Heading off on a summer road trip, international adventure or family vacay this month? Don’t forget to prep your
home before you hit the open road! To lend a helping hand, Earth911 compiled this simple checklist of things to
do to save energy, water and waste while you’re out of the house.
Tip: In most cases, shutting your thermostat off completely is ideal when leaving for vacation. But if you live in an
especially hot climate, you may want to program your thermostat to a very low setting to avoid heat damage to your
home while you're away. Photo: Alexandra Vietti, Earth911
1. Set your temperature
The most obvious way to save energy and shrink your footprint while away from home is to power down the
thermostat. Many programmable models have “vacation” or “away” settings to make saving easier, but you can cut
energy costs even without these features.
In most cases, shutting your thermostat off completely is ideal when leaving for summer vacations. If you live in an
especially hot climate, you may want to program your thermostat to a very low setting to avoid heat damage to your
home while you’re away. In the cooler months, leave heating systems on a low setting to keep pipes from bursting
For best results, set your programmable thermostat to power on when interior temperatures reach 85 to 90
degrees Fahrenheit (or around 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter). This way, your AC will turn on for a few
minutes when it gets too hot or cold and power down as soon as your home reaches a manageable temperature.
To keep your home as cool as possible sans-AC, pull shades, blinds and curtains closed before hitting the road.
2. Save energy
Shutting off your air conditioner isn’t the only way to save energy while you’re away. Power down every room of the
house to cut back on energy costs and shrink your family’s footprint.
For starters, unplug all kitchen appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters, blenders and microwaves. This
simple step is not only a good idea for fire safety but also cuts down on vampire power – the energy your
appliances use when they are plugged in but not running.
For even greater energy savings, put all large electronics in other rooms of the house – such as televisions,
computers and stereo systems – on a power strip and flip the switch off before leaving for your trip.
And don’t forget your water heater! Before departure, head down to the basement and turn off the circuit breaker
that connects to your water heater to avoid wasted energy. Some water heaters also have a powered-down
“vacation” setting, which will also help you cut costs while away from home.
3. Reduce waste
Don’t let waste stack up while you’re on the go! Take a few simple steps ahead of time to keep those trash cans
Before packing your bags, take an inventory of perishable food in your kitchen and give away anything that may
spoil before you return. In most cases, unopened or unprepared food can be donated to a local food bank, shelter
or soup kitchen, but restrictions may vary from one location to the next. So, call ahead to be sure.
For food you can’t donate, try freezing or canning it before you leave the house, or simply give it away to a friend or
neighbor to cut back on food waste. If you plan to be gone for more than a month, you can also empty out the fridge
and unplug it if desired. But be sure to leave the door propped open to reduce the risk of mold damage.
If you have a daily newspaper delivered to your home, call the publication’s customer service center and ask to
have delivery stopped until you return to reduce paper waste. Many publications will even allow you to donate your
newspaper to a local school, rec center or church while you’re out of town. If all else fails, simply tell your
neighbors that they’re welcome to snag the paper off your doorstep while you’re away.
Looking for a few waste-reducing tips for your journey? Try these seven eco-friendly travel ideas to get you
4. Protect your home from damage
Nothing puts a damper on a fun-filled vacation like coming home to heat, water or mold damage in your home.
Prevent an unfriendly welcome by taking a few precautionary steps before you hit the road.
Start by shutting off the main water valve. This is one of the most important preventative steps you can take, as
leaks and broken pipes can cause significant damage to both the interior and exterior of your home if left
unattended. Also, turn the circuit breaker for your stove and oven off before departure to save energy and reduce
the risk of fires.
Programming your thermostat to a low setting will go a long way toward preventing heat damage while you’re
away. But if your hometown is especially humid in the summer, you may want to use a dehumidifier to stave off
mold damage as well.
Some smart thermostats include built-in humidity detectors. So, if you have a smart thermostat and dehumidifier
incorporated into your home’s HVAC system, this will take the majority of the guess-work out of warding against
If not, simply use portable dehumidifiers on low settings instead. Place your dehumidifier near a sink or shower
and position the drainage tube so the water can go down the drain. You may also want to prop open your
dishwasher door to prevent mold growth inside (yuck!).
5. Stay secure the eco way
We all have our tricks to help us feel more secure about leaving the house: Turning on interior lights, blasting the
radio or leaving a car parked in the driveway to make your home look “occupied.” But why not give your security
routine an eco-friendly makeover for a safe and efficient home?
If you like to turn on the radio or leave a few lights on for security purposes, put these on timers and set them to
turn on and off at staggered intervals to save energy. Or simply connect outdoor lights to a motion sensor to ward
off any potential prowlers.
For even greater efficiency, embrace energy-free ways to keep your home protected while you’re out of town. Ask a
trusted friend or neighbor to drop in occasionally and remove (then recycle) any circulars or flyers that may have
been left on your doorstep or front door, as a pileup of paper tends to make the home look unoccupied. If you plan
to be gone for two weeks or more, offer a neighborhood kid a few dollars to mow the lawn while you’re away to
keep your home looking well cared-for.
By Chaya Goodman Kurtz
Listing your house online requires more than just posting pictures or posting it on a local real estate website. For
many home buyers, the first contact they have with a potential property to buy is the online listing. The photos need
to be enticing, to say the least. Enter Virtually Staging Properties, a pioneer in the field of virtual home staging. I
initially made contact with Krisztina M. Bell, the director of Virtually Staging Properties, on Hometalk.com, a
social network totally dedicated to home and garden projects. Krizstina posts almost daily home selling and home
staging tips on Hometalk, and I was totally impressed by her level of professionalism and expertise. She
graciously agreed to an interview. Read on to learn how virtually staging your house could be the thing that sells it
fast and at the asking price.
Q: What is Virtual Staging?
A: Virtual Staging is a service we pioneered to help owners of vacant "for sale" properties best present their homes
to potential buyers, via the Internet; which is where according to the NAR (National Association of Realtors) 90
percent of potential home buyers start their home search. We work with actual photos of a vacant home, and
"virtually" stage them by adding attractive and appropriate REAL furnishings (Patent-Pending process) into the
photos, so the online pictures of the home are more understandable and help create a connection with the
potential buyers. When buyers view the virtually staged home online, they can envision themselves living in the
home, so they are much more likely to want to go view it with their agent in person.
Q: Is Virtual Staging less costly than hiring an in-person designer?
A: Virtual Staging is primarily designed to assist in the sale of vacant homes. Traditional staging entails moving
furniture in and not only does the homeowner have the cost of the designer (or professional stager), but they also
incur the cost of renting the furnishings as well. Traditionally staging a vacant home is not an inexpensive
proposition; however as traditional stagers ourselves we know the benefits almost always outweigh the costs.
Virtual Staging costs range from just $225 to $325, or around 10 percent of the cost of traditional staging.
Additionally, Virtual Staging is a one-time charge, if a traditionally staged home doesn't sell quickly, furniture rental
costs continue to accrue monthly, potentially costing sellers thousands of additional dollars.
Q: What about when buyers come to see the home in person?
A: We brand each photo that we virtually stage with our web address and require that our clients disclose the fact
that certain photos of the home have been virtually staged wherever the staged photos are used. In our view,
Virtual Staging actually offers the buyers the best of both worlds. They get the benefit of seeing the potential of a
home online (and in person if the seller orders our mounted enlargements option), and when they view the
property in person, there are no rugs, furniture, wall hangings, etc that might distract the buyer from reviewing the
complete house. We would also suggest that virtual staging is no different than the seller/agent using photos of
the home when it was occupied, after the owner has moved.
It is our policy to not edit the underlying photo or property. By this, we mean that we will not change wall colors,
floor coverings, add appliances, etc., nor will we cover up or "repair" damage that might be evident in the photos.
Q: I first found you on Hometalk.com. How has Hometalk.com helped you to make your business grow, and
how is your presence on the site helping Hometalk members?
Hometalk has been a great social media community from the start for us since its focus is more about house
and home. We like the friendly community that is serious about making the inside and outside of their home living
better. We found it to be a great avenue to spread the word to homeowners as the majority of our mail marketing
and presentations are more geared toward agents who really are the bread and butter of our business. But as a
business you have to tap into all the sources of potential clients and Hometalk does just that and we have been
amazed at the support and enthusiasm we have received from Hometalk followers and pros.
