The Societal Benefits of Homeownership

There’s a lot of talk about the financial benefits of homeownership, such as creating equity and wealth, but what isn’t always as obvious are the social benefits: making people happier, healthier and more civically engaged.

Owning a home has non-financial benefits

A large body of research from Canada and around the world finds homeownership contributes to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction for homeowners and their families. And that results in a wide range of educational, health and socio-cultural benefits, which were laid out in the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA)‘s recent white paper,

The Homeownership Dividend for Canadians.

These non-financial benefits have spillover benefits to the broader community and surrounding civic fabric—all of which are positively linked to a culture of homeownership.

These “positive externalities,” extend beyond the homeowner to the rest of society, regardless of demographics, ethnicities, income levels and ages.
There are a number of reasons for this higher level of life satisfaction, from having a sense of financial security and ‘rootedness’ to having greater control over one’s life

Homeownership builds pride and stability

It’s also the Canadian dream for many. “We can’t forget that element—people don’t come to this country to rent, they come to be a homeowner,” says Lisa Patel, President of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board and a member of the CREA’s Federal Affairs Committee.

“There’s a certain amount of pride that comes with homeownership. REALTORS® don’t just sell you a house, they sell you a home,” she says. And while homeownership comes with financial benefits, such as building equity and wealth, it also helps to build more vibrant communities, because “those who have a place to call home tend to want to better their neighbourhood.”

While pride might not show up on the balance sheet, it does affect behaviour and choices. Several studies cited in the white paper show that homeowners have improved satisfaction with their living conditions and higher rates of overall life satisfaction, regardless of income levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.

For example, CMHC’s 2013 Canada-wide survey of 326 Habitat for Humanity households found that habitat homeowners reported better well-being for their children, a greater sense of stability and a greater feeling of control. Of these respondents, 70% had previously lived in some form of rental housing.

Other countries have had similar results. A group of Dutch housing policy researchers, for example, studied 2000-2001 data from eight European countries and found higher levels of satisfaction with one’s living conditions among homeowners than non-homeowners in seven out of eight countries. Another European study drawing on data from 15 European countries found homeownership correlated with increased overall life satisfaction, regardless of household circumstances.

Better health and education outcomes

Aside from overall life satisfaction, building equity can help with other life goals, such as paying for higher education. The stability and security of homeownership has been shown to contribute to a better home and learning environment, resulting in better educational outcomes.

Several studies referenced in the white paper found when a family owns their home, school drop-out rates decrease, and the homeowner’s children are more likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The research also reflects the influence of homeownership on physical and mental health. “Financial security and residential stability can serve as a buffer against market fluctuations that contribute to physical and mental stress, especially among low-income families,” CREA noted in the white paper.

“When you have the security of homeownership, you are the one in the decision-making seat, you decide when you’re going to move or relocate, so it eliminates the anxiety of someone telling you when you’re going to move,” says Jill Oudil, CREA’s Chair-Elect.
When you rent, your landlord may require you to move whether you like it or not. If you own, the decision to move is your own. If you want to renovate, paint or make a space feel completely your own, you can. If you want to own a pet, you can.

“It makes you content and healthy and happier in your own environment because you have that choice,” says Oudil. “It’s entirely different in how it promotes a feeling of success and achievement—it’s your home.”

Benefits include greater civic engagement

Although these mental health benefits directly affect homeowners and their families, they have positive spillover effects in neighbourhoods and communities. “You invest in the neighbourhood when you live there,” says Oudil. “You own a portion of that neighbourhood so you care about the whole neighbourhood.”

That community orientation of homeownership is often reflected in higher rates of civic engagement, and in turn results in more connected communities. For example, a 1996 literature review by researchers from the University of North Carolina found higher rates of homeownership were linked to greater neighbourhood stability (measured as property condition and length of tenure).

This ‘rootedness’ is a potential contributor to positive civic outcomes because, as noted in the white paper, “by virtue of their longer tenure and more stable financial situation, homeowners may be more inclined to invest into and participate in their neighbourhoods.”

