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National Home Show

Finding that curb appeal

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Curb appeal is one of the most important factors in any home sale. Regardless of how updated and renovated the interior of your home is, if that wow factor is missing when prospective buyers pull up outside, it is already working with a strike against it. In fact, many realtors consider curb appeal just as important as a solid foundation and good structure.
 
Here are a few tips that will help you spruce up your home so that people passing by will recognize the gem you own.
 
Keep is neat!
Keeping things neat simply means to cut your lawn, trim your hedges and trees and ensure that any landscaping, including driveways and pathways, are in good shape. If your driveway needs to be resealed or needs to be redone, then it is best to invest in an upgrade – the same holds true for walkways. If your walkway is falling apart, then it is time to have it redone. Although pricey, the investment will pay-off. One thing to keep in mind when redoing your walkway is that a winding walkway will add more interest to your frontage.
 
Flower, shrubs and trees!
Planting flower beds, shrubs and trees can add a lot of charm and natural beauty to your property, If you are not entirely sure what will look good or where to plant things, then we highly recommend hiring a landscape designer who can help you plan your yard. Some designers will even give you the plan with the plant/flower names suggested so that you can do the purchasing and planting yourself.
 
Keep it clean!
Nothing will detract from an otherwise attractive property like dirty siding or tarnished brickwork. If your home looks like it has been through the wringer, then it is time to break out the power washer and give it a thorough cleaning. Not only will doing so brighten up your home, but it will revive tired looking exterior finishes.
 
Adding accents!
Adding an accent colour or feature can also make a huge difference when it comse to curb appeal. A brightly coloured, contrasting front door, decorative window shutters or even a portico can change the look of your home completely
 
Planters
If you don’t have enough land to plant flower beds, then adding flower pots on your steps, next to your door or along your walkway will work just as well.
 
In short getting your home to look good takes little effort and/or investment, and the returns are well worth all of it.

Air Conditioning and You

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Air conditioning may not seem like a necessity in Canada, but with the summer’s heat invariably comes the need for a cool escape. Whether you live in a house, condo or apartment, there are solutions to fit every place when it comes to keeping cool during a heat wave.
 
The easiest solution to air conditioning your home is to determine just how large of an area you want to cool. The size of the unit that you purchase will depend entirely on the space you want to chill. If you are looking at cooling your whole house down, then the units you should look at will be very different from someone who only wants to cool down one room.
 
Once you know the size of the space you need to cool down, then you can calculated the number of BTUs the unit you purchase will have to output. To calculate this measurement you can use a handy online calculator like the one found over here //bit.ly/2969wii. The number you get is the minimum BTUs you will need to have in order to effectively cool down your room.
 
Since every air conditioning system works on taking the hot air from your home and pumping it outside, it is necessary to have a window available for your AC unit.
 
Window Units
Window units are the least expensive option when it comes to air conditioners. They are portable machines that you can install in your window with minimal fuss. They are great for cooling down small spaces or just one room of a house. They tend to range in price and efficacies to really low-end, inexpensive to better quality more powerful units at a higher price point.
 
Free-Standing Units
Free-standing air conditioning can be placed in any room as long as you are able to properly vent it out a window. When you are purchasing a free standing unit be sure to check whether it has a dual hose or single hose vent. The single hose is good for smaller spaces, but in larger areas it can cause your unit to overheat and stop working. However, the single hose options are less expensive than their dual hose counterparts but won’t be as efficient in a large room.
 
Wall Units
Wall air conditioning units will require you to touch the masonry of your home in order to install the unit directly into the wall, but it is very effective at cooling down large spaces and/or smaller homes. They are also require a significant investment – but one that will definitely pay off on hot, sweltering days.
 
Central Air Conditioning
The grandaddy of all air conditioning systems central air is the luxe solution to your cooling needs. Although this system comes a hefty price tag it will last a long time and be more efficient over the long run.

Green Home Cleaning

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Having a green home is a goal many of us would love to attain, but don’t necessarily know how to. Getting rid of the toxic substances in your home and making your own cleaners is a healthier alternative to using the harsh cleansers and chemicals that are available at the grocery store. Another advantage to making your own cleaners is the cost savings you’ll see. Not only are the items needed to make cleaning supplies inexpensive, they are also quite abundant.
 
Vinegar
Vinegar is one of the keystones of home cleansers. It is an astringent that can be used to clean everything from windows to bathtubs – which basically means that it can degrease really well. It can also be used directly on weeds in your garden to get rid of unwanted plants.
 
