Check out This New Collection of Rooms with Breathtaking Views

 

We build homes in varied landscapes, but often a common thread among them is strategically placed windows that allow us to enjoy what the outside world has to offer. Even when indoors, we seek comfort in the natural world.

A room with a spectacular view quickly becomes a favorite place, whether it’s a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or living room. We want to have glimpses of trees, water, sky and mountains when we’re gazing out the window deep in thought, and those glimpses are our focus, or when we’re going about our daily lives, and the glimpses simply act as amazing backdrops to everything else.

The outside world can also be an important source of inspiration for designing and decorating our indoor world. We take note of textures and colors, evoked feelings, and even sounds and scents, and attempt to bring those to life inside our homes to capture what we love about the outdoors. This new collection of rooms with breathtaking views has us feeling a deep appreciation for the world outside our doors, and we’re excited to share them with you!

1. A Skyview Spa

2. A Treed-In Sanctuary

3. A Child’s Perspective

4. A Never-Ending Cityscape

5. A Lakeside Escape

6. A Star-Filled Slumber

7. An Exotic Vista

8. A Mountainous Outlook

9. A Glimpse of Paradise

10. A Sophisticated Seascape



Feast Your Eyes on These Jaw-dropping Outdoor Living Spaces

Summertime is the perfect time to make the most of warm weather and get in touch with nature. And while walking on natural trails and spending time in lush parks are lovely activities, relaxing and taking in the beauty of the outdoors from the comfort of your home remains something truly special.

Just think of enjoying an invigorating cup of coffee on your porch at sunrise or savoring a nice al fresco dinner with the family on the patio while the sun sets. It makes you smile, doesn’t it? Top that off with some breathtaking surrounding decor and jaw-dropping landscaping, and you know you’ve got an exterior sanctuary to soothe your soul.

Since we can’t get enough of well-designed spaces, we’ve put together a list of ten stunning outdoor areas to calm the senses and, why not? offer inspiration for your future home remodeling projects. From manicured gardens to cozy retreats and chic backyards, feast your eyes on these amazing exterior areas and be prepared to experience outdoor living at its finest!

1. A Casual Setting Around the Fire

2. A Relaxing SPA-like Area

3. A Swinging Setup in the Garden

4. A Romantic Vintage Retreat

5. An Oriental Sanctuary

6. An Oasis under the Tree

7. A Calming Zen Deck

8. A Stylish Outdoor Lounge

9. A Cozy Escape

10. An Airy Cinema Set Up

What Is a Duplex?

The search for a new home can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking! There seem to be endless real estate terms that you need to learn to find the ideal place. During your search, you may have come across a few duplexes.

With similarities to both a detached house and an apartment, it seems like a great compromise. However, whether you’re looking to rent or buy, it’s essential to know precisely what a duplex is.

The Basics

In a nutshell, a duplex is a single-unit property that has been divided into two living spaces. Known as multi-family homes, they typically look like large detached houses. There are three main ways to tell them apart from a standard apartment:

  • Ownership
  • Shared spaces
  • Number of units

Ownership

A condo or apartment block is typically owned by a group, corporation or investors. Meanwhile, a duplex is owned by one person. The owner may live in one half of the duplex and rent out the second half, occupy both units or rent out both of them.

Shared Spaces

Unlike an apartment block, a duplex has two separate entrances, one for each living space. The two living areas are entirely independent of one another, except for a single shared wall. Duplexes can stand side by side, or they can be stacked. Either way, the living space is generally more or less the same size.

The front and backyards are the only parts of the space that may be shared. However, they’re often partitioned to allow both residents a little privacy.

Number of Units

A duplex will only ever have two units, whereas an apartment building comprises several units housed within a single block. You can also find triplex and quadplex houses, similar to duplexes but including three and four units.

Duplex vs. Twin/Semi-Detached Home

At first glance, a duplex looks very much like a twin/semi-detached home. Both feature a single building that has been split into two residential units.

The difference is that a duplex sits on a single plot of land, and a single entity owns the entire building. Meanwhile, each half of a twin home is owned independently and sits on its own plot of land.

 

Duplex Pros and Cons

So far, a duplex seems like a pretty good idea. It feels more like living in a detached home than a standard apartment while enjoying some of the benefits of a condo. But there are some potential caveats. So let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

Advantages

A duplex can represent a fantastic middle-ground, especially in high-density areas where affordable detached homes are rare.

