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Rising interest rates 

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Toronto real estate gains have been driven largely by very low interest rates. While rates remained low, consumers felt comfortable borrowing more money to cover the rapidly rising costs of owning a home. With the economy in flux due to Covid and its impact on every aspect of the economy, the Bank of Canada (BOC) has kept interest rates low. Now, with inflation setting in, there is reason to expect rates to rise. In fact, strong voices such as Dave McKay, CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada are calling for rate increases this spring to mitigate the effects of inflation

The effects of rising interest rates

While rising interest rates in Toronto can be a good thing – think better interest in savings accounts, it will make borrowing more expensive and affect how much house someone can afford. Rate increases will not immediately affect homeowners. Those who are locked into fixed rate mortgages will feel no difference until it is time to renew. At renewal, theoretically, their mortgage payment increase due to a higher interest rate will be offset by a smaller principal amount left to pay down. 

Variable rate mortgages

Those with a variable rate mortgage, might consider locking it in unless they have a lot of flexibility financially. However, if you are already just making ends meet then locking in a lower interest rate is probably a good idea. Before making any financial moves, it is best to consult with your financial advisor or lender to understand your options and decided what is best for you. 

Preparing for a rate hike

To prepare for eventual interest rate hikes it is best to pay down any loans as quickly as possible. If you have several loans, concentrate on paying down the highest rate loan first. You can also find out whether consolidating your loans makes sense for your situation. And, if you were planning on buying a home in 2022, then get a preapproved mortgage rate that will allow you to lock in the current very low rates.

 

2022 Toronto Housing Trends

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As the final days of 2021 draw to a close, what can we expect from Toronto’s housing market? Different sources offer different insights into what the new year might bring. We’ll recap two of the more interesting trends for you today. 

Tight supply, price stability

As reported in CP24, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association housing sales are set to drop but they don’t anticipate any ease in pricing. Instead, they expect prices to increase because there will be less supply on the market. Homeowners who can’t afford to remain in the same neighbourhood if they sell, but who still want to upgrade their homes are increasingly opting to renovate their properties instead of selling them. This means that fewer homes are available to buy and this will automatically continue driving house prices up. In fact, according to the article, on a seasonally adjusted basis, housing prices were up 1.4% this past October.            

The only factors that could temper rising prices would be an increase in both interest and mortgage rates. And, while the majority of economists polled by Reuters in early December predicted a Bank of Canada interest rate hike in Q3 of 2022 and a possible rise in Q2, whether that hike materializes will depend heavily on how impactful a fourth, and potentially, fifth wave of Covid might be. 

Condo life

Narcity meanwhile is reporting that condo prices are set to rebound in a big way in 2022. Condo price increases are expected to outpace those of single-family detached homes only in Toronto. The condo market was hard hit with Covid and started to rebound in 2021, but will regain much of its former momentum in 2022. 

So, in all, 2022 is looking to be a very good year for those looking to sell, and a more challenging year for those who want to buy. Through it all, we will keep you abreast of your options for buying and selling. And, we will help prepare your property so that you always come out ahead. 

Happy New Year 2022 from all of us at Imaginahome, to all of you! 

A cozy holiday season

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With the holidays around the corner, Toronto homeowners are likely in full swing prepping for the festive season. Despite further restrictions due to the pandemic, families are anxious to get together and celebrate after being locked down for so long. If you are hosting your family this year and want to cozy-up your home for the occasion, here are a few tips to help you get that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes you wantI to kick back and relax. 

Accessories and texture

One of the best ways to create a cozy Toronto home is to add texture and accessories to each room. Having objects around that make people want to touch them is a great way to draw people into a space. Artworks, rugs, cushions – are all examples of accessories that enhance any room they are in. Hang photos and/or paintings on walls. Even textiles are a great option for adding colour and texture to a space. Avoid completely blank walls as much as you can. 

Plants

Plants are another great way to make a room feel warm and inviting. They add a burst of natural beauty, greenery and also contribute to improving the air quality in a home. Naturally plants need to be placed in well-lit areas of your home, but there are plants that require less light than others for those who have less available natural light in their residence. 

Lighting

Lighting is a very important aspect of making your Toronto home cozy. There are many different kinds of lighting available and choosing wisely is crucial to getting the kind of atmosphere you want. Light bulbs come in a variety of colour temperatures. The best colors for cozying up your home are on the warm scale of the spectrum. Avoid cool white lights and opt for warm lighting instead. Also try to avoid overhead lighting. Indirect lighting and ambient lighting are better options for creating a lush atmosphere. 

