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What to look for in a cottage

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Cottage-buying is a fun endeavor as the end result is a pleasure place for your family to unwind at on weekends. Knowing what to look for in a cottage will save you money and hassle down the road, and more importantly, it will save regrets over not getting exactly what you want or what suits your family’s needs.
 
Here are a few tips on figuring out what’s best for you.
 
Region
Don’t underestimate the importance of buying in the right place. There are plenty of cottage areas from which to choose but they are decidedly not all the same. Some regions offer a more village-type atmosphere while others are completely off-grid and off-the-beaten path. Some areas can be easily driven to in a couple of hours while others require a longer commuting time. Some boast an abundance of lakefront properties while others are more secluded forest land. The area you choose will depend on how long you want to commute, the amenities you want nearby and the kind of set-up you require in a cottage.
 
Amenities
Another factor that will greatly influence what you buy are the kind of amenities the cottage has. Do you need a hook-up to a water main or can pumping water from a well suffice? Are you familiar with septic systems or do you prefer a compostable toilet? Are you willing to live off-grid or will you need an electrical hook-up? Do you require a road right up to your cottage or can you hike up part of the way? All of these factors will play a big role in figuring out what you are looking for.
 
Price
Naturally price is one of the most important factors in any real estate purchase. As the purchase of a cottage is not a primary residence a mortgage on it will be higher than a regular mortgage so you will want to be careful about how much debt you take on for a summer place.
 
Which brings us to the next point that you will have to decide – do you want a place you can use all year round or only for the warmer months?
 
Once you have decided on what you require in a cottage, it is time to begin the hunt. Although spring is usually the busiest buying season for cottages, fall is actually the better time to purchase as sellers will usually prefer a price cut to the carrying costs of hanging onto the place for another season.
 
Be sure to visit the place a few times at different times of day and drive around the neighbourhood and surrounding towns to get a feel for what the area is like. If at all possible go during different seasons to see what the foliage and privacy level is at various times of the year.
 
If you want a place on a lake, are you okay with a lake that permits motorized watersports? Also, you will have to find out whether the lake you are considering has a lake association board and inquire with them what rules or regulations are already in place.
 
Lastly, when negotiating with a seller, try to get items that you are likely going to have to buy thrown in – for instance canoes, snorkeling gear, paddle boards, etc…
 
Once you’ve found the cottage of your dreams, your family will certainly thank you for the purchase each time they are relaxing there on the weekends or on holidays.

Country Living

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Whether you call them cabins, cottages or chalets, the weekend get-away place located in the country to which thousands escape all year-round are certainly ubiquitous with Canadian life. Cottage living was typically the reserve of those with unlimited bank accounts, but with the addition of roads in out-of-the-way places, automobiles and inexpensive gas, the field was open to average Joes who wanted to experience a big of the good life.
 
Today, there are hundreds of summer retreats all over the province and, indeed, the country. What to look for in a cottage will depend on the kind of experience you want to have. Whether you prefer a fully winterized get-away located near a ski hill so that you can take advantage of the trails every weekend or whether you prefer a three-season place that will get you from May to October on a lovely lake, will determine where and how much your summer setting will set you back.
 
Naturally it isn’t necessary to buy a cottage if you can rent one. In many instances renting a cottage is actually a better bet as you don’t have to worry about maintenance, taxes or any of the other aspects involved with owning property. You just have to pay and then show up! Just remember that rentals can be costly depending on where you want to rent and during what season. Obviously off season rates will be far more affordable than during peak holiday or summer season, but can be just as enjoyable – especially if you rent a place near trails for hiking or biking, on a lake that supports water sports and/or near villages with lots of fun activities on offer.
 
Of course, if you want your own place, then there are two options – buying a real sale place or purchasing a lot and building your own place. There are pros and cons to both approaches but buying a resale place can be more affordable than building new in many instances. New builds will require you to invest in the installation of a septic system, a foundation and a water system (drilling a well). In many cases you will also have to pay for the soil to be tested and by the time all of these basic costs are covered you are already at nearly $50,000. There are ways of building a less expensive cottage, but it would involve you doing much of the contracting and building work yourself.
 
Buying resale, means getting a house with all of the infrastructure already in place – which is a great benefit. The only obstacle with this scenario is finding a home that is the right mix of old and new so that you aren’t stuck having to update/upgrade immediately after purchase.
 
If you have yet to experience life at a cottage, then know that it is something everyone should get to enjoy at least once in their life. The relaxation and detente achieved when surrounded by nature is second to none.

