Modern plumbing makes renovations easier

Modern plumbing makes renovations easierWater supply pipes aren’t what they used to be — and that’s a good thing. Innovations have made water supply systems easier to install and more durable because of something called PEX pipe.

PEX is easier to install because it’s flexible. This lets your plumber install water supply lines where it would otherwise be impractical or highly disruptive to do with rigid pipe.

Flexible pipe connected to manifolds also makes it easier to control everything from a central location. Instead of shut-off valves at each fixture, a manifold installation puts all your shut-offs in one handy and easily accessible spot.

Finally, PEX won’t crack if it freezes with water in it. While you’ll still want to drain water from cottage pipes that will drop below freezing temperatures over the winter, if some water remains, it won’t mean a plumbing disaster in the spring.

When you hire a plumbing contractor to work on your home, make sure they do business the right way with a full written contract or work order that covers the work to be done, its cost and the warranty. The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free, unbiased information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

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Must-have guide for selling your home

Must-have guide for selling your homeWhen you put your home on the market, you want to be offered top dollar and enjoy a smooth seamless sale from start to finish. For the best experience, use this guide full of expert tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Start with an expert. Realtors are experts in your local housing market; they know the current market conditions, local data and details about other houses in your neighborhood. A Realtor will help you price your home competitively and, if you plan to renovate, they can advise whether the expected return on investment is worth your time, money and effort.

Prepare your home. Create an environment that allows potential buyers to imagine themselves living happily and comfortably in your home. This means removing personal mementoes and photographs, presenting a clean and organized space, and keeping the décor neutral. If you’re selling during the winter, snow can hide backyard imperfections and the cooler weather is a great opportunity to showcase how cozy your home can be — light the fireplace, stockpile fuzzy blankets and use lightly scented candles.

Close wisely. Work with your Realtor to make sure the buyer’s paperwork is in order and any clauses are reasonable. Choose a closing date that’s convenient for you — for example, consider a closing date during the spring when the weather is nicer or on a long weekend so you have more time to move.

Find more information about selling your home and using a Realtor by visiting www.orea.com.

Attention editors: This article is for distribution in Ontario only.

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Realtor-approved tips for buying or selling a home

Realtor-approved tips for buying or selling a homeWhether you’re a millennial buying your first home or a boomer downsizing, entering the housing market can be stressful and challenging. To make the process smoother, here are five helpful tips that Realtors use from the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Understand industry lingo. From the Buyer Representation Agreement to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, there are a number of legal documents with technical names that you need to know. Work together with your Realtor to make sure you understand these documents and what to expect throughout the process of buying or selling.

Think outside the box. If you’re looking for a new home, don’t limit yourself with a strict checklist of must-have features. Try to be flexible because you might find that your dream property isn’t exactly what you imagined. For example, a larger home isn’t necessarily better, since a great layout and the right combination of rooms and storage space can have a big impact on the comfort and flow of everyday living. Similarly, when selling a home, decorate and choose furniture to create multifunctional spaces. For instance, kids’ bedrooms can be reimagined as guest rooms or home offices.

Consider winter. Many people flock to buy or sell in the spring and summer when the weather is warmer, but entering the market during the winter has its advantages. As a buyer, you’ll have less competition and may be able to negotiate a better deal. As a seller, there may be fewer properties on the market, which can help your home stand out; also you’ll attract more serious buyers for viewings since house hunting is more of an effort when it’s cold and snowy outside.

Get your plans in order. Having a well-thought-out plan is a must for both buyers and sellers. Planning ensures a seamless transaction once an offer is made and accepted. For sellers, this means making sure each homeowner listed on the deed is in agreement to sell and that a move-out date has been arranged for tenants (if you have them). For buyers, it’s wise to have your mortgage pre-approved and a home inspector chosen, this way you’ll have your finances and someone who can evaluate the property ready for closing.

Stage the interior. Sellers should stage their homes to attract greater interest. By focusing on curb appeal, decluttering and making sure the home is well lit, your property will stand out to potential buyers. On the flipside, if you’re shopping for a home and the seller hasn’t put any effort into staging, a Realtor can help you cut through the clutter to envision the home’s full potential.

