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Successful container gardening: the right pot

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As a Toronto homeowner, if you really want the fun and flavor of growing your own vegetables but are limited on space, then container gardening is the way to go. Containers are easy and versatile. The best part? When it is time to close up the garden, all you need to do is empty out the soil, clean the container and put it away. 

To maximize the output of your container garden, it is necessary to have the right pot for the right plants. Containers come in different materials, sizes and shapes. Choosing the right sort for your project will determine the degree of its success. 

Ceramic pots

Ceramic pots are porous so they allow excellent movement of air around the roots of the plant. More air movement means healthier, hardier roots and more robust vegetable yields. However, ceramic pots also wick moisture out of the soil, so you have to water more frequently or only use them with plants that can handle drier soil. If you tend to be lax when it comes to watering, then it’s best to choose a different kind of pot. Ceramic pots are also rather heavy and when soil, water and a plant are added, become heavier still, making them harder to move around. 

Plastic pots

Plastic pots are usually inexpensive, light-weight and last a long time – unless kept outside in the elements. Plastic pots exposed to extreme cold and extreme heat will crack quicker over time.  Plastic pots tend to keep moisture in so people who have trouble with a watering schedule will do well with these pots – as will their plants that love moisture! Plastic is also easy to maintain and comes in many different colours to suit your design needs. The best part? Even large pots are not heavy making them easier to move when filled. 

Fabric pots

Some of the newest pots on the market marry the best features of the ceramic and plastic pots. Fabric planters are lightweight, easy-to-maintain and allow for terrific aeration of plant roots, which lead to healthier plants and better produce. Fabric pots also tend to last longer than plastic pots that are left outside – although fabric pots will lose their shape in time. Fabric pots have been growing in popularity in recent years due to their versatility, low cost and plant-friendliness. 

Once you have the right container for your Toronto garden, it is time to fill it with just the right mix of earth, mulch and plant food to give your plants the optimum boost needed to be healthy and to produce delicious veggies throughout the growing season.

Getting your garden ready

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Despite the recent late-winter storm, Toronto gardeners should be getting ready to don their galoshes and gloves to head out into their gardens to begin the yearly planting prep. Whether you prefer flowers to vegetables, getting your beds ready for planting is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked if you want a successful season. Below is a list of things to do to get the most out of your garden.

Clean up

As simple as this sounds, the first step to any good gardening experience is to clean up the debris left behind from the previous year so you can properly take stock of what needs to be done. This step includes pruning your hedges and bushes into the proper shapes, cutting back low hanging branches on trees and raking up leaves, pine cones, dried grasses, etc… 

Assessment

Next up is assessing your garden and what needs to be done. Are the perennials growing in the right place? Do some need to be transplanted elsewhere? Are some overgrown and need to be removed? Do you need to start another bed? Do you want to raise your vegetable bed? These are all questions that need to be answered before you can proceed with any plans. Taking careful stock of what you have in your garden and whether it is still working will help you to better plan what you plant and where you plant it. 

Soil prep

Over winter soil gets compacted. Before planting, turn the soil in your garden to loosen it. Now is also a good time to add whatever compounds your soil might be missing – whether it is fertilizer, calcium, mulch or just more earth. Preparing your soil will guarantee a successful and growing season. 

Check and clean your tools

Every good gardener will take care to clean and care for their tools properly. Dirty tools can spread any bacteria or fungus from the prior year to this year’s garden. Furthermore, any contaminant it might have picked up over the winter could still be attached to it, so giving them a good cleaning is the right way to start off any new season. 

Plan your plants!

Yes, you might already have plants growing in your garden, but unless you actively plan your garden every year, your perennials will take over. Unplanned gardens can definitely look great – as long as all of the plants are growing in the right place. If you have smaller plants at the back and taller plants in the front, the effect that could have been created will be lost. Instead, make sure that your plant sizes are appropriate next to each other and that smaller varietals are near the front of your beds. If you are unsure of how to go about planning your garden, there are several interesting websites that can guide you through this process. 

Planting

To plant successfully you must wait until the weather will no longer dip below freezing. Seedlings are delicate and need consistently mild weather to thrive. Don’t make the mistake of planting too early. Usually the rule-of-thumb for Toronto gardeners is to plant on Victoria Day weekend. The long weekend usually signals the start of the growing season – anything earlier and you run the risk of a late season frost that could harm your plants.

