Tag Archives: Corinne Dezsi Sells Homes

Selling Your Home this Spring? 7 Tips to Help You Prepare

While it still may be chilly outside, the weather isn’t the only thing that’s about to warm up. The spring selling season is right around the corner, and we’ve got seven things you can do now to prepare for selling your home once spring arrives.

While it still may be chilly outside, the weather isn’t the only thing that’s about to warm up. The spring selling season is right around the corner, and if you’re selling your home, that means competition. The good news is, you can get a head start on preparing your home now, so it’s ready to go once the first signs of spring appear. Here are seven simple tips you can do now, to help get your home market-ready.

1. Give a Thorough Clean

Think spring cleaning territory when deciding what level of clean your home requires for sale. Everything from scrubbing baseboards to dusting fan blades and clearing cobwebs from storage areas should be covered as you scrub-down your home. If the task feels overwhelming, simply go room by room until it’s done.

If you have carpet, and it’s in reasonably good shape, a thorough cleaning with a professional carpet cleaner will improve the look and the odor in your home. If carpets are worn and threadbare, consider a reasonable replacement, such as a good quality laminate. Cracked tiles should be replaced now, if it’s in your budget, for maximum effect.

Carpet cleaner giving a deep clean to carpets

Image Source: Flickr/Laura D’Alessandro

2. Do a Minor Update

It’s no secret that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. A quick update to a kitchen can make a huge impact simply by cleaning painting or replacing tired hardware and fixtures. If your kitchen lacks a backsplash, this is the perfect time to add one for maximum appeal.

3. Clean the Windows

Even if it’s too cold to tackle the job from the outside, you can get half the job done now. Scrub the interior side of all windows and don’t forget the window sills, tracks of sliding doors, and the surrounding trim. Buyers will notice the attention to detail once your home is on the market.

4. Paint

Choose the spaces that have the boldest color and tone them down to a neutral palette. The goal should be for buyers to see your home as a blank canvas for their own belongings. Focus on high traffic areas next, and finally, repairing any flaking paint in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms is a must.

Image of a row of paint swatches in a store

Image Source: Flickr/Dean Hochman

5. Pack Early

While you don’t need to pack up everything you own, strategically boxing up personal items that will depersonalize your space is a good idea. Family mementos all serve to remind buyers that this is your space, and you want them to picture it as theirs. Storage space is another big item on a buyer’s list, so consider packing up any out of season clothing and tucking them away to make closets seem larger.

6. Purpose Every Room

Every room should have a clear purpose, so buyers can see how versatile your space is. This may mean removing furniture from a crowded space and moving it somewhere else in your home to create defined living areas. Look for opportunities to create functional spaces like an office area or reading nook, and if you have too much furniture, consider putting it in storage. Less furniture will create an open feeling throughout your home.

A cozy home reading nook, staged for real estate

Image Source: Flickr/Michael Pardo

7. Go Outside

While it is too early to landscape, paint, or deal with the exterior areas of the home, curb appeal is essential to getting buyers to even walk through the door. Assessing your home now, from the garden spaces to the roof and front entry, will let you make a list of quick and easy items you can tackle as soon as the weather warms up, which will make selling your home a breeze.

The Ultimate Homeowners Guide to Understanding Your Heating and Cooling System

From The Home Depot and Coldwell Banker

Huddling around the fireplace under blankets because the heating system quit during a cold winter night makes for great stories to tell—later. In reality, the situation is uncomfortable, stressful and could even be dangerous. The same holds true if the air conditioning system does not work during a heat wave.

We want to help you avoid those situations, starting by explaining the most popular heating and cooling systems found in homes. We will give you tips on how to keep them running more efficiently, as well as signals that it’s time to replace an aging system. Finally, we’ll include a guide to hiring the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to replace the system.

I. Know the Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating- There are three components to a typical heating system: a heat source, distribution system, and the controls (the thermostat on the wall).

Most homes rely on a furnace, a boiler or a heat pump as the heat source.