For more information about buying or selling a home visit www.orea.com.

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Buying a home? 5 forms you need to understand

Buying a home? 5 forms you need to understandIf you’re house hunting this season, you want the process of finding and buying your dream home to be an enjoyable, stress-free experience. To help, we’ve made a list of five essential forms that you’ll encounter along the way.

Buyer Representation Agreement. If you’re being represented by a brokerage then you’re considered their client and this form outlines the legal agreement between you and your brokerage. It contains an explanation of the many items, including the services the brokerage will provide to you, fees for those services, the obligations you have as a client and the expiry date of the agreement.

Customer Service Agreement. If you prefer not to enter into a client contract with a brokerage, then you may choose to be a customer and will receive a different service than if you were a client. As a customer, you will be treated fairly & ethically and will be provided honest information while your Realtor takes care not to misrepresent any facts.

Confirmation of Co-operation and Representation. This form confirms representation or customer relationships between the brokerages and the buyers and sellers. This form also details remuneration to be paid. You’ll be asked to sign a CCR before making an offer or any negotiations on a property.

Agreement of Purchase and Sale. This form is used initially by a buyer when making an offer on a property. Once the offer is made and accepted, the offer becomes a legally binding contract. Be sure you understand what’s in your offer before you sign it. Agreeing on a price is important, but make sure you speak to your Realtor about other details like the possession date, conditional terms, and which chattels or fixtures will be included or excluded with the home.

Listing Agreement. This form is the agreement between a seller and their real estate brokerage. The Listing Agreement forms the basis for drafting an offer on a home and includes directions about negotiations.

Find more information about essential forms and using a Realtor by visiting www.orea.com.

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Top 5 ways to turn your bathroom into a spa-like retreat

Top 5 ways to turn your bathroom into a spa-like retreatToday’s busy lifestyles leave many of us craving a quick recharge. And there’s no place like home to relax and unwind, so why not create a spa-like sanctuary where you can do just that? Here are some top tips on how to make it amazing.

Start with what’s behind the walls. There’s nothing less relaxing than dealing with a mould problem –– a common issue in bathrooms. The wrong type of insulation can be especially vulnerable, so look for one that contractors trust just for this purpose. I recommend an insulation called Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound. It’s made from stone, so it repels water and won’t promote mould, mildew or rot. It’ll also help create a peaceful retreat, thanks to excellent sound absorption.

It’s all about the water feature. Whether it’s a multi-head rain shower set against a backdrop of luxurious stone tile or a large, free-standing tub, nothing melts tension away and relaxes the muscles like water. Options abound and can be pricey, but remember, the water feature is the centrepiece of the space, and you’ll use it every single day for years.

Create a warm space. A cold floor can abruptly end your calming experience. Radiant in-floor heating is one feature that, once you have it, you’ll never know how you lived without it.

Let nature inspire. Recreate a spa aesthetic with natural materials like teak, bamboo or stone.

Lighting and music. Incorporating waterproof wireless controls for music and lighting let you set the mood and tone for the ultimate unwind. If you’re on a budget, add a pop of elegance with a beautiful light fixture on a dimmer and complement with aromatic candles.

Accessorize. From plush towels and robes to fresh flowers or greenery, add some elements that make your bathroom feel like a five-star hotel. Reduce visual clutter by storing toiletries or other items in decorative baskets or jars.

My advice is to relax, unwind, and tune out the world for a little while. Make it a guilt-free indulgence, because after all, we take better care of others when we take care of ourselves, too.

Scott McGillivray is the host of the hit HGTV series Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays, a full-time real estate investor, contractor, author, and educator.

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Top tips to create an ideal income suite

Top tips to create an ideal income suiteFrom the condominium craze to the rise of multigenerational living, the climbing cost of homeownership across Canada continues to spawn new trends. The transformation of basements into rental suites is a big one that can help offset mortgage costs. There are plenty of advantages, as well as some important considerations to ensure the best result.

