Anil Bharwani  

Personal Real Estate Corporation

Re/Max LifeStyles Realty

Direct (604) 476-1111

Office (604) 466-2838

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Wed Jul 30, 2014 12:42pm PST

 

Commercial real estate developers and investors rushing to secure low-cost financing amidst fears of higher interest rates are finding a warm welcome this summer from a lot more lenders.

 

 

New commercial mortgages in Canada reached $33 billion in 2013, well above the pre-crisis levels of 2008, reports Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Debt Capital Markets, and the trend is apparently ascending.

“We track more than 100 sources of debt capital available to Canadians, and there are strong indications that lending is on an upswing”, said Amar Nijjar, vice president and practice lead for JLL Canada’s Debt Capital Markets team. “Nearly all of the lenders are expressing an interest to lend at the same or higher levels from than last year. There is also an emergence of non-traditional sources that provide creative financing solutions, filling a void that previously existed in the marketplace.”

Canadian Mortgage Backed Securities are on also the rise – lenders originated approximately $1.5 billion in 2013 compared to $500 million in 2012. “The market anticipates that these lenders will surpass $2 billion in 2014,” Nijjar said.

Canadian interest rates are anticipated to increase in the near future as inflation continues to edge up and unemployment levels decrease, according to JLL. Lower unemployment translates to increased consumer spending and the ability for landlords to raise rents, Nijjar notes.

JLL warn that the multi-family sector, which benefits from low-cost Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.-insured mortgages, is facing federal government scrutiny. “We expect further regulatory changes restricting available capital in this sector,” JLL states in its report on commercial financing.

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Tue Jul 29, 2014 12:01am PST

 

The rise in June of home sales and prices for the third straight month shows that the grill isn't the only thing to heat up in B.C. this summer.

  

Provincial Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales rose nearly 3% from May and 17% from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted 7,220 units, the strongest pace since February 2011. Recent strengthening of housing demand has likely reflected mortgage rate cuts earlier in the year and stronger employment growth in Metro Vancouver, which continues to convert more prospective buyers into homeowners.

  

While provincial sales growth was healthy in June, the top-line numbers mask some variation among markets.

  

Unlike May, which recorded higher sales in all regional real estate board areas, June had sales growth that was concentrated in Greater Vancouver, Vancouver Island (excluding Victoria), northern B.C. and the south Okanagan.

  

The average MLS price climbed 0.8% from May to $558,530, a 5% gain from the same month in 2013.

  

Where available, we prefer to use the constant-quality Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) home price index (HPI). Year-over-year HPI growth was 3.5% in the Lower Mainland, 1% in Victoria and 2% in the rest of the island, which points to a mild price-growth environment.

  

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Produced by Hanley Wood Strategic Marketing Services, sponsored by Electrolux

2014 Kitchen Design Trends

When it comes to kitchens, homeowners are looking for clean lines, simplicity, comfort, ease of use, and energy-saving appliances, according to designers, and the trends reflect those preferences.

"It's all about the sleek modern line," says Maria Stapperfenne, 2014 president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). While transitional style is still hanging on to the top spot on NKBA's annual survey of kitchen and bath trends, Stapperfenne says contemporary style is really nipping at its heels.

"There's a slowdown in the the Tuscan and Provincial look; I'm not seeing as many people drawn to that, says Stapperfenne, who is also manager of Tewksbury Kitchens & Baths in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

"Now those people who raised their families with the old world kitchen are looking at downsizing and simplifying their lives, and these new transitional and contemporary designs are a perfect fit. These contemporary styles can also be very fun with mixing colors—glossy color, not matte—and woods.

"Kitchens by definition need to be clean," says Chicago kitchen designer Mick DeGiulio, and the move toward more simplified spaces reflects that.

Designers are also seeing more mixing of materials, and the juxtaposition of different styles in the kitchen.

San Francisco kitchen and bath designer Joanne Cannell will mix different base and wall cabinets in a kitchen and bath, and says she will often suggest something like a hutch in a baking area for storage, and as a counterpoint to the more modern cabinetry and sleek appliances.

Not only is wood the No. 1 floor choice, according to the NKBA trend survey, but designers are using wood on countertops, sometimes alone, often mixed with solid surface materials.

"This year, I see a much bigger use of black walnut," says Stapperfenne, who has seen neutrally painted cabinets with dramatic black walnut interiors. Mixing materials can create visual interest as well as dynamic tension, the latter being especially effective in an otherwise cool, contemporary space.

Wood also brings warmth, and a suggestion of cosiness to any space where it's used, says DeGiulio. "I hear, 'I want to hang out in my kitchen,' so we are looking to see how we can translate that comfort and sense of ease to a kitchen." Using wood in an artful manner is one way designers can do that, he says. Using brushed finishes on tiled surfaces is another means of bringing in warmth.

Open kitchens remain a big trend, and DeGiulio finds that a lot of design is being driven by the kitchen, as those finishes flow into the rest of the house.

Taking a cue from commercial kitchens, designers are creating various stations for work in the kitchens they design. Depending on how a homeowner uses the kitchen, says Cannell, a designer might want to add a prep sink to the bar, or a second refrigerator near the door to the garage.

Large kitchens often pose space planning challenges. "You need to make the big kitchen work like a small kitchen," says DeGiulio. While he still uses the classic work triangle, there can be more than one.

Image 1

Mixing wood with other materials in a modern kitchen can bring a sense of warmth and cosiness to the space.

In a really large kitchen, he might create what he calls la mattina, the morning kitchen, a work station with a toaster oven, small refrigerator and coffee maker, where homeowners or their children could prepare a quick breakfast.

