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Chemical-Free Fixes for your Lawn

July 31st, 2017 by freemanrealty

Most of us enjoy having lawns and gardens that are pretty and lush. But the problem with achieving the kind of leafy green grass that your neighbours will envy is that it’s hard on the environment, not to mention your wallet.

We’re big spenders when it comes to our grass. It’s been said that Canadians spend at least $2-billion per year on seed, sod and chemicals, a number that’s been rising steadily, according to Planet Natural.

Bear in mind, too, that much of lawn care products help your turf in very superficial ways so you should question whether degrading the soil, polluting nearby water sources and posing health threats to humans, pets, wildlife and the birds and the bees is worth it.

Fortunately, attitudes about perfect lawns are beginning to change. Dozens of municipalities and even a few provinces including Ontario have passed laws that severely restrict pesticide use.

Let’s look at some ways to reduce our addiction to lawn chemicals:

Spot treat weeds with vinegar

Mix the vinegar with a little dish soap and Epsom salts and apply with a hand-pump sprayer. Try to be precise when applying to weeds only because the mixture can burn grass.

Corn Gluten

This non-toxic by product of corn processing can kill young weeds in days. An added benefit is that it adds nitrogen to your soil. It’s believed that after several years of use, the gluten can control up to 90 per cent of weeds. Apply in early spring.

Make the switch

Convert your lawn to a grass that is drought resistant and lower maintenance. Eco lawn grass requires little or no mowing and fertilizer.

Let clippings chill

This process is sometimes called grass-cycling as it provides a good nutrient boost of nitrogen, phosphorus and water. Clippings don’t cause thatch. To do this properly make sure the grass is three inches high and set your mower height to chop one-inch of grass. The clippings will disappear among the blades of grass. Think of the time and effort saved, not to mention the benefit to your landfill site.

Watering

Avoid over-watering your lawn because that is more damaging to your grass than under-watering. Try to water early in the morning. If you wait till the middle of the day, much is lost to evaporation. Water deeply but not frequently. Most healthy lawns need about one inch of water per week.

Clover

This is a good weed to have. It often appears when soil is low in nitrogen so the solution is to let the clover clippings fall where they may after cutting, which will fix the problem without using fertilizer.

Dandelions

These indicate you’re having nutrient problems with your soil or that your grass isn’t developing healthy roots. Get a soil test to determine your issue. Corn gluten applied early in the growing season prevents dandelions from germinating and makes your grass stronger and more weed resistant.

 

 

Going Solo: Tips for Single Homebuyers

July 17th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Singles are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the country and as such those who live solo comprise more than 25 per cent of Canadian households.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in 2011 a full 42 per cent of owner-occupied condos housed singletons, and single person households are expected to continue growing.

Here are a few pointers if you’re thinking of taking the plunge by yourself:

Do your homework

There’s a saying about information being power and that’s true here. Whether you are buying for the first time or relocating to a new area talk to friends and colleagues about their house-buying experiences. Ask about neighbourhoods, realtors and public transportation. Search for info online, read books, attend seminars and explore different lenders.

Wish list

Knowing what you want is usually a good thing, unless your wishes are completely out of whack with reality. Condos and townhouses are often ideal for singles. Living on your own means you need less space and a mortgage payment that fits a single income. A smaller living space also means less time, money and resources spent on maintenance.

Safe & sound

Living alone often means issues around security; safety and privacy are high on your priority list. Look for neighbourhoods with lower crime rates, a home with an alarm system, fenced-in yards, secure windows and doors and an attached garage accessible from within your home. Condos fit this requirement quite well with such features as a concierge, underground parking and gated entrances.

Rainy day fund

As a solo homeowner, since you’re the only one to depend on, it’s critical that you begin to build an emergency fund. Being able to handle unexpected expenses without taking on more debt is important. A general rule to thumb for emergency savings is to have enough money to pay today’s bills plus living expenses for three to six months.

Cooperative buying

Because house prices have skyrocketed in the GTA and many prefer to stay in the city rather than move to cheaper towns and cities, there’s a small movement of folks looking to buy a house with other likeminded people. This arrangement can lead to many different buying scenarios so lining up knowledgeable realtors, lawyers and lenders is key.

