Advice tips and ideas for home owners
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
House and Home Real Estate Market
Today’s sky-high real estate market can make buying a first home seem like a distant dream. Don’t be discouraged. It might take a bit more planning, but you can do it. Good financial strategy and some real estate research can help you get into your first home sooner than you’d think.
Your first priority is to get your financial basics in order. Reach out to your bank or a financial planner to help you make a plan. A financial expert will be able to find a strategy that best suits your goals. You will also need to plan for your down payment. Many first-time buyers find this intimidating, but good old-fashioned saving is a great start.
Make sure your monthly budget allows you to put some money into savings, and work with your financial planner to help your savings grow as quickly as possible. Government programs are also available to help first-time buyers. You may be able to use savings from an RRSP or other resources — check with your bank for the programs and requirements in your region.
Reaching out to family can also be a win-win, but approach these arrangements with caution. Ensure any loan terms are realistic and clearly set out, and treat these arrangements with the same respect you would give a business agreement.
Once you have your finances in order, look for locations that will get you the best bang for your buck. Skip the high-priced, trendy spots where you’ll pay a premium without necessarily getting a better home. The best deals are often hiding under tacky décor: if you can look past the cosmetic hang-ups and make sure the house is structurally in good shape, you may have a great opportunity in the making.
The main thing is just getting started. Find a realistic strategy that will get you into a home, and then work your way up to that dream home. Think of real estate as a process. You may need to start small or look outside your ideal neighbourhood at first. But once you own a home, you’ll be building equity and value, which sets you on the path to your forever home. (NC)
Monday, January 20, 2020
House and Home
These days there seem to be appliances that can do it all. From self-cleaning fridges to washing machines with Wi-Fi capabilities, the options seem endless. But with so many models and features, how do you know which one is right for your home?
Measure: The first step is to measure the size of your space. Figure out how wide and deep each appliance needs to be, and don’t forget about depth. The height and width of an appliance are easy to remember, but countertops are not always the same depth, so you’ll need to make sure your new selection will slide in just right. Once you know what fits, you can start to narrow down some options.
Explore: Even if you’ve updated your appliances in the last five years, you’ll be surprised by just how much the products have advanced. Some appliances are quieter and more energy efficient, others are smart appliances that connect to your home’s Wi-Fi signal. Take your time to explore the different options available and go to see some in person. Visiting your local Best Buy can be a great resource for unbiased, knowledgeable advice.
Read reviews: Appliances are often big purchases. Read reviews before you make your decision. Small design details can make a big impact on your everyday life. Sometimes other reviewers will notice something about a product that isn’t apparent in a fact sheet or in the product specifications.
Get smart: Making the leap to connected appliances can seem intimidating, but it’s a great way for you to monitor your home utility usage and even gain control of your appliances directly from your smartphone. (NC)
Friday, October 25, 2019
House and Home
Whether you prefer to stay indoors during the chilly winter weather or get outside and get active, it’s nice to have your home be a warm refuge after a long day. As we transition from fall to winter, the air becomes cooler and the humidity begins to drop. While our heating systems in our homes increase the temperature, many do not add moisture to the air. Winter heating costs can vary depending on how you heat your home, so here are some money-saving tips to help keep it cosy all season long:
- Maximize the power of the sun. If you have south-facing windows, take advantage of the sun and leave the blinds or curtains open during the day and closed at night. Attach the edges of your curtains to the wall or window frame using Velcro or magnetic strips. By doing this you can reduce heat loss from one side of your house to the other.
- Raise the humidity in your home. Dry air feels cooler, so try to add some moisture to help bring up the temperature and retain heat. Aside from a humidifier, you can add houseplants and spray them with a water bottle once or twice a week to promote moisture in the air. Dry your laundry on racks indoors or even leave out a dish of water near heat sources, although be mindful of pets and kids when leaving out bowls of water. Even running the shower or bath with the door open if your family or roommates allow it. Sometimes boiling a large pot of water on your stove or kettle will help add more humidity to your kitchen or home.