The right scent

Lastly, a fragrant home is a welcoming one. If guests are greeted by floral or spicy fragrances they will feel like entering and enjoying themselves. If they are greeted by the smell of old sneakers and stale food, they are less likely to view your home as cozy and inviting. To get that fresh scent every day, it is important to keep your soft surfaces clean. Washing curtains, rugs, pillows, sheets, etc… regularly is crucial to having a fresh background odor as these items hold onto smells. If no one in your family is sensitive to scents, then another great way of prolonging the fresh smell is to use scented candles, incense and/or fragrance plug-ins.

Having a cozy home is not just wonderful during the holidays, but all year round. And, on that note, all of us here are Imaginahome would like to take this time to wish you and yours a truly wonderful and safe Holiday Season and a New Year that is better and bigger than this one!

The right solutions for your small bathroom

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Toronto real estate is very pricey these days. Finding a house in the city is hard and costly. So, many homeowners who already have a place in town are opting to stay put and renovate their digs to better suit their needs. However, while this is great for those who have plenty of space to spare, people with smaller footprint properties have to get creative when it comes to remodeling – and bathrooms are among the spaces where some creative thinking can go a long way. 

Small bathrooms can usually only be enlarged by encroaching on space in some other area – not ideal in an already tight home. However, there are ways of maximizing the space in your bathroom to get the storage, counter space and functionality you need. 

Let’s look at some interesting trends.

Traditional shelving

The right shelving can go a long way towards making your small bathroom more functional. Narrow, floor-to-ceiling shelving takes little space but provides a lot of very practical storage room for towels and toiletries. 

Recessed shelving

A new trend in small bathroom design is recessed shelving either in a wall or in an existing shelving unit. These handy little nooks provide additional storage for smaller items or even nice spots for small plants. 

Floating sinks

Floating sinks are great at providing the illusion of space in a small area. The underneath of the sinks are easy to clean and can also be used for storage towels in a basket or a small kitty litter for your furry friends. 

Wet bathrooms

A newer trend brought over from Asia and Europe is that of a wet bathroom – so called because the bathroom is designed so that every surface can get wet. Wet bathrooms can look bigger and give the illusion of more space. However, they do need to be properly water-proofed and can make using the toilet or sink problematic if someone has just showered. A compromise with a pane of glass separating the shower and tub can alleviate the water issues that a wet bathroom can create. 

The right colour

Using the right colour scheme can definitely make a small bathroom seem larger and make it more inviting to use. Usually designers will opt for pale blues, greys, yellows and pastel colours in a small bathroom. You can also use one dark, bold colour as an accent as long as other walls are light. 

There are plenty of great ideas out right now for sprucing up small bathrooms. A good designer will be able to steer you in the right direction. 

Radon: a silent toxin

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Checking for radon in your Toronto home should be one of the routine tasks you do every few years. Why? Because radon is an odorless but harmful gas that can lead to cancer with long-term exposure. 

What is radon?

Radon is a colourless, odorless, inert gas that is found naturally in the atmosphere. It is usually not a concern outside where it disperses quickly. The trouble arises when the gas gets trapped indoors – usually in a house or school. The gas seeps into a building and because it has nowhere to go it builds up. 

Why is radon dangerous?  

Lung cancer related to radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in North America. When inhaled, radon breaks down and gets into the lining of your lungs where it gives off radiation. Long term exposure to radon can lead to cancer. 

How can you check for radon exposure?

There is a simple test you can do to check if your home has radon in it – just purchase a test kit from any hardware store and install it in your home. 

What to do if your home has radon?

Radon leaks in from openings connecting your home to the ground. So, the first thing to do is air out your home. Make sure you have adequate ventilation and air circulation. Next, seal any cracks you have in floors and foundations that are exposed to the ground.  

Call in the experts

If high radon levels persist in your home, then it is time to call in experts to help find the cause of the high levels and to help you seal it off. Some homes with dirt crawl spaces may need to have those crawl spaces attended to. 

While radon is fine in the small amounts found naturally, large quantities over an extending period of time are what you must be aware of.

How to win a bidding war

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Toronto real estate continues to be red-hot despite the pandemic and the concerns that the housing market would flatten. Today’s homebuyers are facing a real challenge in finding a home. Bidding wars are making prices climber higher and faster than ever and many buyers are getting frustrated at constantly losing out to other bids. So, what’s a buyer to do?

 

Have a strategy

To make a successful offer on a property in this climate you must be ready. You must know exactly where you want to buy and what you want to buy. When you know where and what you want to buy, you are better able to move quickly when that gem comes up for sale.

