Category Archives: renovate or sell

Mike Holmes: You’ll get renovation stress, but here’s how to mitigate it

Living through a renovation puts a lot of stress on relationships. I’ve seen couples argue, and sometimes it’s so bad it can really test your relationship. The best thing you can do to avoid that is plan, plan, plan. The time you put into planning your renovation will determine its success. You must discuss everything with your partner, as well as your contractor. Talk about design choices, materials, expectations, what you’re willing to compromise on and your must-haves. Once you and your partner are on the same page, then do your homework.

Research and educate yourself on everything there is to know about the project — the trades you will need and when, all materials, the products you want, proper installation, warranties. Most people focus on the finishes — that’s the icing — but the bulk of your research should be on the right construction and materials that will support those finishes and make them last.

Some people will take all the right steps preparing for a renovation — they’ll discuss their budget, figure out if they need a construction loan, they’ll go over timelines, plus when they expect work to start and finish by. But once the reno starts, there are a lot of unexpected issues that can come up.

Before any work can start, everything must be cleared away from the area that will be renovated, plus the path leading to it. You must have a plan for storing all your furniture and appliances.

Where will you keep it all? Do you need movers? Do you need to rent a storage space? You should be discussing this with your contractor, too.

Also, where will you be living once construction starts? Some people think they can just stay home. I wouldn’t recommend it. Dust and noise will be a constant issue and mechanics, such as electricity, heating and water, typically get shut off — talk about an inconvenience! Plus, if the construction crew has to clean up at the end of every workday, because you’re living at home during construction, that adds extra labour costs.

Renovations aren’t a perfect science
and sometimes things happen

Let’s say you have a place to stay during construction. In most cases, it won’t be comfortable, which can put more stress on couples. When my son was renovating his house, he stayed in a Winnebago with his girlfriend. It was small, they didn’t have all their stuff and he was dragging in all kinds of dirt from the job site — it’s not an ideal situation.

And what do you do if construction goes longer than expected? Renovations aren’t a perfect science and sometimes things happen — like unexpected or emergency repairs that push your timeline, and budget, way beyond what you originally thought. Be prepared for the unexpected.

If you’re lucky enough to be staying at someone’s house, such as your in-laws, it can still be stressful. For one, it not only screws up your entire daily routine but also inconveniences other people. I remember one homeowner tearing up talking about staying at their in-laws during their renovation, and her daughter couldn’t play or dance for months because of boxes everywhere.

Even years after the job was done, the family was still recovering emotionally.

Changes to construction schedules and emergency repairs are another set of unexpected issues you could face. Anyone renovating their home should know that this can happen. You need a

Plan B in case it does. What things can you live without if you need to pull money for an unexpected repair? Are you willing to compromise on the finishes so you can stay within your budget, or will you go over it? If you do, what does that mean for you and your partner?

A successful renovation starts with plenty of planning, which takes time to do right — sometimes it can take months! But even all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the unexpected. When that happens, communication is key, with your partner and your contractor.

Watch Mike Holmes and his son, Mike Jr., on Holmes and Holmes Thursdays at 10 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit

Source: Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | November 26, 2016 

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Mike Holmes: Asbestos is like a sleeping monster best left undisturbed lest danger ensues

Many building materials, including some drywall compounds, can contain asbestos, which is why it's important for all crews working on older homes to wear protective safety gear, including respirators.

Mike Holmes: Asbestos is like a sleeping monster best left undisturbed lest danger ensues | National Post

The National Day of Mourning is on April 28 — that’s a time to remember those people who have been affected by workplace injuries or death. It serves as a reminder for all of us to make sure we have the right processes and systems in our workplace to prevent illnesses, injuries and even deaths.

Some of the biggest threats on the job site are the ones you can’t see, such as asbestos.

What makes asbestos so dangerous is its fibres.

Asbestos is a generic term that refers to a number of different mineral fibres. Because of their strength, durability and resistance to fire, these fibres were used widely in building materials and added to residential construction products.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s when it became known that asbestos posed a serious health risk, and since then it has been banned from building materials. It was used in vermiculite insulation, insulation around pipes and water tanks, roofing compounds, shingles, sealants, caulking, adhesives, vinyl tiles, drywall compounds, even some electrical parts.

