10 Things to Look for in a Real Estate Agent

Finding the right real estate agent to represent you can be challenging. There are many agents to choose from and almost every homeowner you meet will have a recommendation. It may take a bit of time, but interviewing and evaluating agents is worth every minute. Buying or selling a home is no small task, so you want to make sure you get the right person in your corner. Here are 10 essential things to look for in a real estate agent.

  1. An active listener
    You want to ensure that when you speak, your agent listens to you and takes your wants and needs into full consideration. Your agent will represent you in what is sure to be one of your life’s biggest purchases or sales, so it’s crucial to make sure they understand your priorities. Look for an agent who remembers your list of wishes, contacts you when they see something that suits your needs, and who does not monopolise your discussions. Typically, good agents are good salespeople, but make sure they’re not trying to sell you for your own needs. It’s time to start looking for another agent, if you don’t feel listened to.
  2. Good references or referrals
    There’s no quicker way to find out what your real estate agent can expect from you than by contacting their previous customers. When assessing agents, some buyers and sellers skip this step, but we would highly recommend taking the time to get honest feedback. Agents, preferably in the cities you are looking at, should come to list appointments or meetings equipped with recent references. If a friend or family member has referred your potential real estate agent to you, make sure you ask them in detail about how the agent operated on each of the nine other points on this list.
  3. Honesty, especially in difficult situations
    This can be difficult to gauge, but finding an honest agent whose opinion you can trust is extremely important. The experience and opinion of your agent about making or accepting offers should be extremely valuable to you, but that will only be the case if you can trust them fully to operate in your best interest. You want to find an agent who will tell you their honest opinion, even if they know their thoughts will not be received pleasantly, so that with as much information as possible, you can truly make decisions. When making difficult decisions, an honest agent who stands by his or her instincts is indispensable.
  4. Passion
    It’s fairly easy to tell whether or not an agent is passionate about their job and the real estate industry in general, unlike some of the other items on this list. Before you find your dream home, you want an agent who is excited about getting the highest bid possible on your listing, or who is combing through new listings. They should know the latest trends in the Canadian real estate market and really enjoy talking with you about them. It should be an enjoyable process to buy or sell your home, and a good real estate agent who is passionate about their work can make all the difference.
  5. Negotiation skills
    A good real estate agent pays for himself, they say, and the bargaining table is the place where this can really happen. It takes a good understanding of both the seller’s situation and the negotiation style of the listing agent to read whether you should make a strong offer, a counter-offer, or a low offer. Pricing a listing properly on the other side of things is somewhat of an art form that can set the stage for a successful negotiation and timely sale. Be sure that your agent has the necessary negotiating skills to get you a good offer, or to accept your offer.
  6. Someone with support
    If you’re a home buyer for the first time, you might be surprised at just how many people during your home buying process you’ll need to be introduced to. During the home buying process, your agent should be able to recommend a notary, a mortgage broker, a home inspector, and any other potential service providers you may need. An agent who has established such strong relationships is likely to be someone who is respected in the industry, which should give you trust when negotiating on your behalf.
  7. Effective communication skills
    Take note of how you are spoken to by your potential agent, how they treat other individuals, and how they communicate on social media with the world. You want to make sure that your agent can sell efficiently, which requires the ability to clearly communicate. One of the best ways to judge this is to see how, when you meet them, they sell themselves. You’ve probably discovered a good communicator that will represent you well if they make a strong case for you to use their services.
  8. A strong online presence
    You should also take a look at their online profiles to see how they sell themselves, and their client homes, online, not just evaluate your agent in person. Check to see if they have a social media follower, featured website profiles such as REW, and where their previous listings were shared online. Typing their previous sales addresses into Google Search will help give you an idea of where, if you list with them, you can expect to see your property online.
  9. Decisions based on data
    You want to make sure they back up their views and suggestions with hard data when you speak to a potential agent. Select an inside and out agent who knows the market, and don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about your field of interest and see what kind of knowledge and insight they have. It doesn’t have to be a formal pop quiz, but it’s important to make sure that your agent knows the area you want to buy or sell in.
  10. Experience
    To be clear, we’re not suggesting you should only work with 20-year industry veterans. Experience is certainly not everything, but having it is an asset that you should take into account when evaluating potential agents. Your agent should be able to provide you with examples of past buying and selling experiences that lead to positive outcomes. You also want to make sure that they know and have good relationships with other industry professionals, as they could be negotiating with them in the near future on your behalf.
    If you find an agent that ticks off the 10 boxes above, you should be in for a great experience.

