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To buy or not?

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Toronto homebuyers have shown a recent reluctance to hit the market. With interest rates currently higher than they have been in decades, the rising cost of living and a potential recession on the horizon, it is seems natural to question whether to wade into the housing market now or wait to see whether the price drops have stabilized. 

There are a few things to consider if you are in this position and we’ll delve a little bit into each one. 

How urgent is your need for a home?

If you are on the market because your apartment lease is up and you need to find a new place to live and you are either unwilling to continue renting or unable to find a new rental, then regardless of the market conditions, finding a home to live in is necessary. In such a situation, negotiating the best deal possible is the most advisable route to take. However, if you are able to wait and there is no real urgency to find a new living situation, then holding off might be a better idea. We’ll discuss why a little further in this article. 

If prices drop further and you find yourself paying more than your house is currently worth on the market – will that bother you?

If you are purchasing a property to live in long term, then having the cost of the house drop below your current mortgage shouldn’t be an issue as such a drop would be temporary. Although being in such a position might be unpleasant, you can rest assured that prices will rise eventually and return to what they were. However, if you are planning on only remaining in a home purchased now for a brief period, then you might want to consider renting in the short term. As prices are likely to drop further – in some areas more than others, if you are averse to being in such a position, then waiting for prices to stabilize is the better option for you. 

Do you prefer paying more for your mortgage or paying more in interest? 

The final consideration on whether to buy a Toronto home this year or to wait, is whether you prefer having a smaller mortgage with more interest or a larger mortgage with lower interest. In the end, it might work out to be almost the same thing, but the reality is this: interest rates are likely to rise again. The Bank of Canada is set to announce another potential rate hike on Dec 07, 2022. Should this happen, depending on the hike announced, the interest being paid on mortgages by homeowners will increase quite significantly. If you have a locked-in rate, then you might not be affected by any future announcements but, if not, then you have to factor in the rate as it might affect how much house you can afford. 

Heading into the housing market in the current climate is not as risk-free as it has been for the last two decades. However, real estate is still a solid investment for anyone wanting to build a nest egg in something tangible. 

Is it worth building a green home?

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The Encyclopedia Britannica describes green architecture as, “the philosophy of architecture that advocates sustainable energy sources, the conservation of energy, the reuse and safety of building materials, and the siting of a building with consideration of its impact on the environment.”  

Green architecture in Toronto and elsewhere has come a long way in nearly a decade. 

What were once seen as the domain of alternative lifestyles, green homes have gained enough ground to almost be considered main-stream. Larger numbers of builders are now incorporating green architecture philosophies in their plans and larger numbers of homebuyers are demanding better green options. 

But is it really worth building a fully green home?

Green homes generally have the following attributes:

  • passive envelopes
  • renewable energy options 
  • water capture features
  • natural wastewater treatment for reuse in non-potable functions
  • living, reflective or adobe style roofs
  • repurpose existing materials
  • use recycled materials
  • compostable sewage options

If you want a home that gives off zero emissions and that generates its own energy, then yes, it is definitely worth building green. Although it might cost you more up front, the cost savings you’ll see by producing your own energy will certainly off-set the initial investment in the long run. And, now with rising energy costs, more homebuyers are becoming curious about renewable energy sources. 

Should you decide to go the green route, make sure you hire the proper installers/builders. There are now architectural firms specialized in green home design and construction. Using someone who knows what they are doing will maximize the efficiency of your design and how your home is built. Even if you simply want to retrofit your existing home with solar panels or install a wind capture machine, using the proper company to help you get the right combination of passive energy sources is very important. 

Once you have all of that in place, you will greatly reduce your footprint and even increase the value of your home.

October decluttering

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October is nearing its end and that signals that it’s time for a more in-depth cleaning of your Toronto home to really get ready for the winter months. Since winter can be a time of hoarding for many people, it is important to go into the cold season prepared with plenty of space to spare. 

Junk drawers

We all have junk drawers that seem to pile up with random doo-dads that don’t have any other spot in the house. Instead of just piling more “stuff” into this drawer – or drawers, if you have more than one! Now is the time to sort through the accumulated items and get rid of what is truly unnecessary and find proper places to store those items you do deem worthy of saving. 

Other drawers

While your Toronto home’s junk drawer is the most obvious place to start with your deep clean, it should end there – now is the time to tackle all of the drawers in your home and to throw out everything old, unneeded and unnecessary. Chances are very high that once you have organized your drawers, you won’t even miss what they contained. If you have old tea towels, cleaning rags, aprons, dish cloths, etc… fall is a great time to weed out the really used and only keep those that you use. 