 

First through the door

Next, you need a realtor who is able to get their hands on listings before they hit the MLS. Being the first one in to see a property is probably the best way of ensuring you get first crack at making an offer. Even if the seller is anticipating listing the house and accepting offers up until a specific date, if you are able to see the house early and put an attractive offer on the table, chances are high that it will be accepted. Naturally, it doesn’t work in all circumstances, but smart sellers understand that having a good, firm offer is better than five weak offers. 

 

Be prepared

To win a bidding war in Toronto you have to be prepared – that means having your mortgage amount pre-approved and having your deposit ready to go. In fact, the larger your deposit the more seriously you will be taken by sellers because they will see that you have a lot riding on the offer going through. 

 

Sweeten the deal

One of the best ways to sway a seller into accepting your offer is to make your offer as attractive as possible. Get rid of contingencies if possible and offer to pay their closing costs. Although some experts will counsel you to forego an inspection, doing so is not in your best interests. Inspections are done to protect buyers who could otherwise end up facing costly repairs. If a seller wants you to forgo an inspection, you have to ask yourself “why”? And, you also have to determine how desperate you are to win that bid knowing that you might be facing some significant issue down the road. 

 

Escalation clause

If the seller is still set on accepting bids after you have submitted your offer, it is best to then include an escalation clause. Basically, an escalation clause states that you are willing to pay a certain amount over your offer price should the sellers receive something more attractive. However, if this is the case, the sellers must first prove that the other offer was higher and by how much. 

 

Your best shot, but not everything

Lastly, while it’s important to go in with your best offer – it is also a good idea to reserve some of your funds for escalation. Putting in your max offer might get you on the table, but if you have to offer more, then you have to be ready to come up with those funds. By reserving some funds, you have a better shot of not overpaying and of still getting what you want.

Major vs minor renos

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Want to spruce up your Toronto home without breaking the bank? There are a number of ways that you can transform your home without necessarily spending big bucks or calling in a wrecking crew. 

Small changes, big impact

Sometimes all a home needs is a bit of a style upgrade to take it from outdated to fabulous. When people think about renos, big, costly whole home scenarios are what most people envision. However, superficial renos can be just as dramatic and add significant value to your home. 

Paint

If the last time you painted was over five years ago, then it is time for a refresh. If you are more conservative, then you can opt for an updated take on a more conservative palate. However, if you don’t mind drama, then pairing a bold new hue with something more toned down can mean the difference between blow-me-away and blah.  

Wallpaper

Using just the right amount of wallpaper is another great way to change the look of a room and to add drama and interest without a high cost. Although you can certainly pose the wallpaper yourself, hiring an experienced professional is recommended as wallpapering can be tricky. 

Light fixtures

Swapping outdated light fixtures for new, contemporary sources of illumination is a brilliant idea. Whether wall sconces, chandeliers, pendant, track or pot lighting, adding new sources of light can create atmosphere, spotlight a special feature or be straight-up functional. The best part? There’s a great variety of lighting fixtures to fit within every budget. 

Minor kitchen/bathroom updates

No need to replace your cabinets to make a huge difference in your kitchen or bathroom. Some quick fixes for a brand new outlook are all you need:

  • Replacing the cabinetry hardware
  • Refinishing/staining the cabinets
  • Replacing the counters
  • Changing the floor
  • Buying new appliances/fixtures

Mouldings

Another way to really spruce up your home is by focusing on the details – the baseboards, mouldings and millwork. You can change or repaint your baseboards. Add crown mouldings or a ceiling medallion. You could also install wainscoting or a moulded ceiling. All these add interest to a room and create cachet. 

Just a little bit of effort and cost can really update your home.

Sell or renovate?

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Toronto homeowners know that they live in a hot real estate market. The natural question then is: what is best – renovating their existing home or selling to buy a property with more of the features they want?

Evaluate options

One way to help you decide is to list the pros and cons of your current home. Some questions to help you make this list are:

  • Do you like your home? 
  • Is it in a good location?
  • Do you have a big backyard? 
  • Is there room to expand its footprint?
  • Are bones good?
  • What is it missing to make it perfect for you?
  • What can you live with?
  • What do you absolutely want?

If you have a long commute to work, or there is more work to be done than you realistically want to take on, then it might be worth selling. However, if you like your neighbourhood and are basically happy with your property, then it is worth renovating. 

Budget

Renovations are always more expensive than you realize. And, often the 10% contingency that is worked into the budget is not enough – whether it is due to an unexpected issue or because you change your mind along the way. It is better to budget anywhere from 20-35% extra for contingencies.  