- Inspect and seal all doors and windows. You can save up to 25 per cent on your heating bill by weather-stripping around windows, doors and air ducts. Cracks that allow cold air to pass through will remove heat and even moisture from your house. Not only do cracks add to the dry skin problem in the winter but it also ups your heating bill. Be eco conscious this season by taking care of your doors and windows with proper weather stripping and sealing. This is one of the most efficient and effective ways to manage your heating costs.
- Keep a steady temperature. Setting a higher temperature on the thermostat won’t heat your home faster. Remember to cool it down at night when you’re going to bed and increase the temperature during the day. Better still, use a programmable thermostat so you can set it and forget it.
- Change it up. Cosy can mean temperature, but also lighting can help make a space cosy. Switch out old bulbs for Energy Star LED lightbulbs labelled warm white or soft white. They have a traditional warm, cosy feel and are best for living spaces. As well, LED lights tend to have a longer life so you’re not only being cost effective, but you are reducing your waste and energy costs in the long run!
- Don’t forget blankets! Blankets of all shapes, sizes and materials can help you stay cosy and warm this season! Whether it’s an electric blanket or grandmas old knitted afghan, blankets can help make a room feel cosy and add more personality to a space. Throw a few extras on your bed at night and you’ll feel much warmer without having to hike up the heat. It’s affordable and fun!
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
House and Home
This time of year isn’t just about books and backpacks – it’s also about giving your interiors an update. Here’s a look at the top trends this autumn and how to try them at home to create beautiful rooms you will love.
Rich, luxurious spaces. After years of the cool, restrained style of minimalism, we are now embracing maximalism with interiors that are bold and dramatic. This trend means spaces that are warmer and richer, as we move to surround ourselves with our favourite things and mix and match elements and aesthetics. Think deep jewel-tones for wall colours and furnishings and layers of cozy, natural fabrics and materials.
Bold and artistic pieces. Similarity is out and incorporating unique, interesting items that tell a story and bring out your own personality is in. This means opting for more handcrafted or statement pieces that create visual interest and are anything but bland and boring. Get the look at home by letting your creativity shine with furniture and décor that inspire you or you’ve always wanted to try, like a traditional clawfoot tub, luxe canopy bed or one-of-a-kind rustic tables made from reclaimed wood.
Conscious consumption. Forget buying something without a second thought as to where and how it was produced. Today it’s all about ethical and intentional shopping for items that are sustainable and well-made. When it comes to fluffy duvets, blankets and pillows, it’s never been easier to find locally sourced, humane and ethical down. However, if that’s not your taste, there are tons of other options that are not only warm but completely natural and plant based, like cotton, bamboo, hemp and silk. Do your research if you’re eco and ethically inclined!
Thursday, August 29, 2019
House and Home
Tidy up landscaping and paint any features that look worn. If it’s in your budget to buy some new items for an even bigger wow factor, consider new garage doors, house numbers, and new light fixtures. Remember to remove all cars from the driveway on the day of the open house.
Keep it clean. Hiring professional cleaners is money well spent, especially if cleaning isn’t your strong suit or you simply don’t have the time. This could include house cleaners, window washers and carpet cleaning services.
Declutter. Make all rooms in the home look as spacious as possible by removing some furniture and knickknacks (pack them away so they’re ready for your new home). A clean, uncluttered space gives buyers a better idea of the home’s features.
Stage the home. Paint in neutral colours and, if possible, replace cabinets and faucets with new hardware. Add in a few small touches such as crisp new towels in the bathrooms, and vases of fresh flowers throughout. No matter the weather on open house day, open up all blinds and curtains to let as much light in as possible. Also remember to hide toothbrushes and toiletries by stowing them under the sink. Remove anything personal. Items such as family photos, certificates and awards should be packed away. This allows homebuyers to visualize their own family in the home.
Keep pets at bay. If you’ve got a dog, it may be as easy as taking them out with you on the day of the open house. Other pets such as cats should be confined to less trafficked areas. Remember to put food bowls away until you return home.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be providing a more marketable home that’s ready to show any and all potential buyers.