Our service is helping not only agents but also sellers market their homes for sale in a more economical way that
will always still be classified as home staging but with a new tech savvy twist. We have also noticed an increase in
our Web traffic over the past year since joining Hometalk, even getting phone calls from agents and sellers who
were curious about our service. Also, it was Hometalkers that kick started our "Likes" and fan base on Facebook
as they enjoy our photos of rooms in homes that give them great staging ideas and design ideas for their home
even on a budget.
As professional home stagers we have also been able to provide Hometalk followers with our home staging tips,
secrets and even some occasional interior design ideas because in real estate it is all about how you market your
home, whether its to sell it to potential buyers or live in it in a more organized fashion to show off to your friends.
Overall, we are thrilled to be a part of the growth of the Hometalk community and will continue to bring its followers
the latest trends in staging and design tips and ideas for the home via our Hometalk profile.
Q: Can you name some success stories?
Yes, in fact that is exactly what we call them, Success Stories. Many of our clients have written us to let us know
that their listings have sold and that our Virtual Staging made a big difference in both buyer traffic and days-on-
market. Some of these Success Stories can be found on our website.
Here are a couple of quotes from a few of our Success Stories:
Annmarie D., an agent with Prudential Connecticut says, "I had the property listed for just one short week and it
produced 4 offers for full price!"
Catie M., a Top Agent with Long & Foster says, “We work with investors who renovate homes and having the vacant
photos of the property virtually staged really helps sell the home fast and adds to our investors' return on
investment…a double positive for everybody!”
Sue M., a Broker and Agent with Re/Max of Naperville (Chicago suburb) listed a condo in a community where 60-
plus condos were already on the market. "My condo was vacant and I had 3 virtually staged photos done by VSP,
which I added to my virtual tour," she says. "Within 5 days, the condo was under contract, beating out all others
that were in the same price range!"
Q: When should Virtual Staging be used versus traditional staging?
A: We developed Virtual Staging to offer customers around the country a less expensive, yet highly effective
alternative to traditional vacant home staging. If cost is not an issue, traditional staging is an outstanding tool to
market and sell a vacant home. However, if cost is a consideration, Virtual Staging is without a doubt the best
approach for marketing a vacant home, offering most of the benefits of traditional staging, at just a fraction of the
By Dana Dratch | Bankrate.com
You might be ready to buy a home, but are you armed with the knowledge you need? Do you know about credit score
requirements? Are you familiar with flexible standards on Federal Housing Administration loans?
Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an experienced owner,buying a house requires a "preflight check," in the
words of Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America.
Here is a six-item checklist, including tips on two types of savingsyou need, plus advice about what's more important
than buying a house for its resale value.
Strengthen your credit score
"It's a brave, new world with respect to credit requirements for mortgages," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer
education at smartcredit.com and formerly of FICO, which pioneered credit scoring.
One old rule still applies: The higher your credit score, the lower your down payment and monthly payments.
"Below 660 or 680, you're either going to have to pay sizable fees or a higher down payment," Zigas says. And that's
pretty much the cutoff score for getting a mortgage, he says.
Vicki Bott, deputy assistant secretary for single-family housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development,
says that her office has noticed much the same thing. "While there are many qualified borrowers in the 580 range, the
market today is probably (looking for) 640 to 660, at a minimum," Bott says.
On the other end, a score of 700 to 720 will get you a good deal and 750 and above will garner the best rates on the
market, Ulzheimer says.
Improve your chances by: pulling your credit reports and ensuring you're not being unfairly penalized for old, paid or
settled debts, Zigas says.
Stop applying for new credit a year before you apply for financing. And keep the moratorium in place until after you close
on your home, Ulzheimer says.
Figure out how much house you can afford
The buyer's mantra: Get a home that's financially comfortable.
There are various rules of thumb that will help you get an idea of how much home you can afford. If you're using FHA
financing, as almost one-fifth of buyers get FHA-insured loans, your home payment can't exceed 31 percent of your
monthly income. But, with some mitigating factors, FHA will let you go higher.
For conventional loans, a safe formula is that home expenses should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly
income, says Susan Tiffany, director of consumer periodicals for the Credit Union National Association.
For a rough assessment of how much house you can afford, check out Bankrate's new house calculator.
Improve your chances by: trying on that financial obligation long before you sign the mortgage papers, says Tiffany.
Before you home shop, calculate the mortgage paymentfor the home in your intended price range, along with the
increased expenses (such as taxes, insurance and utilities). Then bank the difference between that and what you're
Not only does it allow you to build a nice nest egg, but "you can back away from it," or scale back, if the payments start to
pinch, she says.
Save for down payment and closing costs
Depending on your credit and financing, you'll typically need to save enough money to put anywhere from 3.5 percent to
20 percent down.
If you're using FHA financing, then you need a score of 500 or higher. And in the 500 to 579 range, if you can find a lender,
you'll have to put 10 percent down instead of 3.5 percent.
One exception: Veterans Affairs loans, which require no down payment.
Another cash expense: closing costs. Whatever your loan source, you'll also need money to pay closing costs, which run
(depending on where you live), from $2,300 to $4,000. Get the average closing costs in your state at Bankrate's closing
Improve your chances by: Along with banking your own money, search out down payment assistance, Tiffany says. Often
it's location-based or tagged to a certain type of buyer, like first-timers, she says. So do an Internet search with the city
name, then the county name, along with word combinations such as "down payment assistance," "first-time
homebuyers" and "homebuyer's assistance."
In a buyer's market, you can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of the closing costs.
Build a healthy savings account
This is over and above your money for the down payment and closing. Your lender wants to see that you're not living
paycheck to paycheck. If you have three to five months' worth of mortgage payments set aside, that makes you a much
better loan candidate. And some lenders and backers, like the FHA, will give you a little more latitude on other factors if
they see that you save a cash cushion.
That money will also help you with maintenance and repair issues that come up when you own a home. While repairs
are sporadic, items such as a new roof, water heater or other big-ticket items can hit suddenly and hard.
Improve your chances by: setting aside money every month. A good rule of thumb: on average you'll spend 2.5 percent to
3 percent of your home's value annually on upkeep, repairs and maintenance, says Joseph Gyourko, chairman of the
real estate department at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. If you're buying a $250,000 home, aim to
bank $520 to $625 per month.
Get preapproved for a mortgage
For serious home shoppers, "the No. 1 thing is they better have everything in order," says Dick Gaylord, past president of
the National Association of Realtors. That means that, before the real home shopping begins, you want to get financing
in place, he says.
And the preapproval process is "much more extensive" than it was a few years ago, he says.
Bott agrees. "That documentation around income and assets is very essential, more so than in the last five years," she
Improve your chances by: getting financing in place "before you walk through the first house," Gaylord says. Otherwise,
he says, "How do you know how much you can afford?"
If you're buying today for yourself and your family, you want a home that will make you happy for the next few years.
Gone are the days when you could count on a quick sale, Tiffany says. And depending on how much you put down, and
how much you have to shell out to sell and relocate, short-term ownership can be a pretty expensive proposition.
Improve your chances by: stepping back, Gyourko says, and making certain "you like the house."
Half-marathon runners make their way across Dunsmuir Viaduct shortly after the start of the Vancouver Marathon. The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts could be demolished almost immediately, paving way for a new neighbourhood park system.
BY JEFF LEE, VANCOUVER SUN
The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts could be demolished almost immediately, paving the way for new housing
and a neighbourhood park system, if the plan is approved by council this fall.
On Tuesday, city transportation planners unveiled a new plan to create a “super road” around the north end of
False Creek that would allow for the accelerated destruction of the viaducts and create more than 850,000 square
feet of new housing space in Strathcona. It would also affect several other planned changes, including the
construction of a long-awaited truck bypass route along Malkin Street.
The plan has yet to be approved, and the planners will bring back a final version within months, but the general
proposal received thumbs up from both Vision Vancouver and Non-Partisan Association councillors.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said the ambitious project still has to meet the support of neighbouring residents as well
as downtown businesses affected by the removal of the viaducts.