Furnaces heat air and then circulate the warm air through a system of ducts. The heat is delivered to the living area through registers that are attached to the ducts. This type of system is called a forced-air system.

Boilers heat water and then circulate either the warm water or steam through pipes. Radiators and baseboard heaters supply the heat to the rooms.

Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by transferring hot and cold air between the inside and outside of a building. (see A Primer on Heat Pumps below)

Air Conditioning- All air conditioners, as well as all types of refrigeration, work the same way—they take heat from one area and move it to another area.

In a central air conditioning system, a fan draws air through ducts to an evaporator coil that removes heat and moisture from the air. The cool air is then blown back into the room.  The original heat is transferred to a refrigerant that flows to an outdoor unit that contains a compressor and a condenser, which releases the heat into the outside air.  Window air conditioners work the same way, except that everything is contained in one cabinet.

Central air conditioners typically use the same ducts used by a forced-air heating system, but they can also be standalone units that rely on their own system of ductwork. Ductless air conditioners are also available. (see Is a Ductless System Right for You? below)

The Controls: Both heating and cooling systems are controlled by a thermostat that is located somewhere in the living area. A basic thermostat has one temperature setting, but programmable models let you set a variety of temperature settings based on the time of day. This allows you to reduce the need for heating or cooling when you’re not home, so you don’t waste your money or energy resources heating and cooling empty space. Some models, like the Nest, learn your daily schedule and automatically update the temperature accordingly. Programmable thermostats help you manage your energy usage and could save you money, including through energy rebates offered by utilities. Check with your local provider to see if they offer discounts and rebates to customers using energy-saving HVAC components like programmable thermostats.

cooling system home depot

Air conditioning compressors release hot air outside your home, while a boiler system circulates heat inside throughout a system of pipes.

heating system home depot

A Primer on Heat Pumps

A heat pump is an electrical device that provides both heating and cooling, producing about one and one-half to three times the energy it consumes. In the cooling mode, heat pumps operate like any air conditioner, pulling warm air out of the house and replacing it with cool air. In the heating mode, they extract heat from the outside air—even below-zero temperatures contain some heat—and transfer it indoors.

The type of heat pump described here is called an air-source heat pump. There are others, including geothermal heat pumps, that use the earth as a heat source. However, let’s concentrate on air-source heat pumps as they are the most common.

Until recently, heat pumps were confined to warm-weather states that do not experience prolonged bouts of cold weather, because heat pumps become less efficient as the outdoor temperature drops. However, recent advances in technology that include two-speed compressors and new coil designs make some models suitable for cold-weather climates.

Because heat pumps provide both heating and air conditioning, they are rated in two ways. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) measures the efficiency of the cooling system. The higher the number, the more efficient the system. Federal regulations call for SEERs of 13 or 14, depending on where you live, but heat pumps with a much higher rating are available. The seasonal heating performance factor (HSPF) measures the heating efficiency of heat pumps. The minimum is 7.7.  Discuss your options with a qualified contractor, but, in general, if cooling is your major concern, look for a unit with a higher SEER. In cold weather areas, look for a high HSPF.

Heat pumps are available in ducted and ductless models.

heat pump winter

A heat pump sits outside of a home in winter.

Is a Ductless System Right for You?

A ductless mini-split system provides cooling—some models can provide heating as well—without the need to install ductwork. Like central air conditioners, they have both an indoor and outdoor component. The cabinet outside that holds the compressor and condenser is connected to the interior unit by a 3-inch diameter pipe that carries the electrical connections and refrigerant lines.

Ductless units are designed to provide heating and cooling to areas that are not serviced by the home’s existing HVAC system, such as an attic or any other room that has been converted to living space. They can also provide cooling without the need to install ducts. Basic ductless units can heat and cool one room, but some models can accommodate up to eight different rooms. Each indoor unit has its own thermostat, providing zoned comfort.

Newer models use the latest energy-saving heat pump technology to help keep energy costs down. Because many indoor units are installed at the top of a wall, most models are operated by remotes, some of which are Wi-Fi enabled.

