Category Archives: Caring For Our Community

10 haunted Halloween attractions in and around Toronto

10 Haunted Halloween attractions in and around Toronto

Haunted Halloween attractions in Toronto pop up every October. What better way to mark the spookiest month of the year than by taking a trip to a haunted house, castle or theme park? There are plenty of places get your scare on both in and just outside of the city.

Here are my picks for haunted Halloween attractions to check out in and around Toronto.

Halloween Haunt

This massive amusement park gets the haunted treatment each and every October, when 700+ roving monsters wander through the grounds and haunted mazes abound. New for 2017 is something called “Blackout,” which takes guests into a centuries-old underground tunnel beneath the park.

Legends of Horror

Take a trip to Casa Loma this Halloween for a truly immersive, next-level haunted house experience. Liberty Entertainment Group has transformed the castle into Legends of Horror – a nightmare of an attraction filled with tons of creepy creatures – all month long.

Black Creek’s True Terror Stories

This educational pioneer village in North York has stepped it up since the days of our elementary school field trips. For Halloween 2017, you can check out its new haunted escape room, various ghosts walks and a separate story series billed as a “journey to the underbelly of Victorian society.”

Toronto’s Horror Hallways

The 401 Mini Indy in Etobicoke debuted this new haunted attraction this year. It features a pitch-black maze for you to walk through and it’s supposed to be a pretty creepy. It’s not recommended for those under the age of 10, so you know it’s got to be good.

Screemers

This event at Exhibition Place has been a Toronto tradition for the past 25 years – and it boasts some seriously terrifying characters. With seven main haunted house attractions, a magic show and carnival rides, you’ll feel like you’re back at the Ex – only this time, with hyper-realistic zombies.

Haunted High Park

Tapping into the real-life ghost rumours surrounding this massive outdoor space, High Park’s annual October ghost walk series now includes everything from séances to “Victorian funeral and mourning traditions” inside Colborne Lodge. A separate, less-intense version of the event exists for children and families if you’d rather not have so many nightmares.

Fear Farm

Drive out to Kitchener-Waterloo to visit this farm, which features a creepy hike through the woods, a haunted hayride and of course, a haunted house. It also has a a candy barn, bakery and grill on site to satisfy your post-haunting hunger, as well as a pumpkin patch that’s open late.

Spooky Lagoon

We all know that Gibaltrar Point lighthouse is haunted, but what about the rest of the Toronto Islands? A series of evening boat rides, launched just this year, promise to take spook-seekers on a journey through island waters, telling the stories of old sunken ships, diving horses, and other infamous local ghosts.

Nightmares Fear Factory

Billed as “the scariest attraction in Niagara Falls,” this legendary haunted house is best-known for the approximately 150,000 people who’ve chickened out halfway through (full disclosure: I am one of said chickens). You can find it at the top of Clifton Hill in Niagara. Just follow the sound of screams.

The Fountain Gallery Halloween Bar 

An art gallery/bar hybrid in the heart of Dundas West is going full-on spooky this Halloween by transforming into a haunted house. Local artists have been hard at work turning The Fountain into something reminiscent of The Shining’s set, with the addition of some truly creepy masks.

Lead photo by Jesse Milns at Legends of Horrors

http://www.blogto.com/sports_play/2016/10/5_haunted_halloween_attractions_in_and_around_toronto

Weed Away!

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In our quest for a perfect, green lawn that more resembles AstroTurf than anything Mother Nature could create, we may find ourselves blasting gallons of weed killer onto our lawns throughout the summer. Instead of filling our lawns — and our lungs — with noxious chemicals, give these natural weed-eliminating methods a chance.

Crowd them out. Over-seed your grass to not only create a thick, luscious landscape, but also to ensure there’s no room for unwanted, weedy invaders.

Smother them. While not practical for weeds scattered throughout your lawn, mulch is a must for keeping weeds at bay around your flowers and vegetable beds. Keep the mulch about two inches deep to eliminate the light and air that weeds need to thrive.

Scald them. If you can boil water, you can kill weeds. For an economical and effective weed killer, carefully pour boiling water onto young weeds popping out of cracks on sidewalks and driveways.

Try vinegar and soap. Mix four cups vinegar with two teaspoons of dish soap in a spray bottle and spray weeds only (avoid grass).

Use elbow grease. Weed the garden regularly, pulling up weeds manually before they go to seed.

And if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! Your next plate of nutritious greens can be as close as your backyard. Young, tender dandelion and chicory leaves can be enjoyed raw, in a salad, or steamed or stir-fried as a cooked side dish. Some people even make tea with the leaves and roots. Those pesky weeds include impressive amounts of nutrients and vitamins — just be sure you know what you’re picking and that you wash them well!

