{ Create an Account }   { Login }   { Contact }

Archive for the ‘Freeman Blog’ Category

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.

Are New Mortgage Rules Overkill?

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

It’s about to get tougher to qualify for a mortgage thanks to new rules recently proposed by Canada’s federal banking regulator.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is taking aim at uninsured mortgages or those who have down payments of 20 per cent or more. The regulator wants to see stress tests for those borrowers similar to what is happening in the insured market.

That would mean buyers now need to qualify based on the highest posted five-year fixed rate, which is a rate of 4.64 per cent, about two per cent higher than the rate offered by most lenders.

Since buyers will have to qualify for a higher interest rate under this new proposal that means their purchasing power will diminish some estimate by as much as 20 per cent because they won’t be able to borrow as much as before.

But is extending tougher mortgage rules to all borrowers the right tact to take? Or is this another heavy-handed measure that will pop another air hole in the housing market and possibly flatten the wider economy?

This would definitely be a more controversial policy change than those made in the past, says Toronto mortgage broker David Larock. It impacts the borrowers with large down payments who don’t need mortgage default insurance, and that’s a large swath of the market. It’s starting to seem like our regulators are going to keep making changes until they put our real estate markets on their backs.

The new rule not only affects home buyers but also home owners looking to refinance.

About four out of five Canadian mortgages are conventional, uninsured loans with the big six banks holding 32 percentage points of that total. Credit unions have eight percentage points and six percentage points are held by small to medium-sized institutions, including mortgage investment corporations.

The proposal comes following a move by Ottawa last year to require that all insured mortgages undergo a stress test to establish if borrowers could make their payments in the event of such changes as a job loss or interest rate hike. The move is Ottawa’s response to the growing debt of Canadian households, the highest among G7 countries.

Expect the new rule to be in place by next spring at the latest.

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!

 

 

Resist Winter Garden Clean-up

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Getting your outdoors ready for winter doesn’t need to mean a weekend of hacking, raking and bagging up every last leaf, twig and branch that contributed to the bounty of your lawn and garden for the past six months.

That’s the old-school approach. Getting your gardens winter ready today means understanding the role that our lawns and gardens play in sustaining wildlife. Think of our yards as sanctuaries for insects, birds, amphibians and animals. Delaying your garden clean-up till spring is a gain for all the creatures that live there and that includes you.

Because our gardens provide native bees with their winter habitat, chopping down every last stem and plant isn’t eco smart or friendly. Bees need a protected spot to spend the winter so you might find them in the hollow stem of a bee balm plant or under a piece of peeling tree bark. By chopping down every last remnant in your garden, you are removing the habitat of these important pollinators.

Declining butterfly populations are one of the best reasons not to clean up your garden this winter. Though Monarchs fly south, many species hang tight and overwinter right here at home. They nestle into rock crevices and leaf litter. Those that hibernate in a chrysalis can often be found hanging from dead plant stems. Some butterfly species spend the winter as a caterpillar inside the seed pod of a host plant. If we cut down our plants and haul away the debris, we’re eliminating overwintering sites for these pretty pollinators.

Skipping the garden clean-up can also aid beneficial insects such as ladybugs. North America is home to over 400 ladybug species, many of which are not red with black polka-dots. These beneficial garden pest eaters consume dozens of insects and eggs daily so leaving your garden intact over winter is a good idea if you’re looking for a natural way to control pests. They typically like to hibernate under a pile of leaves or under rocks.

Ladybugs aren’t the only predatory insects that benefit from an overwintered, intact garden. Assassin bugs, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, ground beetles, and scores of other pest-eating predatory insects spend the winter hibernating in your garden as adults, eggs, or pupae. Probably the best reason not to clean up your garden is because these insects provide the right balance to naturally control lawn and garden pests.

Feeding insect-eating birds is another good reason to leave your garden alone. This will attract birds such as chickadees and wrens that are adept at preying on hibernating insects hidden in dead plant stems, branches and leaf litter. The more insect friendly your garden, the more birds you will have. Also, birds will enjoy dining on seeds and berries from your intact plants.