II. The Value of Maintaining Your Unit

In addition to keeping everyone comfortable, the heating and cooling system accounts for almost one-half of a typical household’s energy bill, so having it function properly makes economic sense. A major repair or replacement of an HVAC system is a big-ticket item.

If you are looking to buy a home, consider having a heating and cooling contractor inspect the system of the house you are interested in. He or she may be able to spot potential problems that could lead to major headaches once you move in.

Likewise, if you are selling your home and you’ve kept up the maintenance on your system, brag about it. Show potential buyers your maintenance records. Provide information about the age of the system, especially if it is relatively new. Energy-efficiency ratings go a long way to assure buyers that the system will last.

What the Numbers Mean

Boilers, furnaces and air conditioners are rated by how energy efficient they are. Furnaces and boilers have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. It measures how efficient the device is in converting fuel into heat. An AFUE of 90 percent means that all but 10 percent of the fuel is converted to heat. There are minimums for newly manufactured equipment, but some furnaces can achieve AFUE ratings of over 95 percent. Boilers have slightly lower AFUE ratings.

All-electric furnaces can be 95 to 100 percent efficient, but the high cost of electricity—most electricity is generated by burning oil, coal or natural gas—makes this an uneconomical choice. Space heating using electricity is mainly confined to the Southeast, which has lower heating demands than the Northeast and Midwest. Houses that heat with electricity are good candidates for heat pumps.

Cooling equipment is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Depending on where you live, SEERs of 13 or 14 are mandatory, but you can find equipment that is much more efficient.

Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency program that sets minimums for the energy use of a number of household appliances, including heating and cooling equipment. It is a voluntary program, and manufacturers who meet the requirements can display the Energy Star logo on their products. There are many HVAC products that exceed the Energy Star minimums, but it is a good place to start. You can find a listing of products at energystar.gov.

III. HVAC Maintenance 

You will find that a smooth running and efficient HVAC system is important to the comfort and safety of everyone in the home. But another reason to keep the system maintained consistently is that if you don’t, it may break down when you need the system the most (which is also when HVAC contractors are the busiest). So it may be difficult to get someone to fix the problem quickly.

Preventative Maintenance Helps Avoid Breakdowns

It is best to take a two-prong approach to HVAC maintenance:

  1. Things you can do on a regular basis
  2. Work that only a professional HVAC technician should handle

* Depending on the type of system you have, a typical professional maintenance call will involve:

* Tightening electrical connections

* Checking the condition of all hoses and belts

* Lubricating all moving parts and making sure the controls work properly

* Measuring the pressure in the system

* Checking for leaks where appropriate, including leaks in the venting system.

* For cooling components, the contractor will also:

* Clean the evaporator and condenser coils

* Check the fan components and make sure the refrigerant level in the system is correct

* For heating systems, technicians also:

* Check fuel connections

* Change the required filters

* Inspect the system’s combustion and heat exchangers

* Ensure the low-water cutoff and pressure relief valves on boilers are working properly

The bottom line? Preventative maintenance by a professional HVAC contractor keeps systems running smoothly.

What You Can Do as a Homeowner

Here are a few maintenance tasks you can perform yourself:

For ongoing maintenance for a system that includes both heating and cooling, you should change the filters on forced-air systems about every three months (although if you live in the chilly Northeast or Midwest, or in the steamy Southeast and sweltering Southwest, you may need to change filters even more frequently when at peak use). If the systems are separate, change the filters every three months during the heating or cooling season. The type of filter to use and directions for changing it can be found in the manual that came with the system. If you don’t have one, ask an HVAC contractor for advice or visit the manufacturer’s website to see if manuals are available.

Replacing a furnace filter

Replacing a furnace filter

Check around the house to make sure that heating and cooling vents, baseboard heaters and radiators are not blocked by furniture.  If they are blocked, the system has to work harder to provide you with the comfort you want, placing a strain on the system. It is also wise to vacuum the face of the vents to remove dust and other debris.