“I’m not prepared to say we’re there yet, but I think we’re getting closer,” he said. “This is a big, big decision for
Vancouver and the future of the eastern core. It will be a big influence on how we connect and how we respond to
the needs of neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Strathcona, Grandview-Woodlands for many decades to come.”
In removing the aging elevated roadways, the last vestige of Vancouver’s short-lived fling with a freeway, the city
would unlock land that could either be turned into parks, traded with adjacent landowners or sold in order to create
more affordable housing in the neighbourhood.
The plan calls for a new road that sweeps north from Pacific Boulevard and links up with Prior, Main and Quebec
streets. Georgia Street would be extended to Pacific down a five per cent grade so gentle planners say it will
accommodate people in wheelchairs.
Westbound vehicle access to Dunsmuir would stop, but a bicycle and pedestrian bridge would connect from a
planned park to Dunsmuir Street above.
The proposal also calls for a broad bicycle and pedestrian mall on the west side of a future park linking Carrall
Street with False Creek, and an additional 13 per cent park space could be added to the 9 hectares (22 acres)
already committed for completion.
Transportation Planning Director Jerry Dobrovolny told council removing the eastern approaches of viaducts would
also give the city back two blocks between Quebec and Gore streets, including Hogan’s Alley, that were once part
of the city’s vibrant black population. Those two blocks, if developed correctly, could generate 850,000 square feet
of housing and retail space and could help pay for the cost of demolishing the viaducts.
A previous plan considered by the transportation department would have kept the viaducts in place for 15 years.
But Dobrovolny said under the new scenario, the viaducts could be removed almost immediately as the
neighbourhood parks are built without negatively affecting traffic. He said public consultation surveys showed that
nearly 70 per cent support or strongly support the plan.
Dobrovolny told reporters later the timeline for removal was contingent on other development and reconstruction in
the neighbourhood, but that there was no long-term obstacle to removal of the viaducts. He suggested the project
could cost up to $100 million, but much of the money could come from the city’s sale of development rights on
land currently under the viaducts.
Robertson said before staff come back in the fall for a final decision he wants to make sure five issues are
addressed, including advancing work on the long-planned Malkin Street connector, a truck bypass route from
Clark Drive around the north end of the False Creek flats to Main Street. That route would take much of the traffic
that now uses Prior Street, which has been a constant source of anger for local residents.
The city also expects the Malkin connector, which could cost $40 million, would attract financial support from the
federal and provincial governments as it would eliminate several at-grade rail crossings and give the province
better access to land it wants for a new health centre.
Robertson said local residents also need “clear timelines” for when the park next to False Creek will be built. That
project, the last part of the 25-year-old Concord Pacific development, has been stalled while the city and the
developer negotiate over road alignments and density allotments of the last adjacent construction project.
The proposed changes, from the creation of additional parks and more affordable housing, must also meet the
city’s new strategy for creating high-value jobs, the mayor said. And he also wants assurance the flow of goods
and commerce into the downtown core won’t be affected by the removal of the viaducts.
NPA Coun. George Affleck said he’s in support of the proposal, with some reservations.
“My personal opinion is about the impact on businesses and communities. If in fact this can work without negative
impact, I think it is better to have a normal streetscape as opposed to a highway, which is what this is, going
through our city,” he said.
The idea of removing the old viaducts, first proposed by Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, was embraced by city staff after
they set aside concerns that removing them would be “a showstopper” for the thousands of cars and trucks that
use them daily.
“The viaducts were built at a time and in a context that made sense,” said Kevin McNaney, the city’s assistant
director of planning. “They crossed industrial land, which no longer exists, they were built to be part of a freeway
system, which was never built, and they were built to a capacity that we can never achieve. So the question for
council over the coming months and this coming fall, is: ‘Is there a better, more coherent vision, and how can we
The viaducts were built in the 1960s to carry as many as 1,800 vehicles an hour. But less than half that number use the viaducts now and that amount is declining as improvements to public transportation are made,
By Josh Garskof
(MONEY Magazine) -- You change your car's oil every 3,000 miles or so, get your teeth cleaned regularly, and
rebalance your investments once a year. So why wouldn't you undertake similar preventive maintenance on your
Having to replace just one of its hardest-working surfaces -- from roofing to exterior paint, hardwood floors to lawn --
would cost you thousands. But you can stave off that pain with simple, often-overlooked upkeep procedures and
slight tweaks to the way you already approach routine chores.
Exterior paint: The biggest controllable threat to the paint on your house is the landscaping around it, says
architect Karen Sweeney, director of facilities for two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Chicago.
Overgrown foundation plantings rub away paint -- and bring moisture and bugs onto the finish.
The fix: Prune bushes to keep them at least a foot away from the house; a landscaper might do it for $200 if he's
Roofing: You can't stop nature from damaging your roof, but you can address the harm coming from within by
adding ventilation to your attic. Without proper airflow, that space can get 35° to 55°F hotter than the outside
temperature, roasting the roof from below.
The fix: Have a contractor add airflow by installing high and low attic vents; they can go in the walls or the roof
itself, depending on the situation ($500 to $1,000).
Hardwood floors: Every grimy boot and dragged chair brings you closer to the day when you'll have to refinish the
floors. "But sanding floorboards makes them a little thinner, bouncier, and creakier," says Sweeney. "And after three
times there's nothing left to sand."
The fix: Hire a floor guy to "screen," or sand away most of the old finish -- without touching the wood -- and apply
new polyurethane ($1,000 to $1,500 for a typical first floor, half the cost of refinishing).
Lawns: Many DIYers and pros do the grass serious harm when they mow.
"People like the look of a close-cropped lawn," says University of Tennessee agriculture professor John Stier, a
consultant to Major League Baseball grounds crews.
But in the North, grass shorter than 2½ to 3½ inches is less drought resistant and invites insects and weeds (in the
South, one inch is fine).
The fix: Set the mower higher and never remove more than a third of the grass height at a time. Says Stier: "Think
of mowing as a trim, not a crewcut."
By Julie Cazzin | MoneySense
When my mom and dad came to Canada from Italy in 1957, they had only one dream—to buy a home of their own.
But after a few Sunday afternoons of real estate hunting in Toronto, they realized their meagre savings weren’t
going to go far. Then one weekend they stumbled upon a small, rickety duplex on bustling Claremont Street that
was in much need of repair. It had a two-bedroom unit on the main floor and a one-bedroom unit on the second. It
didn’t take them long to figure out that, with rent payments coming in from one of the units, they could afford to buy
and live in this modest property. So, with a small down payment—and a lot of elbow grease—they became
For the next 10 years, they dealt with a slew of tenants including a young nurse with a very active sex life, a
carpenter with a roaring motorcycle and a university student with a pet iguana he carried around on his shoulder
while doing the laundry. They eventually sold the duplex for a small profit and used the equity to buy a bungalow in
the suburbs, and today they insist their days as landlords got them on the path to achieving their financial goals.
Most beginner landlords are inspired by my parents’ story. And why not? Low interest rates and rising real estate
prices are spurring Canadians to become landlords by renting out basement apartments, a second condo or small
apartment building bought solely for investment purposes. But the sad truth is that just a few small mistakes can
turn your landlord dreams into a nightmare. “When friends tell me they’ve bought themselves a rental property, I
always say, ‘Congratulations, you just bought yourself a business,’ ” says Deb Mattina, a former adjudicator with the
Landlord and Tenant Board in Ontario. “Treat it like one.”
While being a successful landlord means making sure the numbers work in your favour, it’s also important to
understand the other rules of the game, including landlord and tenant laws. “Good tenants are hard to come by,”
says Alan Silverstein, a real estate lawyer in Toronto who has witnessed his fair share of landlord dreams gone
sour. “Laws require more and more of landlords all the time. You have to keep on top of it to come out ahead.”
If you’re considering becoming a landlord and want to know the secrets to making it a financial success, read on.
Pick a path to prosperity
There are several ways to become a landlord. You can rent out a part of your own home, such as a basement suite,
or you can purchase a second place, in which case you’ll need to decide if you want to deal with your tenants
directly, or use a property management company. All the financial rewards are yours to keep if you deal with the
tenants yourself, but you’ll probably find yourself devoting a lot of time and energy to maintaining the property.