Rental Income Tax Implications in Toronto

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Renting property out in Toronto can be a lucrative undertaking. With housing prices skyrocketing and many buyers being priced out of the market, growing numbers of people don’t ever foresee buying a place of their own. However, while rental income can definitely boost your bottom line – it can also set it back when it comes to tax time. In order to play your cards right, it is best to be unformed when it comes to the tax implications of becoming a landlord.
 
Claiming the income
The first thing to remember is that you must claim any and all rental income that you get. Whether you are simply renting out the spare bedroom in your basement or luxury apartments, any rental income will be counted towards your total net income for the year. However, the amount that you declare will depend entirely on how much of the property you own. If you own 100% of the building, then you will have to declare all of it. If you co-own the property, then you and the other owner can potentially split the income with your co-owner.
 
Claiming expenses
Naturally if you own property, then you are allowed to claim expenses against the maintenance and upkeep of the property. There are two kinds of expenses that are allowed. The first is current expenses, which pertains to regular maintenance. The second is capital expenses, which pertains to any lasting improvement to the property – for instance fixing the roof.
If your expenses are greater than the rental income of your property, then you will end up with a loss. Any losses can be deducted from your rental and regular income (if you have a day job).
 
Keeping track
Having a good accountant or keeping meticulous track of all your income and expenses with your rental units will go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t run into trouble when it comes to tax time.
 
Incorporating
If you own more than one rental property, then it might be a good idea to incorporate yourself as a business in order to lower your tax burden as corporations are taxed at a lower rate than individuals. Keep in mind that if you choose to go this route you will have to hire an accountant to help you with the intricacies involved with such a business.
Regardless of what you choose, the one thing you must to is to find out about the property tax code so that you don’t have any surprises. The CRA website is a treasure trove of information on that account and you can find it at //www.cra-arc.gc.ca/rental/.

Creating an ad to attract the right renters

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Renting out your property can be a little intimidating for a first time landlord. Attracting the right renters is crucial to a smooth and successful rental experience. The best way to get the kind of renters you want is to create the right kind of ad. Since most people won’t take the time to call unless they are really interested in your property, it is imperative to put all of the relevant details that they would need into your ad. However, remember that catching someone’s eye is crucial and for that you must keep it short and snappy.
 
In today’s world of soundbites and 30-second news clips, no one want to read a dense paragraph describing your rental unit. Instead keep your listing as short and succinct as possible using bullet points and different fonts to draw attention.
 
Be sure to include such details as:
– Security deposit
– Number of bedrooms
– Number of bathrooms
– Whether it is upper or lower floor
– Location
– What’s nearby such as shopping, transportation, etc…
– Cost
– Whether you accept pets or not
 
Once you have your list put together, you are ready to write your ad. Include good pictures where possible so that they have a good idea of what they will be getting.
 
Next, post to as many websites as possible including Craigslist and Kijiji. If you are worried about vetting the potential renters by yourself, you can also enlist the aid of a knowledge real estate agent who can help you find tenants. Usually such a request will cost you the first month’s rent, but it is worth it for those who would rather forego the trouble of finding tenants themselves.
 
As long as you find the right tenants, you will have a smooth time with your rental unit.

Should you list your home on Airbnb?

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Listing your home on Airbnb or any other sharing website is a great way of making some extra money on the side. However, before jumping into such a situation, make sure that you are prepared for the work that it will entail and the risk that you will assume.
 
Firstly, check with the laws in your province to make sure that you are allowed to rent your home out as a short term holiday rental – in some places Airbnb has been banned.
 
Secondly, be sure that you organize yourself properly. Take good pictures of  your place. Good pictures will sell your rental quicker than mediocre ones. Make sure that your home is clean and looks attractive.
 
Next, sell your neighbourhood and the attractions of your city and your location. A good write up in a friendly, approachable manner will go a long way toward bringing renters calling.
 
It is a good idea to also invest in extra amenities including towels, pillows, blankets, linens, utensils, etc… it will save you the hassle of having to rush to clean everything before the next renters come in. Having extras on hand will mean that you can swap out the used items for clean stuff while you clean up.
 
Put together a little book containing a list of your house rules, how to use the local transportation and anything else that someone new to our city would need to know.
 
Another good idea is to include a small fee for laundry and cleaning as this will cover the extra costs you will incur for such items.
 
Lastly, remember that it is good to be friendly to the renters, but you don’t have to be their best friend. Let them know that if they need you, they can reach you, but otherwise let them explore and have fun on their own.