Air conditioning systems often have an outdoor component that houses the compressor and condenser. This part of the system dumps the hot air from your house to the outside as part of the cooling cycle. Keep leaves and other debris off of the top of the unit, and clear a two- to three-foot space around the unit to help it work properly.

IV. Troubleshooting Common HVAC Problems

It is always best to refer major problems to an experienced contractor, but there are some problems that you may be able to fix.

Fix #1: Vent Outside is Spitting Water

There is a vent on the outside of steam radiators that lets air in the radiator escape as steam fills up inside. If the vent is spitting water, it is clogged. Thus, the air cannot escape and the radiator will not warm up. The vent simply unscrews, allowing you to replace it with a new one.

Fix #2: Hot Water Radiator Won’t Heat Up

If a hot water radiator will not get warm, you may have to bleed it. Turn the thermostat down to stop the flow of water through the system. Locate the bleed valve on the radiator. Have a bucket and rags ready to avoid water flowing onto the floor. Open the valve using a screwdriver, and let the air bleed out. Once the air stops sputtering, you are finished.

Fix #3: Hot and Cold Spots

While there are a number of possible reasons for hot and cold spots in a home (including an HVAC system that is not sized correctly), many problems can be traced to the ducts in a forced-air system. Here are some things to check:

* All duct sections should be sealed. Ducts tend to leak where sections are joined together, wasting both energy and the money you pay for that energy. Use a duct sealing mastic or aluminum tape to seal the openings.  Don’t use what most people think of as duct tape because it will not last. Use only tape made for heating and cooling ducts; it will have Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on the label.

* Any ducts that run through unconditioned space, such as an unheated attic, basement or crawl space, should be insulated to prevent energy loss.  Insulating ducts can save a significant amount in energy costs.

* If the problem persists, have a contractor check out the system. There could be a restriction of some kind in a duct or the system itself may be poorly designed, which can hinder the flow of air through the ducts.

V. Assuring Indoor Air Quality

As houses have become more energy efficient, concern about the quality of the air inside the home has grown. Tight, weather-sealed houses can trap indoor pollutants, causing discomfort or mild irritations.  Believe it or not, the HVAC system can play a significant role in indoor air quality. Humidifiers can be installed in forced-air systems to keep occupants comfortable and prevent wood floors, moulding and furniture from drying out and warping.

Air purifiers can be installed in ducts. These purifiers can eliminate odors and kill bacteria and germs that are either airborne or on surfaces. There are a number of different systems. Some rely on filters to remove harmful pollutants from the air. Others work by changing the composition of the pollutants through an oxidation process. Once the pollutants are destroyed, the oxidizers revert to harmless oxygen or hydrogen.

These systems are increasingly commonplace and can be installed by a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

Apart from allergens, and dust, you should always be vigilant about carbon monoxide. (See below)

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as fuel oil, natural gas and propane. At low doses, it can cause dizziness and headaches; at high doses, it can cause loss of consciousness and even death. The best defense against CO is to keep heating and cooling equipment well maintained and running efficiently.

If you don’t already have them, install CO detectors. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends installing one outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area of the house. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and testing the detector. If the detector alarm should sound, move everyone in the house outside to fresh air and call the local fire department or 911.

carbon monoxide

VI. Repair vs. Replace

If your HVAC system does break down, you will be faced with the decision of whether to repair or replace it. Repairs can be less expensive, but there are a number of reasons to consider replacing the entire unit.

The first is the cost of the repair: If the repair will cost more than 50 percent of the price of a new system, especially if the broken unit is seven years or older, investigate getting a new system.

Here are some other reasons:

1. An Old System. While a properly maintained system can last 15 to 20 years (depending on where you live and how hard it has to work during extreme temperature events), equipment manufactured more than 15 years ago is not as energy efficient as systems available today. With the average household spending almost half of its energy budget on heating and cooling costs, it makes sense to install an energy-efficient system, if possible. High-efficiency furnaces available today can achieve AFUE ratings of above 98 percent. That could mean drastic reductions in heating bills. The Department of Energy estimates that replacing a furnace with an AFUE of 50 percent with one that has an AFUE of 95 percent will save more than 45 percent in energy costs.

