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Basic home maintenance to prevent issues

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You’ve found the perfect Toronto home in your preferred neighbourhood – if you want to stave off potential issues and you want to keep it looking its best, then there are some very simple home maintenance tasks you should do routinely. By keeping on top of small things, you will eliminate the larger issues that can arise from simple things left undone. To help you keep track we’ve compiled a list of tasks you should do every so often to keep your home in top shape.

Regrout/recaulk

It is important to refresh the caulking and/or grout around tubs, sinks, toilet bowls and tiles. Recaulking/grouting will prevent water damage in these high-water areas.

Exhaust fans/air conditioners/central vacuums

Clean out the filters in all the small appliances that have them including exhaust fans, air conditioning units and central vacuums. Cleaning your exhaust fans will prevent mold from forming while cleaning any filter will ensure that the appliances it’s in will continue functioning optimally.

Downspouts

Make sure that your downspouts are always pointing away from your home and can drain easily. Downspouts that are clogged or don’t have the attachment that leads away from your home could cause water damage to your foundation.

Drains

Keep your drains draining smoothly by giving them a good cleaning every few months. You can use baking soda and vinegar to clean them out periodically, but if you have a really slow moving drain, then you should use a snake to clear any gunk built up and to get the water flowing again.

Gutters

Gutters should be cleaned at least once a year – if not twice – in the spring and in the fall. This is especially true if you have a lot of trees close to your home. Cleaning debris out of the gutters will help to keep the water flowing properly and prevent any water damage from happening.

Driveway

Fill in any cracks you might see right away. Leaving a crack can actually cause the crack to widen and worsen over time – especially due to winter conditions. You should also reseal your asphalt every few years.

Trees

Trim your trees and hedges to keep them away from power lines. It is better to prevent vegetation from getting tangled up with power lines to avoid a falling branch taking out the power and causing expensive damage.

Windows/doors

Inspect your window and door seals to makes sure there are no leaks. If you do find a leak then you should seal it right away.

By keeping on top of these few simple tasks, you can easily maintain your home.

Rehab your lawn

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A neatly manicured lawn adds curb appeal to any Toronto dwelling. Whether you have a tiny patch of land or a sprawling acreage, having a healthy, green lawn is definitely satisfying. If your lawn is more dust and weeds than grass, there is a way to bring it back to life without the need of costly services. All you need is time and the commitment to providing the care a new lawn needs to get established.

Get rid of weeds

The first thing to do to get your Toronto lawn looking healthy again is to get rid of the weeds. It is best to use a non-selective herbicide for this task. Spray it on to your lawn and wait the recommended amount of time before moving to the next step. If the weeds persist, then you will have to spray those areas again until they are gone.

Aerate/till

Once you have rid your lawn of weeds, the next crucial step in the regreening process is to aerate. To do this you can use a tiller or aerator and if you don’t have one of these you can rent one from your local hardware store. If tilling the soil, then it is best to till to a depth of 5-6 inches to really break-up the soil. Incorporating the tilled vegetation into the soil is great for softening heavy, clay soils.

Rake

Once you have properly aerated your lawn (or tilled it) you must rake it to remove any debris – this ensures that the seeds contact the soil properly.

Seed

Now you are ready to put down your seed. Broadcast spreaders work best for large lawns, but drop spreaders are better for areas edging garden beds. If you want to get the best coverage, spread from north-to-south first and then go back and spread the seed from east-to-west. You will be certain to cover every inch with this technique.

Rake

Rake in the seeds lightly. They should have contact with the soil, but not necessarily be buried by the soil.

Fertilize

Add your rooting fertilizer – it should only be fertilizer specifically meant for new growth grass, otherwise it can scorch the seeds.

Water, water, water

Finally, you have to water your lawn consistently. You should water your lawn twice a day for 15-20 minutes. Your goal is to keep the seed moist until they start to germinate and sprout.

Wait for the grass to be at least 3 inches tall before cutting it, then make sure your lawn mower doesn’t cut more than ? of the stems. With consistent watering and cutting, you can revive your lawn and enjoy a lush, green carpet.

Flooring trends 2021

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Toronto flooring trends haven’t changed all that much over the year – hardwoods are still the number one choice for most homeowners. However, there are some innovative materials now on the market and the colours are definitely trending lighter than before.

