10 Important Questions to Ask for Your Next Home

Naturally most of us are inclined to buy a house based on a pure intestine and heart reaction. “It’s feeling like home.” But discovering the “feeling” can be just like a dating exercise in persistence and anger. Originally the speed dating was intended to condense the complete search into one session. The method of matchmaking is perfected by time and poignant questions, which filter the “one.” 
Here are 10 questions to help you find your dream match.

1. Are you low maintenance?
Take a general sweep of a house and its belongings. Are there perennials in the gardens? What is the height of the gorge? What is the assurance on the roof? The metal roof will last up to 50 years and every 10 or 20 years, in areas with heavy snowfall and rain, asphalt shingles must be replaced. Is the house built of a sturdy material such as Hardie Board? Insects, weather and strange woodpeckers can make a log or wood house work quickly and need constant maintenance.

2. Are you quiet?
Spend time on the house with quality and traffic at various times of the day. Have a barking dog in the area or young kids who enjoy their trampolines? Are you near a fire hall where sirens are going to be constant? Are trains in the vicinity? You’re on a big bus route? At a crossroads? Apart from an outdoor restaurant? Is a quarry in the vicinity? Get to know the area and everything about it.

3. Are you warm?

Gas fireplaces may also be inefficient depending on age and BTU content, albeit instantly and convenient. Wood-burning fireplaces are intended, but undeniably romantic, to be taken care of by a cheminey and a little wooden work. Pellet stoves are highly combustible and provide one of the cleanest fuel choices but they can be a problem if you lose power, as they still depend on electricity, unless you have battery rescue. 
Propane and electrical heat (baseboards, air burning) have their benefits and their downside with distribution costs and use times. Boiler systems are popular in older homes but new innovations have modernised the appearance and performance of the conventional radiator.

And don’t forget the lack of heat – the windows are new? Should they be substituted? The r-value of windows of the house and its insulation will give you the cold shoulder for a nice evening. 

4. Are you flexible? Willing to grow?

If your family (dog, boy, or baby suite?) plans to develop, will it cause the house to expand? Is an unsuccessful cellar? Can another bathroom be added? A garage unit? Washing machine in the main floor? Does the art studio or island of the kitchen you have always dreamed of have space?

5. Are you outdoorsy?
Is this house similar to paths? Parks for dogs? What is the house’s exposure? Windows to the north can present a challenge, but some plants can grow with some testing. Are you going to see the sun get up or set? Does the shed, the deck and/or the jet bath have enough storage space? Are the house’s trees safe around? Your woody courtyard will suddenly be a costly (and sparse) garden for removal in areas where the ash beetle is a concern.

6. Are you financially sound?
Is the house in the right place? A home in a gentrifying neighbourhood or group of bedrooms is likely to be of value but purchasing boats will affect resale value. Consider budgeting for expenses such as monthly condo dues, traffic, snow removal and grass cutting, septic pump outs or maintenance costs for outdated equipment.

7. Are you charming?
What’s the story behind the house? If it’s a heritage home, visit your local city hall to investigate the archives. Maybe your dream farmhouse is part of The Barn Quilt Trail—you might be the next stop! A growing interest in schoolhouse and church conversions has helped preserve history while providing a reliable rental income for the savvy entrepreneur.

8. Are you a people person?

Does the house fulfil your requirements for entertainment? Do the kiddos and the PlayStation have a soundproof room? Will the table sit down for the whole family? Does a pool have space? Table of the pool? How many hotel rooms? How many? 

9. Are you willing to change?
The basis is where it all started. Invest in a structural engineer to inspect your house if you consider an older house. Conscious of flooding and the lakefront’s high water levels. Check cellar and roof for signs of credibility (and bats!) leaks and mould and chimneys.

10. Are you stable?
Although a house appears to be 100% flawless after the first visit with a star’s eye, you will eventually have adjustments. Should they? Can they be? What sacrifice can you offer? What are your non-recommercial items? Are they cosmetic improvements (paints, lights) or renewals outside the budget?

