Selling houses in and around Saskatoon!

Tidy up the garage, clean the patio furniture or finally get around to that DIY project…we all have a list of projects around the house that seems to grow faster than you can finish it.

Now that you might be spending more time around the house, why not use this as an opportunity to start a new project or get around to a few of those chores you’ve been putting off? To help you get started, we’re sharing a list of around-the-house tasks for a quiet or rainy day. 

1. Tidy the garage

The ultimate “I’ll do it one day” project: cleaning out the garage. Start this project on a dry day so you can pull everything out onto the driveway or the lawn. Set aside what you want to get rid of and organize it into three piles: toss, donate and sell. Group what’s left by category (for example, sporting goods, tools, luggage, paint or kid’s items). 

Once the garage is empty, use kitty litter, sawdust or cornmeal to soak up any grease or oil. Sweep it up and then use dish detergent, water and a scrub brush to clean any stains. When repacking the garage, put less-used items on harder to reach shelves or in labelled storage containers, while keeping frequently used items in sight and easy to access. 

2. Soundproof a room

If your house is currently functioning as a home office, classroom and doggy daycare, you’re probably finding out exactly how soundproof each room is. Fortunately, there are some easy ways you can minimize sound travelling between rooms without making permanent changes. Hanging drapes, adding rugs and carpets, setting up a bookcase or investing in new doors are some solutions. Get more tips in our post about six easy ways you can soundproof a room.

3. Boost the Wi-Fi signal in your home

Whether it’s the basement, backyard or corner bedroom, there’s likely a space in your home where the Wi-Fi doesn’t work properly. To improve your online experience around the home, try putting a password on your network, using a router with four or more antennas or getting a signalbooster. To find out more about what might be causing your wireless woes and how to fix them, read our comprehensive guide to choosing the right Wi-Fi for your home.

4. Clean your patio furniture

Whether you store your patio furniture inside, cover it up with a tarp or leave it outdoors to brave the elements, your patio furniture is probably in need of some TLC before the summer season. Use soapy water and a soft brush or sponge to clean dirt and dust off your metal, wicker or wooden patio set (to avoid scratches, be sure to not use anything abrasive). 

If your patio set has cushions with removable covers, follow the washing instructions on the tag. For cushion covers that can’t be removed, use soap and water to scrub dirt and stains and leave cushions outside to dry.

5. Reupholster a chair

You might think that reupholstery projects are best left to a professional, but with some simple instructions and basic tools, you can bring new life to a treasured piece in just a few hours. Plus, you can use up fabric you might already have around the house like an old set of curtains, denim or other scraps. 

To set yourself up for success, start simple by choosing a chair or cushion with straight lines. Next, read our guide to DIY upholstery to find out what tools you’ll need and how to get started.

6. Set up your smart home

Maybe you never got around to setting up your smart washing machine, or maybe you want to be able to turn the kettle on from your bed. Smart appliances or smart add-ons can make those everyday chores easier and safer. Read our guides to smart appliances and smart home hubs and devices, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not you turned off the oven before leaving the house again. 

7. Purge your closet

Does it fit? Do you love it? Do you wear it? If you can answer “no” for any item in your closet, it’s time for a purge. Follow our guide to Kondo-ing your clutter to find out how to clean out and reorganize your closet to keep it functional and organized. If your local clothing donation location (like Goodwill or Salvation Army) is currently closed, fold and pack away clothes in clean, tightly-sealed plastic bags so they don’t get dusty and donate items once it’s safe to do so. 

8.  Refresh your home with paint

If you’re looking for an easy DIY project with a big impact, think about painting a room, touching up the trim or adding a pop of colour by painting a door. Contact your local hardware or building store for information about curbside pickup for painting supplies, or try online paint shop Digby to get supplies delivered to your door. To help you pick the perfect colour, check out our favourite paint colours for spring or this guide to choosing a colour to increase productivity, promote calm or boost creativity levels. 

Whether you spend a few hours or a few days working on projects around the house, you’re sure to enjoy your next Netflix binge even more knowing that you’ve crossed a few items off your to-do list.


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With summer officially approaching, now’s the time to start creating a blueprint for the backyard reboot of your winter-weary dreams. Make the most out of your outdoor space this summer by bringing your kitchen outdoors and growing your own cocktail ingredients.

Whether you gather around a custom-built fire pit with s’mores or sweat it out in a barrel sauna, a little work now will mean a lot of relaxation in the not distant future. 

Grow your own cocktail ingredients

Hopping on the farm-to-table bandwagon, garden-to-glass cocktails will elevate your reputation and mixology abilities. When it’s safe to host again, you’ll be well-practiced and confident in your bar menu. Whether you choose to get deeply botanical with infusions and “shrubs” or keep it simple with ready-to-pluck mint and Thai basil, cocktail gardens can be as minimal or extensive as your liquor cabinet. 

Take-out pizza: the real deal

If you want to engage in a labour of love that will return the favour, upgrade your outdoor kitchen from a generic barbecue to a showstopper pizza oven. There are several online tutorials that will satisfy all skill levels, budgets and design tastes from rustic to elaborate. For a quick and portable fix, you can order an Ooni Koda. Fueled by propane, the Koda oven reaches 500°C in minutes, and you’ll have a piping pizza pie at the ready in 60 seconds. 

S’mores headquarters

Before you create your vision board, make sure to check with your municipality’s fire regulations and permit requirements. If you live in a wooded area, be mindful fires can burn deep below the surface and ignite tree roots. A 5-inch base layer of crushed gravel is advised. Like pizza ovens, fire pits can be built using natural stone, fire pit blocks or metal fire rings. Hard rocks like granite or lava rock won’t crack under extreme heat. Building centres carry complete kits with palletized stone (pre-sorted stone of uniform size) and DIY divas can learn how to lay capstone and build custom Muskoka chairs for the entire family.

Gas and propane-fuelled fire pit tables are popular for their mess-free instant gratification (no wood! No ash! No smoky clothes to launder!) while freestanding copper fire bowls create a natural and artistic focal point. 

Need help choosing the right fire pit or location for your outdoor space? Check out Your Guide to Outdoor Fireplaces

Let off some steam

Outdoor saunas can be a timeless addition to a backyard space. They can be used year-round and the health benefits make them a sound wellness investment. Lady Gaga and much of Finland swear by them. The design options jump from traditional to panoramic to white cedar barrel saunas with miniature porches. However, with a little sweat equity, friends will be eager to join you once it’s safe to do so. And, even more so when your backyard reboot is complete!

Open air shower or cowboy bath?

If you don’t have a lake in your backyard to jump into after cutting the grass, how about building an outdoor shower? It can be enclosed or open-air, making the set-up even simpler. All you need is an accessible water source, weatherproof wood and sufficient drainage away from your house.

Prefer a soak? “Cowboy tubs” are traditionally galvanized livestock water troughs or stock tanks and they are a fun off-grid amenity gaining popularity on Airbnb listings. Copper tubing makes the magic happen and with a little fire-tending patience, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind hot tub to soak in. With a garden-to-glass cocktail in hand, of course!

Backyard reboots can be achieved with any budget and a little ingenuity. Remember, you’re investing in relaxation and serenity, which is priceless!Looking for more ideas on how to transform your backyard into the ultimate retreat? Check out these suggestions for me-time she sheds, and big impact upgrades for your patio, porch and balcony too.


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As temperatures begin to rise, there’s nothing more rewarding than packing away your winter gear and tackling spring cleaning projects. Plus, now that we’re spending more time at home than usual, it’s the perfect opportunity to check off those often forgotten items on your cleaning to-do list. 

To help you take it step-by-step, we’re sharing 12 ways to deep clean for spring with tips from cleaning expert Melissa Maker. Whether you do two or ten projects from this list, your home is sure to feel fresh and ready for spring. 

In the kitchen

  1. Remove your oven racks and scrub them in the sink with soapy water. For a natural way to clean the inside of your oven, mix three-quarters of a cup of baking soda with a quarter-cup of water, spread the paste inside your oven and let it sit overnight before wiping it clean.
  2. Clear out your refrigerator, dispose of the expired items and wipe down all the interior surfaces with your favourite cleaning solution. Remove and soak any shelves with stubborn spills.
  3. Check the filter at the back of your dishwasher, pop it out and clean it in the sink (check the manual if you can’t find it). Next, put approximately two cups of vinegar in a container on the top rack and run the dishwasher on the hottest setting to make it shine.
  4. Tidy and organize the area underneath your sink. “It’s a very forgotten area and a really easy task!” says Maker. “Remove everything, and select only the things that are important to put back. While the area is still empty, wipe out the bottom of the cabinet and place a shelf liner on the bottom. This prevents the base of the cabinet from being damaged.”

