Category Archives: cottage living

Mike Holmes: Getting ready for cottage season

If you’ve been dreaming of going to the cottage all winter, well, it’s almost that time. But before you fire up the grill, and take that first jump off the dock – you’ve got the task of opening up the cottage.

Here are a few of the major jobs you want to get out of the way that first weekend up north.

Start From the Top

You probably cleared the eavestrough before shutting down for the season – but one of your first tasks should be to clean out any debris that accumulated over the winter. You want to make sure that water can properly drain away from you home. While you’re on your ladder, it’s a good idea to check the roof for any signs of damage or intruders.

Animal Patrol

You want to be on the lookout for telltale signs of animals. I’m talking about obvious signs of entry – things like torn window screens, or holes in your soffits. Animals can even pull away siding, or find entry through your chimney or roof venting.

Even a seemingly harmless mouse can cause issues. They will eat away at wood in your home or chew through electrical wires. If you spot any chewed up wires or cords make a call to your local electrician. They need to check your electrical system and make sure it’s safe.

If any critters have taken up space as unwanted tenants, you will also want to bring in a professional pest control expert. Believe me, you want them evicted before they reproduce and cause an infestation.

If you find signs of mice, you will want to spray any area they’ve been with a disinfectant. It’s important to keep those dirty particles from floating around, because breathing in materials from their droppings or saliva can make you sick. Remember to wear a disposable mask and gloves to reduce the risk of contact.

Let Your Home Breathe

Once you’ve checked for signs of pests, it’s time to inspect the interior. Start by opening the windows. The space will need circulation, especially if it was locked up tight all winter long.

Trust your nose. If you notice a strong musty smell, it could mean a moisture problem – and that can lead to mould. You need to stop the source of moisture first, otherwise you’re going to be dealing with mould problems again and again.

For small areas, you can likely clean it yourself as long as you have the proper cleaning solution and safety gear (goggles, gloves, and a respirator or mask), but for large mould infestations, bring in a remediation expert.

Check the caulking around windows and doors and replace any damaged areas. Broken caulking leaves the perfect entryway for water to seep in, and it’s an easy fix. Same with the weather stripping around doors – if it’s damaged it’s simple to fix, but if left unrepaired, you’re leaving an open invitation for water penetration.

Bring Back the Power

When you turn the power back on, take things room by room. Make sure everything is working as it should, and be on the hunt for flickering lights, a burning smell from appliances, or any sparking fixtures.

Next, switch the water back on. Again, room by room, you want to be looking for any leaks. Finally, test your HVAC system, and change the air filter.

Inspect Your Deck

Before entertaining this season – make sure you are checking your deck thoroughly. The railings, steps, and ledger board (the piece of the deck that holds the structure to the building) all need to be safe and secure. You want to see that the decking material is still in good condition with no dry rot, or damage from insects.

Most home inspections will include a deck safety check, so if you’re unsure of what you should be looking at, a licensed home inspector can help point out areas of concern.

Your cottage is your home away from home during the summer – but just because you may only be there on weekends, doesn’t mean you can slack on your regular maintenance. Cottage season goes by so quickly, but treat it like you would your home – make it right, and make it safe.

Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

Source: National Post – Mike Holmes | May 6, 2017

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8 factors influencing the cottage real estate market in 2015

Waterfront property

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Cottage Lifemagazine

While everyone has an opinion about what’s going on with Canada’s housing market—bubble, no bubble, overheated in some regions andsluggish in others—getting a read on cottage-country real estate can be a bit tougher: the voices aren’t quite as loud, and the news coverage is spotty at best. We set out to scan the market from coast to coast to see what’s happening in recreational real estate, what you can expect in 2015, and how to make what’s going on work in your favour.

Realtors from B.C. to Newfoundland report that their two most common types of buyers are young families with children tapping into their home equity to buy cottages and near or recent retirees who are looking to make a cottage-country property their primary residence. In both cases, kids come into play. “I see grandparents getting places here as grandchild catchers,” says Ann Chiasson, a broker-owner of Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate in Whistler, B.C. In contrast, in the areas of the country that attracted the first wave of retiring boomer buyers, such as Ontario’s Kawarthas, those cottage owners, now more elderly, are selling and heading back to town to be closer to services and family. “We have a lot of retirees up here, but they’re the ones selling, not buying,” says Linda Duncan, a sales representative with Royal LePage Kawartha Lakes Realty. Whether you’re inthe young family demographic, approaching retirement, or you’re simply ready to get into the market, here are the factors influencing what you’ll find, how much it will cost—and how you could score a better buy.

