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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.

Why a Cooler Housing Market is Good

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Take a breather, Toronto. Now more people can afford to buy real estate.

That’s right. With the number of residential home sales down considerably and selling prices lagging behind the record highs of 2017, buyers should be able to gain back a bit more control in Toronto’s formerly unruly real estate market.

The Toronto Real Estate Board reported that the number of Toronto area homes that sold in February was down 35 per cent from the previous February. Perhaps more importantly, the prices of homes also dropped, though not as significantly. The average selling price of all residential sales fell by 12.4 per cent to $767,818.

Rising interest rates, a new financial stress test for buyers and restrictions on foreign buyers have clearly all impacted the GTA’s market. But a more moderate real estate market is not something we should be afraid of. In fact, as real estate professionals with nearly a half-century of experience under our belts, we think a less volatile market than what we’ve been experiencing recently is a good thing.

A less explosive market means buyers and sellers are more evenly split when it comes to their negotiating clout. As a nation of home owners, many of us grew up thinking we would simply own a home one day. But recent activity in Vancouver and Toronto has made that dream something of a fairy tale for some.

A more controlled market means bidding wars would lose their fierceness and prices would be more in line with actual market value. It means buyers wouldn’t get caught up in overpaying for subpar inventory just so they can dip their toe in the market. It means buyers can make purchasing decisions based on sound judgement and request important conditions on offers. It means sellers no longer become ensnared in the prospect of making a quick buck only to realize they have to pay more to make a lateral move.

A temperate market won’t make you rich overnight but it sure helps you curb your blood pressure.  And in the end, isn’t that the kind of balance we’re all looking for?

 

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 a Good Investment

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

You’ve been saving and a small nest egg has accumulated and now you’re wondering if the real
estate market is good place to invest your money.

The condo market is a good place to start. Not only have condos posted year-over- year gains,
making them an attractive investment opportunity, they are also likely the most affordable
piece of real estate money can buy in the GTA.

Purchasing a condo as an investment is a wise move now for a number of reasons. Vacancy
rates in Toronto are extremely low, somewhere below one per cent. As with any supply-
demand scenario this inevitably means renters will need to pay more and competition for
desirable rental space will be stiff. With rental prices on the higher side and a low supply of
rental space, tenants are reportedly engaging in bidding wars by offering landlords extra
months of rent up front just to secure a space.

It’s said that the majority of condo investors look to a formula of 25 per cent in and 75 per cent
rent coverage. What that means is if you invest 25 per cent into the price of your condo, the
rent you charge should cover your remaining costs, including property taxes, mortgage and
maintenance fees.

If you are buying a condo as an investment, try to buy in the very best location you can afford.
Make sure the condo is close to transit, multiple forms are even better, as many renters don’t
own vehicles.

There are plenty of advantages to condo living that you don’t always get in a single-family
home. Your access to community is virtually built-in given the closer quarters design of most
condos. Many possess an added level of security that is non-existent in other homes. And
finally, the condo lifestyle frees up your time for other pursuits as grass cutting, snow shovelling
and window washing are chores that are relegated to someone else to take care of.

Don’t ignore what amenities are in your condo simply because you won’t be living there.
Renters will pay attention to what your building offers and they want to benefit from some of
the amenities they enjoyed when living in a single-family home. Many condos feature patios,
pools and party rooms for entertaining larger groups. Barbecues are often available. And just
think what renters can save on their fitness club memberships once they start using the gym
provided by your condo.

Finally, pay attention to the cost of utilities as well, since your renters will want some idea of
these costs.

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

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.

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.