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4 Tips to Selling your Home in Winter

POSTED ON February 21st  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-21

You do not have to wait until spring to successfully sell your home. Winter can be the perfect time to show off your home’s beautiful features and play up the coziness and warmth of your space. Follow these four tips to get your home ready to sell now:

Make a Good First Impression

First impressions are crucial. A potential buyer will usually know in the first few minutes whether or not they like a home. Help yourself out by ensuring the driveway and walkway to your door is clear and safe. Make the entryway as welcoming as possible, with a place for people to hang their coats and a mat or shoe-rack for those who wish to take off their shoes. If you are selling a home that will be unoccupied, ensure that the heat is turned on several hours before a showing. Even if you have a beautiful home – if it feels like a freezer, people will not be impressed. Make everything warm and bright.

Maintain the Exterior

It might seem useless focusing on landscaping when everything is covered in ten inches of snow but work with what you can! Ensure that walkways are shoveled and salted, the driveway is nicely cleared and the front door is as attractive and welcoming as possible. If winter has taken its toll on your lawn and driveway and the snow has melted away – take care in clearing away any debris, trimming shrubs and hedges and installing a few solar powered lights to light up pathways. Tend to any minor repairs and wash paintwork and siding with warm water and soap. Wash the windows as well as winter light has a way of exposing the grime on dirty windows.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Make your home sparkle. It is always ideal for your home to be meticulously cleaned before being shown to potential buyers, but it is extra important in the winter. If people will be walking through your home with their shoes on, be prepared to mop, sweep and vacuum every day. Harsh winter light will also make any cobwebs, dust bunnies or streaks more visible.

Up the Ambiance

If you are doing a showing in the daytime, make good use of natural light – open the blinds and curtains and make the space as bright as possible. Place a few vases filled with winter blooms throughout your home. During the evening, create a welcoming mood by lighting a few candles, putting the fireplace on, placing a throw over the arm of the sofa and setting out elegant dishes for a “dinner”. Step things up a notch by turning your bathroom into a spa by hanging plush robes, set up a shampoo, conditioner and soap grouping on the counter and roll up towels tied with ribbon. Your home will feel extra cozy and romantic and be the perfect retreat from the dismal weather.

Combat winter’s harsh weather by making your home extra warm and inviting. Are you looking to sell your home this winter? Give me a call at 416.921.1112 for more tips on how to get your home ready.

Boomerang Kids and Your Retirement Plans: How to Deal

POSTED ON February 16th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-16

‘Boomerang’ kids, as they are being called, are adult children who have returned to live at home. The boomerang effect is in full swing, as a growing number of millennials count on their parents and grandparents for financial support and a place to live. This has had a major effect on Canadian boomers and their ability to plan for retirement.

In 2011, almost 60 per cent of adults aged 20 to 24 and 25 per cent of 25 to 29 yearolds were living with their parents. This trend has been steadily increasing since 1981. One in four Canadian boomers admits to supporting their adult children or grandchildren.

For those ready to retire in 10 to 15 years, ensuring their adult children have a good start can derail their retirement plans. About 60 per cent of baby boomers feel that supporting their children into adulthood is preventing them from saving enough for their retirement and they feel financially stressed by the situation. Millennials are also aware of the financial stress they put on mom and dad, 43 per cent of millennials say they are willing to cut costs before asking for their parents’ help.

Wanting to provide help for children and grandchildren is natural, but it is important to balance this desire to help with one’s own future retirement goals. Although we might not be able to change the fact that adult children will be counting on their parents and grandparents more than ever before, there are ways to deal with the situation:

Set Some House Rules

Discuss how your kids can contribute to the household. How will you be splitting expenses and household duties? If you are covering the basics like their room and board, what expenses can your kids take on themselves? Will they be paying their own phone bill, car payments and recreational activities? Decide together what would work best for your household. It is important that everyone works together.

Be Prepared

Retirement goals are still within reach. Speak with your financial planner and discuss your current situation. Do a goals-based assessment to determine what options are available to support your kids while keeping your retirement plans on track.

Discuss the Finances

Whether it is your daughter moving back in with her husband and grandbaby or your son who just graduated from college, it is important to discuss finances and ensure everyone is educated about fiscal responsibility. It may be a good idea to visit a financial advisor who has experience with multi-generational households, to help you out. It may be unclear how long the current living situation will last so it is important that everyone understands how to navigate their current circumstances and be prepared for self-sufficiency when the time comes.