  • All the benefits of a standard house: With amenities such as a yard, garage, and the privacy of a fully independent living area, a duplex offers almost everything that a single family home does.
  • More affordable: If you’re looking to rent, duplexes are typically more affordable than single family homes, allowing you to get more bang for your buck and find a more affordable option in a desirable neighborhood. And if you’re looking to buy, the income you obtain from renting out one of the units (or both) will help offset your mortgage payments.
  • Just one neighbor: With only one neighbor nearby, the chances of upsetting each other are drastically reduced. Plus, you’re less likely to bother each other with noise with just one shared wall.
  • Suitable for large families: If you’re looking to be close to your relatives, a duplex can be an excellent option that offers both proximity and privacy.

Disadvantages

There are some things to be aware of before you sign on the dotted line, though:

  • Problems with shared spaces: While you’ll only be sharing the front and backyard, this can lead to tension from time to time. Parking issues can arise, and different lifestyles can cause upset when it comes to things like garden parties. However, in many duplexes, even the outdoor areas are partitioned for additional privacy.
  • Common area upkeep: You’re generally not responsible for maintaining common areas in an apartment building. However, in a duplex, you’ll need to do your part.

Is a Duplex Right for Me?

A duplex can be an excellent choice if you’re looking to rent. Just be sure to weigh up the pros and cons and see if it works for you.

As a buyer, a duplex can be seen as an excellent investment. It allows you to live on-site and get to know your tenant or simply rent both units out. Or, if you want a home for a large family, you can occupy both units to give everyone their privacy.

Canada Still Sells Homes for Less Than $200K — Just Not in Its Most Coveted Cities

 

In the backdrop of the country’s adverse housing market, a wider search beyond Canada’s largest and most expensive cities shows regional pockets of affordability

Housing affordability is a subjective matter, but it takes on a whole different meaning in Canada’s post-pandemic market: Following a 30% hike compared to early 2020, the national median price recently reached nearly twice the U.S. median. With home prices swelling to record numbers in the last two years, homebuyers found themselves readjusting their budgets.

Although not the lowest figure, $200,000 (about one-quarter of the average national home price) is a suitable reference point to gauge the share of what is now referred to as an “affordable listing.” The reality is that $200K isn’t enough to land a home in almost any of Canada’s most coveted cities. In fact, only about10% of all homes for sale in Canada are less than $200K — and very few of them are in major cities, where median home prices are exploding.

What’s more, as urban hubs continue to deal with sky-high demand and similarly sky-high costs, data shows that housing options for less than $200,000 are incredibly scarce in the top 50 largest and most expensive cities: These needles in the haystack account for less than 1% of the entire stock for sale.

However, the chance of finding a home for sale for less than $200K increases when zooming in on the most populous cities within a region. Point2 analysts discovered that homebuyers who are willing to expand their house-hunting grounds to the largest cities in The Prairies, Atlantic Canada or Québec can have their pick of broader concentrations of more affordable listings.

Here’s what caught our eye at the national and regional levels:

  • 38 of Canada’s 50 largest, most expensive cities — which, incidentally, are all in Ontario and British Columbia — showcase zero listings for less than $200,000.
  • Kawartha Lakes, ON is the only larger city where more than 1% of all homes for sale are less than $200K.
  • Among the largest cities at the regional level, Cape Breton, NS, in Atlantic Canada boasts the highest share of homes for sale under $200K: 44%.
  • Populous cities across The Prairies have the most homes for sale under 200K, particularly Edmonton, AB (1,300), and Regina, SK (400).

Ontario & BC: Your Only Shots for Homes Under $200K in the Big City

Beyond ever-evolving prices, the housing crisis has been blamed on various factors, from scarce affordable inventory to increased nationwide demand caused by immigration. And although legislative documents (like the recently proposed More Homes for Everyone Act) support speedy development, things are looking bleak for home buyers in Canada’s main hubs.

Settling in the largest, most desirable cities comes with an extreme price tag, so the chances of finding a starter home here are close to zero. Literally. Only 12 of the 50 most expensive large cities display homes for sale for less than $200,000  all in Ontario and British Columbia. (Spoiler alert: None of them are Toronto or Vancouver). Even so, the percentages are a letdown for homebuyers on a budget.

Kawartha Lakes, ON, sets itself apart with almost 5% of for-sale stock priced at $200,000 or less (many of them vacation homes). Trailing way behind are cities like Kelowna (0.96%) or Surrey, BC (0.46%), where the odds of finding something more affordable become increasingly unfavorable.

Interestingly enough, listings below $200K are nonexistent in both Welland, ON— where the median price is the lowest among the 50 largest cities — and in Richmond Hill, ON, where the median price is almost double the national average.