Finally, the beauty of a winter garden is reason enough to leave it alone. Snow resting on dried seed pods or berries clinging to bare branches is just a few of the splendors offered by a garden in winter.

April really is the best time to do a garden clean-up. Most critters have risen from their long winter’s nap so you’re not destroying them or their habitat by pruning and hauling away last summer’s dead leaves and stems.

Source: Savvy Gardening and Sd Sustainable

 

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.

 

Under One Million: New GTA Benchmark

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

What goes up must inevitably come down and for the first time in months the average sale price in Toronto did just that with detached homes dipping in July to below $1 million.

That figure is notable for more than just psychological reasons. With price tags below a million dollars, the real estate market is open to more consumers and that’s good news for everyone.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), August figures show the average detached home in the GTA sold for $972,212. That’s down from $1,000,336 at the end of July.  The average price in August has fallen about $230,000 or 19 per cent since the market’s peak in March.

It’s widely believed the provincial government’s new housing rules introduced in April put the brakes on the city’s red-hot real estate market, controls some believe were necessary to calm out-of-control housing prices.

While the price drop is great news for buyers, TREB says the market in the GTA is expected to post a record year nevertheless. According to TREB, the average sale price of a detached home in July was $996,970, which is still a 13.3 per cent hike over house prices from one year ago.

Says TREB’s board president Mark McLean:  As we move towards a new record for home sales this year, it is important to point out that home ownership demand has been driven not only by low borrowing costs, but also by the fact that the greater Toronto area economy has been performing quite well, with the unemployment rate lower compared to last year.

The under one million figure is an average that combines house sales numbers from across the GTA. If you’re looking at detached homes strictly in Toronto you are likely still paying in the seven-figure range. Based on TREB figures from August, single-family homes there still average about $1.2 million, though that figure is down considerably from March when it hit a peak of $1.56 million.

The $1 million mark is significant because of changes introduced in 2014 which excluded government-backed mortgages on homes sold for more than seven figures. The ban targeted hot real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver.

 

Mortgage Borrowing Clout Way, Way Up

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Think foreign investment is the cause behind high-priced homes in Toronto and Vancouver? Or how about the immigrant population growth in those centres? Could it be a lack of developable land or maybe it’s speculators?

With the exception of something catastrophic, it’s rarely a single cause that will prompt the kind of heavy volatility we’ve seen recently in those housing markets.

In fact, the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank asserts that higher home prices are the result of declining interest rates and rising incomes that allowed Canadians to qualify for much bigger mortgages over the past two decades.

Increased borrowing power, brought about by falling interest rates and rising incomes, is potentially the most overlooked and least understood factor influencing home prices across Canada,  Niels Veldhuis, president of the Fraser Institute, said in a media release last month.

The study ” Interest Rates and Mortgage Borrowing Power in Canada ” says that between 2000 and 2016, interest rates dropped from 7 to 2.7 per cent. During that time, the lower interest rates increased a potential home buyer’s mortgage-borrowing power by 53 per cent.

At the same time, average family incomes grew by 53 per cent. And when you factor in low interest rates with higher wages, the mortgage-borrowing power of the average Canadian climbed by a whopping 126 per cent.

In terms of city centres with the highest mortgage-borrowing power, Calgary came in first at 161 per cent, followed by Vancouver at 118 per cent, Montreal at 115 per cent and Toronto at 100.

This increase in borrowing power ”in simple terms” means that an average Canadian family, dedicating the same share of their income to monthly mortgage payments, can afford a mortgage that’s more than twice as big now as it would have been in 2000, Veldhuis said.

Canadians potential to borrow more money has resulted in homebuyers bidding up the price of homes since the supply of housing is not immediately responsive to changes in demand.

