Canning and Preserving our Garden or Farmer’s Market Produce

Some Canning Background

When I was little, my mom and grandma did a lot of canning. I saw it as a messy chore that I didn’t like that made them both cranky at the end of the day.  Fast forward to my 30s (now 40s) and I started to think canning might be fun.  I had forgotten all the heat, steam, stress and crankiness apparently. But I did remember being able to open jars of yummy things and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

So, mom and I embarked on a little canning experiment at her place armed with some Pinterest recipes.  We went to the Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market and to Springford Farm and armed ourselves with bulk produce of whatever they had.  We had a great time, we ended up tired, hot, cranky, sweaty and stressed.  All that was fixed with a little (a lot?) of wine at the end of the experiment.

Inspired and Canning Creativity!

The end of that weekend long experiment led to an increased desire to can even more. Off I went to the book store to find some good canning books. Pinterest was again my friend, and armed with some names I went to Mulberry Bush Books in Qualicum Beach to chat with Tom. I ordered one or two there, and I think another from Amazon, plus got one on a random trip down the book aisle at the grocery store one day.

Here are my thoughts on a few basic books:

For a good place to start, The Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving is a great place to get a basic book with a variety of recipes. It’s full of classics and as such, has more sugar than I like to use in a lot of the recipes. But, if you see it at a used book store, pick it up! 

Another good starter from a reliable source is this Ball Book of Canning and Preserving.  I don’t have this one as I have “The Best of Ball Home Canning and Preserving” which was a magazine rather than a book and probably the one I got at the grocery store.  My version has a great canning 101 section and some recipes we have tried that turned out great!  My cousin Molly made the Curried Tomato Preserves, which she shared with me and they’re delicious. I am excited to try the Balsamic Onion Jam when my onions grow up this year! 

Both of these are by canning jar producers so you can count on them for having tested the recipes and being pretty easy to replicate.

Onto some more creative canning and preserving books:

The next favourite – Put ’em up! –  I will have to re-order, as Mom took it to Saskatchewan one year and gave it to my uncle as Mom, cousin Molly, and Uncle John do the majority of the canning and preserving since I became a REALTOR® and it’s such a great book she wanted to share it.  So, I’ll get another!  I love how this book is organized – by food rather than by type of recipes.  

Come home with a giant box of strawberries? No problem, go to the strawberry section and see 5+ ways to deal with them – jam, sauce, drinks, freezing and more (I mean, I think… I haven’t seen the book in a while, so maybe it’s only 4 ways, or maybe it’s 8, who knows? You know who knows? The person with the book thats who!).

Anyway, the point is, you find what produce you are working with, go to that section, then decide which of the variety of ways or recipes she presents appeals to you and make that.  Here is an example in the first page about Rhubarb (who doesn’t need new ways to use up this weed?)

I love Well-Preserved because it has a canning recipe and then a cooking recipe you can make to use up that preserved item, something I sometimes struggle with. I have made the preserved meyer lemons from this book and they were delicious when used with some roasted chicken (not a recipe in the book though).  It also includes other methods or preservation besides canning – smoking, freezing, and more.  It’s divided into sections like fruits, nuts, meats, so you can flip to the section you want to do and go from there.  For instance, there’s a tomatoes section here. In it, she teaches you how to make canned tomatoes, then a recipe for tomato soup and stewed beef and tomatoes.

Homemade Living Canning & Preserving is divided into interesting sections as well – especially the seasonal divisions.  There is a section for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall so you can use the produce of each season appropriately. It also has great chapters on tools, concepts, ingredients, and methods you can apply to all canning.  Then she goes through a recipe or two for each method (jams, butters, jellies, pickles, relish, etc.).

My favourite out of this book so far is the Rhubarb Amaretto chutney (spring section) – delicious on everything and a tasty different way to use up all that Rhubarb (back to that weed!).  

We have also tried the Blood Orange Port Sauce, the Lemon Curd (Winter and Spring) and I can’t wait to do the Squash Chutney and Clementine Countreau Curd (both in the Winter section).  There are too many great and unusual recipes to list here, so just buy the book!

Gardening 

This year I have finally embarked on having my own garden with veggies in it.  I’ve had an herb garden for several years, but finally took the leap this year and planted some veggies since Mom is home far longer than normal this year … we all know why …

This year aside from our usual basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, cilantro, and chives, we have pots with 4 kinds of tomatoes, a pepper, 4 kinds of squash, and 3 kinds of cucumbers. Now, I have planted a little square-foot garden (I built myself with free scrap wood!) with lettuce, spinach, beans, onions, carrots, radishes, and beets. I’m hoping to get a little out of it and it may start a bigger project soon.

A local author I met at a library talking about her book wrote this gardening book:

Her talk was inspiring and prompted me to get started (only a few YEARS later) and also breaks it down manageably.  Gardening doesn’t seem as scary after reviewing this book.

