Category Archives: recreational properties

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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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

The 7 Most Common Caribbean Myths and Stereotypes

The Caribbean is a vibrant collection of people, cultures, sights and sounds. Yet those various layers of the region are often lost behind inaccurate stereotypes.

Before National Caribbean-American Heritage Month concludes, let’s unravel some myths about the West Indies. Perhaps this will highlight the not-so-hidden gems in a place that millions of people call home.

1. Jamaica is not the only Caribbean country.

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When many people think of the Caribbean, they imagine white-sand beaches and, of course, Jamaica. However, they might be surprised to find out that the black, gold and green Jamaican flag is just one of many in the region.

Including territories in the “circum-Caribbean”—nations in Central and South America that are washed by the Caribbean Sea—there are more than 28 individual countries in the region. Among them are Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada.

Also, Jamaica does not even have the largest population. The nation with the most people is Cuba, which has more than 11 million citizens (pdf). Jamaica’s population, on the other hand, was just over 2.7 million in 2013.

2. We do not all “sound Jamaican.”

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Foreign accents are exotic and appealing to nonnative speakers. They catch people’s attention and make everything sound just a bit more interesting. Yet mocking the way a person talks can be downright offensive.

It is even worse when the imitator is unable to pull it off and reduces every West Indian’s way of speaking to “sounding Jamaican.” Just imagine how annoyed Bajans (Barbadians) feel when a person greets them by saying, “Wah gwan, rude boi?”

Different countries in the West Indies have distinct creoles, dialects and accents. Again, not every West Indian person is from Jamaica. So avoid addressing us with a rough take on patois.

3. Rihanna is not our ambassador.

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Rihanna performs onstage at The Forum Nov. 19, 2012, in London.SIMONE JOYNER/GETTY IMAGES ENTERTAINMENT

She has 13 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, has sold millions of records around the world and is probably the most famous West Indian alive today, but Rihanna is not an ambassador for the entire Caribbean. In fact, her music hardly reflects her home country, Barbados.

BuzzFeed recently featured a video with Americans tasting Caribbean foods for the first time. Throughout the piece, they made references to Rihanna and suggested that she must eat those meals every day, even though none of the dishes is native to her island.

As with our various languages, each Caribbean country has a distinct history and culture. Those aspects of our heritage are evident in cuisines and other customs. So while Chaka Khan may be every woman, it is impossible for Rihanna to be every West Indian.

4. Bob Marley was just one of our greats.

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Bob Marley’s birthplace and mausoleum in Nine Mile, JamaicaSHERRY TALBOT/ISTOCK EDITORIAL

There is no questioning the impact that Bob Marley made both before and after his death. However, although he made the rest of the world aware of some facets of West Indian culture, he was certainly not the only noted figure to emerge from the region.

Other influential people born in the Caribbean include Grace Jones (Jamaica), Sir V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad and Tobago), Doug E. Fresh (Barbados) and Wyclef Jean (Haiti). In addition, there are many influential people who still live in the region and proudly promote the various cultures, although they are not famous in North America.

5. Reggae is not our only art form.

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Marley penetrated American pop culture and made reggae mainstream. Now, more than 30 years since his death, artists from across the world sample elements from the Jamaican export. And yet the Caribbean has much more to offer.

Calypso, soca, steel pan and parang music all originated in Trinidad and Tobago, along with limbo, which is often wrongfully associated with Hawaii. Zouk stems from Martinique and Guadeloupe, and dancehall and dub are rooted in Jamaica. Meanwhile, meringue is quite popular in Haiti.

6. Marijuana is still illegal.

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One of the stereotypes that often plague West Indians is that we sit around all day listening to reggae and smoking marijuana. That is far from the truth. In fact, the herb is still illegal in most Caribbean countries.

Jamaica only legalized the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in February 2015, making it the first nation in the region to decriminalize the drug. Meanwhile, marijuana has been legal in the state of Colorado since November 2012, and the population is double that of Jamaica, yet the stoner stereotype is not internationally associated with its residents.

7. We are not all of African descent.

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As a result of colonialism, chattel slavery and indentureship, West Indian people have a wide array of influences that have shaped everything from our culture to the way we look. This might actually surprise some people, but we are not all solely of African descent, and many of us do not identify as black.

Interestingly, the majority of the populations of Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, for instance, are of primarily East Indian ancestry. Also, the sections of those countries’ demographics that identify as mixed are increasing.

