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Smart Home Technology

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Smart home technology in Toronto has come a long way in recent years. In just the last little while we have gone from only having home lighting systems being controlled by smart technology to having everything from security systems to home amenities now with built-in smart home capabilities. The one thing all of these systems have in common is the requirement to have access to the internet as that is the means by which you are able to control the system remotely. Each networked device will have it’s own app to help control the settings. Although now with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Home, automation is becoming more centralized as many devices can now be controlled through the “home assistants”. Naturally, every technology has its pros and cons and we will take a look those inherent in a Smart Home over here.


The Pros

There is no denying that smart technology is very convenient. It can drastically simplify your life. The small daily tasks that we have to remember can easily be taken care of by programming or can be done remotely in case you forget to do them before leaving the house.

Another big pro for smart home technology is the cost and energy savings that can be derived from it. Once installed and programmed, you can easily cut down on your energy consumption. Adaptive thermostats respond to your family’s habits and schedule and adjust accordingly thereby reducing your energy consumption.

Smart home technology also allows you to monitor your home remotely – which is very convenient if you have to travel or leave for extended periods of time. Additionally, smart home technology can increase the resale value of your home and some insurance providers do offer reductions on premiums for smart homes.


The Cons    

Although smart homes are very convenient and can be programmed to do everything from opening your blinds in the morning and closing them at night to starting your coffee maker, monitoring your crock pot and even locking your door remotely, the one big drawback with these advancements is that they all rely on a working internet connection. If the internet goes down, then so do the services.

Another drawback is the initial cost of installing such a system in your home. Yes, you will likely make up that cost in the long run, but you will have to outlay a considerable sum of money to get a good system in place.

If you are not technologically inclined, then the complex programming that these systems require can also be seen as a con. As many devices work on different platforms or through different apps, this reality will require to you know how to download, set-up and operate all of these programs.

Lastly, safety is a concern when it comes to smart home technology. The same programs that make it possible for you to lock your doors from across the world, means that, unless your network is absolutely secure, you can be vulnerable to being hacked.

Smart home technology is not yet seamlessly integrated into our lives – but it is certainly getting there.

Happy New Year!

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The holiday season signals that another year has flown by – and by any account it’s been another successful one over at Imaginahome and we are tremendously grateful to all those who have contributed to our success and growth in 2015. We want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday filled with the best life has to offer and we look forward to starting 2016 with fresh enthusiasm, renewed vigor and a more focused direction.
The New Year is a time for resolutions and the best resolutions always involve proper home maintenance – just kidding! (sort of)
While resolutions don’t usually include proper home maintenance, maybe they should?

Even small little things can make a big difference in the long run and even little actions such as:

The yearly caulking/resealing of windows and doors
Checking your roof for leaks
Resealing an asphalt driveway
Resanding an interlocking brick driveway
Keeping drains flowing with monthly maintenance
… Can all make life a lot smoother by catching and/or stopping issues as they arise. Many actions are very simple and can easily be done, so taking the few minutes to take care of them will pay off in the end.
Make yourself a list of all the little home maintenance items that need doing around your home and break them down into bite-sized and easily accomplished tasks that you can do over several weekends.
Sticking to your home maintenance resolutions will become second-nature after a while and you’ll wonder why you avoided them in the past!

Have a wonderful New Year everyone!

Your Holiday Home

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The Toronto holiday home is a warm and welcoming place for everyone to enter. Creating a holiday home doesn’t necessarily involve strings of lights and inflatable snowmen – although they do help!

There are several ways to make your home more festive for the holidays without much effort. Cleaning up the front is one of the easiest. Shovel the snow or rake the yard. Tidy up the plants, dust off the front door and sweeping the driveway all go a long way toward the appearance of your home. Next, throw on a festive wreath and add a pot or two of seasonal flowers next to the door and your home will automatically exude a festive vibe.

If you want to put a bit more effort into your trappings, then adding lights to the exterior of your home is always a jolly way to spruce things up. However, if you aren’t handy with lights, you can always invest in one or two light displays that come in different shapes – reindeer, snowmen, candy canes. These handy light displays are placed on your lawn and simply plugged in – no wires or strings to untangle and at the end of the season you just unplug them and put them away!

Adding pots of dried winter flower arrangements is another quick and inexpensive way of cheering up your home for the holidays.

Another quick and inexpensive fix is to buy strings of imitation fir garlands from the dollar store to place on your exterior fixtures – around your door, windows, lamp posts, etc… These terrific garlands are versatile and easy to work with and can be reused every year.

