Solutions to Landscaping Mistakes

Learn how to avoid common landscaping blunders and how to remedy the ones that may already be creeping into your yard.

Mistake: Not Recycling Your Fall Yard Waste
Fall yard projects tend to produce a good amount of waste; what a shame to let good waste go to waste.

Solution: Compost It
Instead of tossing out those fall leaves, branches, clippings and other debris from your fall clean-up, dispose of them in an eco-friendly way. Rent a shredder and turn them into mulch, and put lawn clippings back on the lawn — they are both great fertilizers. Better yet, create a compost pile or build a compost bin. Layer yard waste with food scraps and in no time you'll have rich fertilzer that didn't cost you a dime.

Mistake: Neglecting Curb Appeal
Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. A lot of homeowners put all of their energy into the backyard, but the front of the house is where first impressions are made.

Solution: Do These Three Things
There are three simple improvements you can make that make a big difference. Paint your door a contrasting color than the base color of your home, keep the grass trim and green and plant colorful flowers.

Mistake: Excessive Lawn Tchotchkes
People often make the mistake of putting too many decorative items in their yard, which can distract from the beauty of the natural landscape.

Solution: Be Selective
Before filling your yard with a gaggle of garden gnomes, ask yourself why you're putting it there and how it fits the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one choice, even if it is a little silly. One whimsical statement goes a lot further than 10.

Mistake: Planting in the Wrong Place
Improper plant placement is another common mistake. People often do not take into consideration the needed sunlight and exposure for their plants.

Solution: Read the Plant Tag
Be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. When it comes to planting trees, you need to remember how big they could get and how much space they are going to need. Also think about focal points — choose something that's going to look good year-round.

Mistake: Leaving Tools Out in the Elements
Let's be honest: Quality tools cost a pretty penny so leaving them out to ruin in the rain is like throwing money away. Plus, rusty shears will make uneven, dull cuts that can harm even healthy plants.

Solution: a Dedicated Storage Spot
Whether it's an organized corner in your garage or a standalone garden shed, storing expensive garden tools indoors will prolong their usefulness for many years to come.

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9 Dated Features Homebuyers Always Notice

Interior designers share the top out-of-date details prospective buyers will spot first in a home, no matter what.

Refreshed and Ready to Sell
Whether you’re polishing up your home to sell or just want to enjoy some modern touches, dated decor can make a home seem stuck in the past.

“While some so-called ‘outdated’ items may be off-trend, if the current homeowner loves them, that’s what’s important,” says Jenny Williamson, chief creative officer at West Rose Design. While you don’t need to try every new decorating trend, "if you’re selling your home, it’s good to be aware of what will appear less than ideal for prospective homebuyers.”

Here are the dated features buyers always notice, according to our experts.

Wall-to-Wall Carpet
Although carpet was once very much in favor (even in bathrooms!) in the 1970s, these days, Williamson says, if there is carpet anywhere other than bedrooms, “it’s a no-go.”

“Newer homes typically never have a carpet delineation in shared spaces or wall-to-wall carpet everywhere, as seen in the ’70s and ’80s,” she says. “Carpet more easily traps dirt and debris and is not viewed as ideal when looking for a new home.”

Try Layering Rugs
But let’s say that replacing it isn’t within your current budget. In this case, Williamson recommends diverting focus by adding throw rugs over the carpet, creating a more layered look that will help separate spaces.

Popcorn Ceilings
Williamson says that while popcorn ceilings were certainly “all the rage” in the 1960s and '70s, today, they look totally outdated.

“They will be a clear turnoff for any new homebuyer, not only based on looks alone, but also for the health hazard — most popcorn ceilings installed before 1978 were installed with asbestos, a fiber that can increase the risk of several serious diseases and cancer,” Williamson says.

Corner Alcove Tubs
Corner alcove bathtubs were once a sign of an upscale primary bathroom, but according to Lindsie Davis, owner and principal designer of Blueberry Jones Design, they’re a thing of the past. Davis points out that these “trending beauties of the ‘90s” take up valuable floor space, often resulting in a smaller shower. And don’t even get us started on how hard these tubs are to clean and maintain.

Heavy Curtains
Sure, heavy curtains can keep light out, if that’s your goal, but nowadays, prospective homebuyers are all about natural light. A darker space can appear dated, Williamson notes, and heavy draperies won’t allow the maximum amount of light into a home.

Glass-Block Windows
Remember those glass-block windows that were the thing in the 1980s? Well, they might be fresh in your mind if they are currently residing in your home. Davis says these “clunky, cloudy bricks,” can take away from a spacious and airy feel — something that feels much more right-this-minute.

“Over time, these windows tend to collect dust, grime and not to mention soap scum if used in a shower area, which is never a great impression for a potential homebuyer,” Davis says.

Builder-Grade Lighting
Perhaps you moved into your home and never swapped out the existing light fixtures. This is an all-too-common move among homeowners, but more often than not, these lights eventually look out of date. Specifically? Williamson cites “ornate chandeliers” and the dreaded “boob lights” as ones that should be replaced.

Try Adding Lamps
But if you can’t replace old overhead lighting for one reason or another, Williamson recommends adding lamps at eye level to pull the eye away from the overhead lighting.

