Archives for Housing tips

Buyers Toolkit – Springtime

Spring is in the air, and the real-estate market is ramping up for the beginning of buyers’ season.  Things tend to move faster in the spring and houses for sale are often sold shortly after they are listed.  As a potential home buyer, it is important to be prepared as possible before you start looking at potential homes – that way, the chance of losing your “dream home” to another buyer is greatly decreased. You may be wondering … “What are some of the important things that can help you stay on-top of, and ahead of this year’s spring market?”  Have no fear, in this toolkit we have everything you need to know, and do, to make the buying experience go smoothly for you!

Your “Tools”-What you want to be prepared with ahead of time:

Mortgage Information & Pre-approval

Find out what mortgage you qualify for, and get your mortgage pre-qualification.  By taking this step you’ll know exactly what you can afford to buy and when you’re ready to make an offer, you can be confident knowing you are staying within your financial boundaries.  A financing condition is pretty standard in an agreement of purchase and sale; after your offer is accepted by the seller the time you have to meet the conditions is best spent finalizing your financing on a specific property rather than starting the approval process.

A Realtor

Although that seems like a no-brainer, making sure you have hired the realtor who is right for you is very important when it comes to purchasing a home.  Do some research, ask questions, interview a few realtors, check online profiles and reviews.  You’ll be spending a lot of time with your real estate agent; make sure you trust them, that they’re knowledgeable and that you’re comfortable with them.  Quick and easy contact with your agent is another key piece when it comes to signing and sealing a deal.

Your List of Needs vs. Wants

Knowing what you’ll need in your future home, and things that you want (your wish-list) is one of the most important aspects when it comes to looking for a new home. Needs are things that you must have in your new home (e.g. minimum number of bedrooms, a yard for the dog, a safe neighbourhood) whereas the wants’ or your “wish-list” are things you don’t necessarily need, but you’d like to have (Example: Granite countertops).  Your “must-have” list will help you rule out homes for sale that aren’t suited for your needs rather than spending valuable time on those that don’t.  This process can also open up your search options if some of the things on your need list actually turn out to be wants.

Pro-Con List

It’s important to keep a list of the pros’ and cons’ of each property that you visit, in order to have a better recollection of the home that is best suited for your family. Remember to check small details in each home, like testing the lights, and plumbing, and make note of the neighbourhood characteristics.

Trust Your Gut

When it comes to knowing what home is the right choice for you, you can use the simple tools listed above to help make an informed decision, however the most important aspect of home-buying is knowing when to trust your gut. The spring market moves quickly, and sometimes being prepared, and trusting your instincts are the two key factors standing between you, and successfully making an offer on your future home in time. If the potential home is in your price range, and has the combination of needs and wants you desire – don’t take the time to sleep on it, or you may lose the opportunity to make an offer. Trust your intuition and keep in close contact with your realtor to have the best support and knowledge while making these decisions.

There are many different aspects that are key elements to finding the right home. Working with your realtor to negotiate for a fair price, finding the neighbourhood you’re comfortable with, and ensuring you have the right credit and down-payment for the home you’re interested in are just some of these factors. The home buying process doesn’t need to be complicated – tool kit in hand, and realtor by your side, will make this spring market a piece of cake for you.

Let us know how we can help!  Contact us

College students, and living options


If you’re the parent of a college/university age student, and you haven’t considered it yet, perhaps now is the time you will. As spring is just around the corner, it’s time to think about what investments you can make, and an investment that shouldn’t be overlooked is buying a home. More specifically, buying a home for your college-aged student to live in during school. Should you purchase a home in your students’ university/college town for them to live in during their schooling? What are the benefits, and drawbacks of investing in a second home? Would this investment bring you a profit? These questions, and many others are part of considering getting a home for your student to live in.


Why buy a home for your student?