In the bathroom 

  1. If you have a shower curtain or liner, check for any mold or mildew. Either opt for a new liner, throw it in the washing machine (some types are washable) or scrub it with a brush and soapy water before rinsing it clean.
  2. To clean the tub, tiles and grout, Maker recommends a DIY scrub of equal parts baking soda and dish soap. “Apply the scrub with a non-scratch sponge, let it sit for a couple of minutes and then scrub in an S-pattern. Rinse well and dry with a microfiber cloth,” says Maker.
  3. Tackle the toilet. First, use a small head vacuum tool to remove dust and hair from around the toilet base. Next, start from the top down by spraying the toilet with a disinfecting cleaning solution. Let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe it clean with a rag.
  4. Don’t forget your bathroom accessories. Empty any toothbrush holders, soap dishes or accessory trays and wash them with soap and water or put them in the dishwasher. 
  1. If you live in an area with hard water, a chalky layer of limescale can quickly build up on your taps and shower heads. To get rid of it, try using a one-to-one solution of water and vinegar to soak your shower head and faucets overnight. In the morning, use a hard-bristled brush to scrub away what’s left. 

Living area and other leftovers 

  1. Give your sofa a deep clean. “Dust settles on the fabric, so while you may not see it, it’s actually there!” says Maker who recommends removing the cushions and vacuuming with a crevice tool attachment to suck up crumbs and dust. “Use the same tool to vacuum the sides, base and top of the upholstery. Lastly, vacuum all of the cushions before you replace them.”
  2. Refresh your baseboards. First, run a vacuum with a soft tool attachment along your baseboards to remove dirt and dust. Next, use a damp sponge soaked in soapy water to scrub away any scuff marks or spills. Wipe dry with a clean cloth.
  3. Finally, get ready to enjoy the sunshine by cleaning your blinds. Start by using a vacuum with a soft brush head if you have it. Next, use a microfiber cloth to wipe off any remaining dust. For stubborn dirt and grime, use a cloth or sponge damp with soapy water.


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Nutana, Saskatchewan: A Riverside Legacy

By Jules Torti @

April 6, 2020

Nutana is an affordable, gentrified neighbourhood conveniently located near the hustle of SaskatoonSaskatchewan. The main artery and cultural heartbeat is found along Broadway Avenue. Bounded by 8th Street to the south, Clarence Avenue to the east and the South Saskatchewan River to the west, Nutana’s grid system is fool-proof. Avenues run north to south and streets run east to west. In 2019, the area was home to 6,158 residents — a modest jump from the mere 70 people who lived here in 1883.

Did you know?

  • The Broadway Theatre is Canada’s only community-owned non-profit repertory cinema. The 430-seat venue has a rotating lure of date night options including arthouse films, live music, theatre and dance. To boot, its 88 solar-panel array (the third largest in the province) is expected to generate 50% of the building’s electricity needs.
  • At nearby Black Fox Farm and Distillery, the cut-flower farm grows 90% of the ingredients necessary for their gin, liqueur and vodka production. Canada’s preeminent on-farm distillery is a wink back to the Temperance Colonization Society, a group of Toronto Methodists who were the first to permanently settle here. Black Fox’s Gin #3 is a marriage of 15 different spices and flowers with floral notes of calendula flowers and rhubarb.
  • Urdu, or Lashakri, the official national language of Pakistan, is the second-most prevalent language spoken in Nutana, after English (2016 Census).

Housing market

The heritage-rich riverside neighbourhood is considered a middle to upper-income area, with a median personal income of $47,870, and a homeownership rate of 51.5%. In 2017, Nutana was ranked No. 1 on rentfaster’s Most Popular Saskatoon Neighbourhoods to Live In because of its modern vibe, energy and spotless beauty. In 2019, stats from the City of Saskatchewan, Assessment and Taxation indicated a single-family dwelling average of $541,668 while low-rise apartment condos reached $315,107 (2016 census). According to 2019 MLS data, the average sale price of a home was $467,841.

Where to live

The newest coveted address is the Escala development (2020). The two or three-bedroom floor plans offer 1,088 square-foot balconies with uninterrupted river and city views. Nutana’s proximity to the University of Saskatchewan means it’s a hotbed for student rentals. College Quarter residences are located here due to a high walkability score, pub scene and easy access to several bus routes.

What to do

  • A visit to the Marr Residence, a national historic site, is a genuine treat for architecture addicts. Built in 1884 for stonemason Alexander Marr as part of the Temperance Colony, it was a two-storey pioneer dream home with a mansard roof and hardwood floors. The house served as a temporary field hospital after the Battle of Fish Creek.
  • Though Saskatoon is better known for its spudnuts (potato doughnuts), shishliki (marinated lamb skewers), pickerel cheeks and Saskatoon Berry Pie, why not grab a pint of Sumac Hazy Pale Ale from the local, High Key Brewing, at the Yard & Flagon on Broadway (Saskatoon’s first rooftop patio)? Try the provincially iconic jerk dry ribs and fried pepperoni chips (served with cheddar cheese and pizza sauce).
  • Don’t miss the annual Meewasin Pelican Watch (March). Guess the date and time of the first pelican to touch down between the CPR Bridge and The Weir to win a $500 prize pack! Once endangered, the pelicans have graced the South Saskatchewan River since the late 1970s.


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With technology on our side, there are so many ways to conduct business safely. Here are some of the specific ways we are #stayingsafe in real estate.

Consults Over the Phone - Dicuss your real estate goals and needs over the phone with me. At a time convenient to you, we will create a marketing plan to sell your home, or create a plan to find you the home you're looking for in a safe way.

COVID-19 Waiver - There is a required form for both buyers and sellers before conducting any real estate business. This short survey takes only a minute and can be completed from your mobile phone.

Virtual Tours - Many listings have virtual tours where you can view a home right from your mobile device or computer. 

In-Person Tours - With physical distancing protocols, some homes may be viewed in person after the waiver is completed. I provide booties and gloves to clients before entering. No surfaces are to be touched inside the home, and I ask to keep a safe distance between the client and myself. If you have a mask, feel free to wear it. There are homes for sale that are vacant which makes viewings easier.

Sign Electronically - All documents are signed electroically. The program I use is Authentisign - it's simple to use, and forms can be signed right from your mobile device. This service is completely free for the client.

E-Transfer Deposits - Your deposit to purchase a home can be completed by e-transfer sent to the brokerage.

Home Inspection - The home inspection report is sent to you electronically, with any questions answerd over the phone.

Possession Day - When the paperwork is finalized, the keys to your new home are delivered right to you. 

As always, feel free to contact me with any real estate questions you may have.



Kevin Leuschen

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Five years ago, you couldn’t turn on an episode of House Hunters or Love It or List It without hearing the words ‘granite countertops’ repeated ad nauseam. Second only to ‘open-concept’ (my personal observation as an avid viewer of HGTV), the home feature continually ranked near the top of buyers’ wishlists. 

But the conversation began to shift around 2017, when manufacturers of man-made quartz really stepped up their marketing game. Granite was knocked off its throne and became the subject of articles with headlines like, “This Longtime Kitchen Trend Is Officially Out.” 

But the clout of granite has not faded entirely, at least according to a recent survey by Point2 Homes. In 2019, ‘granite countertops’ ranked as the most popular home feature touted by agents in real estate listings across the United States. Is it popular because it’s a now-ubiquitous design trend or because it’s still valued by home shoppers? While that question remains unanswered, what we do know is the top three home features were consistent among all regions and price points. 

‘Hardwood floors’ came in second place, followed by ‘stainless steel appliances,’ yet another former kitchen upgrade that is now considered a must-have. ‘Open floor plan’ was the fourth most popular keyword among luxury and non-luxury listings, and ‘fenced backyard’ ranked fifth, unsurprising for a feature that’s advantageous to families with children and pet owners.