Renovate or Relocate?

July 13th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Deciding if it’s time to renovate your home or buy a new one can be a hand-wringing exercise that has you changing your mind from one hour to the next.

Yo-yoing from one plan to another is not a great way to live but it means you’re open to options and that you’re carefully mulling over possible scenarios before taking the plunge either way.

There are a number of factors that should go into your decision to move on or remodel your current home. For starters, how emotionally attached are you to your neighbourhood? Can’t live without your neighbours? Think the area schools are the bomb? Feel a strong and abiding connection to your local dry cleaner, burger joint and chiropractor?

Typically, though, when families and possessions grow, elderly parents move in or working from home means it’s time to create an office space the decision to love it or list it comes down to cold hard cash. How much would a home reno cost versus purchasing a bigger or more suitable house?

According to Money Sense, contractors quote in the $90 to $225 per square foot range, though bathrooms, kitchens and additions involving your basement foundation can cost more. Plumbing, granite, new fixtures and appliances will push costs up while just dry walling your basement will bring the price down.

Unless you’re a wizard at design and architecture, you might want to consider hiring a professional to help you plan your renovation. They often see things you don’t. For example, your attic space. Is that usable, as-yet-untapped square footage? If you have an attic with open space and plenty of headroom building stairs to get to it might just be worth it.

Additions can reveal expensive surprises such as old knob-and-tube wiring so try to be as prepared as possible before the work begins. It’s also a good idea to have a contingency fund for unexpected work in the order of 25 per cent of your reno budget.

Also, be prepared to either move out and then back in or share your home with workers and trades people for some time. According to Realtor.com, a kitchen remodel can take three to six months. If ductwork, plumbing or wiring has to be addressed, it could take longer. A bathroom remodel can consume two or three months, while a room addition can require one or two months. Patience is clearly a virtue here.

Bear in mind that not all renovations are equal. Most upgrades do not pay for themselves in terms of higher resale value. Some do manage to recover 80 to 90 per cent of their costs while others only see a return on investment of 50 per cent.

Are you the type who can oversee a big renovation project? Does talking to architects and contractors intimidate you? You may not be suited for a home improvement.

Moving, on the other hand, can also be costly, especially given Toronto’s overheated prices. Realtor fees are about five to six per cent, while lawyer fees run about $1,200 to $1,500. Then there are the land transfer taxes plus actual moving costs.

One clear way to save money is by moving to a city or town in which house prices are considerably less than the GTA. Think Hamilton or Pickering.

Any which way you go, there is a sizable price to pay. Probably the best advice is to really know yourself and the needs of your family so you can determine the best and least disruptive path.

 

 

Sorry, Eh? But Here’s Our Quiz on Patriotism

July 6th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Do you bleed red and white? Are you pulling out tissues at the first few bars of O Canada? Do you feel a deep emotional attachment to your country? Then you may be way more patriotic than you think.

In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, take our fun and totally unscientific quiz to see how you rate when it comes to true, patriot love:

  1. Do you own clothing with a Canadian flag on it?

__A. Yes, totally

__B. Maybe…

__C. Absolutely not

  1. Do you own clothing that bears other symbols of Canadiana such as a beaver, a moose or a hockey stick?

__A. Sure do

__B. Maybe when I was in grade school

__C. No. That’s ridiculous

  1. Ever painted your face or the face of your child red and white?

__A. Every Canada Day, pretty much

__B. In university, I woke up after a party and found my face looking quite nationalistic

__C. That’s just silly

  1. When you hear people criticize your country, how do you react?

__A. I go into full-on attack mode

__B. Let sleeping dogs lie

__C. Nothing. They’re probably right

  1. What happens when you hear O Canada?

__A. I jump up and sing loudly and proudly

__B. I try to sing the parts I know

__C. Nothing, quite frankly

  1. How do you show support for your favourite hockey team during the play-offs?

__A. I hang a flag on my car and paint team colours on the garage door

__B. Might buy beer or pop with the team’s logo on it

__C. What are play-offs?

  1. What does Canada Day mean to you?

__A. An opportunity to show my devotion and enduring loyalty to my homeland

__B. I love the fireworks and food

__C. A three-day weekend

  1. Canada’s biggest contribution to the world stage has been…

__A. Our peacekeeping efforts around the globe

__B. Poutine, without a doubt, followed by Drake

__C. Peanut butter

If you answered mostly As you are a deeply devoted patriot, through and through. Loyalty could be your middle name; you’re that much in love with Canada. Red and white is your favourite colour combination and it shows in everything from your fashion style to your home décor.

