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Your Forever Home – Renovating with Accessibility in Mind

POSTED ON March 2nd  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-03-02

I think it is safe to say most people want to be able to live in their own home for as long as possible, but as we age, our needs change. Building and renovating with this in mind early on will ensure that your family home can be your forever home. This will help to set aside the time and resources needed to incorporate the elements necessary for a safe and comfortable home for years to come. Renovate with accessibility in mind with these tips:

Where to Start

Include accessibility projects into your upcoming renovations. Your accessibility projects can be subtle and offer function without sacrificing style. Remember, you are looking for ways to make life easy and comfortable, focussing on mobility, cooking and eating, sleeping and bathing.

Doors and Entrances

Moving around the home should not be a challenge. This means all doorways should be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Ensure that entryways are smooth and clear with no steps or bumps.

Doorways should be at least 32-inches wide (36-inches is ideal).

Ensure entrances are accessible. Use landscaping to create a slope up to the front entryway, this will allow you to have a functional ramp that does not look out of place.

Flooring

If you decide to incorporate different types of flooring in your home, remember that the connection from one room to another should be seamless and durable. Carpets are fine, but connecting a carpeted room to a laminate room without reinforcing the entryway can leave your carpet frayed and hard to maneuver through.

Wheelchairs and walkers can be quite heavy – certain woods are more susceptible to damage. If you opt for wooden flooring, maple and bamboo are good options that will be able to resist the wear and tear caused by the force of a wheelchair.

Laminates are a good alternative that offer durability and resistance.

Any carpets in the home should be thin, with a height of 0.5 inches or less without an underpad. This offers less resistance and can accommodate accessibility devices.

Kitchen

An accessible kitchen needs plenty of room to move around. Open concept kitchens are the way to go as they make great accessible spaces.

Renovate with height in mind. Consider sink, counter, and cabinet heights. Accessible counter workspace needs to be at least 30-inches wide and countertops should be 28 – 34-inches off the floor.

Be mindful that countertops and sinks are not obstructed by base cabinets to allow for comfortable positioning.

Consider the layout carefully. The stove, fridge, and sink should be spaced out enough for room to move around.

If your kitchen is on the smaller side, a movable island is a good alternative.

Master Bedroom

If you are in a multi-level home, your master bedroom is probably on the upper level. This may be ideal for the time being, but as soon as mobility becomes an issue, getting to and from bed can be quite problematic. One idea is to ensure there is a multi-functional space on the main floor. What you use as an office now, could later be transformed into a bedroom if needs change.

Washrooms

There is no denying it – older homes have small washrooms. Unfortunately, due to these smaller sizes, they are not wheelchair and walker friendly. Determine if your washrooms are currently large enough to work with and, if they are not, some more major renovations may be necessary.

Save some valuable space by changing the swing of your door to open outward instead of into the washroom.

Install wall-mounted sinks to allow space for a wheelchair to fit.

Install grab bars near the tub and ensure the flooring is non-slip.

There are plenty of walk-in shower/bathtub options available for ultimate independence.

It is never too early to start working on our forever homes. If we are mindful of accessibility during the renovations that we already plan to do, we can save time, money and headaches in the future. If you are looking for your forever home, or simply need a change, call me at 416.921.1112 – I would be more than happy to help.

5 Ways to Take on a Minimalist Approach

POSTED ON February 28th  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-28

Do you ever look through your home and feel that you have too many belongings? In the United States, the average home has 300,000 items and there are more self-storage facilities than there are McDonald’s restaurants. This being said, if you feel like your home is too full – it probably is. Having too much clutter can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

To remedy this, here are 5 easy ways to take on a minimalist approach, and rid yourself of some of those belongings!

1. Consider the True Value of These Items. Think about value in regards to how meaningful an item is to you – not its going rate on eBay. It is not just about ridding yourself of your excess possessions, it is about giving importance to the things you value the most. Decide which are actually meaningful to you, and why. What brings you joy? What do you feel comfortable not having around anymore? Think about the reasons why you perceive something to be important to you. If there are things you can do without, do yourself a favour and let them go.

2. Have a Place for Everything. Just because you want to keep something, that does not mean it needs to be displayed. If you do not use it every day, find a convenient spot for it and keep it out of sight. Keep surfaces as clear and clutter-free as possible – the less stuff you see, the less stressed you will be. Having your items organized will also make it easier for you to realize when you have too much of something or when something needs to be replaced.

