If you live in an older home—or even some modern builds—there’s a good chance popcorn ceilings are commanding the overhead views. If you’re getting tired of this feature and plan to remove it, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s find out what you need to know about removing popcorn ceilings from your home.

Image via Denis Agati, Unsplash

What is a popcorn ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings—also known as stucco, stipple or Artex—are marked by their bumpy texture, though they can be characterized by swirling designs, or peaks that look like the top of a meringue pie. The plaster-based material was originally called Artex, after the UK-based company that developed the textured finishing technique as a way to hide imperfections and seams in ceilings. The application also provided a minor sound-dampening effect.

Image via StockSnap, Pixabay

From 1945 until the 1980s, popcorn ceilings were a popular feature in the construction of most North American homes. Popularity peaked in the 1970s with a varying range of designs and textures gracing ceilings across the continent.

Asbestos fibers were originally incorporated into the plaster for added strength, while also acting as a fire retardant. Due to the severe health effects of air-born asbestos and the associated risks involved with building or renovating when it is present, it was eventually removed from production in the 1980s.

Testing for asbestos

Before attempting any kind of removal, make sure the material used for your popcorn ceiling is asbestos-free, especially if your home was built before 1986. While DIY asbestos test kits are available, they can sometimes be inaccurate. Although hiring a professional may cost more, it’s worth the extra peace of mind when this carcinogenic material is involved.

In the event asbestos is present, you’ll need to make a judgment call on moving forward with smoothing out your ceilings. It’s recommended to use an asbestos abatement professional to execute a safe removal. This may not be the ideal outcome for die-hard DIYers, but your household’s long-term health and safety–not to mention you and your family’s health and safety–always comes first.

Tools and supplies

You’ll want to pick up a few things at your local hardware store and be prepared for a messy undertaking. Here’s what you need:

  • dust mask or respirator;
  • safety goggles;
  • plastic sheeting (to cover furniture, floors, and walls);
  • painter’s masking tape;
  • popcorn ceiling scraper or floor scraper;
  • a wide, flexible putty/plaster knife;
  • spray bottle (a pump pressure sprayer is ideal);
  • garbage bags;
  • mud pan (to catch the wet plaster);
  • drywall sander;
  • drywall tape; and
  • a joint compound.

1. Test a small area first

Once you’re ready to dive into smoothing out your popcorn ceilings, start by testing out a small section. Mist a small inconspicuous area with water, allow the moisture to absorb for about 15 minutes, then use a flexible putty knife at a low angle to scrape the texture free. 

Pro tip: closets make the perfect test subjects as they will often have the same ceiling texture as the room they are in.

If the stipple comes off easily, then you’re looking at smooth sailing with this project. However, if you encounter a lot of resistance, or the water does not soak into the texture at all, this means it’s either been painted over or paint was mixed in with the material when it was applied—a serious wrench-in-gears situation.

What if there’s paint or asbestos?

If paint was mixed into the popcorn ceiling texture, if it’s been painted over, or if there’s asbestos present, it may just be simpler to cover over the ceiling with fresh drywall panels. This achieves your goal without disturbing any asbestos, dealing with the high costs of abatement, or heavily involved removal in the event of paint.

2. Cover everything

To save yourself a clean-up nightmare, remove large furniture pieces and cover the floor with plastic sheeting. Use painter’s tape and sheeting to line the walls, then cover all electrical outlets and light fixtures (remove any lights or chandeliers first).

Safety tip: Because you’re spraying water near electrical outlets and fixtures, it’s recommended to turn off the breakers for the room.

3. Spray, wait, scrape, repeat

Working in sections, use your spray bottle to moisten the stipple. As with your earlier test, wait 15 minutes and then use your scraper to remove the texture while holding the mud pan underneath to catch it. Repeat the process and as you near the edges and corners, switch to the smaller putty knife to avoid damaging your walls.

Pro tip: If you use a popcorn ceiling scraper, you can attach a bag to it to catch the material, negating the need for a mud pan.

Image via Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

4. Sanding

Some rough patches or gouges are inevitable, and you can repair these easily with a drywall sander. If you wish to avoid excessive dust, aim for a sander that attaches to a vacuum or has a built-in vacuum assembly. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask or respirator!

Image via La Miko, Pexels

5. Touch-ups

If the underlying drywall tape gets damaged or if the seams become visible in the drywall, apply fresh drywall tape to affected areas and apply joint compound with your putty knife. If necessary, sand the areas smooth again.

Image via StuBaileyPhoto, Pixabay

At this point you’re ready to paint, clean up, replace the furniture and fixtures, and enjoy the smooth fruits of your labour. If you don’t mind getting a little dirty and incorporating some elbow grease into your efforts, this is a great project to handle on your own. Just don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals if needed, because safety always comes first.

Reposted from Realtor.ca

Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/how-to-remove-popcorn-ceilings/23832/1363

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It’s happening! The seasonal section at most stores is swimming in holiday décor, and your holiday plans are probably coming together nicely. Over the past 20 months, we’ve all had to get pretty creative at celebrating with loved ones far and near while still staying safe and respectful of everyone’s comfort. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can connect with each other in all sorts of ways, and maybe even open our eyes to new traditions we’d like to maintain in the years to come. 

For some of us it’s been a long while since we’ve been able to enjoy the bustling holiday celebrations we remember. However, the eagerness we’re feeling to get back to our traditions might be matched with a level of anxiety about doing so safely. Remember, if you’re going to be gathering, follow all public health guidelines to ensure you’re doing as much as you can to keep everyone safe. 

Here’s some inspiration on how to gather for this year’s holiday season, with tips on keeping all your merrymaking safe, sound, and fun!

Enjoy the fresh air 

Especially if you’re in areas that don’t see extreme cold during the winter months, an outdoor gathering could be the perfect choice for your holiday celebrations this year. Let your guests know to dress warmly, then set up some heaters or a firepit (be sure to check with bylaw to know what’s allowed in your area). With a few blankets, some chairs, a slow cooker of warm drinks, and some great food, you can create a winter wonderland in your backyard where people can feel more comfortable about gathering again. Consider renting a tent where the food and drinks can sit covered, or even use your garage. You can also find fun winter games for all ages to keep people moving—and warm!

Throw a mixed-attendance mixer 

For events with both virtual and in-real-life guests, your goal should be to make sure everyone feels heard and seen, especially the people joining from afar. Lots of fun and user-friendly online games have gained popularity in the last couple of years and can make a great addition to your party. Bear in mind when setting up for a game to keep the game’s audio and the sound coming from your guests separate, so nobody’s fighting to be heard. If possible, have more than one camera set up so virtual guests can still see people’s faces up close. You can also set up your own game, like family-specific trivia for example, as a fun way for everyone to contribute and feel a part of the celebration.

Do some good in the neighbourhood 

Let your neighbours know you and your party will be coming around to collect non-perishables or warm clothing for charity. Then, gather your party, bundle up, and grab something to carry your goods. If you want to sing carols, great! If none of your party can carry a tune, maybe your neighbours will give generously to get you to stop singing. Either way, it’s a feel-good way to celebrate outdoors. Plus, you come out of it with donations to give to those in need. Win-win!

Bring in an expert, virtually

It may feel a little counterintuitive, but having a little structure to your virtual social event can help it flow, avoid awkward pauses, or accidental interrupting. Having your family prepare funny slideshows to catch each other up on their lives is a surprisingly fun option, with a little creativity on the topics (e.g. “top 10 jokes Dad told this year” or “My kids’ year in homeschool outfits”). Another great option is to enlist the help of a local baker, chef, mixologist, or other type of maker to lead you and your guests through a virtual class. Besides being a cool way to feel connected in doing something hands-on, this is also an opportunity to support a local business around the holidays!

Stagger attendance

If you’re looking to host a lot of people, like with a festive open house, you may not be able to accommodate everyone all at once. However, you can stagger your invitations so there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out without too much overlap. Set up chunks of time for people to stop in, and be sure you set aside food for each time frame! You might also find people are more willing to stop in for a bit rather than committing to a full event. 

Wherever and however you choose to celebrate this holiday, there’s no shortage of options to keep everyone feeling connected. With a little creativity, the parameters we have to contend with can be an opportunity to explore traditions you’ll grow to cherish. Happy holidaying!

Source: Realtor.ca/blog

For a direct link to the original article: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/holiday-entertaining-tips-and-trends/23370/1367

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Buying a flipped home—a property that’s been purchased, renovated, and re-sold by an investor—is all the rage these days, and for good reason! It’s an enticing idea, especially since you get to move into an already-updated home without having to handle the renovations yourself.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank of Canada saw evidence of “a lot more flipping” driving investor activity in some Canadian housing markets, as housing prices across the country rose 25% in February over the previous year.

It’s easy to jump headfirst into a flipped home because everything seems shiny and new. But it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to avoid a potential headache down the road. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking to purchase a flipped home.

1. What’s your budget?

Remember: Investors flip houses to make money. The average investor can make thousands in net profit on a property flip—that’s why they undertake the risk, effort, and financial investment to renovate a house they don’t intend to live in. As a result, you’ll probably end up paying a higher price as a sort of “convenience fee” for someone else taking care of all the renovations. You’re the one benefitting from buying a freshly renovated, move-in ready home, so it can be worth that extra cost. Just be sure the higher price tag for this convenience doesn’t strain your budget!

2. How long did the flip take?

Flipping a house takes time to do it properly, but the longer an investor holds onto the property, spending money on remodeling, the less profit they’re making. This may cause the investor to rush the flip and even cut corners on safety or quality of construction—not great for you, the potential buyer. 

It might be a red flag if a house has  been flipped in three months or less. However, different projects will take a different amount of time. A full flip will take longer than a kitchen or basement redo. Plus, timelines will vary depending on who’s completing it! 

Work with your REALTOR® to find the full history of the house, specifically the date and price of the property’s last sale, to help verify when work began. Additionally, contact your local building department to check if the investor obtained the proper permits and the home is up to code. More on this in a bit…

3. Inspect everything carefully.

A common pitfall experienced by first-time buyers of a flipped house occurs when they don’t inspect closely enough, avoid doing due diligence on the flipping process, and are shy about asking a lot of questions. They’ve become the proud new owners of a home that looks beautiful on the outside but may hide shoddy work on the inside.

A critical step to take once you’ve submitted an offer and secured your financing is to hire a professional home inspector to “kick the tires” of your new home. Learn more about the home inspection process including how to find a professional inspector in your area by visiting the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors. Your REALTOR® can also connect you with a reputable home inspector who knows and serves your neighbourhood. 

If you put in a conditional offer, your sale is not final until the inspection is complete. This means if the inspection uncovers any issues, you can go back to the seller to renegotiate the selling price or revoke the offer if the issues are too extreme. If you buy the home without conditions, you’re responsible for resolving any issues that arise during the home inspection, which could end up being pretty pricey if the flippers cut corners. A typical home inspection should take about three hours and can cost anywhere between $300 and $800 depending on the size of the house, but the peace of mind this will afford you is worth every penny. 

4. Ask questions about every single thing.

Be sure to accompany the inspector (if possible) during the walk-around of your flipped house and come equipped with more questions than you thought you needed to ask. Some of these questions include:

  • Can you provide all the work permits?
  • Can you provide the proof of inspection for the electrical work?
  • What was structurally changed?
  • What was done to the foundation?
  • What was done to the wiring?
  • Are there signs of mould?
  • What was done to the plumbing? 
  • How was the insulation upgraded? 
  • Did you touch the roof?
  • How did you address insect, water, fire, or other major damage discovered during the project?

You don’t want to be blind-sided if something happens to your new home, so asking these questions is crucial to ensuring you feel comfortable if and when you move in.

A good flip has its benefits

If you do your research, talk to the right people, and are OK with someone else making all the renovation choices, then purchasing a flipped house isn’t a bad option. While it may be a bit more expensive and require diligent inspection, you’ll sit comfortably in your newly remodeled living room knowing you invested in a new home that will stand the test of time.