Set Goals

Develop an action plan and set a few time lines. Identify a date when you will no longer be financially committed to each other. This date may change as time goes on but it is important to have a deadline established to develop detailed goals. As you approach this date, create mini-goals that will help you slowly free-up funds to divert towards saving for retirement. It is important not to ‘cut’ anyone off all at once – slowly allowing them to take on more financial responsibility can help to ease them into their independent and self-sufficient life.

Do you live in a multi-generational household? What approach do you take to ensure things run smoothly?

5 Ways to Save Money in 2017

POSTED ON February 14th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-14

Saving money is important to everyone, keep your financial resolutions this year with these 5 money-saving tips:

1. Make Saving Money Easy, With Automation. Many of us have a goal to put away a certain amount of money every month. Make it easy on yourself by setting up automatic withdrawals from your chequing account into whatever type of investment/savings account you use. Even a seemingly insubstantial amount like $50/bi-weekly will provide you with a savings of $6,500 after five years (and that is not even including interest!).

2. Pick the Right Credit Card(s). Not all credit cards are created equal. Do some online research and compare credit card rewards, interest rates, yearly fees and other perks. How often do you use your credit card? Do you make big-ticket purchases often? You may be able to get substantial rewards in the form of airline credits, gift cards and cash-back. Find a card that suits your needs. For example, if you do not use credit cards often, it might make sense to have a no-fee card with a slightly higher rate. Alternatively, if you use your card often and find that you take time paying it off – switching to a card with a lower interest-rate and a potential fee could make more financial sense.

3. Take a Closer Look at Your Monthly Bills. Look over your reoccurring costs. There are probably services and memberships that you pay for that you do not really use. Are you still paying membership fees for a gym you have not visited in months? Perhaps your landline phone has become obsolete? For the services that you do use, like your cell phone or cable and internet, look over your bills and see if you are paying for extras that you do not need. If you think you are paying too much, contact your service providers to re-negotiate prices and packages – your plan from five years ago could be obsolete compared to current offerings.

4. Avoid Impulse Purchases. We have all been in a situation where we see something in a store, or online, that we feel we absolutely need to have. Sometimes, we have emotional responses to items and the feelings seem to disappear as soon as we get home. To avoid buying things that you do not really need (or really like, for that matter), simply sleep on it. Give yourself 24 hours to mull over your buying decision and if you still feel like you want to make the purchase – go for it.

5. Adopt Frugal Habits. Save a few dollars wherever you can. Brown bag your lunch and make coffee at home. This could save you over $10 per day. Multiply this by five work days – that is $2600 per year. Much of our spending is on things we could easily do without. The key is to find the motivation to change habits and be mindful of spending on a daily basis.

What are your financial goals for 2017? How do you plan to save money this year?

Amazing Future Home Designs

POSTED ON February 9th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-09

Home designs of the future may be deemed elaborate and unrealistic by today’s standards, but the future has a way of throwing us for a loop. With some people moving towards minimalist needs, others vying for more living space, and homes getting technologically smarter and more complex, just wait until you see what the future has in store!

Architecture

1. Sky-High Buildings

With advancement in construction materials, buildings will stand taller than ever. Condos already reach towering heights, but they will continue to rise even higer and become more complex in the future. Buildings will function as mini cities, with amenities, and their own energy system to boot. The self-contained cities will host everything from schools and parks to office space and malls. Its inhabitants will never have to leave.

2. Mega-Basements

For those who do not want to build up, homes will be extended underground. For some, it is just not enough to have a single level basement. Subterranean structures, or mega-basements, will be equipped with everything from swimming pools to wine cellars to cinemas. These “iceberg basements” have already been making a splash with ultra-wealthy Londoners.

3. Tiny, Mobile Homes

More people will be living in micro-homes or pods, constructed for off-the-grid living. The move towards minimalism is already in swing, with people opting for tiny mobile homes with more space away from cramped urban dwellings. A stark contrast to mega-basements, tiny homes are highly affordable and take you wherever you want to go.

Interior Design

1. Smart Houses

If you thought technology was going to stop at smart phones, think again. Houses of the future will know us better than we know ourselves. Sensors and communication devices will live everywhere in our abodes, from the countertops to the couch. You will be able to interact and communicate with your surroundings, so that your house is already one step ahead of you and your needs.

2. Double Duty Furniture

In the future, you will have no excuse for skipping the gym as the equipment will be sitting right in your living room. No, you will not have an elliptical or treadmill disrupting the flow of your décor, your furniture will do double duty, transforming into your favorite fitness gear. With the ability to lift weights and cycle from the comfort of your living room, the future is looking fit.