Hot home market = hot cottage market

Some call it “residential spillover.” Those lucky enough to own a home in a hot residential market may just call it “tapping into my equity.” What itmeans in cottage country is that buyers with homes in strong residential markets—the strongest markets in Canada, according to a recent Pricewaterhouse-Coopers report on real estate trends in 2015, include Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Saskatoon, and Ottawa—are pushing up the prices in nearby accessible cottage markets. But the flip side of this trend is that buyers may find bargains in cottage areas closer toweaker housing markets, such as Winnipeg, Montreal, and Halifax. And what realtors are seeing on the ground seems to bear that out, with high levels of cottage inventory noted in Manitoba, parts of Quebec, and Nova Scotia, with more cottages on the market meaning more competitive pricing overall.

Make it work for you: Opt to province-hop. Even with the higher travel costs, it may make sense to buy a cheaper place in another province, especially if your schedule allows you to visit for longer periods of cottage time, as opposed to shorter stays and weekend use.

Province-hopping 

When it comes to buying out of province, realtors are noticing the trend. “I deal with a lot of people who are either selling their big home in Alberta or their family farm in Ontario, and are looking to buy here and still have a nest egg to retire on,” says Gabe Routhier of Trade-winds Realty in Hubbards, N.S. Some are buying traditional homes to use as recreational properties—“Out here, really every property can be used as a recreational property, because you’re near the ocean,” he says—while others are purchasing actual cottages. But it’s not just the East Coast that has benefitted from high house values in other parts of the country: last year, British Columbia was seeing similar buying trends with cottage hunters flush from Alberta’s then-booming economy. “Last summer, we had tons of Albertans driving around,” says Al Christopherson of Century 21 Lakeside Realty, North Shuswap branch. Some expected property prices to be unrealistically low and made what he calls “stinky, low-ball offers,” including a $140,000 offer on a $199,900 log-barn conversion property and an $8,000 offer on a lot listed at $14,500. With the drop in oil prices, though, Christopherson says he’s seeing fewer Albertans hunt-ing in the B.C. market. Still, B.C. buyers appear to have taken up the slack, so sales are still up overall. 

Make it work for you: If you are province-hopping, you may want to keep your home address under your hat so that sellers don’t assume that you’ve got bags of out-of-province loot in the trunk of your car. As well, don’t assume that every property is a bargain just because it would be more expensive closer to home: take the time to research areas and prices so that your offer is in line with local property values.

The cottage office 

With cottage commutes getting uglier in many parts of the country, buyers are looking for recreational properties that have the amenities for working from the deck or dock. Just a few years ago, cottage Internet access was often dodgy (though residents in rural Nova Scotia and some other parts of the country will tell you it still is), and cellphone reception could be intermittent. Today, though, the extension of broadband service into rural communities has improved access, so that working from the cottage is more feasible than ever. That access means cottagers can dodge the weekend traffic with a day or two of telecommuting—and it also means that good cell and Internet access can be a selling feature.

Make it work for you One cottager’s unacceptable isolation may be another’s nirvana: if working from the cottage isn’t on your radar, you’ll have less competition and may get a bargain in an area that doesn’t have good broadband coverage.

Year round, all the way 

While four-season properties have long been desirable in winter recreation areas—such as Ontario’s Collingwood and British Columbia’s Whistler—four-season use now tips well outside traditional ski areas. “Everyone wants their place to be usable year round,” says
John Jarvis, a broker and an owner of
Re/Max North Country Realty in Huntsville, Ont. “Nearly one hundred per cent of my buyers are looking for four-season places.” Partly, Jarvis says, it’s because buyers want a property that they can enjoy year round, but he adds that financing options are more flexible for those purchasing a year-round recreational property than for those buying a three-season cottage. “The banks seem to be more competitive with offering funding for second homes,” he says. That desire for four-season use stretches across the country, and it’s a factor in markets in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Make it work for you: Consider three-season properties with upgrade potential if you need four-season use, or simply go three-season if winter use isn’t on your must-have list.

A little help from some friends…or family 

Royal LePage broker-manager David Kingshott in Parry Sound, Ont., saysthat it isn’t uncommon in his region for friends and family to purchase property together. It’s a trend that agents in Alberta’s Gleniffer Lake and Pine Lake areas and B.C.’s East Kootenay area—regions with relatively high cottage prices—also cite. Sharing tends to be more likely in higher-priced areas where splitting the costs may be the only way into the market for some families. Still, even in those markets, shared purchases don’t always stay shared. “While we used to see families or friends sharing, in almost every case one member of the group would eventually end up buying out the other shares,” says Whistler realtor Ann Chiasson. While joint purchases were a factor in the Okanagan in B.C. in the past, softening prices linked to the economic downturn have made properties there more affordable and lessened the likelihood of sharing. In more economical regions, multi-party buying is even less common. “I have quite a few properties that would be perfect for that sort of thing, but people seem to hesitate to buy in groups,” says Tradewinds’ Routhier in Nova Scotia. “When we do have a deal involving multiple parties, it’s usually something like a son buying a place and letting extended family use it or moving an elderly parent into a recreational property. But it doesn’t happen often.”