Create a realistic budget for your renovations. Price out the materials, the fixtures, the contractors so that you are aware of what you can expect. If you don’t have a realistic budget then you can find yourself in a very stressful situation financially.  

Time

Renovations take time. And, they typically take more time than you anticipated. You will be living in dust, dirt and confusion for whatever time it takes for your home to be ready. You will have to prepare mentally to put up with the chaos for the duration of the renovations. 

If you are well prepared for a reno, then it can  be very rewarding. Transforming a property you already love into exactly what you’ve always wanted is exciting. However, if there are major aspects of the home that you dislike and which cannot be changed, then you are probably better off using your renovation money to fund the purchase of a new home.

Damaged driveways

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Toronto driveways are built for toughness, but even so, they can and do get damaged. Driveways can develop cracks, suffer from an oil leak, and be scratched by snow removal equipment. Even the harshness of Toronto winters, water and tree roots can add to the stress your driveway faces and result in a damaged surface. Here we look at a few of the most common culprits for damaged driveways and offer you ways to protect your hardtop for the long run. 

Bad installation

The number one reason for a damaged driveway is that it was poorly installed. For a solid driveway you need at least six inches of gravel topped by another four inches of asphalt. If there is less gravel or asphalt, if the layers haven’t been compacted properly or if the base isn’t level, then you will see problems developing almost immediately. 

The best way to avoid this situation is to get referrals from family and friends for trusted installers. Or, read the reviews of the installers in your neighbourhood to ensure you’re hiring a trusted company. 

Oil leaks

Oil leaks are very bad for driveways. If not addressed immediately, in time the oil will soften and break down the asphalt making it more susceptible to water and to freezing/thawing cycles.

The minute you see a leak, clean it up and stop parking the leaky vehicle on your driveway until it is repaired. You can buy commercial cleaners at any hardware store that will work to get the grease out as long as it hasn’t penetrated the surface too deeply. 

Salt

In Toronto people tend to salt their driveways. While great for melting ice, it is very damaging to asphalt and concrete surfaces. The increased thaw/freeze cycles will increase the amount of water on your driveway and if there are any minute cracks, they will be exacerbated. 

Instead of salt there are many driveway friendly alternatives: sand, kitty litter, coffee grinds and calcium chloride, to name a few. Look into the option that would best suit your needs and budget. 

Water

Water can easily wear down a driveway. It is very good at getting into cracks and thereby washing away the sand and gravel in your base. 

To avoid water damage, make sure water drains properly. If there are areas of standing water, either brush the water away immediately, or hire an expert to even out your driveway so that it drains correctly. 

Heavy loads

Driveways are built for strength, but there is a limit to how much prolonged weight they can bear. In time heavier loads will cause a driveway to lose its shape. To avoid this, only park the recommended number of cars on your driveway. 

Lastly, driveways will tend to oxidize over time. This is a normal process where the asphalt starts hardending when exposed to air. When a driveway is oxidized it turns grey and becomes hard. Oxidation can be bad because when the surface hardens and loses its flexibility, it becomes more susceptible to cracks. To keep your driveway supple, it is a good idea to reseal it every few years.

The proper care of hardwood floors

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Hardwood floors are a beautiful asset that add value to your Toronto home. While hardwood floors were the standard in older homes, they are not as common now with engineered hardwoods and floating floors replacing the classic standard flooring. 

If you want to preserve your home’s hardwood flooring for as long as possible, you should take the time to do the following simple yet effective maintenance. With a little effort your floors can look as good as new for the life of your home. 

Clean spills

Although wood floors are always sealed, cleaning up any spills immediately is very important. Liquids have an insidious way of finding their way in through the tiniest cracks. Any liquid has the potential to severely damage hardwood floors. So, be sure to mop up any spills immediately!

Dust regularly

Dust can abrade and dull hardwood floors if left unchecked. Be sure to dust your floors as often as you can – daily is best, but if you aren’t able to swing a daily sweep, then every other day is essential to keeping that high gloss and shine. In fact, vacuuming your floors is the best option if you have the attachment that can be used on hardwood floors. 

Wood cleaner

If you really want to keep your floor looking its best, then buy some wood cleaner and use it every month. It will help keep the shine intact.

Protect your floors!

Cleaning your floors properly is only one part of preserving the life of your floors. A crucial element is protecting them from furniture. The easiest way to do this is to invest in good pads that will disperse the weight of your furniture and prevent the feet from scratching up your floors. 

Lastly, it is best to refinish your floors periodically. However, there is a limit to how often this can be done as refinishing requires the light sanding off of layers. Once you’ve sanded down as much as you can go, it will be time to replace the floors. However, that can be decades in the future if you’ve cared for them properly.