Hues and colours

Dark wood flooring in Toronto homes was all the rage for the better part of a decade, however, recent trends show colours starting to lighten. Now it is very common to see pale shades and cool tones over the darker ones. Even when it comes to tiles, the colours being chosen are lighter, with a bit of texture and/or neutral. However, geometric patterns are also very trendy right now.

Area rugs

Area rugs are on the rise in popularity. While banished from most homes for a long time, these accent pieces are making a comeback and are being used to highlight a room’s colour scheme or architectural detailing. If you do opt to use an area rug make sure that there is at least 18” of clearance all the way around it. If being placed in the living room, then all of the furniture should fit easily on top of it. Otherwise just the front legs of the major furniture pieces should be on top of it.

Biggest trends for 2021…

But what is the biggest trend in flooring for this year? Greige. Yes. that in-between colour that is a mix of both grey and beige has now found its way from cabinets and walls into flooring. If you are redoing your floors and really want to be on trend, then this is the colour for you. It is cropping up in wood, laminates and tiles.

Lastly, marble patterns are going to be huge this year. They were already starting to take hold in the prior two years, but they are now really hot and will be found everywhere from kitchen to hallways to bathrooms.

Regardless of the current trends, finding the right flooring for your home is best done but following your own tastes – after all, you are the one who will be living with it.

Finding your renovation budget

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Toronto real estate is in a seller’s market. Prices are high and competition fierce for the homes on the market. It is no wonder that many people are choosing to stay put and renovate instead of wading into such a hot market. Then there are those who are renovating to maximize the returns they can get when they do list their property. Whatever your reason for wanting to renovate, the first step is figuring out how you will finance your reno. Financing a renovation is one of the very few acceptable reasons for incurring debt. Renovations are considered a good debt because they add to the value of your home.

Budget

Once you have determined the kind of budget you will need for your renovation, you will have to think about where to secure that funding. If your project is small, then you might already have the funds set aside or can postpone your reno a few months to save it up. However, if your project is large then there are several options available to you for financing.

HELOC

The home equity line of credit is one of the smartest ways to finance a home renovation. The HELOC lets you borrow money against the equity built-up in your home – up to 80% of your home’s value (loan plus mortgage combined). HELOCs require you to repay only the interest every month, making them extremely flexible. The only caveat with a HELOC is that you must be disciplined enough to draw down on it only for the project at hand and not be tempted into using it to float any shortfalls in your monthly budget. As there are no requirements to pay back the balance each month, the other danger is that you never really ever end up paying the loan back. However, if you are disciplined and know that you can repay what you borrow and won’t use it for vacations or other miscellaneous expenses, then a HELOC is a great way to finance a reno. And, because of its flexibility, you can borrow and repay against it as often as you like.

Remortgage

The next option for financing a renovation is to remortgage your home. As long as you have a realistic budget and know how much you will need for contingency remortgaging your home will give you the best interest rates and it will force you to repay the loan every month – making it an ideal way to ensure that you don’t simply float the loan indefinitely. The only drawback with remortgaging your home is that it is not as flexible as a HELOC. If the project costs more than anticipated or you have other projects you want to do afterwards, you will again have to look for a way to finance them.

Personal loan or unsecured line of credit

The other options for financing your home renovation is through a personal loan or a line of credit. While they are both solid options if you aren’t able to access a HELOC or remortgage your home, they will cost you more in the longer run and are not very flexible either. Furthermore, if you don’t make the minimum payments on the line of credit every month, the interest charges can balloon your debt significantly in a short amount of time.

Home renovations are great not just for adding value to your home, but also for creating a space tailored to your needs, your aesthetic and your comfort level.

Avoid being house poor

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Buying more house than you can handle and becoming instantly house poor is very easy in the heated Toronto real estate market. As the property boom continues due to record low interest rates, a lack of supply and the continuing pandemic that is causing people to seek out space, emotion is another very important component that is fueling the rise. People are fearful of “missing out” and of never being able to enter the housing market if they don’t do so now. However, before taking the plunge it is so important to properly evaluate how much you can realistically afford to pay every month.

