Friendly Home

unduhan-22Whenever you move, be it to a new city, or an entirely different country – expect there to be a bit of culture shock. What may be considered polite in one area may be considered rude in another, the food may be different, the clothing may be different as well. But there’s a certain shock to the system that many people have when they move to the suburbs from the city. Why are all these people smiling?

Yes, welcome to the happy environs of the suburbs. Maybe it’s the extra space, the fresh air, the abundance of parks, and schools that are less crowded. It could be that many suburbs these days are for all intents and purposes “free standing” – with all the shops, restaurants and jobs right there. No need to fight your way in to the city. But whatever the reason, many people will tell you that the atmosphere in the suburbs is just that much friendlier.

Now that’s not reason alone to move to the suburbs. But it can have a serious impact on your future, and the future of your children. Schools in the suburbs tend to be much less crowded, and parents are very involved in the day to day of what happens in their school district. If you’re new to a community, getting involved on this level is a great way to meet new friends and develop a social network. You may also be surprised at the cultural diversity that you will find in the suburban schools. Your children will meet other children from countries all around the world – a obviously it’s a great plus for youngsters to be exposed to a variety of cultures. This diversity can actually help children make friends, – in an environment where differences are embraced, tolerance of others because the norm.

Typically suburbs are less crowded, with less traffic, and the concerns of the city, such as crime rates, tend to not be as worrisome. You are definitely more likely to see children playing hockey in the streets, or basketball in the driveway – if for no other reason that there is a driveway to play in, and those streets are significantly quieter! You are more likely to see kids walking to school in groups than you might in the city. And those suburban schools often have more resources than their crowded city counterparts. On top of that, the cost of property per square foot is often considerably less than what you pay in the city, and that means that your children will have more space in your home for friends to come over, and for adult entertaining as well.

The adults in the family will appreciate the great resources that the suburbs have to offer, from community centers and book clubs, to local gyms and even senior care homes. Of course, all these activities are available in the city as well. The difference is the accessibility. If you are new to a country, or to a style of living, this access can mean the difference between finding your footing in a new situation, or feeling isolated and alone.

I’m certainly not saying that cities aren’t  nice places, – but lets face it – the hustle and bustle, the smaller homes squished in side by side, busy streets not conducive to children playing, – can cause some distance between people. You may never really know your neighbours. You may not feel comfortable letting your kids play outside unsupervised. Everyone is in a rush. If this is what you are used to, the slower pace and more relaxed vibe of the suburbs can come as a bit of a shock. But don’t let that be a negative. When given the opportunity to live with your family in an area that is affordable, with good schools, great amenities and shopping, diversity, and most of all, a friendly neighbourhood atmosphere – who wouldn’t want to give that a try?

So, if you are thinking of making a move outside of the city, take a drive one day to the suburb of your choice. Check out the various neighbourhoods, and notice the home owners mowing their lawns, and children on their bikes. Enjoy the parks, see the shopping areas, and take a peek at the schools. Walk around a bit and enjoy what you see. While you’re at it, see how many people smile at you.

Think About Before You Buy Home

images-35Buying a home is generally an exciting adventure – the thrill of finding a home that you and your family can enjoy, where you will raise your children, make friends – all the good things that home ownership. But there are several things that you should consider before setting down your hard earned money on a home purchase.

  1. Does this home make sense? Now when I say that, I mean will this home make sense for you and your family in the long run? Are you a young family and hope to expand? Maybe a two bedroom townhome is not the right buy. Sure, with one child it may be very manageable, but if baby number two is just a year away – you may be forced to move within a couple of years. With transfer taxes and realtor fees, you could eat up any profits made, and that’s just not a smart buy. Ideally you should look for a home that will accommodate you for at least five years. This may mean forgoing some fancy upgrades, but ultimately the cosmetics of a home can be changed, whereas adding square footage is a whole different ball game.
  2. Have I fallen in love with the finishings, not the home? This often happens with buyers. The reason show homes are so inviting is that the developers want you to fall in love with an ideal. However with all the fancy furniture gone, you may find the home you bought is not the home you need. You may have ignored all those stairs in that three level townhome because you loved that open concept living area. But if you noticed it when you visited, think about how it will affect your daily life. Do you have small children? Imagine carting baby buggies, strollers, and small children up and down those stairs. Suddenly, that home might not be such a great idea after all.
  3. Do you see yourself in the neighbourhood? If there are tons of children in the neighbourhood, and you are a professional couple who crave quiet, then you might be in the wrong place. Conversely, if you have children, but there are no schools within walking distance, and no basketball hoops in the driveways, then they may not have any friends to play with. Make sure you pick an area that fits your lifestyle, whether you’re looking in the city or the suburbs.
  4. Don’t buy the best home in a not so great neighbourhood. Ideally, you want to buy in the best area you can, even if that means buying a home that may not have all the extras that you want. Your home is your investment, and ultimately the old saying “Location Location Location” will always hold strong. You can’t make more land, no matter how hard you try. However, you can invest in the home that you purchase through renovation. It doesn’t have to be all at once. But if you buy a home with “good bones” – i.e.: good sized rooms, a practical floor plan, and structurally sound – all within a desirable location – you will be making a sound purchase.
  5. Can I really afford this? If you are a dual income couple and are planning on starting a family, you may have only one income for a while. Will the home put undo financial pressure on you? If your income was to go down, would you be able to afford the home? Just because you “can” afford to purchase a home, doesn’t mean you should. Sit down and think about your lifestyle. Do you like to travel extensively? If you do, make sure you budget that into the equation. Are you planning to send your children to private school? Factor in the annual tuition to your costs. Don’t forget to speak with your mortgage broker. Any changes in interest rates could change your mortgage payment in the years to come. Make sure you can handle any upticks in the interest rates.