(Please note that here as elsewhere I have linked to amazon.ca but I vastly prefer if you please check our local library or our local used or new bookstores!)

 

Small Homesteading

Another book that I really like that I took out of the library in Qualicum Beach some time ago is The Backyard Homestead.  This book explains how you can produce all the food you need on only a quart acre.  

We have more space than that, so I’m hoping one day to get enough deer fencing to get a min-homestead going here. The fencing seems daunting (not to mention expensive) at the moment, plus watering it all, and just the work involved seems a lot now. But I keep dreaming.  Once we are closer to that time, I’ll buy the book.

 

The same author of the one of the canning books (Ashley English) also does books on other homesteading type topics:

            

So, I have had chickens, but the rest is beyond me. I’ll leave it to you future farmers and homesteaders to tell me how these other books go. 

I hope you found some good recommendations here and find something to do with your own excess produce. OR that you will go to the local farms, markets and farm stands to get bulk produce to start canning.  Tell me about your favourite recipe.  Do you garden?  How did you get started?

pqbhomes-March-2020-home-design-trends

The Top Five Home Design Trends for the New Decade

Whether you’re planning a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest home design trends. Sellers who make tasteful updates can generate increased buyer interest and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget.

Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, I advise my clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel, or even redecorating. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular options could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to list your property. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

To help, I’ve rounded up five of the hottest home design trends for 2020. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give me a call. I can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

 
IN: Sustainability / OUT: Fast Furniture

Consumers are increasingly eco-conscious. Many are skipping the the mass-produced, “fast furniture” popularized by retailers like IKEA, opting instead for higher-quality pieces that are built to last. One way to do this is to re-purpose old pieces. And the availability of non-toxic, environmentally-friendly furniture and decor options are growing.

At the same time, there’s been a noticeable shift toward individuality in today’s interior design. Instead of following the latest fad, more homeowners are opting to embrace their personal style and invest in items they believe will “spark joy” (à la Marie Kondo) for years to come.

Want to know more about Marie Kondo’s famous organization method and how it can increase your home’s value? Contact me for a copy of my article, “Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades That ‘Spark Joy’ for Buyers.”

To incorporate this trend, designers recommend layering old and new pieces for a curated look that you can build over time. Instead of purchasing a matching furniture set from a big-box retailer, buy one or two sustainably-sourced pieces that complement what you already own. Try searching estate sales and Craigslist for vintage classics or well-built furniture that can be refinished. And to accessorize your room, mix sentimental items with newer finds to create a truly personalized space.

 

 
IN: Cozy / OUT: Cold

Designers are moving away from cool grays, industrial finishes, and stark modernism (thank goodness!). In 2020, there’s a big emphasis on creating warm and cozy spaces through color, texture, and shape.

Gray has dominated the color palette for the past decade. This year, expect to see a move toward warmer neutrals, earth tones, and nature-inspired shades of blue and green. Warm metals, like gold and brass, will also continue to trend. And hardwood floors are heating up, as cool gray and whitewashed finishes fade in popularity. Expect to see a rise in classic choices like walnut, mahogany, and oak in richer and darker tones.

Furniture will also get cozier—and curvier—in 2020. From rounded sofas and curved-back chairs to oval dining tables, softened-angles are dominating the furniture scene right now. And designers expect softly-textured fabrics—like velvet, shearling, and mohair—to be big this year, as homeowners strive to add a touch of “hygge” (the Danish concept of calming comfort).

Want to warm up your home decor? Try one of the top paint colours for 2020: Benjamin Moore’s First Light (soft pink), Sherwin Williams’s Naval (rich blue), or Behr’s Back to Nature (light green).

IN: Bold / OUT: Boring

Bold is back! After years of neutral overload, vivid colors and prints will take center stage in 2020. Expect to see geometric designs, color blocking, and floral and botanical patterns on everything from pillows to rugs to wallpaper.

The hottest trend in interior paint right now is bold trim and ceilings. Monochromatic rooms (e.g., walls, ceilings, and millwork painted the same color) will be big this year, as well as high-contrast pairings, like white walls with black trim. Color is coming back to kitchens, too, and two-toned color schemes continue to gain steam. In 2019, 40% of remodelers chose a contrasting color for their kitchen island.1 While white was still the top choice for cabinets, blue and gray are increasingly popular alternatives.

If you’re ready to “go bold,” separated spaces like laundry and powder rooms are great places to start. It’s easier to incorporate busy wallpaper or a bright wall color in an enclosed area because it doesn’t have to flow with the rest of your decor.

Of course, clients always want to know how design choices could impact their home’s value. The reality is, neutral finishes are still the safest bet for resale. If you’re prepping your home to go on the market, stick with non-permanent fixtures—like artwork and accessories—to brighten your space.