Tuscan Style
Everyone seemed to be clamoring for “Tuscan style” back in the 2000s, but in modern times, “Unless you live in Italy, having everything in your home reflect a rustic Tuscan style is incredibly specific and less than optimal,” Williamson says. The style can include things like wrought-iron fixtures, cherry cabinets, deep-colored accent walls and other ornate details, which will “divert attention away from the home’s other selling points,” Williamson says.

Old Paint
Davis believes that paint is essential maintenance for a home. Not necessarily speaking to trending colors, she says that simply a “good refresh and re-coat” will do wonders for your space.

Try a Fresh Coat
“A fresh coat of paint will keep your home feeling clean and energized and is a simple way to offer a great impression for prospective homebuyers,” she adds.

Old Wallpaper
In the same vein, old wallpaper should be avoided as well. Particularly, Williamson says that wallpaper with “borders or an outdated pattern” immediately dates a home. And she says that while some homebuyers might feel a pang of nostalgia for Grandma’s house, they likely don’t want old-fashioned wallpaper in their own house.

Try a Neutral Backdrop
“Replace it with a more modern take on wallpaper or remove it altogether for a neutral backdrop,” she advises. “Decorating is more than just aesthetics,” reminds Davis. “A well-designed home will help your life stay organized and efficient, which in return will create a calm and welcoming environment.”



Easy Ways to Save $1,500 Annually: Lower Electrical and HVAC Costs

Following holiday splurges, you may be looking for ways to save money. Did you know that with very little effort and often no additional investment, you can make changes around your home that save up to $1,500 annually? These tips will help you reduce your electrical, heating and cooling costs all year round.

Phantom Power
Phantom (or standby power) can account for up to 10% of your home’s energy use. The average Canadian household has 25 electronic devices that use phantom power, costing approximately $150 a year in wasted electricity (Hydro One). Unplug coffee makers, phone chargers, computers, etc. when they are not needed.

Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens use 50% to 70% less energy than a full-size oven and they won’t heat up the home to the same degree—a welcome relief on hot summer days.

Pitcher of water
Keep a pitcher of filtered water in the refrigerator to enjoy a refreshing sip without running the tap waiting for the water to get cold. This is also an economical alternative to bottled water.

Cold water wash
According to General Electric, an estimated 75% to 90% of all the energy your clothes washer uses goes to warming up the water. Cold water saves money and makes your clothes last longer. Typically, warm water is required only for bed sheets and items stained with sweat or blood.

Air drying
Dry your clothes on a rack or line when possible. This saves on electricity costs and extends the life of your appliance. Consider this: a basic dryer now starts at $725 with tax and will last about a decade depending on usage. If you do two loads per week, the true cost of each dry cycle is approximately $0.70 for the machine plus $0.55 for the electricity.

If you find your clothes feel stiff from air drying, add a few tablespoons of vinegar, Epsom salts, or baking soda to the wash.

Clean filters allow for better airflow and improved machine efficiency. Each time you use your clothes dryer, wipe out the filter first. Clean or replace the filter in your furnace according to the manufacturer's instructions.

ENERGY STAR appliances
When it’s time to purchase a new appliance, choose one with a high Energy Star rating. The rating is part of a voluntary partnership between the Government of Canada and industry to make high efficiency products visible to Canadians.

Water heater insulation
For as little as $6, you can reduce heat loss from your water heater. If the tank is electric, you can use polyethylene or neoprene foam pipe covers. If you have a gas water heater, your safest choice is fiberglass pipe-wrap (at least 1-inch thick) without a facing that is secured with either wire or aluminum foil tape (U.S. Department of Energy).

If the outside of your water heater tank feels hot, it is poorly insulated. For as little as $50, you can purchase an insulated foil wrap that will pay for itself within a year.

Ceiling fan
Since hot air rises and cool air sinks, a ceiling fan can reduce your heating and cooling costs. During the summer, set the fan to rotate counterclockwise to draw up cool air. During the winter, set it to rotate clockwise to distribute heat throughout the room.

Thermostat settings
Lowering your thermostat by one degree Celsius in the winter can save you $25 per month, depending on the size of your home. Enjoy similar savings raising the thermostat by a degree in the summer.

If your home feels drafty, it may have leaks. Seal any cracks in window and door frames, walls, ceilings, and floors.

LED lightbulbs
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household saves about $225 in energy costs per year by using LED bulbs compared to incandescent and they last up to 25 times longer. LEDs also last longer than florescent bulbs, which release toxic mercury when they break.

Bonus tip: Compost kitchen scraps

Compost your fruit and vegetable peelings in your garden. This feeds worms and vital microorganisms in your soil reducing the need for fertilizer. You will also reduce the amount of garbage you lug to the curb each week! 

Canada Greener Homes Grant money
If you wish to save even more, the Canada Greener Homes Initiative reimburses homeowners up to $600 for pre- and post-retrofit EnerGuide evaluations and offers grants ranging from $125 to $5,000. Eligible retrofits include home insulation, new windows and doors, solar panels, roofing membrane, etc. To learn more, visit the Natural Resources Canada website.



Everything You Need to Know About Gifted Down Payments

As home prices and interest rates increased this year, some Canadian families are choosing to help their kids get a foothold in the real estate market. One of the ways they’re doing that is with gifted down payments.