Another great way to making your home looking inviting for the holidays is to highlight any large trees or shrubs on your land either with spotlights or strings of lights. Even just such a simple addition to your home’s exterior will make a huge difference to its curb appeal during this merry time.

Regardless of what you choose to do to your home for the holidays, we hope that it is filled with love, laughter and happiness during this season and beyond!

Fun Kids Room Ideas

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When it comes to decorating – no design project can beat the thrill of decorating a kid’s bedroom. Given their vivid imaginations and exuberant sense of fun, the sky really is the limit when it comes to designing and appointing these spaces. Naturally bright colours and light will play integral roles in any design for a child’s room, but the size of the room and your budget will also be important factors in its decor.

Ideas for small spaces
If you have a small bedroom, then consider a loft bed; they offer a practical solution that features the excitement of sleeping high-up while maximizing your floor space. It is the ideal solution for slightly older kids who might need a desk for homework or a couch for lounging with friends.

The same idea holds true with bunk beds – they are the best solution to comfortably accommodating two kids in the same room.

Reading/lounging Corner
A great idea that kids will love is creating a reading/lounging nook in their rooms. Setting up some bookshelves and placing a little seat nearby will encourage youngsters to read or play quietly in their “own” little den.

Fantasy Painting
If you have the talent (or the money to hire a painter), a simple way to make your child’s room more fun is to give it a custom paint job – trees, birds, clouds, the sea, space… whatever interests your child will make their room pop and lend itself well to imaginations that need only the slightest nudge to soar…

Cubbies and Crannies
Kids need lots of storage – but they also love places to hide and to pretend – why not give them both? Creating cubbies that are strong enough and large enough to hold a child’s weight will serve dual purposes – as storage and a great hiding place!

Crannies can be created under a raised bed, around a desk corner – and they can be as simple as stringing up a colourful throw and adding a string of Christmas lights to the mix.

Adding a touch of whimsy is always a good idea when decorating a child’s room. Whimsy can be as small as stencilling fairies, flowers, planets or other favorite elements around the room to as complicated as creating a tree in the corner with an actual swing hanging from a branch. The sky’s the limit when it comes to such creative touches.

Ultimately your child’s room should be a fun and imaginative place for your child to retreat to, but also an easy place to clean and maintain.

Should you convert an extra bedroom into an ensuite?

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The question of converting an existing bedroom into a master ensuite is a good one – especially in a hot Toronto market. Unfortunately, there is no straight-forward answer to this dilemma. Whether such a decision is a good one or not will depend on several factors and it is best to gauge the sentiments of the buyers in your neighbourhood to truly determined whether a room conversion will add value or decrease the value of your home.

Generally, Ontario homebuyers will look for certain house-types in a given neighbourhood. If your neighbourhood is full of three-bed, two-bath homes, then your four-bedroom home might benefit from a conversion. However, if buyers flock to your area for four-bedroom properties, then you will significantly impact the value of your home.

Another factor to keep in mind is practicality. Usually buyers expect there to be a bathroom on each level of a home. So, if you have a basement bathroom and you relocate it to the main floor, this will certainly add value. Additionally, buyers generally expect a ratio of 2 baths for 4 bedrooms – if you have this, then adding a third bathroom might be excessive. If your home has 4 bedrooms with only one bath, then an extra ensuite will certainly make your home more attractive.

Another very important element to be aware of is the cost of such a conversion. If the homes in your neighbourhood are selling for $200,000 and it will cost you $40,000 to convert a room into an ensuite, then it might not be worth your while to do so as you are not likely to recoup your full investment.

The market in your area is another big consideration. If you are in a family-oriented community, then having more bedrooms will likely attract those with larger families while if your neighbourhood is mainly home to young professionals and retirees, then you will likely have more success with an ensuite and fewer bedrooms.

If you have an attic that you can turn into a loft, then converting an existing bedroom into an ensuite might be worth it as you would simply be diverting the space from one area of your home to another.

The last piece of advice we can give you is to check with a realtor if you have any doubts. Most realtors in the Toronto area will provide this service free of charge if you are interested in knowing whether such a conversion is a good idea or not.

In the end, however, if you want the ensuite for your own convenience and you intend to live in your home long-term, then you might as well make the investment so that you can enjoy the ensuite.

Increase your home’s value with smart renos

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Increasing your home’s value might seem like a no-brainer – just update old fixtures and floors, add a coat of paint and maybe do a full-scale reno or two. However, getting the most out of your renovation dollars means renovating your property smartly. There are certain elements of a home that will automatically fetch more money on the market if they have been updated.