Update a Room To Look Gorgeous

images-36You don’t have to hire a decorator (or break the bank) to give a room a quick update with lots of impact. So whether you’re getting ready to sell, have just moved in or feel like a mini overhaul, these five tips will have you enjoying the room of your dreams in no time.

Change Your Fabrics

Replace your curtains, re-cover your throw pillows, buy a new rug, Any one of these easy fixes can make a big impact; but all three will completely change the entire room! And if it’s a bedroom you’re tired of, same rules apply: Replace the duvet cover, re-cover the headboard, and toss a few new pillows on the bed.

Freshen Up With Paint

Whether you tackle an entire room, or maybe an accent wall or two, a new coat of paint is probably the easiest way to change a room. From light and bright to dark and dramatic, paint can completely alter the mood.

Re-Organize A Bookshelf

Bookshelves are amazing; not only do they keep your books organized, but they can also serve as great focal pieces. Try colour-coding your books or arranging them in stacks instead of side-by-side. Remove an entire row of books and replace them with framed family photos or bright accent pieces. Sometimes all a room needs is a shift in thinking about it.

Update Your Art

Updating the art on your walls is a great way to showcase the family talent. Frame your daughter’s sketches from high school (no one will know it’s not a real Picasso) or your son’s first finger painting. Or grab a blank canvas and paint it a bright colour to hang in the kitchen (you don’t have to be a Fine Art grad to add some basic pops of colour!). And the best part of this approach is once you’ve bought the frames, the art can be rotated throughout the year at no extra cost.

Add An Accent

Is your bathroom feeling boring or your living room giving you the yawns? Pick bright, colourful wallpaper and add an accent wall! Paint stripes in your dining room, or buy a chandelier for your front hallway. Adding an impressive accent is a fun way to give the room some personality without a complete overhaul (of the room OR your bank account).

Finding the Perfect Apartment for My New Home

When my wife and I divorced, I did not want to stay in the house we had made our home for the last 14 years. The kids were established there with their friends and in their school, and I just knew it would be best for me to be the one to move. I started looking at apartments in Turkey for sale, and I found a website that was a huge help to me. I was able to look not only in the location where I work, but I was also able to customize it by the type of place I was looking for as well as the price I could pay for it.

I knew I wanted a three bedroom apartment because I wanted our two children to each have their own room when they come to stay with me.

Visiting My Uncle’s Home in Turkey Was a Big Surprise

There are pretty places all over the world. I enjoy urban areas around the world where the planners do their best to build and develop areas that look beautiful and are clean. I have been to cities that are really dirty and falling apart, and I have been to grand cities that are quite amazing in the development of their infrastructure. I have family who live in Istanbul apartments in giant buildings that are incredible to see. Here, we think of apartments as places you rent under a monthly leasing fee. Over there you buy your apartment like you would a condo.

Return on Investment

Adding value to your home is the number one concern for most homeowners. It doesn’t matter if you’re prepping to sell or looking to build long-term equity, knowing the right renos to invest in is important to ensure you get the most bang for your reno buck.

5. Flooring
Ever wonder about the number one request from both homeowners and tenants when they’re looking for a home? Hardwood floors. And why not? Hardwood looks amazing, is timeless and is incredibly durable. It’s also expensive, so it’s wise to weigh your options before shelling out big bucks for the big impact that hardwood delivers. You can go with traditional hardwood or engineered hardwood, or if hardwood isn’t what you’re looking for (or if it isn’t in the budget) there are plenty of great laminate options available to you as well. Regardless of your choice, a flooring update always brings new life to a space and instantly gives the impression of a renovated and redecorated space.