When asbestos fibres are disturbed, they are released into the air, and if they’re inhaled they can get trapped in the lungs and cause serious health issues, including cancer.

Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer caused by asbestos.

Although asbestos isn’t currently used in construction materials, there are many older homes that still contain it. Any home built before 1980 should be professionally checked for asbestos, especially if a renovation or home improvement is planned. (Getting these materials properly removed by a professional company through remediation can drive up the cost of your reno.)

Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer caused by asbestos.

Professionals can take samples from suspect materials, such as walls, ceilings, vinyl floor tiles, siding, insulation and roofing materials. These samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. If the presence of asbestos is confirmed in any of the samples, don’t disturb the materials —­ whether by sanding, cutting, sawing or removing it; leave it to the professionals.

Some people might panic and start ripping out the material and products themselves, but that is not at all advisable. Disturbing asbestos and materials that contain asbestos is what makes it dangerous. That’s why contractors and their crews should always wear protective clothing and gear, especially during demolition. You never know what might be found, and what might be a hazard.

If a material that contains asbestos is in good condition, it might not need to be removed; however, it’s important to monitor it for signs of deterioration, because as soon as any fibres get loose, issues can start to arise.

There are some temporary fixes to prevent asbestos-containing materials from getting damaged and fibres getting loose, but they should only be done a professional contractor. Dealing with asbestos-containing material is never DIY.

Whenever hiring a pro to work on your home, always make sure they’re qualified to do the job right, which includes taking the proper safety precautions and knowing how to deal with potentially hazardous materials, like asbestos, the right way.

Ask what type of safety gear they normally use during demolitions, and the course of action they would take if they suspect any material contains asbestos. A contractor who doesn’t make the health and safety of their own crew a priority will likely not care about yours either, so do your homework. Ask if they have a professional asbestos abatement company that they normally work with. Who are they and what are their credentials? What’s their track record? Your contractor should be able to talk to you, not just about doing the job right but also about proper cleanup and safe disposal of materials.

Asbestos in homes and on the job site is a health risk. Too many contractors have years taken off their lives because they didn’t protect themselves with the right safety gear, such as gloves, safety glasses and of course respirators. Doing a job right means doing it safe. It protects homeowners and pros, too.

Source: National Post. Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit

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A DIY home renovation is rarely easy, fast or cheap

(Alessandro Rizzolli/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design,” Ralf Speth quipped recently.

The CEO of Jaguar Land Rover was talking cars, but even so, I wish I’d heard this before my renovation. We designed closets too shallow to fit my size-9 shoes, and shelves spaced so far apart you could sit on them. When the doors were installed, they opened against the light switches. All the radiators were hung in the wrong places, and we neglected to put one in the bathroom.

These are perhaps trivial annoyances in the grand scheme of things. But in the scheme of my mind, they take up far too much space. Besides which, righting the wrongs of the past isn’t cheap. My inability to spot these pitfalls ahead of time would have made me the ideal candidate for an interior designer. Seeing them in hindsight makes me the ideal candidate for an ulcer.

Thousands of homeowners plunge into renos without knowing the first thing about electrical currents, wood flooring or picking paint colours that won’t make them look jaundiced. We think we do: We watch Rehab Addict and buy Elle Decor. Then we splash out on an Italian sofa only to realize the fabric gives us a migraine. The property-porn industry has created a generation of cocksure DIY home decorators, and only an interior designer can properly smack some sense into them.

Whether it’s thanks to a real estate market that makes it prohibitively expensive to move, or the so-called “HGTV effect,” renovation spending is on the rise. The Home Improvement Research Institute says sales of home-improvement products are increasing more than five per cent year on year. The industry was worth a record $63.4-billion in 2013, or 3.7 per cent of total Canadian gross domestic product, according to real estate consultants Altus Group.

It’s never been so easy not to hire a pro before embarking on a reno.

