their minds, don’t leave signs around that your house is cold and drafty. For example, hide those piles of heavy blankets in your living room and tuck away that draft stopper you keep at the foot of your door.

Add a pop of colour to your home to compensate for the dull, gray days of winter. A seasonal wreath on your door or topiaries at your entrance can lend some excitement. Also ensure your windows are clean as the disappearance of summer foliage means your home is put under the glare of winter sunlight which shows every mark, fingerprint and scuff.

Sources: www.time.com, www.thebalance.com, www.realtor.com

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.