Things to Consider First
Aside from actual renovations, other factors will also play a significant role in how much you should spend, and on what. Location is a very big factor as more expensive neighbourhoods will expect higher-end renovations to be done than renos done on homes located in less expensive neighbourhoods.

The value of your home versus the value of similar homes in your neighbourhood is something else that you should take into consideration. You certainly don’t want to be spending more on renovations that your house is worth on the market. For instance, if you paid $350, 000 for your home and put in renos worth $50,000, then you should expect your home’s value to rise to at least $410,000 – if it doesn’t then you should scale back the scope of the renos you want to make in order to make a bigger impact.

Smart Money Options
The first things you should renovate in your home if they have seen better days are your roof, your windows and doors and the home’s infrastructure, which includes plumbing and electrical. While these basic elements are not very sexy and will not really get much notice from your friends, they will definitely impress homebuyers who want a solid structure that will provide them with peace of mind.

Next, the two most important places in a home that will sell homebuyers are the kitchen and the bathroom(s). Adding a family room and master suite are also popular options that bring value to a home. Adding a swimming pool or landscaping your yard, while nice, won’t increase your property’s value by very much.

Choice finishes
Renovating properly is another very big requisite to get the best return on your money as possible. While you may want to spend the next 20 years in your home, it still doesn’t mean that you should indulge in the retro pink kitchen cabinets. Eventually you will want to sell and those flashy cabinets will drag the value of your home down. Choosing classic finishes that will age gracefully is your best option. Elegant, neutral finishes are the way to go if you want something that will last a lifetime and will still be appealing when you are ready to sell.

Consulting with a savvy real estate agent before doing renos is very helpful and a smart agent will be able to highlight those areas that will give you the best return.

Toronto Fall Home Show

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Starting tomorrow the Toronto Fall Home Show will opens its doors to savvy homeowners who are looking for inspiration, wisdom and information from a host of exhibitors gathered to share their expertise and know-how. The popular exhibition is a chance to have questions answered, find the professionals of your choice for projects you have in mind and find ideas to vexing problems.

The show is hosted at the:
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place
195 Princes Boulevard, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3

The show hours are:

Thursday, October 1
10am – 8pm
Friday, October 2
10am – 8pm
Saturday, October 3
10am – 8pm
Sunday, October 4
10am – 6pm

Boasting a number of interesting features, this year’s edition of the Toronto Fall Home Show includes City Smart Living, which is geared toward providing smart solutions to city living – from maximizing small spaces to creating zen areas in an urban environment. Also featured this year is a Design Intervention, Upcycling of Furniture and a seminar on Renovating with Confidence.

The show is a favorite among real estate professionals, design enthusiasts and those wanting direction with their home projects.

So, don’t wait to buy your tickets! For more information on the show and what is being offered, you can visit their website.

Wonderful Windows for your Toronto Home

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Choosing windows for your Toronto home is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly as windows can completely alter the look of your residence. Whether you want to keep it simple or spice it up, windows can be the perfect accent for your style. Given the number of choices when it comes to materials finding something in your price range is also do-able, although quality and performance do have to be taken into consideration, as good windows will help to reduce your energy consumption, will be easier to clean and simpler to maintain.

Window frames come in a variety of materials including wood, vinyl, fiberglass, aluminum and hybrid versions.

Wood is by far the most expensive option when it comes to window frames and comes in many hardwood varieties. It can come in solid and composite forms. Some people opt to have wood frames on the inside but another material on the outside that will better stand resist the elements. For customers who want wood but easier cleaning and maintenance (less painting) the wood can be clad in vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass.

Vinyl is usually the least expensive option when it comes to window frames and requires very little maintenance. However, because it can’t be painted there are fewer colour options to choose from. Depending on the quality of the vinyl used, it can also yellow over time. However, when it comes to keeping the elements out, there is no difference between wood and vinyl.

Aluminum window frames are more expensive than vinyl but less so than wood. They are a very durable choice that doesn’t tend to discolour and as it can be painted, there is more variety than with vinyl.

Fiberglass is a relatively new material in window frame construction and its cost is significantly more than that of vinyl, however, it is a very strong material that requires no maintenance. They are very resistant to temperature extremes and moisture, making them good for cold climates and they also don’t rust or splinter. Despite the pros of fiberglass, it remains a little used choice.