A 2021 CIBC report said 30% of first-time buyers in Canada got a boost thanks to receiving money as a gift for a down payment on a home. James Harrison, Mortgage Broker at estimates that, in some markets, that number is a lot higher, with gifts ranging anywhere from $10,000 to more than $1 million. There is no limit to the amount that can be gifted.

“At least two-thirds of my clients are getting a gift of some amount,” he says. “Parents just want to help their kids buy, with the goal often being a 20% down payment.”

According to the CIBC report, in 2015, the average Canadian gift was $52,000. In 2021 it was $82,000. Gifts in Vancouver lead with the highest average in Canada, clocking in at $180,000, and Toronto a close second at $130,000.

What are gifted down payments?
A gifted down payment is exactly what it sounds like: a monetary gift from a parent, grandparent, sibling, or other close relative, towards the purchase of a home. It isn’t a loan; it’s non-repayable. The person doing the giving should have zero expectations of getting that money back, and will often be asked to sign an agreement to that effect.

How are gifted down payments different from co-signing?
When you give a gift, you don’t own any part of the property, but you also don’t assume any of the risk. If you co-sign, you are on the title—and 100% liable if the homeowners default on their mortgage. Co-signing can also impact your ability to borrow: whatever amount you have co-signed for will look like you borrowed it yourself.

Do gifted down payments have any impact on a mortgage approval?
No. Your income determines the max you qualify for, and the down payment is on top of that. Of course, the more of a down payment you have, the less you’ll need to borrow. So if you only qualify for a smaller loan, a gift can help you buy something bigger than you could otherwise afford.

“A gift can also get you from an insured purchase (less than 20% down) to a conventional one,” says Harrison. “Insured only gets you a max 25-year amortization, with strict debt ratios. But with 20% or more down, you could potentially qualify for a 30-year amortization with more give on the ratios. That can make a big difference in the total mortgage you qualify for.”

What are the rules around gifted down payments?
Everyone needs to sign a mortgage gift letter (each lender has their own template). Harrison says you must also provide proof that the gifted funds have been deposited into your account, and they should be there no later than 15 days before closing. For funds coming from outside Canada, lenders want to see those in your (Canadian) account 30 to 90 days before closing.

Depending on how gifted funds are used in the transaction, there may also be obligations to comply with Canada’s anti-money laundering laws, according to Canada’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC). For example, if the gifted funds are provided directly to the REALTOR®, the REALTOR® would have an obligation to verify the identity of the individual providing the funds.

Can we use borrowed funds to gift money to our kids?
Yes, you can. However, it’s probably not as common as you think: only about 5.5% of gifting parents use debt to finance gifting. If you’re considering using your line of credit, just be careful about your debt load, especially if you’re looking to retire anytime soon.

Are there any tax implications to gifting a down payment?
In Canada, gifted down payments aren’t taxed. Immediate family members can provide the gift without either side being on the hook taxwise. Of course, it’s always prudent to check with a tax professional for info pertaining to your specific financial situation.

That being said, Harrison suggests to his clients they consider protecting the gift in the event the recipient splits from their partner. Otherise, half your gift could end up with the departing spouse/partner.

Getting into the real estate market can provide plenty of benefits, like housing stability, an investment opportunity for yourself, and numerous social benefits. Helping your immediate family members with a down payment, if you’re able to, can be a great way to get them into the market so they can begin their homeownership journey.

The information discussed in this article should not be taken as financial or legal advice. This article is for informational purposes only.