College and university are expensive endeavours no matter what you do, but with a little planning, you can find ways to cut corners and minimize costs. One of the ways that can be done would be by purchasing a home for your student to live in while they’re in school. By buying a home, you have a hand in your students’ quality of life, and are involved in their living situation (in terms of sketchy roommates, and sneaky landlords). Your student can learn the responsibility of owning a home, without burdening all of the financial costs (as they would have roommates), as well as ensuring they have a stable living situation, that has fewer costs than finding an apartment to rent throughout their school years.


What are the benefits of buying your student a home?

There are a multitude of benefits that come along with buying a home for your student to live in including, but not limited to: having stability in their housing, fixed expenses, and the rental income that can come from having roommates. If you have more than one student enrolled, having a place they can both live is easier than having them both go apartment hunting. Their friends can become their roommates (and your tenants), which can allow the mortgage to be paid, and then some.


Depending on the size of the home, the income from having tenants along with your children, is that their rent will not only cover the mortgage, but any other maintenance related expenses that your student would need to pay for, or work for, such as the cost of snow-removal. Having a fixed bill payment each month will allow your student to further understand how bills are paid, what the true cost of living is, and how to properly budget. There are so many benefits in the option of buying a home for your student to live in, but a major benefit is removing the costly expense of moving, and storing furniture year after year. In many university towns, students who return home for the summer need to leave their current lease, and pay for 4 months of summer when they won’t be living there. Many students need to store furniture for the summer, which is an additional expense, as well as the gas, time, and travel expenses that come along with moving multiple times.

As students continue to live in your second home, its value will increase, and when your students finish school, you can have the option of selling this home at a profit.


Of course, there is always the question of “What if they don’t stay there?” – perhaps your student may be interested in travelling abroad, or changing schools later on – but that doesn’t take away from the investment you’ve made. If your student chooses to study abroad for a year, you will have tenants in place already and the house will continue to build equity. Investing in a home is always a sound decision that holds a variety of opportunity for you, and your student.


The investment is always best returned to those who intend to hold onto the “second nest” for longer than their children are enrolled in university/college, as it gives them time to build more equity and increase the value/profit that may come from the sale of this home.


Who can help?

In the same manner you would contact your Realtor to look into purchasing a home near you, contact a Realtor to discuss the area, opportunities for growth, and what the rental community is like in that city. It is also an option to purchase a home in Ottawa that is closer to campus for your student to live in – purchasing a second home as an investment is an option that exists regardless of where your student decides to go to school. If your student is going to school out of town, contact a Royal Lepage Realtor in their soon to be “home” to use their extensive knowledge of the housing market, and area in order to make an informed decision. Realtor’s can even help you find tenants for your second nest, should you need them to!



White bookshelf with a colorful books.


This article from Bob Vila gives eight handy tips to consider when using your basement for storage.   The suggestions include taking advantage of vertical space by building up and not out, using open shelves for frequently-used items and built-in cabinets to conceal toys or cleaning supplies, storing off-season gear in sealed bins to protect from moisture and dust, using a pulley-hoist to store heavy or bulky items from the ceiling, protecting tools stored in the open with a coating of machine oil to prevent rust and running a humidifier in the basement to suck moisture from the air and combat mold or mildew.  To read more click here.

Source: Blog

Bathroom Reno Small


As people age, reduced mobility, impaired balance, failing vision and muscle weakness make them more susceptible to injuries in their home, and bathrooms are no exception.  This Consumer Reports article tells how the latest design trends are helping owners upgrade their bathrooms with changes that enhance safety while retaining their beauty and avoiding an institutional look. In addition, subtle name changes have made useful improvements like shower rails (formerly called grab bars) and higher-seated toilets (“comfort height”) more acceptable.


By widening the bathroom doorway, removing the raised sill and replacing knobs with easier-to-open handles you improve access. Installing slip-resistant tile or vinyl and/or shower bars will reduce the risk of falling.  To reduce glare, mount lights on the side of your mirrors, not above, and bring in natural light with windows or skylights.  Design the sink area to be suitable for all ages and abilities.  Wall mount sinks provide room for someone who wants to sit, dual-level countertops help the youngsters and faucet levers are easier to turn than knobs.