 
IN: Nature / OUT: Industrial

Biophilic (don’t worry, I had to look this word up too) design has been big the past few seasons, and it isn’t going anywhere in 2020. It centers around the health and wellness benefits of connecting with nature, even while indoors, and it’s impacted the latest trends in color, prints, and materials.

As mentioned previously, floral and botanical patterns are hot right now, along with nature-inspired hues, like blues, greens, and earth tones. We’re also seeing a heightened use of organic shapes and sustainable materials in furniture and furnishings, including wood, wicker, rattan, and jute. This infusion of nature coincides with a decline in the popularity of urban-industrial fixtures. Designers predict that concrete floors and Edison light bulbs are on the way out.

Want to bring in elements of biophilic design on a budget? Houseplants are a great place to start. But you can also enhance your home’s natural light and create a visual sightline to the outdoors by removing heavy curtains and blinds. And when the weather is nice, open your windows and enjoy the breeze, sounds, and smells of nature. These simple acts are scientifically proven to help reduce stress, boost cognitive performance, and enhance mood!2

IN: Functional / OUT: Fussy

In 2020, homeowners want design that’s beautiful, but also liveable. With the rise in remote workplaces, online shopping, and virtual exercise classes, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before. Cue the growing appeal of multi-functional spaces, like a combination kitchen/office or gym/playroom. Real life—and rising housing prices—necessitates creative use of limited space.

Durable, low-maintenance materials will also surge in popularity this year. Engineered quartz—which is more stain, heat, and chip-resistant than natural stone—is now the #1 choice for kitchen countertops.1 Waterproof, wood-look luxury vinyl is the fastest-growing segment in the flooring industry.3 And improvements to water and stain-resistant performance fabric has made it a mainstream option for both indoor and outdoor upholstery.

Now that functional is hot, what’s not? Designers say that mirrored furniture, open shelving, and all-white kitchens are too impractical for today’s busy families.

So how can you start enjoying the time and energy-saving benefits of this design trend? Begin by structuring each room so that it best suits your needs. And when purchasing furniture or fixtures, choose options that are durable and easy-to-clean. The truth is, design fads come and go. But a comfortable and relaxed home (that you don’t spend every spare minute maintaining!) can help create memories to last a lifetime.

DESIGNED TO SELL

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighbourhood and price range. I can share my insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, I can do a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact me to schedule a free consultation!

Sources:

  1. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/magazine/2020-us-houzz-kitchen-trends-study-stsetivw-vs~129594531
  2. Terrapin Bright Green – https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/
  3. Remodeling Magazine –
    https://www.remodeling.hw.net/products/vinyl-ceramic-and-hardwood-oh-my-todays-popular-flooring-trends_o
  4. Elle Decor –
    https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g29859422/design-trends-2020/?slide=1
  5. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/amandalauren/2019/12/23/twelve-interior-design-trends-well-see-in-2020/#43f81f044a5f
  6. Wall Street Journal –
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-top-6-interior-design-trends-for-2020-11577460357
  7. Good Housekeeping –
    https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decorating-ideas/g29849170/home-decor-trends-2020/
  8. Architectural Digest –
    https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/top-design-trends-of-2020
  9. Los Angeles Times –
    https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2020-01-11/2020-home-design-trends

 

 

 

Beginners Guide to the Contract of Purchase and Sale

The BC Real Estate Association has provided a great video explaining the Contract of Purchase and Sale for properties in BC.

This is a great first look or review for those of you thinking of purchasing a home in BC.

Watch this is you are considering buying or selling a home in BC soon.  It will walk you through each section of the Contract, as well as the steps involved in the purchase and sale process.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to assist you!

Meghan Walker REALTOR® Royal LePage Parksville-Qualicum Beach Realty

PQBHomes-meghan-walker-sold

Live Liver Donor Transplant Anniversary

Ten-Year Transplant Anniversary
Here we are in Las Vegas Celebrating our Transplant Anniversary

This blog will probably be more personal than any others. The week of February 16th, I went to Las Vegas with my best friend. Lots of people immediately think of flashy parties, casinos, drinking, shows, concerts, and other forms of debauchery. People flock to Vegas for all kinds of celebrations – birthdays, engagements, bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings (some with Elvis!), elopements, and more.

For us, this is also a celebration, but a celebration of a life that has been possible due to organ donation. For several years in the 2000s, my best friend Michelle was very ill with progressively worsening liver failure due to a genetic disease called Wilson’s Disease. It was known from the beginning that she would require a liver transplant. As her health worsened, she was added to the BC Transplant waiting list.  It’s so morbid to wait and hope that someone else’s tragedy will result in your friend’s life being saved. But what choice do you have?

Waiting for a Liver

After more than 2 years on the waiting list and no closer to receiving a liver through that traditional transplant program, we researched Living Donor Transplants and discovered that was a possibility for Michelle. Likely her only possibility. Because her liver failure was due to a genetic condition rather than the more common liver failure due to cirrhosis or hepatitis, her MELD scores (the measuring system they use to determine your need for a liver) would never be high enough to get her to the top of the list.