Just ask Milo Wu, a 31-year-old elementary school counselor in Vancouver. He and his wife Erica, 31, bought a
bungalow in 2005. Wu had just read The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach and, as he tells it, was ready “to
make real estate my piggy bank.” But after just three years, the couple sold the bungalow because the endless
stream of repairs was harming both their pocketbooks and their lifestyle. “It can be a ticking time bomb,” says Wu. “If
you’re a hands-on landlord, any time the phone rings, it can be a tenant complaining about a leaky faucet or a
plugged toilet. We wanted to be free of tenant complaints.”
The lesson? “Landlording is not a passive investment,” says Silverstein, the real estate lawyer. “You have to nurture
it to make it worth your while. If you’re not up to doing that, don’t become a landlord.”
Being a landlord can put a strain on your relationship, too. “You have to be a united front as a couple if you plan to
become landlords,” says Lenore Davis, a fee-only adviser with Dixon, Davis and Co. in Victoria. “It’s not the
financial stuff that ruins a couple, it’s the emotional stuff.” Her solution? “I have couples write down their long-term
financial goals separately. Then we talk it through. Usually 20% of couples aren’t on the same page with
landlording and need to consider other investment options.”
There are plenty of reasons for that disconnect. One partner may not be comfortable with carrying a lot of debt, or
may not want their free time impinged upon by tenants. Whatever the reason, you and your spouse have to find a
compromise before taking your first step.
Handing over the responsibility of maintaining your place to a property management company certainly helps
reduce the amount of work. You don’t have to deal with tenant issues and rent collection, but the downside is it will
cost you up to 10% of the revenue—plus you’re still on the hook for maintenance costs and missed rent.
Another option is to buy a condo for the sole purpose of renting it out. In that case, the maintenance fees will take
care of some upkeep, so there’s less responsibility on the owner. This has worked well for Wu, who currently owns
a rental condo that he says requires no hands-on work.
Once you find what works for you, the key is holding your property for the long haul—at least 10 years—to increase
your chances of financial success. “Ultimately, money in real estate is made not by timing the market,” says Tom
Karadza, a real estate agent with Rock Star Real Estate in Toronto. “The money is made by time in the market.” So
plan to hold on to your rental property long enough for it to pay off.
Find the perfect property
Start your rental property search by looking at cities with good job and population growth so there’s a large pool of
tenants to pick from. Right now, good opportunities exist in Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and Barrie, Ont. For
instance, Barrie is considered a good market because its population is growing quickly and many new arrivals are
still renting after three years, so there are lots of potential tenants.
Also build a team of professionals to help you, including a good real estate lawyer, tax accountant and mortgage
broker. Read books on how to buy rental property and ask friends and family to share their own landlording
experiences with you.
Ultimately, the best property for you might be your own home. “Learn the ropes with a basement apartment,” says
Silverstein. “Your losses are limited and you’ll get a good idea about tenant demands.”
Figure out what you can afford
Based on the down payment you have available, what can you afford to buy? Keep in mind that in Canada small
rental properties of one to four units require a minimum down payment of 20% to qualify for a Canada Mortgage
and Housing Corp. (CMHC) insured loan. How would affordability change if you increased your down payment?
Don’t forget to factor in real estate closing costs and other financial commitments that you have in life—things like a
new car, medical bills or daycare costs.
Of course, some investors are so keen to get in the game that they’ll put just 5% down on a property, or they’ll use
credit card cash advances to scrape together a down payment. Don’t do it. “Lenders want you to have some skin in
the game,” says Marc Lamontagne, a fee-only adviser with Ryan Lamontagne Inc. in Ottawa. “So down payments
under 20% for investment properties are rare. Lenders don’t want to be left on the hook if cash flow turns negative.”
Run the numbers
Before buying anything, ask yourself whether you can still make money, given that prices in many parts of Canada
are at seven-year highs. “There’s more than one way to assess a property, but ensuring that it’s cash-flow positive
from day one is the ideal,” says Lamontagne. “Don’t count on appreciation in price for your investment return. That’s
Once you know your down payment, it’s time to look at what rents and expenses will be like for the properties you
are considering. That means looking at total annual rental income less all expenses (typically mortgage interest,
property taxes, insurance and utilities). Put all of this information into a cash flow statement, and the number you get
when you subtract expenses from income will show either a positive cash flow (meaning you’re making money) or
negative cash flow (you’re losing money).
Some investors will argue that it’s fine to lose a bit of money each month because the tenants are paying your
mortgage. But this line of thinking is a slippery slope to losses, because there will be items you can’t control—like
rising mortgage rates, major repairs and unpaid rents—that can cost you thousands. “You have to think of it as you
would any small business,” says Silverstein. “If a small business is in the red, that’s not a good thing, and neither is
it for a rental property—whether tenants are paying your mortgage or not.”
The one thing that often trips up landlords is unforeseen expenses. To minimize that risk, budget 2% of the
purchase price of your property for maintenance and repair costs. So if the property you bought costs $300,000,
you should add $6,000 a year for repairs to your annual expense budget to get a more accurate cash flow
projection. Otherwise, losses can mount quickly.
Also make sure you beef up your rainy-day fund. “The biggest mistake I see people make is failing to recognize that
you need reserves,” says Ross McCallister, a property manager in Arizona. “They stretch their finances too far and
then, when a tenant doesn’t pay for a month or two or three, it becomes emotional and pinches the family’s
Alen Majer, a sales trainer in Toronto, learned that the hard way. Majer first became a landlord in 2006 when he
bought a 600-sq-ft one-bedroom condo in Mississauga, Ont., for $165,000 for the sole purpose of renting it out. “I
liked the idea of buying a property while someone else paid the mortgage,” says Majer. But even though the
property started out with positive cash flow, it soon turned negative when the condo management unexpectedly
raised monthly maintenance fees by 15% to $428 a month. “That’s when our cash flow started to suffer,” says
Majer, who found he had no emergency cash for a much-needed stove.
So, after owning the property for five years, Majer sold it, pocketing about $48,000 after taxes and expenses.
“Based on an initial investment of $25,000, our investment did well over those five years,” says Majer. “But we knew
that being short $50 a month can quickly turn into a $100-a-month loss, which can become $150. As a landlord you
need to be vigilant about maintaining that positive cash flow.”
Majer says he learned his lesson and is more prepared with his second foray into landlording—a condo in Toronto.
“I built a financial safety cushion of a few thousand dollars right into my cash flow calculations,” says Majer. “If
mortgage rates go up, as they’re bound to do in the near future, I’ll be covered.”
Know the law
Learn about landlord and tenant laws in your province to ensure you’re prepared in case things go wrong—and
they will. The three most common types of disputes from a landlord’s perspective are non-payment of rent,
persistent late payments, and unruly behaviour or damages. Each has a separate form that has to be filed to the
Landlord and Tenant Board to get your case heard. “I tell all landlords to be consistent and not to get emotionally
involved,” says Toronto paralegal Cathy Corsetti. “Those are the messiest cases. When they go sour, they really go
By far the biggest reason landlords go to Landlord and Tenant Court is for arrears of rent. “Tenants can be pretty
savvy when it comes to excuses for why they haven’t paid the rent,” says Corsetti. “They’ve had their wallet stolen, a
cheque is late.” Corsetti advises landlords to stick to the rules and not be swayed by emotional pleas for
You can minimize problems by doing a check on all potential tenants. That means calling their employer as well as
two of their previous landlords. Be careful though, because some tenants will put down the names of friends and
family as references, hoping you won’t dig deeper. Others may even give photocopies of fraudulent credit scores
and bank statements in the hope of hiding their bad tenancy record. “There are professional renters out there,” says
Mattina. “Once they’re in, they don’t pay the rent. Then it’s up to you to evict them and get the rent money. That can
be a challenge because these renters know the law and will do everything they can to stay without paying.”
As soon as one of your tenants doesn’t pay the rent, serve them notice in writing. If rent is to be paid on the first of
the month, in most provinces you can legally file notice on the second. (Although many landlord and tenant laws
are the same across Canada, check with your own province’s Tenancies Act or Landlord and Tenant Board for the
specifics.) Usually the tenant then gets 14 days to pay the full amount owing. If they don’t pay, the landlord can file
an application for a hearing three weeks later. “Always, always serve notice on the first day you can,” says Mattina.