Real estate agents were also keen to advertise ‘covered patio,’ which provides shade from the sun or shelter during inclimate weather. Anyone who’s ever had to deal with soaking wet outdoor furniture can probably see the value in that. Next on the list came ‘vaulted ceilings’ (more room for a 12-foot Christmas tree, I guess), and ‘formal dining room’ took the number eight spot.


Rounding out the top 10 were ‘new roof’ — an enticing selling feature as a replacement costs between $4,707 and $10,460, according to data from HomeGuide — and finally, ‘natural light,’ which is known to increase productivity and regulate sleep cycles. 

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market anytime soon, consult the full list of the most popular features and amenities to add some SEO sizzle to your online listing.

Source: Livabl

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Financial Post

March 5, 2020

Purchasing a property with the intention to turn it into an Airbnb can be risky. It's important to do your research and ask the right questions before you invest.

This article was created by StackCommerce in partnership with Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division. While Postmedia may collect a commission on sales through the links on this page, we are not being paid by the brands mentioned.

The rise of Airbnb may have you thinking about potential investment opportunities in the vacation rental market. Airbnb has made the idea of buying a property solely to turn it into short-term housing an interesting proposition. However, that strategy is not without risk. When it comes to Airbnb ownership, there are a handful of important questions you should ask yourself:


There are plenty of ways to run a rental property, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Do you want to be an active investor who spends a great deal of time maintaining the property to get those glowing user reviews? Or is kicking back and being a passive investor more your speed? Given how reviews can make or break an Airbnb property on the platform, playing the Airbnb game is much more suited to the active investor.


Going off the importance of reviews, being able to keep a property in tip-top shape is vital for getting users to recommend your property and help it stand out on the platform. Can you keep the space clean and stocked with essentials like toiletries and linens? Can you delight your guests with fun recommendations or a tasty meal on the house? If not, it might be worth hiring a property manager to make sure your space wows your guests, though that will definitely cut into your bottom line.


Source:  Financial Post

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Investing in real estate can seem scary at first. After all, a house is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. So if you’re nervous don’t worry, because you’re not alone.

In my opinion, the best way to handle these first-time jitters is by starting small. If you’re scared of investing in real estate because you don’t want to lose everything I have a really simple solution: don’t risk everything.

I hear stories all the time of people who have put everything on the line by quitting their jobs and investing in major house flips. This is a terrible idea! Being successful in real estate, and any business, really, isn’t about making giant leaps. It’s not about getting rich quickly. Truly successful people are deliberate, decisive and strategic. They’re cautious and they look for warning signs. They take small but significant steps. And they take them continuously.

Dipping your toe in the real estate pool by renting out your basement to a friend, or investing in a rental property with a few partners, is a great way to test the waters and start to learn the business of real estate investing without taking on a ton of risk. And not just that.  Taking on partners on projects can minimize your risk, but it can also provide you with a support team to share in the successes and failures while you’re learning. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win.

If that’s still too much, an even smaller step is to rent out your home while you’re away. Sites like Airbnb have made it easier than ever to make money from your home, and their review system helps to minimize some of the risks by giving you confidence about who you’re renting to. This is a particularly great option for people who live in popular tourist areas. When you live in a high-demand area – a city centre for example – you can always find people to rent your home when you’re away on vacation or business. And ultimately you can decide not to rent to someone if their profile doesn’t give you 100% confidence. 

Remember, you don’t have to make a huge commitment to get started as a real estate investor. There are more options now than ever before, so start small and then take bigger steps once you have more experience.

Source: Scott Mcgillivray

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And this good advice doesn’t cost you a nickel, says Saanich mortgage broker

Is it time for your mortgage checkup?

After signing a mortgage document, many homeowners forget about it until five years later, when they receive a call or letter saying it is coming due for renewal. But your mortgage needs regular attention, says Brenda Joynson, a Mortgage Consultant with Mortgage Depot in Saanich.

“If you experienced changes in your physical health, you would go see your doctor. With changes in the mortgage world, including the Stress Test, your mortgage broker or banker can find new ways to improve your financial health,” she says.

Here’s five good questions to ask your mortgage professional:

  1. Do the Stress Test rules apply to me? This test was designed to ensure borrowers would be able to pay the loan if interest rates rose. But did you know the rules do not apply to mortgage renewals, as long as they are with the borrower’s existing lender? You may even be able to move your existing mortgage to a new lender to take advantage of better rates, without having to apply the stress test.
  2. Does refinancing make financial sense to access my equity for other things? Even with mortgage payout penalties, your savings could be significant. That could help you increase cash flow by eliminating credit card balances or lines of credit. This would allow you to increase your mortgage payment and pay it off faster to save interest. Perhaps your properties need maintenance, or you’re considering a renovation to enhance its value and/or rentability? Leveraging your equity can also play an important role in successful investing.
  3. Is there room for improvement in my mortgage structure? If you own more than one property or want to pursue tax-deductible investments, changing your mortgage structure can save you money at tax time. For example, many multi-level mortgage products allow you to separate non-deductible mortgage payments from your deductible mortgage interest.
  4. When should I lock in my variable-rate mortgage? Current fixed rates are often lower, so if you plan to keep the property, it’s worth having your professional do a comparison between fixed rates and your current variable rate. A key consideration are the penalties charged for breaking the mortgage contract early.
  5. How can I pay my mortgage off faster? Mortgage payments determine amortization length: the higher the payment, the lower the amortization; the lower the payment, the longer it takes to pay the mortgage off. One strategy worth looking at is extending amortization on revenue properties and reducing it on your residential mortgage.

If you have other mortgage questions, an annual mortgage check up might be just what the doctor ordered, Joynson says. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything!

Source: Saanich News

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Buying a house can be an exciting, but complex process. So when you embark on your journey, one of your first stops should be familiarizing yourself with the lingo.

We've curated helpful information from our Homebuyers' Road Map and Tips for Buyers, to share with you some of the most important terminology a new buyer needs to know—from pre-purchase to post-purchase.

Before you buy

First things first, you need to find yourself a REALTOR®. A REALTOR® can bring you peace of mind thanks to their experience and professionalism. From helping you find a home that meets your needs and price range, to negotiating your purchase price, directing you through complex contracts, a REALTOR® is an important part of your home buying journey. 

While it's exciting to start visiting open houses, you must first determine how much a mortgage lender is willing to let you borrow to purchase your first home. Your mortgage is a loan that can help you cover the cost of buying a home. How much you're able to borrow will depend on factors including your total current debt, monthly household income, how long you’ve been at your current job and how long it will take you to pay it back: Introducing the amortization period. A longer amortization period means lower monthly payments but higher interest rates. 

Mortgage lenders use Principle, Interest, Taxes and Heating (PITH) as a tool to ensure mortgage affordability by determining the monthly payments that can be made by the home buyer. The mortgage affordability calculators can help you perform your own PITH test to estimate affordable mortgage payments.

When taking out a mortgage, home buyers grant the bank a lien on the property. This gives the bank the right to seize your property in the event you don't repay your mortgage.

Types of mortgages: 

  • Fixed-rate mortgage: Your interest rate is locked in for a specified period called a term. Your payments stay the same for the mortgage's term so you will not pay more even if interest rates increase over time.
  • Variable rate mortgage: The rate of interest you pay may change if rates go up or down.
  • Conventional mortgage: Requires a down payment of 20% or more of the property's value. You're not required to get mortgage default insurance with a conventional mortgage.
  • Closed mortgage: The mortgage cannot be paid off early without paying a prepayment charge.
  • Open mortgage: A mortgage that can be paid off at any time during the term, without having to pay a charge. The interest rate for an open mortgage may be higher than for a closed mortgage with the same term.

Now that you know how much you can afford, your REALTOR® can help determine what type of neighbourhood you want to live in and what type of house you want to buy.

Buying a home

You've found your dream home…now what? It's not time to pack your bags just yet. There are many expenses you must consider beyond the purchase price (the price you're willing to pay for the house). 

You need to consider how much of a down payment you can afford. This refers to the initial up-front portion you pay against your home purchase. The larger the down payment, the smaller your mortgage. Are you a first-time home buyer with a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) account? You can now withdraw up to $35,000 without paying income tax through the Home Buyers' Plan.