“There’s stability with owning a home,” says Cliff Stevenson, CREA’s Chair. “I would argue that homeowners take more of an interest in the neighbourhood around them, running in community associations or volunteering. It’s a lot easier for homeowners to do that, given the longevity of the investment. The overarching terminology is about stability.”

Homeowners tend to be more active in their communities; they’re more likely to vote and more likely to volunteer for local organizations. They also tend to spend more time and money maintaining their homes, which contributes to beautifying their neighbourhood, which in turn contributes to community pride.

A 2009 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study on low-income households found that participants who purchased homes remained in inner urban areas, “suggesting homeownership can help reduce urban flight and strengthen neighbourhood connections,” according to the white paper.

“If a family owns a home, the children grow up with that example,” says Oudil. That might explain why, when children grow up and eventually move away, they often move back later to raise their own children.

“It’s so emotionally fulfilling,” she says. “You can say there’s the finance side and the health side and community side, but the fact is all of those are connected, which breeds more happiness.”

How to Make Your Own Live Edge Table

If you have a passion for building, and you want to take on a unique project, we’ve got just the thing for you: a DIY live edge table. Live edge furniture is a great way to add beauty to your home and create a unique talking piece for future entertaining.

What’s a live edge table?

Remember that beautiful table at your family cottage? The one they seemingly stole from a fairy tale? Yup, that’s a live edge. These tables incorporate the natural edge of a piece of wood directly into their design. They’re rustic, raw, modern, and chic, not to mention sophisticated and built to last. A traditional live edge table will have tree bark on its sides; however, some people choose to remove it to avoid the bark possibly becoming brittle and breaking over time. In recent years, live edge tables have grown in popularity among furniture and design enthusiasts everywhere. Here’s what you need to know to build one

How can I build my own?

For such a beautiful piece of furniture, a live edge table is relatively straightforward to make. It can be a one-day project if you have the right materials. Unlike most live edge tables, the process outlined here doesn’t require you to break out your welding gear.
To get started, browse crafty websites like Pinterest or Etsy to find inspiration. It’s also important to designate an area of your home as your workspace; we recommend a garage or backyard.

Start with a wood slab you think will work in your desired location, proper tools on hand, and your creative spirit ready to go! Keep in mind it can be dangerous to operate power tools without the right safety equipment and know-how—so be cautious. If you don’t have the required tools, you can likely rent them at your local hardware store.

How to source the right wood

Depending on the size of table you want, and the type of wood, slabs can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000. For the cost-conscious builder, a softwood like cedar or pine is recommended as it’s often less expensive and easier to work with; however, most species of wood will produce a beautiful finished product. Don’t worry, you don’t need to cut down a tree yourself; there are plenty of lumber yards or woodworking vendors who can sell you the perfect slab.

Materials and tools needed

To build your own live edge table, you’ll need:

  • A slab of live edge wood (three inches thick is optimal)
  • A hammer (optional to remove bark)
  • Two 2x4s and a sawhorse (or any tool to safely elevate your slab)
  • An angle grinder, a sharpening disc, and a flat carving disk
  • Sandpaper and an orbital sander
  • A tape measure, pencil and drill
  • Lag screws and metal table legs (you’ll need to measure and order custom sizes)
  • Lint-free rags and a tack cloth
  • Wood finish

Steps to follow

Step one (optional to remove bark)

If you don’t want your table to have the tree’s natural bark along its edges, elevate your wood slab to protect it and use a hammer claw to remove the bark.

Step two

Secure your slab on top of your sawhorses. Using your angle grinder and carving disk, shape it to your liking, following its grain and natural curves for the best results.

With your slab in its desired shape, use your orbital sander to buff out any aggressive marks. Start with a low grit and slowly increase.

Step Three

With your slab in its desired shape, use your orbital sander to buff out any aggressive marks. Start with a low grit and slowly increase.

Step four

Place your table face down on your 2x4s, position the legs, and mark drill holes. Drill your pilot holes and attach the legs using heavy-duty lag screws.