“Once you apply, the clock starts ticking. You can change your mind if they come through with the rent, but serve the
notice. The longer you take to file it, the longer it will take to get your money.”
Whitney Wihidal, a chiropractor and landlord in Orillia, Ont., is pragmatic about rent arrears and evictions. He
owned a 14-unit apartment building with his brother-in-law for several years before selling it in 2009 for about the
same price he’d paid for it. “There were always a couple of tenants I had to chase down for the rent, and one or two
in the process of being evicted every month,” says Wihidal. “Cut your losses by knowing the law.”
But even if everything goes in your favour, it can still take anywhere from three months to a year to get a tenant
evicted. That’s many months of lost rental income that you may never recoup. That’s why these days, Wihidal sticks
closer to home, renting out his basement. It’s allowed him to easily keep an eye on things. “I always advertise at the
local college for student tenants,” says Wihidal. “If the parents come along to look at the place and write the monthly
cheques, I’m pretty sure I’ll get my money. They solidify it for me.”
Learn the tax rules
To use the tax laws to your full benefit, be aware of what can and can’t be claimed on your taxes. For instance,
expenses that may be fully deducted against your rental income typically include the cost of advertising, repairs
and maintenance of the rental space, and legal expenses incurred to collect unpaid rent. If the rental apartment is
part of your home, you can deduct certain expenses based on the portion of space the rental suite takes up in the
house, typically insurance premiums, the interest component of mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and
In general, you have a loss if your rental expenses are more than your gross rental income. You can deduct this
loss against your other sources of income. So, for instance, if you made $10,000 in rent, and expenses were
$4,000, then $6,000 will be added to your taxable income for the year. At the 40% tax bracket, you would pay
$2,400 in taxes on that rental income. If, instead, your expenses exceeded your rental income by $6,000, this
amount is subtracted from your other sources of taxable income, like your salary. So if you paid taxes on all your
other income throughout the year, you would get a refund of $2,400.
Some expenses may not be fully deductible in the year they’re incurred: they may have to be amortized over
several years at prescribed rates. These are called capital expenses, and the method of deducting them over time
is referred to as depreciation, or capital cost allowance (CCA). The distinguishing feature of a capital expense is
that it has an enduring value that benefits the current as well as future years, such as renovations and major
If you incur expenses to bring a property back to its original condition—for example, painting and grouting—the
expenses should be fully deductible in the year incurred. If, on the other hand, you enhance the original condition
of the property—say, by renovating a bathroom or installing a new roof—that may be considered a capital expense
and should be depreciated over three to five years. Your accountant can help determine this for you.
Finally, don’t overlook important details that could cost you thousands in future gains, such as the tax
consequences of renting out a portion of your principal residence. “If you have a self-contained unit in your home
that you are renting out, such as a basement apartment or entire second floor, you effectively have two properties
and will be taxed on a portion of your capital gains—according to space and percentage of time rented—when you
sell,” says John Mott, a chartered accountant in Toronto.
Also be diligent about claiming all rental income on your annual tax return. If you don’t, the taxman will eventually
find out about it, ask for back taxes and give you stiff penalties for dodging your tax obligations. “Tenants have to
put down their landlord’s name and the annual rent paid on their own tax forms to receive certain provincial tax
credits and benefits,” says Mott. “All of this info can easily be cross-referenced by the Canada Revenue Agency and
cost you thousands when they find out about it.”
Decide on an exit strategy
Knowing when to sell your rental property is easy if you have a long-term financial goal. Do you want to hold on to
your property for a source of income in retirement? If not, then one exit strategy may involve selling sometime in
your 60s. “If you’re close to retirement, take advantage of good market conditions,” says Thomas Venner, a financial
planner in Hamilton, Ont. “Take your profit and stuff it in annuities for your later years.”
Or you may have a more immediate goal for your rental gains. Gord Radman and his wife Rossana certainly do.
Eight years ago, the Burlington, Ont., couple purchased a 1,300-sq-ft townhouse that they’ve rented out. The
property has been cash flow positive since day one. With three kids aged 15, 13 and 11, the Radmans plan to sell
and tap into what will be close to $200,000 of equity in the townhouse in five years. The goal? To pay for their
children’s post-secondary education.
“The kids’ RESPs will fund some of their education, but we’ve always known it would never be enough,” says Gord.
“The equity from the townhouse will fully fund the rest. Instead of getting a Ferrari or buying a bigger house, the
money will go to the kids’ schooling. That’s always been the plan and we aim to stick to it.”
Sizzling hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver have fuelled a lot of debate lately about whether Canada’s housing
market is overheated — and the jury is still out.
Gluskin-Sheff economist David Rosenberg came down on the side of whimper today, after expressing concerns
just last week that Canadian housing prices were looking unsustainable. The latest data from the Canadian Real
Estate Association appears to have changed his mind.
“Prices are starting to deflate by 0.8% YoY, though more like air coming out a balloon slowly than a giant pop,”
wrote Rosenberg Tuesday in his morning note.
“It is gradually becoming a buyer’s market with the inventory of unsold homes rising to six month’s supply, which
is at the edge of a balanced market.”
Existing home sales dropped 1.3% in June from the month before and were down 4.4% from a year ago. A big
part of the contraction was a 27.7% decline in the once heady Vancouver market and 7.9% slide in Toronto’s.
As tighter mortgage rules in Canada bite, sales and prices are likely to erode further, he said.
The new rules — introduced last month by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to curb both a possible housing bubble
and Canadians’ ballooning household debt — are equivalent to a 1% mortgage rate rise in dampening the
market, he said.
- Borrowers will be allowed to use up to 80% of their property’s value as collateral for home-equity loans, down from 85%.
- The maximum amortization period dropped to 25 years from 30 years for government insured mortgages.
- Government-backed mortgage insurance will be limited to homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million.
Canada’s housing correction could see prices fall another 10% (some economists expect 15%) said Rosenberg,
which could send some mortgage holders into a negative equity position.
But there is a silver lining for first-time homeowners, he said, who have been shut out of the market by the sharp
price run-up in recent years.
Not everyone is convinced, however. Capital Economics in its global outlook Tuesday said the housing market still
looms too large in the Canadian economy for comfort.
Housing investment accounts for a near record 7.2% of overall GDP and “when the bubble bursts, we suspect the
contraction will be severe,” Capital economists said.
By Kristin Lehrer | At Home Editor
Lighting can be one of the most important aspects of decorating a room. While natural light is best, some rooms
just don't get enough of it … or any, for that matter! So how do you illuminate a room that doesn't get much sun?
We looked into different types of bulbs and fixtures to help you decide what will work best in your home.
First, here are a few tips to take advantage of any natural light your home can get:
- Replace dark or opaque drapes with light, airy, transparent ones
- Hang mirrors to reflect light onto opposite walls and surfaces
- If possible, replace solid doors with glass or French doors to let light in from another room
If these tips don't do the trick, certain bulbs can be used to mimic natural light in an otherwise dark room or create
a softer mood. Read on to find out which one can help you achieve the look you want.
- Tungsten (Incandescent): These are the most common and affordable light bulbs. They give off a warm, pleasing glow, suitable for most rooms. When used with a dimmer, they provide great ambient lighting. Edison bulbs also fall into this category, and are used for more decorative purposes. The downside? Incandescent lights aren't very energy efficient.
- Fluorescent: Fluorescent bulbs usually make you think of an office, classroom or waiting room, which is why they're not a great lighting choice for homes. They give off a cold, green and unflattering glow … and they buzz! However, fluorescents can make optimal task lights, especially when installed under cabinets in the kitchen or garage. We just wouldn't recommend using them overhead.
- Energy Savers: As the name suggests, these bulbs are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. While they’re considered fluorescent, they give off a glow closer to white light and can be used as an alternative to incandescent bulbs. They can also be recycled.
- Halogen: These are a great choice for rooms that get no sunlight because they give off a cool glow very similar to daylight (aka "white light"). While they're slightly more energy efficient, they also get extremely hot and can explode.