Make it work for you: A shared purchase can put more properties within your reach—but buying together can be challenging. Check out “How to Draft a Sharing Agreement” online at cottagelife.com for advice on successful co-ownership.

Better roads = new cottage options

With an increased emphasis on ease of getting to the cottage, it should be no surprise that highway improvements can play a role in boosting cottage prices. For instance, three Ontario projects have raised interest in cottage areas: the opening of the Hwy. 404 extension near Keswick and Georgina, on the southern shore of Lake Simcoe; the imminent expansion of Hwy. 407 east of Picker-ing, giving better access to the East Kawartha region; and the expansion of Hwy. 416 in the Ottawa region. 

Make it work for you: Take a look at quieter areas just beyond the reach of highway improvements, suggests Huntsville’s John Jarvis. “If you’re looking in Huntsville with a budget of $400,000, you can’t afford anything in the main area, but if you head east, west, or north of the busiest areas, the prices go down quite a bit,” he says. “Take a $650,000 cottage in Huntsville. If you go toward Haliburton, a similar cottage with the same shoreline and lake size may only cost $450,000. You get more value for your dollar and your taxes will be less.”

Are the Americans coming (back)? 

For the last six or seven years, a higher Canadian dollar and a tougher U.S.economy meant that American buyers weren’t much of a factor in cottage real estate. With our dollar dipping, though, analysts are suggesting that American buyers are starting to look north again—and Canadian buyers who may have looked south will likely stick closer to home, where their dollar will go further. These two trends are likely to drive up interest in areas such as B.C. and the Maritimes. Ann Chiasson, in Whistler, has already noticed a change. “The Americans are starting to come back now,” she says. “The dollar has dropped and they can save 10 to 15 per cent.”

Meanwhile, some agents in Nova Scotia say they’re not seeing that yet. “We’re not getting the American buyers we used to,” says Gabe Routhier. “We’re now seeing buyers who are mainly from within Canada, plus we’re getting a lot of interest from Germany.”

Make it work for you: If you’re looking in an area that’s an easy drive from the U.S. or has a history of American cottage ties, getting into the market sooner rather than later—before there’s more competition for properties—makes sense, and you may see your property value pop up if and when those foreign buyers return.

Reno? No thanks 

“In the last boom, in 2005-06, we saw a lot of buyers willing to buy a place and then do a big renovation on it, but we’re not seeing that much now,” says Richard Greaves, a broker-owner with Re/Max Alpine Realty in Canmore, Alta. “People now prefer to buy something that is already done.” Realtors in Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula and the Vernon area of B.C. are also seeing a shift to a desire for fully renovated properties that require no major work. Still, realtors in some areas, such as Saskatchewan’s Christopher Lake and Candle Lake area, report an interest in vacant lots, especially on the part of younger buyers. Improvements in prefabricated cottage kits may be driving interest in lots in some areas, says Huntsville’s Jarvis. “Prefabs were really popular about 30 years ago, and they’re becoming popular again, due to the dramatically increased quality,” he says. And off-the-grid options? Realtors say they’re seeing little if any interest, and little priority on green options as well. “The focus is on full service, Wi-Fi, Internet, heat, paved road,” says Century 21’s Christopherson in Scotch Creek, B.C. “They want the cottage life, but they don’t want to be too country: no 4×4 roads, no off the grid, none of that silliness as they see it.”

Make it work for you: With so much focus on ready-to-move-in cottages with full service and paved roads, you may find bargains by going to a more remote area, looking for properties down gravel roads or those with more rustic appeal. If your cottage life dream is off grid, even better: the competition for such properties and lots is likely to be low—and you might have good resale value in the future, as people now in their 20s and 30s start buy-ing properties. “I think as younger buyers start to come into some money, we’ll see greener options become a larger part of the market,” says Nova Scotia’s Routhier.

Still, while arming yourself with the knowledge on the latest trends can open your eyes to options you hadn’t considered, for most buyers, cottages end up being a purchase motivated more by heart than by head. Says Royal LePage’s Duncan in Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes area: “Most buyers just want to get up by a lake and get a cottage.”

Source: Cottage Life by By y

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Moving to cottage country? Bring lots of money

Secluded and relatively boat-free Blackmore Lake, near Bracebridge, has just three cottages on it – and one of them is on the market for $1-million.