Step five

By now, you’re probably boasting your woodworking skills to everyone who will listen; this table already looks good enough to eat off! But it’s not done yet; you need to protect it with a finish.

Wipe down the surface with a lint-free rag, then with a tack cloth. Evenly apply your finish, letting it soak as per the manufacturer’s recommendation, then a smaller coat for any dry spots and wait again. Finally, buff out any excess finish with a clean, lint-free rag.

Now that you’ve completed your table, it’s time for the hardest part: deciding where to put it. Most likely, it will be the crowning jewel of your dining room, but just be careful—once you have one piece of live edge furniture in your home, you’ll probably want to add even more! There are plenty of live edge projects you can take on, such as shelves, desks, bedside tables, a striking coffee table for your living room, or even a fancy cutting board! They all carry the same, elegant look and natural look of a live edge table, and are sure to make a charming addition to any room in your home!

As with any DIY or home improvement project, safety is always the most important factor. If you’re unsure about building a live edge table on your own, or you don’t have the proper tools or safety equipment to complete the project, be sure to contact a professional woodworker who can help you plan, design, and build your dream live edge table.

Should You DIY Your Kitchen Renovation?

Tired of cooking in your cramped kitchen? Are your circa-1980 cabinets ready for the dumpster? A new kitchen can help boost property values and greatly improve your overall enjoyment of the home.

The catch? A kitchen remodel isn’t a weekend project. Depending on how involved your plans are (replacing cabinet doors vs. gutting the whole room), your project can either be affordable and simple, or expensive and complicated. Here’s how to figure out whether you have the resources to go the DIY route or if you’re better off hiring a professional.

Evaluate your goals and your skills

Kitchen renovations take money and time, says Brandon Fuchs, owner of North Canadian Construction Group (NCC), which operates in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“You have to determine: are you planning on selling your home and just renovating it to freshen it up, or is this your forever home?” he says. “And if you’re in an expensive neighbourhood and you do the kitchen yourself, the quality of the work you’re producing might be a deterrent when you sell your home.”

Feeling confident about your abilities? You’ll still need to consider equipment. If you don’t own the proper tools, factor in the cost of renting or purchasing what you need.

Consult a designer

Fuchs admits when he first launched his contracting business, he didn’t appreciate the value of working with a designer. He has since changed his mind.

“A cabinet company makes a plan for cabinets, but they don’t make a plan for your project,” he says. “Designers create that blueprint and use software that visually takes you right to the end of the project. They have experience on job sites, so they’ll help guide you to make the correct decisions.”

Consult a Realtor

You may not be selling the house right away, but consulting with a local realtor is a good idea before starting any home renovation project. Realtors know what buyers are looking for in your neighbourhood, whether it’s the style of cabinets or the quality of the countertop. Knowing these things in advance can help you make decisions for a potentially better resale value in the future.

Settle on the scope of your project

Even if you aren’t knocking down walls or changing the footprint of your kitchen, check with your municipality to see whether you need permits and what the building code requires, says Fuchs.

“For example, where we are, as soon as you touch a kitchen, you have to upgrade the electrical,” he explains. “So if an inspector gets wind that you’re doing your kitchen and you haven’t hired an electrician to follow those new code restrictions, you could get into trouble.”

Consider how much time your kitchen remodel requires

Binge-watching home improvement shows makes us believe that renovation projects can be accomplished in a few spare hours. The reality is just the opposite, says Fuchs.

“Some people think it’s more cost-effective to do things on their own, but I have a different perspective: What’s your time worth? If you’re employed and you work eight hours a day, you might work for another eight hours after that, because you’re not as efficient as a pro,” he says.

Smaller projects such as putting up backsplash tiles or swapping cabinet hardware don’t require a huge time investment. But hanging cabinets, changing a sink and faucet, or installing a new countertop could take a lot longer than anticipated.
The work will also probably disrupt your daily routine, plus you need to be ready to live with the mess until the kitchen is complete.