Tile trends

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There is no shortage of ideas and styles when it comes to flooring. Today’s tile market holds a wide variety of shapes, colours, sizes and textures to suit any design vision. Toronto’s most luxuriously appointed homes have seen tile sizes increase steadily over the years. Gone are the days of the tiny tile – today’s most expensive residence are now opting for oversized tiles ranging in size from 24”x24” and going all the way up to 48”x48” – with many variation in between. 

Designs

Despite tile options getting larger, the variety of tile shapes and sizes is truly impressive – and the designers are using tiles in new, innovative ways. Instead of the traditional placement of subway tile, today’s trend sees these ubiquitous tiles being stacked instead. Designers are also opting for surprising uses of tile – from colour blocking certain areas with bold choices to using tiles on counters, sinks and more. 

Oversized tiles

Oversized tiles are especially in right now as they create a luxurious, nearly seamless look in whatever space they are placed. Even small bathrooms benefit from oversized tiles as fewer joints means walls and floors looking like one, continuous area. Larger tiles are also a terrific wallpaper replacement as they create the same kind of aesthetic but requirement little maintenance. 

Tile colours

The most popular tile colours remain in the shades of grey, although it is opening up and greens and blues are also quite trendy. However, one of the hottest tiles are currently those that resemble hardwood floors. These superb tiles have the look and texture of hand-scraped hardwood but have the durability and low-maintenance of tile. They are great for high humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms and can be matched with any actual hardwood found in the rest of the home. 

Tile shape

Tiles are no longer just square or rectangle. Geometric shapes are being used in greater frequency and with very good effect. They can add visual interest in an otherwise dull area, give a room a focal point or even impart a homeowner’s unique personality into a setting. Geometric shaped tiles can be a fun way to spice up any area of your home. 

Tiles can be used for more than just flooring. Walls, ceiling, counters, tables and more can benefit from being given the tile treatment.

Variable vs Fixed Rate Mortgages

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The Bank of Canada recently hiked the key interest rate to .50% for the first time in four years. Naturally, Toronto homeowners will probably be wondering whether it is time to lock-on their variable rate mortgages. Let us take a look at whether a variable rate mortgage is still the better option given the current socio-economic climate. 

Stress test

One of the key factors on whether you should choose a variable rate mortgage over a fixed rate mortgage in 2022 is just how well you can handle fluctuation in the market. Variable rates have statistically been shown to be more advantageous in the long run for homeowners. Even during years of high rates, over the course of a mortgage, the variable rate homeowner comes out ahead. However, that homeowner must be able to stomach the changing payments that come with a variable rate. 

Making a variable rate easier

One way to determine the feasibility of a variable vs fixed rate mortgage is to find out whether you can pay the fixed rate if you need to lock it in. For instance, if your monthly mortgage payment on a variable rate is $1,100/month and the fixed rate mortgage payment would be $1,300/month, if you are able to afford that extra $200 payment, then a variable rate would work for you. To make it even simpler – you could even increase your monthly payment by $200, with the extra money going towards the principal. By doing this, you would already be paying what a fixed rate mortgage would be and you would be putting down extra money towards your mortgage. 

An argument for a fixed rate

If you are not comfortable with a varying payment amount every month and you plan to stay in your home long term, then a fixed rate mortgage is probably the best route for you. Although you will be paying a higher rate of interest and less of your money will be put towards your principal every month, your payment will remain consistent for the life of your mortgage term. You won’t have to worry about changing payments and locking in your rate when interests rates rise. 

Breaking your mortgage

To break a fixed rate mortgage, you will usually be required to pay either three months of interest or the interest rate differential (whichever is higher). To break a variable rate mortgage the penalty is usually three months interest on the balance of your mortgage. 

If your mortgage is up for renewal this year, then it might be the right time to start looking for a new mortgage. Interesting rates have started to rise, with more raises being forecast. Therefore, if you are able to lock in to switch your mortgage to a new one now, you will certainly have a better rate then if you wait until summer or fall.

Downsizing is also rightsizing

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The word downsizing can cause some people to struggle with the notion. However, change the word to rightsizing and it makes a lot more sense. While the concept is the same – moving into a home with a smaller footprint, the thought and reasoning behind the move will help those who are wrestling with the decision to see the benefits of making a move. 