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The Psychology of Clean

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Does mess equal stress? An article in Psychology Today* says “yes!” But the good news is, clutter is one of the easiest life stressors to fix.

Clutter both at home and at work can stress us out on a number of different levels, making it difficult to relax, both physically and mentally. It signals to our brains that our work is never done, and creates feelings of guilt and embarrassment. Clutter also creates a feeling of frustration by preventing us from quickly locating things we need, from keys to paperwork. There’s simply nothing good about mess, so here are some tips to help you tackle it.

    • Address one area at a time, and finish de-cluttering and cleaning that one area before moving onto the next. This creates a sense of accomplishment as you fully complete one task or one room at a time.
    • When it comes to getting organized, setting up more shelves and storage areas isn’t always the answer. Downsize your belongings first by getting rid of things you don’t use or need – donate or toss as necessary, then create designated areas for the rest, ideally in closed spaces such as drawers and cabinets. Simply re-organizing things on open shelves doesn’t take care of “mess stress” as your clutter is still in sight, creating visual stimuli that your mind continuously has to process.
  • Once you get your clutter under control, keep it that way by getting in the habit — making a resolute effort every time — of putting things back where you got them. It sounds simple, but it’s a repetitive process that needs to be continuously reinforced before it becomes routine.

www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octanewomen/ 201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8- reasons-8-remedies

 

Stay Connected to Your Priorities

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The expression “cutting the cord” was, in the past, used to describe a young person’s departure from their parental home to the world of independence and self-sufficiency. In today’s households, cutting the cord now more often refers to the practice of canceling cable TV subscriptions and replacing them with low-cost Internet video streaming subscription services or other free video platforms. Because of that and the widespread reliance on smartphones, good wireless coverage has now rocketed to the top of the list of necessities for home-hunters.

A recent survey reveals that when moving to a new community, today’s home buyer puts more of a premium on reliable at-home wireless service than they do on home prices and decent commute times*. In fact, the survey showed that while having good hospitals in the community was key for 77 percent of respondents, reliable wireless service followed right after that on a homeowner’s list of new home priorities.

Breaking it down, 67 percent of survey respondents ranked reliable wireless service as a “must have” when considering a home, followed by good schools at 65 percent, reasonable home prices at 60 percent and good commuting times at 41 percent. It’s important to note the value of wireless service in today’s homes, with half of today’s households now wireless-only and the number of people who access the Internet using only their smartphones continuing to rise.

Good connections have never been as important as in today’s home-hunting market! That’s why it important to be connected with TheMashTeam.

What Are Closing Costs?

What are closing costs? What should I know before getting my next loan?

What Are Closing Costs?

Closing costs are fees paid in connection with the refinance or transfer of ownership in real property. They are paid by either the buyer or the seller on the settlement date.

These fees will always vary. What you pay for one refinance or property transfer will not be the same as another. This is due to the different parties involved, different types and locations of property, the financial capacity of a buyer and many more factors.

The law requires lenders to give you a loan estimate within three days of receiving your application. This document sets out what your closing costs will be. These fees, however, are not set in stone and subject to change.

Your lender should provide a closing disclosure statement at least three business days before the closing date. This is a more reliable estimate of your closing costs. Compare it to the loan estimate you’ve received and ask your lender to explain the fees and the reasons for any changes.

What Is Included in Closing Costs?

Your costs will differ depending upon the transaction. Types of costs include:

  • Credit report fees (the cost of checking your credit record)
  • Loan origination fees (which consists of the cost to your lender for processing your loan)
  • Attorney fees
  • Inspection fees (for inspections requested by either you or the lender)
  • Appraisal fee
  • Survey fee (so that both you and the lender know where your property boundaries lie)
  • Escrow deposit which may cover private mortgage insurance and some property taxes
  • Pest inspection fee
  • Recording fee paid to a county or city authority to file a record of the property transfer and/or new mortgage lien against the property
  • Underwriting fee to cover the cost of processing a loan application
  • Discount points (money you pay your lender to get a lower interest rate)
  • Title insurance (protection for you and the lender should there be any issues with title to the property)
  • Title search fees (costs incurred by the company who checks the title on the property)

These fees can range anywhere from 2% to 5% of a property’s selling price. It’s smart to get estimates from two or three lenders so that you can take these costs into consideration before making an offer. For the easiest way to compare lenders who may use different terminology to describe their fees, simply ask for a loan estimate from each.

 

Can I Negotiate These Costs?

Some fees, such as document, processing, service, underwriting and courier charges are open to negotiation. However, third party fees such as an appraisal or survey, are not.

If you’re worried about how much you’ll need at closing you can find a bank that doesn’t escrow real estate and homeowners insurance. Often, banks will escrow six months of real estate taxes and several months of homeowners insurance premiums. When added to the other closing costs, this can be quite a large sum.