3. Disaster-Resistant

The world has seen its fair share of homes shattered by disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, and forceful winds. It is likely that more and more homes of the future will be equipped with disaster-resistant features for when these tragedies hit. This may include safe rooms, fire-resistant materials, and steel and concrete designs.

4. The Outdoors are Coming In

You may have potted plants and flowers dotted throughout your home, but the future will see the greenery going one step further, with elaborate indoor gardens. The ability to grow and produce our own fresh food is becoming increasingly appealing, especially as we learn more about all the chemicals existent in our foods today.

What do you think of the future of home design? Are you excited for what’s to come?

8 Tips for the Savvy Traveler

POSTED ON February 7th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-07

Travel. There’s nothing like it. Even if you love your home and city, there is nothing quite like exploring a new place and its culture. Travel opens your eyes and mind to a new way of thinking, and presents you with life-long experiences you will never forget.

Here are 8 tips for the savvy traveler to keep in mind for your next getaway.

1. Fly Mid-Week

It is always cheaper to fly mid-week than on the weekends, as more people are flying at that time. Keep this in mind when you book your flights. If your schedule permits, you can save a lot. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are your best bets. Many weekend travelers extend their trips, so Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays are often busy too.

2. Pack Your Own Snacks

Airport and airplane food prices always have a high mark up. Pack your own trail mix, dried fruits and protein bars to ensure you are satisfied on your flight without paying an arm and a leg.

3. Get Upgraded Instantly

As soon as you arrive at your accommodation, whether it is a hotel, hostel or bed and breakfast, ask for an upgrade. If there is room, you might get lucky and score five-star accommodation for a three-star budget. Although it is not impossible, it is more difficult to get upgraded once you have settled into a room, so ask for the upgrade straight away.

4. Find Free WiFi

Not all accommodations are equipped with free WiFi. Instead of spending your travel funds on WiFi, find a coffee shop or library that allows you to connect for free. You will likely need to look up directions and recommendations on your trip, so finding a free place to connect is essential for a savvy traveler.

5. Travel Off Season

Different destinations have their own peak travel times. Do your research to find out when the high season is for where you are traveling to, and book in the off season. Prices will be lower and destinations less crowded. Do this with care though, as sometimes off season travel can be more difficult due to inclement weather or reduced transportation options.

6. Pack a Refillable Water Bottle

Travel requires a lot of exploring and walking around, so you will want a water bottle by your side. Instead of spending money buying expensive water bottles at tourist attractions, pack a refillable water bottle, fill it up at your accommodation and bring it with you day after day.

7. Dress for Ease

Dress prepared for security lineups to cut down on time in line. Do not wear lots of jewelry or accessories that will take time to remove at check points, and wear shoes that can easily slip on and off.

8. Summer Deals

If you are travelling in the summer, check to see if any college or university residences are open for accommodation. Staying at one of these residences can reduce costs and they are often located conveniently close to transportation hubs and city hot spots, making your trip a breeze.

Do you consider yourself a savvy traveler? Do you have any tips to add?

Market Watch Report: January 2017

POSTED ON February 6th  - POSTED IN Featured News, Market Watch

Strong Start to 2017

February 3, 2017 — Toronto Real Estate Board President Larry Cerqua announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 5,188 residential transactions through TREB’s MLS® System in January 2017. This result was up by 11.8 per cent compared to 4,640 sales reported in January 2016. Annual rates of sales growth were higher for condominium apartments than for low-rise home types.

January 2017 picked up where 2016 left off: sales were up on a year-over-year basis while the number of new listings was down by double-digit annual rates for most major home types.

“Home ownership continues to be a great investment and remains very important to the majority of GTA households. As we move through 2017, we expect the demand for ownership housing to remain strong, including demand from first-time buyers who, according to a recent Ipsos survey, could account for more than half of transactions this year. However, many of these would-be buyers will have problems finding a home that meets their needs in a market with very little inventory,” said Cerqua.

The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) Composite Benchmark price was up by 21.8 per cent on a year-over-year basis in January. Similarly, over the same period, the average selling price was up by 22.3 per cent to $770,745, with double-digit gains in the average prices for all major home types.

“The number of active listings on TREB’s MLS® System at the end of January was essentially half of what was reported as available at the same time last year. That statistic, on its own, tells us that there is a serious supply problem in the GTA – a problem that will continue to play itself out in 2017. The result will be very strong price growth for all home types again this year,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

Full Market Watch Report: January 2017

5 Things to do Every Day to Keep the Doctor Away

POSTED ON February 2nd  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-02

1. Do Something Active Every Day.

Regular activity helps to regulate weight, prevent illness, sleep better and reduce stress.