If you answered mainly Bs you rate about average on the scale of flag wavers. Never one to rah-rah too loudly for your country, you approach patriotism with a lukewarm enthusiasm. You’re difficult to read because one can never tell if that expression on your face is one of pain or pleasure.

Answering mostly Cs means there’s no hope for you. You’re about as patriotic as Benedict Arnold. Sorry, eh?

Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Garden

June 17th, 2017 by freemanrealty

If you’re looking to heighten your level of environmental good-deed doing this summer, why not consider establishing a garden or flower bed that welcomes bees and butterflies.

Little thought they are, bees and butterflies are incredibly important to our ecosystem.  Did you know that 75 per cent of the food we eat, from fruits and nuts to herbs, need pollinators? Bees do this quite well. The fruit and vegetables you grow will be delightful with more bees around.

Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers, especially those that are strongly scented, are red or yellow or those that produce a healthy dose of nectar from which to feed. It’s believed that an abundance of butterflies is a sign that our ecosystem is doing well.

So let’s look at ways to create a bee- and butterfly-friendly space in your garden:

Make a Bee House

Paint a wooden house a bright colour with low-VOC paint. The bees will buzz around and make mental snapshots of their new home before nesting in their new dwelling. Once the temperature hits 12 to 14 degrees C hang the house at eye level out of the rain facing south or east.

Dig down below the soil near your bee house to expose the clay soil. This will encourage the masons to use it as construction material or you can also keep a bowl of moist clay near their house.

Offer Food

Grow a variety of plants that flower at different times. That way there’s always a snack available for them.

Showy flowers are sometimes the worst food providers for bees. Look for native plants or heirloom varieties. Consider planting flowers in clumps. Bees especially love blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. A variety of flower shapes are good for a diverse bee population with different tongue lengths.

Here are a number of bee-friendly plants categorized based on their bloom times. Early bloomers include blueberry, crabapple, foxglove, heather and willow. Good mid-season bloomers for bees are chives, dahlia, lavender and sunflower. Late blooming plants include coneflower, cosmos, pumpkin and sedum.

Butterflies like alyssum, bee balm, delphinium, hollyhock, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, Shasta daisy, verbena and zinnia, among others. Don’t forget to include plants like dill, fennel and milkweed that butterfly larvae feed on.

Create a Bee Bath

Bees and butterflies needs fresh water to survive. Because of the way they’re built, though, they need something to land on when trying to touch down in bird baths and the like. Try lining a shallow bowl with rocks or stones, leaving the rocks to stick out in spots so bees and butterflies have landing pads on which to settle.

The bath should be at ground level in your garden. Better yet, place the bath near your problems plants, those that get aphids and such, and these beneficial insects that are flying in for a drink will also take care of your plant’s pests.

Refresh the water daily.

 

Sources: www.gardeners.com, www.davidsuzuki.org,

Are Home Inspections Worth It?

June 17th, 2017 by freemanrealty

There was a time not too long ago when homes were bought and sold without the assistance of a professional home inspection. Your trustworthy and handy brother-in-law kicked the tires, so to speak, and his opinion was pretty much all that mattered.

Then all that changed in the ‘90s when home inspections became more and more common, to the point where the majority of Ontario resale home buyers (nearly 65 per cent) hire an inspector.  But Toronto’s red hot real estate market saw the trend change again as buyers skipped inspections to present clean, condition-free offers in an effort to win bidding wars. In this market, homes come with a pre-list home inspection obtained by the seller, which meant a significant drop in the number of home inspections overall.