You may pay less (or more) for materials

If you’re good at researching materials and products online to find the best deals, your DIY kitchen could end up costing you less in the long run.

Fuchs notes contractors usually get special ‘for the trade’ pricing from suppliers. But if you don’t mind spending time buying and transporting supplies, some big-box stores will allow you to open an account if you’re planning to purchase lots of items, so you can negotiate a small discount.

“Because of the relationships we’ve built over the years, we get more than just a discount on material,” he explains. “We also have more control on availability.”

Fuchs also said contractors often have access to higher quality materials than what’s available to consumers.

Know when to call in a pro

Renovating an older home? It’s probably better to hire an experienced general contractor that can spot potential problems, suggests Fuchs.

“Does the house have asbestos, mould, or rot? These things sound really bad, but you can prep for them before you actually start. However, people often jump into renovating their home without knowing what they’re doing, and that’s when the extra costs come up.”

Generally, the average DIYer should bring in professional help for plumbing, electrical, or gas hook-ups, along with asbestos or mould remediation.

Ask for extra help during your DIY

As you embark on your DIY project, it’s important to note, a number of companies also offer their services online. From plumbing, electrical to general contracting, a quick Google search will connect you with a professional to help avoid any DIY disasters.
Whether you take on a project yourself, entrust a professional contractor or go with a little bit of both, take the time to research all your options before you grab a sledgehammer.

Fun Virtual Event Ideas to Keep Everyone Entertained During Lockdown

We’ve never been closer to one another in a world where social distance has become the norm. You can FaceTime your mother, hang out with friends, or join a Zoom call with your team of 30 coworkers with the click of a button. There are so many unique and entertaining ways to interact with one another online, from birthday parties to scavenger hunts.

Below is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the ins and outs of hosting a virtual event, as well as etiquette and expectations, as well as several fun and engaging virtual group activities to try for your next event.

What to consider when hosting a virtual event

  1. Good internet
    One of the most fundamental and important components of a successful virtual event is your internet connection. Even though your bill says “high-speed internet,” you might have a less than optimal connection. Ensure you have a minimum upload speed of 15MB/s so your video and audio quality is good–nobody likes choppy or glitchy footage! If you have the ability to plug your laptop into an ethernet cable, do it. A wired connection is much more stable and consistent.
  2. Services and apps to use
    Zoom has quickly become the standard for hosting virtual gatherings and events, however, there are many more options on the market, from Facebook Messenger and FaceTime, to WhatsApp and Google Duo. If your event requires screen sharing or has many participants joining via an array of devices (laptop, tablet, phone), it’s best to stick with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or Skype.
  3. Virtual etiquette and tips
    Just because an event is virtual doesn’t mean all manners and social etiquette go out the window. Here are just a few simple tips and behaviours to consider:
  • When sending out invites or RSVPs give lots of lead time.
  • Use your laptop rather than your phone. If the phone is a must, consider placing it on a stand or even a stack of books to keep it stationary.
  • Make sure your camera is eye level and your background is clear of distracting items.
  • With Zoom, gallery view is better than speaker video–that way you can see everyone and their reactions!
  • When five or more people are joining the event, it’s polite to mute yourself when you aren’t speaking.
  • The general rule of thumb is the more participants, the shorter the event should be. Expect participants to be present for 45-90 minutes.
  • Know when to say goodbye.

Virtual event ideas

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to throw a virtual party, let’s explore some fun virtual event ideas and what you need to make them happen.

Scavenger hunt

What it is: A fun event for kids and adults alike, virtual scavenger hunts are the latest trend to hit the internet. Participants are instructed to find funny, obscure, and unique items all around their home and are rewarded with points for the most items found.

What you need: Pick a theme for your scavenger hunt and then create a list of household items that might fall under that theme. The host or moderator will oversee reading the list and controlling the stopwatch. Participants will have anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute to ransack their house for the identified item. Points are awarded based on how many items a participant has found. Fun, physical, and entertaining!
Tips:

  • Aim for about eight to 15 people.
  • Create a list of things that everyone will have in their homes but might have a hard time finding (ex: Three triple “A” batteries) to make the rush of finding the items much more thrilling.
  • Remember to be mindful of the age of your participants.
  • Have a real prize for the winner. Ask all participants to pitch in $5 to $10 to buy the winner a gift card or something small.