The evening before the transplant we have a visit in the hospital

I immediately volunteered to be tested to see if I were a match.  It turns out that I WAS a match! Since I was the only person who came forward to be tested we are so lucky that I was a match.  Then we began the long journey to the surgery — far more than I can cover in this blog post. There was a fight to get this done during the 2010 Olympics, which made CTV News, the newspapers, and more as they didn’t want to do “elective” surgery during the event in case some massive incident occurred and they needed the operating rooms. But Michelle couldn’t wait. She needed the transplant right then, regardless of what was going on.

Surgery Approved

After a successful campaign to get Michelle’s surgery done, we checked into Vancouver General Hospital on February 16, 2010.  The surgeons said after they opened Michelle up that she likely had no more than 10 days to live if they hadn’t done the surgery! The surgery is lengthy; my mom tells me I was in there for around 12 hours. My recovery was long, made longer by some post-op complications including a collapsed lung and reactions to medications. BUT, who cares about that, because Michelle came through the surgery just fine, and ALIVE! This was obviously the outcome we had all hoped for.

After the Surgery
Me with newborn Rose Meghan my God-daughter

There is so much to say about my recovery and return to work (which took about 6 months) and Michelle’s health struggles post-op as well. But really, I feel like all of it is irrelevant since the end result was positive.  She is alive, I am fine, and I got to keep my friend! When the surgery took place, Michelle was a mom of a 2-year-old boy.  Since the surgery, she has now had a little girl – whose middle name is Meghan!  What an honour for me to have a little person in this world named for me.

People always ask me would I do it again? And I guess the answer depends on what they mean.  Do they mean would I do it a second time? In which case the answer thankfully is you can’t do it twice. If they mean am I glad I did it at all? That answer is FOR SURE!  Our “after” story was featured in the March/April issue of Best Health Magazine and I’m so glad that after all this time, Michelle is still here for us to celebrate.

Me congratulating Michelle on her wedding day – I was her Maid of Honour
Please sign up yo be an Organ Donor

Live donor transplants would be less necessary if everyone signed up to be an organ donor, and made their wishes known to their family. Signing up is a good first step, but please make sure your family knows you wish to be an organ donor should the worst happen.

Selling Season – 5 Reasons to List Before the Market Picks Up

A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter offseason.

pqbhomes winter house sellingPerpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list and selling their homes. I have many clients who say to me “we want to sell, but we will wait to list in the spring.” However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers also net more above their asking price at this time.1 While that may not always be true, you do have less completion, and the winter buyers are serious buyers, not shoppers!

Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.
  1. Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, who may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer.
  1. Less need to discount your listing price. Homes selling during the offseason sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighbourhood as well. (That part is KEY!  You must price realistically for this tactic to work.) Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighbourhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.
  1. You’ll receive more attention. Buyers, Buyer agents, and your neighbours who may know someone who wants to move into your home will all be paying more attention to your listing when there is less completion.

Additionally, if you’d like to hire a tradesperson before selling your home for routine maintenance or a minor home renovation, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason as well, and can focus their time and attention on you and your project.

  1. Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.

  1. Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.
Thinking of Selling in the Offseason? 3 Things to Do Before You List

Get your home ready to list by following these tips.

  1. Schedule maintenance. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.

In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing, issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential buyer may want repaired. This will help you stand out from the crowd, as few sellers take the time, effort, and money to invest in a pre-inspection in our market.  Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3.

  1. Create light. Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.pqbhomes-paint-home-maintenace

If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons..

  1. Give your home a thorough cleaning. Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.

Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.

If you’re thinking of selling, give me a call! I’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.

PQBHomes-meghan-walker-sold

 

 

 

 

Sources: 1. Time, October 30, 2015

  1. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
  2. Forbes, August, 27, 2013

 

 

pqbhomes.ca house care calendar

HOUSE CARE CALENDAR

A Seasonal Guide to the Maintenance of Your Home

Be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home’s maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk. From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1

The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family … and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It’s applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.


pqbhomes-springSpring

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

Inside

  • Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
    Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.
  • Shut Down Heating System
    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper procedures.
  • Tune Up A/C
    If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.2
  • Check Plumbing
    It’s a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it’s working properly.3
  • Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.4 

Outside

  • Inspect Perimeter of Home
    Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.
  • Clean Home’s Exterior
    Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home’s facade, it’s generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts
    Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.6
  • Rake Leaves
    Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.
  • Seed or Sod Lawn
    If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8
  • Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
    While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don’t plan to seed or sod in the spring.
  • Plant Flowers
    After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It’s also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.
  • Mulch Beds
    A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9=
  • Fertilize Lawn
    Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10
  • Tune Up Lawn Mower
    Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11
  • Inspect Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, check that it’s working properly and make repairs as needed.
  • Check the Deck
    If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.
  • Prepare Pool
    If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.