There has been a good deal of controversy swirling around the profession. Critics say its lack of regulation means unqualified inspectors can set up shop and perform inspections with little expertise. And up until now, home buyers had little recourse if a problem was later discovered that a home inspector should have red flagged.

In April, the Ontario government finally passed a law that will impose new rules on the profession. The Putting Consumers First Act will require home inspectors to be licensed, carry insurance and abide by a code of ethics. The legislation will introduce minimum standards for home inspection reports, contracts and disclosures. Inspectors who breach the code of ethics could face fines of up to $25,000.

According to the Toronto Star, there are an estimated 1,500 home inspectors in Ontario charging between $350 and $600 for a home inspection.

So is spending a few hundred dollars for a home inspection worth it?

That depends.  Many believe it’s a relatively small investment given the cost of real estate. Home inspectors are especially useful for first-time home buyers, who know little about the process. A home inspection can help calm the nerves of a buyer who has no idea what shape the roof is in, where the water shutoff is or how to replace a furnace filter.

But if you’ve bought a few homes in your life, you can probably make due with a Seller Property Information Statement instead. Also known as an SPIS, these optional forms protect the seller down the road should the new owner try to pin a problem on the seller.  Filling one out also demonstrates to buyers that you’re being honest and open because you’re willing to disclose defects or issues.

The SPIS is a two-page document that covers questions regarding zoning, taxes and encroachments. Questions are asked about soil contamination, flooding, oil tanks and grow houses. Other questions focus on moisture problems, types of insulation and renovations or addition made to the house.

So get a home inspection if you’re new to real estate of feeling a bit leery about a property. If you know what to look for, skip the inspection and request an SPIS.

8 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Leave Your Home

June 9th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Leaving behind the family nest is never easy.

But there are circumstances when the need for a new nest becomes quite apparent. Let’s look at signs that it’s time for a move:

There’s no room

Space is tight and you’re practically tripping over each other. Simple everyday chores turn into a big production as you reorganize your possessions just so you can find a butter knife.   Maybe you’ve had another child or maybe dad has moved in, making space all that much more precious. It’s probably time for a bigger place.

Too much space

When you call your partner’s name do you hear an echo? As empty nesters, leaving behind the family home with its many years of memories is never easy. But when you think about the time, money and effort spent on maintaining a large, empty home, it seems kind of wasteful. Think about all the other activities and pastimes you could be enjoying by moving to a smaller home.

Better schools

It’s not uncommon for families to move into neighbourhoods that are known for having good schools. The education of children is high on the priority list for many households. If you think your son or daughter isn’t getting a top-grade education, then maybe it’s time to find a neighbourhood that’s known for its high marks.

Is your neighbourhood safe and sound?

Safety is of paramount concern so if you feel your neighbourhood falls short on this count, you might need to consider moving. Are your neighbours noisy and disruptive? Do dogs bark at all hours? Time to get out.

The suburbs

Lifelong city dwellers may find it hard to imagine, but sometimes a slower pace is welcome. You’re bound to get more real estate bang for your buck in the suburbs with comparably greater square footage and outdoor space in addition to a lower cost of living and increased safety.

Time to upgrade

Maybe you want an extra bathroom, more storage space, a newer kitchen or perhaps it’s amenities such as an in ground pool, bigger yard or garage that you’re after? Rather than renovate, it may actually be more practical to move.

Downsizing

Do your bills cause you grief? Are you tired of being short on cash in order to pay your mortgage, utility and repair bills? It might be time to move to a cheaper home. Just think of the things you can do the equity you’ve built up.

Shorter commute

Tired of long drives to and from work? Does your Monday to Friday routine feel like a miserable treadmill from which you can’t break free? You might want to think about moving closer to work. If your job prospects are good, why not consider a shorter commute.

Good New for Home Buyers

June 7th, 2017 by freemanrealty

Buyers eying the GTA will be happy to hear that the Toronto real estate market finally appears to be taming down somewhat.

The Toronto Real Estate Board reported that existing home sales fell in May by 20.3 per cent from the previous May, while prices edged down by about six per cent from April to May.

Though it’s too early to tell for sure, it’s believed the provincial government’s institution of new rules designed to control the housing market is the reason for the cool down.