How to Grow Green in the Winter Months

“Ultimate Gray” was recently revealed to Pantone as one of the two colours of 2021 the year. For clinical and psychological comparisons, a complementary yellow hue elevated was also chosen: motivation meets resilience. Paint and plants can quickly (and affordably) raise moods, which means that winter is not associated with grey! Fill your home with the joy of an indoor garden and add some green to this monochrome season. We have gathered the requisite tips, tricks and tidbits to help you start with trust for those who consider the Chia pet as their only qualification.

Novice-friendly plant options

As natural place settings, succulents will double. You excel with sunlight in pots that drain well and let you know that you’re feeling unpleasant or overhydrated. Aloe plants are a popular entry level and can also provide immediate relief from burning for newbie bakers. You may also plant an aloe leaf broken in the ground and grow like a lizard tail.

Beginner who know the self-sufficiency of a jade plant in a short attention span. Their leaves have a great deal of water retention and can go with no water or attention like a camel a month. Jade plants love to enjoy the warm and dry atmosphere in an apartment or condo with radiators.

Cacti are another resilient newbie choice. The soil should be damp, not arid like the desert! Cacti love bright light and will enjoy a sunny perch in a windowsill. They come in strange and peculiar forms from the powder puff to conversation pieces like the rat tail cactus.

Paperwhite narcissus (or simply, paperwhites) are a fragrant and easy-to-grow choice. They can be planted in bowls or shallow containers (seven to 10 cm) packed with decorative stones and pebbles.

Greenhorns should also consider growing an amaryllis. The plant rewards its doting owner by flowering within six to eight weeks of planting. With a little TLC the amaryllis will continue to produce flowers for your Instagram, year after year.

Indoor gardens with purpose

Why not convert your windows into a food shed in-house? Create tomato sauce and salsa, or cocktails or home-made tea with your own indoor herbs. You should add greenery to your windows and menu for your favourite herbs (cilantro, mint, rosemary, basil). You can grow strawberries, tomatoes, carrots and greens of garlic if your room is allowed! You can turn your kitchen scraps into windowsill plants with a little imagination. Far from any fruit or vegetable, from a sweet potato to the pineapple crown, it can sprout again. Micro greens are a healthy way to pursue your sandwiches and salads and will add some new crunch.

Over Exposure: Plant SPF

They are sensitive! They are sensitive! The responsive plant in particular! This is the beauty of plants—still letting you know what they don’t like, or feeling like they live in the dark. Most plants prefer windows facing south or west and sunshine for a minimum of six hours. Some organisms can also enjoy your bathroom’s humidity. A general guiding principle is the collection of plants with tropical native habitats. Cleverly absorbs water and nutrients from theair, air plants don’t even need pots.

The growing and natural sunlight is the prediction of aerogardens and hydroponic systems. Digital alerts let you know when to jump and the light is on a timer. If you have to go vertically, you will also want to aspire to living walls. When you are ready to graduate, your most finished plants will let you know!

Positive Vibes.

Professional practise is horticultural counselling. Like a long hammock swing or a deep lavender massage, plant time is restorative and nourishing to mental and emotional wellbeing. Bonus: whatever shape you choose, your green space will take! You should grow alongside your plant family, it is experimental, always evolving!
Plants deliver so many things—they remind us of the summer and exotic getaways. A composer called “Mother Earth’s Plantasia” was published in 1967 by the composer Mort Garson for plants! Seems like a little synthesiser, also African violets!

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.