If you are looking to buy a flipped home, be sure to connect with a REALTOR®. They’ve likely been through this experience before and know what you should be on the lookout for! Their knowledge of homes, inspections, housing markets, and the neighbourhood will be extremely beneficial to helping you make an informed decision. 

Source: Realtor.ca/blog

For a link to the source article, click here:  https://www.realtor.ca/blog/flip-or-flop-4-things-to-consider-before-buying-a-flipped-property/21400/1362

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When it comes to investment properties, there’s a lot to take into consideration. Aside from the financial and tax responsibilities, finding an investment property that makes sense for your situation requires some serious soul-searching. 

It’s best to take a look at some of the pros and cons before getting into the market, as each type comes with its own set. However, there are some pros and cons that apply to every type of investment property. One pro, of course, is you’ll have a second income—always a plus. The biggest con for any investment property is you’re not guaranteed to have tenants at all times, which means that second income may not be consistent. As the landlord you’re also on the hook for any repairs or issues that need to be dealt with. 

Let’s walk through some of the other pros and cons of the most common investment properties to see which one suits you best.


Duplexes are popular choices for investors looking to be close to their property—really close. They can also be great family investments, allowing different generations to live under the same roof but with private dwelling spaces. There are additional tax deductions available to you as well when you live on the property! Typically, work done to common spaces such as your yard, roof, or adjoining wall can be written off at 50% if the duplex is owner-occupied. Some people also consider the proximity to your investment to be a pro. If issues arise you can deal with them in a timely manner, plus you can keep an eye on how your tenants are treating the space. If you’re not living in the space and are instead choosing to rent out each portion of the duplex, the biggest advantage is collecting that additional rent. 

On the flip side, duplexes can be more expensive to purchase, which puts you at a bigger risk if you can’t find tenants. It can also be harder in general to find tenants for duplexes, as more and more people are looking for privacy and larger spaces. Living attached to your tenants, albeit in a designated space, can also be a bit strange depending on who they are. If you’re not choosing to live in the duplex, you’ll have double the tenants to find—and double the repairs to deal with. 

Single family homes

Over the last 18 months, single-family homes have been in demand as buying trends have changed. With an increase in working and schooling from home, the need for space has become paramount. Because of this shift, single-family homes could potentially be more attractive as investment properties. 

Let’s start with the pros! In comparison to a full duplex, single-family homes are typically less expensive (depending on the home), which could see higher gains in your net income. Plus, the market for single-family homes is hot right now, meaning if you need or want to sell your property you’ll likely have an easier time doing so. From a rental perspective, single-family homes tend to attract longer-term tenants, providing a sense of stability to your financial situation. 

In terms of cons, there’s one big one that stands out. Owning a single-family home as an investment property means a lower return on investment the longer it sits vacant. The costs to maintain a single-family home can be higher, and when the house sits empty those costs can quickly add up.


With new developments popping up all over the country, buying pre-construction properties (either homes, condos, or apartments) can seem enticing. It’s easy to find the big pros for this type of investment. The customization allows you to create a space potential renters will find appealing. When you choose fixtures and finishes for a new construction home, you can find options that are agreeable to most people without breaking the bank. Plus, newer builds are more attractive to renters since they know things are in good working order and there likely won’t be any repairs needed in the near future. 

That being said, pre-construction comes with a unique set of cons some people just don’t want to deal with. These cons can really be summed up into two words: the unknown. Your build could be unexpectedly delayed, leaving you to navigate these financial waters without additional income. Your down payment could be up to 30% up front for a new build, and it may not be complete for up to two years, which means you’ll be waiting a while to recoup that money as well as start making any profits. You should always consider the type of tenant you’re looking for (students, young professionals, growing families, etc.) so you can assess and align the property and neighbourhood with what they’ll need and want.

Basement apartments

Basement apartments have come a long way in the last 10 years or so! They can be spacious, private, cost-effective, exactly what young professionals are looking for as they save to buy their own home. Having a basement apartment in your home shares a lot of the same pros (and cons!) as duplexes. They help pay the mortgage of the home you’re in and you can write off a lot of the repairs since the space is owner-occupied. But it also means you’re living in the same home as your tenants and you lose a portion of your home. 

There are two additional cons to consider when it comes to basement apartments, though. The biggest one comes if you’re adding a basement apartment to your home vs. buying a home that already has one built. Adding a basement apartment requires money up front to ensure the space is up to code, not to mention any regional requirements (i.e. permits, inspections). You also have to consider things like parking for your tenants, how they’ll get into their portion of the home, etc. When it comes time to sell your home, not having a “typical” basement could affect your resale value. You eliminate the group of people who aren’t looking to purchase an investment property, which could make the home harder to sell. 

Something to consider when it comes to basement apartments is actually living in it yourself! I got my start in real estate by purchasing a home with a basement apartment and renting out the main floor while I lived in the basement apartment. I was able to charge a higher rent, allowing me to pay off the mortgage more quickly and ultimately make my way up the real estate ladder. If you’re going to purchase a home with a basement apartment, or are considering adding one to your current home, I really do recommend living in the basement portion yourself if possible!

Identifying risk factors

As with any investment, you need to identify the potential risks. There are four main risks to consider before purchasing an investment property. 


You need to spend money to make money, but owning an investment property does come with some financial risks. If you can’t find tenants for an extended period of time, you’ll need to cover the mortgage out of your primary income, which may leave things a little tight. 

Property location

Do some research on the neighbourhood to see if there’s a high demand for rentals in the area. If not, you may struggle to find people willing to commit to a lease. It’s also a good idea to ask a REALTOR® about the projected evolution of the neighbourhood. If it’s an up-and-coming spot, you may find yourself getting a great deal! Other things to consider include transit access, proximity to schools and daycare, nearby amenities, and access to the highway. 

Age of the property

Older homes can be appealing for a vintage look, but they may end up causing you more issues than they’re worth. Homes over a certain age will likely need more frequent (and more expensive) repairs, which will ultimately cut into your profits. 

The real estate market

No matter when you buy, this will always be an important thing to consider. The real estate market is unpredictable, which means any time you enter the market there are a lot of factors to consider. However, when you’re buying an investment property, you really want to be sure you’re getting a good deal so your profit margins can be higher. You’ll need to look at it as a longer-term investment and consider how it will affect you over a course of years, not months. 

Investment properties can be a great way to earn a secondary income while getting yourself onto the property ladder. There are plenty of different property types you can find, each with their own set of pros and cons, but one thing remains constant: owning an investment property is a commitment! It’s not something you can do on a whim, which is why doing your research is the most important first step you can take. 

*The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment or financial advice.

Source: Realtor.ca


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Whether it’s a hole from mounting hardware, or discovering a torn screen, minor damage and everyday wear-and-tear in our homes is a fact of life. Despite the rising popularity of DIY, not everyone feels comfortable making their own repairs, opting to employ professionals or family and friends, instead. Before starting your online search for a “local handyperson,” let’s look at eight easy repairs you can do around your home.

1. Repair or replace window screens

Small holes in a screen can be corrected in moments using a screen patch kit, while larger tears require a screen replacement kit. Nylon screen replacement kits are the easiest to install and contain a roll of nylon screen, spline (the vinyl cord which secures the screen inside the frame), and a spline roller (used to push the spline and screen into place).

The following video by Ace Hardware walks you through both a screen patch and replacement.

2. Fix squeaky hinges

A few drops—or sprays—of lubricating oil makes a quick fix for noisy door hinges. But, if that doesn’t do the trick, place a shim or wedge under the door for stability, and remove the hinge pins. Wipe each pin with steel wool, then replace and apply oil. Your door should operate smoothly (and silently) again.

Image via Theme Photos, Unsplash

3. Replace door knobs and locks

Damaged or aging door knobs can be replaced with a new one using a screwdriver or electric driver in about five minutes. While new knobs come with detailed installation instructions, the video below by Pretty Handy Girl shows just how quick and easy this job is.

4. Patch drywall holes

Small holes (¼ inch or less) in drywall (also called gypsum board) from old hooks, or small dents from furniture on moving day can quickly be corrected using a putty knife and spackle. Fill the hole using the putty knife and spackle, then allow it to dry completely. Sand it down lightly and repaint the area (if necessary). 

A drywall patch kit is best to handle larger holes up to 4 inches (10 cm) and typically cost less than $15. Larger holes require a sturdier material to actually bridge the gap and hold the repair for a long period of time. Follow the instructions included with the kit for the best results.

5. Replace weather stripping

The weather stripping around doors and windows deteriorates over time, so it’s important to replace them before they affect heating and cooling costs. You’ll generally need a flathead screwdriver and a utility knife or scissors, along with the replacement stripping.

The following video from HouseImprovements shows how you can replace your door’s weather stripping with ease.

Windows require a little more work as they need to be removed altogether and may have one of a variety of stripping types. If you’re choosing to take the windows out on your own, be sure to monitor window openings during this task, especially if you have young children in the house. This is more of an advanced fix, so we’d recommend leaving this to a professional or someone with more experience. Replacing windows is not quite a beginner’s activity.

6. Fix a leaky showerhead

If your showerhead leaks where it attaches to the fixture, it’s time to refresh the teflon plumber’s tape��at a cost of a few dollars. Remove the shower head, clean off any excess grime and tape using steel wool, then apply a few layers (three to five full wraps) of teflon tape in a clockwise direction (this is key so the tape won’t bunch up when you screw the showerhead back on). Then screw on your showerhead until it is hand-tight—don’t use tools to tighten as over-tightening can damage the shower attachment, causing further leaking.

7. Refresh bathroom caulking

Deteriorating or peeling caulking in your bathroom should be replaced promptly to avoid moisture incursion and mould. A utility knife can be used to peel and clean off any old caulking, then apply silicone bathroom caulking using a caulking gun.

Note: Caulking requires 24 hours to fully cure, so plan accordingly before resuming use of the respective sink, bathtub, or toilet.

8. Silence a squeaky floor

There are a few ways to correct creaky floors, which occur when the subfloor separates from the floor joists and rubs against the nails. 

For wood floors, locate the joist where it squeaks (using a stud-finder), and drive two finishing nails at opposing 45 degree angles into the joist through the subfloor, ensuring they are flush. If you can access the joists from underneath (from your basement for example), affixing a shim between the subfloor and joist with carpenter’s glue will correct this.

For carpet, cut a small hole in the carpet mesh using a utility knife, then drive a flooring screw into the subfloor and joist beneath. DIY Network provides a visual step-by-step guide to making these quick flooring fixes.

Image via Daniela Gisin-Krumsick, Unsplash

When to call a professional

Of course, when it’s a matter of scope or safety, there are times when the best thing to do is call a professional. Shoddy electrical wiring, mould incursion, basement foundation cracks, and DIY renovation foul-ups are just some of the many scenarios that are best managed by the pros.

Whether it’s your first home, an older model, or your first downsize from an empty nest, tackling your own home improvement tasks—even the simplest of repairs—can open the door to a whole new world of skills—and confidence—you never thought you had.

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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Do home renovation shows have you drooling over exposed brick wallscement tile backsplashes, and marble countertops, but you find yourself without the budget to make it happen? Don’t fret, these costly design and décor projects are easy to hack, allowing you to replicate expensive-looking designs with a few “fake it till you make it” ideas!

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your rental space, redecorate your home, or are a REALTOR® helping a client improve their home for resale, these easy design ideas will deliver impact without breaking the bank.

Image via HandyAndy.NYC on Instagram


Design hack: There’s no denying how much impact a tiled backsplash can have in a kitchen or bathroom. It completes the space and makes it feel finished. Tiling a backsplash yourself takes skill and patience, and hiring a contractor takes time and budget. If you don’t have either of those, consider faking it with peel-and-stick tiles. From funky to classic, peel-and-stick tiles have come a long way in terms of design. Available in large squares or single tiles, this budget décor project is perfect for renters or those looking for a quick, temporary, but stunning solution.

Estimated cost: $75 to $300+ depending on the size of the backsplash area.

Tip: When installing peel-and-stick tile, it’s important to make sure the area is clean and dry. This will ensure a strong hold, preventing the corners of the tiles from lifting, which is a common problem.