For many, it can be hard to find the time to exercise. Remember that you do not necessarily need to join a gym or go to a class to get the activity you need. Find something you enjoy that helps you maintain strength, balance and flexibility. Make conscious choices to increase activity each day. You may decide to do a workout video at home, walk a neighbour’s dog or walk to the post office instead of drive. Even small changes to your regular routine can help: parking in a far-away parking spot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or sitting on a fitness ball while you read are all good examples.

2. Be Conscious About What You Eat.

As we age, nutrition becomes very important in controlling weight and preventing illness. Heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis are all illnesses that can be prevented or controlled with dietary changes and exercise. Meeting our nutritional needs and maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for overall health. Get into the habit of buying healthy foods, discovering new recipes and paying attention to the types of foods you eat.

3. Find Ways to Manage Stress.

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on mental and physical health and cause a variety of symptoms. Stress is a regular part of life but if it is not managed well, it can become a major problem. There are plenty of ways to de-stress including relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga. Spending time with friends and making time for fun activities are also great ways to keep stress to a minimum.

4. Get Regular Check-Ups.

Stay up to date with immunizations and health screenings and visit your doctor and dentist regularly to ensure you are doing well. Regular check-ups are crucial as eyesight, tooth integrity and hearing tend to change as we age. Check-ups are vital to catch any problems early on.

5. Up Your Protein and Vitamin Intake.

Extensive research reveals that seniors are at a particularly high risk for low protein intake. Protein is crucial for maintaining muscle mass. Lean proteins can be found in meats, fish, and plant-based sources. Many seniors also have a vitamin D deficiency. Make a conscious effort to head outdoors or stay by a window whenever you can to increase vitamin D levels. Check with your healthcare specialist and ask if you should be taking any vitamins or supplements to improve your health.

Establishing healthy habits is important, but it can take time. Be patient with yourself and ask your loved ones for help and support when you need it. Taking even just one step to improving your health is better than taking none!

Toronto’s Rental Market as Competitive as Ever

POSTED ON January 31st  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-01-31

Toronto’s hot housing market is also affecting leases. With condo lease prices reaching new records and a shortage of available listings, the rental market is as competitive as ever:

2016 Was a big year for rentals in the GTA:

Last year’s fourth quarter saw lease costs rise 11.7%, compared to the same time in 2015. The ‘typical’ condo is 718-sq. ft. and averages $1,990 per month in the GTA.

In Toronto’s city core, condos are renting for an average of $2,134. The inner suburbs of Etobicoke are seeing prices at $1,857, while in the ‘905’ region around the city, average prices are $1,739.

The rental market is dramatically accelerating and tenants are feeling the effects. The average resale home price jumped 17.3 per cent in the GTA in 2016, and condo prices surged 15 per cent.

For the first time in several years, the market is tighter for condo apartments than it is for single-detached homes. There is a shortage of available suites for lease for a few main reasons:

The disparity between the cost of owning and renting has discouraged some tenants from becoming homeowners and those who are currently renting are likely to stay put to avoid paying higher rents elsewhere.

The price of condo apartments is increasing, and this is encouraging many condo owners to sell their units rather than rent. Condominiums are being snatched up by first-time home buyers who are currently priced out of the single-detached market.

When condominium leases are listed, they are going fast. The typical condo spends about 13 days listed on the rental market before finding a tenant. This is a whole week less from the previous year.

Other factors that are affecting the GTA rental market:

The international-student population has doubled in the past six years.

A rising number of Albertans moving to Ontario for work in 2016

An increase of new permanent residents moving into the region

What does the future hold?

Some analysts expect that many of the conditions that fueled the GTA’s hot housing market will subside in 2017, putting less pressure on rentals. Developers are taking note and many are planning to build rentals rather than condominiums – applications for the building of rental apartments have tripled from the same time last year. Major condo development will also ease tight market conditions, with many big projects expected to be completed in the next few years.

Are you interested in buying or selling, or do you simply learning more about the current market? Feel free to call me at 416.921.1112 and have all your questions answered.

Amazing New Technology for Your Home this Year

POSTED ON January 26th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-01-26

Last year was a big for new types of technology for your home. Here are 7 amazing home innovations that truly make us believe that the future is here:

1. Appliances You Can Control Remotely

The newest home appliances are more technologically advanced than ever before. Appliances boast smart features that allow you to remotely control them via an app on your phone. New versions of slow cookers, coffee machines, and tea kettles are equipped to work with your home’s WiFi. You can schedule brew times, or have your kettle ready for you when you wake up. There are even smart ovens that allow you to control cook times and temperature via your phone with an app that lets you know how many calories you are consuming and how much your food weighs.