As would-be homebuyers and governments contend with rising prices across Canada, policy makers should look closely at the impact of interest rates, rising incomes and increased mortgage borrowing power on home prices, Veldhuis added.

 

 

 

Green Ways to Control Outdoor Pests

Wednesday, August 23rd, 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.

 

Toronto’s Housing Looking Up Again

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The dip in Toronto’s housing market is expected to bounce back soon, says the federal housing agency.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) says the city’s current decline will be short-lived and real estate prices will pick up again as demand returns. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, prices in the city fell from an average of $919,589 in April to $793,915 in June; however, the CMHC expects a rise in prices again due to a strong economy and a lack of housing supply.

Toronto’s red-hot real estate market was curbed in the spring when the Ontario government introduced measures designed to cool an overheated market. Included in the measures was a controversial 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers.

The CMHC said similar taxes imposed against foreign buyers in Vancouver worked to calm the market there by reducing the number of foreign buyers. However, the Vancouver market has since picked up again.

“The response we’re seeing in the Toronto market seems almost emotional and a knee-jerk reaction to some of the changes, which suggests that these impacts will be short-lived,” Dana Senagama, CMHC’s principal market analyst for Toronto, told the Canadian Press.

The province’s measures also include more rent controls and legislation that allows municipalities to tax vacant homes.

“If job creation continues in Toronto … and the economy continues to fuel the housing demand, we can expect some of the pressures on house prices in Toronto to resume,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.

In the CMHC’s recently released housing market assessment, the agency ranked its overall risk rating for the national housing market at strong. The quarterly report is based on information collected from the first quarter of 2017.

Staging Your Home

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Staging your house for a quick and lucrative sale might sound like a daunting and expensive task but there are ways to do so that don’t break the bank or test your patience.

Here’s how:

Curb appeal

Enhance your house’s outside appearance by making sure all is clean and tidy. Wash your front windows, power wash siding and walkways, make sure your lawn is trimmed, weed flower beds and sweep up fallen debris. If your porch needs freshening give it a lick of paint or stain. These simple efforts will help lure in potential buyers.

Welcome visitors

Keep your porch lights on at night. Make sure your doormat is clean and keep an arrangement of blooming flowers or pretty plants by the entrance. Don’t clutter your entrance with too many pieces of outdoor furniture. Select a few nice pieces and arrange them artfully.

Elbow grease

A clean home is a happy home and potential buyers will be thankful for your efforts. This is one of the most inexpensive ways to prepare your home for staging. Clean and polish floors, scrub grout, remove cobwebs from corners and make sure the bathrooms gleam.

Clear the clutter

This is also fairly inexpensive but it is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. You’re used to living the way you do and that may mean jam-packed countertops and closets loaded to the brim. Get rid of unnecessary and unsightly things. Potential buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your space and your mess makes that more difficult.

Rearrange the deck chairs

Is your furniture inviting or oddly laid out? Use symmetry to balance it. Pairs of chairs, lamps, even sofas work well at creating a cozy conversation area. Use sophisticated neutral shades to paint walls and pull your furnishings together. This also applies to bedrooms and bathrooms. And don’t forget to add different types of lighting, ambient, task and accent.

Clean out your closets

Clear out excess junk so that closets and storage areas have some open and unused space. Store stuff outside your home if you have to. The point is to make your space lived in, but not too lived in.

Kids and pets

Don’t leave toys strewn around because that looks messy. Find a good storage bin that you can tuck away under a bed or in a corner or closet. Same goes for pet toys. Also be sure to tackle pet odors by cleaning carpets and kitty litter.

Spare rooms

It’s not unusual to have a spare bedroom or other room that becomes a catch-all for household odds and sods. Transform the room into something usable by adding an armchair and a table or turn it into a yoga studio. Giving the room a purpose will add value to your home.

Add natural colour

Fresh flowers, plants and clippings from your lilac tree or forsythia add splashes of colour. You can bring nature indoors in the fall and winter, too, with fall foliage and a poinsettia.

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.