Improve Your Mental Health with These 7 Home Updates

In addition to a lack of sunshine, Canada’s long winters can effect our mental health. We must continue to restrict social contacts with Canadians faced with the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Since everything we have in our homes can influence our emotion, selecting the right light, colour and atmosphere can help improve mental health,” says Nora Bouz, founder of Lucida Well-being Interior Design.

Bring in as much natural light as possible

The more natural light streams through our mood and emotion, the stronger, says Bouz. Light has a big influence.

“The quality of light needs to be ensured so that our circadian rhythm remains in harmony,” she says.

In the early morning hours and at dawn the sun gives a warm soft light. As we need to develop serotonin for at least 30 minutes per day of peak sunlight, make sure there’s no blocking daylight like furniture, blinds, curtains or dirty windows, adds Bouz.

Use daylight bulbs that replicate the colour temperature of the sun, and plan a clerestory in darker areas of your home – a set of windows above the eyes-on the doorways that face natural light to permit it to penetrate indoors, says Bouz.

Play with colour to boost your energy or calm your mind

Tap the colour power, roll on a fresh colour coat, change your bedding, or add some decorative accessories.

“The colour can improve connectivity, intimacy, belonging, concentration and productivity when used correctly,” Bouz says.

“To turn your room into the world you like, the secret is a colour palette of different nuances, depth, balance and harmony.

Utilizing warm tones of red, oranges, yellow or purple if you are looking for more stimulating space. You are looking for peace? Check for soft blues, greens, greys, neutral, silly tones.

Incorporate elements from nature

Since it is important to link us to the natural world for well-being, it is vital to get the exterior into your house, says Bouz. Plant colours and texture are essential, but other natural materials such as wood, soil, water and stone can be added.

“There are components also of patterns, symbols, the sound and smells of nature,” she says. “It is not a question of turning our home into a jungle, but rather the subtle details which have been infused into all.”

Dedicate a space for meditation or mindfulness

Research has shown that meditation loosens the nervous system, decreases cardiac rate, and also increases energy and brings happiness, according to Bouz. If you do not have a separate space, a dedicated meditation room might be a quiet corner.

“Meditation is part of your self-care, so choose an environment where you feel well and have confidentiality”

Get the space comfortable, keep the pillows and the cosy throws in close proximity and set up the dimmers for soft, warm light. Take a large plant with luxuriant leaves, wildflowers and water or organic soy candles.

“Some smells and sounds increase the experience of meditation, especially for beginners, so explore what’s soothing and enjoyable”

Create a spa-like bathroom retreat

You know how tension dissipates when you reach a high-end spa? Bouz says that at home this relaxing feeling can be recreated easily. Warmth and softness, materials and temperature are the main.

“Use moisture-appropriate natural steel or wood or ceramic tiles and boards to imitate them,” she says.

Especially comfortable floors are heated. Pull a potted shop, a small robot and a taped chair, or put a living greenery wall if you have the room. Hold warme, middle-toned neutral wise green and green-blues, and soft coral lights on dimming and colour palette.

Using a vitamin C-infused shower head to neutralise the production of chlorine, limescale and bacteria for an even more luxurious touch, adds Bouz.

“Use an inciense diffuser and include speech in the design of your bathroom to have a holistic experience that involves all the senses.”

Focus on a calming place to sleep

“The products and materials that enter the bed have a major impact on our health, considering how long we spend sleeping,” says Bouz who recommends the purchasing of mattresss made of natural materials, such as wool or natural moulds.

Consider converting the bedroom into a space free of gadgets and having an alarm clock that wakes you out of sunlight.

Bouz also suggests that a negative ion infuser be mounted in the central air system for optimal health.

“Negative ions reduce stress and boost the immunological system, increase energy and kill bacteria and viruses and the mould.” “Or, in the bedroom, use a remote spreader.”

Make your home reflect who you are

“The only style you can choose is your own,” says Bouz. “Self-expression is a fundamental aspect of well-being. “That is what makes your home reflect and attract all.”

You can make your home a personal sanctuary by taking the time to discover your authentic sense of style and beauty.

Is it safe to travel within Canada in 2021?

