{ Create an Account }   { Login }   { Contact }

Show off your house with May blooms

May 2nd, 2018 by freemanrealty

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

April 19th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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

April 11th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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

April 11th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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

April 9th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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?

April 3rd, 2018 by freemanrealty

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

March 19th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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?

March 9th, 2018 by freemanrealty

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?

 

 

Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Renovating

March 7th, 2018 by freemanrealty

Nothing gets a homeowner’s juices flowing quite like the prospect of a remodelling job or major home renovation. You’ve been paging through magazines for years and checking out Houzz and other online home design and architecture websites so much, in fact, you feel like an expert.

Here’s the thing: you’re not. You may know precisely what it is you’re after but there are obstacles that no amount of studying can prepare you for.  And while the thought of hearing workers inside your home sawing, hammering and drilling fills you with excitement, be cautious and don’t jump into a project feet first.

Here’s a list of don’ts you should avoid if you want a fairly uncomplicated dream renovation project.

Don’t Hire Harry the Handyman – Unless he comes with stellar references from folks you know and trust using your sister-in-law’s unemployed step-cousin to remodel your ground-floor bathroom is probably not a good idea. Sure, he’s super handy, reasonable and can refinish hardwood like nobody’s business, but his limited or non-existent experience leaves you in doubt. Best to keep on looking.

Know that your Reno Budget will Grow — Like death and taxes, it kind of goes without saying that spending more on your remodelling project is a sure thing. There are online resources that will help you hammer down the precise cost of your renovation, spreadsheet and all. Know that it’s best to have a budget for your budget. According to Scott McGillvray, surprises invariably happen so homeowners should squirrel away a sizable contingency fund. The home reno guru recommends in the neighbourhood of 15 to 25 per cent of your budgeted renovation, depending on the size of the project and the condition of your house.

Don’t Expect a Punctual Contractor – It’s not that builders and contractors enjoy falling behind time-wise, it’s just that issues arise due to the wild unpredictability of transforming an existing structure into your dream home. Don’t look to house-and-home shows on television as your yardstick because that is flat-out unrealistic. Since there is no way of knowing if the job will be completed by the estimated time, bear this in mind and expect a later date. And who knows? Your contractor might surprise you. Just don’t hold your breath.

Don’t Think Your Day-to-Day Routine will be Unchanged – Having strangers in your house can be unpleasant and disruptive, especially if you’re somewhat of an introvert who enjoys peace and quiet. Expect the objectionable: noise, dirt, dust, disarray and disruptions to your regular way of living. If your kitchen is being remodelled or a heavily used bathroom, you need to find alternatives. Can you use your fridge in another room of the house and cook on a hot plate or in a microwave oven? Eating out is well and good but that can add up in dollars, calories and diminishing health. Think ahead about potential disturbances and how you can best deal with them.

Don’t Assume Your Contractor is Certified – If you’re a little casual when it comes to rules, this might be a good one to jot down. Ask to see your contractor’s certification. You want to ensure they have liability insurance and are covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board so that if a worker gets injured, the contractor is covered and you’re not at risk of being sued.

Why Raising Kids in a Condo Works

March 7th, 2018 by freemanrealty

There’s this set of rules that exist for many Canadians and it has to do with living in a single-family home.

Many of us grew up in decent-sized homes, where the views were backyard pools, trees, swing sets and maybe a hint of siding from the neighbour’s house. Smaller family sizes meant you’d at least have your own bedroom, evenif your house was modest. We had space back then. Land was more affordable because it was less in demand.

Move forward 30 or 40 years and our urban living spaces have gotten smaller. Many of us live vertically now in high-rise buildings in the city. We share amenities and that helps us live with less space. But we often think condos are for young buyers or older ones interested in downsizing. We regularly think they are the perfect set-up for childless households. But what’s wrong with this picture? Why can’t children grow up in condos?

In the past year or two, magazines and newspapers have tried to grapple with the question with one Globe & Mail story running the headline, Is it bad parenting to raise children in a condo? All of the stories dig at this issue by asking readers to rethink age-old stereotypes that suggest a child will somehow be in harm’s way if they aren’t raised with their own family room, bedroom and backyard.

But evidence suggests quite the contrary. It’s believed city kids gain valuable street smarts earlier than their suburban counterparts. In fact, some say their exposure to diverse peoples and cultures gives them an added edge helping them develop greater social skills than their country cousins.

The other obvious benefit for city-dwelling kids is exposure to arts and culture, from the performing arts and theatres to museums, galleries and libraries. In comparison to small communities and the cutbacks in arts education, cities simply pulsate with an assortment of resources that feed those hungry for arts and culture.

Many condos are filling up with young families due in large part to the high cost of housing in Toronto. According to Statistics Canada, 2017 census data showed that 129,000 or 13 per cent of Toronto’s families lived in condos in 2016. Those numbers are, up nearly nine per cent from 2011 and well above the national average of 8.4 per cent.

There are also a good number of environmental and emotional attributes to raising your family in a condo. Being closer to work and school means less money and time going to transportation. Think of what that might do for climate change. Think how living without the commute will benefit you and your family. You’ll have more time together. Thanks to communal spaces such as parks and pools, you and your family will be able to hang out without worrying about pesky household chores like cutting the grass or cleaning the pool.

Condo living also fosters a minimalist approach, which fights the longstanding notion that bigger is better. Given the condition of our planet, we need to rethink that view and embrace a less-is-more philosophy. Not only will our planet be happier, so will our bank accounts and stress levels.

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.