Maximizing Property Appeal: The Impact of Home Staging on Real Estate Transaction
In the dynamic world of real estate, the presentation of a property stands as a critical factor in driving its sale. 
This is where home staging comes into play, serving as a powerful tool to enhance a property’s appeal. By thoughtfully curating a property’s aesthetics to appeal to prospective buyers, home staging can significantly elevate a property’s perceived value. This strategic enhancement not only captivates potential buyers but also often translates into swifter sales and potentially higher transaction values, thereby underlining the profound impact of home staging on real estate transactions.
What is Home Staging 
Home staging is the art of preparing a residential property for sale by enhancing its aesthetic appeal to captivate potential buyers. 
Originating in the 1970s in the United States, this practice has evolved into an essential marketing tool within the real estate industry. It involves more than just tidying up; it includes decluttering, rearranging furniture, optimizing space, and sometimes making minor repairs. 
Modern staging techniques have expanded to include professional photography, which captures the essence of the property in its best light, and virtual staging, an innovative approach where digital furnishings and decor are added to pictures of empty rooms, making them more appealing and relatable to buyers.
Psychological Aspects of Home Staging
The effectiveness of home staging lies in its ability to influence buyer perception. By strategically styling a property, staging allows potential buyers to envision themselves living in the space, thus creating an emotional connection.
This emotional appeal is a powerful tool in real estate sales. A well-staged home not only creates a warm and inviting image but also helps buyers overlook minor flaws, focusing instead on the potential lifestyle the home offers. It also sets the stage for buyers to imagine future memories and experiences in the home, which can be a decisive factor in their decision-making process.
Essentials of Successful Home Staging
Effective home staging is much more than just cleaning and decorating; it’s about creating a mood. Key elements include decluttering to create a sense of space, and depersonalization to help buyers imagine their own lives in the home. Strategic lighting is used to highlight the property’s best features, while décor is selected to create a welcoming, universal appeal.
The property’s exterior, or curb appeal, is equally vital in making a memorable first impression. Landscaping, a fresh coat of paint, and minor repairs can significantly boost a property’s exterior allure. In staging, every detail counts, from the color of the towels in the bathroom to the placement of furniture, each element works together to create an environment that buyers can aspire to.
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Home Staging
While there are upfront costs involved in home staging, these are often outweighed by the benefits. 
The investment can vary from a simple consultation and minor adjustments to a full-scale staging involving rental furniture and major landscaping work. However, the return on investment can be substantial. Staged homes not only tend to sell at higher prices but also often sell faster, which can be a significant advantage in markets where properties might otherwise linger. This quicker sale process can result in reduced carrying costs like mortgage payments, property taxes, and utilities, further emphasizing the financial benefits of home staging.
DIY vs. Professional Home Staging
For those on a budget, DIY staging can be a viable option. 
Key DIY tasks include deep cleaning, rearranging existing furniture, and making minor repairs. However, for properties in competitive markets or at the higher end of the price spectrum, the expertise of a professional stager can be invaluable. These professionals bring an objective eye and an understanding of what appeals to today’s buyers. They can also access rental furniture and décor to enhance the look of the home, something that might be beyond the scope of most homeowners.
Regional Trends and Future Directions
The approach to home staging varies by region, reflecting local tastes and lifestyles.
In urban centers, there’s a trend towards sleek, minimalist designs that appeal to a modern aesthetic, while rural and suburban properties may benefit from a more traditional, cozy feel. Looking ahead, digital advancements are making a mark on home staging. Virtual staging, where furniture and decor are digitally inserted into photographs of an empty room, is gaining popularity for its cost-effectiveness and convenience. Additionally, 3D virtual tours are increasingly being used, allowing potential buyers to explore a staged home online, which is particularly appealing in the current era of remote buying and selling. These technological trends indicate a future where home staging can be both more versatile and accessible.
Home staging emerges as a key strategy in real estate, offering a powerful means to elevate a property’s aesthetic appeal and marketability. By thoughtfully preparing a home for the market, sellers can effectively showcase their property’s full potential, often leading to quicker sales and higher returns.
Given its proven impact, incorporating home staging into the selling process is not just recommended but can be considered an essential step for those looking to maximize their property’s value. Sellers are advised to carefully assess their staging needs, considering both DIY approaches and the expertise of professional stagers, to ensure their home is presented in the best possible light to potential buyers.

15 Cozy Winter Decorating Ideas for After Christmas

After the Christmas tree, stockings and string lights come down, the house can look a little ... lackluster. Add a bit of cozy cheer to your home with these wintery — but not Christmassy — decorating ideas.

How to Decorate After the Holidays
We get it: It can be hard to part with your Christmas decorations at the end of the holiday season. Once they’re taken down, it just feels like there’s something missing from your home, doesn't it? If you’re experiencing some post-holiday blues, try these simple decorating tips that’ll help you transition into winter. Start by putting away anything overtly Christmassy: Think Santa figurines, stockings, candy canes, bows and — of course — the Christmas tree. Then, replace those items with more subtle color and texture in the form of fresh greenery, plush fabrics and metallic accessories. Some of your existing holiday decor may fit the bill, but if not, we’ve got easy and inexpensive ideas for every room.

First up
After you’ve taken the Christmas tree down, consider adding some unadorned greenery to your home for a burst of fresh color and scent. You may even be able to forage it from your backyard! A pair of potted pine trees and tree cuttings hung on the wall lend a wintry feel to this dining room.

Add Plush Faux Fur
Decorating for winter is all about layering cozy textures, and faux fur is one of the coziest options of all. Add a couple of faux fur throw pillows to your accent chairs or a perfectly draped blanket over your sofa to create a space you’ll want to snuggle up in all season long. Gray or brown fur will lend a rustic touch to your decor, while white fur will look more modern and call to mind a snowy landscape.

Take a Cue From Winter Clothing
Think about your favorite winter clothing — like a thick, warm cable-knit sweater — and try to capture its look and feel in your home decor. Incorporate cozy, sweater-like texture into your space with pillows, throws or even ceramic vases like the ones seen here. You can make your own cable-knit-inspired vessels by cutting old sweaters to size and adhering them directly to glass or ceramic vases with spray adhesive or starch.

Repurpose Holiday Lights
You don’t have to pack up the string lights as soon as the holidays are over; put them to use in creative new ways to give your home a warm glow all winter long. Try hanging string lights, a sheer curtain and faux ivy from a curtain rod to create a dreamy backdrop behind your bed, like YouTube creator Karen Kavett did here.

Spruce Up the Mantel
After the Christmas stockings come down, the fireplace mantel can look a little bare — but it doesn’t have to. Dress it up with some simple, seasonally appropriate decor; greenery and a grouping of candles is a can’t-go-wrong look that’s easy to pull off. Here, designer Brian Patrick Flynn piled eucalyptus on the mantel in lieu of the more typical pine or spruce garlands.

Introduce Metallic Accents
Bring a few metallic accessories into your home to replace some of the shine that your Christmas ornaments previously provided. Candles, vases and glassware in gold, silver, copper or bronze will add just the right amount of sparkle to your space.