Now that you have your bulbs picked out, here are some lighting fixture options to go with them:
- Track Lighting and Down-lighters: These are wonderful accent lights. Use them to highlight areas of interest or design features in a room. They can also be used for "wall washing," which floods an entire wall with light. Down-lighters are usually recessed or mounted onto a ceiling’s surface and cast a floodlight on objects below. What's neat about track lighting is that you only need one electrical outlet, no matter how many bulbs you have on a track.
- Up-lights: Up-lights are installed in the floor. It might sound silly, but they’re great for bouncing light off of white ceilings, creating a soft glow and preventing glare. They also create dramatic highlights when placed behind decorative objects or furniture.
- Chandeliers and Pendant Lights: While chandeliers are said to pull a room together, pendant lights can be used to define a specific area like a reading nook, workspace or eating area. Chandeliers and pendant lights tend to be a more decorative kind of fixture, but not necessarily the most functional. Usually they need to be accompanied by a stronger light source.
- Wall Lights: This type of lighting fixture can be used for general lighting or decorative purposes. They’re great for lighting hallways or framing wall art.
While many Canadian property owners consider spray foam insulation to be valuable for its fast-acting formula,
some may not know of its noise-reducing qualities that make it an ideal selection.
Canadian property owners often seek ways to add value and improve their homes. The Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimated 2.1 million homeowners completed renovations to their properties in
2009, and these modifications cost an average of $12,100.
"More than $25.8 billion was spent on renovations in 2009 across the 10 major surveyed centres, an increase of
about $4.5 billion compared to 2008," said Gustavo Durango, Senior Economist at CMHC.
Take the time to enhance a home's acoustics with spray foam insulation, a cost-effective option that delivers
How does spray foam insulation work?
Spray foam insulation effectively seals cracks and holes that enable sound to spread between rooms. Spray foam
limits the noise that can move through a home, as fewer air pockets are available for sound to travel through.
Does the product cancel airborne noise?
Airborne noise is created from large amounts of air, and might include vibrations. Residential foam insulation
gives homeowners the opportunity to soundproof an area, which can significantly cancel airborne noise.
For instance, a property owner might have a family room that features a TV, sound system and other electronics.
These items can help create unique experiences for visitors, as adults and children may enjoy spending time in
this room. However, the area could get loud, which might affect those who could be sleeping in bedrooms.
With spray foam insulation, homeowners can lower the airborne noise from these areas, sealing cracks and
crevices that otherwise allow air and noise to travel throughout a house. This solution has sound-dampening
features that has made it successful in hospitals, offices and schools throughout North America.
Consider spray foam insulation as part of a renovation project to effectively limit airborne noise.
Icynene issues are notably uncommon, as it is the ideal spray foam insulation solution for your home energy
BY BRIAN MORTON, VANCOUVER SUN
B.C. Real Estate Association economist contends foreign investors only a small part of sales
A new commentary by the Conference Board of Canada is reigniting a debate over just how much influence
China's economy has over Metro Vancouver's housing market.
Robin Wiebe, a senior economist with the Centre for Municipal Studies in Ottawa, offers the assessment in a
column published by the Conference Board, warning that expectations of a slowing Chinese economy "could be
considered as big a drag on the Vancouver housing market going for-ward as anything else, including the city's
notoriously poor affordability."
Wiebe's view is that Vancouver's housing market has historically followed Chinese growth, with the accelerating
Chinese economy over the past decade accompanied by surging Vancouver price increases.
"There is a clear correlation between Chinese immigration and real estate activity in Vancouver," Wiebe said in his
column. "In fact, the Chinese immigration peak of 2005 was matched by a peak in existing home sales in that
same year. The 42,000 resale transactions that year were nearly 50 per cent above the previous decade's average
and remain a record high for this market."
Similarly, Wiebe said the pendulum is now swinging the other way with a slowing Vancouver housing market
coinciding with reports that China's economy is cooling.
However, Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, said that immigration from China
has a far greater effect on Metro Vancouver real estate than foreign investors, and he doesn't see the local market
being greatly affected by a slowing Chinese economy.
"The vast majority of sales are generated by people who live, work and raise families here," said Muir. "A [Chinese]
slowdown might translate into some weakness, but foreign investors account for just a small percentage of
However, Muir noted that a slowdown might have some impact on areas that wealthy Chinese investors prefer,
like Vancouver's west side or Richmond.
The latest Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver survey indicates that the number of residential property sales
in Metro Vancouver hit a 10-year low in June.
The report noted that Vancouver's west side, for instance, saw 769 single-detached homes sell in the first six
months of 2012, down substantially from the 1,310 that sold there in the red-hot first half of 2011, while Richmond,
another of 2011's Metro Vancouver's hot spots, saw 603 single-detached sales from January to June compared
with 1,111 for the same period of 2011.
Wiebe added in an interview that there are "wealth spill-overs" from China around the Pacific Rim, including
Vancouver, as the wealthy diversify their assets away from Chinese real estate. But it's not just investors who are
affected by changing fortunes, he noted, as Chinese immigrants to Canada also have less money to spend on
housing locally when China's economy falters.
He said the financial crisis of 2008 was hard on both Chinese growth and Vancouver house prices, but by 2010
both were once again in double digits.
Wiebe noted that offshore investors do not need to live in Canada to own a property in Vancouver and it is possible
to arrange property management by a professional or a family member.
"Accordingly, Chinese wealth probably has a larger affect on the Vancouver housing market than immigration
numbers alone suggest, since Chinese investors can buy homes here while remaining there."
Wiebe noted that China is typically the largest source of immigrants to Vancouver, accounting for nearly a quarter
of all arrivals in 2010.
"These immigrants need a home and have supported housing demand growth in British Columbia for several
years. Some come to B.C. with a significant amount of wealth and, thus, a strong appetite to invest in the housing
"Catering to Chinese residential demand is big business out here; the Chinese Real Estate Professionals
Association of BC lists over 200 members on its website."
Repurposing old furniture is a great way to be kind to Mother Earth and your finances at the same time.
Like, instead of buying new storage furniture, look for an old dresser at a secondhand store or yard sale. Paint and
new knobs can give an old drawer unit new use in a bedroom, bathroom, family room or office.
But what to do if the piece comes with a musty or funky smell that just a sachet isn't strong enough to kill?
Ventilation will help some. Pull the drawers out and let the pieces sit in a sheltered spot outside to see whether that
will take away the smell.
If that doesn't work, or you want a quicker solution, try making a mix of one part household bleach and three parts
water, and painting it on all unvarnished surfaces inside the dresser. Then do a sniff test. If the odor remains, rinse
the bleached surfaces with a wet sponge and let dry. Then apply a deodorizer that attacks the source of the odor.
Febreze is one option; look for others in supermarkets.
Still smelly? Paint all the bare wood with two coats of a water-based polyurethane. This should seal in the source of
the odor and is unlikely to smell for long because it is water-based. However, keep the unit well-ventilated while
drying. Oil-based polyurethane will seal better, but it will take a lot longer for the smell to dissipate.
-- Homes & Gardens of the Northwest staff
By Forgie Home Staging & Redesign
Decorating a small living room can be a challenge. A well-defined style, great color palette and paying close
attention to the final details or finishing touches, will help to pull your look together.
Tip # 1 Color Choice
Often, our choice of color will be dictated by mood. For example yellow is a cheerful, bright color while pale blue is
cool and subdued. We recommend you choose your color palette before you do anything else.
Tip # 2 –Room Purpose
Most small living rooms share a variety of purposes – you may relax here, listen to music, watch TV, eat, read or
entertain friends. Besides color, some important things you should consider include:
- Seating arrangements
- doors and windows
- storage and shelving
- wall and floor finishes, and
- Finishing touches
Tip # 3 - Seating Arrangements
Every living room needs comfortable and versatile seating. In a small room you won’t have the luxury of creating
more than one seating area, and size will dictate on how much seating you can accommodate. Look at what
you’ve got and what you want or still need.
A good way to assess layout of existing furniture, including seating, is to measure and draw the room to scale and
then make template cut-outs of each item, drawn to the same scale. Be sure to accurately mark the position of
windows and doorways – and which way doors open and close. Then position the templates on the plan. You
should try to imagine what different layouts will look like. The templates will help to ensure that the furniture will fit
– but still use your imagination.
Generally people like to sit in circles, so they can look at one another and talk. If the room is to be used for
watching television, don’t let the TV set dominate the room. This can be a particular challenge in a small room, but
positioning it to the side of the circle often works well.