2. Frequent Repairs. Even if the repairs are minor, they are a nuisance. And don’t forget: HVAC systems tend to break down when you need them the most. If you are faced with a major repair (such as a compressor for an air conditioner or a blower motor for a furnace) and you have had to pay for a similar repair recently, it is time to replace the unit.

3. High Energy Bills. There could be a number of reasons for this, including leaky ducts or a lack of insulation and weather sealing in the house’s walls and ceilings. But it could also mean that the current system is not the right size for the house—a common problem when people add a new room or extension onto a house that increases the volume of the insulated air inside. A new, properly sized system would solve that problem.

Purchasing a New System

HVAC systems are part of a house’s energy package that includes not only heating and cooling equipment, but everything that affects energy usage, including insulation levels in walls, ceilings and floors, the types of windows and the habits of the people who live in the house. A professional energy audit can pinpoint areas where the house and its systems are wasting energy. That’s important information to have if you are replacing an HVAC system, because it will help you and your contractor choose the system that is best for your house.

You can find an energy auditor online or by calling your local utility company. The auditor can identify energy leaks in the house as well as leaks in the ducts.

Selecting a contractor to install a new system will be the most important decision you make.

Here are some tips for selecting a contractor:

  • Get referrals from friends and family. Anyone you are considering working with should be licensed and carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Ask contractors for references and follow up on them.
  • Gather at least three quotes for the job. It is important that the contractors are all bidding on installing the same equipment. All quotes should be in writing.
  • Don’t automatically take the lowest bid. Take into consideration things like experience, references and the way the contractor presents themselves—Did he show up on time?; Did she explain your options?; Does he have experience installing the system you are considering?; Does she offer a warranty on workmanship? Finally, how long has the company been in business? Have they proven they’ll be around to warranty their work several years into the future?

Many contractors believe that homeowners are only interested in getting the lowest price, and recommend equipment at the low end of the price scale. But low-cost equipment may not be the most energy efficient, and it may not be the best choice for your home. Always ask about your options. At the very least, insist on an Energy Star product (but, as mentioned, some Energy Star products are more energy efficient than others).

Installing a new HVAC unit is a long-term investment, but replacing old energy guzzlers with high efficiency equipment can reduce your monthly energy bills and make your house more comfortable in the process. A new heating and cooling system can improve your family’s health, reduce your impact on the planet and lower your energy bills.

How will RBC’s mortgage rate hike impact the Canadian housing market?

canadian-home-winterPhoto: Maëlick/Flickr

Even if Canada’s other big banks follow RBC’s recent mortgage rate increases — which came into effect today — with similar hikes of their own, it won’t have a substantial effect on the housing market, says one economist.

“I would suggest [the impact] would be marginal at best,” says Brian DePratto, an economist with TD Bank, in an interview.

“We’re still talking about extremely, extremely low interest rates by any historic precedent,” he adds. “Whether it’s 10 or 15 basis points here or there, I don’t see this as having any kind of major impact.”

RBC’s hikes are across several mortgage types, including two, three, four, and five-year fixed-rate mortgages, the rates for which increased 10 basis points, as well as five-year variable mortgages, which rose 15 basis points.

A consumer with a five-year fixed-rate mortgage on a home costing $456,186 — the most recent average Canadian home price, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association — will end up paying about $23 per month more, or $276 annually, now, the Toronto Star reports, as a result of the new rate of 3.04 per cent for these mortgages.

In an emailed statement to BuzzBuzzHome News, Erica Nielsen, RBC’s vice president of home equity financing, listed the reasons for the bank’s adjustments.

“The changes we’ve made to our residential mortgage rates reflect a number of factors (beyond the bond yield) including changes in market conditions driving increased short term funding costs and long term / wholesale funding costs,” she wrote.