Monthly carrying costs

Most financial institutions recommend that your mortgage not be more than 26% of your monthly income and your total carrying costs should be maximum 30% of your budget – that would include property taxes, insurances and an emergency fund. Many people push that figure to 40%, but that is truly the limit when it comes to how much of your monthly income should be spent on housing costs.

How to calculate what you can afford monthly

Before you can determine how much you can feasible afford to pay per month, you first have to calculate just how much you earn. While most financial institutions and mortgage lenders will calculate your borrowing capability based on your gross income (before taxes), a more accurate way of calculating is to base your borrowing capacity on your net income (after taxes). Then, calculate all of your fixed costs – savings, car loans, school loans, utilities, insurances, etc… Add on your variable expenses such as food, clothing, entertainment, vacations, haircuts – and then see what you are left with at the end of the month, this figure is the real amount that you can afford on a mortgage. If you don’t have much left over, then you will have to rejig your spending to include a mortgage, property taxes and/or condo fees, house insurance and a maintenance fund.

Deposit

The amount of your deposit will also play a role in how much of a mortgage you can afford. The greater your deposit the more house you will be able to buy. If you are able to put down 20% of the asking price, then you will also save on mortgage insurance, something that can add quite a bit depending on the amount that is being insured.

Better safe than sorry

Lenders will always be quite eager to lend you money – but it is prudent not to let their enthusiasm sway you. Be prepared with your own calculations so that you know exactly how much you can afford and just how much you are willing to stretch. Although what you can afford right now might now buy you the kind of property you had in mind, it doesn’t have to be the only property you purchase. When you have enough equity in your home, you can sell it and move up – this is especially true if you are buying your first property. A starter home is something you can easily afford, that will get your foot in the real estate door.

In the end, there is no point to buying a home that will leave you broke at the end of each month. Living a good life means being able to go out for meals or shows, take vacations and not have to pinch your pennies to buy clothes or shoes. You will be much happier in the long run if you only bite off as much as you can comfortably chew.

Getting ready for a home inspection

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Toronto realtors and home buyers have become savvy at sales knowing that in order to get top dollar for their listing staging the property is very important. Once the excitement of an accepted offer has abated slightly and the more nitty-gritty elements of a home sale need to be tackled, such as a home inspection, people tend to not be as diligent in their preparations.

Reason for a home inspection

The home inspection is a crucial step in any realty purchase and will determine whether the buyer is justified in paying big bucks for your place or whether you will have to make some price concessions or whether you will need to do some maintenance before the home is ready for sale. Most of the time sellers agree to credit a portion of the cost from the sale of the house instead of doing the repairs raised by the inspector.

What are inspectors looking for?

The main areas that inspectors want to ensure are solid in any property are the major ones:

– Structure/foundation
– Wiring/electrical
– Plumbing
– Drainage/water damage
– Roofs
– Mold
– Pests
– Toxins (asbestos, Radon, lead)

Preparing for the inspection

In order to facilitate the inspection of your property below are a few tips to follow:

– Make sure all light bulbs are working
– Clear out any closets with access to the attic
– Label your electrical panel
– Clear paths to anything the inspector will want to check such as gas tanks, hot water heaters, etc…
– Keep basement walls clear
– Turn all the utilities on
– Don’t conceal any issue with your home!

Pre-listing inspections

Some motivated sellers are even willing to pay for a home inspection pre-listing to know what shape their house is in and what they could potentially face after a sale and can choose to address the issue beforehand. An advance home inspection does make a realtor’s job much easier and make pricing a home more accurate. However, this does mean paying for the inspection yourself and you will face a second inspection once an offer has been accepted.

Whatever route you decide to take as a seller, just be sure to prepare for the inspection so that the inspector has an easier time of navigating your home.

The cost of an inground pool installation

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Summer in Toronto is just around the corner and with the lockdowns still in place people will once again have to find ways of enjoying the warm weather at home. Last year the lockdown resulted in a huge boom in the sale and installation of pools. In fact, many installers are already booked solid for 2021 based on the sales they had in 2020. If you are thinking of installing a pool in your yard for the summer, here are some costs to keep in mind to help you properly budget for the expense.

Type of pool

The type of pool you choose will definitely influence the price you will pay for your Toronto installation. There are three main kinds of pool available: liner pools, fiberglass pools and concrete (gunnite) pools.