Image via NatalieSurdivalHome on Instagram

Feature walls

Design hack: Loving the look of shiplap, exposed brick, and barn board, but don’t have the resources? Fake it ‘til you make it! Forget about spending hours installing shiplap or the mess of exposing old brick, these eye-catching features can be brought to life with wallpaper or printed murals, and they look just as good as the real thing!

Estimated cost: $100 to $750+ depending on the size of the wall and type of covering selected.

Tip: If you are renting or sprucing up a space in order to sell, opt for the removable kind. This will prevent damage to the walls if it needs to be taken down.

Image via My City Apartment on Instagram

Marble countertops

Design hack: There’s nothing quite like the timeless look and durability of stone countertops, so if marble or granite is a must-have for you, start saving! In the meantime, you can hack those builder-basic laminate countertops into something just as beautiful using marble paint-based and epoxy resin kits or stone-like countertop film. While these products might not last as long as the real thing, you should be able to get a few years out of them.

Estimated cost: $300 to $700+ depending on the size of the countertop area.

Tip: Ensure these products look as real as possible by cleaning the surface thoroughly to remove any debris. This will allow you to apply the product smoothly, without air bubbles or streaks. Also, always follow the application instructions. Always!

Image via Desert_Hydrangea on Instagram


Design hack: What homeowner hasn’t dreamed of cozying up next to their fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book? In addition to their functional benefits, fireplaces have become a must-have design element and focal point. However, installing a real fireplace in your home isn’t without expense and caution, which is why more and more budget design enthusiasts are opting for electric. But how do you make those free-standing fireplaces and electric inserts look like they truly belong? Hack it! Build an insert surround from a real mantel, frame out your wall from floor to ceiling, or add built-ins to either side of a free-standing unit.

Estimated cost: $350 to $2,500+ depending on how elaborate you go.

Tip: Do your research when selecting an electric unit—not all are equal. Know how much clearance and airflow is required for your selected unit before building any type of structure and be sure to engage a certified electrician if needing to conduct any electrical work.

Image via Annavynguyen on Instagram

Black window frames

Design hack: Black window frames have quickly become part of the standard options when building a new home, but what about older homes with wooden panes, basic white vinyl, or dated coloured frames? If a $20,000+ window replacement project is out of reach, try bringing new life to the interior of your window frames using black paint. Want the industrial look? That might be as simple as applying some black electrical tape.

Estimated cost: $80 to $200+ depending on how many windows you are updating.

Tip: Success is in the prep work. Make certain your frames are clean and free from debris, then prime the frames with the appropriate primer and wait the recommended amount of time before applying any paint. This will ensure a good paint adhesion and prevent you from having to constantly touch up the windows due to flaking or peeling.

No matter the type of home project you are tackling, there are so many design ideas and easy hacks that can make your home look high-end and beautiful without breaking the bank!

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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From the classic Brooklyn brownstone to the exposed brick wall in what seems like every start-up’s office space, bricks offer both a classic and enduring design feature. While traditional brick laying is a time-consuming and expensive procedure for the average homeowner, installing interlocking bricks is a popular way to improve the appeal of any paved surface, be it a driveway, walkway, pool surround, or even walls. 

It’s important to understand the differences between interlocking and traditional bricks, as well as interlocking advantages and disadvantages, project ideas, and installation tips.

A bicycle sitting in front of a wooden garage with an interlocking drivewayImage via Unsplash

Interlocking bricks vs. ‘traditional’ bricks

Interlocking bricks are made by compressing a mixture of sand, soil and cement in an interlocking brick-making machine and curing them with water for seven days. They’re made to fit together, avoiding the use of mortar, using a self-locking shear-key and lock system. This allows for more aesthetically pleasing and functional designs when you’re using bricks for your driveway, patio, front walk, or other projects. 

Traditional cement bricks, like the ones used to build your home or buildings, are cut into their uniformly rectangular shape with a wire and bound together with mortar. Since they’re plastered, traditional bricks hold up longer to wear and tear, extreme weather, and insect infestation. That’s why they’re used for residential and commercial buildings, unlike interlocking bricks which are generally reserved for vanity projects.

If you’re using interlocking bricks for the exterior of your home, remember they can only be used for the first three stories of a building. It’s not safe to use interlocking bricks for tall commercial buildings. 

a home with stone facade and stone pathwayImage via Pixabay

The interlock advantage

Think of the savings

Depending on your project, interlocking bricks can be less expensive than traditional brick! They also require less labour for construction and maintenance, and a significantly shorter curing period—standard brick mortar can take up to 28 days to fully cure.

Reduce your emissions footprint

Since interlocking bricks are compressed and have more mass than standard ones, their internal temperatures provide a more environmentally friendly way to help keep building interiors cool in the summer heat

Earthquake safety

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, take note. Interlocking bricks used in retaining walls can be more resilient against earthquakes than traditional cement bricks. If the mortar that supports cement bricks fails, then so too does the entire structure, whereas interlocking bricks support each other. As a result, some governments have recommended building durable interlocking brick structures in earthquake-prone areas, like Nepal, California, and British Columbia.

How you can use them

The versatility and variety of interlocking bricks makes them ideal for improvements to your exterior landscape design. They’re also increasingly used for some interior features, like the much sought-after exposed brick wall in trendy loft spaces. 

A winding interlocking brick driveway


Driveways and walkways are among the most common uses, and for good reason. Interlock systems are more flexible and have a longer lifespan than poured concrete and asphalt. Plus, with a variety of shapes, colours and custom designs, interlocking driveways and walkways could boost your curb appeal and overall property value.

a set of patio furniture on an interlocking brick patio

Patios and garden features

Interlock brick features can also really tie your backyard together. An interlock patio can add texture, depth, and solid ground for al fresco dinner parties while reducing time spent on lawn care. Gardens encased in an interlock retaining wall help organize and protect your blooming flower beds

If you’re choosing an interlocking brick patio, keep in mind pesky weeds or anthills can eventually start to sprout through the cracks. Keep an eye on these and try some of our methods for keeping weeds and pests out.

an interlocking brick pool deck around an in ground pool

Pool decks

swimming pool surrounded by interlocking blocks or stones enhances appearance and improves pool safety by helping to reduce slippery surfaces. Plus, similar to how interlocking brick can help keep buildings cooler when it’s used for walls, it’s also cooler on your feet so you don’t have to worry about the heat while you sit poolside!

gray interlocking bricks being assembled on gravel

Adding interlocking brick to your home

You’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided an interlock feature is right for your building project. What’s next? It’s important to consider several factors that will affect your final product, such as: 

  • The size of the project (i.e., a long driveway or a small retaining garden wall?);
  • any borders or features that will affect the pattern and size or space;
  • the colours, patterns, textures, and mixture composition that work best for you; and 
  • maintenance and repair (i.e., do you want to seal your interlock for that extra layer protection from the elements?)

Once you’ve settled on the details, it’s time to start bricklaying. While in theory you could do this yourself, unless you’re a seasoned DIYer it may not be the best choice. More likely, you’ll want to seek out the help of a professional. Contact a landscaping contractor or ask a your REALTOR® if they have any contractors they tend to use. Your REALTOR® will also know the trends in your neighbourhood to see if interlocking brick features are the best option for your resale value. 

Interlocking brick is a great way to add personality and curb appeal to your home, and it comes with its advantages! Whether it’s your driveway, patio, and pool deck, you’re sure to end up with a design you love.

Source: Realtor.ca/blog
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Source: Realtor.ca/blog

For many Canadians sheds are often seen as dingy storage spaces for seasonal equipment and oversized junk. Conversely, in Australia and New Zealand, sheds are passionately celebrated in documentaries, books, and magazines as places of invention, retreat, and productivity.

However, it looks like some Canadians are coming around, and realizing their sheds’ potential as stunning and functional extensions of their homes. From home office setups to backyard gyms, here are five amazing shed transformation ideas that go against the grain.

a tiny home shed that has been built in a backyard Image via Rob Cardillo – This Old House

Join the tiny house revolution!

If the explosion of #TinyHouse Instagram accounts and YouTube channels is any indicator, the growing appeal of living in more compact, efficient, and even portable “tiny homes” is reaching a fever pitch. According to SEMrush’s 2020 Canada Real Estate Trends report, average searches for “tiny homes for sale” have soared throughout the East Coast. 

Redeveloping your backyard shed or garage into a separate structure (built to code, of course) can also provide a new source of income as a rental unit. In cities like Toronto, where the housing market temperature continues to rise, some residents are renovating their backyard sheds and garages into self-contained dwellings made accessible through the city’s intricate network of laneways, and renting or selling them as smaller one-person units.

As with any property renovation in Canada, whether in an urban or rural community, you’ll want to ensure your tiny house project meets standards and regulations. Make sure to assess your renovation plans against local zoning laws, bylaws, and building codes before you break ground. Or better yet, ask your REALTOR® for their insight.

inside a shed that has been turned into a gym with a view of the backyard

Stretch out with a new gym or yoga studio

With gyms and fitness centres closed and Canadians staying home more than, it’s no surprise personal fitness equipment has seen a sharp increase in sales since the beginning of the pandemic. 

But in an already-crowded house with each room playing a specific role—“Honey, the dining room is for potatoes, not pilates!”—what better way to stretch out and use all your available space than by setting up a gym or yoga studio in your shed?

You can easily store your weights and machines in the shed when not in use, and bring them outside when the weather allows for a full-on outdoor iron-pumping session. Or, if zen is more your speed, clear out enough space for a yoga mat, plants, diffusers, and a Bluetooth speaker, and watch the stress melt away.

 inside a shed that has been converted into a home office with a desk and wooden accentsImage via Pinterest – Editions de L’Arkhan

Work from home…at the office

For those of us working from home but still crave a light commute and/or have a crowded household during the day, a backyard home office offers a quiet and separate space to take Zoom calls, finish up your daily deliverables, or simply collect your professional thoughts.

With the number of people working from home going up and up, Canadians are looking for contractors to help build new offices in their existing shed space. The only restrictions are space, so let your imagination run wild. That being said, just be sure your new backyard office doesn’t pose any insurance risks.

 a shed that has been turned into a greenhouse with shelves and windowsImage via Family Food Garden

Get back to basics with a greenhouse

For the budding gardeners among us, why not transform your backyard shed from a “fixed” state of storage to a “growth”-oriented hub by setting up your own sheltered greenhouse? By adding a few window openings and shelving units, you can take advantage of the shed’s access to sunlight and create a warm, insulated home for your seedlings. A shed-turned-greenhouse is also a great way to keep critters away from any fruits and vegetables you may be growing. So, whether planning a hydroponic herb garden or pop-up produce stand and flower shop, the options are ripe for the picking.

If you’re looking for some alone time, and perhaps a more stylish and less utilitarian use of your existing shed space, focus your shed makeover on creating your own backyard oasis. Whether it’s a meditation space or escape room, you can get away from it all while staying put.

Of course, all of these ideas will only be possible after a thorough spring cleaning. Good thing the weather is cooperating. Time to get started—your shed is waiting.

inside a shed that has been turned into a backyard oasis with pink walls, a table, and chairs
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Ah, moving day. It can either be a joyous occasion or a mind-numbingly stressful ordeal. No matter how much we prepare, there always seems to be some tiny detail unaccounted for. Let’s unpack the subtle art of preparing for and managing a—hopefully—flawless move.

Man struggling to move a couch up a flight of stairsImage via memecandy, Giphy

Is everything worth moving?

Ever try to get a queen-size box spring up narrow stairs with 90º landings? Furniture that squeaks into one house may only jam up in another. Assess what will fit and what won’t by measuring your largest items ahead of time then test those measurements in the entries, stairs (especially around those corners and low suspended ceilings), and doorways of your new home.

On the flip side, unnecessary clutter tends to follow us from place to place, which makes moving the perfect opportunity to de-clutter, paving the way for a smoother move. 

Stack of cardboard boxesImage via Beeki, Pixabay

Think outside the box

Traditionally, we’ve scrounged local retailers for empty boxes or bought new ones. More sustainable options have presented themselves in recent years, making it easy to obtain high quality used moving boxes, or renting reusable bins

The Buy Nothing Project is dedicated to keeping items out of landfills by passing them onto others for free. They have Facebook groups across Canada and can be excellent resources for moving boxes. 

