bathroom

Simple bathroom upgrades that make a world of difference

It’s no secret that many young buyers today are looking for move-in ready homes that don’t need much updating. Purchasing your first home is expensive enough and when you’re just starting out, there’s little room in the budget for a major overhaul of the bathrooms. That’s why it’s so important for you as a seller to make these areas as appealing as possible before your house hits the market.

Rest assured, there are a number of easy upgrades that you can make to your bathrooms without spending a fortune. These simple projects can make all the difference in the world when it comes to revitalizing an outdated bathroom.

Paint – A fresh coat of paint brings new life to any room in the home, bathroom included. While it’s generally recommended to stick with neutral colours when selling, the bathroom is one space where you can go against the grain – choose a pretty aqua colour and add a few beach-themed accessories or try adding a cool accent wall with old barn boards or an eye-catching geometric wallpaper.

Revitalize the vanity – If you think a new vanity isn’t in the budget, think again. You can purchase a brand new vanity for as little as $100 and it will make a major difference in your bathroom. If your vanity is still in good condition but a little outdated, simply replace the hardware with new drawer pulls and knobs.

Update the decor – Just as you would stage any other room in your home, adding a few accessories to your bathroom can really liven things up and make the space more appealing to prospective buyers. Invest in a new soap dish and toothbrush holder, add a pretty new shelf or towel bar and hang a couple of art pieces.

Light it up – It’s understandable that you don’t want to spend a fortune on a new light fixture only to sell your home. But if your bathroom is still sporting its original 1993 fixture, it might be a smart investment. To get a great deal, search the scratch-and-dent areas or look for discontinued models at your local hardware stores.

Add some flair – Jazz things up with a new shower curtain and treat yourself to a new liner as well.

1140-how-to-keep-your-house-cool

Keep cool this summer

Now that the hot and humid days of summer have arrived, keeping cool at home has once again become a priority. If you’re looking for ways to reduce the temperature in your home without blasting the central air, take a look at these tips:

Since the sun’s powerful rays are very effective at heating up a structure, the first step is to consider how you can effectively block some of those rays and deflect some heat away from your home. A strategically placed awning, pergola or a few trees will block the sun from hitting your windows and doors 12 hours a day.

One of the easiest ways to keep the heat out is by closing blinds, drapes and shutters during the hottest part of the day. For those looking for a more permanent solution, exterior rolling shutters might be a good option. They are effective at helping to maintain a comfortable interior temperature, will reduce noise levels and also add an extra layer of your security to your home. The only downfall is price & quality rolling shutters are expensive. Solar screens, which look like standard window screens, will cut glare in addition to heat. “Double glazing” your windows can cut the intake of summer heat inside your home by as much as 30 per cent.

Another simple and inexpensive option for keeping cool is oscillating fans. Lightweight and portable, fans have come so far in the past 20 years, style-wise, and are still an extremely effective way of keeping a room cool. Place fans in a few rooms throughout the main level of your home to keep air circulating. During the summer, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down. This evaporates perspiration, creates a cooling wind chill effect, and makes a room feel up to eight degrees cooler without changing the temperature in the room!

Still feeling the heat at home? Before you switch on the A/C, get rid of all the incandescent light bulbs in your home, barbecue as often as possible instead of turning on the oven, always use the bathroom fan to remove hot steam after showering and open the windows after the sun goes down to let in the cool evening breeze!

How to avoid moving day hassles

How to Avoid Moving Day Hassles

If you’re lucky enough to convince half a dozen strong, able-bodied friends to dedicate their Saturday helping you with your move, kudos to you! If not, and you’ve decided to hire a moving company, there are a few things you can do in advance to ensure that things go smoothly on the big day.

You’ve done a lot of work to get to this point, between preparing your home for sale, sealing the deal and packing up all of your worldly belongings. The last thing you need is unnecessary stress on your closing date/moving day.

First, ask around for a moving company recommendation. Check with friends, colleagues, neighbours and family for referrals. If you’re not able to get a good referral from a trusted source, check online websites like Kijiji, but proceed with caution! Ask the company to provide at least three recent references and follow-up with them. Request a meeting ahead of time to get a feel for the individual. Are they professional, prepared and courteous? Did they show up on time?
Once you’ve chosen a mover, get everything in writing. It’s the law. According to Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA), all moving contracts worth more than $50 must be in writing.