pqbhomes-summerSummer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

Inside

  • Adjust Ceiling Fans
    Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.
  • Clean A/C Filters
    Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you’re running your air conditioner often.
  • Clear Dryer Vent
    Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.
  • Check Weather Stripping
    If you’re running your air conditioner in the summer, you’ll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

Outside

  • Mow Lawn Regularly
    Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.
  • Water Early in the Morning
    Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.
  • Weed Weekly
    To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home’s valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.
  • Exterminate Pests
    Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.


    pqbhomes-fall

Fall

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

Inside

  • Have Heater Serviced
    To ensure safety and efficiency, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.
  • Shut Down A/C for the Winter
    If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it’s properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.
  • Inspect Chimney
    Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.
  • Seal Windows and Doors
    Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.
  • Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it’s time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.3

Outside

  • Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
    Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It’s also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.
  • Rake or Mow Leaves
    Once the leaves start falling, it’s time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Apply Fall Fertilizer
    If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13
  • Inspect Gutters and Roof
    Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.
  • Shut Down Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.
  • Close Pool
    If you have a pool, it’s time to clean and close it up before the winter.


    pqbhomes-winter

Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months.

Inside

  • Maintain Heating System
    Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.
  • Tune Up Generator
    If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it’s working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.
  • Prevent Frozen Pipes
    Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you’re away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

Outside

  • Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
    Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.
  • Remove Window Screens
    Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.
  • Service Snowblower
    Don’t wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.
  • Stock Up on Ice Melt
    Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.
  • Watch Out for Ice Dams
    Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.14
  • Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
    Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.15

While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home’s maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? I have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email me, and I can connect you with one of my preferred vendors.


pqbhomes-calendar

Sources:

  1. com –
    https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/
  2. Home Advisor –
    https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/
  3. Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating –
    http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/
  4. Allstate Insurance Blog –
    https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/
  5. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house
  6. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm
  7. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm
  8. HGTV –
    http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures
  9. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching
  10. Lowes –
    https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project
  11. The New York Times –
    https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
  12. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine –
    https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/
  13. The Spruce –
    https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976
  14. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams
  15. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

 

Simple Living, Stress Reduction, and Small Spaces

 

small house living makes you happier
1866 MARTINI WAY Qualicum Beach
Want to be Happier?  
Live in a Small House, or a Tiny Home, and Reduce your Clutter!

This Blog is a little less real estate business and a little more personal – but don’t worry, it’s real estate adjacent, and there is a point to it all!

I have been thinking a lot about simplicity lately.  In my life I have always loved “stuff”. I am sentimental and so everything becomes a keepsake. Family heirlooms and family history and family photos are to be saved above all else. I love to read. Once a book is done, I can’t bear to part with it if it was any good. I love clothes, make-up, shoes, jewelry. I collect things – vintage Barbies, Flower Fairies, dog stuff, horse stuff, and probably more I’m not even thinking about just now.

As a result, my house, despite being large and only containing 2 adults and one very small dog, is pretty crowded.  Not hoarder TV show crowded, but more crowded than it should be.  We can’t park in the garage anyways.

Organizing and Simplifying

I hired a professional organizer (Organize to Optimize) who had previously helped me with workflow and productivity in my Real Estate role to come to my home. So far, we have tackled the kitchen. Without getting rid of anything at all, she freed up a ton of space and the work flow is so much better. Up next are keep-sakes and the garage (aka storage locker).

But, before she comes to help me with the rest of my house, I have tackled my make-up/skin care collection in my master bathroom and now my closet on my own.  I didn’t think I would like to get rid of stuff.  But the freedom from clutter and the ease of finding what I want is powerful. Getting ready each day is easier, less stressful, and quicker. Coming into the spaces I have cleared and organized feels less oppressive.  I have (so far) been much more likely to put things back where they belong, since they actually have a place, and a space.

My New Listing could make you Happier

All of this is happening while juggling a busy real estate career.  In my role as REALTOR® I have the good fortune to have an amazing listing just a few minutes from home. It’s a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom rancher that is 768 square feet with mountain views on a low-maintenance fenced lot.

What strikes me about this home each time I go is a sense of peace, and SPACE.  It’s open plan, and the current owner has decorated it beautifully with just the right amount of “stuff” and no more. I find it to be a sanctuary compared to my crowded and busy looking home. It has lots of storage space (a crawl space and 2 outbuildings) so a person could have places for their things, but also I am amazed by the fact that when I look around, I feel like it has everything I would need.

Why do I have all this “extra stuff” when I can see all I would need in ½ the space that I have?

