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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Kids still living at home? Help them take the next step.

BetwKids still living at home? Help them take the next step.een a competitive economy and an expensive housing market, today’s young people are staying in the nest longer than ever before. In fact, more than a third of Canadian young adults live with their parents rather than alone or with a spouse or partner in their own household.

While this trend can offer certain benefits to parents and kids living under the same roof, there are positive ways you can encourage your children to take the next step in their lives and careers. Here are some ideas for parents of kids in post-secondary and beyond.

Create a realistic plan. Work together to set key goals and milestones that are achievable. For example, if their goal is to find a job, strategize on how to get the ball rolling. Career counselling available on campus or information interviews with professionals in their field are great places to start. If your son or daughter is hoping to move out, help him or her establish a budget and find ways to meet it. Even while still in university or college, a part-time job or on-campus research position can help.

Set clear house rules. You want to be your children’s parent, not their roommate. Set boundaries and responsibilities that help them understand exactly what goes into running a household, which will prepare them for when they do leave the nest. Decide who will purchase the groceries each week, set curfews and quiet hours, and establish what they need to do to contribute to certain expenses such as the Internet bill. Beyond doing their own laundry, make sure your kids are contributing to chores that benefit everyone in the household, like preparing dinner, shoveling snow or making repairs.

Encourage a working holiday or internship. Travelling and working abroad can help your child become more independent and confident while gaining international work experience that can be very valuable when they come back and start job hunting. A great resource to obtain work permits quicker and easier is International Experience Canada, a government program that allows youth ages 18 to 35 to travel and work abroad for up to two years in one of more than 30 partner countries and territories.

Find more information on work and travel abroad at Canada.ca/IEC.

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Benefits of planning for retirement at an early age

Benefits of planning for retirement at an early ageNowadays, Canadians will generally need over $1 million to live comfortably in their golden years when taking into account the average household wage, retirement age and life expectancy. Though this news may seem frightening, there are many programs and strategies out there that can help you plan accordingly.

For instance, through the Canada Pension Plan, most of us are contributing to a pension that will replace up to a quarter of the average income in retirement. With changes coming to the program starting in 2019, CPP benefits will begin to grow to replace up to a third of average work earnings.

If you work in Canada, contributions to the CPP are automatically deducted from your paycheque, and any funds not needed to pay current beneficiaries are invested by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. This ensures that the CPP is sustainable for generations to come so that even your grandkids can rely on this stable source of retirement income when it is needed most.

But what about the remaining portion needed to make up your retirement income?

By investing into your personal retirement savings plan at an early age, you may get closer to your goal than you think. Take, for instance, the effects of compound returns. It might change the way you look at discretionary spending that could otherwise be put towards your life savings.

Instead of buying an iPhone X, which currently retails at around $1,500 after taxes, say you invested that money. Using CPPIB’s current 10-year average return of 6.2 per cent, your original investment would grow to $1,582.88 after one year. While this may not seem like much, compounding returns on that initial investment over 40 years would net $16,531.18.

You will receive exponentially more money the longer it is invested, but anything helps and the earlier you start the better off you will be in the long run.

So, when you save that $1,000 for retirement, don’t think of it as saving a measly $1,000 — think of it as saving $10,000. That’s a lot closer to what its actual value will be when you need it.

Find more information at www.cppib.com.

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Questions every homeowner should ask about their property

Questions every homeowner should ask about their propertyDid you know that homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and replacement of service lines on their property when they fail? The costs associated with digging up, repairing or replacing service lines can run into thousands of dollars. More than that, any damages to trees, shrubs and driveways due to repairs must be paid out-of-pocket by homeowners.

Alarmingly, many homeowners are not aware that service line failures — including water, sewer, septic, electrical and telecommunications lines — are not covered by most home insurance policies.

“Every homeowner needs to be knowledgeable on what they’re covered for and what they’re not,” advises Isabelle Bientz, insurance expert from Aviva. “Most service lines run underground, making it easy to forget the importance of getting them checked for repairs. A lot of homeowners are also not aware that they own the outdoor service lines from their property line to their house, and behind their house to a well, septic tank or out-building.”