If you can’t find free or reusable moving materials, that’s OK too. You can buy tape, boxes, packing paper, and other materials from your local moving companies—even if you’re doing all the moving yourself.

3 men moversImage via 3 Men Movers, Giphy

Should I DIY or hire a moving company?

Hiring a moving company can be more costly than renting a truck and paying friends in pizza and beer. So why is it better to hire a professional? It’s simple. They’re professionals who do this every day, are insured against damage or injury, and their experience gives them the benefit of efficiency. Friends and family may be willing to help when called upon, but is it a fair test of your relationship to put them at risk of injury and expect them to assume responsibility for the safety of your most valued possessions?

Couple packing boxesImage via Ketut Sebiyanto, Pexels

About downsizing

Whether you’re an empty-nester who no longer needs a three-bedroom home, or find yourself unexpectedly moving into a smaller placedownsizing presents a unique challenge. If life teaches us anything, it’s challenges are opportunities in disguise. In this case, it’s a chance to take inventory of the possessions that are truly important and get rid of anything that isn’t necessary or doesn’t contribute to your happiness.

Person wrapping belongings for a moveImage via Ketut Sebiyanto, Pexels

Strategy is everything

The key to a successful, stress-free move is having an effective strategy in place. Consider these points when planning your move:

  • Start early: If you need to purge for a downsize, start 90 days before your move date. Otherwise aim to start two months before; 
  • Make a checklist: List everything that needs to get done, packed, moved, switched, rented or hired, and cleaned;
  • Stock up: Make sure you have enough boxes, packing tape, packing paper, tissue paper for delicates, and a pack of Sharpies;

moving straps

  • Get moving straps, a dolly and/or hand truck: These items are lifesavers when it comes to moving heavy or bulky objects over any distance and are essential if you plan to move on your own.
  • Choose a reputable mover: The Office of Consumer Affairs advises to obtain estimates from at least three certified movers. Read their reviews, but also obtain references and be sure to read their documentation carefully.
  • Get written estimates: Ideally, movers will give an in-house assessment with a detailed written estimate, although many movers have detailed estimate forms you can complete on their websites. 
  • Add insurance: Your home insurance and that of your movers is usually enough to cover any incidentals. Items of extreme value may not be covered, so check with the mover and your broker in case additional insurance is needed on moving day.
Books packed in a box for a moveImage via kohnrebecca0, Pixabay
  • Distribute your weight: It’s easy to underestimate the combined weight of your belongings once packed. Distribute weighty items, use the smallest boxes for books and dinnerware, and largest for lighter bulky items like duvets, comforters and pillows.
  • Inventory and label: Keep an inventory as you pack and label boxes accurately. Nothing is more frustrating than rifling through 20 kitchen boxes to find a spatula when it’s time to cook.
Couple sleeping on a mattress in a new homeImage via cottonbro, Pexels
  • Remember your moving day essentials: These are the final items to pack and should include a few days’ worth of everything you will need to cook, eat, clean, bathe, dress, and sleep. It’s advisable to move these items yourself to keep them close to hand.
  • Separate important valuables: As you pack, keep your most valued possessions together so you can pack them and move them over yourself. If you have a safe or lock box, this is the best place for these items. 
  • Change your address: It’s easy to let this one slip until the last minute. Make sure to update your address with all your service providers and accounts, and request a service change for utilities, internet and telephone. If needed, set up mail forwarding through Canada Post.
packed box with a key hanging from a stringImage via congerdesign, Pixabay

What once may have been a stressful ordeal can easily turn into a smooth-running operation. Taking the time and care to follow these strategies can help remove a lot of stress from the equation when moving into a new house—especially if it’s your first home—so you can enjoy the process rather than fear it. Happy packing!

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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We’ve enjoyed some unexpected benefits from spending so much more time at home. You may have discovered—or at least considered—your thumb is far greener than you ever thought. 

You’re not alone as nearly half of Canadians turned soil to grow their own food in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that it’s time to start planning for the next growing season, let’s take a look at why a DIY greenhouse could be the perfect thing to kick your gardening efforts up a notch.

exterior shot of a greenhouse in a backyardImage via hsvall, Pixabay

Why a greenhouse?

The Canadian growing season is short, especially farther north, and a greenhouse is the perfect way to start plants that need extra time to establish before planting them outside in the ground. It also provides protection to seedlings so pesky squirrels, slugs, and other insects don’t get to eat the fruits of your labour before you do—making it an outstanding alternative to an open air garden altogether. A greenhouse opens up more options for produce that would not normally thrive in our temperate climate. Plus, if you take the extra steps with a heated four-season greenhouse, you can grow year-round and add to your winter landscape.

exterior shot of a tented greenhouse with planters around itImage via DanielSjostrand, Pixabay

Can I really build my own?

You may question whether or not this is something you can do on your own with little or no building experience. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this project. If you prefer a turn-key solution, there are plenty of kits of all sizes out there. 

If you prefer to build your own from scratch, then you may find the perfect set of plans in this epic list compiled by Morning Chores. For you expert builders, that list makes a good starting point to inspire your own design!

When planning for a greenhouse, one of the most common issues growers encounter is running out of space too quickly. Always plan a little larger than you think you might need (if space allows). There are also ways to make the most of your space like layering, increasing your surface area, or staggering crops.

a greenhouse box with rows of lettuce growing insideImage via titosoft, Pixabay

Although most kits are small, a building permit may be required to construct larger or more complex greenhouses, especially if your goal is a heated three-to-four season setup. Check with your municipality to ensure you’re following building codes and to apply for a permit if necessary.

To give some insight into what it’s like to build from scratch, check out the accounts from three Quebec residents, what they did, how they use them, and what was involved to accomplish their projects.

a row of seedlings in soil inside a greenhouseImage via jag2020, Pixabay

Plants for the beginner

If you’re just starting out, sticking to species that are easy to grow is an excellent way to build confidence and gain experience to succeed in this endeavour. Here are some veggies and herbs that can thrive under the most basic of conditions and care.

rows of tomato plants in orange pots with popsicle sticksImage via jag2020, Pixabay


Tomatoes can be remarkably easy to grow, and can produce loads of fruit through the late summer and into the fall. 

a close-up of a zucchini plant with flowersImage via ajcespedes, Pixabay


This delicious squash variety is perfect for the beginner gardener and will continue to flower and produce fruit right up until the first frost. Just make sure to harvest them every few days so they don’t get too big.

a close up of a pile of spinachImage via millenialab, Pixabay


Spinach is delicious and versatile, easily fitting into many raw and cooked dishes.

a close up of red and green heads of lettuceImage via blende12, Pixabay


From red and green leaf lettuce to juicy romaine or iceberg, your salad game will be spot-on with these easy-to-grow greens.

a pile of picked cucumbersImage via krzys16, Pixabay


Cucumber varieties are relatively easy to grow, and perfect for both raw and pickling applications. Like zucchini you need to keep an eye on their size once they start to ripen.

a pile of carrots freshly pulled from the groundImage via rauschenberger, Pixabay


These delicious and popular root vegetables are a breeze to plant and maintain in a greenhouse setting.

 stacks of green onions tied upImage via ArmbrustAnna, Pixabay

Green (spring) onions

A staple for salads, omelettes or garnish for stir-frygreen onions are super easy to grow. You can even start them from leftovers you bought at the grocery store as long as they still have their roots. You can also continually harvest them by snipping off the tops as needed and leaving the rest to re-grow.

strawberries growing off the plantImage via Bytran2710, Pixabay


This sweet, delicious early summer fruit is surprisingly simple to grow, and there are even varieties that produce continually as long as the ambient temperature remains moderate.

close up of multiple basil plantsImage via fabersam, Pixabay

Many herbs grow quite well in Canada’s climate, and will thrive in a greenhouse setting. If you’re planting outside, be aware most herbs are perennial and will come back each year. Varieties like mint, lemon balm, chives, and parsley spread quickly (keep an eye on them if you are planting outside). Here are a few must-haves:

  • Parsley;
  • Sage;
  • Summer Savoury;
  • Oregano;
  • Basil;
  • Thyme;
  • Dill;
  • Fennel;
  • Mint;
  • Cilantro;
  • Lemon Balm; and
  • Chives.

For more ideas on what can easily be grown in your greenhouse, this comprehensive list has you covered.

an outdoor greenhouseImage via EME, Pixabay

Two important considerations

Because the sun can be quite piercing and glass windows can amplify its heat and intensity, it may be necessary to take additional steps to moderate the temperature and light penetration, like employing a shade or enabling ventilation.

While some plants require little-to-no help with pollination, if you plan to grow in a fully enclosed greenhouse for the duration of your plants’ life cycles, some assistance may be necessary to ensure a healthy crop.

a basket full of fresh vegetablesImage via JillWellington, Pixabay

Building a greenhouse to grow your own produce is an amazing hobby with benefits to your health beyond just the expected fresh and nutritious harvest. It’s a great—even cost-friendly—way to learn new skills, relieve stress, build confidence, and make opportunities for valuable family time—even for the most timid of green thumbs.

Source: Realtor.ca/Blog


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Source: Realtor.ca/Blog


Since the pandemic hit, more homeowners have been staying put. Many continue to invest money into their properties, especially their outdoor space, so they can entertain friends and families safely. That means deck-building companies have been very busy.

“The industry has absolutely exploded, with so many customers wanting to build decks,” says Justin Szekely, owner and co-founder of Ace of Decks, which designs and builds custom decks in BeaconsfieldQuebec.

Thinking of improving your outdoor living area by putting in a fabulous new deck? Here are Szekely’s top tips to get the right space for your lifestyle and budget.

View from a deck overlooking the water

Choose the right contractor

“A lot of companies claim to be able to do just about anything under the sun, and they’ll take jobs they’re not used to doing, so make sure your contractor is very comfortable installing the specific products you’re hiring them to build with,” says Szekely. “With products like composite decking, each manufacturer has very specific installation techniques, and if the contractors aren’t familiar with that product, they may install it wrong and void your warranty.”

Also, because municipalities have bylaws and permit processes that vary, you’ll want a contractor who’s familiar with your area. And don’t forget to ask for references and check out their work by inspecting the decks they’ve already built, if possible.

Image via Ace of Decks

Decide which materials match your lifestyle

Probably the biggest deck decision is cost  versus maintenance. A composite deck typically costs twice as much as treated wood, but it lasts at least twice as long, explains Szekely. 

“And while you own that deck, you’ll never spend any money or time maintaining it, so for that reason, the cost of ownership is actually less for a composite deck,” he says.

However, if you’re not planning to stay in your house for long, you might not want to invest in composite.

One more thing: Composite decks get a lot warmer in the sun than wood. 

“If the deck is being built near a pool where everyone will be barefoot, we recommend either wood or a lighter-coloured composite, because a dark-coloured composite can burn your feet,” says Szekely.

treated wood deck, big enough for a barbecue, a table and chairsImage via Ace of Decks

Select a deck size that makes sense and fits your budget

A treated wood deck, big enough for a barbecue, a table and chairs starts at about $3,000-$4,000. More elaborate projects run as high as $80,000-$100,000, says Szekely.

On paper–and on TV–multi-level decks look pretty awesome. But there’s no point building something without lots of usable space.

“Think about whether you need space for a four- or eight-person table and if you want a couch there or lighting? These decisions will forecast how big of a deck you need, but we recommend 12-x-24 feet as the smallest size that makes sense for a multi-level deck.”

Check with your city to see how close your deck can encroach onto your property line. Even if you have enough space for a massive deck, you may not be allowed to build it. 

“Privacy is always important, too. A big deck can quickly become a big stage for your neighbours,” explains Szekely.

deck being constructedImage via Ace of Decks

Get an early start

Believe it or not, now’s the perfect time to plan for your new deck. 

“You can build the deck anytime you want, as long as there’s no snow in the way; we start working in March, and we’re already booked until the end of May right now,” says Szekely.

