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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!

Walk-in Closets

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Walk-in closets are a feature that has grown in popularity and size in the last couple of decades. Whereas the single closet gave way to the double closet, today’s standard in luxury is definitely the walk-in. With consumer culture taking off at lightning speed, the necessity of a walk-in closet was soon apparent and builders rushed to fill the void. Today, walk-in closets are the standard in any luxury home and expected in nearly every other property. However, having the space for a walk-in closet doesn’t mean that it is complete – the finishing and features given to the interior of the space are what truly set apart the different closets available.

Standard walk-in closets will come with the regular steel bar found in closets. It is up to the homeowner to customize the space to their specifications. The kind of material chosen for this will certainly depend on your budget and what you consider necessity. The most basic material is metal. You can get inexpensive closet kits from any big box home hardware store that you can put together yourself to create different shelving levels and bars. A level up from metal is press wood shelving. Again, kits of presswood closet shelving can be found in most big box stores and can be customized to meet your needs. The deluxe version is to have custom shelving built out of real wood. However, this will naturally involve a professional and a much bigger budget.

One of the key elements to any space is the lighting chosen – the same holds true for closets. A big window will need to have a good lighting system so that you can see every nook and cranny of your space without effort. Some closets even have movement activated lighting that turns on automatically when the closet door is opened and switched off when the door closes.

Closets can have shelves for sweaters, cubbies for shoes, drawers for jeans and unmentionables and bars for hanging clothing. Depending on size, they can also have descending bars mounted right on the ceiling for those seasonal items that you only access once-in-a-while. They can have mirrors, centre islands fitted with additional drawer/storage space and they can have seating. The sky is the limit when it comes to closet customization.

Regardless of the size of your walk-in, making it your own is really the only way to get the most out of all the space you have!

The Master Retreat

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The master bedroom in Toronto is the one place in new homes that has grown more than any other. In the past master bedrooms were slightly larger than the children’s bedrooms and had a slightly larger closet as well. Over time this principal bedroom in a house has steadily increased in size while the closet went from a single to a double and then to a walk-in, and now, to actual dressing rooms adjoining the master. The same transformation holds true for the ensuite. The master ensuite began life as a powder room and progressed in scope and function to deluxe, spa-like spaces fitted with everything needed to fully and entirely unwind and pamper yourself.

Master bedrooms today are more like entire suites. The most ambitious in design often take up an entire level or wing of a floor and they include sitting rooms, a sleeping chamber, dressing rooms with walk-in closets and ensuites. At the very minimum, master bedrooms will include a walk-in closet and an ensuite.

The phenomenon of a master suite is relatively new starting to appear in the mid-nineties and growing through the end of the century into what we find in today’s most luxurious homes. In fact, a large majority of homebuyers will cite a master suite as a necessity when looking for a new home. The only people with whom master suites are still relatively not so important are middle-class families with more than two children – in their case, they prefer having an extra bedroom over the master suite.

If your home currently doesn’t have a master with a walk-in closet or ensuite and you are looking to upgrade to one, the scope of the project will depend on the space on your floor. If you have three extra bedrooms, then you can feasibly turn one of those bedrooms into an ensuite with a walk-in. However, this should only be done if the market in your neighbourhood will return your investment when you sell. Naturally, this will not be a consideration if you plan on living in your home long-term.

If you don’t have extra space that you can use, then consider building an extension or building out over an attached garage. Obviously such ambitious projects will come with certain costs that might be more than you anticipate.

However, as we move into a new way of thinking about home and larger numbers of people are moving towards smaller, more sustainable dwellings, the phenomenon of the grand master suite might be on its way out. Only time will tell.

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.

The perfect lounge

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When setting up a lounge in your Toronto home – whether a formal living room or a casual family room, the idea is to create a stylish space for relaxation where family and guests alike will feel welcome and at-ease. Regardless of the space you have to work with there are certain tips and tricks that will help you personalize your setting.