DeGiulio, like most designers, includes a docking/charging station—typically in the island—of the kitchens he designs. Noting the trend, at least one manufacturer of solid surface countertops has embedded wireless charging capacity in the slab, says Cannell, allowing homeowners to charge their devices simply by laying them on the countertop's surface.

While white retains its No. 1 spot as the most popular paint color for kitchens, gray is coming on strong, while the popularity of bone and beige is receding. What's interesting about gray, notes Stapperfenne, is that it is the whole range of grays, including the taupey-grays (aka mouse colored) that are having a moment in the sun, not simply a light gray.

The NKBA survey noted the following features in demand: LED lighting; induction cooktops, steam ovens, French door refrigerators, bottom freezer refrigerators, and no-touch faucets/touch-activated faucets.

Low-heat LED lighting lets designers tuck recessed lights in just about every nook and cranny of the the kitchen, allowing multiple indirect sources of light, and highlighting the sculptural aspects of the kitchen, says DeGiulio. "We can create wonderful effects."

Sleek, perfectly flat, energy-efficient induction cooktops don't heat up like gas or electric cooktops, and are a good safety option for households with young children or elderly occupants. They are also easy to clean, meeting consumers' desire for kitchen surfaces that can be cleansed with less effort, says Stapperfenne.

Steam ovens and steam/convection combo ovens are growing in popularity, driven by homeowners' quest for efficiency. The combo ovens offer homeowners decreased cooking time and healthy steam cooking without the need for heating up water on a stovetop, notes Cannell. Leftovers benefit too: "You can heat up a rare cut of meat in a steam oven, and it will still be rare," she says.—Kate Tyndall

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A new survey reveals that security is the No. 1 driver behind smart home adoption.

 

According to a new survey, most Americans would like a smart home that can automatically prepare for them to arrive home and provide peace of mind and comfort upon entering.
 

According to a new survey, most Americans would like a smart home that can automatically prepare for them to arrive home and provide peace of mind and comfort upon entering.

New research from home technology company IControl Networks demonstrates the importance of security to smart home adoption, with more than two-thirds of consumers ranking security—both for themselves and for their family—as the No. 1 reason for using a smart home system, and 100% of consumers responding that security is a must-have in a home automation system.

 

Ninety percent of respondents to the 2014 State of the Smart Home Report said security is one of the most important reasons for using a smart home system—with 67% ranking it as the No. 1 reason overall. In fact, not including at least some type of security capability in a home automation system was considered unacceptable by all respondents.

Survey results show that fire and carbon monoxide alarms are essential to personal and family security. Eighty-five percent of participants said fire detection was one of the most important features when it comes to protecting themselves and their families, with nearly 60% citing it as No. 1. Though only 11% ranked carbon monoxide alarms as the most important feature, the majority still recognized its importance—with 64% including it in their top three. More than half of consumers also listed gas leak alarms and valve shutoff as a top security feature.

Eighty-six percent ranked property loss protection as one of the top reasons for using a smart home system. After personal and family security, respondents more often mentioned property loss protection as an important feature of the smart home over any other feature, including indoor convenience, energy/resource management, and outdoor convenience.

Respondents realize that these features come with a price tag. A majority (51%) indicated they would pay up to $500 for a fully equipped smart home, with one-third (32%) noting a willingness to pay $500 to $3,000.

“For now, safety and security are driving initial mass market adoption. But, the convenience associated with a connected home will likely play a greater role as consumers realize how much easier automation makes their lives,” says Jim Johnson, executive vice president of IControl Networks.

The survey also looked into the features consumers find most important when it comes to how to manage energy. Eighty percent of respondents said heating and cooling management is one of the top features for reducing utility bills—with more than half citing it as No. 1 in terms of importance. Nearly two-thirds of respondents also said indoor lighting and ceiling fan control is a desired feature, followed next in importance by water management.

Click here to view the full report.

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Houzz Contributor. I cover topics ranging from decorating ideas, product...
 
They are classy and hard wearing and come in a range of shades — is it any wonder granite counters are still so popular? Whether you are planning a new kitchen or want a fresh look that works with your existing granite counters, here are eight ideas to get you started.
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Many Canadians may not be aware of it as an investment option, but holding a mortgage in your RRSP can be a way to generate consistency and stability during periods of fluctuating equity markets and low fixed income returns.

(Special) - "Most people just don't know about this option," says Dave Ablett, director of tax and retirement planning with Investors Group. "It is definitely a niche product for certain people."

In order to set up a mortgage you need to have a self-directed RRSP and a sizable amount of money for it, perhaps $100,000 or more.

The mortgage does not have to be at "arm's length" with a third party who is not related to you by blood, marriage or adoption. However, if it is not at arm's length then the following conditions must apply in order for it to be a "qualified investment" for the RRSP.

The mortgage must be administered by an approved lender under the National Housing Act, the mortgage interest rate and other terms must reflect normal commercial practice, and the mortgage must be insured by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. of a private mortgage insurer.

Essentially you set up a mortgage just like you would at a bank or financial institution, but instead of making payments to them, payments are made to you and you get to keep any interest. Because it is considered a fixed income investment, it can only charge the going interest rate at the time.

"You really need to have a fairly large mortgage to make it worthwhile," says Patricia Lovett Reid, TV host and CTV senior financial commentator. "The real issue is the fees associated with setting it up and administrating it."

To set up a mortgage there is a one-time fee of about $300, a one-time legal fee of about $500, an administration fee of between $100 to $200, a fee of $125 for a self-directed RRSP, and an appraisal fee. If the down payment on the property is less than 25 % of the value of the property, you will need mortgage insurance, which can run anywhere from one to two per cent of the mortgage a year -- $4,000 on a $200,000 mortgage.

"You've got to consider the expenses very carefully," Ablett says.