4. Hardware & Fixtures
It sounds like a simple little update that doesn’t mean a lot, but replacing relatively inexpensive items like faucets, sinks, toilets and drawer pulls can make a big impact.

Let’s face it: Switchplates are $.49 at your local hardware store, so there’s no excuse. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also a drop in the bucket and things like doorknobs, light fixtures and faucets are also inexpensive, minor updates that can really improve the entire feel of a room. A small investment can equal a big return, making the space feel fresh and modern.

3. Bathrooms
The first rule of bathroom renos: If it’s pink or blue, rip it out! Pastels, seashell tiles and fuzzy toilet seat covers scream ‘grandma’s house,’ and while you probably have fond childhood memories from grandma’s house, chances are you don’t sit around reminiscing about the décor.

When you ask people to describe their perfect bathroom, about 95% of people use the words “spa like.” What does that mean exactly? From my experience it means a soothing colour palette, clean lines, modern materials and chic finishes. You may be hearing “cha-ching”, but keep in mind that bathrooms are small and therefore require less material. Consider making a statement with a stand-out tile or funky sink or faucet to set the tone of the space – a little goes a long way.

2. Kitchens
Kitchen remodels are notoriously expensive. When you start throwing around words like “granite,” “stainless steel,” and perhaps the scariest – “custom,” it can make a lifetime courting takeout menus sound like a good idea. But don’t panic – I have good news on two fronts: Not only can you do a great kitchen renovation on realistic budget, but kitchens also give you the biggest return on investment far beyond any other room in the house.

Don’t believe the hype – there’s almost never a need to invest in custom cabinets. Out of all the Income Property reveals over the years, only two have been custom. The trick? You can customize standard, out-of-the-box cabinetry to almost any kitchen layout.

When it comes to counters, while stone is still the number one choice, there are more and more affordable alternatives that look expensive – butcher block, composite, and high-end laminates are all great options.

1. Income Suites
No shock here, but it’s true – there’s no renovation you can do to your home that will increase its value as adding an income suite. Whether it’s your basement, a third floor or loft conversion, or even a coach house style suite in a garage, income suite renovations, when done correctly, easily allow you to double your investment. The extra bonus?  Not only will an income add a huge amount of value to your home, but it’s an investment that will actively make you money while you build equity. What more could you ask for?

Income Properties

So You Want to Buy a Vacation Property…

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about sun and sand. Fall is actually a great time to start thinking about next year’s vacation and where you’re going to stay. Cottages are a big part of the Canadian vacation experience, and buying one might be a great investment if you go about it the right way.

Smart investment or luxury item?

The answer? It’s a bit of both. An inherited cottage or one you bought decades ago during the golden age of affordable lakefront properties could make you a pretty penny today. If you’re in the market to buy though, you have some factors to take into consideration that will drastically affect the price. Buying a property that is accessible, usable and desirable year-round is a much better investment than a property that you can only get to in the summer, isn’t insulated and doesn’t have any merit in the winter. Take advantage of winter sports enthusiasts, as their options for winter rentals are usually pretty limited.

Being less than a 2-hour drive from a city is also going to command a higher price tag, but don’t be afraid to go a little off the beaten track or settle on a smaller lake. There are still deals to be had if you look a little further out and are willing to put in some work. There’s always going to be more work involved with maintaining a cottage, so keep that in mind when setting a budget. Don’t put yourself into a “cottage-poor” situation where you can afford the cottage, but not all the other fun accessories that go along with it, like building a dock for a boat.

Fractional ownership

Want all the perks of a cottage without all the costs? Fractional ownership might be the answer. Of course, the catch is that you only “own” the cottage for half the year. Fractional ownership may not be for everyone – but it is certainly something to consider if it suits your needs and wallet. Buying a property with friends or family may be a way to put cottage ownership within reach. While it sounds like a great way to pool resources and leverage your buying power, have a lawyer draw up an agreement that clearly states who is allowed to use the cottage when and other expectations such as upkeep, mortgage payments and property taxes and how to manage other unforeseen expenses. Also make sure you come to an agreement about the rules on renting out the property during the weeks you “own” the property, but aren’t using it. The best way to maximize a cottage purchase is to maximize the income potential.

Owning a cottage is an amazing idea but before you sign on the dotted line, do your homework. Cottages, unfortunately, are not exempt from taxes, and just like at home, require regular maintenance, cleaning and grass cutting. And while it’s hard to put a price on those summertime memories by the lake, making a smart investment should be your number one goal.