Tiny Homes and Small House Living

There is such a movement towards Tiny Homes and Small Space Living and anti-consumerism on the rise I have to wonder if all of society is feeling a little overwhelmed with their space and their stuff much like me.  A Globe & Mail article this year said: “Smaller spaces are great spaces. They are cheaper to buy, maintain and clean, as well as being more sustainable, requiring less energy to heat and cool (residential energy use increased 6.5 per cent between 1990 and 2013, according to Natural Resources Canada, a time when house sizes were growing)[1].

This new single-story small house I have listed is all those things!  It’s way under the local average home price, in brand new condition, economical to heat, easy to clean and maintain, and detached so you don’t sacrifice your privacy and autonomy like you would moving to a similarly sized townhouse or condominium.

Another article points out  that “as work expands to fill the time allotted, our useless crap expands to fill the space we give it. Our houses are bigger because we need more space to store our junk, and our junk pile grows because, hey, there’s room for it in the garage. You don’t have to go full KonMari to recognize that this isn’t healthy, and it certainly doesn’t make life better or wallets fuller.”[2]

Refections for a new year

As so often happens at the beginning of a new year, reflection and goal setting is a big part of this month for me – from a business and a personal perspective.  I want to reduce consumption, clear my mind and my physical space to allow for the right amount and type of stuff in, and I want to simplify. We all know the phrase “reduce, re-use, recycle” but my focus this year is on this first, most often ignored part, REDUCE.

So, if you want to see this amazing small space living rancher I have listed, click here, and think about how you can live smaller, and probably happier!

[1]  The Globe and Mail,  Smaller homes could make us happier, Matthew Hague, August 24, 2019https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-design/article-smaller-homes-could-make-us-happier/

[2] The Week, Want to be happier? Live in a small house., August 4, 2017, Bonnie Kristian https://theweek.com/articles/716105/want-happier-live-small-house

2020 Outlook: Real Estate Market Forecast

 

After a two year slump, the future’s looking bright again for Canadian real estate. Economists expect positive growth in the national housing market in 2020, supported by low mortgage rates, a solid job market, and a rising population.

In fact, in a recent report, RBC Economics called 2019 a “turning point for Canada’s housing market.”1 To understand why—and where the market is headed— take a closer look at some of the key indicators and summarize expert predictions for the coming year.

More importantly, below I explain what impact these changes will have on buyers, sellers, and homeowners in 2020 and beyond.

SALES VOLUME WILL RISE

After peaking in 2016, Canadian home sales volume fell in 2017 and 2018. Fortunately, we saw a turnaround last year as sales began to recover, and economists expect the trend to continue. In a recent “Housing Market Outlook” report, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts “home sales will increase in 2020 and 2021, offsetting the declines observed since 2016 by the end of the forecast horizon.”2

The Canadian Real Estate Association expects to see a modest rate of growth this year. “Sales are forecast to continue to improve through 2020, albeit slowly. National home sales are forecast to rise by 7.5% to 518,100 units next year, with most of this increase reflecting a weak start to 2019 rather than a significant change in sales trends out to the end of next year.”3

What triggered this rebound in market activity? According to Rishi Sondhi of TD Economics, “The beneficial combination of solid job markets, rising household incomes, healthy population growth, further distance from restrictive government policies and low mortgage rates have given a boost to demand.”4

RBC Economics believes the main impediment to growth will be a lack of supply to meet the reinvigorated demand. “In fact, low inventories in many local markets appear to be holding buyers back who are faced with fewer and fewer options,” noted RBC in its November housing report.5

What does it mean for you? The market is heating up as buyer demand grows. If you’re planning to purchase a home this year, be prepared to compete for the best listings. And if you’re a seller who has been waiting for the market to pick up, now may be a good time to act.

HOME PRICES WILL INCREASE

 Home prices declined in many markets as sales volume fell. This year, however, sales are set to outpace the supply of new listings. That’s causing prices to increase as buyers compete for fewer available homes. “The rise in the sales-to-new listing ratio suggests that house price inflation will surge,” writes Stephen Brown of Capital Economics.6

Nationally, the CMHC expects the average sales price to exceed its peak 2017 level by the end of 2021, led by growth in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. “Other regions will generally see modest gains over the forecast horizon,” predicts the agency in its Fall 2019 Housing Market Outlook.2

Rishi Sondhi of TD Economics predicts that affordability challenges will temper price growth in the country’s most expensive markets.4 However, low mortgage rates, rising incomes, and government interventions—like the First Time Home Buyer Incentive program launched in September—could help eager buyers stretch their budgets.

What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home, act soon before prices go up. Economists expect both home values and rental costs to rise this year, so you’re likely to pay more the longer you wait.

HOUSING STARTS WILL STABILIZE

In 2017, Canadian housing starts reached a 10-year high. But as the real estate market slowed, builders pulled back. The CMHC expects both single-family and multi-unit construction activity to stabilize this year and to rebound by the end of 2021 to levels consistent with historical averages, although well below the 2017 peak.2

Economists at the CMHC speculate that “the support to new residential construction from the expected improvement in economic activity and incomes will be offset by the projected slowing in household formation over the forecast horizon.”