“The actual, or normalized, effect of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan remains to be seen,” said TREB’s market analysis director Jason Mercer. “In the past, some housing policy changes have initially led to an overreaction on the part of homeowners and buyers, which later balanced out.”

In April, the province announced a 16-step plan to tame Toronto’s out-of-control real estate market. The plan targeted foreign investors with a 15 per cent non-resident speculation tax on property purchases and more rent controls which serve to restrict rent hikes.

While home buyers will be pleased with softer prices, they can also expect to benefit from a greater housing supply. Active listings rose nearly 43 per cent in May from the previous May. As for the breakdown, low-rise homes including detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses were up considerably in May from a year ago, while condominiums were down.

“The increase in active listings suggests that homeowners, after a protracted delay, are starting to react to the strong price growth we’ve experienced over the past year by listing their home for sale to take advantage of these equity gains,” Mercer said.

All of these factors contribute to a less frenzied buying model, which means less pressure plus more time and room to think for those looking to purchase.

Some say the Toronto market is echoing Vancouver, which also slapped foreign buyers with a 15 per cent tax last August. While the market subsequently softened it appears to have recovered with sales and prices again on the rise last month in Greater Vancouver.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

The Ontario government introduced a housing plan late last month that aims to protect home buyers and renters from being priced out of the turbo-charged Toronto real estate market.

The 16-point plan targets actions that are expected to cool the city’s overheated market with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help more people find affordable homes, increase supply, protect buyers and renters and bring stability to the real estate market.

Included in Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan is a 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax, similar to the one introduced last year in Vancouver. The tax in Ontario will be levied against all foreign-bought properties within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as they too have been affected by unprecedented price growth.

Home buyers should like the plan as it is expected to cool the housing market, which has experienced double-digit gains in the past few years. In April the average Toronto house price hit nearly $921,000, almost 25 per cent more than a year ago.

Renters may like it even more so as rent control will be expanded to buildings constructed after 1991, which were previously not covered by rules. Given the city’s tiny vacancy rate – 1.3 per cent, the lowest in 12 years — some landlords were commanding astronomically high rents, even doubling rents once a lease came due.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan includes additional measures, such as introducing a targeted $125-million, five-year program to encourage the construction of new purpose-built rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.

The government will also work to better understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market, such as “paper flipping” — a practice that includes  entering into a contractual agreement to buy a residential unit and assigning it to another person prior to closing.

The province is also introducing legislation that will allow Toronto and potentially other municipalities to introduce vacancy taxes.

The Fair Housing Plan will also include a new Housing Supply Team of dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.

Toronto: Home to World’s Fastest Growth in House Prices

May 11th, 2017 by freemanrealty

 

Toronto is number one for many reasons. The New York Times deems it a first rate travel destination. It’s also pretty good on the scales of diversity and gender equality. And – no surprise here – it earns high marks as one of the best cities in the world to live.

That could be why it also is number one when it comes to having the world’s fastest pace of house price growth.

According to research conducted by analytics firm CoreLogic, Canada’s largest city beat out Sydney, New York, even Tokyo in terms of how quickly its house prices escalated last year.

According to the research which was carried out for The Daily Telegraph in Australia, Toronto’s median house price climbed 19 per cent in 2016, surpassing next-in-line Sydney at 18.4 per cent and third-place Vancouver, where house prices rose by 14 per cent.

According to the Huffington Post, the survey measures median house prices, which is a different measurement than the average figures used by real estate boards in Canada. And average prices show even stronger growth in the GTA with a year over year hike of nearly 28 per cent in February to almost $876,000.

Naturally, these figures are not sustainable. House prices will begin to slow. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) is forecasting slightly lower house prices over the next three years and the strong possibility of a market correction.

The FAO envisions a correction that could see house prices decline by 10 per cent within three years or a worst-case scenario of a 20 per cent drop, says the Huffington Post.

In its report, the FAO expects “a leveling out in residential investment over the next several years, consistent with a modest decline in housing prices,” but “a sharper housing price correction remains a significant risk, both for the economy and the province’s tax revenues.”

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.