Under the CPA, your contract must include:

1. The mover’s name, address and contact information
2. A description of the service(s) and their prices
3. The total cost that you will have to pay, additional charges that may apply and taxes
4. Start and end dates for the service
5. The terms of payment (cash or cheque)

Other items that should be included in the contract are size and value of items, who is responsible for loss or damage, the number of staff and vehicles that will be provided and the name of the person who holds their insurance policy.
Hopefully with a little research ahead of time, you can help ensure a stress-free moving day!

For buyers and sellers - Five tips for a successful deal

For buyers and sellers: Five tips for a successful deal

Make your move a stress-free one! The smart first step for both parties is finding a real estate professional you are comfortable working with. They will be the guiding light during the entire process.

For buyers, here are five tips for ensuring a successful real estate transaction:

1. Avoid overspending at all costs. Establish a budget and stick to it, no matter what. Being “house poor” will definitely overshadow the initial joy you feel from purchasing a home.
2. Don’t get emotionally involved. It’s easier said than done, but if a deal doesn’t go through – whether it’s an issue with price, conditions or a bidding war – be prepared to walk away knowing that your perfect house IS still out there!
3. Try to see the big picture. Don’t get hung up on paint colours, a messy yard or ugly light fixtures. These are all easy fixes. Instead use big-ticket items, like the condition of the furnace, windows and roof to help aid in your decision.
4. Location, location, location. It’s the one thing you can never change about the house you buy.
5. Start an emergency fund. Unforeseen (and expensive) issues can arise at any time for homeowners. Having funds set aside specifically for this purpose will bring peace of mind.

Tips for sellers:

1. Spend money to make money. To maximize your home’s selling potential, make any necessary minor repairs, give tired walls a fresh coat of paint or hire a stager.
2. Don’t over price. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including yours.
3. Never underestimate the power of a clean house. Your home should be spotless for showings and open houses. No exceptions!
4. Start packing as soon as the deal has been finalized. Just pack a few boxes every day. Procrastinating on this time-consuming chore will leave you stressed out as the days get closer to moving day.
5. Research your movers. Nothing messes up a moving day more than unreliable movers, so be sure to ask friends and family for recommendations, do some research and get everything in writing.

Spring home interior maintenance checklist

Deep Cleaning This Spring

When you’re in spring cleaning mode it’s the perfect time to set aside some extra time for deep cleaning your home. These are the tasks that we avoid until the point that it becomes necessary to give them attention. They are chores you don’t get to on a regular basis, including cleaning the dishwasher, washing machine, the windows, the oven, the refrigerator and mattresses. Here are three examples with some tips for cleaning them:

The Dishwasher

This appliance does some heavy duty cleaning, and actually needs to be cleaned itself! This will help keep it working at its best. You can run a cycle with a homemade cleaner made from baking soda and vinegar or purchase a specialty dishwasher cleaner from the store. This will remove build up and soap scum.

The Windows

You might wipe down the inside of your windows often, but take this opportunity to clean the outside of the windows as well. Also vacuum windowsills and window tracks. Remove and wash the window screens as well removing any cobwebs and bugs.

The Washing Machine

Washing machines can get smelly over time and this odour can even eventually come off on clean clothing. You can give it a good deep cleaning with natural ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda. This will disinfect, kill mold and mildew, dissolve soap residue and can also be helpful in dissolving lime deposits in the pipes. Set your washer to run with hot water and do not add clothes or detergent. While the hot water, vinegar, and baking soda are inside, wipe down the outside of the washer and any bleach or fabric softener dispensers.

Attic & Basement Storage Ideas to Gain More Space

Maximize every square foot in your small space

There’s a lot you can change about a home, but without a major renovation, square footage is rarely one of them. Making smart use of space can make a room, a floor or an entire house feel bigger. There are plenty of ways to optimize the space in your home to give the appearance of increased space but the key to creating that illusion is to be organized and to find clever ways to maximize every square foot in your home. 