As pandemic infection numbers continue to break records, travelling across an international border to bask on warm sandy beaches — as tempting as it might be — is an impossible decision to take. What you risk you — and not just from a monetary perspective — and whether or not you may put others at risk probably has you wondering whether or not it’s safe to travel at all in 2021.

According to a recent Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) survey, 80% of respondents are planning to travel in 2021. Those plans, however, don’t include leaving our country’s borders. Apparently, 53% of potential travellers don’t plan to cross a border before a vaccine becomes available. A minority don’t plan to travel even after a vaccine is a available.

To decide what is best for you and your loved ones you’ll need to consider a few critical factors. Here’s a few considerations to help you decide.

Is it safe to travel within Canada?

Depending on the province you reside in, there are two potential outcomes upon your return to your home province if you decide to travel within Canada.

  • Mandatory isolation upon your return;
  • or only isolate if you were in contact with a known COVID-19 case.

Still, knowing that there is an option to travel and not, necessarily, have to isolate for two weeks upon your return certainly makes cross-country travel far more attractive than international travel.

Before you finalize any plans, make sure you take a quick look at provincial guidelines. These guidelines are established by local health authorities and are based on the situations faced by each health authority. What that means is that not all provinces or territories are open to the idea of out of province visitors.

Even provinces that have not officially closed their borders may not be too welcoming of tourists. According to the Vancouver Star negative reaction by locals is now being dubbed “pandemic rage.” At one point, the situation was so volatile, that BC Premier John Horgan actually suggested that out-of-province visitors use bikes, buses and public transportation in order to not draw attention to themselves, as out-of-towners.

The bottom line: Although you can continue to travel between provinces, it’s still advisable to avoid doing so unless it is essential.

Thrifting for Furniture

You know that these unusual items have a way of attracting the attention of house guests, whether you’ve upcycled a dining room table or refinished an antique wardrobe.

Thrifted furniture, packed with charm and character, is an ideal choice for those on a budget, searching for a separate piece to complete a design vision, or those just wanting to have a positive effect on the world and their culture.

So we have some thrifting tips to help you find and give new life to classic items whether you are interested in upcycling, thrifting, or collecting.

Why thrift for furniture?

Better quality: Let’s be honest, they don’t make furniture like they used to. Most furniture built in the past was meticulously made by hand using real solid wood. It’s these types of quality pieces that really stand the test time.

Better for the environment: The fast furniture industry is enormous and wasteful. Made of inexpensive plastics, particleboard, and resin, fast furniture items not only break quickly but look dated in only a few years. Opting to buy furniture second-hand reduces demand for new resources, therefore reducing the energy and waste needed to produce, package, and distribute new items. It also keeps our landfills clear of pieces that take millennia to break down and decompose.

Better for your community: Buying second-hand is a simple and effective way to help support your community. Whether you purchase items from an individual looking to declutter their home and make a few bucks or a thrift store in your neighbourhood, that money gets reinvested into the local community.

Where to look

If you’re interested in thrift, the comfort of your own living room is a great place to start. Private sellers looking to find new homes for their goods are packed with websites such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and second-hand applications like Carousell. On eBay and online auction pages, you can also score some deals and find unique pieces.

If it’s more your thing to look for bits in-person, head out to thrift stores, consignment shops, or flea markets. If you live in a larger area, travel to the outskirts of the city to look for goods, as shops and markets in the inner city are often more costly and picked over. Estate sales and garage sales are also perfect chances at a fair price to pick up quality furniture.

Tips for thrifting

Don’t let the thrill of the hunt get the best of you. Follow these tips and you’ll be successful in your second-hand pursuit.