Other factors you may want to consider at this stage are:

  • Property taxes: This annual fee, imposed by the local government, pays for services like public education, local police and libraries. 
  • Home insurance: This is a form of property insurance protecting you financially in the event of damages or losses to your home and its contents. In most cases, you can include these payments in your monthly mortgage payment. 
  • Home inspection: Even if the home appears to be flawless, many home buyers arrange a home inspection as a condition of their purchase. Hiring a professional to inspect the overall condition of the home can cost a few hundred dollars, but can reveal any serious defects.

Now that you have figured out all of the costs associated with your purchase, you're ready to make an offer. An offer to purchase is a formal, legal agreement made between the buyer and seller which often contains certain conditions. This is commonly known as a conditional offer and includes factors that must be met in order for the sale to be successful such as financing terms, appliances and fixtures, inspections and the physical condition of the house. 

Generally, the seller has between 24 and 48 hours to accept, reject or counter-offer. This is known as irrevocability of the offer, the length of time the seller has to consider your offer. 

Once your offer is accepted, you will need to determine your closing costs. This includes your mortgage broker's fee, real estate commissions, moving costs, title insurance—an insurance policy protecting you against challenges related to the title of your home—and more. 

While there's a lot more lingo in the real estate dictionary, hopefully you now have a better understanding before taking plunge into one of the biggest single purchases you’ll ever make. These resources available on may also help you along your journey to homeownership:


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The Canadian Real Estate Association says sales were slightly lower than November, but way up year-over-year

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in December were up 22.7 per cent compared with a year ago when sales were relatively quiet.

The association says sales in the final month of 2019 were up compared with a year ago earlier across most of Canada, including all of the largest urban markets.

On a month-over-month basis, home sales in December were down 0.9 per cent.

The decline ended a streak of monthly gains that began last March.

The actual national average price for a home sold in December 2019 was about $517,000, up 9.6 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Excluding the Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto Area, two of the country's most expensive and active housing markets, the average price of a home sold was about $400,000, up 6.7 per cent compared with December 2018.

The obvious follow-through from this increasingly tight market is that prices are starting to respond," said Douglas Porter, chief economist for BMO Economics.

"The MLS Home Price Index, which adjusts for shifts in the types of homes purchased, rose 3.3 per cent year over year. While that seems mild, it's a big pick-up from the outright declines reported in the first half of the year and is now running at its fastest pace in almost two years."

Source: CBC news

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Have you ever considered building a skating rink in your backyard, but didn't quite know where to start? With so much to think about we spoke with two outdoor rink hobbyists, Devon Kunkel and John Houghton, to see what's needed to accomplish this wintry project.

Since all backyards are different, there's more than one way to create an ice rink. For example, Devon lives in a residential area and used purchased materials to build his, while John's rink receives extra help from Mother Nature thanks to his rural location (his yard partially floods each November). 

Timing and location

While you're waiting impatiently for winter to arrive, determine the rink's size—16 feet wide by 24 feet long, for example. Before the ground freezes solidly (it's OK if just the top half inch of soil begins to harden) is the best time to put your rink's perimeter in place. This also ensures your grass is dormant and avoids smothering it. If you wait until after it snows, you'll have to shovel or hope for a thaw before installing the perimeter.

When choosing your rink's location, consider how water drains from your yard. Avoid an area that will drain towards your home or your neighbours' and remember, flatter is always better. While you want to select a flat area away from your house, you want it to be close so a hose will reach, and where exterior lights can provide adequate coverage for night skating. If there's a slight slope, the 6” high boards should be enough to handle the increased ice depth at the lower end.

Pro tip: Before starting anything, always check with your municipality to determine if any bylaws or restrictions might affect your dream rink. Some municipalities require a permit to build one.


To start, you'll need rink-building materials, plus a few essentials to maintain your ice. Devon says a good quality hose, rated for winter use and long enough to reach the farthest ice with a spray attachment, is extremely important. A snow scoop and push shovel are ideal to clear snow accumulations. 

Complete rink kits, ranging from $80 to $700 or more, are available through national retailers, but if you'd like to build it yourself, these materials will do the trick for around $200 to $250 (excluding tools):

  • 2” x 6' pressure treated boards (which usually come in 8 foot lengths)
  • 2” x 2' pressure treated boards, cut to 8” lengths and tapered at one end
  • tarps or heavy plastic sheeting — use a single sheet that overlaps the entire area
  • 3” brass wood screws
  • cordless drill
  • mitre or hand saw
  • rubber mallet


  1. Measure your area and set your perimeter boards, placing three stakes per 8-foot length.
  2. Beginning with the first board, hammer the stakes two inches deep into the ground.
  3. secure each board to the stakes using two screws per stake, ensuring all boards fit snugly end-to-end.
  4. Stretch and flatten your tarp or plastic sheeting across the area so it covers and overlaps the perimeter.
  5. Use your hose to fill the tarp with water to a minimum depth of two inches. 
  6. Allow the water freeze completely then hit the ice!

Pro tip: If you time your assembly just before a heavy rainfall, Mother Nature will help fill the rink for you.


You can't forget about providing a spot to change into your skates. Folding or camp chairs are perfect for this, as you can place the back legs over the boards to keep them secure. Plastic patio chairs are also perfect supports for novice skaters as well, because they have a wide base and slide easily on ice.

If you're a hockey family, nets are a must. If lighting is a concern, this can be solved by installing posts before winter and securing outdoor floodlight fixtures with extension cords. A selection of halogen or energy-efficient LED plug-in outdoor floodlights can be found at your local hardware store, starting from about $50, including fixtures and bulbs. John says snowbanks from shoveling are perfect for the kids to make their own benches and double as natural hockey stick racks.


To keep your ice in tip-top shape, shovel promptly after each snowfall. Snow insulates and can stick to the ice in milder temperatures. Use your hose to evenly cover the ice with water. For best results and to prevent sheet ice—which is thin, brittle layers of ice—Devon recommends using the hose attachment's mist setting because it adheres evenly to the existing ice without creating a separate layer. 

Make sure to store the hose someplace warm after each use and turn off outdoor taps from inside, with the external valve open to avoid freezing pipes.


The rink ice should melt gradually with the snow each spring. As soon as the ice is thawed you can remove a section of the perimeter to drain the water. Be sure to pull up the tarp before it gets too warm so the ground can dry out and aerate. John says there should be no lasting damage as long as the rink is installed and removed while the grass is dormant.

From planning to takedown, by following these tips, your family is sure to experience hours of active, outdoor enjoyment through the winter. Happy skating!

Source: Gord Brown @

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Jamie Golombek: For one, there's an increase to the basic personal amount Canadians can earn before facing federal income tax

This week, the government announced increases to the basic personal amount for 2020 and subsequent years beyond the normal inflationary adjustment. Let’s review the changes to the BPA and also take a look at some of the new tax numbers coming for 2020.


Each year, most (but not all) income tax and benefit amounts are indexed to inflation. In early December, the Canada Revenue Agency announced that the inflation rate that will be used to index the 2020 tax brackets and amounts will be 1.9 per cent. This rate was calculated by taking the percentage change in the average monthly Consumer Price Index data as reported by Statistics Canada for the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2019 relative to the average CPI for the 12-month period ended on Sept. 30, 2018.

Increases to the tax bracket thresholds and various amounts relating to non-refundable credits take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Increases in amounts for certain benefits, such as the GST/HST credit and Canada Child Benefit, however, only take effect on July 1, 2020. This coincides with the beginning of the program year for these benefit payments, which are income-tested and based on your prior year’s net income, as reported on your 2019 tax return.


For 2020, we will continue to have five federal income tax brackets, but they will all be indexed to inflation using the 1.9 per cent rate. The 2020 federal brackets will be: zero to $48,535 of income (15 per cent); above $48,535 to $97,069 (20.5 per cent); above $97,069 to $150,473 (26 per cent); above $150,473 to $214,368 (29 per cent); and anything above that being taxed at 33 per cent. Each province also has its own set of provincial tax brackets, most of which have also been indexed to inflation, but using their respective provincial indexation factors.


The biggest change for 2020 will be to the BPA. The stated purpose behind the BPA is “to help all Canadians cover their most basic needs” by imposing no federal income tax on a certain amount of income that an individual earns. The 1966 report of the Royal Commission on Taxation (known more commonly as the “Carter Commission”) concluded that “the first dollars of income should not be subject to tax.”