There are three situations where a person could put a mortgage on a home inside a self-directed RRSP - when the individual currently has a first mortgage on the home, the individual has a large RRSP and wants funds to purchase a new home, and the individual does not have a mortgage on a home but wants to remove cash from an RRSP on a tax-free basis for home renovations or for investment purposes without jeopardizing RRSP investment growth. The funds in the RRSP are exchanged for a mortgage of the same value and are paid out on a tax-free basis. The RRSP now holds the mortgage on the home and the RRSP owner is obligated to make the principal and interest payments to the RRSP.

There are advantages and disadvantages to a mortgage in an RRSP.

On the benefits side all mortgage interest goes to you. The going mortgage rates tend to be higher than Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) and many bond rates.

If you are refinancing your mortgage for investment purposes, the costs to set it up as well as the mortgage interest are expenses that can be deductible from the investment income. And interest payments don't count as RRSP contributions.

The disadvantages are the high fees, it requires large RRSP holdings, you could possibly earn more with other investments, and you may be giving up diversification in your portfolio.

"You want to be sure that you don't have all your RRSP in a mortgage, which is fixed income," says Lovett-Reid.

Mortgage RRSPs are a lot more popular when interest rates are high and during periods when equity markets are extremely volatile and when you don't get much return on traditional fixed income investments.

"We had a lot more inquiries about them 10 years ago when interest rates were a lot higher," says Ablett. "It's a niche product for people with sufficient RRSPs who are looking for predictable rates of return."

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Copyright 2013 Talbot Boggs

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  • Worker on the roof of a new nursing home facility in Charlottetown CBC

Worker on the roof of a new nursing home facility in Charlottetown CBC

Canada's national housing agency says it expects fewer homes to be built this year and next as the market absorbs a flood of new condominiums already underway.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation revised its forecast for housing starts lower for 2014 and 2015, saying it expects there to be between 160,600 and 203,600 construction starts next year. 

Those come on the heels of the between 172,300 and 189,900 it expects to be built this year. 

In 2013, 187,923 new Canadian homes were built. That was lower than the 214,000 starts the year before.

Growth slowing

"Builders are expected to continue to manage their starts activity in order to ensure that demand from buyers seeking new condominium units is first channelled toward unsold completed units or unsold units that are currently under construction," CMHC economist Mathieu Laberge said.

On the price side, the housing agency expects activity to slow down, but still remain in growth territory. Its point forecast for the average price for 2014 as a whole is up by 3.5 per cent to $396,000 before ticking up another 1.6 per cent next year to $402,200.

Data from the Canadian Real Estate Association released last week showed the average price of a Canadian home hit $409,708 last month, up 7.6 per cent in the last 12 months.

In terms of sales, CMHC also sees activity slowing down. The housing agency expects about 457,900 homes to be sold in Canada this year, up only marginally from 457,338 in 2013. In 2015, the sales forecast picks up a little to 471,100 units.

CMHC economist Laberge says he sees no catalysts that would result in a hard crash in the market as some have predicted because fundamentals, particularly population, employment and economic growth, low interest rates and the pool of first-time buyers all support the market.

"When we set house prices against those fundamentals, we do see some modest level of over-evaluation, but it's within historical norms."

CIBC housing analyst Benjamin Tal agrees with the CMHC view, saying a crash would require a "trigger," such as sharply rising mortgage rates, but there is no sign of that happening. The Bank of Canada under Stephen Poloz has taken a dovish stance on rates and many don't expect any hikes until the spring of 2016, and even then that the increases will be small. 

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  • Credit: Glen Jones

 

When the receptionist at Russell Roofing, in Oreland, Pa., contacts homeowners to confirm a sales appointment, she also lets them know that the company’s estimator will need access to the attic and asks that they please remove possible obstructions. Russell Roofing salespeople/estimators include an attic inspection with every sales call.

That inspection is standard operating procedure for some roofing companies, but by no means all. Callen Construction, in Muskego, Wis., has made attic inspections part of its estimating process for 28 years, co-owner Phil Callen says. But, he adds, few if any of his competitors will bother. Most roofers feel that an inspection of the roof surface—from the ground, on the roof, or via satellite services such as EagleView Technologies—provides enough information to prepare an estimate.

Stefan Boyer isn’t one of them. “We let homeowners know up front that we’re going to be looking in the attic,” says the vice president of Weather Guard Metal Roofing, in Birmingham, Ala. Since many of Weather Guard’s metal roofs are installed over one or two layers of existing asphalt shingles, the company has to know if there’s any rotten decking or framing before it installs underlayment. And the best way to do that, Boyer says, is by getting in the attic with a flashlight.

“We don’t know what the underside of that decking looks like,” says Fred Finn, president of Euro-Tech, a Chicago-area home improvement company that does a substantial number of re-roofs. “You could tear the roof off and find that $3,000 worth of plywood needs to be installed.” Not thrilling news to homeowners.

Ventilation Is Key to a Healthy Roof 
If homeowners are often unaware that attic ventilation has anything to do with their roof and how it functions, ice damming will soon disabuse them of their ignorance. “Adding ventilation and insulation is an easy sell, if you show [homeowners] what they’re paying for,” says Andy Lindus, of Lindus Construction, in Baldwin, Wis., across the river from the Twin Cities. “They understand it and you can put dollars to it if you know what you’re doing.”

Lindus Construction made attic inspections part of its standard estimating procedure four years ago, and a good part of estimator training involves learning to asses attic air flows.
Lindus says that he has already been on 50 roofs this year looking at leaks or potential problems because of ice damming situations brought on by a particularly severe winter. Ice damming, he explains, is the logical end result when an attic is improperly vented and lacks sufficient insulation. Nothing stops the heat of the house from rising right up through the roof which, once warmed, melts the snow that then refreezes at the roof line, resulting in stalagmite-size icicles, frozen downspouts, and—in a nightmarish perfect storm of leaks—rain that has no way to get off the roof entering the house through newly disturbed shingles.