Do your homework. Check zoning, bylaws and adhere to your local building code. As with any new construction or renovation, building permits must be obtained, and all work must be code compliant. This will protect you and any future tenants.

Waterproof it. Check the interior foundation and floors for existing moisture issues, water damage or mould problems. Address any primary moisture issues before finishing the space.

Insulation is key. As a landlord, it’s wise to invest in smart renovations that can improve efficiency and bolster your bottom line. For the best results, insulate well. I recommend installing a rigid board insulation, like Rockwool ComfortBoard 80, against the concrete foundation before you stud the wall. The board is mechanically fastened or adhered to the concrete foundation wall, which prevents thermal bridging through the studs, providing better thermal performance. Finish with a moisture-resistant and dimensionally stable insulation between the studs, like R14 Comfortbatt, to protect against common basement issues such as mould, mildew and rot.

Consider fire safety and soundproofing. Select building materials with a high fire-resistance rating that will not off-gas or contribute to toxic smoke in the event of a fire. Soundproofing is also a must when you plan to share space. Install sound absorbent insulation between floors with resilient channels to reduce sound transfer between living areas. Contractors love stone wool fire and soundproofing insulation, because it protects against fire and noise and is easy to install.

Spend wisely. Keep the renovation budget reasonable. Spending no more than two years’ worth of rent to convert your space is a good general rule of thumb. Forego high-end finishes. Instead, create focal points that will “sell” the suite.

Scott McGillivray is the host of the hit HGTV series Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays, a full-time real estate investor, contractor, author, and educator.

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Top 10 ways to revive your dated house

Top 10 ways to revive your dated houseOur homes are where memories are made, our retreat from the world. However, daily living, growing families, and time can leave your home looking less than its best. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to breathe new life into a well-loved space. These top DIY projects will ensure your home looks and performs its best.

Clean. A neat and tidy home instantly brightens the space, creating a great foundation for other improvements.

Paint. This is the easiest way to quickly transform the look of a dated room. Don’t forget to paint the trim to really make it pop.

Consider replacing worn flooring. Update with hardwoods or choose more affordable options such as laminate or vinyl plank flooring. Eco-friendly options like bamboo or cork flooring have grown in popularity, while today’s assortment of tiles can also create a stunning look.

Address the comfort factor. Taking measures to make your home more energy efficient can dramatically improve everyday comfort and save you money. The easiest way to start is by simply topping up your attic insulation. Many contractors recommend a fire-safe, mould- and water-resistant stone wool insulation like Rockwool Comfortbatt. Made from stone, it’s durable and easy to install. This important update can potentially save you hundreds in annual heating costs, and it only takes about a day or so to complete.

Make simple swaps. New light fixtures or hardware on cabinetry can provide your room with an instant refresh. Give cabinets a new coat of paint if they look tired or dated.

Let there be light. Replace heavy drapes with sheer window coverings or blinds to flood the home with as much natural light as possible.

Open up the space. Remove excess furniture and all signs of clutter. Organize closets and pantries. Open windows to allow fresh air inside.

Accessorize. Add inviting elements like fresh flowers, throws or toss cushions. Does your room have a distinct focal point? Carefully chosen and placed accents or artwork can really make it stand out.

Create curb appeal. Clean and pressure-wash the driveway and walkways. Cut the grass, pull weeds, and trim shrubs. Consider planting annuals to add colour. Paint your front door and house numbers.

Reboot your entry-way. It’s simple, but it sets the tone. Make sure it’s bright, open and functions effectively. Install some clever storage solutions –– there are plenty of options even for small spaces. It should always feel good to walk through the front door. After all, there’s no place like home.

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Moving? How to find the right neighbourhood

Moving? How to find the right neighbourhoodThe search for the perfect house begins with the search for the perfect neighbourhood, which can be daunting. Searching for something so open-ended and with so many variables can be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to know where to start your search and where you can take it from there. Get ready to find that dream neighbourhood.