The Commission argued that “clearly the fraction of income available for discretionary use is extraordinarily small for a (low-income) family” and noted that “such a family (also) bears sales and property taxes that are disproportionately large relative to its ability to pay.”

The BPA is the mechanism used to ensure that no tax is paid on a certain amount of basic income and is $12,069 for 2019. This means that an individual Canadian taxpayer can earn up to this amount in 2019, before paying any federal income tax.

For taxpayers earning above this amount, the value of the federal credit is calculated by applying the lowest federal personal income tax rate (15 per cent) to the BPA, making it worth $1,810 in 2019. (Because the credit is non-refundable, it’s only worth the maximum amount if you otherwise would have paid that much tax in the year.) In 2017, the most recent tax year for which we have publicly-available data, nearly 27 million taxpayers claimed the BPA.

Each year, the BPA is indexed to inflation, meaning that for 2020, the inflation-adjusted BPA would have been $12,298 (i.e. $12,069 X 101.9 per cent), absent this week’s announcement. On Monday, the government announced that it is moving forward with its proposal contained in the Liberal election platform to increase the BPA, gradually, to $15,000 by 2023. For 2020, the new BPA will be $13,229. It will rise to $13,808 in 2021 and $14,398 in 2022.

But the increase in the BPA won’t apply to everyone as it will be phased out “for wealthy individuals … to ensure that this tax relief goes to the people who need help most.” Specifically, the increase in the BPA would be gradually reduced, on a straight-line basis, for taxpayers with net incomes above $150,473 (the bottom of the fourth tax bracket for 2020) until it has been fully phased out once a taxpayer’s income is over $214,368 (the threshold for the top tax bracket in 2020), to ensure “the wealthiest Canadians would not benefit from this proposed change.” These high-income taxpayers would simply receive the existing BPA, which will continue to be adjusted annually for inflation.

According to the government, the increased BPA translates to lower taxes for close to 20 million Canadians and once fully implemented in 2023, would save individuals nearly $300 in additional taxes beyond the inflation-adjustments annually. It would also relieve an additional 1.1 million Canadians from paying any federal tax. The cost of the increase to the BPA is projected to be $25.2 billion over the next five years.


CPP contribution rates for employees and employers will each increase to 5.25 per cent in 2020, up from 5.1 per cent in 2019. If you’re self-employed, you pay both the employer and employee portions, for a total of 10.5 per cent. The maximum pensionable earnings for 2020 is set at $58,700. The ceiling is calculated according to a legislated formula that takes into account the growth in average weekly wages and salaries in Canada. Quebec employees and employers contribute to the QPP at a slightly higher rate — 5.70 per cent in 2020 (up slightly from 5.55 per cent in 2019).

As a result, the new maximum employer or employee contribution to the plan for 2020 is up slightly to $2,898 ($3,146 in Quebec) and the maximum self-employed contribution is double that, or $5,796 ($6,293 in Quebec).


Employees must also pay employment insurance premiums, with employers paying 1.4 times the amount of the employee’s premiums. For 2020, the EI rate is dropping to 1.58 per cent (from 1.62 per cent) of insurable earnings, up to a 2020 earnings maximum of $54,200. This translates to a maximum employee premium for 2020 of $856.36. For Quebec employees, the maximum employee premium for 2020 is $650.40. EI premium rates are different for residents of Quebec because Quebec administers its own parental insurance plan, which is financed by Quebec workers and their employers.

Source:  Financial Post

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Take care of these tasks to avoid major home hassles, inefficiencies or unsightliness down the road

When you buy your first house, you have a lot going on with moving in, perhaps buying some furniture, hosting your first party at the house and getting used to those mortgage payments. With all that excitement, it’s easy to overlook routine home maintenance, especially when you’ve never had to tackle these tasks before.

To keep things from getting overwhelming, we’ve created this home maintenance guide for first-time owners. And don’t worry — most of these tasks take just a few minutes or a quick call to a trusted pro. Take a deep breath and dive into the 11 home maintenance to-dos you’ll need to handle in the first year of buying a home.

Check Your Furnace and HVAC Filters

Why: Who knows what dust and grime the previous owners or construction crews have left behind? Clogged filters make heating and cooling systems run less efficiently, which wastes energy and costs you money. They can also trap harmful pollutants and allergens that you don’t want lurking around your home.

How: Checking furnace and HVAC filters is easy. Just turn off your system, pull out your filters and inspect them for dirt and grime. If they’re dark and dirty-looking, get suitable replacements—your local hardware store likely has them. Just remove the old filter (with the system turned off, of course), slide the new one in and turn everything back on.

When: Right after you move in and every year at the same time afterward.

Recaulk Your Windows

Why: Justin Grebasch of G and S Installation USA points out that 80 percent of winter heat loss occurs due to cracks in a home. Sealing the spaces around windows with caulk goes a long way toward solving this problem.

How: Caulking processes and products will vary depending on the type of windows and siding you have. Start by asking a salesperson what kind of caulk you need for your particular finishes, then pare things down from there.

If you choose the right caulk the first time, you won’t have to recaulk the following season. Specifically, look at the joint movement capability listed on the product to ensure a lasting seal without cracking or peeling. “In my opinion quality caulk will have a movement capability between 25 and 50 percent,” Grebasch says. “At G and S Installation USA, we always use Dow Corning 795 due to its 50 percent movement capability, extensive range of adhesion applications and 20-year weather-seal warranty.”

When applying the caulk, make sure all surfaces are clean and dry, and pay attention to the temperature specifications in the product information. Since temperatures change most in the morning, it’s smart to start your project after they have leveled out.

When: As needed. Inspect the caulking around your windows at the end of every summer so you can touch up any damaged caulking while the weather is still dry.

Check Your Crawl Space for Water

Why: To avoid mold and water damage to the bones of your house.

How: It’s as simple as grabbing a flashlight, crawling in there and taking a close, careful look. Pay attention to corners, edges and changes in color, and use your fingers to test for dampness if you aren’t sure. If you find any water, call a home inspector immediately to figure out where it’s coming from.

When: Every fall before it rains. The key is to fix existing water damage before any more water gets in.

Check Wood Decks for Moisture

Why: Wood decks — including redwood and pressure-treated woods — need to be sealed and stained to prevent water damage and rot.

How: A quick splash test will tell you if the last seal is still working. If you fill a glass of water and spill it on your deck, you should see tiny beads of moisture form on the surface — a sign that the sealant is still repelling the water. If that doesn’t happen, then it’s time to reseal your deck.

When: You should do a splash test at the beginning of every summer and expect to reseal your deck every two or three years.

Check and Touch Up Exterior Paint

Why: Besides contributing to curb appeal, paint and stain serve as important protectants, preventing your gutters from rusting and wood siding from rotting.

How: Walk around your home — and get up on a ladder if needed — and look for chipping, peeling, blistering or cracking on every part, including the trim.

Touching things up could just mean sanding, scraping, patching, priming and repainting small areas. But if you see widespread areas of damage, it might be wise to repaint the whole thing.

When: Every summer.

Service and Clean the Furnace

Why: When your furnace isn’t running properly, it will suck energy and can even emit harmful carbon monoxide.

How: Call a pro. If you don’t have one you trust, call the manufacturer or installer and ask for a recommendation. Just be sure to use a licensed heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialist.

When: Having your furnace inspected every fall will prolong the life of your appliance.

Have Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Chimneys Inspected and Cleaned

Why: Creosote, a flammable byproduct of wood burning, can build up in fireplaces and chimneys. This creates a fire hazard and elevates the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

How: This is not a DIY project. Call a trained chimney sweep. They’ll use specialized equipment — and even get up on your roof, à la Mary Poppins — to ensure another season of safe wood burning. You can find a chimney sweep through the Chimney Safety Institute of America or the National Chimney Sweep Guild.

When: Every fall before fire-burning season.

Check the Bathtub Caulk and Toilet Seal

Why: Intact caulk and seals prevent water from leeching into the rest of your bathroom, causing mold and other damage.

How: Inspect the caulk that seals the tub to the floor, as well as the caulk around the edge of the tub, and the points where tub facets come out of the wall or tub surround. If the caulk is cracked or peeling, replace it with polyurethane bathroom caulk.

When checking your toilet seal, look for condensation or discoloration of the flooring around the seam where the toilet meets the floor. If you see either, call a plumber to help determine the source of the leak.