Though Philadelphia has seen its share of temperature extremes and moisture this winter—and plenty of ice damming—Ron Hall, general manager of local company Russell Roofing finds that the best way to explain an attic inspection to homeowners is to tie it to manufacturer warranties. “To me, we have to make sure that the attic is ventilated to meet the warranty requirements of shingle manufacturers,” he says. “If shingles fail and the contractor didn’t address ventilation, manufacturers are off the hook,” Hall points out.

Russell Roofing personnel have gained expertise on the science of attic venting from the educational programs of manufacturers such as Air Vent. On every job, company estimators calculate the number of square inches of intake and exhaust to establish a balanced ratio for proper ventilation (see page 7 of the National Association of Home Inspectors’ “Attic Ventilation Calculations Made Easy,” for an explanation of the basic math involved in those calculations.) If the attic isn’t properly ventilated, then installing gable vents, soffit vents, ridge vents, etc., becomes part of the proposal.

Decking and Framing Condition
Other contractors point out that an attic inspection:

  • Allows estimators to gauge the condition of the framing—both for rot and spacing between framing members—to ensure that the roof is structurally sound and can support the weight of new shingle loads.
  • Reveals whether the home’s bathroom or dryer fans vent into the attic, periodically dumping quantities of moist air into the space, which, among other things, significantly reduces the R-value of existing insulation.
  • Ensures that those insulation levels are adequate and meet new code requirements for the region.

Finally, an attic inspection differentiates a roofing company from its competitors. “We’re usually the only ones on the bid who inspect the attic,” Lindus says. —Jim Cory is a contributing editor to REMODELING and the former editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR. He is based in Philadelphia.

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Courtesy: Roger Rygg, Piller to Post Home Inspections 604-462-7020

For Sale (Almost)
Homeowners make a lot of memories in their houses, and there's no doubt it's emotional for them to say goodbye to their well-loved kitchens and family rooms when they put their homes on the market. Unfortunately, potential buyers will not be charmed by that "lived-in look." As a realtor, you know that they will only see details that need TLC...ASAP.

Here are a few simple DIY projects that you can pass on to your clients. These little fixes will rejuvenate some common trouble areas and make homes more appealing to fussy buyers...something your clients definitely can get behind!

1) Busted tiles are not classy.
Oops. Did an anvil drop on that tile countertop? Tile holds up almost indefinitely to all kinds of wear-but sadly, as you may have seen in your years on the job, tile cracks if something heavy is dropped on it.

What your clients can do
It's relatively simple to replace broken tile: remove the grout, mask the surrounding tiles with tape, loosen the tile, chisel out the pieces, set the new tile, fill the perimeter with new grout and allow the grout to dry. Goodbye, shabby tile.

2) Scratches and dings and gouges, oh my!
We know your client's brother-in-law didn't mean to run into the built-in bookshelves drawer with the recliner. While a droll family memory, there's no value-add for the prospective home buyer, so it's probably best the seller get rid of any and all visible scratches, dings and gouges.

What your clients can do
Minor scratches can be wiped clean with mineral oil, lightly sanded with fine grade sandpaper and sealed with polyurethane. Scratches that penetrate the finish can be filled with a like-colored furniture repair stick. The product consists of wax and putty, and is easy to apply. Follow with a coat of polyurethane.

Not quite a gouge, but deeper than a scratch? Use wood putty in a matching color. Gouges also can be treated with wood putty. Make the repair, let it dry and apply the polyurethane.

3) Counter intelligence?
Bags of groceries, stubborn food stains and the occasional misfire with a kitchen knife are all to blame for clients' laminate or Corian counter surfaces looking scuffed and sad. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that won't leave home sellers with an empty wallet.

What your clients can do
Laminate is a repair-friendly surface: a color-matched repair pen or paste will camouflage most scratches. Be careful not to overfill, and gently sand the excess when dry. The remnants of past meals can be removed using a paste made from baking soda and water. Leave the paste for a few hours and wipe away. No need to rub or scrub.

Minor scratches on Corian can be treated by using a mild abrasive liquid cleaner on a damp sponge, rubbing over the scratch in small, overlapping circular motions, and rinsing with clean water. Encourage clients to wipe the surface completely dry, and repeat if the blemish is still visible. Deeper scratches should be treated following the manufacturer's instructions.

That was easy, wasn't it? With a little elbow grease and a modest investment of time and money, your clients can bring the sexy back to worn surfaces.

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Written by  on Monday, 21 April 2014 1:28 pm

 

What's the best renovation project if you want to add resale value to your home? Most of us would say improving the kitchen or bathroom, but the correct answer is adding an income suite, says Scott McGillivray, a real estate investor, contractor and the host of Income Property on HGTV Canada.

McGillivray was recently the guest speaker at a media event held by Moen Canada to introduce its newest line of faucets and accessories. While McGillivray acknowledged that kitchens and bathrooms are also money in the bank when renovated, he says adding an income suite to a home can offer the greatest returns.

 

 

recent report by Scotiabank says renovation spending has been the fastest growing segment of the housing market in Canada. "Fuelled by rising home prices, tight resale market conditions, attractive financing costs and government tax credits, real renovation outlays increased at an average annual rate of over six per cent from 2000 to 2012," says the report. "This is double the three-per-cent average annual increase in new construction."

The report says Canada's housing market is likely to slow down in the next couple of years, which will also cool the renovation market somewhat.

"Renovation spending tracks sale transactions, given relatively large outlays undertaken by new buyers and, to a lesser extent, sellers preparing their homes for sale. Even so, an expanding housing stock and high homeownership rates should continue to support modest growth in renovation spending," says Scotiabank.