“We didn’t hire a professional, but in hindsight we should have,” says Isabel Blunden, a London editor who spent nearly a year remodelling her home before the arrival of her first child. She would visit the site twice daily while the renos were in progress.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re capable of knowing what’s best for your space. But I now realize that having someone’s guidance could have actually saved us money, and certainly stress. Even a task as simple as choosing a wood floor was virtually impossible to get done.”

Blunden had an electrician install a five-amp circuit so she could control all her lights with one switch. Yet in the end, only one of the existing lights were compatible. Because she underestimated the amount of built-in storage she’d need, she now has freestanding units in most rooms.

“The builders turn to you and say, ‘We need to know where this is going – now,’” Blunden says. “I really believe having someone here would have helped.”

With an expensive renovation on the horizon, the idea of spending 10 to 15 per cent of your budget on hiring an employee might seem impractical, but factor in the cost of a mistake and it’s a wonder more people don’t use designers.

Ada Bonini, a principal at Vancouver design practice Bob’s Your Uncle, says she’s heard of DIYers spending thousands on sofas that were too big, or walnut floors that are scratched beyond recognition by their dogs.

“A good designer knows about spatial arrangement and proper scale, what materials are appropriate,” Bonini says.

“If you like walnut but can’t cope with walnut, there are options available.” She says she’s sourced area rugs that can be cleaned and designed storage at various heights that families can grow into over time, as well as wider doorways that can accommodate wheelchairs.

“It’s not just about the kids growing up,” she says, “it’s about aging in place.”

Then there’s the cost of not doing anything. “People say they don’t want to invest because they’re planning to move in five years,” Bonini says, “but the buyer is paying for those investments – so you’re actually investing for a lifetime.”

According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, bathroom and kitchen renos provide a return on investment of about 75 to 100 per cent, while exterior or interior painting provides a return of 50 to 100 per cent. And that’s after you benefit from the renovation yourself.

Working with a designer can truly pay off when it comes to their industry discounts. “Typically our discount is 20 to 50 per cent,” Bonini says.

Even factoring in the 15-per-cent purchasing fee she charges for each buy, and her flat fee (which varies by the project), clients get a net saving.

Bonini says the biggest savings generally go to the biggest spenders, but there are cost-effective options at the lower end, too.

New Yorker Will Nathan launched design service Homepolish two years ago after discovering no professional would stoop to take on his $25,000 project.

He eventually found the natty designer Noa Santos, who whitewashed his apartment, added loads of lighting and eventually joined the partnership.

They now charge $100 to $130 an hour for interior design and $50 to $80 for a home consultation.

“We democratize design by making it simple without adding hidden costs,” says Homepolish’s L.A.-based creative director Orlando Soria, whose urbane, exuberant chic has come to epitomize the company’s MO.

“We’ve devised all sorts of efficiency systems on the back end that help our designers concentrate on design.”

When Soria joined Homepolish shortly after its launch, he was one of the only designers on staff. Today there are 200 working in cities across the United States. Canada is a logical next step for the company, but, Soria says,

“We’re incredibly selective with the designers we take, so finding them is a long process.”

The service makes it feasible even for renters to get a leg up, and Soria believes the cost is justified.

“It’s annoying to spend what it takes. But the upside is getting a new space. Your space is valuable and it’s logical to spend money perfecting it. This is your life.”

DIY decorating is plagued with costly endeavours disguised as savings. “I’m always surprised at how little people value their own time,” Bonini says.

“People take hours second-guessing, finding a contractor, learning building codes, shopping for tile. These things can take a homeowner 10 times longer than a designer,”

Here’s another place a neutral party can come in handy. “I’ve seen some marriages tested during the renovation process,” Bonini says.

“It helps having a ‘go to’ to assist in decision making. It takes the pressure off of your tasks.”

But, like they say, when you own a home there’s always something that needs doing. “[Having a designer] might have meant we could talk about something other than the house for 12 months,” Blunden says.

“Now we talk about how we’re going to redo it for the baby.”