  • Establish a budget and stay within it. You can form a realistic budget by visiting popular furniture stores and pricing out a similar item. Know exactly how much you have to spend before making your purchase. Shop using cash. Not only does it allow you to keep track of your spending, most garage sales, flea markets, and small thrift shops prefer cash. Lastly, be aware of hidden costs. While the piece itself might be a steal, consider all that must go into the item after the fact and how much those refurbishments will cost (don’t forget about shipping if you’re shopping online!).
  • Be flexible, yet focused. When it comes to thrifting, you never know what you’re going to find (or not find). If you set out to find a particular piece but come across another item that you love, change your plans. But make sure you stay focused on your overall design goal and don’t go overboard for the sake of not missing out on a great deal.
  • Get creative. Look beyond an item’s intended use to uncover hidden potential. Repurposing is a great way to breathe new life into old items. Turn an old dresser into a bathroom vanity. Use an old ladder as a blanket rack. When you look at an item with repurposing in mind it might go from garbage to treasure quick.
  • Inspect before purchasing. If you have the opportunity, inspect the item before purchasing. Look for mildew, stains, warping, cracks, and smells (like urine or smoke). If purchasing the item online, and an inspection is off the table, ask the seller to send pictures or video of any known damage as these are often not included in the original listing. Lastly, if the item is upholstered and in need of repair, store it outside of your house (in a garage or storage locker) until you’re able to properly tend to it–bed bugs don’t just hideout in beds!
  • Look beyond. It’s hard not to get caught up on every scratch and dent but look past the surface and focus on the bones of the piece. Is it made of high-quality wood? Is it solid and sturdy? Is it comfortable? Items that have good bones often make the most beautiful, rehabbed pieces that last well into the future.
  • Routinely shop. Being patient and shopping frequently are the two keys to success when thrifting. Keep an eye out for garage and estate sales. Shop your local flea markets, thrift and vintage shops, and consignment stores weekly. Check online listings and apps every few days. Don’t get discouraged if your perfect desk, table, or side chair is nowhere to be seen on your first trip out.

Although it might take more time and dedication to furnish your home than one trip to a big-box store, when your design vision is brought to life through products with beauty, character, and appeal, it will eventually be worth it.

The Best Ways to Invest in Real Estate

When it comes to investing in real estate, most people look to own their primary residence with hope and trust that the value of the property will increase with time as they create equity in their investment.
It’s a sound and reasonably secure way to raise your investment if you keep a long-term eye on it. But for many novices they are probably not aware that increasing investment in real estate will take many other forms—everything from renting a property or a holiday home to purchasing a home, restoring it, and selling it at a higher price to investing in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT).
As with every investment, each strategy carries different risks – so you want to explore your options carefully to ensure that you invest your money responsibly and strategically.

“Realizing the dream of homeownership has proven over the years, decades and decades, to be one of the best investments available to Canadians. If you look historically and you had X number of dollars to put in a downpayment . . . what you put down and what you paid, your investment has outperformed most other vehicles that are available to Canadians,” said Costa Poulopoulos, Chair of the Canadian Real Estate Association, adding people are paying down their mortgage while the property value rises so they’re winning on both ways.
A middle-aged couple looking at financial statements in a modern dining room
“Another key point is you hear people talk about the stock market and mutual funds and RRSPs as go-to things. And sure there’s returns there and yields. But you can’t live in a mutual fund. So not only are you getting appreciation and a tremendous return on your initial investment but it’s actually serving two purposes-it’s a secure investment and its housing.

“There are many vehicles available for investing from the novice first time trying to figure out a secondary home and starting small to sophisticated investors, conglomerates, REITs, whatever the case may be.”

For example, Poulopoulos said that many people were buying properties to rent out. In this respect, the value of the property can be valued over time, but you still produce revenue.
One of the main factors to consider when purchasing rental properties is the financial costs, including the payment of mortgages and the payment of taxes on utilities. And of course, whether you employ someone to take care of the house, you have a duty as a landlord that you may have to deal with personally.
Romana King, a personal finance columnist and real estate expert, said it’s reasonably easy to make money using real estate as an investment asset, whether it’s speculation buying and flipping home or spending sweat-equity and flipping.

“Simple in that you don’t require a lot of specialized knowledge so you don’t have to go to school for anything. You don’t need a qualification. But with that said it’s not easy in that you do still have to treat it like a business so you really need to be aware of the numbers involved,” she said.

That’s very important when it comes to flipping real estate. The research you need here is to make sure you understand precisely what’s going on in that community, what’s going on in that neighbourhood and whether or not what you’re suggesting matches in with those two snapshots.
Timing is critical, too. It can make a difference between making a big return or losing your investment.
King said she’s a huge fan of investing in a rental house.