Open or glassed-in shelves make things easier to find.  People with mobility issues can choose from curbless showers with seating and walk-in tubs with entry doors, sliding sides or wide edges to sit on while swinging their legs over the side.  To read more click here.


Source: Blog

Window cleaning_Small


Should removing and cleaning the window screens be part of your winter maintenance routine? According to this post, there are several benefits to be gained. Simply put, dirty mesh blocks light, heat and the view. For example, you get 30 to 40 percent more light coming in without screens on the windows.  More sunshine means you need less artificial light and can save on energy costs.


In addition, removing the screens increases the solar energy getting through to the windows. Improved solar heat gain reduces the need for mechanical heating saving on heating bills. Also, during a storm, snow gets caught between the window and screen which can damage the frame.


Wait until after the first freeze, to avoid bugs, and take the opportunity to inspect and repair the screens, where necessary.  To avoid damage, vacuum the screens with a brush attachment. Then, use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub them with a solution of dish soap and water. Don’t push too hard or the screen will be damaged. Rinse the windows with a hose, wipe them down on both sides and let them dry in the sun.


Remember to mark each screen with its corresponding window to make spring installation easier.  Finally, store them in a dry place where they won’t get damaged.  To read more click here.

Source: Blog

Expensive heating


This slide show from Bob Villa is an excellent visual representation of how NOT to treat your appliances. For example, an overloaded washing machine stresses the bearings and misaligns the drum. Overfilling the freezer can block air vents, restrict the flow of cold air and overtax the condenser. Clean spills right after using the oven as they can damage the heating coils. To read more click here.


Source: Blog

Prohibition Sign Cockroach


To prevent an onslaught of pests from occupying your house as the weather cools, simply  follow the National Pest Management Association guidance presented in this post from Bob Villa. Seal cracks in the exterior envelope, especially where utility pipes enter, with silicone caulking.  Fill larger gaps inside your home with steel wool. Pests avoid the roughness of the steel fibers and rodents cannot gnaw through it. Repair ripped window screens, door sweeps and loose mortar in the basement foundation, screen dryer vents and chimneys and replace weather stripping to seal these ideal entry points. If you suspect an infestation, hire a licensed pest control professional to assess the situation. To read more click here.

Source: Blog

How Google Sunroof Works

Employing the high-resolution aerial mapping used by Google Earth, Project Sunroof calculates the amount of sunlight reaching your roof to assess its potential for solar power.  It takes a variety of factors into account including local weather conditions, shade from nearby trees and buildings and sun positions throughout the year.  The tool combines this information with data from your household’s monthly electricity bill, factors in panel orientation and tilt to the roof surface to calculate average monthly and annual solar radiation, recommends the size of solar installation needed and estimates the cost to purchase or lease the hardware as well as the amount that could be saved with solar panels.

The tool is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and Boston, however, should Google decide to expand that coverage, they have ample capital reserves to act quickly.  They might offer serious competition to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute’s Live Solar Potential Tool, which currently provides similar services.

How Google Sunroof is Changing Homeowners’ Costs

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels harness the power of the sun by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity.  The electric current can power your home’s appliances or be put back into the grid.  Google Sunroof has developed a tool to help homeowners assess the solar power potential of their roof.

Improvements to Photovoltaic Technology

In the 1980′s photovoltaics consumed more energy than they produced over their lifetime.  Now the energy return ratio (ERR) on solar panels has improved exponentially. According to Professional Engineering magazine, the energy payback times (EPBT), the time it takes to produce all the energy used in their lifespan, is currently are between 6 months and 2 years.  And, with life cycles of 30 years, their ERR is 60:1 and 15:1.  In other words, solar panels produce 15 – 60 times the energy required to make them.

