Tag Archives: home renovations

This smart doorbell lets you video chat with visitors from your phone

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Ever ignored the doorbell because you didn’t know who was there or weren’t expecting any visitors? Now thanks to a Chicago-based company, you can see who is at your doorstep and even talk to them from your phone.

Smart video doorbell and motion detector, Xchime, is app-enabled and allows users to see anyone at their door from virtually anywhere. Launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo last week, the innovative doorbell includes a 1080P HD camera with night vision, a smart light and a convenient garage door opener.

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Photo: Xchime/Facebook

Developed by Chicago’s Wireless Input Technology Inc., Xchime is a small, weather-resistant gadget made with stainless steel. Using their phones, Xchime users can have live video chats with visitors, like telling the mailman where to leave a package if you’re not home. Also, visitors can leave  recorded video messages, which can be viewed later on the app.

Xchime also includes features intended to help secure homes. The doorbell is built with a discrete security camera and, whenever motion is detected within a 140 degree field of view, users will be notified through the app. Xchime also has Integrated smart light technology. When motion is detected, the doorbell’s light will turn on automatically in an effort to deter unwanted visitors.

As an add-on accessory, users can purchase a garage door opener kit allowing them to open and close their garage with a push of a button from Xchime’s app. The doorbell retails at $129 USD and the first shipment is scheduled for August 2017.

Source: BuzzBuzz News – 

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How to determine if a fixer upper is worth the work

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“I love it, but it needs work!”

Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself saying that about a potential property. Even the best homes may require a few tweaks to get them move-in ready. For first-time homebuyers, fixer-uppers offer amazing value. Identify the great bones hiding behind dated wallpaper or lighting, and you can save money, while custom decorating your property to your liking. Here are 5 property flaws that are fairly easy to fix.

 

Flaw #1: Unstylish wallpaper or a unattractive paint colour

Fix: One of the cheapest and easiest ways to refresh a space is to paint it a clean, neutral colour. That’s why it’s so surprising when a home seller skips this step. Unflattering walls, from unappealing paint shades to outdated wallpaper, can elicit a visceral response in certain viewers: “Not. This. Home.” That gives savvy house-hunters an advantage: more homes to choose from, and possibly a bargaining chip when it comes to sales price.

Lacklustre walls are easy to fix. Repainting a room takes just hours, and even if you have to strip old wallpaper beforehand, it’s a straightforward weekend project.

TIP: If possible, tackle chores like painting before you move into your new home.

 

Flaw #2: Dark, gloomy rooms

Fix: Dingy rooms are often the result of bad lighting. Upping the wattage of light bulbs can make a big difference, but installing new light fixtures is the surest way to give a darker room a bright new outlook.

Well-lit rooms combine ambient lighting with task lighting. A solid lighting strategy pairs overhead illumination such as modern recessed lighting or a traditional chandelier with additional light sources like table lamps, floor lamps or desk lamps.

Lighting is an easy fix so don’t let this flaw deter you from making an offer on a fixer-upper. Basic lighting installation can be tackled by DIYers, while a pro can make short work of installing recessed lighting.

Flaw #3: Damaged hardwood or a musty carpet

Fix: Old carpets put off potential buyers, but don’t let that stained floor covering deter you. Ripping out wall-to-wall broadloom takes elbow grease, but isn’t difficult.

If you’re lucky, you may find well-preserved hardwood underneath. If not, don’t stress: stained or scratched-up hardwood can be refinished by sanding, re-staining, and varnishing. Ambitious DIYers can tackle this, otherwise, you can hire a pro to do it for less than it would cost to have new hardwood installed.

If the carpet was hiding linoleum, consider today’s next-generation engineered hardwood or budget-friendly laminate: it looks like hardwood, and features basic, glue-less, click-in installation.

Flaw #4: Out-of-date kitchen cabinetry

Fix: Nice kitchen, not-so-nice cabinetry? Not a problem: Wood cabinets are easy to update! Just give them a cheap-and-cheerful facelift via a couple coats of hardwearing enamel paint and new knobs or pulls.

Or, for a more radical makeover, have your cabinetry refaced by a kitchen specialist. New doors, drawer fronts and hardware provide a kitchen makeover, minus the hassle and waste of ripping out serviceable cabinetry.