Baking Soda
Mixed with vinegar baking soda is excellent at getting grout white again, removing mildew and other stains/bacteria and as a general, all-purpose cleanser. Its texture makes baking soda a terrific mild abrasive while its composition makes it a natural deodorizer.
 
Borax
Mix with a cut lemon and you’ve got yourself a heavy duty cleaner that can remove rust stains on porcelain and enamel – but keep in mind that lemon (or any kind of citrus) should never be used on marble or granite surfaces as it will eat into the stone.
 
Here’s how to use the above listed ingredients.
 
Glass Cleaner
Mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of warm water for a fantastic glass cleaner – for an even better result use newspaper to wipe the glass clean after sponging in solution.
 
All Purpose Cleaner
Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 2 litres of warm water for a good all purpose cleaner.
 
Grout Cleaner
Need to really clean your grout? Mix baking soda, vinegar and warm water for a really powerful clean.
 
You can find other ways of using these ingredients alone or in combinations that will save you money, make your home less toxic and still keep everything spic-and-span!

Boosting Visibility Through Social Media

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Selling your Toronto home is all about proper marketing. Social media is now a vital part of any marketing campaign. Boosting the visibility of your home sale through social media is one of the best ways to get your property in front of the right people.
 
Facebook
Facebook is definitely the keystone to every good social media campaign. Even with the requirement of boosting posts to make sure that your post is seen by as many people as possible, it is still a solid option when it comes to spreading the word with your listing.
 
Twitter
Twitter is next on the social media echelon when it comes to real estate marketing. Tweeting a link to your listing with a good teaser about the property and area in which it is found is a great way of driving traffic to your listing without having to wait for people to find it on the MLS.
 
Instagram
The beauty of Instagram is that it is a truly visual platform. If you have a gorgeous listing then posting it on Instagram and tagging it appropriately will definitely go a long way toward driving the right people to the property.
 
Here are a few tips to ensure that your listing gets the most visibility possible so that your sale is fast and efficient.
 
Make it engaging
To get people to click on your link or actually engage with your post or tweet, you have to pique their curiosity. You have to make it engaging. You’ve got to aim somewhere between clickbait and a news piece. You want to pose a question that people will want to have answered. For instance, “Looking for a bright, well-maintained 6 ½ in North York walking distance to transportation and services? Click here.” Craft posts that leave people wanting to know more.
 
Keep it short
Don’t write too much in your posts. If there are certain features you want to highlight, put them in bullet form. Social is for quick, easily digestible information. If there is a lot more to say about a property, then link to your website or listing.
 
Add visuals
Social is all about visuals. Whether picture or video, it is important to add a picture to really call attention to your post.
 
If you are able to get the right combination of all three things listed above, then your post will get shared and that is how you can increase its reach and, in turn, the number of people who are exposed to your listing.

Freshen Up Your Toronto Home after Winter

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Spring is always a great time to freshen up your home. During the winter we tend to keep our windows and doors closed and we don’t necessarily get rid of all those things that cause clutter and dust to build up in your houses and lives. However, the warmer weather and the sunshine are the perfect signal that it’s time to get back in control and to freshen up, lighten up and renew your home, and at the same time, your spirit.
 
Here are a few very easy steps to help you shake off winter’s mantle.
 
Open up!
Spring is the perfect time to throw open your windows, let in a cross breeze and air out your house. After a long winter, there is nothing better for getting rid of stale air.
 
Clean up!
Giving every room a deep, thorough cleaning will help to get rid of dust, cobwebs and the fine dirt that can build up throughout the year. Wash your walls, floors and ceiling. Put cloth curtains and pillows in the laundry and change your linen.
 
Lighten Up!
Lightening up means getting rid of all the clutter in your home. Spring is a great time to weed through closets, drawers, storage areas and your garage to get rid of everything you no longer need. Whatever is still in good condition can be sold at a garage sale or donated to charity.
 
Spruce up!
Spruce up your surroundings by swapping out heavy winter throws and pillows for lighter fabrics. Add splashes of vibrant colour to dull settings and use plants to enliven a dull corner or an empty bookshelf.
 
Touch up!
Touching up paint that has been chipped or damaged will make your home look brand new regardless of how old it is. In fact, for a quick pick-me-up, just paint all of your frames, baseboards and crown mouldings in a bright, glossy white to make your wall colours pop and to make your trims look fabulous.
 
Organize!
Getting organized is paramount to creating a fresh new reality in your home. Use organizers, shelves and boxes to give everything it’s own proper spot – and then make sure it goes back in that spot every time you take it out to use it.
 