Big Cities in Atlantic Canada & The Prairies Boast Highest Shares of Listings Under $200K

While the 50 largest cities in the nation don’t offer a great deal of hope, things are looking up in the largest cities in each region. According to Statistics Canada, more people are leaving the country’s main hubs for less hyped-up areas — and understandably so: $200,000 might not get you much in the glitzy cities, but it can access a wider selection of more affordable homes at the regional level.

Regional affordability difference is reflected in the number of cities with listings under $200K in each analyzed region. Specifically, most of the larger cities in Atlantic Canada and The Prairies showed significant shares of less expensive homes for sale, as opposed to Ontario or BC.

Below, read more on the percentage of homes for sale for less than $200,000 in the most populous cities in five regions: The Prairies, Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

The Prairies: 8 Cities with Considerable Shares of Listings Under $200K

On top of making various lists of affordable cities, the concentrations of homes priced below $200,000 range from 36.50% in Regina, SK, to almost 7% in Calgary, AB. Notably, although Edmonton, AB, falls somewhere in the middle with nearly 25% of all homes for sale coming in at $200K or less, the city actually claimed the highest number of such listings with almost 1,300. Other cities with significant shares of homes for sale for $200K or less are: Lethbridge, AB (26.10%), Saskatoon, SK (23.47%), Winnipeg, MB (23.45%), Red Deer, AB (22.80%), and Airdrie, AB (8.43%).

Atlantic Canada: Cape Breton Island Overflows with 44% of Listings Under $200K

With most of its large cities flaunting median prices well below the national average, Atlantic Canada doesn’t disappoint when it comes to more affordable homes. For example, of all stock for sale in Cape Breton, NS, more than 44% is less than $200,000, followed by 26.7% in Saint John, NB, and 13.46% in St. John’s, NL. Coincidentally, Halifax, NS — the largest of the six — has the smallest share of homes for sale for less than $200K (1.63%), while also posting the highest median price among the region’s largest cities at nearly $598,000.

 

Québec: Shares of Affordable Dwellings Dwindle Following Québec City’s 9.8%; Montréal at 0.3%

Perhaps surprisingly, Québec City logs the most affordable median price in the region at a little more than $331,000. Furthermore, the share of listings priced below $200K here closes in on 10% — a percentage that translates into about 240 homes on the more affordable side. At the same time, gradually smaller shares around 1% to 2% are found in Longueuil, Gatineau, and Laval. As you might expect, Montréal boasts the highest number of overall homes for sale (about 4,900), although only 0.31% — 15 of them — are priced below $200,000.

British Columbia: Slim Pickings Below $200K as Region Posts $1M Median Home Price

As we enter $1M median home price territory, it’s no wonder that affordability gets harder and harder to reach. In fact, the median home price is more than $1 million in the five largest cities in BC. Right off the bat, the highest concentration of homes less than $200K feels like a harsh reality check: just 0.46% in Surrey (most of them manufactured homes). Meanwhile, none of the 3,200 homes for sale in Vancouver go for less than $200,000, and the situation is similar in nearby Burnaby. And, although Abbotsford has the lowest median price among the region’s largest cities ($1,078,000) and 14 in 1,000 homes here are for sale, a measly 0.26% of its for-sale stock is priced at $200,000 or less.

Ontario: Hamilton & Ottawa the Only Large Cities with Listings Under $200K

Between British Columbia and Ontario, finding affordable options is almost impossible for homebuyers on a budget. There are simply no homes for sale for less than $200K in Toronto, nor in nearby Mississauga or Brampton. And, although Hamilton and Ottawa do offer shares of such listings, the percentages are negligible at 0.24% and 0.14%, respectively.

For more on the shares of homes currently for sale for less than $200,000 in Canada’s most populous cities by region, check out the table below:

While $200,000 as the new affordability threshold might sound surreal to some, there are silver linings on the Canadian horizon. The need for housing caused the national vacancy rate to fall for the first time in 20 years. More importantly, prices began to slow in the spring, with optimistic forecasts of further drops by the end of the year. Here’s hoping.