As high temperatures and abundant sunshine finally arrived in Ontario’s cottage country, real estate broker Anita Latner was heading out on a tour of Muskoka’s “big three” lakes with a couple who are looking for their first cottage.

Ms. Latner says the family from Toronto has $1-million “or a little more” to spend. That’s pretty much an entry-level budget for a property on Lake Joseph, Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau.

Ms. Latner says clients from Toronto often tell her that they had to trim their wish list when looking for a city house because prices are so rich. When the time comes to purchase a cottage, they will take the time to find exactly what they want. Ms. Latner is used to spending a couple of years helping buyers to find their getaway.

“It’s really hard on the big three to do anything under a million,” says the broker at Anita Latner Realty Inc. “They’ve already made compromises on their home. This is their dream; this is their oasis.”

Ms. Latner says cottage country was buzzing in July because so many city dwellers were avoiding the influx of PanAm Games athletes and visitors. But the height of summer tends to be the time when people enjoy cottage life instead of buying and selling.

“It just seems to be a nice pace,” she says of real estate activity. The number of listings is fairly typical for the summer months, she adds.

Ms. Latner recently listed a rustic cabin on 100 acres on relatively untouched Blackmore Lake for $1-million. There are only two other cottages on the lake and the owners of this property use the lake for water skiing because of the lack of boat traffic. They’ve set up a permanent full slalom water ski course that will be sold with the cabin.

“It’s a little bit quirky,” she says of the property.

The cabin has an outhouse and no electricity, she says, adding that the lake is surrounded by bush. A new owner could build a large cottage, she says, or keep the existing building. The relative isolation and lack of neighbouring cottages is unusual.

“It’s just so still and you don’t have to get up early in the morning and hope you beat the traffic.”

Ms. Latner says more U.S.-based buyers may head to Canada’s cottage country now that the loonie has fallen steeply in value against the U.S. dollar.

“Holy Toledo – that’s a lot of money in your pocket,” she says of the difference, which knocks the price of the Blackmore Lake parcel down to $800,000 in U.S. dollars.

Ms. Latner recently represented a buyer who purchased an investment property in the heart of Gravenhurst. The three retail shops with three apartments above them were listed for sale with an asking price of $629,000.

Ms. Latner says the Toronto-based client was looking farther afield because land prices have soared to dizzying heights in the city. The businesses that occupy the space – including a hair salon and a clothing boutique – will stay on, according to Ms. Latner.

“To invest in commercial [property] in Toronto is excruciatingly expensive,” she says. “I think a lot of these guys are shying away from Toronto.”

Meanwhile, the residential real estate market in Toronto has been quiet, agents say.

Some properties changed hands during the two weeks of the PanAm Games – including some that drew multiple offers – but, over all, the pace was slow, says Patrick Rocca of Bosley Real Estate Ltd.

“I suspect most people, because of the fear factor around the traffic, left town [because of] the Games,” Mr. Rocca says.

Mr. Rocca says he chatted with owners of shops and cafés on Bayview Avenue and some estimated that their business dipped 10 per cent during the Games.

The recent interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada has not yet sparked an increase in buying, he adds, but Mr. Rocca expects listings to pick up now that the Civic holiday weekend has passed.

Sohail Mansoor, an agent with Royal LePage Signature Realty, also found July fairly calm. But many listings also get a second look in the middle of the summer, he says, as buyers concentrate on the properties that are sitting instead of waiting for new ones.

An agent in his office received an offer recently for a property that had been listed for three months.

Mr. Mansoor’s listing at 85 Lake Promenade was still waiting for a buyer, despite a price cut to $1.85-million from $2.1-million. The four-bedroom property, which hit the market in early May, is right on the shore of Lake Ontario.

He says the location is ideal for buyers who want an unobstructed view of the water but the layout of the house is better suited to a couple or a family with older children. He figures it’s taking longer to sell because it’s not a typical family home.

Others on Lake Promenade in Etobicoke are also still on the market, he adds.

“It’s a good time to be a buyer because there’s less competition,” he says.

Source: CAROLYN IRELAND The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Aug. 06, 2015 1:03PM EDT

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August long weekend 2015: What’s open and closed in Toronto

The August long weekend – Simcoe Day in Toronto – is a civic holiday and a long weekend for many people in the Greater Toronto area.

The holiday goes by many names across the province, and it goes by different names and is often celebrated with different traditions across the country. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island the day is known as Natal Day, while it is Regatta Day in Newfoundland. In Ottawa the Civic Holiday is often referred to as Colonel By Day.

Businesses are not required to close Monday under the provincial Retail Business Holidays Act, so they may open at the discretion of the municipality.