Getting your Toronto home ready for summer doesn’t take much – just a little time and effort, and the rewards are well worth the price.

Zen Life

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Zen spaces are the latest trend in Toronto home interior design. The reason for these tranquil settings is clear – they are the best way to escape the rigors and stresses of everyday life. In fact, every home should have at least one space where all cares and worries can melt away. Whether it is the ensuite, a den, a sunroom or even a basement, the way a space is set-up can mean all the difference in the world to its draw and the way it makes your feel.
 
There are certain elements needed to accomplish a Zen setting. By following a few simple rules you also can create either a whole home serenity retreat or just an oasis of tranquility in the room of your choice.
 
1. Natural materials
 
Using natural materials is one of the best ways to create a calm space. The texture and composition of natural woods, stones, wicker, cottons, wools, etc… contribute immensely to a purer aesthetic and to Zen setting.
 
2. Earthy colours
 
Keeping things neutral and earthy will help you to induce a sense of relaxation in any space. If you choose to go the monochromatic route, you can add accents of darker shades/hues of the same colour to produce contrast but to remain basically within the same palate.
 
3. The right furniture
 
Serene space require clean lines and uncomplicated design – this should naturally be reflected in the furniture that is chosen for your room. Avoid intricate patterns and a lot of detailing as these will distract from the overall theme of the space.
 
4. Natural light
 
Play up the positive attributes of natural light in the space you are designing as your Zen oasis. If you don’t have a lot of natural light, then make sure that the light you do have is indirect, soft and diffuse. If you have plenty of sunshine spilling into the space, use sheer blinds and/or other translucent materials to help diffuse the amount and intensity of the light entering the room.
 
5. Simple accents
 
Keep accents in the room simple – basically it means not to clutter up the space with knick-knacks, odds-and-ends and other bric-a-brac. Keep ornaments simple and to a minimum. Instead use plants and greenery to enhance the setting.
 
6. The nose knows
 
Lastly, any tranquil setting should smell as inviting as it looks. Eliminate pet odor and other unpleasant smells by including some sort of potpourri, scented candles or other odor diffuser in your design.
 
Once you have completed your serenity inducing space, the only trouble will be having to leave it!

Off-Grid Living

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Living off the grid in Toronto is possible – but only for those who are truly committed to a green lifestyle. The phrase “living off the grid” refers to living without dependence on utility companies including electricity, water and sewage. Although still a marginal lifestyle, it is attracting larger numbers of people – especially millennials who are eschewing materials trappings for a more paired down, simplified lifestyle.
 
Alternate energy
One of the biggest ways of unplugging is literally to pull the plug on the electrical company by providing your own energy. The most common forms of energy include solar and wind. Although, where possible, geo-thermal energy is also used. Most people who choose to switch to solar or wind power for their energy needs remain hooked to the power grid and even sell their surplus power back to the electric company. If you want to live completely off grid, then you would not be tied in with the electric company at all. Any energy you produced through solar or wind power would be stored in large batteries as D/C power, which is converted into A/C power when you need to use it.
 
Heating
Many new home constructions are being built using passive heating/cooling principals. All this means is that the home’s design and construction make full use of sun, wind and shade to heat and cool the residence along with top-notch insulation for a reduction in heat-loss. If you have an existing home, then the best ways to heat without recourse to any utility companies is through wood-burning fireplaces or stoves. Stoves have the added benefit of being a great place to cook as well.
 
Water
When it comes to water, some people opt to drill a well onto their land ensuring an always fresh supply of water. However, if you choose to go this route, you must be sure that the water is tested periodically to ensure that it hasn’t been infiltrated by contaminants. Another means of getting water is to collect it in cisterns. Rain water is great for use in toilets, washing clothes (unless there is very elevated levels of population in your area), water plants and general, non-potable use. Not have a hot water tank is another effective way of reducing your dependence on electricity. Tankless-hot water options are all very viable choices that would greatly contribute to a greener existence.
 
Sewage
The best option for being off-grid where sewage is concerned is using compostable toilets. However, as they are not for everyone, the next best thing is having a septic tank. Septic systems breakdown wastewater into three layers – the floating scum on top, the sludge at the bottom and the liquid in the middle. A septic tank needs to be emptied and serviced at least once a year.
 
In short, it is possible to live off the grid in the city, but it is not very popular or practical. Since off-grid living is the antithesis to consumption, changing a city-life outlook is key to making such drastic transition work for you.