Use mirrors: One simple way to make any room seem bigger, longer or wider is to add reflective surfaces like windows and glass that create reflections. Mirrored tabletops or mirror placed under candles or vases can bounce light in different directions. Get creative with your reflective surfaces.

Every surface counts: Most of us tend to focus on the flat, horizontal space we have available and ignore the endless possibilities of a vertical surface. Shelves, art and objects can be placed on walls to draw attention upwards which creates the illusion of more space.

Brighten up: Make sure to keep curtains and blinds open to allow as much light in as possible. Light makes a room feel larger and more airy. Hanging curtains from the ceiling instead of the window frame will also make the room appear to have more height.

Storage creates space: Storage is the easiest way to make any room appear larger than it really is. Using storage bins under beds, in closets and bathrooms can hide clutter and open the room up to more space. Mudroom benches conceal a lot of items such as wet umbrellas and rain gear that can damage hardwood floors.

Tips for the kitchen: Dark surfaces can be a big culprit in making rooms seem smaller or – as small as they actually are. By giving cabinets and doors a coat of light paint and using glass on doors to lighten the space you can give the impression of a larger kitchen. Hanging a pot rack on the wall will not only give you more storage for pots and pans – it will add some style to your space.

Spacious living places: There are several ways to make the areas you lounge in look larger. Flat screen TV’s can be mounted on the wall or hidden in cabinets and using large, bold pieces of furniture that are proportioned to each other can make any room seem more spacious. The trick is to avoid overstuffed furniture and patterns that are too bold.

Creating width: The quickest way to fix up a space is to give it a fresh coat of paint, however wallpaper can be an invaluable tool for increasing space. Tone on tone wallpaper can trick the eye into thinking a room is wider.
While a small space will always be small, these tricks can help you to make it look and feel larger. Any sort of clutter can quickly reduce that space so make sure to consider storage options to maintain the illusion of more square footage.

homebuyingmistakes

Top 10 Home Buying Mistakes

Buying or selling a home is no easy task and let’s face it, like most things in life there are plenty of common mistakes to be made. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is a not-for-profit corporation dedicating to protecting consumers through a fair and safe marketplace. They’ve seen it all when it comes to home buying and selling pitfalls and have compiled a list of their top 10 mistakes to avoid. Have a quick read and make sure you don’t become a statistic!

1. Becoming emotionally involved. Know your budget and stick to it. Don’t forgo a home inspection just to win a bidding war.

2. Hiring the first realtor you meet. Meet with at least two or three agents before you make any rash decisions – Ontario has over 60,000 brokers and realtors – find the right one for you.

3. Not making your expectations clear. Your realtor is not a mind reader. He or she works with numerous clients each day, each one looking for something a little different. Communication is key. Determine what services you are expecting from them and get it in writing.

4. Failing to read and understand contracts. It’s true that the amount of paperwork that goes into a listing or home sale is plentiful and skimming over the details can be tempting. This can led to problems down the road however, so don’t feel pressured into signing right then and there – take the time you need to understand everything.

5. Assuming everything is included. Before making an offer, detail all items that you would like included in the purchase, including window coverings and appliances. Your realtor will let you know if the seller has indicated any exclusions on the counter-offer.

6. Forgetting what’s behind the walls. A gourmet kitchen? Hardwood floors? A remodeled bathroom? Sold! Hold your horses, there. While they are great selling features, hardwood floors and granite countertops wont heat your house. Find out the age of the home’s systems and if any upgrades have been done. Insulation, wiring and plumbing are just as important as interior features.

7. Forgetting what’s outside the walls. We’ve all heard it before – location, location, location. Is this a community you want to live in? Do a little recon to find out for sure.

8. Not doing your research. A simple internet search or a conversation with a neighbour may reveal something about the home you’re thinking of buying. Take the time to look in to it.

9. Making verbal agreements. Put everything in writing. Everything!

10. Underestimating closing costs. From land transfer tax to legal fees, closing costs add up quickly. Set aside more than you’ll need to save yourself some stress.