How to be a landlord

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Yes, it is true – anyone can be a landlord. As long as you have the cash to spare, the tenacity to deal with constant challenges and an optimistic attitude, you have what it takes to succeed. However, there are also some more practical tricks you need up your sleeve in order to make being a landlord work for you. In this short blog, we’ll cover some of the basics of renting that will help you succeed.
 
1. Screen all applicants. Do not skip this step – it is necessary to know who is going to be living on your property. You want to know if they have good credit, a steady job and an upstanding character.
2. List all house rules. Present each prospective tenant with a list of house rules that you then attach to the lease upon signing – in that way, no one can claim ignorance after the fact.
3. Be sure to collect on the first of each month. Don’t let a tenant get away with not paying on time, lest it become a habit.
4. Include late fees on lease. Determine an amount for late payments and stick to it!
5. Be organized. Regardless of whether you have one or one hundred rental units, keep a detailed file of all repairs done to the place, the names of all contractors and an account of all payments received.
6. Know when renewals are coming up and make sure that you are on top of them!
 
Bookmark the Landlord and Tenant Board’s website: www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb and have their phone number on speed dial!

Can you be a landlord in Toronto?

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Can you be a landlord? The simple answer is “yes,” the true answer is a lot more complicated. However, the path to profit can certainly be achieved if you play your cards right and make a sound rental investment.
 
Being a landlord is one of the surest ways to build equity for yourself and your future. After all, real estate will always appreciate over the long term – even if there are downturns within your time-frame, historically, over a ten year time period property values tend to double. However, being a landlord is not for the faint of heart or for those who want a passive investment.
 
The truth is that being a landlord is an active investment. Whether you have only one rental unit or ten units to oversee, you have to be prepared that when the phone rings, at the other end will be a tenant complaining of a problem that needs fixing. Some people realize quickly that being a landlord is more work than they anticipated and so cut-short their realty dreams. However, proper planning and a realistic view of what is entailed will help you succeed. If you know that you are not handy with a hammer, enlist the aid of someone who is. Get yourself a shortlist of affordable and reliable contractors whom you can call to help you on short notice. Or, you can always hire a property manager to oversee your property and to report any real issues to you. Hiring a property manager only really makes sense if you have enough rental units and profit to make the expense worth your while.
 
The next thing to remember is that the numbers have to work in your favor. If the rent you charge doesn’t cover your carrying costs, your maintenance costs and provide you with a small profit at the end, then the investment is not sound. Whatever rental you buy make sure that the rent will cover your mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and leave you with a little bit to save at the end of the month. If you don’t have that savings margin then any unforeseen circumstances will result in a loss for you that month.
 
So, to recap this quick overview, yes, you can be a landlord! Just remember to following these very simple guildelines:
 
– Crunch the numbers! Make sure the rent you receive every month more than offsets the costs of running your rental property.
– Prepare mentally for an active investment.
– Make a shortlist of go-to contractors who can help with fixes/renovations as needed.
– Know the property laws in your province or state.
– Know your tax laws!

Keeping cool in Toronto during the dog-days of summer

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It’s summer in the city – and the heat waves have everyone moving at a slower pace and dreaming of cool, breezy drinks after work. If you aren’t so lucky as to have air conditioning in your Toronto home, there are still other ways of keeping cool during the peak of summer heat.
 
Draw the shades
Before leaving for work in the morning, be sure that all of the curtains, shades and blinds in your home are drawn tight against the sun. Although this may seem counterintuitive when we all long to see sunlight streaming through our windows, this beautiful light will also heat up your home very quickly. The best way to prevent this is to keep the sunshine out.
 
Keep cool air in and hot air out
The next smart move to keeping your home cool is help hot air escape by creating a cross breeze. To create such a breeze you first need to create a vacuum that will help push the hot air out. To do this you have to open the windows on the cool side of your home along with the windows directly opposite those on the other side of your home. If you don’t have windows perfectly across from each other, no worries – as long as you have a path for the air to flow through. Just remember that air flow doesn’t work with angles, so there needs to be a path for the breeze to be created. The most efficient current is created by opening windows on a lower level that let in the cool air and cross windows on an upper level to let the air out.
 
Fans
Fans are always very handy at helping to create a breeze or to increase air flow in a hot, sticky room. Whether hung from a ceiling, standing on a pedestal or one of those new-fangled bladeless options, fans are terrific at moving air on days when nothing seems to move. However, be sure to turn them off when heading to work, because while they do move air around, they also tend to heat the air up as well. So, keeping them off during the day is the best way to keep a room cool for your return.
 