Methodology

  • For the nationwide ranking, we looked at median home prices in the top 100 most populous cities in Canada to determine the 50 most expensive large cities in the country. We then analyzed the number of homes below $200,000 in each of them.
  • At the regional level, we selected the top cities by population in single province regions, as well as in multiple province regions. The Prairies and Atlantic Canada group multiple provinces due to the low number of highly populated cities.
  • We looked at the largest cities with the highest shares of listings below $200,000 in each region, namely: The Prairies, Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Québec, and Ontario.
  • To gauge the inventory of homes for sale for less than $200,000 in each city, we examined and counted listings from REALTOR.ca. The study was based on all active listings, as well as listings pending sale, priced up to and including $200,000 at the time of the analysis (the first week of May 2022).
  • We used MLS Benchmark Composite Prices for the majority of the cities included in the analysis, with the exception of Montréal, Hamilton, Halifax, Laval, London, Gatineau, Longueuil, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Cape Breton, Belleville, where we considered Median or Average Sale Prices as per local MLS monthly reports, and Montréal, Laval, Longueuil, Kelowna, Kamloops, where we used a weighted average of the prices for each property type to determine the Composite Price. Where unavailable at city level, we looked at Local MLS Prices at regional level: Québec, Longueuil, Kelowna, Saanich, Brantford, Nanaimo, Victoria, Saint John, and Fredericton.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage and freely grant permission to reuse, host or repost this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

Home Inspection Checklist: What Home Inspectors Look For

Sellers might not always be thrilled to have their homes inspected, but it’s not all bad. It gives you a chance to keep on top of any issues and, in many ways, makes it easier for you to sell your home. So, knowing what to expect from the home inspection can go a long way to seeing your home pass with flying colors.

Home Inspections — The Basics

In general, home inspectors will spend between two and four hours examining the following components:

  • Roof and gutters
  • Attic
  • HVAC systems
  • Interior plumbing and electrical systems
  • Structural elements such as walls, ceilings and floors
  • Windows and doors
  • Foundations
  • Basement
  • Exterior elements

Their goal is to identify defects within the home’s structural integrity, as well as appliances. Inspectors will focus on various components that may be nearing the end of their lifespan or have been damaged or neglected, causing them to become unsafe. The results are written up into a report that buyers can use to assist in their decision to buy the house in question.

Your Home Inspection Checklist

Knowing what an inspector will look at gives you a chance to repair any damage and address any issues in advance.

1.     The Roof

In general, inspectors will look for issues with sagging, problems with shingles, mold and signs of water damage and leaks. They will also look at your gutters.

Be sure to fix up any loose shingles, clear your gutters and repair leaks, and finally fix any chimney damage.

2.     The Attic

In the attic, the inspector will continue to look for signs of water damage from a leaking roof and examine the insulation.

Ensure you have sufficient insulation in place. In cold climates, icicles hanging from the edge of your roof can indicate issues with insulation in the attic. If there are any signs of leaks, have them repaired.

3.     HVAC systems

Inspectors generally look at the age of HVAC systems, leaks, issues with pressure, sediment build-up and corrosion.

If your system isn’t working properly, be sure to have it checked and repaired by a professional. It’s well worth replacing any filters before the inspection, and also, be sure that there’s no chimney or fireplace damage. If the system is in really bad shape, consider replacing it entirely, or prepare to reduce your sale price.

4.     Plumbing

A decent inspector will take a good look at the entire plumbing system of a house, examining basic pipework, sump pumps and septic tanks.

Be sure that you have good drainage throughout the home, check for outdated or leaking pipework, and ensure all toilets, sinks, showers and baths are functioning correctly.

5.     Electrical systems

All electrical systems will be thoroughly checked to ensure that everything is up-to-code and safe. Inspectors must be extremely thorough, as outdated or faulty wiring can be fatal.

If required, update the wiring throughout your home, as well as circuit breakers and grounding to make sure they’re up to code. Also, check that all exhaust fans, power sockets and light fixtures are working correctly. Finally, test all your fire and smoke detectors.

6.     Structural Elements

Home inspectors spend a good amount of time ensuring the house will remain standing for the foreseeable future. In doing so, they will check ceilings, walls, the roof and foundations.

Ensure your walls and ceilings are straight and level with no stains or cracks. Keep an eye out for signs of water damage or mold and repair any issues. Sticking doors throughout the home can indicate significant problems with the foundations, as can large cracks in the walls and uneven floors. In this case, have a professional take a look.

7.     Windows and Doors

Windows and doors can allow heat to escape the home if they’re not properly sealed. Moreover, if they’re faulty, they can be a cause for concern.

Check the caulk around all windows and doors and reseal if necessary. In addition, install drip caps on your windows, replace faulty handles, secure wood trims and frames, and replace any cracked panes.

8.     The Basement

As they inspect the basement, inspectors will mostly look for evidence of foundation problems, issues with damp and adequate insulation.