Below is a list of what’s open and closed in the GTA:

Open

  • Tourist attractions (ROM, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto Zoo, Ripley’s Aquarium)
  • Major malls (Eaton Centre, Yorkdale, Fairview, Sherway Gardens, Square One, Vaughan Mills)
  • Select Beer Store locations (Click here for a full list)
  • LCBO (378 stores across the province will be open. Click here to find your store)
  • Movie theaters
  • City-run facilities like pools, splash pads and golf courses. (Click herefor details)
  • Riverdale Farm
  • High Park Zoo
  • Toronto Islands and ferries

Closed

  • AGO
  • Banks
  • Government offices
  • Post offices and mail delivery
  • All Toronto Public Library branches

Weekend Events

Source: 680News.com by NEWS STAFF Posted Jul 31, 2015 5:07 am EDT

U.S. buyers flock to Canadian vacation homes – The lowly loonie means U.S. buyers get a 20% discount

vacation homes

TORONTO – Real estate agent Priscilla Sookarow rang in the new year in a novel way, brokering the sale of a $3-million vacation property in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley to a family from Texas.

In addition to the region’s natural beauty, the buyers were lured by the low value of the loonie relative to the U.S. dollar, said Sookarow who, along with realtors elsewhere, says an increasing number of vacation property buyers are coming from south of the border.

“When you buy a $3-million property with U.S. dollars you’re saving a fair bit,” said Sookarow, an agent with ReMax Vernon.

Sookarow isn’t the only agent in the recreational property market to report an influx of U.S. clients. Realtors in B.C.’s Gulf Islands and Ontario’s Muskoka and Niagara regions say they are also observing the trend.

“In all of my offices we’re seeing more U.S. inquiries,” said John Jarvis, a ReMax agent in Ontario’s Muskoka region. “Americans are definitely shopping more than they have been in the last three or four years.”

For U.S. buyers, recreational properties north of the border represent a good deal, said Jarvis.

“They’re getting a 20 per cent discount, roughly,” he said, noting that the loonie has been hovering at around 80 cents U.S. in recent weeks.

Americans also perceive Canadian lakes as being cleaner and “more pure” than those south of the border and believe that Canada’s economy is stable and strong, said Jarvis.

Meanwhile, many Canadian buyers who went south to pick up properties when the loonie was around par are now looking to return home, according to a number of agents.

Janet Moore, an agent at Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty, says many Canadians raced south between 2007 and 2011 to snap up vacation homes in places such as Palm Springs, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., and Hawaii.

Rising property values and the rally in the U.S. dollar have allowed them to make a profit, said Moore. Now, they’re looking to use those profits to buy vacation properties north of the border.

Realtors say these trends are likely to continue.

“As long as the dollar stays this way, we anticipate more of the same,” Sookarow said.

Source: Money Sense by; by Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press  June 25th, 2015

Beware that metal barbecue brush

Melinda Gay Mouldey had to have surgery to remove a bristle from a brush similar to this one, used to clean a barbecue.

Melinda Mouldey felt a piercing pain in her throat as she took the last bite of her hamburger at a friend’s barbecue.

“Oh my gosh, a piece of rosemary just stabbed me,” the 39-year-old Brantford woman exclaimed before starting to throw up so violently she ended up in the emergency department. But it wasn’t the herbs her friend used in the May 22 meal that caused a serious health issue requiring emergency surgery to treat.

The culprit was the newly bought wire brush used to clean the grill. An 11.3-millimetre metal bristle snapped off, landed on the grill and ended up in Mouldey’s burger. Impossible to see, it lodged deep in her throat as she took that last bite.

Sound like a fluke? Doctors at St. Joseph’s Healthcare want you to know it happens every barbecue season.

Last year, there were about a dozen surgeries of varying complexities at St. Joseph’s to remove wire brush bristles that can cause serious internal injuries. The Canadian government and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also issued warnings.

“The further down it goes, the more damage it can cause,” said Dr. Natasha Cohen, a resident training to be an ear, nose and throat specialist. “It’s one of those things that’s preventable if you raise awareness.”

Mouldey had never heard of barbecue brushes causing medical emergencies before it happened to her. She thought nothing of her friends using the wire brush.

“He brushed off the grill, she brought out the burgers and he started grilling them,” she said. “I ate my last piece of the burger and when I put it in my mouth and swallowed, I got stabbed.”

She immediately started vomiting, but went home instead of going to a hospital because she thought a piece of rosemary was caught in her throat and would dislodge itself eventually. She went to bed and made breakfast for her four kids in the morning.

“If I stayed still and didn’t talk, I wouldn’t throw up,” she said. “If I moved, I would start gagging.”