“You can make money on rental purchases as long as you have a cash flow positive budget sheet. If you don’t and if there isn’t enough wiggle room in that budget then you’re buying a property that’s priced too high for you and you need to actually rethink your strategy. It’s still a good strategy but consider a lower price point. Even if you get lower rent all of those numbers have to make sense,” she added.

King suggests that people save a bigger down payment and look for a multi-unit property to purchase whether it’s a house that can be split into two units or a triplex. That spreads your risk with more rental income.
She said that REITs are amazing vehicles, and they can be a great gateway to real estate investment.

“It does give you a better idea of how extraordinary real estate investments can be. They can be fantastic holdings. It also helps you diversify a little bit,” added King. “I really love REITs. I love REITs for anyone who really wants to get into real estate investing but doesn’t want to do the work. That’s not a negative. Not everyone has time to do all the investigation and crunch the math and make sure you have a cash flow positive. If you don’t want to do that, and you want to get the upside of real estate investment, REITs are awesome. They’re excellent.”

If you’re a beginner or a savvy and seasoned investor, the real estate industry is a golden opportunity to invest your capital and maximise your investment if you take the time to explore the many available vehicles.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal or financial advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Tips for Productively Working from Home

There are a lot of benefits of working from home, from being able to see more of your kids to a flexible schedule, and more. But it’s also very dangerous if you’re easily lured in by procrastination and the numerous distractions that can present themselves and hamper your work and productivity. If you’re going to work from home, be it a day here or there, or full-time, you’ll want to plan it out. Here are some tips for successfully working from home:

1. Make yourself an office, or at least a work “station” area. This will be the spot that you do your work. If you don’t have a room that you can turn into a home office, you can set up shop at the kitchen table, although this is not ideal. Taking your laptop and plopping down on the couch in front of the television will present many temptations. You’ll want to make sure that your home office has everything that you need, and that may even mean getting an extra phone line, be it a landline or a Skype account where you can be contacted at. Invest in a good desk, chair, and computer so you’ll be comfortable working, but not so comfortable that you’ll be tempted to slack-off.

2. Try to set aside long periods of time for work. Working from home can give you much more flexible hours, but if you’re constantly interrupted it’s going to be a lot harder to get things done. Try to make sure you get a few large blocks of time. For example, if you need to get in 8 hours of work, make 3 blocks of 3 hours, 2 hours, and another 3 hours. If you need to run errands or take care of other things, do them outside of the blocks of time during your “breaks.”

3. Try to leave the house each day. Nothing will drive you crazier faster than being at home 24/7. It’s a great opportunity to go for a walk outside, clear your head, and get your bearings.

4. Create a to-do list for the tasks you need to accomplish each day. Because it is so easy to get off task while working from home, having a checklist of the things you need to get done will help you visualize your progress. I’m not typically a list person, but I have found this to be very helpful, and when I’m slacking off it’s clearly visible by the lack of things checked off.

5. Minimize distractions and set limits online. If the bulk of your work is done on a computer, you probably know all too well the distractions of the internet. It’s easy to fall into the trap of Facebook or other sites if you keep it open on one of your browser tabs all day. Allow yourself to check in before you start your work and on breaks only. When it’s work time, close any non-work-related tabs and websites. If you keep Facebook open, you will undoubtedly keep flipping back to it to see if there’s anything new posted.

6. Don’t procrastinate. Look at your to-do list and actually do everything on it. Don’t do 90 percent of it and tell yourself that you’ll just make it up and do it tomorrow. You’ll create a cycle of constantly pushing things off to another day that is very hard to get out of. There will be days when an emergency interrupts your work, as there would be if you were going into the office each day. If you’re already behind it can really put you back further.

7. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat a good breakfast so you don’t have to stop working when the hunger pangs kick in and schedule yourself a reasonable lunch break. Some also find it helpful to dress as if they were going to work. It’s not necessary to put on a suit, but something more than sweatpants and a t-shirt might help you feel more on-task. Schedule a lunch date to maintain social connections outside of your home.