Visit www.reco.on.ca for more helpful tips for homeowners.

preapproval

Why Getting Pre-Approved is a Necessary Step

Before you start searching online listings and viewing homes for sale, you’ll want to head to your bank to get pre-approved. This preliminary step in the house buying process will put you in a better buying position and may even save you some disappointment down the road.

At this point, you have saved your down payment and plan on moving in the next six months. The first reason that a pre-approval is an important step is that it helps you set realistic expectations for your search. It will determine what price range you can afford, making it easier to narrow down your choices. Your lender will examine your background information; things like income, down payment amount and credit rating. They will then inform you of the maximum amount they are willing to lend you to buy a home. It is important to remember that the amount they approve you for is usually going to be on the higher end of your comfort zone. Be sure that you fully understand your monthly expenses and what you are able to afford.

Getting pre-approved will also help things move along quicker and smoother during a negotiation. It will allow you to act fast when placing an offer on a home. By getting pre-approved you have started the application process for the mortgage. Your lender will provide you with a pre-approval letter, though it is important to remember that this is not a guarantee of financing. Most realtors will still recommend that you include a condition on financing in any offers you submit.

Some homes sell quickly, with multiple offers coming in within hours. Having your pre-approval in hand may put you at an advantage over others and the seller could even turn down an offer without one.

Be sure that you are qualifying for a pre-approval and not a pre-qualification. These two things are very different. With a pre-qualification, they will have a discussion about what you can afford, but they do not verify your financial information or do a credit application at that time.
Be sure to get pre-approved so that you’re one step closer to your dream home and the approval process should be painless.

cabonmono

Protect your family from the silent killer

Every year, dozens of Canadians are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes. According to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), hundreds more are hospitalized from injuries caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, often with life changing, permanent effects.

Carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and invisible, and according to the OAFC, 88 per cent of homes in Canada have something that poses a carbon monoxide risk.

So how does this silent killer work? When carbon monoxide is absorbed through inhalation it immediately begins depleting your body’s oxygen cells. Carbon monoxide is absorbed faster than oxygen by red blood cells. As it replaces the oxygen in your blood, it starves cells and vital organs of their required oxygen. In some cases, death can occur in minutes.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain and confusion, though many fall unconscious before they can remove themselves from the affected area or call for help.

If you’re wondering how carbon monoxide enters your home, you may be surprised by some of the sources. It is found in fumes of automobiles, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, fireplaces, gas ranges and heating systems. Danger can occur when there is a problem with ventilation, creating a buildup in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space.

Your best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have all heating systems, water heaters and gas, coal or oil burning appliances serviced yearly by qualified technicians. Install battery operated detectors (at knee level) and check them on a bi-yearly schedule. Keeping chimneys free of nests, leaves and debris will ensure proper ventilation and will prevent carbon monoxide buildup. Always use items that create carbon monoxide with care. Never use these items indoors, in garages or near windows. Never leave a vehicle running in your garage.

winter

New Year, New Home

A new year doesn’t only have to mean a new you. Apply these New Year’s resolutions to your home and start the year off with a BANG!

Be more eco-friendly
When buying products for your home consider products that are eco-friendly. There are many certified eco-friendly cleaners at local grocery stores that are easy to find and well priced. Make the swap with kitchen soaps, laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners. You can even have some fun by researching different ways to make your own products with ingredients right from your own cupboards!

Rearrange your space
It is easy to be tempted to buy fun decor to keep up on trends for your home. To give your home a fresh new feel, try rearranging your home every season. Rearranging a room can make it feel like a brand new space.

Get organized and stay organized
New Year’s cleaning is the new spring cleaning. Go through every room of the house and completely declutter. Clear off all of the surfaces, find a spot for everything, and donate what no longer makes you happy or suits your style. A great way to stay on top of things is to ask yourself how long it will take to put something away. If it will take less than a minute, do it right away. These little things add up quickly and when not put away, make for a full afternoon of cleaning instead. Surprisingly, most things take only a few seconds to put away.

Just do it
What’s holding you back? Make this the year of yes! Have a home renovation you’ve been putting off? Just do it! Want to redecorate the bedroom? Just do it! Spruce up your home to fit your style. Be sure to check flyers for post-Christmas sales to save!