2. High-Tech Refrigerators

New refrigerators have touchscreen controls on their doors and built-in cameras. These smart fridges take photos of the inside of your fridge every time you close the door. With your phone, you have access to up to date photos while you grocery shop so you never forget what to buy. The new refrigerators not only have built-in cameras, but you can also scan the bar code of every item that goes into the fridge and receive a text when they are about to reach their “best before” date.

3. Ultra High-Definition Televisions

If you thought your television was already high definition, the new 4K TVs have four times the pixels. These TVs are becoming more affordable and more content providers are making their shows and movies available in 4K. If you are in the market for a new television, 4K could be the way to go!

4. Smart Plugs Allow You to Turn Things On and Off

Smart plugs, like iDevices, allow you to turn your plugged-in devices on and off. Using an app on your phone, you can control each smart plug individually. Say you are in bed and forgot to turn off the TV downstairs, or you left your house and realized you left your bedroom lamps on – you would be able to use your phone to turn the switches. These are also a great solution if you are away for a few days and want it to appear as though somebody is home. You can turn a couple of lamps on every few hours.

5. Voice-Activation Platforms

Apple HomeKit, Works with Nest and Google Home are just a few voice-activation platforms that allow you to control various devices in your home. Google Home, for example, allows you to use your voice to play music from multiple platforms, pick a show on Netflix to play on a particular TV, access your calendar, respond to questions about the weather or about anything else you would normally search on Google. These act as a central hub and allow you to control several connected devices and services.

6. Smart Laundry

LG has come out with a new LG Twin Wash System that lets you outfit a new or compatible LG washing machine with a mini washer just under the full-sized one. This is perfect for when you need to wash something separately or simply have a small load to do. If you are someone who puts the wash in and then forgets about their laundry, Samsung’s Smart Care line of washers and dryers allows you to monitor your laundry’s progress from anywhere. You can receive smartphone notifications when your laundry is finished and never forget another load again.

Do you have any of these devices in your home already? What new technologies are you looking forward to seeing?

More than just Finances: Five Retirement Tips for 2017

POSTED ON January 24th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-01-24

If you are retiring this year, or are simply beginning to think about retirement – you may find that there is a lot more than just your finances to consider. A successful retirement is made up of several components, many of which are often overlooked. Here are 5 tips to ensure you are prepared for all aspects of your retirement this year:

1. Maintain financial comfort. It may feel like you need to have x amount of money, but in reality, financial comfort simply means being able to manage your life in a fulfilling way while using the financial resources you have. Have a clear understanding of what your financial resources will be and the demands on your money that will come from your desired lifestyle. If your resources and lifestyle are not aligned, measures should be taken to ensure you can live comfortably when it is time to retire.

2. Be mentally prepared. For many, finding a new routine can be tough after decades of working a 9-to-5 job. It is not only our finances that are affected when we stop working. According to one survey, a high number of new retirees worry about missing out on the social interaction they get with colleagues at work. New retirees are also concerned about adjusting to new routines and finding new ways to give meaning and purpose to their days. It is important to mentally prepare for all the changes that will come with retirement and develop a plan to ease into the lifestyle changes as smoothly as possible.

3. Focus on more than leisure. Take a good look at all aspects of retirement. What do you hope to accomplish in your retirement years? Many retirees are excited at the prospect of leisure time but leisure tends to lose its lustre when it changes from a diversion to the norm. Remedy this by engaging in various activities, planning trips, and getting involved in the community. A lack of stimulation can affect mental and emotional health and ultimately affect physical well being.

4. Plan to use your skills. Your workplace has given you an outlet to contribute your skills, experiences, and knowledge to society in some way. If you are like most people, this desire to contribute and work will not go away as soon as you retire. Many retirees will look for volunteer opportunities that allow them to experience the parts of their career they enjoyed the most. For example, if your favourite part of your job was training new hires, a part-time or occasional teaching or mentoring position might be just what you need. Plus, research shows that the happiest people are those that help others.

5. Have a discovery phase. What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? Give yourself the time to try new things and do not commit before you know it is right for you. If you hope to live abroad, test the waters by vacationing in your desired location for a few months first to see if it suits you. If you want to live in a retirement community, ask to try a short-term rental before signing any contracts. Even if for years you pictured your retirement a certain way, you may find that you actually want something completely different, and that is okay.

If part of your retirement plan includes moving out of your home, or investing in a property, feel free to give me a call at 416. 921. 1112, and I would be more than happy to help.