Tackle any signs of water damage and fix any issues with dampness. Also, ensure sufficient insulation is installed. Large cracks and broken brickwork in the basement can hint at foundation issues, so have these seen to.

9.     Exterior Elements

Inspectors will also take a good look at the outside of your home. Besides cosmetic issues, they’ll be looking for evidence of water damage.

Repair any damage to sidings and trims and repaint the exterior walls and frames if necessary. With stucco, repair any loose or damaged areas. Check your water spouts and gutters, and make sure that water is draining away from the house properly.

What Is a Bridge Loan and How Does It Work?

Are you a homeowner looking to relocate or simply buy a new home? In that case, taking out a bridge loan can help you fill the gap between selling your house and financing your new purchase. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Bridge Loan?

A bridge loan, also known as a swing loan, is a short-term loan taken out by an individual or a company until they can secure permanent financing. In real estate it’s a type of loan that uses the existing equity in your home to finance the purchase of a new house. Quick to take out and quick to pay back, most lenders will expect repayment when the house is sold or within one year. Bridge loans also come with higher interest rates and more rigorous requirements than conventional mortgage loans.

How Does a Bridge Loan Work?

Bridge loans are often used in real estate purchases to help a buyer bridge the financial gap between finding a property and securing a mortgage. For example, if you’re a homeowner, one common scenario is finding a new property that you’re interested in buying but either lack the funds for a downpayment or, in a hot market, you want to secure the sale before your current property sells. In such cases, a bridge loan will help cover the downpayment and closing costs.

Once your first property is sold, you can then use the resulting funds to pay off the bridge loan. Most lenders will expect you to pay back the loan within a year, but some may extend that deadline to up to two years.

Applying for a bridge loan takes significantly less time than a regular mortgage, and most lenders will approve your loan within 72 hours. There are, however, some requirements to be aware of. For example, the maximum amount you can take out on a bridge loan is usually 80% of the combined value of your current home and the one you want to buy. If you lack sufficient equity in your home, the lender may reject your application. Similarly, you will need an excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio. It’s also worth keeping in mind that lenders typically expect collateral in the form of a property.

When Is a Bridge Loan a Good Idea?

Taking out a bridge loan can work in your favor if you’re buying a home in a seller’s market. In such cases, buyers often face a bidding war for their dream home. And because it’s a hot market, it’s unlikely that the seller will agree to a sale contingency. With a bridge loan typically taking around three days for approval, you can use it to tip the scales in your favor.

A bridge loan can also help if you need to relocate fast and you’ve already found a house that ticks all the right boxes, but you haven’t yet had the time to sell your old one. Again, being able to take out a quick loan that would cover the down payment and closing costs will be of immense help.

Last but not least, a bridge loan can be beneficial if you already have at least 20% equity in your home but you can’t afford to make a down payment on a new property. Not only will the bridge loan provide funding for that, but if you can use it to cover more than 20% of the down payment, you will also avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your new mortgage loan.

Bridge Loan Alternatives

Bridge loans can be real lifesavers, but the high interest rates and quick repayments can make some homeowners wary. Here are some alternatives worth considering.

HELOC

A home equity line of credit is one of the most common alternatives to a bridge loan. Both can be used to tap into your home equity, and both use your home as collateral. However, a HELOC has lower interest rates, and you won’t be required to make any principal repayments during the draw period, which can take a minimum of 10 years.

80-10-10 Loan

A combination of fixed-rate loan and HELOC, the first loan covers 80% of the new home cost, with another 10% loan piggybacking as a second mortgage covering half the minimum down payment needed to avoid PMI. It’s a good alternative if, despite having enough equity, you can only provide 10% of the down payment.

Like any type of financing, a bridge loan can be a great way to fund the purchase of your dream home. However, under the wrong circumstances, they can quickly become a strain on your budget. To make the most of it, take the time to discuss your options with your lender or financial advisor.

Maximize Your ROI with These Home Renovations

Too many homeowners, reinvesting money on fixing up their house presents a slippery slope. On one hand, there’s virtually no renovation that will offer a 100% return on the investment, whether $5,000 or $50,000 is budgeted.

Then again, home improvements increase the overall value of the property while also making the house more enjoyable to live in. Most experts agree that if the money is available, building equity in your home is one of the smartest investments a person can make and there are various ways these projects can pay you back.