Moen Canada, which conducts research on the changing market twice a year, has no concerns that the renovation market is slowing. Garry Scott, the company's vice-president, wholesale marketing and brand development, says 84 per cent of Canadian homeowners say they did some kind of renovation work in the last 12 months, and 66 per cent replaced a faucet.

"The renovation market is not slowing," says Scott. "It's going to continue to stay strong or even pick up. Seventy-six per cent of those we surveyed say they are planning a renovation in the next six months."

Moen's research also says that 58 per cent of homeowners say they will "never move" out of their current homes, although many of them will. The research also says that most homeowners say they renovate to improve their lifestyle.

Even if you are not selling your home immediately, adding an income suite allows you to increase your equity while using rent from the suite to help pay off the mortgage. Many homeowners are also using the suites to create space for their multi-generational families. McGillivray says the number of multi-generational households has increased by 20 per cent during the last 20 years.

Kitchens are second on McGillivray's list of best renovations to add to the value of your home, with bathrooms a close number three.

"The kitchen will make or break a house sale for many people," he says. For those on a budget, he says refacing kitchen cabinets and replacing the fixtures are a way to add value without spending a lot of money. For those with more cash to spend, the trend to open-concept kitchens is "only getting more popular," he says.

Updating a bathroom to add value can be a one-day job if you install a new vanity and accessories to update the look, he says. Second bathrooms can be created in small spaces, but not all renovations are a good idea.

"I've seen a shower unit placed right in the middle of a bedroom. That is not adding value."

McGillivray says reglazing or replacing a bathtub is a good way to add value. Free-standing bathtubs have also made a comeback. In Moen's latest offerings there is a collection of freestanding tub-filler faucets. Scott says the tub fillers are designed to be "considerably more secure than others on the market, eliminating that ‘wobble' that often accompanies floor-mounted units."

Adding fixtures is number four on McGillivray's list of best ways to add value to the home. "It can be simple, like changing door hardware or a faucet or a light fixture."

He says when potential buyers are touring a home, what they touch and smell in the home is important. They will notice if they have to touch a grungy faucet or open a door with a loose handle.

"When do-it-yourselfers want to know what they can do on a budget, I tell them that changing out the fixtures and accessories can make all the difference." He says a great renovation can turn people off if "there's a 24-cent light switch cover with paint all over it." Potential buyers may wonder what other parts of the renovation have been finished in a sloppy manner.

 
 
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BY MARILYN WILSON, OTTAWA CITIZEN JANUARY 31, 2013
 

 
Many buyers think it's unnecessary to hire a building inspector before purchasing a new condo.
Photograph by: Chepko Danil , Fotolia.com
Many buyers think it's unnecessary to hire a building inspector before purchasing a new condo. Prospective owners often assume a condo building and their unit of interest is fine and everything is to code and working properly. While this is usually the case, purchasers still need to protect themselves against those rare occasions where a problem exists.

A friend of mine, for example, moved into a newly constructed condo where someone had inadvertently dropped a piece of plywood down the chimney flu, blocking it off. When the new owner lit the fireplace, smoke backed up through the unit.

Although the condo corporation took care of the fireplace, the owner was responsible for the smoke cleanup. A pre-purchase inspection would likely have avoided this problem as the offending piece of wood was within view of a casual look up the chimney.

I have sold many condos where buyers think they do not require an inspection, but every condo should be inspected by a certified building inspector.

Remember: It's a good idea to put a building inspection clause into your offer. And it's important to find a building inspector who is familiar with condo inspections. He or she will be cognizant of the types of problems to look for and of condominium building codes and regulations.

"What does an inspector check in a new condo? Isn't this a waste of time and money?" I am asked this all the time.

An inspector will make sure your hood fan exhaust is properly connected. He will ensure that the electrical system is to code, in working order and adequate to meet any special electrical requirements you might have. Windows will be inspected to see they are installed properly and to regulation. A good inspector will also check the common elements to see if any owners who moved in before you have inflicted damage to the halls or elevators.

Is the garage constructed to code with adequate drainage to prevent flooding, winter road-salt spalling and excessive humidity build-up? An inspector will check the drainage in the garage and your parking spot. You want to make sure when you open your trunk to take out your groceries you are not always standing in a puddle of water.

The inspector will check the condo's exterior envelope to see if it has adequate drainage and if it will deter ice buildup. Since the balcony is both the exterior element in which you will spend the most time and is also a source of liability (e.g.: ice buildup or water-damaged tiles blowing down onto the cars below), it will be examined carefully for potential problems.

Inspectors will check the roof and any air conditioning units located there, the security gate to the garage and many other things you would not think to consider.

The biggest factors are plumbing, electrical, heating and wiring. These must be to code, meet regulations and be suitable to accommodate any special requirements you, the buyer, might have. To further emphasize, a recent inspection revealed an ice buildup problem that, if not caught by the inspection, would have cost the buyer, along with the condo corporation, $20,000 to correct.

Definitely not a nice housewarming present.

Arkadi Abramovitch of Artech Home Inspections told me recently that technology has changed a lot in the past few years and this has helped to ensure buyers have a positive buying experience. Arkadi, along with many inspectors today, uses infrared equipment to check for moisture buildup in or behind the walls or ceilings, which would not normally be visible.

Inspectors check the exhaust systems for bathroom ventilation fans and kitchen hood fans that have sometimes been blocked inadvertently. A memorable condo inspection Arkadi had was when he found two Tim Hortons cups in a kitchen ventilation exhaust system.

It's better to find out before closing on your unit than to try to fix the issue (and be reimbursed) later. Ask the inspector specifically for his or her impressions of the common areas as they may or may not do this if they aren't asked specifically.