The right colour will influence the ambiance of your room and promote either a festive, refined, sophisticated or casual atmosphere. Your personal style and taste will dictate the color palate that you choose. When putting together your palate try to pull in everything that will be in your room including wall and window treatments, upholstery and any other textured element – and then match them to each other. Interior decorators work with a swatch board on which they attach all of their color and texture inspirations so that they can see whether what they envision works together in reality. Making your own swatch board is a great way to get professional results when planning everything yourself.

Colour is not the only important element in a room – texture is just as integral to a unified space. Whether you are looking at wall paper, rugs, upholstery, flooring or moldings – the proper texture will add weight, depth, character and style to your space. Be sure to match your texture to the overall vision for your lounge.

Furniture is the backbone of your lounge – not just the actual pieces you choose, but also the placement of those pieces within your room. Depending on the size of your room, you might want to consider placing the furniture in the middle of the space leaving room behind for circulating. Ensuring that talking areas are not crossed is another element to keep in mind.

The addition of a wet bar in your lounge will definitely get the party going! However, wet bars are not as popular in formal living rooms or family room as they are in recreation areas or lower level lounges. However, that doesn’t mean that if you want a wet bar in your living or family room you can’t break the mold and go your own way. There are a number of ways to incorporate a wet bar into your lounge – from hidden compartments to the creation of an actual bar with stools and hanging glasses.

As with everything else, lighting is a very important part of creating the perfect lounge. Indirect or mood lighting works best for entertaining although you will certainly want to have full overhead lights for those occasions when better lighting is needed. Two sets of lighting is therefore smart – overheads that are used only when needed, and mood lighting for every day.

The perfect lounge really will depend on what you consider important in such a space and what your comfort level dictates.

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.

Matterport: The Future of Real Estate Imaging

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Matterport 3D imaging is the future of real estate marketing and Imaginahome is already a veteran of this cutting-edge technology. Offering this forward-looking benefit since the spring of 2015 has helped Imaginahome master the finer points of this incredible technology. By placing cameras at strategic points in a home, every detail of a residence is captured. When the pictures are stitched together they create a seamless, virtual walk-through of a property that a homebuyer can control.

“The future of real estate marketing lies in the real benefit that a true virtual tour gives to the buyer – and that is exactly what Matterport delivers,” says Bilal Jamous, owner of Imaginahome Inc. “As more realtors discover just how easy Matterport imaging makes the home-buying process, the more integral the technology is becoming to their marketing strategies.”

CTV news covered Matterport last week and described how the virtual tour allows potential home buyers to walk through a home in a manner similar to how you can walk through a video game. You can watch the CTV report over here //bit.ly/1OZonJt.

Contact us today to find out how the Matterport marketing solution will benefit your clients!

The Best Bathroom

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The best bathroom ideas are those that will maximize your ensuite’s space and functionality while increasing its architectural and design appeal. Finding a style that closely matches the tone and ambiance found in the rest of your home is another good idea as this will help your bathroom to blend into the context of your residence seamlessly.

When you set out to upgrade your bathroom, bear in mind that while it will bring up your home’s value, you will only see a full return on your investment if you are smart about your renovation. You can easily sink 45K into a bathroom reno, but that doesn’t mean that you will ever recoup that money when you sell because few people are willing to spend that much more on a home just because of a fancy ensuite – unless your neighbourhood will support such an expensive renovation.

Things to keep in mind when renovating your bathroom:

Replacing vs Upgrading
If you have a smaller budget to work with but desperately need to renovate, then consider simply replacing your old fixtures and finishes with newer models. It won’t cost as much and you can find really nice items on sale or at liquidation outlets. Sometimes, you can even breathe new life into old items by repurposing them. If you have more room in your budget then you can look to upgrading your space by purchasing more expensive fixtures, enlarging the space, adding a window or lighting or even completely moving around the shower, toilet and sink.

Showers vs Tubs
Depending on which bathroom you are renovating, it might not be necessary to keep your tub. If it is the main family bathroom, then a tub is a must as this is what homebuyers look for and expect. However, if you are renovating your ensuite and rarely use your tub – why keep it? If you are a shower kind of person then the smarter move would be to get rid of the tub and create a walk-in shower. In fact, you can go all out and get rid of the shower lip itself so that you have a very modern design that you can age into gracefully.