Working from home takes discipline. If you’re just starting out, it may take you a little time to find your groove, but if you follow the tips above you’ll find it a lot easier. The key is to keep a good work-life balance, establish boundaries, and take care of yourself.

How much do sustainable homes cost?

As a homebuyer, you probably have a list of main things that you need to consider a house as your home. For certain homebuyers, it is important to find a property with enough square footage. The proximity to facilities or good schools is a dealbreaker for some. But for 86% of millennial homebuyers, buying sustainable homes is just as critical as a large kitchen or renovated master bathroom.

If you’re looking for one of these houses, it’s a good idea to know what makes a home sustainable. You should also remember how much they cost you, and where you should go to find them.

What makes a home sustainable?

Next, let ‘s talk about what we mean by talking about sustainable homes. A sustainable home may be either a purpose-built home or an existing home that has been retrofitted. They consume very little energy to operate and use very little water. Energy-efficient homes may or may not be made using environmentally friendly materials. Some homes may exist within the context of wider sustainable development or may be a stand-alone project.

An excellent way to assess whether or not a home is sustainable is by evaluating its Energuide ranking. The Energuide rating service was created by Natural Resources Canada to provide Canadians with a universal way to assess the energy efficiency of their homes. The Energuide method tests the productivity of the home on a scale of 0 to 100. A zero-rating home has major quality problems, including severe air leakage issues, no insulation, and very high energy consumption.

A home with an Energuide rating of 100 is extremely airtight, has excellent insulation and produces its own electricity, typically from solar panels. This BC Hydro guide is the ideal starting point for understanding the Energuide label.

Homes are measured by Qualified Energy Evaluators for Energuide ratings which are based on a classification system that is the same from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. If you are searching for an older sustainable home, Energuide should be at least 66 or higher. Newer eco-friendly households should have an Energuide ranking of at least 75.

Where do you look for sustainable homes for sale?

Sustainable homes are available on the Canadian real estate market, but they are not abundant. If buying a sustainable home with many green features is important to you, here’s where to look and how much you’ll have to pay for it.

Look for existing housing

If you’re looking for energy-efficient homes for sale in Canada, there are a few choices. First, let your real estate agent know that a high Energuide rating is vital to you, so they can weed out any possible homes that are not eco-friendly. Second, you can use websites like EcoProperty.ca to watch the green house listings in your city. 

Sustainability is a selling point like every other special attribute in a home like a finished basement or a revenue suite. Still, you’re not paying a substantial premium to purchase an eco-friendly home. According to GreenBuildingCanada.ca, sustainable homes sell between 0.5% and 2% higher than average homes. That means if you’re trying to buy a home in the Toronto area for an average sale price of $1,000,000 in that city, you can expect to pay an additional $20,000 for green home features.

Find sustainable home developments and builders

Unfortunately, sustainable homes are still relatively scarce in Canada. In some cities, it might be more prudent to pursue construction based on sustainable principles or to create a sustainable home on your own.
Luckily, there are many eco-friendly home builders available to help make your dreams come true and claim to be able to do so without any premium. For example, this builder in Winnipeg, Manitoba, claims that you can buy their eco-friendly homes at the same cost as the typical prefabricated home. Other reports say that after rebates and discounts, you can pay around 5% more for a sustainable home. If you’re interested in building, here’s a list of homebuilders across Canada who have experience building net-zero homes.

Suppose you want a new home that is highly energy efficient, to the point of not using any outside energy at all. In that case, you will need to look explicitly at sustainable home projects, like existing homes or sustainable condo buildings. If you are looking for sustainability in a new construction condo house, keep an eye out for LEED certification. This qualification is an eco-friendly certification programme for larger buildings operated by the Green Building Council of Canada.

Sustainable homes won’t be rare forever

Although it’s true that eco-friendly homes – brand new or current – aren’t easy to come by today, that won’t be the case forever. Efficiency standards for homes have drastically changed. Net-zero criteria for all new homes constructed by 2030 will continue to be met. This means that all new homes constructed in 2030 would generate as much energy as they consume.

Until then, sustainable homes that exist are not exceptionally more costly than conventional homes. Typically, they would pay the value forward in the form of lower energy requirements, outstanding convenience, overall durability and higher value.