By now, I hope you are sold on the need for a building inspection for a new condo and it should be evident that this applies even more to a resale condo.

When first considering a resale condo, it's a good idea to ask residents (if you know any) about previous problems with the building. When you request a building inspection, ask the inspector to address specifically these areas. (Of course, you are going to have both your lawyer and your insurance agent review the status certificate before signing off on the purchase.)

On the flip side, I encourage sellers to get a pre-inspection before their property is listed for sale.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 23 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc.

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Written by  on Thursday, 10 April 2014 1:42 pm

 

One of the advantages of owning your own home is the ability to decorate it and make structural changes the way you like. However, when it comes time to list and sell that same home, those changes may help or hurt you depending on what you have done to the house.

When it comes to homes listed for sale, being unique can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing if what makes the home unique is appealing to most. For instance, the only lot with a larger than normal backyard.

It's a curse, if the home is unique because of its outrageous color, or incredibly small storage space.

 

 

If, for example, a two bedroom home was remodeled to remove a closet and make the room a den or study, this could negatively impact the home because it will appear to many buyers that while the room can be used for sleeping, it's not practical because it lacks a closet. Many buyers will see this as a flaw. While they might appreciate space for a den or office, it's better to not remove the closet because then when it comes time to sell it, the den can be shown as both - an office or a bedroom.

Wood floors offer a timeless appeal to the masses. Yes, some may not prefer wooden floors but, generally speaking, most buyers will appreciate them. They also know that they can easily cover up the wood with their own area rugs to keep the home cozier-appearing in winter months. Wood floors, kept in good condition, can create an anti-aging look. Over the decades they hold their appeal.

Slightly worn furniture. I don't mean worn as in the baby threw up on the sofa. Rather, I'm referring to pieces of furniture that have slight imperfections. These imperfections can actually enhance the furniture. Instead of being seen as an eyesore, this style, sometimes called "distressed",is often coveted and more easily assimilated into current decor because any slight imperfections are perceived as "the way the piece was meant to be" rather than a flaw.

When you buy something that must be kept precisely perfect like new in order for it to look good, think of a white rug. You're in for a difficult road to keep it in its original pristine condition. Chances are that rug will be tossed out in the not-too-distant future. However, it sure looks good in the model home pictures where no one is walking on it!

Custom-designed, built-in furniture that's meant for a specific piece of technology such as a computer or a TV can limit your home and its appeal. During the period in which the TV actually fits in the built-in cabinet, it may have mass appeal. However, because we are in rapidly changing technological times, the danger is that your beautiful custom built-in furniture may not fit future TVs.

As technology evolves, things like TVs change drastically. Remember, how big a space you needed just a few years ago for a television set? Today, flat screens are the norm but eventually we might simply beam our TV screen onto an empty wall from our mobile device. Then that custom-built TV storage may simply be in the way.

Keep your decorating and remodeling to timeless styles and you'll increase your home's mass appeal among buyers.

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Written by Jaymi Naciri on Saturday, 12 April 2014 5:13 pm

 

With warm weather comes the desire to spend time outdoors. And the desire to make our outdoor area a little prettier and more usable. Backyard design can get pricy, especially if you need a complete overhaul. But you can also create a fanciful space on a budget with a few tips and tricks.

Fire!

Nothing adds ambiance like a warm, crackling fireplace. The same could be said of adding a fire feature to the yard.

  

Thankfully, they can be inexpensive and easy to incorporate, whether you want a wood-burning version, which can be found for around $100 or a gas firepit that will cost you a couple hundred dollars more.

Gimme shelter

Create a true outdoor room with a pergola or gazebo. Having one built will cost you several thousand dollars.

Or, you could got to your Big Box store or a retailer like Walmart or Costco and find an array of options with hard or soft tops, in varying sizes.

This 10 x 10 metal gazebo is just over $1,000 at Lowe's and creates an elegant space for dining and lounging out of the sun's glare.

Sit on it!

Chairs seen better days? Don't toss them out! They can be easily updated by throwing some new cushions on top. These from Target are only $37.

If the table needs some attention, a can of spray paint and a little elbow grease can make it look brand new. You can see a tutorial here. Don't stop there with the painting. Krylon makes a special spray paint for plastic, so if you have run-of-the-mill plastic chairs or planters, you can turn them into something special with a bold spray of color.

Water, water everywhere

Having a pool is the dream of many a homeowner. But many a homeowner can't (or doesn't want to) pony up between $40,000–$100,000 to build one. A hot new trend is making it possible to have a water feature at a fraction of the cost, even in a small yard. It's called the "spool," and "it's taking over the swimming pool industry," said ecopump. "You may be asking, ‘What is a spool?' It's simple -- a pool and spa combined to create a relaxing, backyard oasis. Spools typically measure 10 to 16 feet long and 6 to 8 feet wide, so they're much smaller than the average swimming pool, but larger than an average-sized spa."

Concrete proof

Boring floors getting you down? If you like the look of stone but have a tight budget, stained and stamped concrete may be a way to go for your patio.

Staining concrete can give it a whole new look and is something you can do yourself. Stamped concrete can mimic the look of more exotic - and expensive - materials but at a lower cost. "A stamped concrete patio gives you the look and texture of a stone patio for a lot less than the real thing -- up to 50 percent less than the cost of natural slate or limestone," said Houselogic."

That's not all. Stamped concrete can mimic brick, cobblestones, cracked earth, and weathered wood. Add a bit of fun with leaf patterns, animal shapes, even dinosaur footprints. Best of all, a stamped concrete patio is low-maintenance: The "stones" won't settle over time, creating uneven surfaces, and there are no grout or joints that can open up to let grass and weeds sprout."