Keep in mind, however, that you will be responsible for paying your homeowners insurance and property taxes when they’re due rather than relying on your lender to pay them for you.

Where allowed by law, you can negotiate with the seller to have them pay some closing costs normally attributed to the buyer.

Can I Add my Closing Costs to the Loan?

Most loan programs will allow for a percentage of the purchase price to go towards closing costs. The easiest way to do this is to ask for a seller credit towards the closing costs.

The seller credit means that the seller will receive a smaller ‘net’ amount at closing, however there is a way to make a seller credit more palatable to the seller. If you can qualify for a higher purchase price – say 2.5% over list – the seller won’t lose any money and you can use the seller credit towards the closing costs.

In this scenario, what you’re doing is financing your closing costs over the life of the loan.

You can also do a lender credit. Like a no-cost refinance, you agree to a higher interest rate so that the lender will pay some of the closing costs. You can potentially get a lender credit of $2,000 to $4,000 – a sizeable amount of fees.

Keep in mind, however, that should you continue paying the same mortgage over the life of the loan, you could end paying more than if you were to pay up front.

What Can I Expect?

Before closing day arrives, contact your agent to confirm that he or she has everything for the transaction to go as smoothly as possible. Pull together any paperwork that you have received and keep it on hand for easy reference on closing day.

Be prepared to take your time reading through all of the closing documents. Make sure you completely understand all of the terms you’re agreeing to. If some of the terms are missing or incomplete, don’t sign until they are resolved to your satisfaction.

Your lender will send money to the closing agent via a wire transfer and may require that you set up a new escrow account with them to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance together with your monthly mortgage payment.

You should be advised before closing day how much money you’ll need to have for closing, so bring your checkbook with you to cover any necessary escrow and/or closing costs.

Among the many documents you’ll be signing, three of the most important documents will be the:

  • Hud-1 Settlement Statement – a document which sets out the costs incurred with your closing.
  • Deed of Trust or Mortgage – a document in which you agree to a lien being placed against your property as security for repayment of your loan.
  • Promissory Note – a document which can be described as a legal “IOU” which sets out your promise to pay according to the terms of the agreement.

For more information on the details of buying a house, visit our First Time Home Buyer section.

Sharon is the Digital Content Specialist for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. She lives in New Jersey and holds a BA from Syracuse University. She is passionate about giving back to the community and enjoys teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at the local Boys & Girls Club. She loves pun-ny jokes and she can watch adorable videos of puppies and babies all day.

Protect Your Investment

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Your home is your castle, which is why, while you won’t have to defend it against fire-breathing dragons, you do need to protect your house or condo from the likelihood of more typical home scenario disasters by buying the right home insurance coverage.

Take a moment to make sure you understand the different types of insurance, and then make sure your home is adequately protected.

 

  • The first thing to clarify is the difference between mortgage insurance, home insurance and life insurance. Mortgage insurance can cover the balance remaining on a mortgage if the person listed on the mortgage passes away or, in some cases, has a severe illness and is unable to support the payments. Home insurance covers the replacement cost of your home should it be damaged by fire or other disaster, and the replacement cost of your belongings in the case of damage or theft. Life insurance pays your beneficiaries a pre-determined amount in the case of your death. While an insurance professional will be able to give you details on all your insurance options, in a nutshell, mortgage insurance covers the loan, home insurance covers the homeowner’s property and possessions in the home, and life insurance protects your family.
  • In cases of theft, fire or water damage, standard home insurance can cover damage and loss of much of your contents, but not necessarily all. Talk to your insurance broker about any specific, valuable pieces of jewelry, artwork or even an expensive wine collection that might require a separate rider on your policy.
  • Find out about other instances where you may require additional coverage or a separate rider. For example, clarify coverage for water damage should it result from a natural disaster versus a backed-up sewer. If you live in an area prone to flooding or earthquakes you may be required to buy separate, specialized insurance to protect yourself against those types of claims. Homeowners with pools and hot tubs also need to consider dipping into their bank accounts to increase their liability insurance.
  • Your insurance broker will be able to explain how much insurance is enough, or even too much. For example, coverage is typically based on the cost to rebuild a damaged home, and is not based on the market value of the house.
  • Living in a condo? Yes, you need home insurance too. While your condominium building policy most likely covers all the common areas, it doesn’t cover your contents, personal liability and any improvements you may have made inside your unit. Also, if something like a fire or a leaky pipe in your unit damages another unit, you may be personally responsible for paying the damages. Don’t forget to ask if your contents coverage includes the items stored in your condo locker.
  • Running a home-based business? Don’t assume your business equipment is covered, and that business liability is the same as personal liability just because you’re working out of your home. Ask your insurance broker to add a business rider to your home insurance.
  • Are you renting out all or part of your property? The renter is responsible for insuring his/her own personal property, but you need to protect your property, your investment and yourself.