When she started vomiting blood, the McMaster University research secretary contacted a gastroenterologist colleague, who told her to go to the emergency department. She still didn’t realize the serious trouble she was in.

“I thought it was going to be quick,” said Mouldey, who had her 17-year-old son drop her off. “I thought I’d call him when I was done.”

But her blood pressure was high, and within 15 minutes she was sent to a priority area in the emergency department, where a general surgeon was called in while X-rays and tests were done.

She was admitted to the hospital May 23, but it took a CT scan on May 25 for doctors to realize it was a wire brush bristle lodged in her throat behind the jaw, just above where an Adam’s apple would be on a man.

“It was horrible,” she said. “I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t talk, and if I turned my neck, it would stab me.”

On May 27, the hospital sent Mouldey, with her husband, to an otolaryngology specialist to remove the bristle. When the doctor couldn’t get it out at the office, the couple was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital. She was in emergency surgery by 11 p.m.

It was the third time Cohen had removed a wire brush bristle in her three years of training.

“It happens often enough that all of the residents have seen it,” she says. “The bottom line is that it’s not about avoiding the barbecue or not cleaning your barbecue. It’s about knowing this can happen and being extra careful.”

Mouldey’s family now has a brush with bright red plastic bristles that can’t be used during cooking. Other friends use a piece of wood. She knows others who run an onion over the grill after using a wire brush as an additional cleaner and to pick up any stray bristles.

“There are a lot of alternatives out there,” said Mouldey, who doesn’t want anyone else to go through a similar trauma. In the end, she was in hospital from May 23 to May 28.

“It was very stressful,” she said. “It was the worst week of my life.”

Source: Joanna Frketich Hamilton Spectator, Published on Tue Jun 30 2015

Affordable cottage living remains within reach

All the luxuries of home in a quaint cottage setting.

Many of us have, at some point, dreamt of one day owning a family cottage. In the last few decades those who have yet to fulfill this dream have likely seen the opportunity of cottage ownership slip away due to what is no longer an affordable reality or a purchase price worth the financial burden or risk.

What goes up may eventually come down when interest rates rise, however, as will the cost of borrowing, and we’ll never see prices return back down the glory days when you could purchase a cottage for a few hundred thousand dollars or less. Even your average two-bedroom fixer-upper can go for $500,000 or more, unless you’re willing to travel much further north. Good investment? That’s debatable.

What other options are there to choose from, aside from fractional ownership or timeshares? Those words haunt most people’s dreams; after all, the only time you should be sharing is with your family around the campfire.

The alternative, more affordable option many people are discovering is Park Model Cottage ownership at Cherry Beach Resort in Prince Edward County, steps away from Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Brand new 2015 Park Model summer cottages at Cherry Beach Resort start at $59,900* for a two-bedroom open-concept model. The highest-priced three-bedroom model sells for $129,900*, with add-ons available. All models come with shingled roof tops, low-maintenance vinyl siding and windows, and are fully furnished throughout with appliances, window treatments, air-conditioning and choice of tasteful décor.

It only takes three to four weeks on average before a family is ready to enjoy their first day at the resort — and for many, the start of years of building great family memories, with some new friendships along the way.

As for cottage resort living, what does that mean? Let’s start with what most likely springs to mind with respect to a traditional cottage; imagine a cute little cottage nestled away in a forested area with a few neighbours, a dock, maybe a boat and a nice view of the lake.

Now how about a heated saltwater pool, multi-sports court, playground, recreational pavilion, daily Kidz Klub activities, wine-and-cheese nights for the adults, movie nights under the stars and, of course, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating and all the traditional amenities we all love about cottage country?

One more thing: How about a maintenance crew that will cut your grass and maintain the rest of the grounds while you’re busy shopping at the local farmers’ market and exploring all the local wineries across the island along one of the world’s longest bike trails?

Let’s face it – where are your kids going to have more fun? Where are you going to spend less time and money on upkeep and entertainment for the family? Where are you going to meet new friends, feel a little less isolated and safer? At Cherry Beach Resort.

We know what you’re thinking: What about all the running costs and hidden fees? What’s the catch? We get these questions a lot, actually. The reality is virtually all your running costs are included for less than or equal to the cost of a single-family vacation. Water, hydro, grounds-keeping, family entertainment, full use of amenities, security, an on-site management team, unlimited guest passes – it’s all included. Looking to save on half or more on your running costs? Join their rental program and you’re free to keep all your weekends if you want. Want to sell your Park Model Cottage down the road? They have you covered. Cherry Beach Resort makes it easy with their assisted sales program.