5 SIMPLE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR DAY MORE PRODUCTIVE

It’s not about how much you can get done in a day. It’s about how you can become more engaged in what you are doing.
When I’m more focused on simply getting things done, I find myself feeling overwhelmed, scattered, and exhausted. And no matter how many things I’m able to cross off my to-do list, more to-do’s keep cropping up like bunnies. So I’m never released from the anxiety of unfinished business.
However, when you are engaged in what you are doing, while you are doing it, you are naturally productive. You are focused on the task at hand with full attention, and you are relieved (at least temporarily) of the stress and pressure of checking things off the list.
Focusing on the task at hand, however, is not always so easy. Our monkey minds want to distract us, our eyes want to dart to our list, our ears hear the ding of texts and the blip of an email coming in.
Simply the noises, the things we see in our peripheral vision, the creeping thoughts of projects awaiting us, is enough to tighten our chests and fill us with low-level anxiety. And of course, these feelings make us less focused, less engaged, and less productive.
If we are perfectly honest with ourselves, we know that most of the pressure we put on ourselves to “get it all done” is self-created. Will the world fall apart if we don’t get everything done today? Will we be lazy and weak people if we accomplish less than we set out to? Will we really lose clients or get fired if we finish the project tomorrow instead of today?
I’m not suggesting we blow off our important tasks or procrastinate. But I am suggesting we get comfortable with the idea of doing less each day, but with more intentionality and engagement.
Not only will this make us more productive (because we aren’t distracted or anxious), but also we can actually savor and enjoy what we are doing. And when we enjoy what we are doing, we do it more efficiently and thoroughly. We produce higher quality work. We are fully present. We are open to creativity and insight. So how can we foster this “engaged productivity” in our lives in the face of our monkey minds, our distractions, and our low-level urgency anxiety?
Here are five simple things you can do to make your day more productive.
1. Set 3-5 daily goals

Don’t write a long list of 101 things to get done before noon. Set 3-5 non-negotiable goals for the day. That doesn’t mean you may not get more done. But take the pressure off to cram in as much as possible. If your goals involve many steps and a longer time (ie: working on a marketing plan, creating a budget, writing a blog post), then just give yourself 3 tasks. If they are smaller and require less time (replying to emails, doing some research, etc.), then allow yourself five.

2. Budget time

Decide how much time you need or want to spend on each goal. Be realistic in what you can achieve if you are deeply focused on the tasks involved. Then pad the time with an extra 30-60 minutes. You may not need it, but you won’t feel rushed and pressured. Set a time when you begin working on the goal. If you aren’t finished, decide if you want to move on to the next goal or if completing the one you are working on is more important.

3. Remove distractions

Before you begin your first task, clear your desk, shut down all extraneous browsers on your computer, turn off your phone, and close your door. Don’t tempt yourself with anything that will catch your eye or ear or pull your thoughts away from what you are doing. This is hard to do, but it is the most important step in this list.
Distractions will kill productivity. Look at all of the distractions on my desk this morning. I had to clear it completely before I began writing this post.
4. Allow breaks and rewards

If you have a hard time focusing in general, even without distractions, break down your goal or task into 15-minute intervals. Set a timer and work steadily for 15 minutes, then take a 5-minute break and reward yourself with something that won’t pull you away from the task (no emails, phone calls, texts, etc.). Stand up and stretch. Close your eyes and breathe. Look out the window. Jog in place. Use the restroom (without stopping to talk).
Between each of your daily goals, give yourself bigger breaks where you can grab a bite to eat, check emails, reply to calls, etc. But set a timer for these as well. You can use the extra time at the end of the day to finish them.

5. Close the day strong

After you finish the final task, review the work you have done on each of them. If you had to stop short on one of them, go back and continue the work so you feel confident and complete with what you focused on today. If there’s remaining time in the day, pick one more priority task and follow the same steps above. Keep adding priority tasks until you are ready to be done for the day. By choosing fewer goals each day and focusing on them intently, you will find you are far more productive and successful with your work and life. You’ll feel more in control of your time, your priorities, and your state of mind.