When: Annually. Set up a recurring calendar reminder on your phone, computer or tablet to make sure you don’t forget.

Clean Your Gutters and Roof Valleys

Why: Mucked-up gutters and roof valleys can caused water to back up and potentially enter your home via the foundation, roof or crawl space … or even freeze inside your gutters and wreck them altogether.

How: Grab a sturdy ladder and take a peek. Use gloved hands or even a trowel to remove debris from gutters before flushing them with a garden hose to make sure there aren’t any hidden clogs.

Remove debris on the roof by hand and check out the flashing while you’re up there to make sure it’s free of rust and holes.

When: Every fall or even twice annually if you live in a wooded area.

Seal Cracks in Asphalt Paving

Why: Patching cracks will extend the life of your driveway by preventing water from seeping underneath, creating potholes.

How: Grab a patching gun and some asphalt patching caulk, and let ’er rip! Then use a putty knife to smooth the top.

When: Check your driveway for cracks every summer and plan to completely reseal it every five years (another simple process involving a bucket of sealant and a big ol’ brush).

Give Your Garbage Disposal Some TLC

Why: Waste particles collecting on your blades and inside the drain can get stinky or even clog your disposal.

How: Pour a cup of vinegar into an ice cube tray and freeze it, then throw all the vinegar cubes into the disposal and turn it on. The cubes scrub the blades and drain, while the vinegar dissolves the scum.

When: Two or three times a year.



Christine Tusher

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November brings fewer listings, more sales to housing market Saskatoon — The Saskatoon housing market continued its 2019 trend toward balance last month, as REALTORS® listed fewer but sold more homes than in the previous November, reported the Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® (SRAR) Wednesday. City listings fell 16 per cent to 451 from 534, as sales jumped 20 per cent to 243 from 203. Although the average price was down three per cent, to $333,295 from $343,361, dollar volume rose 16 per cent to $81 million, up from $69.7 million.

Including the surrounding region, new listings were down 12 per cent to 694 from 791, while sales rose eight per cent to 317 from 294 for a dollar volume of $102.3 million, up one per cent from $101.7 million. In the region alone, including communities such as Warman, Martensville and Dalmeny, new listings fell 11 per cent to 159 from 179, and sales were down nine per cent to 58 from 64. However, the average sales price rose four per cent to $314,650, up from $301,490, for a dollar volume drop of five per cent to $18.2 million. “It’s encouraging to see strength in sales and a slight decline in listings coming to the market, to keep it balanced,” said Jason Yochim, CEO of the Saskatchewan REALTORS® Association (SRA.)All Saskatchewan REALTORS® associations will amalgamate under the SRA banner in January, 2020.

Year-to-date numbers reflect similar trends. So far this year, and with only one month to go, Saskatoon agents have listed 7,443 homes to the MLS®, down three per cent from 2018’s 7,646, and sold 3,401, up seven per cent from 3,167. Sales are also up from 2017’s 3,286. The average sales price of $331,457 is statistically the same as last year’s, bringing the dollar volume up seven per cent to $1.1 billion, up from just over $1 billion. In the region, 900 homes have sold so far in 2019, down five per cent from last year’s 943, and listings have fallen three per cent to 2,789 from 2,874. Dollar volume is down eight per cent to $265.5 million from $289.8 million. The average price dropped four per cent to $295,141 from $307,352. At the end of the month, Saskatoon had 1,534 homes on the market, down 11 per cent from 1,716 at the same time last year, while the region had 947 homes, down eight per cent from 1,032. “It’s healthy for the market to see the number of active listings continue to shrink slightly,” said Yochim. “Two years ago, we were tipping over 2,100 at the high-water mark, so 1,500 is certainly good.”

Source: Media Release: December 2019 Jason Yochim, Chief Executive Officer, Saskatchewan REALTORS® Association

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Canadian winters are unpredictable, but most of us still have plenty of time until we really start to get hammered with sleet and ice.

As I write this, Toronto is getting its first snowfall of the year – and when I drove to the job site this morning, I was reminded how it seems like everyone forgets how to drive the first time the roads are slick with snow for the season. As we relearn to navigate winter roads, and make the mental note to switch over to our winter tires – are we also making our checklist to get our homes winter-ready?

Canadian winters are unpredictable, but most of us still have plenty of time until we really start to get hammered with sleet and ice. Here are a few things you might still need to take care of.

Winterize your pipes

Whenever cold air meets your pipes – there’s potential for freezing. A frozen pipe can lead to a flood, so it’s your job as a homeowner to mitigate that risk. Drain all your exterior lines, wrap pipes in insulating material, and fill any cracks or gaps around outdoor pipes with a low expansion foam and a weather-resistant caulking to keep the cool air out.

If you’re planning to travel this winter, it makes sense to turn the thermostat down to save on energy costs, but don’t turn it down too much. Keep it set to about 16 degrees Celsius so you aren’t surprised by frozen pipes on your return.

Good ventilation

Unless you’re a major winter nut, this time of year, you’re likely going to be spending much more time cooped up indoors. This is the time of year when our HVAC systems get a good workout – so it’s important to make sure they’re running efficiently.

During the winter, I usually change my air filter once a month. It’s a common misconception that the air filter is meant to create a better air quality in the home. And while it will help remove contaminants from getting circulated through the home, it’s true purpose is to protect the blower fan from dust and debris pulled into the return ducts. Cleaning the filters helps keep your system running smoothly and efficiently. Don’t skip this job.

Are your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans working well? While you can open a window to help pull out the excess moisture we create when bathing and cooking – who wants to leave a window wide open in the middle of February? Turn the fans on and hold a tissue up to them. If they’re able to hold the tissue in place, they’re doing their job. If it can’t even do that? Call your HVAC specialist, or get used to leaving the windows open this winter.

While you’re checking your vents and exhausts, give your dryer vents a good check. If lint accumulates it can become a serious fire hazard!

Schedule a fireplace check

For those of you who love a toasty fire on those long winter nights, fireplace and chimney inspections should be part of your regular maintenance schedules. Whether you’ve got a wood burning, gas, or even an electric fireplace, you’ll have to do some basic maintenance and service.

Don’t leave a fireplace unattended – and make sure you’re testing your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms every month. You should have an alarm on every floor of the house – plus outside sleeping areas. This is something you don’t want to take the risk on, believe me.

Expect the unexpected

Snowstorms can strike out of nowhere. Make sure you’ve got a good shovel, and plenty of deicing agent on hand for your driveways and walkways. Look at your home’s emergency kit (you do have one, right?) – and make sure it’s got everything you need. At minimum, you’ll need: flashlights, batteries, canned goods, water, and a fully stocked first aid kit – including necessary medication. If anything expired over the last year, replace it quickly.

There’s still plenty of time to get your home ready before winter truly sets in. Take advantage of the last few weekends before the snow hits to make sure your home is ready to weather any winter storm. And hopefully everyone will remember how to drive by the time we get our second snowfall.

Source: Mike Holmes, National Post

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It's hard to dispute how relaxing it is to curl up under a cozy blanket while cradling a hot beverage in front of a crackling fire on a cold evening. Fireplaces in Canadian lifestyle have undergone a shift in purpose over the years from staple heat source to optional design feature. If you're thinking of installing one or updating or converting an older fireplace, there's a lot to consider. Let's explore the different types of fireplaces and the features, benefits and risks involved.

Wood-burning fireplaces

There's nothing like the snap and crackle of a real wood fire—its welcoming rustic scent wafting through your home. While a traditional wood-burning fireplace has numerous parts, there are essentially three main components: fire box, flue and chimney. The firebox is where you place the firewood, the flue is what controls air flow and the chimney is how the smoke exits the home.


  • Visually appealing.
  • Can be used to cook in emergencies.
  • Requires no utility hook-ups.
  • Uses a renewable resource.
  • Fuel is often easy to find and can be reasonably-priced.


  • Expensive to install.
  • Most heat escapes up the chimney.
  • Backdrafts can cause smoke incursion in the home.
  • Chimney must be cleaned and inspected by a professional annually.
  • Ash and wood can cause messy debris.
  • Extra insurance is required.
  • Often require additional protective doors or screens to help contain embers.