Liner (vinyl) pools are the most affordable to install (between $10K to $25K) however they will require more frequent maintenance as liners need to be changed every 5-10 years and can be damaged by pets. The yearly maintenance can also be higher for a liner pool, but they are naturally algae resistant and fairly easy to clean.

Fiberglass pool costs can be initially quite attractive – but the base price doesn’t truly reflect the cost of a full install. Usually the base prices start at around $20K but with a full, professional installation can be as high as $60K. Fiberglass pools are very low maintenance, though, and will save you money in the long run.

The most expensive option is concrete. Although they are great looking, fully customizable pools, they will cost between $50K-$100K depending on the finishes and features you choose. These pools do require a lot more maintenance but will last the longest out of all three pool options. However, the cost of maintaining a concrete pool is also the highest.

Hidden costs

The installation of the pool is only one of the costs that you will have to take into consideration. Some of the other costs to keep in mind are:

– The concrete collar
– How much extra dirt removal will be if you need it
– Electrical and/or gas hookup
– Landscaping
– Fencing
– Removal of large objects such as tree stumps or boulders
– Moving of power lines if they are in the way

When all of the costs involved with a pool installation are taken into account, the final price tag can easily range from $50K on the low-end to nearly $200K.

Shop around

Naturally, you can bargain with installers and it is always best to shop around. Read reviews of installers and ask friends and family for referrals. Another tip to keep in mind is that the best prices for pool sales is usually in the early fall when business begins to slow down.

Pools are a great addition to your home. However, they do not really add value to your property, and depending on the age of your pool, can even be a hindrance to prospective buyers. In the end, any pool you install will be for the pleasure of you and your family.

Things to do when moving into a new house

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Toronto real estate’s busiest time of year is gearing up. Traditionally spring has always been the hottest time for home sales and this year is no exception. If you are among the intrepid bunch who are contemplating a move in this red-hot market, then there are a few things to keep in mind when you first move into your new home.

When you take possession of your new Toronto home, you might want to start moving your furniture in right away – however, before you do that, there are certain steps you should take beforehand.

Renovate

Yes, now is the time to renovate! Painting, polishing the floors and changing fixtures can definitely be done after you have moved in, but it becomes a bit more logistically challenging. If you have the funds and the manpower, then it is best to take care of any renovations before you move in so that once you do, you can simply start enjoying your new home.

Utilities

Be sure to set up your utilities before moving in. In fact, it is best to call your utilities provider as soon as you have your closing date so that you can set up a time for the hook up for the date of possession. Otherwise, it is very possible that you will have to wait several days to almost a week or more to have your utilities connected – something that will impact your move-in plans considerably.

Child/pet proof your home

If you have little children or pets then a good rule of thumb is to take a little time to child/pet proof your new home before you move in. Setting up security gates at staircases and installing finger guards on sockets will ensure you can move-in and set up without worrying that your loved one is going to get into any serious trouble as you do so.

Change locks

If you like to play it extra safe, then you might want to have the locks on all your doors changed immediately after you take possession of your new place and before you move in. While in theory the previous owner must turn over all extra copies of the keys to you, there is no guarantee that an extra key might remain floating around somewhere. Changing the locks will guarantee that no one else will have a way to get in except for you and your family.

Decide where things go

Yes, as silly as this sounds, it is better to have an idea of where you want your furniture to go before the movers arrive. Since movers are generally paid by the hour, if they have to stand around waiting while you figure out where the couches are going, you will have a much bigger bill to pay in the end. Additionally knowing where you want things to go will help you set-up and settle in quicker.

Lastly, don’t forget to have your mail forwarded to your new address for at least the first three months – otherwise you risk having important correspondence arrive at your old place until you have made the changes with all of your contacts.

To rent or buy?

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The Toronto spring real estate frenzy is just gearing up. Buyers are getting ready to bid and homeowners are preparing their homes to ensure maximum gain when they sell. However, is buying the right option for you?

While it is clear that buying into the Toronto real estate market has been a very profitable venture over the last two decades, owning property is not necessarily for everyone. It is important to evaluate your individual requirements before jumping in.