Hang a Wintry Wreath
Swap your Christmas wreath with an understated door decoration that can stay up all winter long. Stick with natural elements like greenery and pinecones, and steer clear of anything too Christmassy like bows, ornaments or jingle bells. This DIY wood slice wreath is a great option; you can make it with fresh greenery and replace it as it dries out, or use faux greenery that’ll last year after year.

Go Mad for Plaid
Buffalo check, tartan and other plaids are staples of holiday decor, but they can also be used year-round to give your home a classic, cozy feel. Adding plaid pillows and throws is an easy way to incorporate the pattern into your home, but if you’re ready to make a larger commitment, look for furniture upholstered in plaid fabric or even plaid wallpaper.

Put Blankets on Display
A blanket ladder serves two purposes: It instantly cozies up any room and frees up storage space elsewhere for the new goodies you got for Christmas. Build this easy DIY blanket ladder to fill a bare wall with your fluffiest blankets, or shop our favorite blanket ladders.

Pretty Up With Pinecones
Like greenery, pinecones are a popular holiday decoration that don’t scream “Christmas,” so they can be reused throughout the season. Simply fill a clear vase or candleholder with pinecones for an easy table centerpiece, or make a pinecone wreath. If you can’t find the pinecones in your yard, you can purchase them from a craft store.

Store Firewood in Style
Keeping a stash of firewood inside not only makes it convenient to build a roaring fire any time, but it also serves as a warm, rustic accent for your space. Try storing firewood in a woven basket for even more inviting texture, or shop our favorite firewood storage options.

Go All in on Green
While red and green is a decidedly Christmassy color combo, using green on its own can create a woodsy atmosphere in your home that works all winter long. Spruce up your home with accessories in forest, hunter or pine green, or paint your walls in one of these rich hues if you're up for a larger project. A small powder room, like this space designed by Kate Marker Interiors, is a great place to experiment with bold, moody color.

Showcase Winter Sports Gear
Make your home feel like a rustic ski lodge by incorporating winter sports gear into your decor. In this bedroom, designer Brian Patrick Flynn created a unique gallery wall by hanging vintage snow shoes behind the bed.

Create a Coffee Station
A hot cup of coffee, tea or cocoa is so comforting on a cold winter day. Make your beverage routine a little more special by setting up a coffee station on your kitchen countertop or dining room sideboard. Set out a few of your favorite mugs, and organize stirrers, creamers and other essentials in pretty containers. Arrange everything on a nice tray to pull it all together.

Pick Cold-Hardy Plants
Don’t forget your outdoor spaces. Brighten up your porch, deck or patio with cold-hardy potted plants like thread-branch cypress (pictured), Japanese yew or cast iron plant. To ensure your plants will thrive all winter long, pick varieties that can survive a climate one or two zones colder than where you live.

Bring a few metallic accessories into your home to replace some of the shine that your Christmas ornaments previously provided. Candles, vases and glassware in gold, silver, copper or bronze will add just the right amount of sparkle to your space.


Re-Do Your Shelves With These 10 Style Tips

Styling a shelf with vignettes of prized possessions is a prime opportunity to convey your style and personality. Shelves are not only home to books, but family heirlooms, art, photographs and travel mementoes. We’re sharing 10 shelf styling tips that will upgrade how you show off your favorite books and accessories. 

1. Read The Room
Styling a shelf with objects that mirror the textures and color palette of your room creates a cohesive look. This home’s workspace bookshelf has a soft, neutral palette, sculptural shape, natural materials and earthy colors that suit the zen wood shelves and white walls.

2. Add Art
On this Paul McCobb wall unit, art is layered in alongside a TV monitor and coffee table books for color and personality in this Toronto condo.

3. Make Room For Collections
Using a shelf as a platform for a curated collection of artwork and decorative ornaments creates a mini gallery and an intentional viewing arena within the home. In this condo shelf, Debra Campbell displays her collection of limited-edition Barbies, including a Hudson’s Bay Company version (complete with a poodle dressed in a matching coat).

4. Stack Books Horizontally And Vertically
Stacking books in two directions add visual interest. In the two-bedroom Toronto condo of Alessia De Gasperis-Brigante, the singer-songwriter known as Kai, she switches up the orientation of her collection.

5. Add A Little Green
Wood, ceramics, glass and a green plant inject a calming note. For a quieter look, designer Nyla Free turned the book spines inward and removed the covers in this home.

6. ive Objects Room To ‘Breathe’
Resist the temptation to cram shelves so your shelf design doesn’t feel cluttered or overwhelming. Leave some negative space between the groupings.

7. Try Color Blocking
Not only can you color block books, take a chromatic approach to the shelves themselves and paint the interior a contrast hue that highlights the contents. In designer Nathalie Tredgett’s London townhouse, she uses peach as a foil for the dark lavender built-ins.

8. Vary The Height Of Objects
Grouping objects in an array of heights, size, and shape keeps shelves from looking too uniform and creates variety for an appealing design. Include taller objects like large vases or candle sticks.

9. Curate!
The beauty of shelves is that they elevate the everyday object, so treat couture and designer accessories for the art pieces they are. In the wardrobe of this Montreal apartment, iconic fashion finds like Chanel’s quilted bag and cap-toe pumps are easy to access — and appreciate — behind a glass door.