Between land taxes, maintenance and upkeep, interest payments on a hefty mortgage loan from the bank – all this excluding amenities, — purchasing a traditional cottage is certainly not for the faint of heart these days. It’s time to look at a much more affordable alternative; an option that will allow you to have your cake… and put more in your RRSPs, RESPs and TFSA account.

For more information on Park Model cottage ownership and resort-style cottage living, visit www.CherryBeachResort.com.

* Prices will be increasing as of July 1, 2015

Source: Special to National Post | June 25, 2015 9:11 AM This story was provided by Great Blue Resorts for commercial purposes.  Postmedia had no involvement in the creation of this content.

Mike Holmes: Don’t kick back in your backyard until it’s got the all-clear

Smart backyard planning and landscaping can help you protect your home, as well as cut cooling costs.

We’re heading full force into summer, and for many of us, the idea of a great summer starts with a great backyard. But more than just a place to have some drinks, enjoy time with the kids and friends, it’s important that your backyard works for you — by that I mean it helps protect your home and save you money.

What’s the first thing we should look at when checking out a backyard? Grading — that’s the slope of the property surrounding the house that helps direct water away from the foundation, not toward it. This helps protect against basement leaks. For every foot away from the foundation wall, the ground should drop at least half an inch. So over a six-foot span, you should have at least a three-inch drop.

If you ever want to test it, you can do a hose test. Get the garden hose and point it horizontally to your foundation wall, about five inches away from it. Turn the hose on and as the water runs, check the direction of the water flow. It’s a quick way to make sure water is moving away from your home.

That’s also why I don’t like plants and shrubs right up against the foundation wall. Every time you water them, you would be driving water directly to your foundation. Any tiny cracks will allow water to penetrate through, and if your basement is finished this could require an expensive fix.

When they get bigger, shrubs against your foundation wall and exterior can also trap moisture against your home’s exterior, which could lead to mould, termites or other insects. You’re better off moving those garden beds and shrubs away from the house.

What about trees? I love them, and they can help block the summer’s heat and sunlight from entering your home if planted in the right spots. But again, don’t plant them too close to your home.

The extra foliage will direct water and precipitation to your home’s exterior and roof. This can increase the chance of a leak; it will wear down your exterior siding faster, and when the leaves drop in the fall they could end up in your gutters, potentially clogging them.

Ideally, you also want to keep trees away from any sanitary lines, too.

A tree’s roots can grow to be two to three times wider than its canopy, and the roots can wreak havoc on your plumbing and weeping tile, especially if your home still has clay pipes. If there’s a tiny crack in the plumbing underground, the leaking water will attract tree roots to it, because roots seek out water, and then they can grow into the pipe itself, causing a blockage and potentially a sewer backup in the basement.

Related

It’s one thing to protect your home, but it’s also important to make it work efficiently. One way is by helping block out heat so you don’t have to crank up the air conditioning as often (which saves you money). There are a couple of backyard projects that can help do that.

As I mentioned, you can strategically plant trees around your home to block out the heat, but you can also install awnings on your windows. Awnings are an old-school solution that can reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent. In some areas, awnings can save homeowners as much as 25 per cent on their energy bills.

You could also hire a pro to build a pergola on the sunny side of your house.

Pergolas are those wooden exterior structures, usually in the backyard against the house, that have vertical posts supporting large crossbeams and joists. (If the pergola is free-standing it usually has four support posts. If it’s built off the side of a house it will have two.) Pergolas are great because they can help block out the heat and cut cooling costs, and they look good, too.

Your backyard should be your sanctuary; the place where you can kick back and relax. But to do it right you have to plan it right, because what you do on the outside of your home will always have an impact indoors.

Source National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | June 12, 2015 

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.

Need a mortgage on a cottage? Here’s what lenders look for

Ottawa — The Canadian Press

Whether you call it a cottage, a cabin or a camp, when the temperature begins to rise, the dreams of sitting on the dock at a place of your own start this time of year.

But if you don’t have the cash on hand to buy one outright, you’ll have to borrow the money.

And while the basic process of applying for and qualifying for a mortgage are the same, lenders will look at many more variables when assessing a property before lending money to buy a cottage.

Barry Gollom, vice-president of mortgages and lending at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, says while your strength as a borrower is important, banks will also take a close look at the property being acquired when determining how much they are willing to lend.

“Lenders will look at the location, proximity to a major market, sometimes is it on a big lake, is it on a small lake, access to the property, year-around is best, paved roads is a plus,” Gollom said.

“Lenders will want to ensure that there’s a safe and consistent water source as this can sometimes materially impact the marketability and value of the cottage.”

Mortgage broker Frank Napolitano says most lenders want a cottage to be a four-season property if they are going to loan you money, but he says some will finance three-season cabins.