How to hire the right designer

Start by flipping through your favourite design magazines for projects that stand out. Visit stores where you might source some of your furnishings – whether it’s IKEA, Restoration Hardware or Ralph Lauren – and ask for a recommendation.

The website is an excellent resource for finding designers. Just plug your city into its search engine and you’ll get an extensive list you can filter by specific need. You’ll also find images to go along with each entry.

Hiring a designer will pay off most if you’re tackling a full home reno, an addition or a new home interior. That way you’ll benefit from your designer’s discounts across all your floors, surfaces and furnishings. Volume, volume, volume.

If you want a designer who is accessible and can move fast, choose a business with resources. You’ll want a team of more than one or two, so you’ll get the attention you’re looking for.

Interview several designers, asking for their portfolio and references. They should be comfortable talking money and time right away.

Speaking of which: Ask up front what you’re paying for. Agree on the payment structure, the schedule of meetings and discounts. Be clear if you want to see invoices for every purchase and specify this in a written agreement.

A designer should listen to your concerns, your vision and your taste and shouldn’t condescend. But don’t be put off by a bit of direction. A designer should rein you in, protect you from poor decision making and manage expectations.

Make sure your designer will work through the end of the project – you’ll want to follow up with a snag list of outstanding tasks and questions about maintenance.

Source: ELLEN HIMELFARB Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Feb. 04, 2015

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Renovation stress builds a range of emotions, from happiness to the desire to divorce: survey

As many have said, renovations can be a lot like giving birth: They’re painful, they make you want to scream, and cause you to ask yourself why you’re bearing the brunt of all the work. And yet, you love the result and often end up repeating the whole thing.’s Remodeling & Relationships Survey of Canadian users, conducted online this past December and January, found a number of issues that caused pain, including the fact that:

  • 18% made a significant design decision without telling their partner
  • 8% snuck away to catch a break
  • 9% neglected to mention the price of something.

Those are the little white lies of the fixer-upper set, but in a number of cases, things got even worse:

  • 5% admitted to secretly throwing out something of their partner’s. That little bit of nastiness might happen when you refuse to compromise on your own tastes, as was the case with 17% of respondents.
  • While 63% said they did compromise, 6% threw up their hands and let their partner’s will prevail. That’s an unfortunate way to spend the following long years, staring at a design feature you abhor.

That failure to stand up for themselves might have been a result of poor communication (31%) throughout the project. This may have resulted in the stats that show

  • 33% could not agree on products or finishes specifically
  • or 30% on style and design generally
  • 32% of respondents felt they took on more work than their partner — already a source of tension in real life, let alone in reno life.

So, your partner buys something and doesn’t tell you (or lies about its price); says they really, really have to go to the office on Sunday; “accidentally” breaks that stained-glass window you wanted installed; and hates your choice of backsplash. It’s no wonder the survey showed

  • 40% found the time remodelling with their partner frustrating
  • 25% found it difficult,
  • 9% found it painful.

All those design decisions, looming deadlines and financial stress do take their toll. During the process, the worst experiences caused

  • 9% of respondents to think they needed couples counselling
  • 6% to ask “How did I end up with this person?” and
  • 3% to consider a breakup or divorce.

However, 63% thought they made a great couple on the job, and once the labour pains were over, 97% said it was all worth it. The results included:

  • 70% reported feeling more comfortable in their home thanks to the project
  • 66% felt happier
  • 60% felt more organized
  • 50% relax at home more often
  • 45% entertain more frequently
  • 36% do more cooking and dining at home
  • 28% spend more time together at home.

What did they learn from it? It goes back to communication and compromise.

  • 46% said compromise is the key to both the relationship and the remodel
  • 34% said it was agreeing on what you both want before you start the project
  • 30% said it was making a realistic budget (and of course sticking to it; note that secret purchase in the first point, above).

Source: National Post – Shari Kulha | February 5, 2016


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Guidelines for buying investment real estate

The first factor to consider when buying real estate for investment is your budget. Ensure that you have sufficient funds for the initial fees and the long-term expenses; the only thing worse than having no property at all is being unable to fully pay for your investment.