The cultural practices associated with various ethnic groups have mostly been maintained, long after colonialism ended. In Trinidad and Tobago, national holidays are observed for the Hindu celebration of Diwali as well as Indian Arrival Day (May 30). Emancipation Day (Aug. 31) is also annually recognized to commemorate the end of chattel slavery.

Source : The Root BY:  Posted: June 23 2015 3:00 AM

Trent Jones is an editorial fellow at The Root. He also produces a daily video commentary called#Trents2Cents. Follow him on Twitter.

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.

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.

Forbes ranks Jamaica best country in Caribbean to do business

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | 11:24 AM

Source: (Jamaica Observer)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The 2014 Forbes Best Countries for Business Report has ranked Jamaica 64 out of 146 nations making it the best country in the Caribbean region to do business and third in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Forbes, a leading international business magazine, determined the Best Countries for Business by grading 146 nations on 11 different factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance. Forbes said each category was equally weighted.

The report was compiled using published reports, including the World Bank’s Doing Business Report and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

“I welcome this report as further evidence that Jamaica is taking the necessary steps to improve our business environment,” said Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton. “This latest report will go a long way in repositioning Jamaica in the investor community and ensure that Jamaica comes to mind as one of the top places to invest, not just in the Caribbean and Latin America, but in the world. I look forward to even greater improvements in our 2015 international rankings.”

The report ranked Trinidad and Tobago 71, Barbados 73, Dominican Republic 86 and Guyana 96. Costa Rica 57 and Mexico 61 ranked higher than Jamaica in the Latin American region.

What? Cancel Christmas?


What? Cancel Christmas?

by MBN | 23 Dec 2014
Bah humbug! In December 1908, the insurance industry declared war on Christmas.

In that year, the New York Board of Underwriters issued an announcement to every client of every fire-insurance firm in the Big, Burning Apple:

“Your attention is hereby respectfully called to the fact that the introduction about the premises of Christmas green, harvest specimens and other inflammable materials, such as cotton, to represent snow, and the like, and the use of moving picture machines, introduces additional hazard not contemplated by the underwriters in issuing policies of indemnity covering the usual fire hazard.”

Unfortunately, so many disastrous fires had occurred as a result of Christmas decorations – not only in retail stores where festive spectacles were common, but also in houses, churches and public buildings – that “the practical prohibition of this class of display is deemed necessary.”

So, what about department store windows, resplendent with the illuminated joy of the holidays?

Prohibited.

Surely church transepts could swell with Scotch pine and Douglas fir?

Banned.

How about decking the halls with boughs of holly?

Forbidden – so long as the decorators wished to keep their insurance coverage viable, that is.

The insurers weren’t taking a page from Charles Dickens’ Scrooge. Until the age of electricity, Americans lit up their Christmas trees using candles or burning paper (yes, burning paper).  Fires had become so common that newspapers would mark the season’s first fire with the same regularity that the first snow fall would be recorded.

Christmas had become a nightmare for insurers.

At the turn of the previous century, insurers experienced a yearly post-holiday rush of claims from homeowners and business owners who had been burned by yuletide blazes. Although many of the losses were small, they did add up – and had a serious impact on insurers’ bottom lines.

And some fires hit very close to home for insurers.

In 1900, an unfortunate insurance executive, F. W. S. Brookes of the Prudential Insurance Co., suffered serious burns while playing Santa Claus for a group of eager children. As Brookes reached for presents in the tree’s high branches, his Santa suit caught fire, and he was engulfed in flames until his guests smothered the blaze.

Although Santa was singed, Brookes considered himself lucky. News accounts from the period are full of fatalities caused by Christmas tree fires.

Strands of electric lights, first invented in 1882 by Edward H. Johnson, an assistant of Thomas Edison’s, offered a festive alternative. But such decorations were initially very expensive, and required professional workmen to install. Moreover, electric lighting was still an imperfect technology, and often proved to be no safer than the open flame lighting they replaced.

A year after their first pronouncement, the New York underwriters added “electric lights” to their list of banned decorations.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that reliable Christmas tree lights perfected and mass-marketed. But Christmas tree fires remained common.

Chicago still suffered between 15 and 30 such blazes per year through the 1930s, while Christmas crooner Bing Crosby’s North Hollywood mansion was consumed by flames after a string of lights short-circuited in 1943.

But don’t worry – Crosby’s wish for a White Christmas were made true by insurers, as the majority of his $200,000 loss was covered.

Luckily for Crosby, by then the underwriters had started to relent. Most of his $200,000 loss was covered by insurance, a spokesman said.