Gimmicks and How to Avoid Them

Real estate agents tend to get a bad rap. But let’s face it, there are unprofessional people in every line of work. That also means there are plenty of great real estate agents – the kind that will help you earn more money as a seller or get more for your investment as a buyer. The key is to find those agents when it’s time to buy or sell a home. Need a hint? Keep an eye out for these common real estate gimmicks…that may not have the best interests of the client in mind.

Real Estate Agent Gimmicks to Watch Out For

1. “I have a buyer for your home.”

Whether it’s delivered in a letter or by phone, this a common trick some real estate agents use to get their foot in the door with a potential home seller.

“When I first started in real estate, that was one of the first things we were taught,” says Carl Seier, a real estate agent with Sigmar MacKenzie Real Estate in Winnipeg. “They told us that there’s an agent out there who will have a buyer for that area, so technically you’re not lying. But that’s not the reason to hire a real estate agent. You want one with the best marketing plan.”

If a real estate agent really has a buyer for your home, he or she should arrive with an offer. Otherwise, that agent is probably just trying to get your attention – and your business. What you really want is an agent who’s willing to price your home competitively and market it to sell.

2. “This is definitely the property for you – but it probably won’t last.”

Good real estate agents don’t sell houses; they help buyers through the process of finding the best home they can afford. So, if you feel serious pressure from your agent to buy a particular house, something’s up.

“Agents want to make a sale. A lot of agents are living paycheck to paycheck, so the quicker they can close a buyer, the quicker they get paid,” Seier said.

Plus, in some provinces, agents may be looking to “double-end” a real estate deal. This happens when they represent both the seller and the buyer, and therefore cash in on both commissions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if an agent pressures you to buy one house over another, you should be wary.

3. “If your house doesn’t sell, I’ll buy it.”

Offering to buy an unsold house is another common tactic some real estate agents use. It isn’t dishonest (sellers will have to sign a contract with all the details), but while it may help agents attract more clients, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The problem? The price you’ll get for the home in this case is much lower than list price – often as little as 85 percent of the home’s appraised value, Seier says.

“It’s not a reason to list your home. List your home because your agent has devised a thorough marketing plan,” Seier said.

4. “This price will get you a bidding war.”

A bidding war happens when buyers get competitive with each other while making offers on a property. This often drives the home’s price up well beyond list price. This is an outcome many sellers (and, let’s face it, agents) fantasize about, but Seier cautions that it’s exceedingly rare. Plus, the strategy often involves listing the home for less than it’s worth, and that, says Seier, is a big risk to take.

“Agents are promising bidding wars, but when they don’t happen, the agent increases the home’s price. That’s the kiss of death,” Seier said. “Choose a list price you can actually live with, not one that might get bid up.”

Staging Your Home

You don’t have to break the bank to have your house looking as though it was professionally staged. These tips and tricks will have your house sell-ready and gorgeous before you can say “why hasn’t it always looked this way?!”

1) De-Clutter

The first step in getting ready to sell is de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter so potential buyers aren’t overwhelmed by your stuff, but rather impressed by your home. Counters and other surfaces should be kept clear and any furniture that isn’t needed stored away. The good news about this tedious task is packing and purging will make moving day that much easier.

2) Lights and Mirrors

Warm lighting and well-placed mirrors can make your home feel bright, inviting and even bigger. Mirrors placed over fireplaces, and along hallway walls will make rooms appear larger than they are. Table lamps, and overhead lighting like chandeliers and sconces will brighten rooms and add some flair to your decor.

3) It’s Nothing Personal

Any personal effects should be packed away; family photos and mementoes, framed degrees, anything that’s a link to the current owner. Buyers want to imagine themselves in the house, so the more the house is a blank slate, the easier that is.

4) But Don’t Touch the Nursery!

Although the nursery and childrens’ rooms should be de-cluttered and tidied as well, personal effects can remain as they are. There’s something reassuring and touching about seeing a baby’s room that can mean all the difference to a potential buyer (especially ones that are starting a family).

5) Neutrals

Although you love that fuchsia accent wall, some buyers may not. A fresh coat of bright, neutral paint will not only enlarge the house and make it feel airy and more spacious, but it will also help buyers with their vision (there’s that blank slate again).

6) Accents and Colour

To complement the neutral house, a few well-placed bright pops of colour will bring the decor together. Bright throw pillows, or a canary yellow kettle on the stove will be noticed as soon as you enter the room and will stick in buyers minds once they leave. Fresh flowers are another great idea, and single flower arrangements are most effective.

7) Inviting Scents

Warm inviting scents will help your house be remembered. Taking the time to bake cookies or mull cider on the stove may not be in the cards (and the stove and elements should be off for open houses) but a safely placed candle or air freshener will do the trick.