Search yourself. You can’t really know what to look for in a neighbourhood until you know exactly what you want. Make a list, take your time. Write down the things that really matter to you. Decide priorities. Order your list from most to least important. Moving in with your partner? Have them do the same, and see where your priorities line up and where you diverge. Now that you know what you want, it’s time to go get it.

Search the streets. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. You really can’t know a neighbourhood until you’ve walked its streets at several different times of day. Get a feel for the level of traffic and noise, decide if you’re okay with it. See how the streets feel. Are they lit enough at night? Would it be nice to go for a run through your neighbourhood? Make sure you visit each of your candidate neighbourhoods.

Search the stats. While you hunt at street level, make sure you take your research to a bird’s-eye view at the same time. You would be amazed at the kinds of things you can learn about a neighbourhood just from its census data. How old are people there? How many kids are in the neighbourhood? How many people are home owners? How much are the average monthly costs to live there? What languages are spoken in the neighbourhood? Combine your research with your street-level hunting and you’ll soon find yourself walking through the perfect neighbourhood for you and your family.

Find more information at www.statcan.gc.ca/census.

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Deciding who to hire for your renovation

Deciding who to hire for your renovationYou’ve been planning your home renovation for months, attended all the home shows and spent countless hours online looking at inspiration boards and photos. You’ve also interviewed numerous contractors, checked their references and received written price quotes from those you are interested in hiring. Now it’s time to decide who will be doing the job.

Once you have met with the contractors who are bidding on your job, you should review each set of bid documents carefully. Compare every aspect of their bids — the description of the work, specifications (materials and products), price and allowances, deposit and payment milestones, project schedule and any additional recommendations or ideas.

While overall price is important, it is only one factor. Many homeowners who have successfully completed major home renovations speak about the importance of peace of mind and working with a renovator they trust and feel confident in.

If you have a particularly strong sense of confidence in one of the renovators, they are probably your best choice, even if their price is not the lowest. In the end, you should choose the renovator based on your sense of the overall value they can provide.

If any prospective contractors suggest they can offer a better price if you pay them in cash and skip the paperwork, you should eliminate them from further consideration. They are essentially saying they cheat on their taxes and lie to the government, and you shouldn’t expect they will treat you any better. You may also be implicated in future audits.

Before you hire a contractor, get informed. The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free unbiased information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

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What millennials want in a home

What millennials want in a homeWhen entering the residential market, it’s important to appeal to as many people as possible, especially young, first-time homebuyers. They’re one of Canada’s fastest-growing markets, but their tastes and priorities are quite different.

“The next generation of first-time homebuyers knows exactly what they want in their first major investment,” explains Christopher Alexander, regional director at Re/Max Integra. “Sellers need to be strategic before putting their home on the market to appeal to these needs.”

Here are the top three factors influencing millennials’ purchasing behaviour:

Location, location, location. It’s widely known that finding a home in the right neighbourhood can significantly increase ROI long-term, and millennials are taking extra note. But homes in communities where new schools and amenities are being built are attracting young buyers looking for “what’s next,” rather than what’s hot now. Up-and-coming neighbourhoods that are slated to receive investment from the city or are under redevelopment are prime for real estate investments as smart millennial buyers realize their value will only continue to rise. If the neighbourhood is walkable, that’s a bonus.

Smarter living. With exciting advancements in the ever-growing tech industry, preparing your home to appeal to a hyper-connected millennial market is easier than ever. From installing fridges that text you when you’re low on milk to wireless light switches, sellers who make even a small investment in a smarter home will instantly attract tech-savvy first-time buyers. Adding innovations such as a programmable thermostat will not only make your home appealing to the eco-conscious young buyer — the remotely adjustable tech can also help lower your utilities bills as you wait for your closing date.

Looking ahead. As a home is typically the first major investment most millennials make, it needs to be able to suit their growing list of needs. While young buyers may not have children now, many are already considering multi-bedroom homes and properties with backyards in anticipation of a soon-to-be expanding family. Investing in backyard landscaping and clearing out clutter to make space for a possible play area or nursery is a great way to appeal to young families looking for a home they can see themselves grow in.

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