10. Finally, Stand Back
To get an overall sense of compostion, pull back and see how objects balance big items like art or TV monitors. Taking a photo can help reveal if items need to be added or removed, or walk away from the bookshelf and come back later to assess the composition.



Typical Conditions You’ll Encounter During a Home Sale

For most people, buying a home will likely be the most significant investment of their lives. With the emotional and financial aspects tied to purchasing and/or selling a home, it’s important to complete all due diligence to ensure your investment is protected.

This article will explore what conditions are, typical conditions you’ll encounter during the offer process, how they can affect the sale, and what happens if they’re not met.

What is a conditional offer and who benefits from one?
Simply put, “a conditional offer is when a buyer makes an offer on a property that contains conditions,” explains Duncan McDougald, REALTOR® with RE/MAX Executives Realty in Whitemouth, Manitoba. “Conditions are put in place to protect the buyer or seller as both have the right to include them in an offer to purchase. Realistically, conditions can be anything, as long as both parties agree to them. As a REALTOR®, it’s important to know what conditions to recommend to buyers and sellers in various scenarios.”

“Conditions don’t have to be accepted by either party, but if they’re reasonable and there’s no better offer on the table, it’s a very typical part of an ‘accepted conditional offer’, which is the status of a sale when the public sees it as ‘pending,’” he continues.

More often than not, conditions are put in place by the buyer because it facilitates a safety net for them.

“If a buyer’s condition(s) can’t be satisfied, they’re no longer under any legal obligation to move forward with the conditional deal,” explains McDougald.

In an offer, a buyer will include a time frame for their condition(s) to be satisfied. If they’re not satisfied by the end date, the deal becomes null and void unless both parties agree to extend the timeframe or the buyer gives notice that the condition(s) won’t be satisfied. In most cases, the buyer is entitled to a return of their deposit money if the conditions aren’t satisfied, but do keep in mind that there is an obligation to make an effort to satisfy the conditions.

It should also be noted here that “a condition made by either party is for the benefit of that specific party and they’re entitled to waive their condition any time before the condition’s deadline if they feel it’s no longer required,” emphasizes McDougald.

One of a seller’s favourite offers to receive is an unconditional cash offer. If they like the terms, they sign the acceptance and the property is legally sold.

“There are times, however, when an unconditional cash offer is made as part of a lowball offer in hopes it’ll tempt the seller into signing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” shares McDougald. “As a REALTOR®, it’s also our job to advise in those situations, but it’s ultimately up to the seller as to what they’ll accept.”

Common conditions

There’s a lot to consider beyond the price point of a home, and agreed upon conditions help ensure protection and a smoother sale. These are some of the more common conditions you’ll encounter during a home sale, though they won’t all be present in every offer.

Appraisal contingency

Buyers have the right to request an appraisal of the home to compare its true value to the asking price. If the home is appraised for less than what the seller listed in the contract, the buyer may not be approved for the mortgage asking price, re-negotiations may commence, or the buyer may walk away with their deposit.

Home inspections

While not a legal obligation, one of the most important and highly recommended conditions to include is a home inspection to ensure the property is structurally sound. Though sellers will occasionally foot the bill, home inspections are usually paid for by the buyer with an inspector of their choosing so they feel confident in the results.


A financing condition or clause lets a seller know the buyer’s offer to purchase the property is conditional on obtaining their financing. The condition affords the buyer time—usually five to seven business days—to confirm their ability to obtain mortgage approval. This protects the buyer in the event the home appraisal comes in low and they’re not approved for the amount offered.

Escape clause

Usually stipulated by the seller, this clause allows the seller to “escape” or terminate the agreement based on a condition. A common use of the escape clause is when a seller has accepted a conditional offer on their home whereby the buyer requires 10 days to secure their financing. If the seller is receiving better offers during this time, the escape clause allows them to provide the original conditional offer 48 hours to complete the sale and if they can’t, the sellers have the right to go with a new buyer.

Land survey review

A survey review differs from a home inspection by way of surveying the grounds the property is on and again, while not required, it’s strongly advised to pay for a qualified, chartered professional to survey the property.


Who doesn’t want to move into a clean home? This condition specifies the requirement for the home to be professionally cleaned before you move in.

Fixtures and chattels

If you expect to have appliances when moving into the new home it’s important to write it in the contract so you’re not met with an unexpectedly bare home on moving day. Make sure everyone is aware of what’s staying and what’s going.

Always consult your REALTOR®

During the negotiation period, most buyers will have at least a few conditions they present to a seller.

“Buyers and sellers should always discuss conditions with their REALTOR® for their specific purchase or sale and if uncertain, they should never be afraid to obtain sound legal advice from a lawyer,“ insists McDougald.

The conditions you include in your offer will vary depending on your situation, but with the help of a REALTOR® you can make sure you include the ones that make the most sense for you.



Checkpoints You Should Consider Over the Course of Your Mortgage

When you buy a home, you’re probably not thinking too much about where life will take you five, 10, or 20 years from now. At the time, you’re more preoccupied with getting moved in and settling into your new space. But as your personal, professional, and financial situations change over time, you might need to re-evaluate your mortgage, too. That’s why it’s smart to consult a mortgage expert every few years to find out how you can optimize your payments as your lifestyle evolves. Here’s what to keep in mind throughout the amortization period of your mortgage.