Window Style
After you have chosen the material for your window frames, choosing the style of window will also impact your lifestyle and the window’s energy efficiency. Remember that windows panes have a higher energy efficiency than the frames so the larger the number of breaks in the window pane, the lower the window’s efficiency. So casement windows will have a better energy rating than single/double hung windows.

There are a good overview of the different window styles over here //bit.ly/1cxBRL7.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is another factor to take into consideration when purchasing windows for your Toronto home. The higher the efficiency of your windows, the higher the savings you will see on your energy bill every month. The government of Ontario website has an excellent review of energy efficiency and what it means.

Window shopping is more than just finding the right fit for you house – it is finding the right fit for your dwelling, your wallet, your style and your energy consciousness.

Buying a Toronto Condo or House Off-Plan

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Toronto’s property market has yielded excellent returns on investment over the last decade-and-a half, so it is not surprising that so many people are eager to jump into this booming sector before they are completely priced out. As it is the cost of buying a home in the city is prohibitive for many young executives and families. One of the better ways to find the right property in the right location at the right price is to buy off-plan. All this means is that you will be buying the place from the developer’s blueprints and specs.

A Matter of Research
Although buying off-plan might seem like a huge risk, if you do your research properly, it is one of the best ways to guarantee an increase in your investment almost immediately. While there are risks to buying off-plan, you can mitigate them by knowing the developer, researching their other developments, finding out whether they have any outstanding complaints against them, finding out what customers who bought in their other developments have to say about them and gauging the level of interest in the project.

What to look for
Naturally the first thing to look for in an off-plan project is location – this holds true for either condos or single-family homes. You will want the development to be close to shopping and transportation and close to whatever else you might deem necessary such as:
lifestyle services

You should also look for the amenities that the project will contain and the number of phases projected for the development. If you are buying off-plan for phase one and there are four more phases planned, then get ready to live with constant construction in your backyard for several years while the rest of the phases are completed. If there are going to be several phases all sharing the same facilities, then you might run into a question of crowding and your complex will have high traffic.

The cost of buying off-plan will be another consideration. Naturally you will want to bargain for the best price, but don’t be afraid to ask the developer to throw in upgrades such as better appliances, counters or finishes.

Price will be easier to negotiate on projects that are not selling as fast as hot-properties. Also, the number of upgrades you want will affect your bottom line. However, keep in mind that getting the upgrades you want now is far smarter than renovating later on, so spending a bit more up front is definitely worth it in the long run.

Included in the price category are the ancillary costs that you will be called upon to pay later on – maintenance fees, utility fees and infrastructure fees. Make sure that those costs won’t negate any savings you made in buying off-plan.

Buying off-plan guarantees you a minimum 10% return on your investment. As most people are skittish about investing in something that hasn’t yet been built, developments are always priced about 5% lower than when it is built. When a project is finished the price increases by about another 5%. So, if you are willing, buying from a plan is one of the best ways to ensure your real estate buying dollar goes as far as it can.

Best Time to Buy A House in Toronto

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With Toronto’s housing market showing no signs of slowing down, it is not surprising that home buyers might be wondering just when the best time to buy a home might be. Although the housing market in Ontario is cyclical – much like any market is, when it comes to real estate, there is no definitive best time despite having distinct busier and slower months. However, there are a couple of things to consider when you plan on jumping into the housing fray:

1) Are you looking for the best deal possible
2) Do you want the most selection from which to choose

Answering those two questions honestly will likely determine when the best time would be to buy for you.

Here are the considerations when it comes to looking for a house – the busiest buying months are in the spring and the fall when listings abound and it seems like every realtor’s phone is ringing off the hook. During the high summer months sales tend to languish as people are off on holiday – the same holds true for December, January and early February, so listings are few and far between.

If you want plenty of selection, then you will want to begin your property search in late February/early spring when homeowners start polishing up their listings to cash in on the buying frenzy that starts when the warmer weather rolls around. If you start your search early, then you might get some of those choice pickings that come on the market before the others and you’ll have more options from which to choose. Should you find nothing to your liking during the spring season, then you can always look forward to the fall season when homeowners are again thinking about selling.

If you simply want the best deal possible and don’t really care about selection then looking during the months of July and August or December to early February is your best bet. However, be prepared for very limited selection. Regardless of what is on offer, you will be able to more likely make a deal with sellers during these months as they are probably wanting to sell their homes for specific reasons and will be more willing to entertain low offers.

So, while there is no definitive answer as to when the best time to buy a house in Toronto is, there are better times depending on your needs.

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