The pandemic has also meant some construction materials are on back-order, so the earlier you start, the better. 

If you request a permit to build a deck now, you’ll probably get one within a week or two, adds Szekely. But if you wait until May, it could take up to two months. Booking early means there’s less chance your project will be delayed.  

“You also have to think about safety; the city won’t grant a permit for any project missing the proper railing requirements.”

Treated wood deck

If you want wood, be prepared for the upkeep

Treated wood decks are affordable and beautiful, but be aware that you’ll be committing yourself to maintaining it, says Skekely.

“Upkeep depends on how much sun your deck is exposed to, what product you put on there and just how critical you are of that product fading a little bit,” he explains. 

“If you put on an opaque paint, that’s going to be super high-maintenance, because the second a piece chips off, you’ll see it right away. And once you go with the opaque, you’re stuck with it, unless you’re going to sand and strip it all off, which is a huge job.”

If you use a clear oil or a stain that soaks into the wood, you won’t notice it deteriorating and it leaves a rustic patina. 

No matter what type of deck you choose, it will definitely boost enjoyment in your backyard for years to come, so it’s an investment you can feel good about.

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Source: Scott's Blog


Most empty nesters have to face this decision at some point or another – to keep the family home or downsize to something smaller. Deciding to move from the home where you raised your kids can be an emotional process. For some, it’s sad, while for others it’s an exciting new chapter. Whatever you may be feeling, don’t let your emotions get in the way of making a smart decision. Like any real estate investment, there are a lot of things that need to be considered when downsizing to a smaller home. Here are a few downsizing tips to consider.

Why Downsize?

The first thing to figure out is why you’re downsizing. Some people choose to leave because the family home has become too much to manage, for some it feels too empty without the kids in the house, and for others it’s because they desire a lifestyle change. Whatever the reason it’s important to understand why you’re downsizing so you can determine the needs of your new home.

What Matters To You?

Before you settle on your new digs you have to determine what matters and what doesn’t. The best way to start is to make a list of the best and worst features of your current home. Do you love your big family-style kitchen? Will you miss it if you move to a tiny condo? What about the backyard? If outdoor entertaining is important to you a small bungalow with a yard might be a better option than a condo. While compromises will always have to be made, there’s no point in moving to a place that lacks the things you love.

Scott McGillivray Collection

Size Matters

Downsizing to a one or two-bedroom condo can be a tempting prospect for people who don’t want to deal with a lot of upkeep, but make sure the space can accommodate your lifestyle. Do you host a lot of holiday get-togethers? Make sure you can fit your loved ones in the space. Do family and friends come for overnight visits on a regular basis? In that case, a guest room is a must. And keep in mind that your kids may have moved out of the family home, but that doesn’t mean they might not come back! If this is something you want to encourage make sure there’s somewhere for them to stay.

Consider the Location

Location is as important when downsizing as it is at any other time, and the area you move to will affect your cost of living. While moving from a big home to a condo might seem like a money-saving venture, cutting square footage might not save you money if you move to a prime real estate location. And keep in mind that condos come with maintenance fees that must be budgeted for. When deciding on a location you also need to think about what’s important to you now and in the future. Staying close to family is very important for some people while being close to specific amenities is important to others.

Special Considerations

As an empty nester, you need to think about the needs of tomorrow as well as today. Townhouses can be great in terms of size and upkeep, but they tend to have a lot of stairs, which can become difficult as you get older. Other elements of universal design are also worthwhile to keep in mind. When looking for downsizing tips, think about things like curbless showers, door handles instead of knobs and under-counter appliances. While these things might not be a concern now, they could be important in the future.

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With Canadians spending more time at home, opportunities to level-up our living spaces continue to present themselves. You may have spent time pampering your pets, setting a new tone in the bathroom, or even performing some long-overdue home maintenance. If you’ve been considering uncharted home improvement territory, then it could be time to finish your basement. Let’s look at some key considerations to help you plan for this project.

Bedroom finished basementImage via AddiGibson, Pixabay

Is it worthwhile?

Undoubtedly this is one of the biggest projects you can undertake in your home, and it carries some risks as well as a hefty price tag. On the flipside, you’ll not only increase the livable space in your home, your property value could see a substantial boost. Whether you hire a pro to complete the work or execute this epic DIY yourself, the added value alone makes this a worthy endeavour (if approached correctly).

Besides general considerations for this project, you’ll need to assess costs. Consider a professionally finished basement will cost between $35 and $55 per square foot (0.93m2). Of course, this cost would be reduced for a DIY, but it’s a good baseline for budgeting. 

Important: If you’re considering converting to a basement apartment, consulting your municipality and a qualified professional are both key in planning for a safe and legal living space for family or tenants.

Installing wall insolationImage via Erik Mclean, Unsplash

Common pitfalls to avoid

Working without a permit: This is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to any type of renovation, causing potential financial and legal woes down the road—especially when selling your home.

Ignoring moisture: Before proceeding it’s important to confirm if conditions are suitable for finishing. Basement humidity levels must be maintained at 55% or less. Anything above 60% presents a mould risk. Tip: Taping two-foot squares of plastic sheeting strategically on the walls and floor for two-week periods is an excellent way to test for moisture penetration.

Drywall scraperImage via La Miko, Pexels

Improper flooring: Another major pitfall for finished basements is when carpet or organic flooring are laid on concrete. This can create conditions for condensation to collect, so it’s important to employ proper subflooring materials, or if possible, use inorganic flooring such as ceramic tiles.

No backup sump pump: If your basement requires a sump pit and pump to address drainage during spring or sustained rain, it’s important to maintain a working backup pump for emergencies. Tip: During dry periods, practice swapping out your pumps to avoid any panic when there’s a pump failure. 

Poor drainage: One of the most important considerations takes place outside your home. Ensure your gutters direct water at least 10 feet away from the home, and that the surrounding soil slopes away from the structure. 

Inadequate ceiling clearance: While most homeowners are not likely to attempt finishing a crawl space, it’s important to meet minimum code requirements for ceiling clearance. Clearance height may vary from city to city, but generally speaking you must keep a minimum height (below beams and ducts) of 6’11” for at least 75% of your usable floorspace.

Home inspector smilingImage via sagoodi, Pixabay

Consult professionals

This can’t be stressed enough. Even if you plan to do the finishing work yourself, it’s best to consult a professional for this type of project. A building engineer or architect can help you develop a plan to avoid missing key details, while also helping to assure building permit approval.

All electrical, plumbing, or support structure work should be performed by licensed professionals to avoid costly, dangerous mistakes.

Power drill and home plans on tableImage via JESHOOTS.com, Pexels


Once you have a plan, it’s time to purchase the materials you’ll need to accomplish this project. Assuming any drainage or moisture seal issues have already addressed, here are the main materials to plan for: 

  • Treated lumber for studs (treated lumber is less susceptible to warping and rot)
  • Metal or wood furring strips to create offsets along your walls (a must for uneven walls)
  • Insulation (a solid foam insulation is recommended if it will contact the walls directly)
  • Flooring materials (subflooring, carpet, laminate or tile)
  • Drywall
  • Paint
  • Concrete sealer
  • Hammer drill with masonry bits, masonry screws or slip anchor sleeves
  • Plumbing (if you plan to install a bathroom or make changes to your laundry area)
  • Sump pumps (every sump pit should have a primary and a backup pump)
levelerImage via jarmoluk, Pixabay

Understandably, there’s a lot to consider, learn, and absorb when preparing to finish your basement. Taking the time to carefully plan out your project while being mindful of potential pitfalls will go a long way towards creating a beautiful space you can not only be proud of, but will provide years of enjoyment for your family, and those of future owners.

For the original article, see Realtor.ca/blog


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Updating your rental property is a delicate balance—you want the place to feel like home, but might not be keen on investing a whole lot of time and money into a place that’s not yours to keep. Plus, there’s the matter of preserving your deposit and staying in your landlord’s good graces. 

While these are responsible things to consider, you deserve to live somewhere that doesn’t feel temporary! As we weather the most indoor winter of them all, it’s important your place feels like home. Here are some damage-free, simple, and cost-effective ways to get started. 

A women painting the walls in her studio apartment

Update your paint job

A fresh coat of paint is great for morale, making your space look cleaner and brighter. Send your landlord a quick email before embarking on this one, as they may expect you to return the apartment to its original colour when you move out. If so, you may want to avoid dark colours or use them sparingly (like on an accent wall, maybe?) to avoid hassle when you repaint. Your landlord may also thank you for saving them the trouble of having to repaint themselves!

Image via [EasyWallz.com]

Try a removable mural

Temporary wall treatments have been gaining popularity in recent years, meaning there’s a tremendous variety of textures and patterns to choose from. It’s easier to install and to remove than traditional wallpaper, making it a kind choice for when “future you” moves out. Temporary murals can be an excellent option for kid bedrooms too, as they can be replaced with your child’s changing interests. 

A wall of artwork

Display your artwork

Does reluctance to put holes in your walls have you putting off assembling a gallery wall?  Command strips are a great alternative to more permanent methods. Be sure to wipe your frame and the wall with alcohol before hanging, so the strip can easily adhere. You’ll also want to use a level to make sure your image is hanging straight the first time, as removing and replacing the strip onto the wall will make it less sticky each time. 

Make the most of your space

Does your rental’s layout have some quirks you could do without? A little creativity can help optimize the space you have to work for you. 

  • The addition of a butcher table to your kitchen can make a big difference for counter space, especially one with additional storage beneath. 
  • Partitioning your space with room-dividing screens can help make purposeful pockets in an open-concept space. This is especially handy for those of us working from home in terms of video conferencing. Sometimes freeing up a physical space for reading or meditation can help free up mental space too.
  • Over-the-toilet storage like this one and no-drill hooks like these can help free up counter space in your bathroom. 

A modern floor lamp

Let there be light

Lighting in a rental unit can be sparse, or just ill-suited to how you use your space. Personalizing your lighting scheme can help you see your space in a new light (pun absolutely intended). 

  • Floor lamps are an easy way to achieve both ambient and task-oriented lighting, without taking up precious space on your surfaces. 
  • An edison pendant light is a vintage-inspired option to provide overhead lighting without rewiring or changing your fixtures. 
  • Though popularized by Gen Z on TikTok, LED light strips and bulbs make it easy to change the vibe on a whim, while still looking modern and grown up. Plus, they set the mood for all your best impromptu home dance parties. 

While the apartment may not be yours for keeps, there are ways you can add your own flair and make the space feel like home. 

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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Since the first round of COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring of 2020, more home buyers have been purchasing properties in cottage country

Spending more time at home, and longing for additional space both indoors and out, has sent many buyers into rural markets across the country, causing sales to skyrocket in these communities. In December, the Lakelands Association of REALTORS®, which represents MuskokaHaliburtonOrillia and Parry Sound in Ontario reported new annual records for both non-waterfront and waterfront property sales, which grew by 16.5% and 44.9%, respectively.

CottageImage via Unsplash

Greg McInnis, a sales representative and REALTOR® with Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited who specializes in Ontario’s Haliburton region, says the cottage market was ‘going gangbusters’ consistently throughout 2020. With employer mindsets shifting towards more flexible work-from-home policies, providing home buyers with greater freedom as to where they can live, all indications are pointing to another strong year in 2021, he says. 

“People have been looking to get out [to] cottage country not just for the summer season, but all year long,” said McInnis. “We do see a lot of people looking at year-round places, [which] are more important to them. [A place] that they can live at, versus just being able to go away for a few days at a time.”

If you’re looking to make your first home purchase in cottage country, McInnis lays down a few crucial facts you’ll need to know before you buy. 

Looking out window at winter sceneImage via Unsplash

Consider property access and distance to amenities

Whether you’re eying a cottage by the lake or one that’s nestled in the forest, there are many unique settings to consider when buying a rural property. Your cottage’s location can greatly impact your lifestyle, especially if you decide to live there year-round.

One of the first things you’ll likely need to determine when buying a cottage property is how you’ll be able to access the home. If you plan to live at your cottage year-round, McInnis says you’ll want to ensure the roads to get to and from your residence are well maintained and accessible, especially during the winter. 