Before the unexpected break, leak, tear, rupture or collapse occurs, homeowners need to ask themselves these questions about their service lines:

1. How old are your pipes? The average lifespan of water pipes is 25 years, but the average age of pipes in many areas in Canada is over 50 years old, and several municipalities have water systems of comparable age. Knowing the age of your own water pipes will help you determine whether they’re due for a repair or replacement.

2. What are your pipes made of? Depending on what your pipes are made of, the life expectancy will differ. It’s important that you check the material of your sewer and water pipes in order to make an educated assessment, or consult an expert to see when they’re due for a repair or in need of a replacement.

3. Do you have mature trees near your property? If you own a home with mature trees on or near your property, the roots could cause serious damage to your service lines. Clay pipes, which are most commonly used to build water and sewer lines in older homes, can be easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. If you suspect a tree root problem, contact a professional to investigate before the situation worsens.

Not sure if you need coverage for your service lines? Find more information from your insurance broker or online at www.avivacanada.com.

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5 Key Things to Know When Buying a Home

5 key things to know when buying a homeIn Canada, most of us put off searching for a new home until the spring or summer, when the snow has long melted away. But purchasing real estate in the winter can be a smart move since the market is often cooler and there’s less competition from other buyers. If you do decide to buy this winter, here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association to keep in mind.

1. List your priorities. Before you start searching, write up a list of things that truly matter to you in a home, so you can be sure to get what you want and avoid getting sidetracked with features that may be impractical. Things like public transportation, cultural diversity, entertainment hubs and space for a home office can be deciding factors depending on your unique needs and preferences.

2. Start with an expert. While DIY is a great option for many tasks, finding your dream home is not one of them. Real estate transactions can be complex and often involve lawyers, bankers and surveyors. A Realtor is an expert in matching people to their ideal residences and can help you navigate the process from start to finish. Your Buyer Representation Agreement outlines the details of the relationship with your Realtor.

3. Scope out the neighbourhood. You will want some serious intel on the area you’re going to be calling home. Take some time to explore the neighbourhood — walk the streets, strike up conversations with passersby, eat at local restaurants and check out community amenities like parks and recreation centres. If you have kids, be sure to visit the local school.

4. Get pre-approved. You don’t want to wait until you find the perfect place to make an appointment with your bank to know if you can afford it. Before you book any viewings, schedule a visit with your mortgage broker to get pre-approved for a mortgage and set a realistic housing budget that you can manage.

5. Blend emotion with logic. Our emotions can sometimes play a big role in deciding whether something feels right. Although it’s important that your new home inspire positive feelings, ensure you are making a smart, well thought-out decision. Get an inspection, verify the list price, and ensure your offer is fair and reasonable for the current market.

Find more information at www.orea.com.

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7 Secrets to Sell Your Home Successfully

7 secrets to sell your home successfully

Here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association that will help your home stand out when you decide to sell.

Here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association that will help your home stand out when you decide to sell.

1. Focus on first impressions. You only get one, so make sure everything potential buyers see first is in top shape. During winter, keep your driveway shovelled and hats and mittens neatly stored for a clutter-free entryway.

2. Empty your closets. A great trick is to create the illusion of extra storage space with half-empty closets, drawers and cabinets.

3. Upgrade strategically. Skip costly major overhauls — quick fixes are cheaper, easier and can often deliver a better return on your investment. Things like a fresh coat of paint, cleaning the carpets, and replacing door and cabinet handles in the kitchen are big-impact projects that can be accomplished in a weekend.

4. Edit personal touches. Buyers are more likely to make an offer if they can visualize themselves living in your home, so put away family photos and kitschy personal mementoes. Stick to simple artwork and accessories that make the space feel lived-in, but neutral.

5. Understand legal documents. When you list and sell your home, there are several real estate documents you need to complete the transaction, like the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and the Listing Agreement. Work with your Realtor to make sure you understand the important information in these agreements and that they contain the specific wording that suits your needs.

6. Make sure the price is right. You don’t want to leave money on the table but you also shouldn’t set the price unreasonably high, or you may scare away buyers and keep your house on the market longer than necessary. Your Realtor can help you determine what’s right for your local market.

7. Light it up. A home that looks bright, airy and spacious is more welcoming and feels larger. Get the look by opening the curtains before viewings, choosing pared-down window treatments in light colours, and adding a few strategic lamps, which you can borrow from a friend until you sell.

Find more information at www.orea.com.

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