Once you know what seating will fit, you can decide whether what you already have needs to be reupholstered or
redone in any other way to fit the look or theme – or just to make it look bright and cheerful again.
Tip # 4 Tables
Tables are always useful in a living room, for drinks, paperwork, books, even for eating on. If you plan to use the
room for eating, then a reasonably large table is a good idea, as long as it doesn’t dominate. Aim to separate
couches and so-on from a dining table. What often happens is that some people will group around the table while
others sit more comfortably on couches. That in itself creates two distinct seating areas.
If space is at a premium, nesting tables are often a good idea. And a coffee table or even a chest that will double
for storage is always useful in front of couches.
There isn’t usually much room for other furniture in small living rooms, but sometimes a decorative sideboard can
find its place and improve the appeal of the room as a whole.
Always remember your sense of purpose and make sure that what you choose will fit in and look good.
Tip # 5 Doors and windows
Doors and windows improve the quality of light in any living room. If there is a good view from one or more
windows, this can become a focal point when you arrange your furniture.
But decoratively speaking windows come into their own with window coverings, in particular, curtains and blinds.
Consider style as well as pattern and texture when you make your choice.
Tip # 6 - Storage and Shelving
Storage space is always useful in the living room but it isn’t essential. Before you consider bringing in an
entertainment unit or hanging shelves, consider what it will look like. If storage space is at a premium, you might
have to find storage space for books or other items in the living room. If so it often helps to make them a distinct
decorating feature. You can do this easily by creating pretty and simple displays.
Tip # 7 – Walls and Floors
Both practical and decorative, wall and floor finishes can spell the success or failure of any living rooms décor.
Although these surfaces are considered the shell of the room, they do so much to make the room feel cool or cozy.
Walls present the simplest way to introduce color to a room, while floor surfaces will sound-proof, insulate and
add warmth to the room. Generally neutral colors are easiest to work with on the floor, but rugs can add a
welcome splash of color and pattern.
Tip # 8 – The Finishing Touches
The finishing touches are the items that finally tie your entire room together. When it comes to decorating a small
living room think carefully about what these finishing touches mean to you. You might want to place a special
painting on the wall, or create a display of your favorite treasures on the mantel. A vase filled with bright flowers or
some scented candles, are all examples of some of the finishing touches that can complete your look and create
the living room you love!
Luxury Market Stumbles as Asian Buyers dry up
Midway through 2012, BC's luxury market is showing signs of cooling down. Through the first 6 months of 2012, 243
homes priced at over $3 million have sold compared to 466 through the first 6 months of 2011. While this may seem
like a significant drop, 2012 is still far ahead of 2010, when 375 $3 million homes sold over the year, 169 in the first
Macdonald Realty manager Matthew Lee, whose Vancouver office sold the most expensive home in BC so far this
year ($19.8 Million; 4803 Belmont Ave., Vancouver), believes that the market has reached a tipping point. "Prices have
been going up so much the past few years that we're now seeing a combination of buyer fatigue and seller intrigue,"
says Lee, "buyers are looking at prices and don't believe they can go up much more in the near term, so they're taking
their time. Conversely, sellers are seeing these sky high prices and have finally decided to cash out."
UBC real estate professor Tsur Sommerville has argued that because luxury real estate tends to be bought with
existing wealth rather than incomes, it is much more unpredictable than the entry-level market. Luxury real estate
prices tend to be disconnected from economic fundamentals like income, and because of this, prices are much
more driven by psychology and people's belief in what future values will be. And with the faltering real estate market
in China, the uncertainty in Europe, and current high prices, you're seeing a more cautious buyer.
Or at least a more cautious Chinese buyer.
Most neighbourhoods that have been bought up by wealthy Chinese buyers over the past few years - Vancouver
(Westside), Richmond, West Vancouver - are now in a Buyer's market, or have high inventories with lower sales.
Other, more affordable, markets - Vancouver (Eastside), North Vancouver - are still experiencing a seller's market.
This was predicted in a Macdonald Realty forecast put out in December 2011, which predicted that more expensive
jurisdictions in BC would experience a flat or sagging market while cheaper alternatives continue their upward
Most Expensive Homes Sold so far in 2012:
- 1) $19,800,000
- 2) $14,200,000
- 3) $12,388,000
Most Expensive Condos Sold so far in 2012:
- 1) $5,900,000
- 2) $5,250,000
- 3) $5,150,000
||(Click chart to see larger image)
Prices remain firm even though sales hit 10-year low
Vancouver home sales hit their lowest level in more than a decade in June, tilting the market in favour of buyers,
the city's real estate board said Wednesday.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reported 2,362 sales in June, a decline from 2,853 in May
and also down 27.6 per cent from a year earlier when there were 3,262 sales.
The board said June sales were the lowest total for the month in the region since 2000, inching Vancouver toward
a buyer's market.
"There is an opportunity for you to be able to be more competitive in pricing," said Eugen Klein with the REBGV.
"There's an opportunity for you to get better terms in the very least, and those types of opportunities haven't been in
the marketplace as prevalent in the last five to 10 years."
Lillian Noble is trying to sell her home on Vancouver's West Side. The neighbourhood's expensive homes were in
high demand a year ago, but Noble hasn't received a single offer since her home was listed for just under $2
million almost three weeks ago.
"Just yesterday [my real estate agent] told me it's a soft market and that things aren't selling very quickly," said
Noble. "Of course, everybody wants you to lower your price to as low as possible."
Noble isn't dropping the price yet, as she's in no rush to sell, and she's not alone.
Less competition for buyers
Despite a drop in the number of sales, prices in what was once the country's hottest real estate market have
remained firm, the REGBV said.
In June 2012, the housing price index for residential properties in Vancouver was still up 1.7 per cent from a year
"Overall conditions have trended in favour of buyers in our marketplace in recent months," Klein said. "This means
buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from compared to earlier in the year."
June sales of detached properties in Vancouver totalled 921, down from 1,471 in June 2011, while the price for
detached properties increased 3.3 per cent from a year ago to $961,600.
Sales of apartments slipped 19 per cent to 1,026 in June from 1,266 a year ago. The benchmark price of an
apartment increased 0.3 per cent from June 2011 to $376,200.
Meanwhile, there were 415 attached property sales in June, down from 525 a year ago, while the benchmark price
decreased 0.1 per cent from a year ago to $468,400.
Sales cool as mortgage rules tighten
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in the Greater Vancouver region totalled 5,617 in
June, down from 6,927 new listings in May and from 5,793 new properties a year ago.
The total number of residential property listings on the board's MLS service was 18,493, up 3.27 per cent from May
and up 22 per cent from this time last year.
Despite a drop in sales, prices in the Vancouver real estate market have so far remained firm. (Jonathan
The slowdown in sales in Vancouver comes ahead of changes by Ottawa to tighten mortgage lending in Canada.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved last month to cool the red hot condo markets in Toronto and Vancouver by
tightening the rules for borrowers, including cutting the maximum amortization period for government insured
mortgages cut to 25 years from 30.
As well, the federal regulator of financial institutions has told lenders they can only issue home equity loans up to
a maximum of 65 per cent of the property's value, down from the previous 80 per cent.
Published by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver
The number of residential property sales hit a 10-year low in Greater Vancouver for June, while prices remained
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached
and apartment properties reached 2,362 in June, a 27.6 per cent decline compared to the 3,262 sales in June
2011 and a 17.2 per cent decline compared to the 2,853 sales in May 2012.
June sales were the lowest total for the month in the region since 2000 and 32.2 per cent below the 10-year June
sales average of 3,484.
“Overall conditions have trended in favour of buyers in our marketplace in recent months,” Eugen Klein, REBGV
president said. “This means buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from
compared to earlier in the year.”
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,617 in June. This
represents a 3 per cent decline compared to June 2011 when 5,793 properties were listed for sale on the MLS®
and an 18.9 per cent decline compared to the 6,927 new listings reported in May 2012.
At 18,493, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 22 per cent from this time last
year and increased 3.7 per cent compared to May 2012.
“Today, our sales-to-active-listings ratio sits at 13 per cent, which puts us in the lower end of a balanced market.