How remote your cottage is will also play a role in your purchase. McInnis says the recent surge of all-season cottage buyers don’t want to feel too isolated, and want to be fairly close to neighbours in case there’s an emergency.

cottage on the lakeImage via James Bombales

McInnis explains you’ll also want to consider proximity to basic amenities, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Most cottage buyers prefer to be within 30 minutes of a small town where these services are available, he says, and up to three hours from a major urban centre. 

“They want to stay three hours or under away from the city, even if they are moving out or semi-permanently moving out,” says McInnis. “They still want to have access to the city for jobs or be able to go in and do whatever [they need to], so they don’t want to be too, too far away.”

Learn about rural infrastructure and home winterization

Unlike a city or suburban home, cottage properties don’t always share municipal services. Instead, cottage dwellers will have to get familiar with the rural infrastructure needed to independently manage their home’s water, heating and sanitation utilities. 

McInnis says buyers will have to be aware of the types of systems their home uses. Some properties feature dug or drilled wells, and source water from nearby rivers and lakes. Make note of how the home processes sewage, like through a septic tank, which is stored on-site and underground. You’ll also need to learn about how you can dispose of your garbage, whether a regular pick-up service is available or if you’ll be required to drive to the local dump. 

kitchen faucetImage via Pexels

If your plan is to live at the cottage all-year round, it’s vital your home is properly winterized and can withstand the cold. McInnis says to check the home is well insulated in the walls, pipes and roof, and to make sure the heating source is efficient for the size of the property. Be sure the cottage can also supply water in the freezing months with the help of a defrost line into the well or a heat trace that will keep the pipes from freezing.

cottage in winterImage via Unsplash

It’s not uncommon to get zero service bars in rural areas either—be sure to confirm you can receive reliable mobile phone and internet service at the cottage, especially if you’re working remotely.    

“Cell and internet service are obviously very important, especially for people that are doing a lot of work from home,” says McInnis. “There are some areas of cottage country that have pretty good service. There’s other areas that don’t.”

Calculate cottage insurance and upkeep costs

Just like any home, cottages come with a range of maintenance costs, though some of these expenses are unique to rural areas. 

McInnis says you’ll want to factor in long-term upkeep expenses, like keeping the driveway in good condition so it’s easily accessible. Your property may be on a septic system, which will require pumping every three to five years depending on its size and usage, which also contributes to maintenance costs. When looking at a cottage property, McInnis recommends examining the health of any trees and their orientation towards the house—cutting down sickly shrubs can get expensive. 

“Danger trees can cost $1,000 to take down, so if you’ve got a number of those that you’ve got to take down in the next few years, that can really add to the cost of your purchase,” explains McInnis.

man with chainsaw cutting logImage via Pexels

When it comes to financing your property, there are a number of factors that will contribute to your insurance rates, such as your distance from local fire stations, if your home is elevated from nearby water, and even how often the home is occupied. 

The mortgage lending process will also look a bit different from what’s involved for your typical city or suburban home. If your home meets the standards to be a primary residence, McInnis explains you may be able to put down a 5%t mortgage deposit, though some lenders could request 25%in some cases. Hence, it’s crucial to understand the different implications for each cottage mortgage provider. 

“There’s a lot of things to think about, which is probably why it’s good to have a professional real estate agent looking out for you so they can go over all of those things with you,” says McInnis.  

Enlisting the help of a local REALTOR® when buying a cottage ensures you can get the most up-to-date advice on transitioning to rural living. Connect with the best REALTOR® for your needs at REALTOR.ca, where you can find thousands of agents that specialize in Canada’s many cottage communities. 

For the original article, check out Realtor.ca/blog


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Congratulations, you’re a homeowner! (Or you’re a renter! Which also deserves celebration!) There’s so much to learn and explore about your new digs, but it’s important to get some basics squared away before you play. Your home will have countless surprises for you over the years—and the right time to learn how to deal with them is not when you’re smack dab in the middle of a crisis. From some emergency preparedness to basic troubleshooting, these are 50 things everyone should know about their home. While it’s not a comprehensive guide, it’s a great place to start:

The basics:

Safety first! These are the things to know to prevent everyday hazards.

1. Your exit plan

First and foremost, one of the most important things you should know about your home is how to get out of it. In case of a fire or another emergency, how are you going to get to safety? (Every sleeping area should have at least one exit identified, either a door or a window that leads directly to the exterior.) What about for natural disasters? You should have a solid exit plan for all scenarios—Ready.gov has great planning resources for both domestic and external emergencies.


2. How your smoke detectors work

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. The best way to prevent this? Check to make sure your smoke detectors are working monthly.

Had them for awhile? It may be time for a replacement. According to Welmoed Sisson, home inspector at Inspections by Bob in Frederick, Maryland, and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want In Your Home,” they should be replaced every ten years.


3. How your carbon monoxide detectors work

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150 people in the United States die annually from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. While you’re checking your smoke detectors, give your CO detectors a good press, too. Many devices will have an end-of-life alarm, but many, including those by First Alert, recommend replacing them after five years.

4. How to use your fire extinguisher

Sure, you may have received a fire extinguisher from your parents as a first apartment housewarming gift, but do you actually know to use it? Peruse the National Fire Protection Association’s guide for a quick how-to. Also, if you’ve never used it (other than as a doorstop), Allstate has a nifty blog post about how to effectively inspect your extinguisher.

5. If you’re at risk for radon

When you were going through the home inspection process, it’s likely your home was tested for radon exposure—aka what happens after the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, soil, and water. However, if you live in an older home in the Northeast, Southern Appalachia, the Midwest, or the Northern Plains, you should test for radon if you haven’t in awhile or if you’ve just done a major home renovation. The New York State Department of Health recommends every couple five years in different seasons.


One of the first things experts recommend doing when moving in a new house is changing the locks—but why spend the additional money hiring a locksmith if you can easily do it yourself? (Here’s an easy DIY from This Old House!) If you don’t want to change all the locks themselves (cause that’s still pricey!) but still want the added security reassurance, you can also use a re-keying kit, which runs about $9 (but is a little more difficult to install than an entire new unit).

7. How to change your garage access information

Here’s a tip: Default isn’t safe. Take a cue from Jill Schafer, an agent with Kentwood Real Estate in Denver, Colorado, and learn how to change your garage keypad stat.

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8. How to spot (or smell!) mold—and what to do with it

The CDC says that whenever you spot mold on a hard surface, you should deal with it immediately. However, some molds can require more intensive removal. One in particular is Stachybotrys chartarum (aka toxic black mold) and it grows wherever water or moisture shouldn’t be. Though it’s black, green, or gray, chances are you’re going to smell it before you see it since since it’s usually stuck in the pores of water-damaged drywall, carpet, or other flooring. Most of the time, a surface cleaning won’t do anything—you’re going to have to get rid of the materials entirely and address what was causing water damage in the first place.

9. How to deal with pests

Speaking of living things in your home: You should know what pests are common in your area and potentially may encounter in your home. From insects, like silverfish and even—god forbid—bed bugs, to bigger uninvited guests, like mice or other wild animals, you should know what to do if you see one as well as ways to prevent an infestation.

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10. Where the main electric shut off is—and how to turn it off

Generally, it’s good to locate where your breaker box is (and have it appropriately labeled).


“It may be in the main panel in the basement, but in some houses it’s in the garage or outside near the electric meter,” says Sisson.

While you’re most likely to interact with it after you trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse, you should also know how to turn off your home’s electricity flow for maintenance and safety reasons. If you’re installing something electric (i.e. a light fixture or any appliance that’s more complicated than just plugging something in), you’ll need to turn off the individual circuit breaker. If there’s a local fire, too, (i.e. if your microwave catches fire) or if there are sparks coming out of your outlet—you should run to the breaker, too.


11. Where the main water shut-off is—and how to turn it off

According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, your main water shut-off valve is most likely located close to your water heater and has a bright red handle. A strong clockwise turn is all it takes to turn it off.

But why should you know how to turn it off? According to Ben Creamer, co-founder and managing broker of Downtown Realty Company in Chicago, Illinois, quickly turning off the water in a plumbing emergency will alleviate potential water damage in the home.

“A cracked pipe, a leaky shower, or a broken sprinkler head can all cause serious and costly damage if you don’t stop the water flow quickly,” Creamer says.


12. Where the gas shut-offs are

For safety reasons, you shouldn’t try to shut off your gas main on your own—leave that to a professional, reports Katie Johnston at the Boston Globe. And if you smell gas in your home, leave and call 911 immediately.

However, if you need to turn off a gas-powered appliance, like a stove or water heater (for installation or maintenance purposes), look behind the machine for the valve and turn clockwise. For more detailed instructions, check out SoCalGas’s how-to.


13. How your home is ventilated

There are multiple ways to ventilate a home—and they all require their own type of upkeep. To prevent harmful pollutants and/or unwanted moisture to accumulate and wreak havoc on your health and home, make sure all exhaust vents are unobstructed and all mechanical systems are serviced yearly.

The nuts and bolts

Numbers and metrics are specific to your home.

14. Your experts

If a pipe breaks or the furnace poops out, who will you call? Keep a list of recommended plumbers, carpenters, electricians, contractors, handymen, and exterminators on your refrigerator to call in a moment’s notice.


15. The lifespan of all the components of your home, their warranties, and their maintenance schedules

Fun fact: Nothing in your home lasts forever—and even if something is made to last for a very, very long time, it’ll require regular upkeep to ensure you squeeze out every last potential year of your appliances and building materials. Knowing how old everything is in your home, the last time everything was serviced, if it’s still under warranty, and any major issues in the past will help you plan out just when you’ll need to perform maintenance (and save up for it.)

“Get a sense for the remaining lifespan of the roof, furnace, air conditioning condenser, and other mechanicals,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental.com. “These are expensive to replace, and homeowners should know if they need to expect a $15,000 roof bill next year or ten years from now.”

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16. Where your wall studs are

For anything weighing over a pound, use a stud finder to drill or hammer into the studs. Just $7 can save you from expensive damaged drywall, says Davis.


17. What type of insulation you have

“It’s important to understand the type of insulation that runs throughout your home,” said Bridget Rooney, a home renovation and safety expert. While all insulation types have their own benefits, risks, and maintenance routines, some are more dangerous than others. For example, if your home was built before the 1980s, it’s possible that your home has asbestos insulation. Asbestos is not dangerous if it’s contained, but if “friable” (easily crumbled by hand) and its fibers or dust are inhaled, it can cause abestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. This is a common risk in older homes and, surprisingly, according to the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center, there are no federal guidelines for home inspections around asbestos, and many inspectors don’t check. However, in many states, sellers are required to disclose any known asbestos products in the home.

“Replacing this insulation sooner rather than later with a non-toxic alternative such as paper insulation will ensure your home is a healthy place for many years to come,” Rooney says.

18. Your home’s electrical load/capacity

Want to add another appliance or make a modernization update? Make sure your circuit can handle the additional load so you’re not constantly running down to reset your breaker, says Allison Chiaramonte of Warburg Realty in New York City.


The Spruce has a helpful article on how to calculate your home’s electrical capacity yourself, or you can hire an electrician for a comprehensive analysis.

19. Your water pressure

You can check your water pressure using a pressure gauge from a home improvement store. (This $6 one is top-rated on Amazon as well.) According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, an ideal water pressure reading is between 45 and 55 psi. Any higher means you risk overloading your pipes and hoses, which can result in flooding. Any lower means a disappointing shower. You can easily fix any problems in pressure by installing and tightening/loosening a regulator. If it’s a problem directly from the municipal system, you can add a water pressure booster—but they’re somewhat pricey.

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20. Your proper light bulb wattage

“Overlamping, or using a light bulb with wattage too high for a given outlet, can easily result in a home fire,” said Craig Gjelsten, vice president of operations at Rainbow International. “Simply locate the proper wattage on each fixture outlet. If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe. Avoid using [compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in any lighting unit where the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting.” Instead, Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, such as LED.