Flaw #5: Zero curb appeal exterior paint palette

Fix: Curb appeal is huge. And when a house is seriously lacking, you may think twice about the investment. But take a few minutes to analyze a house’s exterior before you cut it from your list. Would a new exterior paint palette for the walls, porch, window shutters and front door transform the house from drab to delightful?

Source: Genworth.ca

 

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When planning home improvements, finding a reliable contractor is an important first step

Hiring the right contractor can make all the difference when renovating your home

Skyrocketing Toronto real estate prices are motivating many existing homeowners to improve their homes, rather than replace them. “We’re seeing a big trend to add value to homes through renovations and to increase living space by building ‘up or out,’” said Kris Potts, president of Toronto’s Norseman Construction & Development. “In doing so, existing homeowners are achieving the living space improvements they would normally seek by moving to another home, but at a much lower cost.”

Whether the homeowner’s goal is to add living space by ‘building up or out’ or just to bring kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms up to 2017 standards, their biggest challenge is often finding a contractor who can be trusted to do the job right; on time and on budget.

With an impressive 83 per cent score on the consumer rating site HomeStars.com, Norseman Construction & Development is one such contractor. Established in 2005, this family-owned-and-operated company listens to its customers throughout the design and build process; keeping them constantly informed about their project’s progress until it is completed, and each customer has received exactly what they asked for.

“We do our best to take each homeowner’s vision and make it a reality, ensuring that the finished product exceeds their expectations,” said Potts. “We do this by keeping on top of the perpetual advancements in the field, and by addressing the constantly changing needs of local homeowners. Add Norseman’s wealth of experience, superior workmanship and unparalleled attention to detail, and we are able to provide our customers with innovative solutions, competitive pricing and timely results on all their home improvement projects.”

Norseman’s attention to customer needs starts with the company’s consultation process. “Book an appointment on our website, and one of our skilled estimators will come to your home to provide a free quotation on whatever you have in mind,” said Kevin Potts, Norseman’s Operations Manager. “We will do our best to come up with a plan that not only meets your needs, but also fits within your budget and schedule.”

Once the home improvement project is underway, Norseman keeps customers ‘in the loop’ about the project’s progress on a daily basis. “Our people use a program called Buildertrend to upload status reports and photos of each day’s work,” Kevin Potts said. “Our homeowners can log into it as often as they wish to see firsthand how their build is going, and to get answers to any questions they may have.”

“Today’s homeowner is very savvy, thanks to all the home improvement shows on TV,” said Becky Potts, Norseman’s Marketing Manager. “Here at Norseman, we respect this level of awareness by giving homeowners open access to information about their projects at all times. Check out our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, and you will see our customer-first values in action!”

‘Customer-first values’ is a phrase that means something at Norseman Construction & Development. It is why this contractor provides a two-year warranty on its work – many other contractors only provide a year’s coverage.

It is also why the Potts family insists on alerting customers to project-related issues should they occur. All construction projects carry with them some element of the unknown. Opening walls or floors can bring to light new information not present at the project’s beginning. “Setbacks happen,” said Kris Potts. “When they do, we tell the customer about them upfront, and we fix them in consultation with the customer.”

As well, customer-first values drive Norseman’s approach to its skilled tradespeople. “Unlike some other contractors who are focussed on profits first, Norseman treats its trades fairly,” said Kevin Potts. “In return, we inspire loyalty in the most skilled tradespeople in the industry. The payoff is the best quality work on our customers’ homes.”

That’s not all: Norseman invests money and time in ‘giving back’ to the GTA community. Its charitable efforts include underwriting the annual free Messiah for the City Christmas concert for clients and staff of the United Way. This much-loved music is performed by the Toronto Beach Chorale and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Norseman also supports Habitat for Humanity, which aids low-income families in attaining affordable housing; serves hot meals at the Scott Mission, and funds numerous local sports and charity events in the GTA.

“The way we treat our customers and our community underscore what Norseman Construction & Development stands for,” concluded Kris Potts. “When you hire us for your home improvement project, you will receive quality-oriented, customer-focussed service from a stable firm that truly puts you first, and who cares about the community we all live in.”

For more information about Norseman & Construction & Development, visit their website or connect on Facebook.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Norseman Construction.

Source: National Post

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Ontario’s 16 new housing measures

Houses are seen in a suburb located north of Toronto in Vaughan, Canada, June 29, 2015.