8) Draw Attention to Selling Features

As a general rule closet doors should be kept closed, but if there’s a walk-in that should be noticed, a small note to alert potential buyers is ok.

Home Selling Potential During Winter

ome say winter is the worst time to sell a home. Given the cold and stormy weather we have been experiencing, there are definitely challenges, but don’t be discouraged. First impressions and lasting impressions are key to progress potential buyers into active buyers. Be very wary as the slightest discomfort or issue can sour this experience and turn a buyer away from your home, but by addressing a few key areas, any winter woes can be easily avoided.

Here are five simple tips to maximize the showing potential of your home during the winter months.

1. Don’t Let Winter be an Obstacle

It’s storming or just post-storm, but you have showings booked for your home. (You must have motivated buyers to go out in that weather!) Don’t make it even more of a chore for them, be sure to shovel your drive or walkway so that the first impression is a clean and accessible entry. Buyers have been known to turn away, rather than hike to the doorway in knee deep snow and risk snow in their shoes, wet pants, and wet socks.

2. Consider Your Home’s Temperature

Remember, buyers are usually viewing more than one home at a time, and thus traveling around and running in and out of cars or up and down elevators in condos. Typically they will be dressed for the great outdoors, so although having the heat way up is great for lounging on the couch, it can be oppressive for visiting buyers. Be sure to monitor the temperature of the entire house and set it appropriately.

3. Get Buyers Out of the Dark and Into the Light

The winter months also mean shorter days and less natural light. Be sure to have adequate lighting in every room. Dark rooms are depressing when coming in from the cold. Keep it bright in the winter. Some may object for energy saving reasons, but it is best to leave all the lights on before showings or use timers. This allows you to set the mood lighting, and saves the buyers fumbling for light switches.  Remember first impressions.  Is your home a sanctuary or an oasis from the cold?

4. Preparation is Key

Be sure to prepare for those wet and snowy shoes and boots. No one likes having snow and dirt tracked around there home by shoes or wet socks, just as no one enjoys having wet socks and dodging puddles in the doorway.  Be sure to have a “Shoes Off” sign. Place an absorbent mat protecting your stone or wood flooring. Be sure to have a shoe tray or appropriate storage area for shoes, not only to avoid the puddles but to show off the organization of your home.  Apply this also to winter jackets, hats and scarves. Show functioning and organization by thoughtfully arranged set ups, don’t just have outerwear exploding out of closets or haphazardly hanging on hooks or coat racks.

5. Pet-Friendly—and Groomed!

If you do own pets, be sure to have the appearance of clean pets…especially dogs. We love our furry friends, but it’s best not to leave those dirty slush-soaked towels and doggy outfits laying around. The last thing you want is the smell of wet dog greeting your buyers at the front door.

 

Consider Before Tackling a Home Renovation

Renovating your home can be thrilling and when the results are exactly what you wanted, there’s nothing more satisfying. But they can also be stressful and costly, in both time and money. Here are five things to consider before undergoing a renovation, whether the job is big, or small.

Does The Renovation Require Permits?

Generally, small changes can be done on your own, but larger projects involving additions or altering the existing structure, electrical or plumbing may require permits. It’s important to be aware of the rules of your city, as undergoing renos without the required permits can mean timely delays, fines and ultimately stretching your budget. Sites like the Ontario Ministry of Housing and Affairs are a great resource and a good idea to bookmark.

Has Your Contractor Been Vetted?

It’s always smart to get a few quotes for every job, and references are essential. There are too many horror stories out there to make absolute sure that anyone who’s working on your home has been thoroughly vetted. Ask to see a portfolio of their work, or call a referral or two, this could save you a lot of heartache down the road.

Should You Relocate During the Job?

Packing up (especially if you have kids) might seem like a complete pain, but trying to live through a renovation might be an even bigger one. Add to that the dust and dirt that’s loosened (which can be a lot more than you’d expect), and you may be breathing easier if you choose to stay with family or at a hotel.

Do You Have a Buffer?

Often, the reality of renovating seems to be it costs more money, and takes longer (sometimes a lot longer) than expected. Building in a buffer of both time, and money is a great idea and a good way to set proper expectations. (And hey, sometimes they do finish on time, for the actual quote!)

So Do You REALLY Want This?

After weeks of researching design ideas, vetting contractors and saving the money you’ll need (plus a little buffer), now’s the time to really weigh the pros and cons. Do you really want to do this? And if the answer is yes, good luck! Renovating, whether it’s something small, or a big, can mean one step closer to living in the home of your dreams (once the nightmare of the renovation ends of course).