 
 
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Written by  on Sunday, 06 April 2014 2:10 pm

 

To develop your interior color scheme, the color wheel is a good place to start. Learning how colors are created and what effect they have on you can be useful in helping you set the ambiance you want for your home.

If there were only 12 colors in the universe, choosing a decorating color scheme wouldn't be difficult, but it's the millions of variations of the color wheel that complicate matters. The impact colors have on how you want to feel is largely due to how much chroma or intensity they have. The more chroma or pigment a color has, the more intense it is.

 

 

A highly saturated hue or color is energetic, attention-grabbing, and bold. Hue is another word for pure color, the point at which any color is at its clearest. See: color-wheel-artist.com

If you add white, you soften the hue, cool it down and turn it toward a pastel version of itself, otherwise known as a tint. The less chroma you have, the lighter the tint. Tints are like the early buds of spring - youthful, delicate and gentle.

When you add black to any hue, you deepen and darken the color, which is known as a shade. Shades tend to be rich, mysterious, and sophisticated.

A tone is composed of a hue with added grey, or a blend of white and black. Tones tend to be neutral, relaxing and comforting. Think of the expression "toned down."

Color and mood

Keeping the effects of hues, tints, shades and tones in mind, colors have the power to energize or to relax you, to annoy you or to soothe you. To choose a main color for your décor, think about how you want to feel when you're in your home.

The main color is what you will use on the largest areas of the home - walls, ceilings floors or furniture.

Do you want your home to be a retreat, a haven? You can try the colors of nature - earth tones of beiges, browns and greens. If you prefer cool colors, try soft hues of blue.

Whatever you choose as your main color, you can punch it up or tone it down by putting other colors around it. You can also control the impact of the color by using it in an entire room or on one wall as an accent. You can control the intensity by changing the hue, shade, tint or tone.

For example, you may choose a neutral beige or tan for your couch and draw attention to it with bright orange accent pillows.

Placing color for effect

Start by choosing the color family you want based on your favorite hue. You may love vivid colors such as fire engine red or royal blue. Imagine the whole room done in your color and you may begin to see a problem - that the hue is simply too intense.

Next, try to imagine an accent wall in your favorite hue. Still too intense? You don't have to give up your signature color. You can always use fire engine red on the front door or a chair seat or in a painting.

Choose whether or not you want the color on the walls to be dark or light, and that will tell you whether or not you want to go in the direction of a tint or a shade.

Darker rooms are cozier and more calming, but they can also make a space seem smaller. If you prefer the drama of a spicy or deeper shade on your walls, you can lighten the effect by painting your doors, trim and crown molding a soft white which will make any wall color pop.

One way you can choose colors for your home is by colors you enjoy wearing. If you feel pretty in pink or handsome in oxford blue, think about using those colors somewhere in your home. You'll enjoy colors more if they're flattering to you as well as to your furnishings.

The beauty of color theory is that you can use almost any color you wish in a home, if it's in the right amounts and appropriate to the architecture or the home and the use of the room.

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Written by Jaymi Naciri on Saturday, 05 April 2014 11:26 am

 

You know the old saying. April showers bring May flowers. In some areas, rain is a welcome - and rare - guest right now, as drought conditions across much of the country beget thirsty ground and make it difficult to keep greenery from turning into brownery. But did you know that even if you are only getting a little bit of rain, there are ways to put it to good use in and around your home? And you don't even have to be super eco to do it.

"There's money falling from the skies every time it rains," said Garden Gate Magazine. "Here's how you can harvest your share."

 

 

It's all about collecting and storing rainwater.

"Creating a rainwater collecting and storage system is simple," they said. "And every time you use it to replace expensive, chemically treated city water in your garden, you're saving money. Best of all, this collection system is right over your head."

The basic rule of thumb for collecting rainwater is this: "Anywhere falling rain doesn't soak in to the ground, the runoff can be collected," said Garden Gate. That means your roof is the water collection area.

Collected water needs a way to be transported from the roof - that's what your downspouts are for. And water flowing through them needs to be captured. Enter the rain barrel.

"According to John C. Davis, writing in E – The Environmental Magazine, just about any homeowner can collect rainwater, given that the roof and gutters do most of the work," said Gaiam Life. "And since an inch of rain falling on a 2,000 - square-foot roof produces some 1,200 gallons of runoff, one can harvest enough to supply all the water needs of a family of four for about two weeks."

Added Garden Gate: "If you have gutters and downspouts on your house or garage, you have a fantastic system for harvesting soft, clear rainwater for the garden. "The only missing piece is a collection reservoir, otherwise known as a rain barrel."

With the system in place, it's easy use and store water to "quench your thirsty lawn, shrubs, bushes, and flower beds," said Gaiam Life. Experts say greenery can often thrive with rainwater instead of tap water, "which is usually treated with softeners that actually inhibit plant growth."

You can also use it for uses you may not have expected. "If you're motivated to save a little water and re-distribute it on your lawns or plants - or even use it for laundrydishes or other interior needs - collecting rainwater from your gutters' downspouts is a no-brainer," said Gaiam Life. The lack of minerals in rainwater can be a more efficient choice for hair and dish washing, and "using rainwater for plumbing uses can also extend the life of pipes and water heaters, since the salts added to tap water facilitate corrosion. However, "homeowners should set up a water purification system if they do plan to use rainwater for interior needs."

Interested in harvesting your own rainwater? Check out these resources to help you learn more about where to buy barrels and learn how to build your own on this video below:

 
 
 
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Tue Mar 4, 2014 11:44am PST

 

Home sales in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley continued to stabilize in February while prices rose slightly, according to statistics that real estate boards released March 4.

  

Metro Vancouver had 2,530 home sales in February, which was 17 fewer than the 10-year average for the month of 2,547 but 40.8% more than in February 2013.