According to PwC’s latest “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report, condominiums continue to dominate new construction in Canada. Their relative affordability has made them a favourite of both first-time buyers and investors looking to fulfill a growing demand for rental units. However, a narrowing price gap between condos and detached housing could shift builder momentum towards single-family homes.7

What does it mean for you? If you’ve had trouble finding a suitable home in the past, new construction may become an increasingly available option. I can help you assess both current and upcoming developments in our area.

I’M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighbourhood.

 If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2020, contact me now to schedule a free consultation. I’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

START PREPARING TODAY

If you plan to BUY this year:

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.
  2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? I can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
  3. Come to my office. The buying process can be tricky. I’d love to guide you through it. I can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give me a call to schedule an appointment today!

If you plan to SELL this year:

  1. Call me for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
  2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. I can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
  3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage … and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

Sources:

  1. RBC Economics –
    https://royal-bank-of-canada-2124.docs.contently.com/v/november-monthly-housing-update
  2. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/housing-market-outlook-canada-and-major-centres
  3. Canadian Real Estate Association –
    https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/quarterly-forecasts/
  4. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/home-sales-canada_ca_5d91eefae4b0ac3cddabd25c
  5. RBC Economics –
    http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/canadian-housing-forecast.html
  6. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/house-price-forecast-canada_ca_5dde94f2e4b00149f727d91b

PwC – https://www.pwc.com/ca/en/industries/real-estate/emerging-trends-in-real-estate-2020/property-type-outlook.html#single

Gifts and Gadgets for Every Room in the House

Are you searching for new and innovative gift ideas this holiday season? If so, check out our list of the hottest home technology offerings. We’ve selected a few of our favourites for every room in the house.

These smart systems and devices add comfort, convenience, and a “cool factor” that will delight your friends and family.  So think about who you know that loves the latest gadgets … or add a few of these to your own wish list!

ENTRYWAY

Ensure the safety of your loved ones with these smart security upgrades.

Smart Lighting

Ring, a company best known for its video doorbells, has added smart lights to its series of integrated devices. The Ring Smart Light System includes motion sensors, pathlights, spotlights, and even step lights, which can be turned on and off using voice commands when paired with an Amazon Alexa device. Users may opt to receive a notification when motion is detected on the premises, and—if integrated with Ring security cameras—access a live video stream for an added layer of security. Systems start at $99.99.

Smart Lock

Smart locks are a great way to ensure your friends and family are never left out in the cold, and the August Smart Lock Pro+ Connect is among the most highly rated. It’s one of the easiest models to install because it pairs with an existing deadbolt. The Smart Lock Pro enables a user to lock and unlock their door remotely with an app on their phone. And with the auto-lock/unlock feature, it can be set to open automatically upon approach and relock after entry. Retails for $228.99.

Video Doorbell

Video doorbells have become an increasingly popular security enhancement for homes, and for a good reason. Homeowners can detect activity at their front door while away, view visitors via video stream, and communicate without opening the door. Since Ring released its first smart doorbell in 2013, a number of competitors have entered the market. The Nest Hello Video Doorbell has some unique features—like facial recognition, package detection, and pre-recorded quick responses—that place it near the top of the pack. Retails for $299.

LIVING ROOM

These fun and functional gifts are perfect for anyone who is big on style—but short on time.

Automated Planter

Caring for household plants is easier than ever with the latest advancements in technology. Perfect for frequent travellers or forgetful friends, the Dewplanter uses moisture in the air to water plants without manual intervention. Now nature lovers can enjoy the beauty and health benefits of houseplants without the hassle. Plus, for each unit sold, the company pledges to plant a tree somewhere it’s needed. Retails for US$69.50.

Smart Art

Instead of buying your favourite art lover a single painting, why not give him or her 30,000? With the Meural Canvas,you can access an extensive collection of artwork from around the world to display digitally in your own home. Meural utilizes proprietary technology to deliver an anti-glare matte display that automatically adjusts to the lighting in the room. Personal artwork and photographs can be showcased, as well. Retails for $799.

Motorized Shades

Motorized window coverings aren’t new, but a lower price point and enhanced features have helped to boost their popularity. The latest Motorized Shades from Somfy can be preprogrammed to raise or lower at certain times of day or controlled on-demand via a remote, smartphone app, or voice command when paired with Amazon Alexa or Google Home. They can also be set to operate automatically in response to the amount of sunlight or temperature of the room. Contact a dealer for pricing.

KITCHEN

These kitchen gadgets make life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable. They’re perfect for your busiest friends and family members!

Pressure Cooker

Have you jumped on the multi-cooker bandwagon yet? If so, you know how fast and simple these multifunctional appliances make meal preparation. The InstantPot Duo is a pressure cooker, sauté pan, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, and yogurt maker all-in-one. It reduces cooking time and lowers energy consumption. Who wouldn’t love one of these versatile tools? With numerous cookbooks and blogs devoted to InstantPot recipes, the meal options are virtually endless. Retails for $129.99.