After checking your budget, the next step is to scan the market so that you can have a good idea of what future buyers might look for, thus establishing a profitable investment. Compare the prices of the properties you are considering with authoritative market projections and current design trends. Take into account the locale of your purchase: the community, the neighborhood, the existing amenities, and the accessibility of core facilities (e.g. hospitals and schools).

Consider fixer upper properties, as well. The initial expenses required to bring up the home to a presentable, salable condition would be small compared to the potential profits down the line; this is especially applicable if the property is already aesthetically pleasing and situated in a good neighborhood to begin with. Also, going for this option would guarantee that any hidden problems would be addressed prior to the sale, as such issues would otherwise be undetectable in a property that looks good only at first glance.

Most importantly, tap the help of a professional such as a real estate agent. Specialist knowledge would be invaluable in assessing the previous factors to ensure that you get the best long-term benefits for your purchase.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth – 11 Dec 2015

To find out more about financing investment real estate, contact the Ray McMillan Mortgage Team at 905-813-4354 or visit

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Buying a Home in the Winter

Spring and summer are the high season for home sales, but winter can be a buyer’s market. If you don’t mind a smaller pool of homes for sale or moving around the holidays, winter might be a good time for you to house shop.

Less Competition, More Leverage
Since spring and summer are the most active real estate seasons, many home sellers wait until then to list their homes. That means there are fewer homes for sale in the winter, but the sellers often have strong reasons to sell their homes soon, such as job relocation. These motivated sellers can be a boon to the home buyer.

While there are fewer homes to choose among, the smaller selection can save you a lot of time. Do you really want to traipse through 50 houses? It may be simpler to view the handful of homes for sale in the winter and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Just as there are fewer homes for sale during the winter, there are fewer buyers, too. That means less competition and sellers who are more willing to accommodate potential buyers. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Offer a relatively low (but not insultingly low) bid for the home you’ve selected, or ask for perks such as the living room furniture or the chandelier that you admire.

The low number of potential buyers also means you have more time to make your decision. In the spring, you often need to choose a home and act quickly, but in winter you may be able to take your time.

Assessing a Home’s Winter Fitness
Viewing homes in the winter lets you see how it holds up to the weather. Did you feel cold while looking through the house? Is there a functioning heating system and hot water? Are the windows letting in drafts?

Availability of Agents and Others
Another advantage of buying a home in the off-season is the greater availability of industry professionals. Real estate agents will have fewer clients and more time to focus on your home search. Lenders will be more accessible for questions and assistance. Some lenders even waive fees during the off-season to encourage borrowers to use their services. Likewise, movers tend to lower their costs during the winter months.

Gray Gardens or Winter Wonderland?
Home buyers can be turned off by the bleak look of prospective homes in winter. Bare trees and lawns covered in gray snow aren’t the most picturesque. However, you’ll be able to see how well neighbors tend driveways and sidewalks, whether the town plows or salts icy streets, and whether kids come out to play in the snow. Around the holidays, you might even see the neighborhood decorated in its winter finest.

Source: By Dini Harris October 3, 2013

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Should You Sell Your House or Renovate It? Either way, it’s an expensive, time-consuming proposition.

A home for sale and a man working on a home renovation project.

Your house may not have changed much over the years, but you probably have. Maybe you were single when you signed your mortgage papers, and now you’re married with children (or divorced and sometimes with your kids). Perhaps you’ve added some pets and wish there were amenities like cat doors. Or maybe that cute, little starter home is simply little and no longer cute to you.

However your mind gets there, many homeowners find themselves pondering the big question: Should I sell my home or stick it out and renovate?

There’s really no wrong or right answer. So much depends on the homeowner’s point of view and the house itself. But here are some factors that may tip the scales.

The math may sway you. Sell or renovate? If you’re leaning toward selling, but are toying with making upgrades to increase the sticker price, know this: A major renovation won’t always spell a big payoff.

“My wife and I just went through this debate,” says Bennie Waller, a professor of finance and real estate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. They did their due diligence and collected estimates, but realized renovating would be very expensive. “We didn’t think we would ever be able to recoup the cost of the investment when it came time to sell,” he says.