This ratio has been declining in our market since March when it was 19 per cent,” Klein said.
The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater
Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 1.7% and declined 0.7% compared to last month.
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in June 2012 reached 921, a decrease of 37.4 per cent from the 1,471
detached sales recorded in June 2011, and a 19.1 per cent decrease from the 1,139 units sold in June 2010. The
benchmark price for detached properties increased 3.3 per cent from June 2011 to $961,600.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,026 in June 2012, a 19 per cent decrease compared to the 1,266 sales
in June 2011, and a decrease of 18.4 per cent compared to the 1,258 sales in June 2010. The benchmark price of
an apartment property increased 0.3 per cent from June 2011 to $376,200.
Attached property sales in June 2012 totalled 415, a 21 per cent decrease compared to the 525 sales in June
2011, and a 27.8 per cent decrease from the 575 attached properties sold in June 2010. The benchmark price of
an attached unit decreased 0.1 per cent between June 2011 and 2012 to $468,400.
Daljit Thind ( L ), President and CEO of Thind Properties Ltd., John Skender ( C ), head of marketing and Fred Moy, head of sales Thind Properties, at Skyway Tower site on Kingsway in Vancouver
Photograph by: GLENN BAGLO , VANCOUVER SUN
BY BRIAN MORTON, VANCOUVER SUN
East Vancouver’s Kingsway has long been known for its steady stream of auto dealerships, strip malls, fast-food
restaurants, cut-rate motels and as a quick route to somewhere else.
In what’s regarded by many as part of the area’s renaissance, a 12-storey condominium tower in the 2700-block
of Kingsway is now being marketed as part of a city plan to take advantage of the Norquay neighbourhood’s
central location and turn it into a more people-friendly place emphasizing higher densities, newer shops and
services, wider sidewalks and other public amenities.
Skyway Towers, the first highrise development under the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, is a 130-
unit project that includes nine commercial units to be built on the site of the old Wally’s Burgers.
It includes two buildings – the 12-storey tower and a four-storey building – with a 13-metre-wide breezeway
“We’ve sold about 50 per cent [of the units] in pre-sales,” says John Skender, head of marketing for Thind
Properties Ltd., Skyway’s developer. “Construction should start as soon as we have a building permit, within the
next two months. We’re looking at early 2014 for occupancy.
“I think it fits in beautifully [with the Norquay plan].”
But Skyway is just one of many new buildings anticipated for the area.
“Some major tracts have been purchased and there will be some huge developments going up,” said Skender,
whose Skyway project is aimed at affordability with most units priced between $245,000 and $475,000. “Change
is always a little difficult, but there are sections of the city where densification will improve the neighbourhood. This
is one of them. Nothing much has changed there in the last 30 years. I see [Norquay] doing a 180-degree turn.”
Under the Norquay plan — which was approved in 2010 despite opposition from many residents critical of
highrises in their neighbourhood — Kingsway will experience more housing variety, including towers with a
maximum 12 storeys in the plan area, and low-rises, townhomes and duplexes behind them.
It aims to maintain a single-family residential character in key areas, a concern of critics.
The plan for the east Vancouver neighbourhood – between Gladstone in the west to Killarney in the east and 41st
in the south to 29th in the north — also includes greater affordability, safer pedestrian amenities and good transit
and bicycling connections.
However, the plan also encountered opposition from residents opposed to the densification.
Hubert Culham, for example, wrote in The Vancouver Sun in November 2010 that council’s approval of the plan
“sealed the fate” of his neighbourhood.
“At that moment Norquay ceased to exist as a cohesive, livable, medium-density and very ‘green’ neighbourhood,”
Culham wrote. “This gave the city planning department the right to chop Norquay up, level it and festoon it with
highrises, effectively a mass rezoning to much higher density.”
Today, Culham said, his concerns remain and he’s not keen on towers such as Skyway in his neighbourhood.
“The situation hasn’t changed. It shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t fit with the community, which to me is important. I
don’t want the city to look like Manhattan.”
However, East Vancouver resident and city councillor Kerry Jang said the Skyway Tower provides “a real need”
and fits well with the plan.
“We’re trying to bring life, livability and vibrancy to the area,” he said. “Now, it’s a provincial highway [and] it’s a bit
run down. It can take a lot more density, but we want to be sensitive to single family dwellings. So we’ve limited
[towers] to 12 storeys.”
Jeff Hancock, senior manager for real estate market intelligence company MPC Intelligence, believes east
Vancouver and the Kingsway area particularly, is a great opportunity for developers as the area changes.
“The land is cheaper, relatively speaking, and there’s great access to the city and Burnaby. There’s well-
established Vietnamese and Chinese communities and they’re big buyers.”
Matt Shillito, the city of Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, said the Norquay plan will feature a “transition”
of housing types starting with highrises on Kingsway, four-storey apartment buildings behind them, and row
homes, townhouses and duplexes behind them.
He noted while the Skyway plan had considerable support, there was also concern about its height. “But people
recognize it’s an area in need of revitalization [and] it’s very much in conformity with the plan.”
He said although the plan stipulates a maximum of 10-12 storeys on Kingsway, there are a couple of areas within
the plan where towers could go 14 stories and that the city has received one such application on the Canadian
Tire site at Gladstone and Kingsway.
“We want to encourage the redevelopment of blocks on Kingsway to improve the retail environment, the
streetscape and the public realm,” said Shillito, who said it will take up to 25 years to complete the plan. “Right
now, it’s very hostile to pedestrians.”
The kitchen is one of the first places that homeowners look to renovate. Unfortunately, a lot of people make
common design mistakes that could be costly or downright unattractive. If this is your first time, there are a couple
of things you should know before starting your kitchen renovation project. What you do to your home can make or
break the potential it has to be resold at a higher price. Of course, even if this isn’t your ultimate goal, you should
still want the value of your home to increase after a successful remodeling project.
1. Installing your sink in an unattractive location: It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but where you install your
kitchen sink can make a big difference in the design of your kitchen. Since plumbing is already installed in your
home, you would think that you’d have to install the kitchen sink in proximity to where the pipes are. But if you really
want to revamp your kitchen, you can instead hire a plumber to relocate the plumbing. This will give you more
flexibility for redesigning your kitchen. If you don’t like the location of your kitchen sink, then this is definitely great
2. Not forming a work triangle: The position of your oven, sink and refrigerator should be carefully placed, so
that you can get to all three seamlessly. This can definitely be a deal breaker when it comes time to showcase
your home to potential buyers.
3. Having a confined or isolated design: No matter what size your kitchen is, having it proportional and
spacious is key. There is such a thing as being too spacious (isolated) or being too confined. Try to be
somewhere in the middle. Even the smallest of kitchens can feel open and spacious.
4. Not making use of kitchen space: A lot of kitchens have unused space that can easily be transformed into
something desirable. For instance, if you have a small kitchen, you can make up for the lack of space by installing
an extra-long upper cabinet. You can decorate it with lighting or plants along the molding. The empty space above
your fridge is a great place to have one installed as well.
5. Insufficient counter space: Most homeowners tend to upgrade their cabinets with popular stones, but don’t
think to add additional countertops. If you don’t have enough cooking space or could use more, you should
definitely add more around the sink and stove.
6. Insufficient storage space: There are two levels of space commonly found in kitchens, upper level and
lower level cabinets. If either or are insufficient, use empty wall space to add more. This would go perfectly with
additional countertops you have had installed.
7. No dishwasher: If you live in a home that isn’t equipped with a dishwasher, potential homebuyers may
quickly overlook it. If you don’t have adequate plumbing or electric, you can hire a contractor to set everything up for
8. Small refrigerator space: When a home is first built, it caters to the appliances that are going to be in it
initially. If you’re ever going to upgrade to a double door refrigerator or one that is taller, it is important that the
space around it accommodates. If it doesn’t then this should be remodeled.
9. Not enough lighting: The kitchen should be a place that is filled with natural and artificial lighting. Installing
additional windows and decorative lighting like hanging lights and recessed lights can definitely add spunk to your
10. Not having a backsplash: For some, this is all about the design, but for many, it’s about cleanliness.
Backsplashes can be installed behind the stove and bordered throughout the kitchen above countertops. It’s easy
to clean off grease and food particles that splash on it, which is desirable for many.