Improve Energy Efficiency

Upgrades that help a home become more energy efficient potentially offer a three pronged ROI – they increase property value, lower utility bills, and are eligible for government tax breaks. In addition, the house will have purer air quality and will be more comfortable without drafts or warm air leaking out. Some of the best projects for improving efficiency include:

•    Window and Door Replacement / Restoration – While window replacement is typically listed as a project with a great ROI, that’s really only true for homes built after World War II. Replacing windows in older homes actually decreases their value but in newer dwellings can save up to $400 annually. Installing a new steel entry door remains the top renovation project for 2014, offering a 96.6% return.

•    Energy Star Appliance Upgrade – The effectiveness of replacing household appliances depends on the age of the old equipment. For instance, a new refrigerator will use about half as much energy as one that’s 10 years old, while a washing machine upgrade can save about $100 per year. This might not seem like a lot but if the annual cost deductions are measured over 10-15 years the savings can be quite significant. Plus, tax credits of about 10% of the total cost can be acquired after purchase.

Other energy efficient upgrades include adding insulation to a basement or attic and installing programmable thermostats.

Curb Appeal Renovations

Improving the look of your home is also a big selling point and the following investments for prettying up the property make your home more attractive – to both you and a potential buyer.

•    Garage Door Replacement – Replacing an old, damaged, or bland garage door consistently offers one of the best ROI, around 85% on a $1,500 project.

•    Siding and Shutters – New vinyl siding will give your house a fresh new look and will recoup almost 80% of your investment. Shutters add detail and can be salvaged or reclaimed for maximum return.

•    Aluminum Fence – A classy looking aluminum fence will improve the curb appeal of the home while also offering a return of investment around 65%. The fence also adds security and aluminum is maintenance free compared to wood or wrought iron.

Other types of landscaping will get you around 50 – 75% but should be limited to usable space such as a backyard barbecue or pergola. Shrubs, mulch, and trees add value but also require upkeep.

Quality of Living Remodeling

The benefits of quality of living upgrades are hard to measure in only dollars and cents. Enjoying your whole home could be considered priceless but these projects are a good place to start:

•    Attic Bedroom – Adding functionality to ‘dead’ space greatly improves quality of living. Turning an attic into a bedroom is great for a child to have their own space or for a spot for guests to sleep. It’s a roughly $50,000 job for electricity, framing windows and walls, insulation, and finishing but buyers love extra bedrooms and the ROI is almost 85%.

•    Deck (Wood) – A deck could have both peace of mind and curb appeal value as it aesthetically adds living space to the exterior of your home. A $10,000 deck offers a return of a whopping 88%.

•    Home Office – The cost versus value report for 2014 lists a home office as only a 48% ROI. That being said, if a home office enables you to telecommute and save gas money as well as vehicle wear and tear while eradicating a long drive back and forth to work, then the return is much higher.

The one thing to remember about reinvesting in your home is that since barely anything offers a 100% ROI, it’s not always recommended to renovate just to sell. Because of this it’s important to take energy efficiency, curb appeal, and quality of living projects into account for what you’ll enjoy the most while still making money… someday.

Author Bio

Christian Sculthorp is a marketing representative for the Ottawa General Contractors, a full service home renovation and custom home company. He’s passionate about getting people great bang for their buck – whether it’s through marketing or home renos.

Top Six Home Staging DON’Ts to Avoid

When you’re selling a home, you only have a few seconds to make an impression and convince buyers to look further. That’s why home staging is so important, especially in a market with tough competition.

Home staging presents your home in its best possible light, and if done right, gives it an advantage over similar homes in the area. But if done wrong, you could actually be turning potential buyers away. So here are six home staging don’ts every seller should be aware of and avoid. 

DON’T Forget the Curb Appeal

Don’t get so wrapped up in staging the inside of the home that you forget about the outside. No matter how beautiful your home is, if it looks unpleasant from the outside, you’ll have a hard time getting people in the door. But if you make the front of your home look welcoming, people will be eager to see more.

Start by ensuring the outside of your home is clean and shows no signs of wear and tear. Rent a pressure washer to clean the exterior of your home and make sure all exterior lights are working. Next, mow the lawn, weed the gardens and trim trees and hedges to make your landscaping look its best. Finally, add seasonal flowers (in pots is OK) to bring color to your front yard or step.

DON’T Leave Personal Items on Display

Home staging is all about making your home appeal to a wider audience. That means leaving personal preferences behind and aiming for a hotel-like atmosphere. It can be challenging for homeowners staging their home to let go of personal attachments and view the property from a buyer’s perspective. Here are five things to pack away before listing your home:

  1. Family photos
  2. Religious artifacts
  3. Laundry (including towels)
  4. Anything that resembles a weapon (even if they don’t work or are replicas)
  5. Large collections

DON’T Let Them Know You Have a Pet

As much as you love your four-legged family member, not everyone is OK with animals in the house. Someone who isn’t an animal lover might consider a home with pets to be dirty or smelly without even giving the home a chance.