Advantages of Net Metering

Since their energy source is the sun, solar panels produce “clean” electricity, without emitting carbon.  And, many locations, including Ontario, offer “Net Metering” which means the utility credits a homeowner for solar energy that is not consumed by the home.  You send the excess electricity you generate to the local distribution system for a credit toward future energy costs. In essence, it’s a “trade” of electricity you supply against electricity you consume.

Source: Blog

Think you need to wait until Spring to sell your home? You may want to think again if you’re ready to sell now.  

Home Miniature, Pen and Contract on TableIn this post, Gavin Chen challenges conventional wisdom that the best time to sell is spring and the best time to buy is fall.  Statistically, spring has the most competing sellers in the market, so you might have to stage your home to get an advantage. Chen suggests it is important to highlight the sellable features of your home in any season.  Although there are fewer buyers in the December – January period (holidays, travel), the warmth of a showpiece fireplace will make a favourable impression during winter viewings, in summer, creating inviting outdoor spaces is a great way to help your house stand out.  The article suggests avoiding early summer listings because people are relishing the seasonal change, but in recent years the  Ottawa Real Estate market in June and July have proven to be strong and stable…click here to read the full story from HGTV 

Source: Blog


Following an annual maintenance schedule is an essential step in protecting the value of what will probably be the largest investment of your life – your home.  First time home owners, or those lacking experience may struggle with this task and overlook important elements.  Here are some guidelines to help you create a maintenance program that suits your needs.

Benefits of Home Maintenance

Regular preventive maintenance identifies minor repairs before they become expensive, major repairs.  It also preserves your home’s market value.  One study found that “greater than $5 return for every $1 spent on preventive maintenance is not unusual”.  Other rewards include:

  • extended life for your home’s components, equipment and operating systems;
  • improved energy efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint;
  • lush, healthy vegetation and attractive landscaping;
  • assurance that your living space is safe and comfortable;
  • improved presentation and continuing exterior appeal; and
  • avoiding home inspection shockers when you sell.

Monthly Home Maintenance Routines

Clean or change all filters; test fire extinguishers and smoke alarms; inspect switch boxes and electrical cords; vacuum heat registers/vents; check that air vents are clear; flush the water heater to remove sediment; and clean the garbage disposal.

Fall Home Maintenance Routines

Inspect roof, siding and foundation; clean the chimney; winterize/store yard furniture and tools; service the snow blower; cover your air conditioner and any vegetation that needs protection; service furnaces/stoves; get firewood and de-icers; clean gutters and downspouts; clean the dryer vent; check the water heater for leaks; “close” the pool.

Winter Home Maintenance Routines

Periodically shovel snow away from the foundation; check the basement for leaks during thaws; remove excess snow and ice dams from roofs/gutters; vacuum bathroom exhaust fan grills; vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils and empty and clean drip trays; service the lawnmower; clean drains in sinks, tubs, showers, and dishwashers; hang holiday decorations early (milder weather and replacements are in stock).

Spring Home Maintenance Routines

Inspect roof, siding, foundation and chimney; flush hot water heaters; fertilize/seed lawn; wash and check caulking and weather stripping for windows/doors/screens; clean gutters and downspouts; wash interior walls/ceilings and inspect the paint; seal holes or cracks that invite insects or pests; service the air conditioner; “open” the pool; inspect the driveway;

Summer Home Maintenance Routines

Service the garage door and operating system (chain, hinges, opener); inspect exterior paint for cracking or blisters; ensure exterior sockets and fixtures are working and bulbs light; clean dryer vent, kitchen exhaust-fan filter; defrost/clean freezers and fridges including the coils; check plumbing (sinks, showers, toilets, dishwasher) for leaks; seal tile grout; clean the garage and seal the floor; “open” the pool; prune trees and shrubs.

Bottom line: spend a little now on scheduled preventive maintenance or spend a lot later and risk catastrophic damage to yourself and/or your home.

Source: Blog