Dinner party

What it is: Casual, fancy, or family-style, virtual dinner parties are the new night out! There are many different dinner party formats to consider. Will participants be cooking the meal during the call or just eating? Will it be a home-cooked meal or take-out? Will everyone be cooking the same meal or something different?

What you need: Chat with your participants to decide on the format as well as the theme of the night. The host will oversee setting up the video call, distributing the recipes or takeout menu to participants, and setting the agenda for the night. Beyond that, it’s as simple as showing up, eating together, and feeling connected.

Tips:

  • This format typically works best with two to three households/families.
  • Themed dinner parties can be fun, where you dress up based on the meal you’re having.
  • Using a meal prep service or catered delivery can save time and ensure all participants have the same recipes and ingredients for the meal.
  • Have an end time planned.

Birthday party

What it is: There’s a pretty good chance you’ve already experienced some type of virtual birthday party in the past year. Sometimes it’s just a conversation, other times there are activities planned.

What you need: If you’re hosting a virtual birthday party, you’ll want to send out RSVPs at least three weeks in advance along with an agenda, the honouree’s address (in case guests want to send gifts in advance), and the link to the party. If you plan to send gifts or goodie bags, leave plenty of time to courier the packages. Lastly, have a schedule: introductions, a fun game, sing happy birthday, enjoy cake, and open presents. Despite the distance, it can still be an epic celebration!

Tips:

  • Play virtual party games to keep things interesting.
  • No birthday is complete without cake. Send a cake to your virtual birthday honoree or some cupcakes to all party guests. Local bakeries or food delivery services like UberEats and SkipTheDishes can make this easy.
  • Don’t forget the digital decorations! Zoom lets you customize your background so take advantage.
  • Encourage partygoers to wear party hats or dress up based on a predetermined theme.

Cooking or cocktail class

What it is: Want to learn a new skill all while hanging out with the people you love? Try a virtual cooking or cocktail class. Enjoy all the benefits of an in-person cooking class from the comfort of your own kitchen.

What you need: From cooking basics to delicious cocktails, there are many professionals offering paid (and free) cooking classes virtually. But before you contract your chef or mixologist, poll your group to see what they would be most interested in learning. Once your event is confirmed, the host and chef/mixologist should coordinate to ensure all participants have a list of all the necessary ingredients, equipment, and tools to get the job done. On party night, enjoy the learning experience, and delicious food and drink.

Tips:

  • Think about the length of the class, instructor fees, and the cost and accessibility of required ingredients.
  • Don’t choose overly complicated recipes that require special equipment or tools.
  • Keep the group size small, usually no more than eight to ten participants. This allows for one-on-one instruction if needed.
  • Don’t treat the class like a cooking show. The chef/mixologist is there to educate, entertain and converse with participants, so loosen up, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to chat.

Games night

What it is: Who doesn’t love a friendly game between friends and family to shake things up on a Saturday night? Grab a pizza, your favourite game, and a laptop–it’s about to go virtual!

What you need: A game to play–and there are lots to choose from! Bingo, 20 questions, trivia, charades, mad libs, and truth or dare are some traditional games you can easily play online without a third-party app. If digital group gaming is your thing, try Jackbox Games, All Bad Cards, Heads Up, or Among Us which all have apps, virtual rooms, or links that allow you to game together.

Tips:

  • Take age into consideration when selecting a game.
  • For games with no time limit consider using a stopwatch to call a hard stop, otherwise, your game could go on forever.
  • Don’t forget the snacks!
  • At the end of the day, the best virtual events are those that help your employees, friends, or family feel connected, important, and appreciated. We’re lucky to be living during a time where technology has closed the gap in distance and made us feel closer than ever.