Cupboards and pantries

Cupboards can get just as full and messy as drawers. When going through cupboards or pantries, make sure to throw away any past-good foods, medications, creams or ointments. Keep only those items that still have a decent shelf-life remaining and those items that you actually use. Too many of us collect things that we mean to use, but never actually do because it would be out of our habit to do so. Take the time to acknowledge this and then let go of them. 

Storage rooms

If you have a storage room then you know just how full and cluttered it can get. Again, you need to be merciless when decluttering. And, if you are having trouble letting go of something, look at it this way: if you died tomorrow – would anyone else in your home want it? If the answer is no, and you no longer need/use it, then just get rid of it. The sentimental attachments we form to “stuff” only mean something to us. And, if we no longer see it the same way, then it is time to let go of it. 

What to do with your extra “stuff” 

If the stuff you want to get rid of is still in good shape and usable, consider donating them to goodwill. You can also recycle them via organizations that repurpose old furniture, clothing and goods. If it is really old and dilapidated, 

By the time the real cold weather hits you will be very glad to have an organized and uncluttered space for enjoying the warmth.

Creating a relaxing bedroom

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Torontonians work hard. So, at the end of the day they want to come home to a relaxing place to escape. There are several ways to create a tranquil and inviting bedroom. From using diffusers to choosing the right colours, creating an oasis that speaks to you is easier than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the simplest ways to make your bedroom your personal sanctuary. 

Scent

A great way to diffuse the tension of any space is to use proper scents. For millennia essential oils have been used to promote sleep and well-being. Some of the top scents to achieve these goals include:

  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Jasmin
  • Bergamot

Whether you use a diffuser, a scented candle or incense sticks, adding the right fragrance to the air in your room can create an instant calm to help you unwind. 

Colours

Colours have a very strong influence on our moods and behavior. The right colour can ease your worry while the wrong colour will keep you up at night stressing over everything you might have done differently during the day. Among the top colours that soothe and calm are;

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Light pink
  • White
  • Beige

In this instance it’s best to leave the reds, purples, blacks and browns for your entertaining areas as these bold and vibrant colours are definitely not the best for encouraging sleep. 

Declutter

One of the best ways to make any room – but especially your bedroom, more relaxing is to keep it clean and tidy with no clutter. Clutter tends to stress a person’s mind, which is the opposite of what you want in your bedroom. Have enough storage space to file your things away so there is no reason for things to pile up. 

Keep bed linen fresh

Washing your sheets regularly is very important. Not only is it hygienic, but the freshness of the sheets will also help you sleep better. Using a detergent with a smell you like will make it even better. 

Lighting

Forget the overhead lights. To create a serene ambiance opt, instead for indirect or mood lighting. This is easily done with a couple of floor or table lamps or even LED lights placed under a shelf or your bed. 

Creating a tranquil retreat in your primary bedroom is not difficult – but can mean the difference between 40 winks and a night of tossing and turning.

Winter ready home

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Caring for your Toronto home is a constant cycle. Whether you are checking to make sure everything is working properly, maintaining things or cleaning, these routine tasks can be dull but are absolutely necessary. In fact, it’s when you neglect certain tasks for a few years that cracks begin to show, leaks spring up and grass begins to grow where it shouldn’t. 

More than just cleaning

Among the other items that need to be done every year, twice a year every home should be deep-cleaned. In the spring, you need to get rid of the dust that collects over the winter and in the fall, you need to sweep away the dust brought in from the summer! However, along with the deep clean, you should also take the time to prepare your home for the coming cold. We’ve compiled a handy list of items that should be on your checklist every fall. 

Inside

  • Wash windows
  • Wash down walls
  • Dust light fixtures
  • Dust/wash window treatments 
  • Vacuum and clean upholstery
  • Deep clean carpeting
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coil
  • Declutter and clean garage and/or attic
  • Wash comforters and pillows

Inside Tips!

Vertical blinds can be especially challenging to clean. A good rule of thumb for getting them spotless is to first vacuum the loose dust, then soak them in soapy water to loosen and remove the caked in dust. 

Swiffers or similar mops/brooms work particularly well when it comes to cleaning walls and ceilings. They have a longer reach, versatile mop heads and can be maneuvered easily. 