Installing an ordinary shower head is conventional – but why not explore the different kind of shower heads on the market today? Rain shower heads drop large droplets from an overhead spout while full-body jets line the shower walls and hit you from everywhere for a massaging effect.

While steam rooms are no longer as popular as they once were, installing a heat lamp in the shower is a great way to warm up on cold mornings.

Adding mirrors to any room will increase its size considerably – adding a large one to a small bathroom will give the same illusion of space. But, why stop there? If you have a tendency to shave in the shower, then it might be worth splurging on a fog-free mirror and proper lighting and creating a little recessed nook for a mirror and your shaving items within the shower itself.

Although safety bars in the shower are associated with the elderly, they are very good to have for people of any age. They provide a secure spot to hold onto when soaping up your feet – and today it’s possible to get very attractive options that don’t give the look and feel of a nursing home or hospital.

Typically the only seating in the bathroom is the toilet bowl, however, there is room to add more seating in the form of a make-up seat at the vanity and a shower seat in the shower – both of which are very useful and come in extremely handy.

For some really good ideas on bathroom renovations you can check out this article over here //bit.ly/1LnZB1A.

Lifestyle Renos that Don’t Add to your Bottom Line

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Most homeowners will want to customize the look and ambiance of their home to suit their lifestyle, regardless of how new or modern the finishes. In Toronto, dropping half a million dollars on a home no longer mean getting the house of your dreams – but simply getting a house, that you can turn into that of your dreams. However, before the first demolition party happens, it is wise to consider a couple of very important facts.

1) Investing in the property’s infrastructure is very important even if it isn’t seen
2) Some renos will give you a much higher rate of return than others

The question that will determine the kind of renos to make is this: how long do you plan on living in your home? If the answer is more than ten-fifteen years, then any reno you make will be worth your investment because you will have time to enjoy it. Keep in mind that some renovations will dramatically enhance your personal lifestyle but won’t necessarily be what future homebuyers want in their dream home. If you don’t plan on living in your home for at least ten years, then choosing the right kind of renos to make is crucial to getting your money back when you sell.

You might be wondering what is meant by “lifestyle renos?” The term refers to any renos that are important to your family’s happiness but won’t necessarily appeal to the majority of homebuyers. For instance – landscaping your grounds, installing a swimming pool, adding a wine cellar and creating a main floor office are just some examples of these lifestyle enhancers.

Interestingly, while infrastructure renos don’t really bring a high return on your investment, the flip-side is that people expect that the infrastructure is in good shape and will haggle the price of a house down if they have to do extensive infrastructure changes including electrical, plumbing, windows, roof and doors.

Swimming Pools
While swimming pools can be a life-saver during heat-waves, the truth is many people don’t like them because they do require a certain amount of maintenance and on-going investment every year. Add to that the fact that they can only really be used for about three months of the year, can be a danger to young children and small pets and take up a lot of real estate in a yard, they are often a negative when it comes to selling a property.

Landscaping your property will definitely add to its curb appeal, but rarely will it add enormously to its value for the simple reason that although you might love a meandering flagstone walkway and a messy garden of wildflowers, a prospective buyer might prefer a modern concrete walk with very precisely planted gardens – or no garden at all! Tastes vary enormously and while a buyer might find it nice that the grounds are landscaped, it is generally not a make-or-break element in a house search.

Adding rooms
Adding a room will definitely your family the space it needs to spread out comfortably, but it might not suit the needs of everyone as it will impact maintenance costs as well as upkeep. So, the main floor office, the extra ensuite, the wine cellar or the second floor addition – will all give you a better lifestyle, but not a significant return on your investment.

The other element to keep in mind when doing renos is to keep your ambitions within the limits of your neighbourhood. If you live in a lower-end neighbourhood, but fill your home with high-end finishes, you are not going to be able to get that investment back when you sell as the neighbourhood will not support that cost. So, it is important to keep your neighbourhood in mind when doing renos.

Naturally, all of this advice goes out the window if you plan on living in your home long term and if you want to enjoy your stay as much as possible without regard to a return on your investment.