Cocktail Machine

Cocktail connoisseurs will appreciate the ease and convenience of the Bartesian Premium Cocktail Machine. Listed among “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for 2019, the Bartesian mixes drinks with the touch of a button. Simply fill the canisters with base spirits, choose a cocktail capsule, and the machine does the rest. Now you can mix a margarita, whiskey sour, cosmopolitan, and other favourites as easily as you brew a cup of coffee. Retails for $470.

Smart Refrigerator

Kitchens are often called the “heart of the home,” and a new refrigerator from Samsung aims to be the hub. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator helps busy families stay organized. Grocery shopping becomes a breeze with built-in cameras that allow owners to peek inside their fridge from anywhere. The interactive touchscreen displays pictures, notes, and reminders for family members. And the integrated SmartThings app enables users to control smart devices and appliances from a central point. Retails for $2,999 and up.

BEDROOM

Almost nothing beats a good night’s sleep. Help your loved ones wake up refreshed with these smart devices for the bedroom.

Baby Sleep Soother

As any parent knows, when your baby isn’t getting sleep, neither are you. Help everyone in the family catch some z’s with a Bubzi Co Soothing Owl. This cuddly creature plays lullabies while projecting a starry scene on the bedroom wall to calm young children and help them drift off to sleep. And for every purchase, Bubzi Co makes a donation to Postpartum Support International. Retails for $42.95.

 Sunrise Alarm Clock

Know someone who hates getting up in the morning? Alarm clocks that utilize light instead of a noisy alarm can provide a more peaceful transition in and out of sleep. The Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light includes customizable sunrise and sunset simulation, guided breathing exercises, and sensors that track room conditions, like temperature, humidity, noise, and light. Retails for $219.99.

Smart Thermostat

Temperature fluctuations during the night can disrupt sleep. The Nest Learning Thermostat uses smart technology to track a user’s preferences and build a schedule around them. Homeowners can place one of its integrated sensors in their bedroom to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the night. And Nest thermostats cut energy consumption, so they’ll rest easier knowing they’re saving the planet and money on utility bills. Retails for $329.

BATHROOM

Bathrooms don’t have to be boring. Technology can add flair to the daily routine.

Waterproof Speaker

Music enthusiasts and podcast fans will enjoy streaming their favourites in the shower with a wireless waterproof speaker. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is a mid-priced and versatile option that can go from the bath to the beach. It packs an impressive 13-hour battery life in a small, portable case that’s waterproof, dust-proof, and floatable. Retails for $99.99.

Digital Smart Scale

A scale isn’t an appropriate gift for everyone, but diet and fitness enthusiasts may appreciate the high-tech features available with the Withings Body+. It tracks weight, body water, and fat, muscle, and bone mass for up to eight users. It can also be set to display local weather and the previous day’s step count. Customized pregnancy and baby modes make this a suitable choice for a growing family, as well. Retails for $129.95.

Vanity TV Mirror

For a truly luxe bathroom addition, consider an integrated vanity television mirror. The Seura TV Mirror seamlessly incorporates video into a bathroom vanity. It’s vanishing glass technology makes it possible to view the television through a mirror. When turned off, the screen completely disappears. Add lighting or a custom frame to complete the look. Starts at US$3,099 for a 19” display.

OUR GIFT TO YOU

Are you considering a permanent technology upgrade for your own home? Give us a call first! Buyer expectations and preferences vary depending on price point, architectural style, and neighbourhood. We can help you determine how the enhancement will impact the value of your home before you make the investment.

Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer”

Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes.

iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home.

While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many of our clients curious about them and how they work.

In this article, we explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home.

FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK?

While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home.

The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.1 These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs.

Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.2

If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER?

Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date.

However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.3

In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.2

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER?

Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home.

However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.4

That’s one of the reasons we always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighborhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.5

Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you!

HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER?

While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.2 And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands.

Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way.

Overall, we think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. And if we believe a client can benefit from working with an iBuyer, we present it as an option. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS

Do you want to learn more about iBuyers and other options currently available in our area to buy or sell your home? We can help you determine the best path, given your unique circumstances. Contact me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

Sources:

  1. The Dallas Morning News – https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/07/11/so-called-ibuyer-real-estate-firms-pitch-programs-to-buy-your-house-help-you-hunt-for-another/
  2. MarketWatch – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11
  3. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/08/16/study-shows-ibuyers-cost-home-sellers-thousands-is-convenience-worth-the-price/#697ac0c42269
  4. US News & World Report – https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-expect-when-buying-a-home-from-an-ibuyer
  5. Inman – https://www.inman.com/2019/09/11/police-arrest-couple-found-squatting-in-opendoor-home-with-their-kids/