If you don’t have a deep cleaner, you can rent one inexpensively for a day at most grocery stores. 

Outside

  • Clean out gutters
  • Rake and compost leaves
  • Prep garden for winter
  • Check weather stripping around doors and windows
  • Clean and store patio furniture
  • Drain and store hoses
  • Clean, drain and close pool (if necessary)
  • Clean and store barbeque

Outside tips!

Raked leaves make excellent cover for garden beds as the cover they produce when composting will help fertilize soil.

Adding mesh gutter covers will prevent leaves from falling into your gutters and clogging them up. 

The list might seem long, but it requires just a few dedicated hours that can be spread over a few weekends to see all the tasks do

Unexpected office

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Toronto homeowners who work from home and don’t have access to a dedicated office space can create an unexpected office. Even if you don’t have a spare room there are ways of setting yourself up properly and without necessarily needing a ton of space. We’ve compiled a list of easy ways to set yourself up comfortably. 

Extra closet 

One of the cleverest and sneakiest ways of setting up an office is in an unused or underused closet. There are a number of ways to get this done, however, installing proper shelving and lighting are key to functionality while paint, wallpaper and accessories will add the sparkle needed to make it conducive to working. If you want to further extend your workspace you could remove the closet door, however, keeping it on means being able to close your office off after hours. 

Staircase landing

If you have space at the top of your staircase landing, it might be enough to set up a desk and some shelves. Most landings are brightly lit and open – two elements that contribute to a great work environment. All you need are furnishings that are small enough to fit into your space and a creative way of arranging them. Installing an office at the top of your stairs will provide 

Under a staircase

There is usually plenty of dead space under a staircase. Instead, turn this overlooked area into a cozy home office. This is an easy DIY or can be done professionally. Simple wall shelving and some good work lighting along with a slimline desk are all that such a space really needs. 

Hallway stealth office

If you really don’t have space, you can always set up a stealth office in your hallway. This would require purchasing a wall cabinet that converts into a desk for when you are working and looks like a regular cabinet for when you are not. They are handy desks in a pinch and can definitely be set-up for a more permanent solution if you live in a small apartment or condo. 

Maintaining your lawn through August

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Toronto homeowners are likely now seeing the results of the efforts they made in the spring to get their lawn summer-ready. However, far from resting on their laurels, August is a crucial time for lawn care if you want your sod staying healthy and looking its best to the end of the growing season. 

The summer’s high heat and full-on sun can take a toll on grass and earth so there are few things you should do to keep both in tip-top shape. 

Get rid of thatch

What is thatch? According to the University of Massachusetts it is a, “tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves, and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively growing grass and the soil underneath”. To see if you have thatch, cut a small plug of earth from your lawn and measure the thickness of the thatch layer. If it is more than ¾” thick, then you have thatch. Getting rid of thatch is done mechanically using a rake. 

Let your grass grow!

As silly as that statement sounds, not cutting your grass too short in August will actually help it remain healthy. And, when you do cut your grass make sure to set your mower blades higher so that your grass remains strong. 

Seed

Late summer is the ideal time to seed your lawn. It will ensure that the seed takes hold in the fall so that by the time the new growing season rolls around you have a healthy head start.  

Fertilizer

Another crucial step in your Toronto lawn care routine for August is the application of fertilizer. Levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium tend to drop during the summer, so adding a good fertilizer helps to rebalance the health of your lawn. Another reason to fertilize your lawn in August is so that the nutrients are already there in spring. 

By spending a bit of time on lawn care in August, you will set the stage for a healthy and strong grass for the rest of the year and into the early next early growing season.

Navigating higher mortgage interest rates 

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The Toronto real estate market is soon going to feel the real impact of the recent Bank of Canada interest rate hikes. On July 13, the BOC raised interest rates by 100 basis points to 2.5%. The hike was even higher than what experts were anticipating with the increase immediately reflected in mortgage interest rates across the country. 

Lock in variable rate mortgages

Toronto homeowners who have a variable rate mortgage should have already locked in their rate. But, if you haven’t yet, then now is definitely the time as there is another rate hike anticipated in September. And, should inflation continue to rise, then more hikes could be in the pipeline. Locking into a rate that you can afford now, is better than hoping that the rates will stabilize and come down soon. 

What if your mortgage is only set to renew next year?