Vacuum all pet hair, pack up beds, bowls, toys and leashes, and keep your furry friends out of the house during showings. This can be a lot of work and stressful for some pets, so you may want to have them stay elsewhere for a few days.

DON’T Let Odors Linger

Unpleasant smells are an instant turn-off for almost everyone. And strong air fresheners can actually make people with scent sensitivities feel sick. Your best defense against unwanted odors is to clean thoroughly rather than try to cover them up. Once everything is clean, there are a few ways to help keep the air fresh.

Use baking soda near problem areas like garbage cans, closets and bathrooms. You can also sprinkle it on carpets and furniture to lift lingering odors from spills and pet accidents. But if your carpets are older or you have smokers in the house, it’s worth having them professionally cleaned.

Keep windows open as much as possible and refrain from cooking anything with a strong scent the days before a showing. Take out the garbage often, and don’t leave laundry out in the open. You can also simmer a pot of water with lemon slices or cinnamon sticks to give the air a pleasant scent.

DON’T Neglect Minor Repairs

Not many people are looking to buy a house that needs work. Even little things like a loose knob or leaky faucet can look like a project to some buyers. Take the time to fix all the little things you might have neglected, so your home looks well-maintained.

DON’T Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Home staging is a lot of work, and even though you can perform many of the tasks yourself, the reality is that you may not have time to get it all done. So, go ahead and hire a handyman, cleaning service or painter to help lighten the load. Selling and showing a home can be stressful enough without adding a mountain of extra tasks to your list.

You want your home to sell quickly and for the best possible price. Avoid these top six home staging don’ts to help buyers fall in love with your home.

How to Start a Vegetable Garden in 8 Steps

 

 

1. Pick Your Location

Take a look at your garden and observe how much light it gets throughout the day. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to grow. However, not all plants need the same amount of light, which can work to your advantage. For example, a garden that receives full sun is perfect for growing tomatoes, peppers, squash or strawberries. Meanwhile, a garden that receives partial shade is better suited for crops such as cabbage, carrots, kale, broccoli and spinach.

2. Check Your Local Hardiness Zone

Your local hardiness zone will decide what you can grow and when. In warmer, frost-free climates, you can grow whatever you want whenever the mood takes you. For example, in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 12, you can start sowing tomatoes as early as January. But in cooler climates, you will need to wait until the frost has passed.

You can find your plant hardiness zone here: for the U.S., for Canada

3. Decide Which Plants to Grow

If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, you’ll want to pace yourself and start with easy, low-maintenance crops. Some of the best choices include herbs, leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, onions, garlic, green beans, beets and radishes. Once you get a feel for your garden and how your plants grow, you can move on to more challenging vegetables, such as asparagus, corn, artichokes, cauliflower or exotic crops such as kiwi or Asian eggplants.

4. Buy Gardening Supplies

Every gardener should have the following tools in their “arsenal”:

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Garden fork
  • Hand trowel
  • Gardening scissors or pruners
  • Gardening gloves
  • Wheelbarrow
  • A long hose for easy watering
  • Saw and drill, if you’re building garden beds and supports
  • Seedling trays if you’re planning to start your vegetable seeds indoors.

Always go for quality tools and avoid buying plastic utensils. They may be cheaper, but they’re not durable, and you run the risk of them breaking when you need them most.

5. Test and Amend the Soil

The ideal pH range for growing most vegetables is between 6.0 and 7.5. For acidic soil, you can improve the pH through liming. For alkaline soils, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur and sulfates. You will also need to improve soils that are either clay-heavy or too sandy. The best way to do so is by using natural soil amendments such as compost, manure, pine bark and dried leaves, which will provide drainage as well as give your plants a nutrient boost.

6. Prepare the Planting Site

Decide on your layout: you can plant your vegetables in rows, a grid pattern, even a spiral. Also, take a moment to decide if you’ll sow your plants directly in the soil or if using raised garden beds or straw bales might be easier for you.

Use a shovel, fork and rake to clear and tidy up your planting site as best you can. This includes weeds and fallen leaves, but also rocks and other debris. For stubborn weeds, try covering the plot with a thick plastic tarp for a few weeks. Then remove the dead weeds, dig up the soil to a depth of one foot and incorporate plenty of compost and manure.