Performance: Most wood-burning fireplaces are intended for aesthetic appeal and supplementary heat rather than being a whole-home solution. Be mindful that using a fireplace in the same room as your thermostat may prevent your furnace from running, causing other rooms in the home to cool down. You may need to adjust the thermostat up a few degrees when you have a fire or use a thermostat with multiple sensors in your home to offset this.

Wood and pellet stoves

Wood and pellet stoves are a great way to help keep your home warm during the winter, while also acting as a focal point for the room. Although wood stoves are also wood-burning, they should be considered separately from fireplaces because their function is more utilitarian. Pellet stoves burn small, compressed wood pellets via a hopper. The pellets typically burn hotter and cleaner than wood and some stoves include heat distribution kits which have the potential for whole-home coverage. Keep in mind, pellet stoves require electricity so, if the power goes out, they can't be used as a source of heat like a wood stove can.

Installation for both options can carry a heavy price tag, but one can't argue against their obvious appeal, especially when living in colder climes. 


  • Powerful heat source through conductive and radiant heat.
  • Can help reduce utility costs during winter.
  • Once lit, less air is needed to maintain combustion.
  • Provides a heat source for warmth and cooking in the event of a power outage.


  • Temperature regulation is difficult.
  • High surface temperatures can pose a burn risk, especially with children.
  • The chimney must be cleaned and inspected by a professional annually.
  • They eat up space because they must be a safe distance from adjacent walls and furniture.
  • Extra home insurance is required.
  • Expensive to purchase and install.

Performance: Because you can control the airflow to slow the burn, they can produce heat for five to six hours before they need to be stoked. Be careful not to add too much wood because it is easy to overheat your space with a wood stove.

Gas fireplaces

With the widespread use of natural gas for water and home heating, gas fireplaces have become common fixtures in many homes. There are many great-looking options that mimic the realistic look of a wood-burning fireplace. What they lack in realism, they make up for in convenience and they can be less costly to install and maintain than wood-burning alternatives.


  • Easy to operate.
  • Adjustable flame feature.
  • Cleaner-burning.
  • Low-cost operation.
  • A chimney isn't needed (although proper venting is).
  • Electronic ignition makes them easy to light.
  • Can be inserted into an existing fireplace.


  • Does not look fully realistic.
  • Most require both gas and electrical connections.
  • Produces carbon monoxide (always have a working CO detector in the same room).
  • Requires annual maintenance and inspection.

Performance: Much like the wood-burning fireplace, the gas fireplace is perfectly suitable for heating a single room and, in fact, can be more efficient at doing so than its woody counterpart. This is because many gas fireplaces have fans which push heated air into the room, which is regulated with a built-in thermostat. 

Electric fireplaces

Electric fireplaces have taken a long-time fixture and turned it into an appliance. Electric fireplaces can be placed in just about any room of your home, especially if it is a standalone unit, which doesn't require installation. What they lack in uniqueness, they make up for in function. They still give that impression of a real fire, while some also perform double duty as a heater with built-in elements and fans.


  • Easy to operate.
  • Most affordable.
  • Can be installed and used in any room.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • Cleanest and safest to operate.
  • Can be used even during the summer because heat is optional.


  • If used frequently for heat, they could increase hydro bills substantially.
  • Flames are not real and does not look like a real fireplace.
  • Shorter lifespan—need to be replaced more frequently.

Performance: Their performance is similar to that of gas fireplaces because they are only suitable to heat one room. Portable units are more convenient than wood-burning or gas fireplaces because they can be moved to and used in any room in your home. 

Whether you prefer the realistic quality of a wood-burning fireplace, the heating benefits offered by a wood stove or the convenience of gas or electric fireplaces—there is something for every taste. Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves will certainly appeal for those seeking a more rustic look, while the modern feel of gas and electric is perfect for the contemporary-minded. Or, if you would just like to create that cozy ambiance without a fireplace at all, installing a mantel and hearth with a few well-placed candles is a fantastic low-cost solution. Whatever you decide for your home, it's always recommended to consult a professional to make sure you decide on the right solution for your needs and space.  

Source: Gord Brown,

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One in four buyers say they had to cut back on expenses, rely more on savings and buy a smaller home

The mortgage stress test, extended to uninsured mortgages in January 2018, has generated a diversity of opinions. Its proponents argue that the stress test has introduced financial discipline while not hurting prospective homebuyers. The discontents believe that the stress test has eroded the affordability of first-time homebuyers, some of whom have been forced to rent for more extended periods.

The recently released CMHC mortgage consumer survey helps unpack the arguments on the impact of the stress test. The CMHC surveyed 1,385 homebuyers across Canada who had undertaken a mortgage transaction in the past 18 months. This implies that some respondents reported on their mortgage-related experience from 2018.

An exciting feature of the survey is the distinction between first-time homebuyers, who constituted 47 per cent of the sample, and the repeat buyers representing the other 53 per cent.

The majority of the first-time homebuyers were 25 to 34 years old, compared to just 17 per cent of the repeat buyers. Also, singles accounted for almost one in four first-time homebuyers compared to one in 10 repeat buyers. Interestingly, 61 per cent of the respondents were female, suggesting an increase in home purchasing by women.

The homebuyers’ top concerns in 2019 were housing affordability, housing size and proximity to public transit. These concerns coincided with housing prices declining across Canada in 2018 as prices remained lower than the peak prices reached in either 2016 or 2017.

Many industry observers credited the stress test for the decline in prices and the erosion of housing affordability because homebuyers had to qualify at a mortgage rate approximately two percentage points higher than the contracted rate. The 2019 survey, though, presents a positive impression of the stress test among homebuyers.

The survey reported that 65 per cent of the buyers believed the stress test would “keep more Canadians from taking on a mortgage they can’t afford.” However, one in five homebuyers acquired a dwelling that did not meet their needs.

An interesting picture emerges when one compares the share of first-time homebuyers respondents in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 survey, completed in April 2018, interviewed 4,000 respondents who had undertaken a mortgage transaction in the past 12 months. This implies that most respondents in the 2018 survey would have reported on their homebuying experience before the stress test’s reach was broadened in January 2018.

Most homebuyers (56 per cent) in the 2018 survey were first-time homebuyers, but their share fell to 47 per cent in the 2019 survey. Could it be that a decline of 16 per cent in the share of first-time homebuyers in the 2019 survey was partially due to the stress-test-induced erosion of housing affordability?

Other statistics reported in the survey are indicative of the higher affordability burdens even when housing prices had declined from the peak observed earlier.

Consider that 22 per cent of first-time homebuyers reported renting for more than ten years in the 2018 survey. Their share jumped to 31 per cent in 2019. Hence, a much larger share of first-time homebuyers, who had purchased homes in 2018-19, reported renting for more than ten years to save for a house.

Another indicator of a shift in the demographics is the share of first-time homebuyers who had rented with family and friends before buying. Interestingly, the family- and friends-assisted cohort of first-time homebuyers jumped from 28 per cent in 2018 to 44 per cent in 2019. Similarly, those first-time homebuyers who rented on their own before buying a house declined from 39 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent in 2019.

At the same time, no fewer than 76 per cent of the respondents reported that the changes related to the stress test “had little or no impact on their decision to buy a home.” However, of the remaining 24 per cent (one in four homebuyers) affected by the stress test, some compromises were needed on the path to homeownership. Most  cut back on other expenses (60 per cent), relied more on their savings (59 per cent) or bought a smaller home (52 per cent).

Whereas 47 per cent of homebuyers affected by the stress test purchased a smaller or less expensive home in 2018, a much larger share of 61 per cent reported the same in 2019.

The increase in household debt burdens, primarily because of mortgage-related debt, is also reflected in the survey. Compared to 2018, when 19 per cent of buyers reported their debt being higher than expected, the share increased to 23 per cent in 2019. Of those struggling with making regular mortgage payments, 73 per cent cited the credit card debt as the reason.

The comparative stats further revealed that buyers with less than 20 per cent of the down payment increased in 2019 compared to 2018. Furthermore, the 2019 survey found a slight increase in the share of those “who didn’t have enough saved for a larger down payment.”

CMHC’s 2019 survey of homebuying offers valuable insights on how homebuying has changed over the past few years. Though the survey periods do not permit a strict before-and-after comparison of homebuying concerning the stress test, still the indicators reported suggest that in 2019, FTHB accounted for fewer homebuyers, comprised of a larger share of those who rented for more extended periods, and their savings increasingly fell short to qualify for a mortgage.