 

Talk to your insurance broker to find out what kinds of protection you need, how much home insurance is enough, how much is too much, and how raising your deductible can lower your payments while keeping your coverage strong.

Smart Home Technology is Becoming an Integral Part of the Home Buying Checklist

The rise of smart home technology is making both buyers & sellers ask themselves the same question before deciding where to call home: “Is this a smart home?”

The following is a guest post by Tejash Unadkat, General Manager, August Home


Buying a home is a big decision. Budget, location and the vibe of the house (could this house become my home?) top the list of considerations for most people when they are buying a house. Noticeably, “is this a smart home?” is making its way to the top of the list for buyers.

According to the 2017 Smart Home Marketplace Survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate, 71 percent of home buyers surveyed are looking for “move-in ready” homes. Home buyers want “smart ready” homes complete with smart security, smart locks, smart thermostats, smart lights and other smart devices. In fact, Coldwell Banker affiliated agents note that the majority of top selling homes over the past few months in some markets, such as Miami, have smart home technology installed before the sale***.

There are two key trends driving this evolution in home buying behavior:

First, smart home devices, like the Nest thermostat and August Smart Lock, offer an attractive industrial design, are easy to install, have key features that allow users to save money or deliver convenience and  peace of mind . The smart home devices also provide a simple and elegant user experience that makes them very easy to use while hiding all of the technical complexity.

Second, home buyers have become increasingly knowledgeable about smart home technology. Conventional wisdom indicates that millennials are early adopters of smart home technology. The Coldwell Banker Real Estate Smart Home Survey (August 2016)** found that over half of baby boomer and Gen X-ers are expressing an interest in smart home technology at the time of purchase. This clearly indicates that smart home technology adoption has moved from early adopters towards mainstream customers.

The popularity of  voice assistant technology from giants including Amazon (Alexa), Google (Assistant), Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana) are also accelerating the adoption of smart home technology, serving as an entry point to the smart home experience. These companies have sold millions of devices and simplified the use of smart home devices through their voice interfaces by making it as easy as speaking naturally to control lights or adjust the temperature or lock a door. There is no learning curve beyond installing the device.

The adoption of smart home technology has had a significant result for home sellers. Homes designated as a smart homes on coldwellbanker.com are receiving two timesmore conversions than similar non-smart home properties* highlighting a change in buyer preferences as smart home technology becomes more prevalent. August Home partnered with Coldwell Banker to be part of its Smart Home Staging Kit, which packages three core products that help sellers make their home “smart.” The kit includes the August Smart Lock, Nest thermostat and Lutron lights for under $1000 – an investment that pays for itself.

The onus is now on agents to ensure that home sellers are aware of how a small investment in smart home technology can enhance the appeal of their property for buyers. By facilitating the procurement and installation of the most popular smart home devices, agents will bring new value to sellers and accelerate the rise of  smart home technology is soon going to be a checkbox for every home buyer’s checklist.

*Coldwell Banker Real Estate Smart Home Marketplace Survey: A conversion in this instance is a click-through requesting more information on the property from an agent or a request for an appointment to view the listing.

**Coldwell Banker Real Estate Smart Home Survey, August 2016

***Danny Hertzberg, a Coldwell Banker agent in Miami, Florida, CNET interview

 

First Impressions

PhotoCan you sell a home by its cover? If your home features a well-presented home exterior, it’s certainly a possibility.

Today’s many exterior refinishing options provide ways for your home to stand out, increase its perceived value and capture the eye of the right buyer, no matter what your budget. Re-facing the outside of your house can be as simple and cost-effective as repainting it, or as involved as applying new brickwork. Here are just a few of the options available.

Paint: The least expensive option, a fresh coat of paint can instantly brighten and freshen your home’s exterior.

Siding: Vinyl siding is lightweight, inexpensive, easy to install and can cover a multitude of sins from flaking paint to uneven wall surfaces. Wood and brick siding are more expensive, but can create a richer impression.

Stone Veneer Siding: Boasting the luxury look of full stonework but with a much easier installation and substantially lower cost, stone veneer is becoming a strong contender in the home upgrade market. Whether you’re refacing for your own benefit or for curb appeal, it’s worth noting the return value of your investment: the annual Cost vs. Value Report, reported in Remodeling Magazine, affirms an 89.4 percent return-on-investment for manufactured stone veneer.

Stucco: Attractive, low-maintenance, and available in a variety of textures and colors, stucco can add warmth to the exterior appearance of your home. Before installation, however, be sure to investigate its practicality for the weather in your region.