3. Reduce Quantities. Things have a way of accumulating. Every few months, take an inventory of your belongings and donate or throw out anything you do not need. You will never get rid of everything, but cut down on whatever you can.

For Example: You need towels, everyone does, but do you need 40 of them? Put all of your towels in a pile and pick 4-5 for every person in the household. Toss the raggedy ones and keep only the nicest ones – odds are these are the ones you have been using anyway.

4. Skip the Sales. Are you really saving money if you purchase something you do not need or will never use? It is easy to get enticed by sale stickers but these are usually the items that end up collecting dust. Be mindful of your needs while you shop and try to avoid impulse purchases. If you see something you like, give yourself one night to think about it – you may find you do not feel the same way about it the next day.

5. Do Not Just Organize, Purge. Organizing means moving things around – make sure you are able to get rid of belongings when you clean as well. Consider how often you go shopping and bring new items home – there is no wonder that our homes fill so quickly. We buy, buy, buy, but often forget to make room for the new by getting rid of the old. If you have not touched something in six months – there is a good chance you do not need it. Shop to replace things instead of shopping to add things. Make a note in your calendar to do a quarterly purge.

Tip: When you are changing over your closet from summer to winter, and vice versa, hang up all your clothing items with the hangers facing the same way. Every time you take an item down to wear, hang it back the opposite way. At the end of the season, donate or sell any of the items that are still facing the original way. If you did not wear it all season, you probably will not wear it next time around, either.

How do you keep your home clutter-free?

6 Ways to Live a Positive Life

POSTED ON February 23rd  - POSTED IN Featured News

2017-02-23

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We all aspire to live a positive life, with a great attitude and the confidence to overcome any obstacles – but is often easier said than done. Here are 6 great ways to bring more positivity into your life, and make changes for the better:

1. Choose Your Environment Wisely. Your outlook is greatly influenced by your surroundings – the people you associate with and the information you process on a daily basis. The type of things you watch on TV, the articles you read, the social media accounts you follow – these all impact you on a deeper level. Other people also have the ability to alter our mood. We may not even realize it, but we can feel drained after being around certain people, while feeling uplifted around others. Take care to ensure that the influences in your life are supportive and uplifting. Negative people have a way to bring others down with them.

2. Find the Optimism in a Negative Situation. Negativity can easily creep up on us, when we least expect it. When negative feelings start to form, reflect on them and find their source. Are they coming from a place of fear? Or regret? If you are in what seems like a negative situation, ask yourself questions like: What is positive/good about this situation? What is an opportunity within this situation? Problematic situations may arise but we are in control of how we handle them and what we take away from them.

3. Slow Down. Stress can build when we go about our days too quickly. When we eat, drive, work and talk in a hurry – we do not take the time to process situations and our responses in turn can be negative. Slow down, reflect, take a walk – calm your body and mind and mentally prepare yourself for your day.

4. Stay Grounded. When we feel overwhelmed, it is easy to lose perspective. A tiny bump on the road can feel like a full-out road block. Do not lose sight of what you are setting out to accomplish. If you feel like you are losing perspective, try to handle the situation with these three steps:

a. As soon as you sense a negative thought coming into your head, shout “STOP” in your mind.

b. After you have stopped your thoughts in their tracks, be still and take deep breaths, focusing on your breathing as you calm yourself down.

c. Reflect on why you lost perspective in the first place, talk to someone close to you and get a grounded view of the situation. Consider whether this ‘problem’ will matter to you in 4 years, or even 4 weeks? Once you gain some perspective, it will get easier for you to get back into a positive mind frame.

5. Recognize the Fears that Hold You Back. Times when we consider taking a chance in life, such as starting our own business, going on the trip of a lifetime or even asking someone out for a date can be a hotbed for negative thoughts. Usually, the negativity starts creeping in and there are vague fears that stop us from moving further. Think honestly: “What is the worst that could happen?” When you logically think about outcomes – worst-case scenarios are usually a lot less scary than the vague fears our minds come up with. Find the clarity you need to step outside your comfort zone and take a chance. Combat ‘vague’ fears with logic and problem-solving.

6. Be Good to Others. One of the easiest way to bring positivity into your day is to bring positivity to others. What you send out into the world is important. The way you think about and treat others will have a big effect on how you value and treat yourself. Help others: be a listening ear, offer a warm smile, give hugs and encourage people whenever you can. Positivity is contagious!

What do you do to stay positive?

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!