Additionally, make sure all of your light bulbs are the same type and wattage—this is a common staging trick as uneven lighting can make a space appear smaller.

Basic troubleshooting

21. How to shut off your toilet

Look, shit happens. But don’t let your bowl runneth over onto your sparkling clean floor just because your tank won’t stop running. Turning off your toilet water valve (it’s the silver almond-shaped handle right under or behind the toilet) will stop messes before they happen.

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22. How to stop a dripping faucet

That plinky leaky faucet is not only driving you crazy, but it’s costing you money. Learn how to take off the faucet and replace the rubber washer—here’s an easy how-to.

23. How to unclog a sink drain

Forget those hazardous chemicals. Instead, turn off the water, place a bucket underneath the sink and unscrew the U shaped pipe underneath. Most likely, what’s causing the clog is in there.


24. How to unclog a shower drain

Slow shower? Try one of these 10 methods for how to unclog a drain before calling the plumber.


25. Where your water heater is, its capacity, and how to flush it out

Your home should be a no-cold shower zone—so you should know how much hot water your heater can contain. And step one in enacting that rule is knowing where your water heater is to check its size, but also in case of any on-the-ground troubleshooting (Spoiler alert: It’s usually tucked away somewhere and likely around the other utility hubs.) And while we’re talking about water heaters, remember that yours needs to be flushed every year. Sisson says you can do that using the faucet at the base.

Looking for your water softener? It shouldn’t be that far away from the heater!

26. What type of waste system you have, how it works (and where your main-line clean-out is)

The closer you live to an urban center, the more likely you are to have a direct connection from your home to a municipal sewer system. All pipes in your home most likely connect to the city system via a main-line, which can occasionally clog (and cause sewage water to seep up from floor drain. Yuck!) Thankfully, there’s a clean-out—usually outside the home and close to the foundation—that can easily solve problems. However, if that clean-out is blocked, the problem becomes harder and more expensive to fix.


If you’re in a more rural area, you may be dealing with a septic tank. Aaron Hendon of Christine & Company of Keller Williams in Seattle says there are many different designs of tanks and each has its own needs and ways to care for it. Hopefully you won’t be dealing with it all that often, but for emergency situations, you should know where in your yard your system and tank is buried. Not sure how to figure that out? According to FloHawks Plumbing and Septic in the Pacific Northwest, system diagrams may have been included as part of your home inspection, but you can also use country records to find the “as-builts” for your property (they usually contain the diagrams as well.)

27. Which air filter your HVAC system uses

While changing your filter every month may be overdoing it for those without pets or allergies, you should at least change it seasonally to ensure your AC isn’t working overtime. But these filters aren’t a one-size-fits all deal. Marla Mock, vice president of operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company, says you can figure out the right filter size by looking at the existing filter or consulting your HVAC manual.

“Write this number down to ensure you get the proper size,” she says. “Having the correct size increases effectiveness and helps lower your electricity bill.”


28. How to open and close your fireplace flue

If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace—and use it for more than just decoration—you should know how to open and close your fireplace flue to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup, says Roxanne Little, chief executive officer of HAFKAR Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia. She also recommends getting it (and your chimney, if you have one) cleaned and serviced at least annually.


29. How to clean your dryer vent ductwork

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are an estimated annual 2,900 fires, 5 deaths, and 100 and $35 million in property loss injuries due to clothes dryer fires every year. Yes, much of this is due to not cleaning off the lint catcher after every load, but did you know it’s also important to clean out your dryer vent ductwork every year too? Remove the hose behind the dryer, and take a brush and vacuum to remove any lint pileup. Not only will it reduce your chance of fire, but it will improve your dryer’s energy efficiency, too.

30. How to patch a window screen

Have a hole just big enough in your screen for a bug to crawl through? You can use clear nail polish to easily patch them right up. Bigger holes can be repaired with sewing, patches, or with a duct tape-like adhesive.


31. How to replace a circuit breaker fuse

Sometimes your fuse won’t have to be reset—but actually has to be replaced. Here’s the easy (and safe!) way to replace a circuit breaker fuse by yourself.

32. How to replace a light switch

Whether it’s broken or just kind of gross, installing a light switch is easier than you think it is. (And so is installing a dimmer!)

Having one outlet that just doesn’t work, is too loose, or just doesn’t look nice isn’t something you have to live with. And, quite frankly, it’s pretty easy to fix! Here, how to replace an electrical outlet.


34. How to seal up drafts

It may be an important step in winterizing, but covering up any poorly-insulated areas will lower your cooling bills in the summer, too. “As structures shift and settle over time, insulation, caulking, and other protective materials slowly lose their protective powers,” says Larry Patterson, franchise owner of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly Company. Here’s a full guide to insulating your entire home against drafts.

35. How to take off (and reinstall) your shower head

Your shower may be spotless—but, chances are, there’s one thing you haven’t cleaned in awhile: The shower head itself. At least once a year, you should remove it and give it a good cleaning. Or, while you’re at it, upgrade to an entirely new (and more luxurious) head, too.

36. How to care for your hardwood floors

Keep those hardwood floors as beautiful as they are today. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, you shouldn’t use water on them when the floor gets dirty. Instead, start cleaning your hardwood floors by using a dry cloth to promptly mop up spills and use wood-friendly cleaners on a monthly basis.

37. What your countertop materials are made of

Countertops can look like one thing and actually be another—which spells trouble when it comes time to clean and perform maintenance. “Natural stone that is proud, like marble, needs to be sealed annually and cleaned with a solution that specifically formulated to not harm the stone,” says Rainey Richardson, of Rainey Richardson Interiors in Houston, Texas. “Other materials like quartz and Neolith that are composites require much less maintenance.

38. How to clean a gutter

Be careful, but you should get up there and get out all the gook and the leaves and sticks. A clogged gutter can cause damage to your roof and leaks inside the walls. Here’s an easy guide to cleaning your gutters.

39. Where your manuals are

Gone are the days where you’d have to keep a zip-lock bag full of the user manuals for your toaster, fridge, and washing machine. Today, Schafer says you can find most of them online—just make sure to download and save a copies to the Cloud (may we suggest a dedicated folder?) so you always have access to them.


Contextual information

How your home relates to your neighborhood and the city where you live

40. Where your block/lot map is

“The map shows right-of-ways for utility companies and the county,” says Richardson. “This is important when you want to add improvements like a deck, fencing, an outdoor kitchen, or a swimming pool.”

41. Know local permitting ordinance requirements

Take a trip over to your local building department. “Learn the ordinance requirements so that any future additions or modifications are not the source of upset or extra expense,” said Hendon. “Height restrictions, setbacks, and building codes can change and you want to be clear that any future plans are allowed.”


42. When waste pick-up is (and what you can leave out)

Not only do different areas have their different days, but what can be left out as garbage, recycling, and compost (and how it should be presented) can vary wildly as well. Check with your local sanitation department to get the low-down and avoid any pricey fines.

43. Your neighbor’s contact information

We all have to look out for each other! Have your neighbors contact information on file in case of an emergency (or simply to invite them over for dinner one evening!)


44. Non-emergency numbers

911 should be kept for emergencies only. Use this number for all non-urgent matters—and only if you can’t resolve the issue yourself.


45. The noise curfew

Summer parties are fun—but your neighbors won’t appreciate your speakers blasting until all hours of the night. (And I’m sure you won’t like if a neighbor is mowing the lawn too early, either!)

46. The nearest hospital, 24/7 emergency clinic, and vet

It’s a great thing to know in case of an emergency. (It might be worth checking to see which is the closest ER that accepts your insurance, as well.)

47. Your polling place

Voting is your civic duty—locate where you need to be on election day.


48. Your elected representatives

It’s important to know who is doing the work for you and your community (and if they’re doing a good job.) Want to become a more informed citizen? Set a Google alert for their names.

49. The nearest donation center

There’s no reason to throw out old furniture or clothes when you can donate it—and often when someone will swing by to pick it up! Locate your nearest donation center (like Goodwill or the Salvation Army) and research what they can and can’t accept.

50. Who services your local utilities

Who provides internet, electricity, gas, and water in your area—and how can you contact them in an emergency?

Source: ApartmentTherapy.com


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Quarterly Forecasts

December 15, 2020 – The national average price is forecast to rise by 9.1% in 2021 to $620,400. Average price trends across Canada in 2021 are generally expected to resemble those in 2020. Shortages of supply, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, are expected to result in strong price growth, while Alberta and Saskatchewan are anticipated to see average prices pick up following several years of depreciation.
  • Ottawa, ON December 15, 2020 – The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has updated its forecast for home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate boards and associations.

    Current trends and the outlook for housing market fundamentals suggest activity will remain relatively healthy through 2021, with prices either continuing to climb or remaining steady in all regions.

    Economic activity continues to improve slowly following the initial stages of the pandemic. Over the past several years, record levels of international immigration, low interest rates and an increasing share of millennials entering their home buying years have helped make the housing market a significant source of strength for the Canadian economy. The recent government support programs for individuals and businesses have also helped the overall economy through the most severe parts of the pandemic to date.

    Mortgage interest rates have declined to record lows in 2020, including the Bank of Canada’s benchmark five-year rate used by Canada’s largest banks to qualify applicants under the B-20 mortgage stress test. With the Bank of Canada committing to keep interest rates low into 2023, mortgage interest rates are expected to remain near current levels through 2021.

    Recent national sales trends have improved more than anticipated over the second half of 2020. New listings in most of the country have also recovered. However, while sales activity rebounded to record-high levels, new listings only recovered to about their five-year average in most markets. The relative strength of demand for homes compared with supply has meant sales activity has been eroding active inventory, which was already scarce in many markets pre-pandemic. That said, this has been a trend since 2015.

    The increase in demand has impacted every part of the country, including the Prairies and Newfoundland and Labrador. While these regions aren’t experiencing the same intensity of upward price pressures as the rest of the country, compared with previous years, demand is strengthening and prices have indeed started to increase.

    Despite the historic setback to the spring market caused by the pandemic, CREA projects national sales to hit a record of 544,413 units in 2020, representing an 11.1% increase from 2019 levels. The strength of the Canadian housing market was broad-based, with every province except Alberta registering a year-over-year increase in sales. British Columbia and Quebec stand out as large contributors to the overall gain.

    The national average price in 2020 is on track to rise by 13.1% on an annual basis to just over $568,000. This reflects the current balance of supply and demand, which heavily favours sellers in many local markets.

    On a monthly basis, sales are forecast to ease back to more typical levels throughout 2021; however, presuming there’s a more normal spring market in 2021, the year as a whole is expected to see more home sales than 2020. National home sales are forecast to rise by 7.2% to around 584,000 units next year. All provinces except Ontario are forecast to see increased sales activity in 2021, as low interest rates and improving economic fundamentals allow people to get into the markets where homes are available for sale.

    Ontario has seen strong demand for several years, particularly outside of Toronto, which has eroded active supply in the province. This shortage is expected to limit sales activity in 2021. The strength of demand, particularly for larger single-family properties, will drive the average price higher as potential buyers compete for the most desirable properties.

    – 30 –

    About the Canadian Real Estate Association

    The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is one of Canada’s largest single-industry associations. CREA works on behalf of more than 130,000 REALTORS® who contribute to the economic and social well-being of communities across Canada. Together they advocate for property owners, buyers and sellers.

Source:  CREA


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With most of us spending extra time at home this year, there’s certainly a backlog of projects you’ve been hoping to get to when you have the time. New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for you, they can be for your home too! So why not take some time this holiday season to plan your house goals for 2021. 

From cleaning every nook and cranny to finally getting around to building a new headboard for your master bedroom, we’ve got all affordable DIY New Year’s projects you could ask for. 

Cleaning the bathroom tiles and grout

Grout is one of those “set it and forget it” things we often overlook in a home. But grout is actually quite porous and can easily stain in high-traffic areas like kitchens or hallways. 

Get yourself a stiff bristle brush and some hydrogen peroxide, or another type of grout cleaner, and start scrubbing! You’ll be surprised by the difference freshly cleaned grout makes to your tiled floor or wall overall. 