Timing

One of the key strategies of rightsizing is timing it properly. There is no point in moving into a smaller space if you still enjoy hosting big parties, keeping a garden or maintaining your home. The best time to move to a smaller place is when everything that goes along with a home no longer appeals to you. If you are getting tired of shoveling snow in the winter, cutting grass in the summer, cleaning out gutters or, if you simply want the freedom to get up and leave without worry, then you might be ready for a smaller space. 

Be realistic

If you have lived in a house with a large square footage, be realistic about how much space you can comfortably move into without feeling claustrophobic. Charles and Maria lived in a 4000 square foot house and decided to right size after their son left home and their daughter entered college. They initially bought a 1100 square foot condo. After a year of living there and having to work from home due to Covid, they realized that it just wasn’t big enough for their needs. They moved this summer to an 1800 square foot condo with enough space for both of them to work from home comfortably. “We can now breathe and aren’t always in each other’s hair!” says Maria, who also confessed to believing that they had made a huge mistake after moving into the first condo. However, with enough space, Maria now sees the advantage of condo life and wouldn’t go back to a home with all of its maintenance. 

Proper furniture

Another way to guarantee comfort when you rightsize is to properly assess your existing furniture. Is it too big? Too much? Not the right style? Simply taking the furniture from a home and moving it into a condo might seem like a good, economical way of doing things, but it can backfire. In most cases, the furniture we have in our homes will be too big for a smaller condo. Measure everything and use masking tape to approximate what it will look/feel like in the condo. You will then have a decent idea of whether the items you already have can be taken with you. If it is too big, then you can always sell it and buy furniture that will be more suitable to your new space. 

Location

If you are thinking of rightsizing, be sure to choose your location properly. To make up for the lack of space indoors, many people opt for either a complex with facilities such as party rooms, gyms or swimming pools or a location close to amenities such as parks, nature trails or even downtown where there is usually plenty to do and places to go. 

Rightsizing is a personal decision that can make sense if you are ready for it and if you are looking for a simpler, less encumbered lifestyle.  

 

  

 

     

Winter safety tips for homeowners

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Toronto homeowners have hunkered down to plow through the dog days of winter. Keeping your home safe is naturally upper most in people’s minds. Not only is it important to winterize your home, but it is also important to protect air quality and to be prepared for any possibility – including the loss of power. Here are a few ways to make sure you make it through winter easily and comfortably. 

Winter tools

Having the right tools can help you get through the winter quite well. Here is a list of the most commonly needed to battle Canadian winters:

  • A good shovel
  • A telescoping roof rake/shovel
  • A heavy duty broom
  • Some kind of ice melt – salt, sand or gravel

Energy Backup

Having a good sized backup generator that you can rely on should the power fail is very important. It could mean the difference between freezing in your home and being comfortable while waiting for the power to come back on. There are two types of generator – portable and standby. Both options are very convenient, but cost and features will determine the best fit for you. 

Prep

One of the best ways to keep your home safe in the winter is to prepare for the cold months in advance. If you know that your water pipes are exposed to outer walls and tend to freeze, then covering them with insulation is a very good idea. Cleaning out your gutters and storm drains is another important step to take – clean gutters and drains will ensure no water remains to freeze and cause damage to your home. Another good thing to do is to seal your windows and doors to prevent air leaks from happening. 

Personal safety

Lastly, getting a good pair of crampons for your boots is a wise idea. Not only will they give you confidence if you have to go out after an ice or snow storm, but they will provide security while shoveling your driveway/walkway or if you have to do any kind of maintenance around your home. 

Keeping your home safe in the winter is not hard. So, long as you follow the few steps outlined above, your home will be a safe and secure place all year-round.

Rising interest rates 

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

The effects of rising interest rates

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

Variable rate mortgages

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

Preparing for a rate hike

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

 

2022 Toronto Housing Trends

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

Tight supply, price stability

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

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

Condo life

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

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

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

A cozy holiday season

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

Accessories and texture

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

Plants

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

Lighting

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

The right scent

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

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

The right solutions for your small bathroom

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

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

Let’s look at some interesting trends.

Traditional shelving

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

Recessed shelving

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

Floating sinks

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

Wet bathrooms

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

The right colour

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

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