Mortgage rates generally follow Canadian bond yields, says DePratto, the TD economist. “You kind of build your bonds out of mortgages within the mortgage market, so ultimately those mortgages become bonds,” he says.

“So when that market moves, people who are building those products, they need to reflect pricing that’s in line with those market moves.”

But these lending-rate changes come at a time when bond yields are dropping. DePratto says a recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) move is a major factor for some mortgage rates not reflecting lower bond yields.

“There’s always unique pricing issues, but I think one of the core things are the changes to CMHC rules around securitization — so additional fees for mortgages coming out of CMHC,” he says, referring to changes CMHC detailed last month alongside increasing the minimum down payments on some mortgages.

“That’s sort of being wrapped into that overall price in a sense.”

The 5 Most Expensive Real Estate Markets In Canada

The Booming Canadian Real Estate Market

The Canadian real estate market has seen tremendous growth recently, and 2015 was an active year, particularly in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The average price of a home in Canada surpassed $450,000 as of mid-2015, and many analysts expect these figures to remain steady in 2016.

So what are the hottest and most expensive real estate markets in Canada right now?

1. Vancouver

Vancouver is one of not just Canada’s, but also the world’s most expensive areas to buy a home. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported the average cost of a detached house in Metro Vancouver was $1.2 million, representing a 22 percent increase from 2014. In 2015, Vancouver saw an increase in residential sales of 46% above the 10-year average, and the supply of housing remains low, so prices are likely to continue going up.

2. Toronto

2015 was a record-breaking year for Toronto real estate. The Toronto Real Estate Board says there were nearly 5,000 residential sales handled by their members in December, which is the second-highest December ever listed. The average selling price for all types of homes, including condos, was $622,217, which was nearly 10% higher than 2014. Real estate demand is particularly high around the downtown and central area of the city, which is where buyers and renters flock to enjoy a bustling theater, dining and entertainment scene.

photo Alina Ku-Ku via Shutterstock

photo Alina Ku-Ku via Shutterstock

3. Montreal

Montreal’s real estate may look like a bargain compared to Vancouver and Toronto, but it’s still ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Montreal’s real estate prices are about $100,000 less than the national average for Canada, and the average price was around $340,000 in the city last year.

4. Calgary

According to the Calgary Sun, Calgary has seen pretty steep declines in housing, with sales numbers falling 26% from 2014, based on statistics released by the Calgary Real Estate Board. There was a decrease in home sales of nearly 7,000 units in 2015 as compared to 2014, and every month in 2015 there was a decline in sales over the previous year. Much of this decreased activity was the result of falling oil prices, yet despite these dismal numbers, Calgary remains one of the most expensive markets in Canada. The average price of a home for sale in Calgary in December was $462,786, although that number ticked down a bit in January to $434,744.

5. Victoria

Victoria has an average home price of more than $421,000, and compared to Calgary, Victoria has an incredibly strong market. With property assessments looming for homeowners, it’s anticipated most residents will see appreciation values of two to eight percent thanks to the city’s strong market. Home sales are particularly high in single family neighborhoods seen as the most desirable including Oak Boak, Caboro Bay, and North Saanich. According to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Victoria is the second least affordable city in all of Canada.

The Future of Home Prices in Canada

While some areas, particularly Calgary, may see falling real estate prices, most of the other major cities in the country are experiencing significant growth. Buyers and residents often worry they’re being priced out of the market, as housing prices top all records, and this uptick in home prices is leading Canadians to consider renting rather than buying.

 

Record-breaking year for GTA home sales capped off by second-best December ever

row-houses-torontoPhoto: Steve Harris/Flickr

By November, 2015 was already a record-setting year for home sales in the Greater Toronto Area, and activity remained strong in the final month of the year with December transactions hitting the second-highest level ever tracked for that month.

Last month, 4,945 GTA existing homes changed hands, pushing the 2015 year-end total of sales recorded through the MLS system to 101,299, well above the previous record of 93,193 set in 2007, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

Last year’s sales tally represents a 9.2 per cent increase over 2014, which the board calls “substantial.” Meanwhile, there was a considerable boost in sales across all major housing types — detached, semi-detached, townhouse, and condo apartment.