Clothing
Most of us assume that in the heat we have to shed our protective layers – this is actually the opposite of what we should be doing. Instead of protection from the cold, in the summer we need long sleeves and pants in order to protective our skin from the sun’s heat. The clothing should be made of natural fibres, light and light-coloured to maximize their cooling effect – it is the reason why people is hot countries tend to cover up.
 
Ice
Placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan will help to cool the air naturally. As the ice melts, the cool vapor will be picked up by the fan and blown into the air. Holding ice in a cup is also a very effective way of cooling down. Holding the icy cup near your temples will lower your body temperature while breathing out into the cup will help melt the ice, which in turn will release cool mist into the air.

What to do about Squirrels, Raccoons and Skunks frequenting your Toronto home

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Life in the city has taken on a distinctly country-like feel lately with racoons, skunks and squirrels roaming neighbourhoods at night in search of food. While cute and furry, these critters can cause a lot of damage to property, set up unwanted residence in your home and get into fights with family pets; they are also carriers of very undesirable germs and disease including rabies and the ticks that carry Lyme disease. Keeping these particular animals away from your home is definitely crucial to the proper enjoyment of your outdoor space – especially in the evenings when they are waking up and coming out of their burrows and nests looking for food.
 
The best way to keep these furry pests at bay is through exclusion – fencing off your property so that they can’t come in. However, as this is quite drastic and not necessarily the way most people want to go, there are alternatives that will stop them from coming too close.
 
Deterrents
Sprinkling deterrents around your home can work wonders at keeping these critters at bay. Commonly used sprays include coyote and fox urine – items which can easily be purchased at big box home and garden stores as well as online.
 
Scare them!
Similar to scarecrows placing moving objects in your yard can be enough to scare animals away. If you have trees in your yard, attached long shimmery streamers or anything else that will blow in the wind and move. Items can include windmills, flags or material.
 
Motion sensors
As raccoons and skunks are nocturnal, they only come out at night to forage for food. Adding motion detectors to your lights will cause them to think twice before entering your yard again.
 
Water, water
If you happen to be watching and see the animals when they enter your yard – blast them with a jet of water from your hose. Usually this will deter them from returning.
 
If none of the above solutions work for you, try pest-proofing your place but adding mesh screening around the underneath of porches – making sure that it goes down at least 6 inches and you turn it outwards for about a foot before covering with dirt. In fact, cover any opening to your home with mesh and secure properly. Fill any burrows or nests you find with dirt and use bricks or other heavy objects to keep the lids on garbage cans securely.
 
You can also place live traps around the areas these animals frequent and then call your local borough to find out where you can release them once caught. Whatever you do, remember that animals in the wild are dangerous – regardless of how cute they are and that you should never think of tackling one by yourself.

Keeping bugs at bay

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Summer in the city means sun, fun, barbeques and relaxation. However, it can also mean pests! What can you do to naturally repel insects and bugs from invading your Toronto home? Read on for some fun tips on how to use every-day natural items found around your house to make your home a fortress against pest invasion.
 
Moth be-gone!
Can’t stand moths? Well moths can’t stand cedar – which is why the fragrant wood was traditionally used to build closets. In lieu of a full cedar closet, you can purchase cedar chips or hanging blocks that you can keep in your closets, pantries or anywhere else you want to keep moth-free!
 
Spider-free
After eating those oranges or juicing that lemon – don’t throw out the peels! Citrus peels are a fantastic spider repellant. Just rub surfaces where spiders tend to gather and you won’t have to worry about sleeping with your mouth open anymore. Bonus – citrus smells great and polishes furniture nicely.
 
Mosquito repellant
No one likes being bitten by mosquitoes while trying to enjoy the great outdoors – a simple solution? Eat lots of garlic! Mosquitoes aren’t big garlic fans… the only trouble is it might keep others away from you too!
 
Ant aversion
If you start seeing ants creeping into your home, it’s time to break out the white vinegar and spritz along doors and windows to keep them out.
 
Keeping bugs away from the home
Along with the above remedies – other very effective ways of keeping bugs at bay include sprinkling cinnamon around the place and planting fragrant herbs around your house.
 
There are plenty of other ways to keep pests from ruining your summer-time activities. A simple online search can yield a slew of great ideas that won’t break the bank yet will also be very useful in keeping your home bug-free.