So they decided to buy a new house – and keep the old one so they could rent it out for another income stream.

“I examined the decision purely from an investment perspective,” he says.

Or the math may not matter much. For some people, a house is their home for keeps. If you feel like staying put as long as you can, so that someday your adult kids can decide if they’d like to move in or sell their childhood home, recouping renovation costs may not matter to you. Especially if you’re young and plan to spend decades there.

Indeed, sentimentality can be a strong motivator to stay. Take it from Tracie Hovey, a Greencastle, Pennsylvania, resident and the president of a public relations and advertising firm. Though she has only lived in her house for a few years, she has no desire to pack up and go anywhere. She and her three children moved into the house when she remarried. Her husband had two of his own kids, and so they now live under a roof with five kids, ages 15 to 21. There are good memories here, and Hovey says they like their neighborhood and neighbors.

Still, it can get crowded. “We are short one bedroom when all the kids are home,” Hovey says. But it’s outside the house where the trouble really begins, especially during the summers and holidays, when the kids are on break.

Image result for images of renovate or sell

“When they are all home, it makes getting in and out of the driveway impossible, and I often find that I’m moving two cars just to get out of my garage,” Hovey says. Some of their kids end up parking on the street, which, she says, “can be irritating for our neighbors. It looks like we’re constantly having a party.”

So Hovey and her husband, a business executive, are currently shopping around for home contractors, hoping to build a three-car garage alongside the house and turn the existing garage into a master bedroom. She admits they’re a little nervous the home improvements might put the house above and beyond the value of neighboring homes, which could increase the pain come selling time.

It’s just one of those unwritten rules of real estate; it’s always easier to sell a house when it’s around the same price as the neighboring homes.

“But we aren’t the most expensive house in the neighborhood, even with the addition, so I think we would be all right,” she says. Plus, other houses in the area have three- and even four-car garages, so their home won’t be dramatically different than the others in the neighborhood.

You could buy and then renovate. That’s what Cosmo Macero Jr., a public relations consultant in Belmont, Massachusetts, did. His house seemed really large when it was just him and his wife. After two kids, it seemed a little smaller. When they decided to bring in Macero’s 89-year-old mother three years ago, they realized they had to make a change. They weren’t just housing another adult, but one with health care aides dropping by regularly.

But the cost of renovating was punishing. So Macero toyed with the idea of renovating his mother’s home and having them all move in there. That, too, was wildly expensive, and it didn’t feel like it would be a good investment. Macero’s main concern was spending a lot of money on improvements that wouldn’t be seen as improvements by anyone else.

“They might have become money pits for the sake of creating a living space that might feel very customized [and unappealing] to a buyer years down the road,” Macero says.

So he ended up leasing his home, since the market wasn’t great for selling, and purchased a new house with a vacant dentist’s office attached.

A dentist’s office? It sounds like the last thing a homeowner would want, but not in this case. “That office became the object of a major renovation that turned it into a wonderful in-law suite for my mother,” says Macero. His mother, now 92, loves her suite, which has its own entrance, thanks to its former purpose, and Macero believes the suite will be a selling point in the future.

Natalie Gregory, a real estate agent in Decatur, Georgia, took a similar path. She considered renovating her house but instead bought another one – and then renovated that.

“I work from home and wanted to have a basement where I could have a dedicated office, as well as a play room and media room for the kids. So we specifically looked for a home with a basement and a lot that would allow for expansion,” Gregory says.

She didn’t renovate her old house because it was built in the 1920s, and major changes would have adversely altered its character. The added amenities of a dedicated office, play room and media room, she says, would have added more to the home’s value and would have likely made it more difficult to sell in the future.

“You want to make sure you still have the value in your home,” Gregory says of considering a major renovation. “Some homes are what they are. It is right the way it is. For instance, if a home is a great two-bedroom, one-bath, maybe it needs to stay that way and you pass it on to the next people who need just that.”

So should you renovate or sell? Really, you could say it comes down to your frame of mind – and the frame of your house.

SOURCE:  March 6, 2015 | 10:50 a.m. EST