“It is difficult to get financing if you can only access the cottage by water,” says Napolitano, managing partner at Mortgage Brokers Ottawa.

“The property has to be marketable.”

If you aren’t putting down at least 20 per cent, you’ll need mortgage default insurance just like an ordinary home purchase.

However, CMHC changed its rules last year so that it would no longer insure mortgages on second homes. That means you’ll have to go with a private mortgage insurance company which can provide the necessary coverage if your lender requires it due to the size of your down payment.

Insurers may also have limits on the amount they will cover for a vacation property, depending on its characteristics.

Depending on your situation, you could also consider refinancing your home or using a home equity line of credit if you have paid off enough of it to use it to borrow the cash you need.

Gollom says it is not uncommon for buyers to use a combination of financing through their home and the vacation property to make the purchase.

However, if you only made a small down payment on your home when you bought it and haven’t owned it for very long, you may not have the room you need to finance your new purchase.

Joe Walsh, a mortgage broker with Bedrock Financial Group in Toronto, says no matter how you choose to finance your purchase, for the lender it is about whether you can repay the debt.

“You need to have a lot of room in your income to be able to service the additional, what $200,000, $300,000?” he said.

Gollom said it’s important to make sure the decision to buy a cottage fits within your overall financial plan.

“It is a decision that really does require very thoughtful planning,” he said. “It is so important to understand the broader implications of the purchase of a vacation property as it relates to your other goals.”

Mike Holmes: My checklist for properly opening the cottage for the season

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | May 15, 2015 | Last Updated: May 15 2:05 PM ET

If you’re planning to open up the cottage this weekend, chances are it’s the first time you’ve seen it in months — and there will be a few problems awaiting your arrival.

Animal alert

Start by doing an exterior check. Look for signs of critters, such as torn window screens and holes in the soffits, roof and siding. I’ve seen critters pull away siding and chew through the substrate. They can also enter through the chimney, small openings around windows and doors, or rip through roof venting.

Carefully check if there are any animals inside before anyone goes charging through the cottage — it could be dangerous. Even if just field mice got in, there could be mouse poop, which is dangerous to your health.

If it seems all clear, proceed with caution. There’s still a chance there could be some unwanted guests inside. Check the kitchen — including cupboards and drawers — for mouse droppings.

If there are definite signs of critter intrusion, it’s best to call a professional pest control company. They can do a full check of your cottage and safely get rid of any pest problems.

Clearing the air

Next, let the place breathe. Any enclosure needs air circulation — dust accumulates, there might be mould and mildew. Let your nose be your guide — a musty smell tells you there’s trapped moisture, and it must be addressed.

Just because it’s a cottage it doesn’t mean you lower your health standards, especially not when it comes to the air you and your family breathes. If anyone has breathing issues, consider getting an indoor air quality test. Open all windows and doors, and if your cottage has a forced-air system, change the air filter.

Also inspect windows and bathrooms for signs of mould. If the area’s less than 10 square feet you can probably clean it yourself, using the proper safety gear, guidelines and products — but no bleach. If it’s bigger, you might want to call a professional abatement company.

Mechanics inspection

Inside the cottage, check the mechanics — that’s your heating system (and cooling, if you have it), plumbing and electrical. Make sure everything is safe.

Turn on the power by flipping the main and then go room by room to make sure everything is working well. Look for chewed-up electrical cords, lights that flicker, fixtures that spark, or a burning smell.

Turn on the water and check for any leaks. And test out the heating system, whether your cottage has electric baseboard heaters, forced air, or radiators or boilers.

Foundation and fire fundamentals

Once you’re done checking the mechanics, head to the basement, if you have one. Look for cracks in the foundation and any water penetration. Any crack that can fit a dime should be checked by a pro, such as a foundation specialist or structural engineer.

And don’t forget the basics, such as replacing the batteries in your smoke alarms and CO detectors, and making sure fire extinguishers are fully charged.

Outdoors overview

Start by inspecting the deck. Make sure the railings, steps or stairs are safe and secure. And see if any of the support footings have heaved — extreme freeze-and-thaw cycles can cause the ground to shift significantly.

While you’re cleaning your eavestroughs and downspouts, check for damage. Inspect the exterior siding and caulking around windows and doors. If any of it has shrunk, cracked or separated from the framing, air will leak. That means one weekend project will have to entail re-caulking.

Septic safety

Last but not least, your septic tank. Get it emptied every five to seven years, depending on usage. Not sure it needs to be emptied? Call a professional company to inspect it and get on their regular service schedule.

Cottage country is about fun and relaxation. Take care of the basics, make sure it’s safe and you’ll make it right.

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.