Tiny Home Trend

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The latest trend in home ownership is that of small or tiny homes. The new fangled fad is gaining momentum among people who are opting out of the rat-race and the need for large dwellings that often leave them with little or no money left over at the end of the month. Instead, a tiny house allows people to live rent and mortgage-free. At the same time it forces people to pare down their belongings and to re-evaluate their lifestyle.
 
Tiny homes are naturally not for everyone. Ideally they work best for those who are single or for more adventurous couples. The restricted footprint of these small dwellings means that you must find ways to compromise and to make-do with less.
 
Those who espouse this lifestyle tout the freedom that they feel in not having monthly rent or mortgage payments and also the serenity they get from a simpler existence without as much “stuff” to clutter up their lives.
 
Here are some of the advantages to living in a tiny home:
– Cost savings – being able to pay off a small home frees up a lot of monthly income
– Energy efficiency – smaller homes require less heating, water and electricity to operate
– Less maintenance – there is less cleaning and less maintenance in a small property
– Smaller environmental footprint
– More time to yourself
 
If you are seriously considering buying a tiny home keep in mind the following things:
– Make a short list of what you deem essential in a home.
– Research! There are so many models from which to choose, you should be well-versed in what is available and what you want.
– Decide on whether you want to live off the grid.
– Be ready to compromise as a small house will naturally entail giving up certain items
 
Regardless of the reasons you might choose to live in a tiny house, one thing is certain – you will likely find it liberating and a life-changing experience.

Fun with Flooring

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Flooring can make all of the difference in a room. Regardless of your style or decor, the right material underfoot can dramatically alter the look and feel of your room. Along with conventional flooring materials, there are some fun options that most people are unaware exist. Opting for something a bit out-of-the box can really help create the space that speaks to your personal style and taste. Here we will look at some fun options that are starting to catch on!
 
End grain wood tiles
Yes, you read that correctly – end grain. All this means is that the wood is cut against the grain instead of with it, creating a distinct look for your floors. Ideal for cottages and cabins, given the right treatment this kind of tile can look great in a formal setting as well.
 
Moroccan wood tiles
Moroccan wood tiles come in several shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common – they evoke the exoticness of a Moorish palace. Curvy and classic, these beautiful tiles will add refinement and grace to any space.
 
Bamboo
Sustainable, attractive and inexpensive, bamboo flooring is all the rage for so many reasons – not the least of which is how good it looks! Given how quickly it grows and the abundance of the material, bamboo is one of those hip flooring ideas that it both good-looking and environmentally friendly.
 
Cork
Not just for keeping your wine fresh or pinning up notices in your office – cork is a great material for flooring as well. Easily renewable, cork is also a naturally resistant to mold and mildew, is a great insulator and sound dampner and is very durable – it is also long-lasting since the color of the cork goes right through it.
 
Given all of the fun choices in flooring currently on the market, it is not always easy choosing the right one for your needs. However, with a bit of inspiration you just might find that the right materials is not what most convention dictates and something a bit more you.

Budgeting For Renos

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Budgeting for renos in your Toronto home can be a difficult thing to do. Most people are unaware of what materials and labor cost and therefore, aren’t sure exactly how much to set aside for their projects. Depending on the kind of materials you choose for your project and whether you plan on doing part or most of the work yourself will greatly influence your costs.
 
Here is a basic overview of materials for a kitchen, what they cost and how much you should budget for them.
 
Counters
Depending on the materials you choose for your counters, the size you need, the thickness you choose and the design involved will definitely change the price you pay. However, basic costs are as follows:
Natural stone (marble, granite): $100/square foot
Man-made stone (Quartz, Corian): $75-$100/square foot
Butcher block: $60-$80/square foot
Laminate: $25-$50/square foot
Stainless steel: $125/square foot
 
Flooring
Flooring prices really run the gamut from $.59/square foot to $30/square foot. Your price will depend entirely on the kind of material you choose for your floor. Just remember, that if you go cheap and pick out a laminate, what you might save upfront, will be taken from your bottom line if you ever decide to sell. Keep in mind that when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, you should put in the best you can afford, while still keeping in mind your neighbourhood and what it will support in resale.
 
Cabinets
Again here, depending on what material you choose and the size of your kitchen, you can get decent looking presswood cabinets for a 10’x10’ kitchen for around $5000 or you can spend nearly $40,000 on a custom built wood kitchen. What you want, your neighbourhood and what you can afford will naturally play a role in what you choose.
 
Fixtures
Sometimes inexpensive cabinets can be made to look regal and rich with the right fixtures. Look to pay anywhere from $.99 to $20 per fixture depending on design and the material used.
 
In the end a simple kitchen renovation including labor will cost you anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 depending on the materials you choose.