The greatest annual sales increase was in the condo-apartment sector. Some 24,731 units of this type sold, good enough for a 12.9 per cent increase over 2014’s sales. Townhomes, including both freehold and condo units, followed as 15,834 of these units changed hands, 9.3 per cent more than the year before.

Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis, tells BuzzBuzzHome News the percentage jump in condo apartment sales is a matter of limited inventory options for consumers.

“On the low-rise side of the market generally speaking you’re seeing sales are stronger than inventory growth,” he says. “Obviously on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis that could be different but on the aggregate for the GTA, that’s certainly what’s the trend.”

However, when it comes to overall sales volume, detached homes were in front. Sales of this housing type were up 8.2 per cent in 2015 to a total of 48,657 homes. Meanwhile, semi-detached sales ticked up 5.4 per cent to 10,217 homes.

For all housing types in the GTA last year, the average sale price rose 9.8 per cent to $622,217. Limited low-rise inventory, particularly in the 416, was largely responsible for this increase, although TREB notes “condominium apartment price growth was generally well-above the rate of inflation.”

Year-over-year home sales climbed 11.9 in December, and the greatest activity increase was seen in the townhouse sector. Sales of this housing type were up 18.4 per cent over a 12-month period.

Detached homes remained the costliest in December, with the average price for one in the GTA reaching $825,470, up 11.9 per cent from a year ago, while condo apartments were most affordable going for an average of $378,249.

The market for detached homes got even more expensive in the 416 last month, as the average sale price hit $1,039,638. In November 2015 it was $1,018,621.

Although 2015 is the best year on record for home sales, Mark Maclean, TREB’s president outlined in a statement how previous years could have been further dwarfed.

“If the market had benefitted from more listings, the 2015 sales total would have been greater,” he points out. “As it stands, we begin 2016 with a substantial amount of pent-up demand.”

Oshawa is included as one of the best cities for property investment in Canada

These are the best cities for property investment in Canada

9 Kitchen Design Trends to Absolutely Avoid

While some kitchen trends might appeal to you, they may not appeal to others — homebuyers, in particular.

Are you considering making some kitchen improvements? Or investing in an entire kitchen remodel? If so, make sure that you invest your money carefully. While some kitchen trends might appeal to you, they may not appeal to others — homebuyers, in particular. Here are some kitchen trends we suggest avoiding:

#1 Mixing metals

Never mix metals in your kitchen. Go all bronze, all copper or all stainless steel, but don’t put them arbitrarily together. This may look a little too eclectic for the average homebuyer, and you don’t want to have to replace hardware or fixtures.

#2 Creating your own counters

You might think that creating your own concrete counters will save you money, but it could actually do more harm than good. Instead, hire a professional. Or, look into alternatives like granite, quartz and other solid surface materials, which are also long lasting and visually appealing.

#3 Imitation open shelving

Open shelving is really big right now — everything’s in open view. But simply taking the doors off of your cabinets isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it looks amateur and will make buyers wonder why it was done. If you really want open shelving, install actual open shelving. Or, go with glass-door cabinets.

#4 Using “fake wood” in the kitchen

Cabinet door materials like particleboard and vinyl and wood veneer may seem cost-effective, but they often look cheap and detract from the overall value of your kitchen as a result. Plus, these “fake wood” materials can sometimes come with more maintenance and repairs than you want to deal with. When it comes to your kitchen cabinets, invest in the best materials possible.

#5 Going for an industrial look

The Industrial look — stainless steel counters, exposed ducting and bulbs, and metal shelves or cabinets — is on its way out. Unless you’re living in a loft, skip the exposed Edison bulbs and aluminum shelving and opt instead for lively materials that feel cozy and welcoming. If you need style ideas for your kitchen, talk to an experienced kitchen designer.