Source: Financial Post

Murtaza Haider is a professor of Real Estate Management at Ryerson University. Stephen Moranis is a real estate industry veteran. They can be reached at

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Wilkins uses different words to restate that the Bank of Canada isn't touching rates anytime soon

Kevin Carmichael: The central bank remains extremely reluctant to do anything that would cause Canadians to add to an already menacing pile of debt

Carolyn Wilkins, the No. 2 at the Bank of Canada, got a taste of the kind of power that comes with being the No. 1.

Wilkins, who is on everyone’s shortlist of potential replacements for the current governor, Stephen Poloz, spoke in Montreal on Nov. 19. She used different words to restate the position that the Bank of Canada laid out a couple of weeks ago in a new policy statementan updated economic outlookan overview of the deliberations that led to the decision to leave the benchmark rate unchanged, and a press conference.

The Canadian dollar fell.

“While the speech by Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins was enough to unsettle the loonie, which lost about 0.3 per cent after it (was) released, it in no way signalled that Canada’s central bank is actively considering lower interest rates in the near future,” Don Curren, a market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments, advised the firm’s clients in an email.

Wilkins did unveil a dandy new metaphor to help us get our heads around how the central bank is setting up for the short term, which some forecasters think will bring the first global downturn in a decade.

“The Bank of Canada and other authorities must assess the risks and have the right safeguards in place,” Wilkins said. “Ideally, you want to put the winter tires on before the snow falls. It not only protects you, but also everyone else who’s on the road.”

Wilkins acknowledged the possibility of a slowdown, telling her audience that even if the trade wars stop getting worse, they still could result in US$1 trillion of lost global economic output by 2021. But for now, the central bank remains extremely reluctant to do anything that would cause companies and households to add to an already menacing pile of private debt.

Lower interest rates might offset some of the anxiety over trade heading into next year, but only at the expense of sowing the seeds of a new financial crisis down the road. Poloz’s Bank of Canada approaches policy as an exercise in risk management, and at the moment, policy makers think an interest-rate cut would ultimately do more harm than good.

“With vulnerabilities high and inflation close to target for more than a year, we said at our most recent interest-rate decision that taking out insurance wasn’t worth the cost at that time,” Wilkins said. “We also said that in considering the appropriate path for policy, we’d watch how the trade situation and household vulnerabilities evolve as well as fiscal policy developments.”

Currency traders who keep losing money by basing their bets on verbiage would do better by following developments related to those key points: household debt, inflation, trade and government spending.

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada reported that factory sales dropped 0.2 per cent in September, which caused the Bank of Nova Scotia to cut its real-time forecast for third-quarter economic growth to 1.2 per cent. (The Bank of Canada estimates the economy can grow a little less than two per cent a year without dangerously stoking inflation.)

Meanwhile, prices remain anchored. StatCan said Nov. 20 that the Consumer Price Index rose 1.9 per cent in October from a year earlier, while three separate measures that remove volatile prices from the mix posted readings of 2.1 per cent, 2.2 per cent, and 1.9 per cent.

The latest numbers, “should keep the (Bank of Canada) hesitant to add further monetary policy accommodation unless easing is warranted by a more substantial worsening in the growth and inflation outlook,” Veronica Clark, an economist at Citibank, said in a note.

An unexpected surge in immigration, coupled with record-low levels of unemployment, has offset weakness in trade and investment to date. But can it last? As Wilkins noted in Montreal, households’ debt-service costs are at historic highs. A greater amount of disposable income is being used to pay off debt rather than generate demand. The economy’s main engine is maxed out.

“The economy is challenging,” Kevin Macnab, chief executive of St. Jacobs, Ont.-based Home Hardware Stores Ltd., told the Financial Post’s Jake Edmiston in an interview on Nov. 20. “This year we’ve been pleased with our growth that we’re seeing. But it definitely is a challenging environment.”

The news that Lowe’s Companies Inc. plans to close three dozen “underperforming” stores in Canada raised questions about what’s happening on the ground in Canada, below the surface of those impressive headline hiring numbers.

When Lowe’s bought Quebec-based Rona Inc. in 2016, Canada was still feeling the effects of the post-crisis housing boom.

On a year-over-year basis, sales of building materials, garden equipment, and related supplies averaged monthly growth of 5.6 per cent between January 2016 and December 2018, according to data compiled by Statistics Canada. Growth has stagnated this year, albeit at a high level. Sales in that segment of StatCan’s monthly report on retail trade were $2.9 billion in August, close to the peak in data that date to 2012.

“The economic indicators we are monitoring and the results we achieved in 2019 suggest that the construction and renovation market is doing well,” said Stéphanie Couturier, spokeswoman for Boucherville, Quebec-based hardware chain BMR Group, which added three stores in Ontario this year. “The economic outlook and the recent acquisitions BMR Group made put us in a growth mode and not in a rationalization mode.”

Fiscal policy probably will be the deciding factor for the Bank of Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-upped Bill Morneau as finance minister on Nov. 20, and Bloomberg News reported that the new government intends to table legislation on the middle-class tax cut the Liberals promised in the election campaign.

If they do, expect the Bank of Canada to remain on hold for the foreseeable future.

Source: Financial Post

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Finding the perfect “forever” home can take, well, forever. Not only will it likely involve several moves, but you'll have an ever-evolving vision of what “perfect” means to you as you change and grow.

Your ideal home today can quickly become a far-from-ideal situation when life throws you a curveball. Changing jobs, getting a new puppy, bringing home a baby or a having your mother-in-law move in are just a few life-altering events that can change the way you experience your home.

Just like our friends, interests and career paths, several homes will define us over the course of our lifetimes. A first home purchase will most likely be bound by finances and practicality, while houses that follow might be “right” because of their location, proximity to a reputable school, resale value or income potential from a rental suite.

Finding a home that brings you lifelong happiness is a formula that can seem elusive unless you do your homework (and don't change your answers). It's an investment, just like a university degree or a successful marriage.

My partner and I looked at 88 homes in one exhausting year from Tobermory to Perth, trying to determine our magic formula for a house that would provide lifelong happiness. Admittedly, we wavered a few times, but we refused to let go of our waterfront dream.

In the end, we upsized to 3,000-square-feet (despite having thoughts of joining the Tiny House Nation) and I unexpectedly wrote a book about it. Free to a Good Home: With Room For Improvement was cathartic to write and proved finding “home” is a universal theme. Sometimes “home” is a place. Sometimes it's a person. Sometimes, it's a thing of bricks and mortar. Hopefully, it's a beautiful combo of all three—a winning combination for lifelong happiness.

Whether you're upsizing or downsizing, ask yourself these three vital questions and decide what is paramount. That expression, “wherever you go, there you are,” is true. So, make sure you go to the right place!

What is the one thing you can't live without?

Maybe it's a western-facing home with front-row sunsets (it was for us!). Maybe you love entertaining and require space that can accommodate your extendable harvest table and extended family. Kitchens can always be renovated. Decks can be built. But, you can't buy quiet and if that's what you crave, don't crumble with house hunting fatigue. Whether your most important space is the backyard or a walk-in pantry, make sure you don't compromise on your primary goal. A lack of privacy and a too-small footprint are difficult to alter.

In your current home, what brings you the most happiness?

Often, this element doesn't change. You can simply love how bright a room is or the convenience of a mudroom. Maybe it's the ample storage space of an attic. Naturally, you can duplicate a paint colour or hardwood flooring in a new home, but, if your workshop is reduced to a crawl space or the house doesn't have a garage, this can be both costly to build and a rude awakening with the first snowfall.

Can you test-run the experience you think you want?

It's easy to be swept away by thoughts of pastoral life in a century-old farmhouse, complete with pygmy goats and a rhubarb patch. Or maybe you dream of a no-obligation condo that frees you from grass-cutting or snow shovelling for good. Before making the commitment, why not spend a few weeks in that scenario? Rent a farmhouse or condo as part of your next vacation or swap houses with friends who own a rural property or downtown pad to truly experience what it's like.

Luckily, happiness can be found everywhere—and sometimes where you least expect it. What are you waiting for? Work with a REALTOR® to find your dream home today.

Source: Jules Torti

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