In a large vegetable garden, you’ll also want to make sure watering doesn’t take too much of your time. An irrigation system with a timer will help, but you can also make a simple drip feed system using soaker hoses. If you’re growing climbing plants such as beans, squash or cucumbers, you’ll also need to set trellises or other supports in place.

7. Sow and Maintain Your Garden

Once the weather gets warm enough, you can start sowing your vegetables. Check the instructions on the seed packet for the recommended spacing. Most vegetable seeds will germinate in about two weeks. Keep your seedlings well-watered, weed regularly and check for pests and diseases every day. As your vegetables grow, add some mulch to your garden to help preserve soil moisture. One month after your seeds have sprouted, you can also use a balanced organic fertilizer to give your plants a boost.

8. Get Ready to Harvest

Before you know it, all your hard work will pay off, and it’s time to think about harvesting. Leafy greens are typically ready in a month. Bush beans, green onions, cucumbers, beets and kale take around two months to mature. For tomatoes, peppers or squash, you’ll need to wait about three months. Harvest your vegetables regularly, and don’t forget about preserving some for the winter months.

The Rental Application Process: What to Expect

 

Like applying for a job, you’ll also need to apply as a tenant when you want to move into a new apartment. Therefore, understanding the entire rental application process is essential if you want to be approved for the unit of your choice. Here’s what it entails:

What Is a Rental Application Form?

In the U.S. and Canada, potential tenants are often required to submit a rental application form to the landlord or property management company when they wish to rent a unit. The form basically provides the owner with all the information they need to determine whether a candidate can reliably pay the rent.

As well as being able to fulfill financial obligations, the application process is also used to filter out candidates that don’t match other criteria. This can include pet owners in a pet-free apartment or smokers in a non-smoking home, for example.

When and Where Do You Fill It Out?

Nowadays, many landlords and property management companies allow you to fill out your application form online. This is a fantastic time-saver and is often used by leasing firms that offer online tours. The option to apply will be readily available once the tour has been completed.

Other companies will require you to fill out the form in person, often at the leasing office. This usually follows a tour, viewing or open house. If you’re prepared in advance, it shouldn’t take too long to complete the application form. This leads us to the next point…

What Paperwork and Information Do You Need to Provide?

The most important information a landlord is looking for is your credit score and proof of income. This enables them to figure out whether you will have any problems paying the rent each month or not while seeing if you have any outstanding debts that could cause problems. The following documents are typically accepted as proof of income:

  • Recent pay stubs (previous three months)
  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • W-2s / T4 slips
  • Employment history and resume

You must give consent and provide all the necessary information for the landlord to run a credit check on you. You’ll generally need to supply the following:

  • Full legal name
  • Addresses for at least the past two years
  • Social security number / Social insurance number
  • Date of birth
  • Current employer
  • Current landlord

In addition to this, you’ll also need to prove your identity and supply contact details such as phone number and email. A copy of your driver’s license or passport is ideal for proof of ID. Character references from employers, colleagues, previous landlords, and even professors or your doctor are also a good idea.

Is There an Application Fee?

This depends on where you’re applying. In the U.S., application fees are applied to fund processing costs such as running credit checks. In some U.S. states, this fee is regulated not to exceed the actual charges the landlord pays to carry out these checks. In others, there are no limits. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $25 and $100 when applying for a rental in the U.S.

In Canada, application fees are prohibited by law in some provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia. However, some landlords may still ask for a fee though this must be refunded either by the end of your lease if your application is successful or straight away if not. Such fees can cost around $150.

How Long Does It Take and What Happens Next?

Your application will typically be processed within one to three business days. In the best-case scenario, you can view and apply for an apartment and sign the lease agreement on the same day. Other times, it can take up to a week to verify certain information.

If you’re not accepted, the landlord is under no obligation to let you know. But if you are approved, you’ll be contacted and asked to sign the lease agreement. But, of course, you’re not obliged to sign just because you were approved, so you can still say no if you’ve changed your mind.

However, if you’re happy with the rental, you can sign the lease agreement. Just bear in mind that it’s a legally binding contract.

How Can I Improve the Chances of My Application Being Accepted?

There are three major things you can do to improve your chances of being approved:

  1. Improve your credit score: Most landlords are looking for a score of at least 600. Also, be sure to pay off any outstanding bills and debts.
  2. Check you’re earning enough: Your gross income should be at least three times more than the monthly rent for most landlords to consider your application.
  3. Be honest: Background checks will be made, so be upfront about anything that might cause you issues. A cover letter is a great idea.