Costs

Regardless of whether you buy a home or a condo there are clear obligations that come with owning a property. Depending on your current lifestyle, financial situation and future plans, owning might not be the right choice. With a home or condo you will be responsible for a monthly mortgage, property taxes and maintenance. If you live in a condo, you will also have condo fees. Additionally you will have all of the ancillary costs associated with life today – from utilities to cable/wifi. On the flip side, if you rent, you are only responsible for your rent and perhaps your heating/electricity. You don’t have to worry about maintenance costs or taxes because those are covered by your landlord. Those who choose to rent can use the savings from what they would otherwise put into taxes and home maintenance into savings.

Maintenance: home

When it comes to maintenance homeownership means being responsible for all the maintenance/repairs a property requires. Although homeowners can certainly take care of any maintenance or repairs at their own pace and as their budget permits, anything that has been neglected for too long, will incur even greater costs down the road.

Maintenance: condo

Condos are much easier than a home when it comes to maintenance. Owners must contribute to a maintenance fund (conde fees) and sit on a board that helps oversee how those funds are spent, but otherwise condo owners don’t have to worry about maintenance/repairs. The only repairs you are truly responsible for is if anything breaks down in your unit – water leak that causes damage to your flooring, an electrical issue, etc…

Maintenance: rental

Renting comes with the least amount of responsibility when it comes to maintenance and repairs. The landlord is fully responsible for ensuring that the grounds are tended and the structure is sound. The one drawback about renting is having to wait for the landlord to arrange for something to get repaired.

Lifestyle</p>

One of the biggests differences between owning a house/condo or renting an apartment is when it comes to lifestyle. Homeownership means having to be around to take care of the daily/weekly/monthly maintenance of your property. While you can certainly leave for vacation, you will have to make arrangements for the grounds to be maintained, so it is not completely hassle free. However, houses provide plenty of privacy from neighbours. In a condo, while you won’t have to worry about maintenance if you want to leave, you will have a lot less privacy. The upside of less privacy in a condo, is better building amenities. Many condo complexes have fitness centres, pools, party rooms and even games areas. An apartment is the most hassle-free alternative. You can come and go without worry as you are not responsible for any of the building’s maintenance.

In the end deciding whether you are better of in a house, a condo or a rental comes down to a combination of your financial situation, your goals and your lifestyle.

Pandemic-driven home trends

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It is nearly a year since the pandemic forced Toronto residents to retreat to their homes. Over the past 12 months people have realized just how functional or not their home is based on having to use it as more than just their primary residence. Now that people are living and working from home, the merits of the newer floors plans have and design trends have come into sharp relief.

Open layouts

One of the most popular contemporary design trends of the past two decades has been the open-concept layout. Families who have been forced to work and study from home over the past year have discovered the drawback to not having private spaces. Those forced to share work space with a partner or their children have realized that having a room with a door is very important in our new reality. Although it will take a few years for more closed layouts to reappear, they are already in the beginning stages of new home construction development. Additionally, unless you have an immediate need for privacy due to your current work/living situation, there is no rush to install walls or doors in your home.

Home offices

Yes, now that so many of us are working from home, the need for a dedicated space to concentrate is crucial. Whether you already had a designated home office or were winging-it on the couch, the move towards a clean, integrated workspace is growing. Even if there isn’t a specific room for a home office, people are finding innovative ways to include a dedicated spot where they can leave their computers, files and anything else needed to be productive from home.

The importance of light

The other element of interior design that has become important now that so many of us are spending most of our days at home, is the amount of light and the quality of that light we get. Although having plenty of natural light is always ideal – full sunlight on your computer screen can be hard on the eyes. It also creates harsh lines on a person’s face that aren’t flattering for video conferencing. Ideal light includes diffused natural light, warm lighting and plenty of it – having sufficient light is crucial for your eyes. However, when creating a lighting design for your home and workspace, don’t forget to include lighting to help your creative juices flow. More ambient, atmospheric lighting can help you get into a more creative space if you need to flesh out or come up with ideas.

Sustainable furniture

The trend towards more sustainable furniture will pick up speed in 2021. People who are now spending most of their time at home have realized that furniture that lasts is worth investing in. Although there is a market for fast furniture, having something solid that will see you through for longer than a couple of years is having a bigger appeal lately.

While everyone will eventually design their home to suit their needs, it is clear that some trends are universal and will continue to gain in popularity the longer the pandemic persists.