Cleaning your floor

DIY an accent wall

If you’ve been thinking about a refresh but aren’t sure what to do, rather than repainting an entire room try an accent wall! 

You can use wallpaper or a mural to highlight a wall in a room or go the full distance and DIY wall paneling to create a more built-in and authentic effect. 

Accent walls can truly transform a room and can be done for well under $300 if you rent the necessary tools and equipment.

Baseboard maintenance

Oh baseboards. Those tricky out of sight, out of mind accessories. Except that baseboards are rarely completely out of sight. Baseboards are a friend to dust and grime and require some grooming to keep them in good condition. 

So, maybe this year’s resolution involves a little baseboard cleaning. Not to worry, it’s actually really easy. All you need is some soapy water and a dishcloth (OK, and maybe a few hours to get the job done). 

If your baseboards are starting to separate from the wall, grab some white baseboard caulk and work it into the crevice using a 5 in 1 tool, or your finger, to reseal them to the wall. 


Eliminate office drawer and shelf clutter

We’ve been spending a lot of time in our home-offices this year. So naturally, things have piled up. With work-from-home orders extending into the new year and beyond, it’s a good time to clear out the clutter in your workspace. 

Start by going through all cabinets and drawers. Toss any loose papers, receipts, and miscellaneous items you don’t need. Order some drawer organizers, or get your hands on a couple of small baskets to group loose items together. 

Donate any books you don’t plan on re-reading, and store old notebooks in a box for safekeeping. 

Deep cleaning the oven

While some might regularly take care of this chore, others leave it as a once-a-year activity. 

This task takes about an hour and can be done for under $20! Snag some oven cleaner from your local grocery or department store, as well as a rag and scrub brush.

Remove everything from your oven and spray it down, including the back, sides, top, and bottom. Let sit for as long as your cleaning product suggests, usually 30 minutes or more. Remove the racks, spray them down, and leave them to sit for 20 minutes. 

Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, take a wet rag and wipe down all surfaces you sprayed. Rinse your racks in the sink, or outside with a garden hose, and voila! You’re done! 

A clean showerhttps://unsplash.com/photos/LGJ6MkX-la4

Cleaning hair out of the drain

Not for the faint of heart, this one’s for the folks truly committed to those home-inspired resolutions. 

If you’re handy, you can fashion an easy drain snake out of a wire hanger following this tutorial. Otherwise, head to your local pharmacy and pick up a bottle of CLR or Drano for an easier, less-involved option. Although, there’s something oddly satisfying with pulling it out yourself. 

Washing curtains/dusting blinds

Likely not on your laundry list are your curtains. These things just stay clean forever, right? Wrong! Curtains are a dust magnet, and overtime can actually lose their colour and vibrancy from the amount of dust they hold onto. 

Read the care instructions before throwing them in the wash—some curtains need dry cleaning, while others can be hand-washed. 

If blinds are your window covering of choice, take a wet cloth to them and lightly brush over them to reveal a good-as-new shine. 

A beautiful bedroom, with a freshly made bed and attention grabbing headboard. https://unsplash.com/photos/iAftdIcgpFc

Build your own headboard

Headboards can really upgrade a bedroom, but when purchased are quite pricey! But headboards are surprisingly easy to DIY. All you’ll need is some plywood, foam, and fabric as well as the right building tools. 

Make your own tufted headboard for under $150 in an afternoon. 

Steam cleaning the carpets

Every once in a while you’ll want to clean your carpets to keep them from collecting dirt, dust, allergens, and stains. 

Before steam cleaning you’ll want to remove all furniture, vacuum and spot treat any tough stains. Then, you can either use a carpet cleaner bought online or rented from your local hardware store for under $150! So easy, and so worth it. 

Bright lights with fun shades.https://unsplash.com/photos/NGb91VwnOWY

Take apart and clean your lights

Flush mount lighting and ceiling fans are prone to collecting dust and are rarely (if ever) cleaned. Take it upon yourself to go the extra mile and dust off those ceiling lights, your lungs will thank you later! 

Cleaning the fridge

Yes, it’s a grubby job, but there’s nothing like a sparkly clean fridge to lift one’s cooking spirits. Start by clearing out your fridge and emptying containers filled with old food and sauce you completely forgot about (gross, but worth it for the environmental impact of saving waste!) 

Next, remove any drawers and shelves. Take them to a bathtub or laundry sink and spray them down with some antibacterial cleaner. While they sit, spray down the inside of your fridge and wipe with a damp cloth. Rinse off the shelves and drawers and place them back in the fridge. 

Once it’s time to put things back in the fridge, opt for an organization method that works for you. We love the suggestion of using the top fridge shelf for ready-to-eat, or close to expiry items! 

A simple backspace, making your kitchen even cleaner.https://unsplash.com/photos/DlO0yz4U67A

Re-tile your kitchen backsplash

2020 brought a wave of hot new tile trends that will leave older kitchens looking outdated. Most kitchen backsplash tiles range from $4-10 a square foot. So, depending on the size of your kitchen, this is a project you can do for under $300! 

Follow this simple DIY tutorial to nail your first backsplash project!


Whatever your New Year home resolution, make sure to take it slow. Don’t rush into a million projects; start with the things you think will give you the most satisfaction and take it from there! 

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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It’s not that hard to build a basic outdoor fire pit. You can do it in an afternoon, with a little elbow grease and less than $100.


  • shovel
  • level

Show All


  • retaining wall blocks (we used about 36)
  • metal fire pit ring
  • 7” square concrete pavers or fire brick for the bottom of the pit (we used about 15)


Plan Location and Layout

A fire pit should be built at least 15 feet from any structure and close to a water source. Ideally, you’ll want it on level ground; it’ll make building it much easier and sitting around it more comfortable.


Determine the Size

The size of your fire pit will be determined by your metal fire ring. Place the ring and retaining-wall blocks on the ground to figure out the size of the fire pit. Mark the outside of the circle with the edge of a shovel.


Dig a Hole

Move the retaining wall blocks out of the way and dig inside the marked hole. Make the hole at least 7” deep.


Line Hole With Sand

Add a 1” layer of all-purpose sand in the hole and tamp it down flat. You may want to use a level to make sure it's all on the same plain.


Add Base Row

Lay the bottom row of blocks inside the hole. Place the outside of the block on the very edge of the sand.


Place Metal Ring

Place the metal ring on the sand inside the base row of blocks.


Insert Bricks Into Fire Pit Floor

Lay the pavers or fireplace bricks in the bottom of the fire pit. Cover as much area as possible.


Add Pea Gravel

Fill the gaps between the blocks and the pavers with pea gravel.


Place Remaining Rows of Blocks

Stack the outer blocks to your desired height. Stagger the seams of each layer.

To see the original article and video, check out: https://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/hardscape/build-a-fire-pit-in-a-few-hours-for-under-100

Source: DIYNetwork.com

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When we think about buying and selling real estate, it’s easy to overlook that, in many cases, the property being sold is a rental property that likely has tenants. In fact, with a majority of households in Canada owning their homes (67.8% according to a 2016 Census) nearly one-third of all homes in Canada are rental properties. 

While most real estate transactions are pretty straightforward, different rules apply when a rental property is concerned. Let’s look at the different scenarios you might encounter when buying a rental property that has tenants.

A young adult signing a lease.Image via Cytonn Photography, Pexels

Scenario 1: You wish to keep the tenant(s)

This is the simplest scenario and has the least impact on timing and conditions of the sale. No matter if the tenant has a fixed-term or periodic tenancy (month-to-month), once the sale closes they will fall under your responsibility as the new lessor (a.k.a. landlord). In most provinces, any fixed-term lease will revert to a periodic tenancy automatically when it expires.

You may be asking, “do I need to sign a new lease agreement?” According to licensed paralegal Ashley Katamay of Ottawa, while it’s not mandatory to sign a new lease, “The rules in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) will always apply, regardless if there is a contract or not. If the parties sign a new lease, the landlord can change the terms ONLY if the tenant agrees and if the changes comply with the rules stipulated in the RTA.” 

A grandmother and granddaughter talking while having a cookies. Image via Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Scenario 2: You wish to occupy the home or rent to a family member

There are two ways this works, but in both scenarios it’s important to clearly state your intent to occupy the home or assign it to an immediate family member (parent, spouse or child)—this does not apply to extended family or close friends—as part of your purchase agreement.

The tenant has a lease that has not come to term: “The tenant’s lease remains protected until the end of the fixed term. Therefore, landlords need to ensure the buyer is aware they must comply with the existing tenancy agreement,” shares Katamay. This means you must assume responsibility for the tenant and serve notice to end the tenancy no less than the minimum period required by law before the end date of their fixed-term lease.

If you need the home vacant at the time of purchase, then the sale can only close on the last day of the tenancy, and the current owner is responsible for providing notice. Notice must be given according to the laws of the province or territory in which the home exists. 

When it comes to this situation, Andrew Miller, a REALTOR® and salesperson from Ottawa says, “The lease must be respected regardless. When I have this situation we will typically open discussion with the tenants and try to find a monetary compensation that they are comfortable breaking the lease agreement for so that all sides are happy.”

The tenant’s lease is month-to-month: The same minimum notice requirements apply in this case, though notice can be given immediately once the terms of sale have been satisfied. If you require the unit empty, the sale can only close after the day on which the tenancy ends.

NOTE: A tenancy in Quebec cannot be terminated by the landlord before the sale closes, making it the obligation of the new owner to take the necessary steps to end the tenancy.


Scenario 3: You wish to demolish, renovate or repurpose the property to a non-residential use

This is often where things can get difficult, especially if due diligence has not been taken to prepare ahead of time before ending a tenancy, or if the work is not completed within a reasonable timeframe after the tenancy has ended.

Generally, if a plan is in place to demolish the home, if the home requires substantial renovations that require it to be empty, or if it’s being converted to a non-residential use, longer notice times can be expected. The notice period is anywhere from two months to a full year, depending on the province.

In the case where a multi-unit building is replacing the original rental unit, or where renovations are concerned, Katamaya mentions, “The tenants have the right to move back into the unit once the work is completed. Or the landlord and tenant may agree to end the lease early.”

In some cases the landlord may be required to pay moving expenses, or to compensate the tenant, depending on the province and number of units in the property.

Home agent using a calculator Image via Toa Heftiba, Unsplash

Scenario 4: The tenant is paying below market rent

When a tenant has been residing in a home for many years, rent often falls below market, causing what Miller says is the only downside for a buyer when they wish to keep a tenant. As years pass, property values, taxes, and mortgage rates rise, increasing the overheads for landlords and narrowing profit margins. 

Most provinces set annual limits for rental increases to limit abuse, though the premise is that a landlord risks losing a good tenant if they unreasonably raise the rent. A landlord must follow a minimum notice period, and if they have good reason to increase the rent beyond the guidelines, they can apply for permission from their provincial landlord tenant board. 

Rent may also be increased beyond the guideline amount if it’s justified by investing in improvements or renovations to the property.

A couple moving into their first aparmtent. Image via Getty

Residential Tenancies Acts Resources

While there are many similarities from province-to-province, notice periods and restrictions on ending tenancies can differ greatly. For instance, in Manitoba, a tenancy cannot be terminated during a school year if there are school-age children in the household. The minimum notice period in Manitoba is also tied to the vacancy rate in the respective community and can range from two to six months. Alberta law requires a full 365 days notice for renovations that require the unit to be vacant. In Ontario, a fine of up to $25,000 can be levied against a landlord on top of damages for bad-faith evictions. If a unit in Quebec is owned by a company, then the owner of the company cannot reclaim the unit for themselves or a family member.

Here are links for each provincial resource where you can become familiar with the laws in your province:

A mother and daughter packing to move. Image via cottonbro, Pexels

While buying a rental unit is becoming a popular long-term investment, there’s a lot to keep in mind to ensure you stay on the right side of the law while respecting the renters. Let’s not forget they’re individuals and families who love their home and have made memories they will carry forever. Doing your due diligence and approaching tenants with empathy will go a long way to ensure a positive outcome for all.

Source: Realtor.ca/blog


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