Chances are interest rates will remain high for the next few years. If you foresee renewing your mortgage at a high interest rate, your best strategy is to start paying down as much of your mortgage as you can right now. Even if that means lowering the amount you are saving for retirement for a few years. Paying down as much as you can so that when you renew, you do so with a lower principal amount will help ease the sting of a higher interest rate. 

You need to renew but can’t afford the new interest rate at your current amortization?

If your mortgage is up for renewal and you simply cannot afford the payments based on the new interest rates and your current amortization, you can always opt to increase the amortization period. In Canada you can amortize your mortgage over 25 years. 

Mortgage still too high?

If you cannot afford your mortgage at a new, higher interest rate and you have the room (and temperament), consider renting out a room in your home or a portion of your home to help cover the costs. If you have friends or family members who are willing to let you move in with them short term, you can even consider renting out your whole house to cover your mortgage until you are able to afford the payments again. 

Preparing for a rate hike and handling a rate hike is not fun or easy – but it can be done. With a little discipline and proper planning you can structure your finances so that you can keep your home.

Small gardens  

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It’s summer time in Toronto! And, whether you live in a grand estate with sprawling grounds or your patch of heaven is an upper floor condo with a small terrace, having an outdoor space can contribute plenty to your summertime enjoyment. Gussying-up what you’ve got to maximize your pleasure is easy and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Plan it out

The first thing about creating a small garden is to plan your space properly. Note the position of the sun throughout the day and then layout our plan accordingly. Ideally provide adequate shade so you can sit outside without frying in the heat. Also, make sure the plants you choose are suited for the area of the garden you have planned for them. Regardless of how big your space is, you can always create a mini-oasis by figuring out the best seating and planting areas. 

Pots and plants

If your space doesn’t allow for full-out planting of flowers and bushes because you have a small patio, terrace or balcony, you can still add colour and greenery by using potted plants. Potted plants are easy and versatile. Depending on how large the container and plant is, they can also be portable. And, the best part about a potted garden, is that a number of those same plants can be brought inside to overwinter – so you can be surrounded by greenery year-round. 

Versatile furniture

Another good way to maximize the space of your small Toronto garden is to invest in good furniture. There are pieces designed specifically for small spaces that serve double duty or that can fold for easy storage. For instance, table fire pits are super convenient as they work as a table that converts into a firepit at night. Folding chairs are another great option – after using you can fold them up and hang them on a wall or tuck away into a storage shed. Bench seating that runs along a wall is another great way of saving space. It provides seating while minimizing the footprint needed. Large padded cushions placed on a low, sturdy table can also make a great seat if you’re running low on place. 

If you are unsure on how best to plan your small Toronto garden, you can always look online. There are a number of excellent resources that will help you find the perfect plan for your little paradise.

Planting a pollinator garden at your Toronto home  

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Pollinators are the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and flies, amongst a long list of other creatures, that help to pollinate the plants responsible for our food. From the coffee and tea that start off our days to the chocolate and tequila that enrich our days, we owe 75% of the food we eat to pollinators (https://ourworldindata.org/pollinator-dependence). 

Choosing the right plants

Creating a pollinator garden might seem easy enough but choosing the right plants is actually key. The plants you choose should be native to your area. Including plants that are great pollinators but not found in your area can actually do more harm than good. Non-native species can threaten native species. Non-native plants can also negatively impact the life-span of pollinators that depend on such plants for survival by providing nourishment for only part of that pollinator’s lifecycle. 

Avoid chemicals!

The next step to creating a great pollinator garden for your Toronto home is to forego the pesticides and espouse natural fertilizers. Be sure that any plants you buy at your garden centre haven’t been grown using pesticides or water soluble chemicals. These chemicals are very harmful to pollinators and can even be lethal. The worst part? These chemicals can remain in a treated plant for up to seven years. 

What’s in a good pollinator garden

Here’s what to include in your Toronto pollinator garden to create a paradise for your local bees and butterflies.

  • Make sure you have a diverse offering of native plants that produce pollen and nectar for adult pollinators.
  • Include plants that can support butterfly and moth larvae.
  • Have a readily available water supply and create nooks for nesting.

Best pollinator plants for Toronto

The Toronto Botanical Garden blog has put together a list (https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/blog/plants-for-pollinators/)of native plants that will attract pollinators to your garden. Included are favorites such as Beebalm, Dogwood and Godenrod. 

If you have never created a garden before, it is best to consult with your local nursery to get the best advice on what works in your area. Doing our part to help keep our pollinators healthy will also give you a beautiful garden.