Why are regular mortgage check-ins important?

Reviewing your mortgage frequently, especially if your financial needs, personal circumstances, or homeownership goals change, is a good idea, says Craig Howie, Durham Region Mortgage Agent for Dominion Lending Centres in Whitby, Ontario.

During these check-ins, your mortgage specialist will review your finances, income, employment status, debts, and personal life events, such as divorce or illness. They’ll also want to discuss your short- and long-term homeownership goals. This can help you decide whether to change your mortgage strategy or structure, such as paying a lump sum, negotiating interest rates, or increasing your payment frequency.

What happens when your mortgage is nearing renewal?

You can renew with your current lender without the need for a credit check or income verification, but that’s not always the best financial move, says Howie.

“Lenders often don’t send out their best rates in a renewal letter because they know people are busy or their credit situation could have changed,” he explains. “Somebody who lost their job or has extra expenses will value the idea of paying a slightly higher rate without another credit or income check.”

You could switch to another lender to get a better rate, but if you’ve made big purchases (car, vacation, taking out loans, etc.) your debt-to-income ratio increases, and that can affect your ability to get another mortgage.

“Once you have a mortgage, you’re only qualified for that mortgage; if you take that mortgage to another lender, they view it as a completely new one,” says Howie.

Five years into your mortgage: kids and jobs can factor in

Five years in, homeowners may have started a family, which impacts your finances, says Howie.

“You can often end up in higher debt due to maternity or paternity leave and daycare expenses, so we can look at a potential refinance and consolidating credit card or line of credit debt and adding it to the mortgage at a much lower rate,” he explains.

Amortizing those costs over a longer period lowers your monthly expenses and increases your cash flow, he adds. Or, if you’ve changed jobs and boosted your income, you may decide to change the frequency and size of your payments.

“When rates were 1.5%, nobody was really itching to pay their mortgage off quickly, but if interest rates stay where they are now—in the 5% range—it does make sense to pay it off faster by changing monthly payments to biweekly, taking advantage of lump sum payments, or doubling up your payments,” says Howie.

These are the things your mortgage expert can walk you through, identifying what makes the most sense for your personal situation. Mortgages shouldn’t be a “set it and forget it” situation. It’s important to keep on top of things to see where and how you can optimize your payments.

10 years into your mortgage: time for some TLC around the house

After 10 years of living in your home, you may be thinking about renovations or repairs. You may want to add the cost of a remodel or a new roof onto your mortgage, or switch the home equity you qualified for over to your mortgage. Reviewing your mortgage with an expert will help give you the bigger picture so you can see what your options are.

15 to 20 years into your mortgage: tapping into your equity

Fifteen to 20 years into your mortgage, you might have kids who are learning to drive, getting ready to go to university or may want to travel for a year—all things parents often help support financially. Or maybe you long to buy a vacation property or retirement.

“Although previous generations had a mentality of paying off debt as fast as possible, for the past 20 years, we’re seeing more people refinancing their mortgage to use funds as investments,” says Howie. He has many clients who leveraged their mortgages to buy rental properties or condos for university-aged children—who then charge rent to their roommates to help pay the mortgage.

“Some people are also thinking about retiring and wondering how to use the equity in their home to buy a cottage or help their children purchase a home.”

After spending the time to build equity in your home, you should be exploring all the options on how it can work best for you. You can also take this time to look at your long-term goals and consider what your priorities are as you near retirement.

Into the home stretch

A mortgage specialist will guide you through your final payment and advise you of any paperwork to be done along the way. Right up to the end, it’s important to maintain good credit so you can have an option to requalify if you need to, advises Howie. He adds that many mortgage brokers reach out to their clients annually to make sure things are going smoothly and any questions are answered.

“We make sure to address any questions or concerns ahead of time, so when the mortgage comes up for renewal, they don’t just sign the renewal; we always see what else is out there.”

Once you’ve paid your last mortgage payment, you still have a few things to do. This process, called discharging a mortgage, also involves your lender and provincial land title registry office. First, you’ll request confirmation from your lender that your mortgage has been paid in full. Then, your notary or lawyer sends these documents to the land registry office so changes can be made to your property’s title. There are fees involved, which vary depending on where you live. Find out what’s required in your province to be sure you’ve followed all the steps.

Your situation in year one of your mortgage is almost guaranteed to be different from your situation in year five, 10, or 20. Regularly looking at your mortgage options—with the help of a mortgage expert—can help save you money in the long run and even achieve some of your goals sooner. If you’re not sure where to start, your REALTOR® will be able to point you in the direction of other trusted professionals.



50 Ways to Your Deepest Clean Yet: The Ultimate Fall Cleaning Checklist

Having a fall cleaning checklist seems a little bit like getting tricked into some kind of second spring cleaning. Didn’t you just wash the curtains and wipe down those ceiling fan blades?

But hear me out: Giving your home some extra attention before cozying up inside it for fall and winter means you’ll enjoy that special time at home more than ever. Whether it’s movie night on the couch snuggled in warm blankets or turning on the fireplace and cranking up the music as you sip cold-weather drinks, home is such a big part of the season, and working your way through a fall cleaning checklist is the most straightforward way to get your home ready for it. 