Active listings fell so the sales-to-active-listings ratio rose 4.9 percentage points to 18.9% in February compared with 14% in January.

“Home buyer demand picked up in February, which is consistent with typical seasonal patterns in our housing market,” said Sandra Wyant, who is president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

“We typically see home buyers become more active in and around the spring months.”

The benchmark price for a Metro Vancouver home increased by about one-third of 1% to $609,100 in February compared with $606,800 in January. The REBGV includes most of the Lower Mainland as well as Squamish and Whistler

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board includes North Delta, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Mission in its statistics and saw a similar pattern.

The benchmark prices for a Fraser Valley home rose about 1% to $558,100 compared with $552,500 in January.

There were 1,102 home sales in the Fraser Valley in February, which was 21% more than in February 2013. Listings inched up 3% year-over-year so the sales-to-active-listings ratio rose three percentage points to 13% in February up from 10% in January.

“The last time we saw an improvement in the market this early in the year was two years ago when we ended up having a solid, steady market from February through to mid-summer,” said FVREB president Ray Werger. “It’s too early to predict whether this year will be similar, but for now sales are up and the average number of days to sell a detached home is one week faster than it was in January.”

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Wed Apr 2, 2014 11:19am PST

 

Sales and prices for Metro Vancouver homes edged higher in March, according to statistics released April 2 by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

 

 

The REBGV counted 2,641 residential property sales in March, which is 12.5% more than the 2,347 properties that transacted in March 2013. It is also a 4.4% premium over the 2,500 homes that changed hands in February.

March's sales, however, were 17.2% below the 10-year sales average for the month, which is 3,190 sales.

Prices also rose – both year-over-year and compared to February.

The REBGV pinned the benchmark home price for the region at $615,200. That's 3.7% more than the benchmark price of $593,100 in March 2013. It is also higher than the REBGV's benchmark price of $609,100 in February.

Fueling this stability is a constant sales-to-active-listings ratio, which stayed flat from February at 18.2%.

"We continue to see steady and stable market conditions across the Greater Vancouver housing market," said REBGV president Ray Harris. "There has been a consistent balance between home seller supply and home buyer demand in our marketplace over the last year."

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Houzz Contributor.Steven Corley Randel has practiced architecture in California... 
 
The impact of windows on architecture can be underestimated. While their primary purpose is to provide natural light, ventilation and protection from the elements, they significantly contribute to the character of a house. Modern windows are designed to be more energy efficient while functioning as trim, punctuation marks, statements of quality and expressions of style.
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Updated: Thu, 27 Mar 2014 06:41:43 GMT | By Romina Maurino, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com
 
TORONTO - The thought of buying a home on your own may seem a little daunting, but that's exactly what many single professionals are choosing to do.
 

And that's a good thing according to real estate and financial experts, who say the investment is worthwhile.

"The rental market is very expensive in Toronto and mortgage rates are so low that, in a lot of cases, it makes more sense to buy," said realtor Miranda McKenna of Life and the City, Remax Hallmark Realty Ltd., who says nearly half of her clients are single.

People understand that it's worth buying a property to get into the market and build equity as early as possible, she said, and many of her clients use that first purchase as a stepping stone toward buying the home they really want.

That also means buyers are getting younger, McKenna said, noting that more people in their 20s are buying, and that many of them are single professionals.

Jordan Allison was 23 when he bought his first condo. At the time, he just wanted his own place and figured it would be a good investment, given how quickly home prices were climbing.

"The condo was a dress rehearsal in a way," said Allison, now 30. "After going through it with the condo, I knew what I was in for with the house."

He sold his Toronto condo to buy a house four years ago, and rented the house as two units while he did his masters degree in Boston.

Once he moved into the house, he kept one of the units as a rental to help cover the mortgage -- something he'd recommend to other single home buyers.

"Those tenants are really your second spousal income," Allison said.

David Stafford, managing director of real estate secured lending at Scotiabank, said one of the biggest differences between buying as an individual, versus a couple or group, is income instability.

"If you have a couple, or a partnership of some sort, buying a home - there's two incomes to service the home. If somebody gets sick, or loses their job, then you don't go from all to nothing," said Stafford.

"If you're on your own, (you should) make sure you have a backup plan."

He recommends purchasing disability or health crisis protection insurance, or, like Allison, taking advantage of rental income (if the property has the right set-up for it) to help cover base expenses.

He also advises all homeowners to take a close look at the closing costs, maintenance expenses and property taxes that will come with the mortgage payments in order to get a true sense of the monthly payments.

TD Canada Trust also recommends setting a realistic budget and determining the total down payment, and then test-driving the monthly mortgage payment by making an automatic transfer of that amount into a TFSA or other high-interest savings account. That will help determine how comfortable the commitment is before locking in, while allowing you to save for a larger down payment.

A recent online survey of 6,000 Canadians aged 18 years and older by TD found that a quarter of those who bought a home in the past 24 months (or are planning to in the near future), did so on their own. The results of the poll, which was conducted between Feb. 11 and 25, were in line with figures from Statistics Canada, suggesting singles have increasingly moved toward home ownership.

According to McKenna, another key consideration is to buy into a neighbourhood that will provide good resale value.

"You don't want to buy in a terrible area that isn't going to have good turnover in the future and isn't going to be a good investment," she said.

As for Allison, he is now in a relationship and he and his partner are thinking about moving in together.

He says the rental suite in his home has done so well that they're considering keeping that house as a rental and buying a new place. Meanwhile, he knows people who are now just looking to get in the market and can't even afford the neighbourhoods they want.

His advice to anyone still debating whether to buy and wondering whether it will be a worthwhile investment is to "just jump in" and start building equity in their home.

"I would say the sooner the better," Allison said.

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The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.