#6 Hiding your appliances

Specially created cabinets or “garages” take up a lot of counter space. Instead of wasting money on this, just store the moveable appliances in cabinets or cut down on how many you have. Keep the ones you use most often on the counter, but make sure it doesn’t look cluttered.

#7 Creating kitchen nooks

In the old days, kitchens nooks were dedicated to telephones, pull-down desks and other items. Nowadays, most people don’t use landlines — and most don’t want a desk in the kitchen either. If you have a nook, think about removing it. And certainly don’t add one;  it will only take up space that could be used more effectively.

#8 Diversifying appliance colors

Every year, appliance companies release products in trending colors. Don’t put stock in these. Instead, stick with reliable stainless steel — or go with black or white. And, when it’s time to sell, you won’t have to spend additional money refinishing or replacing the appliances.

#9 Wasting island space

A purposeful island is the perfect complement to a large kitchen. But if the island doesn’t have a strict purpose, it may serve only to obstruct the flow of the room. Make sure your island has a  clear purpose. Add a sink, a stove or counter space — whatever works best for the space and your budget.

The Top 2 Home Improvement Projects Buyers Want, And How to Do It On a Budget

Sellers that are on a budget, or are crunched for time, may not be able to make a lot of updates to their home prior to listing. We look at the top two home improvement projects buyers want by ROI, and how to implement them on a budget.
It’s no secret that updates to a home increase its value on the real estate market. However, choosing the right home improvement projects can be a challenge if you are short on time and/or money. Fortunately, the National Association of Realtors reports that smaller updates that improve the overall look of the home can be more effective than large scale renovations.

We’ve rounded up the top two projects buyers want — and how to implement them on a budget.

1. The Kitchen

While it may be true that kitchens sell homes, you don’t need to spend a fortune on creating a space that buyers are eager to call their own. In fact, Remodeling Magazine, in their 2015 Cost vs. Value report indicates that a minor kitchen remodel has a nearly 12 percent higher payback than a major renovation, providing an average 79.3 percent return on investment.

Cabinets

At the lower end of the scale, simply repainting the walls and replacing cabinet hardware can be an effective face lift if you are crunched for time. However, if you have solid wood cabinets, painting them can also go a long way to modernizing your kitchen space. Choose a neutral color such as white or off-white to brighten up even the most dated of kitchens and create welcoming space. New hinges and hardware can set off the update and make a real impact.

For damaged or laminated kitchens, sometimes replacing the doors can take your kitchen to a whole new level. Many big box stores carry an array of stock cabinet doors that can give your kitchen new life for a fraction of the cost of complete replacement.

Countertops and Backsplash

Countertops see a lot of action and can be one of the most worn out aspects of a kitchen. Replacing counter tops with a comparable looking laminate can significantly improve the desirability of your home and provide a fresh, clean look. Existing natural stone countertops that have lost their luster can also be rebuffed and re-coated by a professional to revive their natural beauty.

If your kitchen lacks a backsplash, this can be one of the easiest do-it-yourself home improvement projects to add value. Tile, bead board paneling, even tin tiles can be added for maximum impact.

Improve Functionality

Every buyer wants a kitchen that works. Easy fixes can include adding interior organizers to drawers, installing a lazy Susan or pull out shelves to pantry cupboards. Even replacing a single bowl sink with a double bowl, if space allows, and topping off with a fresh, new faucet will make a positive impact.

2. Entryway

While it may be surprising, replacing your front door with a new steel door tops nearly every list of home improvement projects, and for good reason. The ROI on this simple upgrade can soar as high as 101 percent, making it a no-brainer.

A new entry door increases curb appeal and makes your home shine in real estate photos. Aside from the increased security and energy savings a steel door offers, buyers will receive a positive first impression that will set the tone for how they view the remainder of your home.

The Bottom Line

A tight timeline or budget shouldn’t get in the way of ensuring you get the most from the sale of your home, and choosing strategic home improvement projects will ensure your effort is rewarded. Just remember that upgrades don’t need to be premium quality for the best return — they just need to make sense for your home.

Image Source: Flickr/Emily May