So before you transition to spending more time indoors — especially if you’re hosting guests during the holidays — get your home ready for increased habitation with this ultimate fall cleaning checklist.

Kitchen and Bathroom

  • Clean your kitchen grout.
  • Clean your bathroom grout.
  • Clean your refrigerator coils, if applicable.
  • Clean under your refrigerator.
  • Clean the inside of your dishwasher.
  • Clean and condition the wood of your bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
  • Clean your oven.
  • Wash and disinfect all the garbage cans.
  • Seal and/or polish granite countertops.
  • Wipe down kitchen mats.
  • Wash bath mats.
  • Wash the shower curtain.
  • Deep clean microwave.

Bedroom (and Closet)

  • Refresh bedding that isn’t regularly washed (comforters, pillows, etc.).
  • Vacuum and flip mattresses.
  • Put cold-weather linens on the beds.
  • Switch out seasonal clothes.
  • Dust your bed frame. Vacuum or lint roll if it’s upholstered.
  • Clear off and clean your nightstands.
  • Vacuum under the bed.
  • Lint roll lampshades and dust light bulbs and lamp bases.
  • Polish wooden furniture.
  • Dust blinds.
  • Wash curtains.

Living Areas

  • Vacuum upholstered furniture.
  • Vacuum under your upholstered furniture cushions.
  • Polish your wood furniture.
  • Wash artificial plants.
  • Dust living plants’ leaves.
  • Wipe down your screens (TV, computer, etc.).
  • Clean all keyboards and remote controls.

All Around the House

  • Wash your walls.
  • Wash your windows, window sills, and all the window groves.
  • Clean your washer and dryer.
  • Clean your doorknobs, doors, and lightswitch plates.
  • Vacuum under all beds, couches, and other furniture.
  • Dust the tops of doors and door frames.
  • Spot clean carpets and rugs.
  • Clean floors underneath area rugs.
  • Wash curtains or have them cleaned.
  • Remove and rinse your window screens.
  • Wash your washable vacuum cleaner filters.
  • Clean your baseboards.

Tackle Some Seasonal Maintenance

  • Change your HVAC air filter.
  • Replace your fire alarm batteries.
  • Condition your leather furniture.
  • Dust your ceiling fans and set them to turn so air circulates upward.
  • Sweep the chimney and/or have it checked.
  • Clean out rain gutters.
  • Check weather stripping and replace as necessary.



Here’s Why You Should Live in Your Home Before Renovating it

Buying a new home is exciting, but depending on where you are on the property ladder, you may not be getting a move-in ready property. Although it can be tempting to jump right in to transform your space, it’s not always a good idea to rip down walls as soon as you close the sale. Here’s why you should put down that sledgehammer and take your time instead.

1. You’ll learn about your home and its pain points

Whether you buy a total fixer-upper, an older home that needs minor updates, or a newly built place you want to personalize, it’s smart to play the waiting game before embarking on major renovations, says David Stevens, a REALTOR® with Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty in Victoria, British Columbia.

“I tell my purchasers I’d like to see them in the house for 12 months before they start renovations, so they get to know the house and the property inside-out. It’s like buying a car: you always test drive a car to see if you like it,” says Stevens.

After living in your home and seeing how it functions during all four seasons, you’ll figure out your priorities. Maybe you’ll notice you need more lighting or realize you have plenty of storage and don’t need custom-made built-ins.

2. You’ll have more time to plan your project

The key to making smart home improvements is in the planning. Allow yourself the chance to meet with several architects, designers, and contractors without the rush to complete a project before you move in.

More planning also helps you stick to a budget, because you can ask questions, compare quotes, speak to references, and figure out what you really need. Working too quickly can lead to poor decision-making and doing things over.

3. You’ll have a better grasp on your finances

Living in your house before ripping it apart also lets you see what you can afford—and what you can’t—because you’ve been paying your mortgage and expenses for a while, says Stevens. After forking out cash for your down payment, closing costs and moving expenses, it’s wise to get back on your feet financially before committing to anything else.

Getting all the work done before you move in comes with huge costs: you could end up having to rent somewhere if there are delays in your renos. Doing things slowly gives you—and your savings account—some breathing room.

4. You’ll probably change your mind (a few times)

You may have thought gutting the kitchen was your top priority when you first bought the house, but once you’ve lived in it, you might end up liking the older wood cabinets and decide to paint them instead of demolishing them. Or, you might see that having a finished basement with a family room and guest suite has become more important to you than redoing the bathroom.

Your perspective will shift once you move into your home, because it’s hard to know how your family will use each space until you actually live there. While test-driving your house, take note of which rooms you spend the most time in and whether there’s something you want to do but can’t—such as entertaining outside or working out in a home gym.

5. You’ll need a break

Buying a home can take its toll: from qualifying for a mortgage to house-hunting to negotiating with the sellers and handling closing costs, the homeowner journey can be a stressful, exhausting one. Maybe after all this—plus packing and moving—you don’t also need the headaches that can accompany a major remodeling project.

Taking time to revive yourselves after purchasing your property can help you think more clearly when you’re ready to make the next set of big decisions: picking what to renovate.

Your REALTOR® can help guide you through these decisions and more, as you enjoy your new home.


MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.