The Ontario government has announced what it calls a comprehensive housing package aimed at cooling a red-hot real estate market on Thursday. Here are the 16 proposed measures:

  • A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.
  • Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.
  • Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for “landlord’s own use” evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.
  • A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.
  • Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.
  • A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.
  • A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.
  • More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.
  • The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.
  • An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.
  • A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.
  • The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed
  • Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.
  • A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.
  • Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.
  • Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.

Source: The Canadian Press – April 20, 2017

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The Role of Appraisals How do the three main types of building appraisal work?

Whether it’s a retail strip plaza, a mall, an agricultural compound, a single family home, or an industrial building of 5,000 or one million square-feet, getting an appraisal is an important first step in any property acquisition process. In order to learn how to weight the importance of different factors when forming their opinion on value, registered appraisers go through a stringent examination process.

When determining the value of a property or building, there are several methodologies that qualified appraisers have to choose from, which are driven by the scope of the assignment and the property type.  The first is the ‘Direct Comparison Approach’; a methodology whereby the appraiser develops an opinion of value by analyzing completed sales, listings or pending sales of properties that are similar to the subject property. “Estimates of market rent, expenses, land value, cost, depreciation and other value parameters may be derived using a comparative technique,” explains Dan Brewer, President of the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) and licensed mortgage and real estate broker.

Another methodology commonly adopted by appraisers is the ‘Cost Approach’, which considers the land and building components separately, and reaches a value conclusion by adding these estimates together to form an opinion. “Like the Direct Comparison Approach, the Cost Approach is based on a comparison of the cost to replace the subject (cost new) or the cost to reproduce the subject (substitute property),” Brewer says. “The total cost estimate is adjusted by deducting the accrued depreciation (i.e., physical wear and tear, functional deficiencies and external influences) of the dwelling and the site improvements (e.g., garage, deck, pool, etc.). The Cost Approach is most reliable when a property is newer due to the lower depreciation, although it’s generally not a weighted approach.”

The third methodology is the ‘Income Approach’, which is used to determine the valuations of income-producing properties. “Typically purchased as investments, the earning potential is an important element affecting the value of these properties,” says Brewer. “Through the Income Approach, the appraiser analyzes a property’s annual income and expenses to convert the net income into a present value. This methodology is typically not applied when valuing a residential property.”

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InFocus: The Role of Appraisals Why accurate appraisals are more important than ever before

As certain Canadian real estate markets reach dizzying new heights, homebuyers are loading themselves with debt in order to secure their place on the housing ladder. Paying over the asking price is no longer an exception to the rule and, as a result, many Canadian homebuyers are playing a risky game with their financial futures. Brokers have an important role to play in ensuring that their clients don’t buy something they can’t afford and, in these tumultuous times of economic and real estate uncertainty, securing an accurate appraisal has never been more important.

“One of the opportunities that appraisers bring to the table when asked to give their opinion is not just understanding the dynamics of the valuation, but also understanding what that means within the current market conditions,” says Dan Brewer, President of the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) and licensed mortgage and real estate broker. “There appears to be a situation where people are willfully under listing properties to create a frenzy, which is potentially misleading. It makes an appraisal all the more critical in the current market.”

Brewer has been monitoring a region in Ontario where homes are consistently selling for 15 – 30% more than list price; where paying a premium is the new norm. These premiums are being driven by current supply-demand issues, and in a situation where 20+ buyers are vying to purchase a property there really is only one winner: the seller.

Despite homes selling consistently over asking and accurate valuations becoming increasingly important, Brewer still notices a lack of broker knowledge around the appraisals process and the bodies who govern the industry. “The mortgage agent world had exploded in recent years and many people don’t have the specific training they need,” Brewer says. “The AIC has several professional development programs designed specifically for broker organizations to help them train agents and investors in the market place. It’s important that everyone, including brokers and agents, gets the education they need.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca

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Mike Holmes: Speaking in code

Before starting any job, it’s important to check code to ensure you’re using the proper materials and practices so that when the project is finished, it will pass inspection. By now, you all know that I like to build above minimum code whenever possible — and by doing so, we’ll have stronger buildings that are built using better products and practices.

In fact, because building codes are different depending on where you live, the best way for me to teach others is to leave minimum code at the curb and focus on teaching homeowners how to build better and stronger homes in the first place.

Here’s a question I’m asked often: When it comes to fasteners, what do I use? While there’s not one fastener for all occasions, when it comes to screws or nails, I’m going to use screws wherever possible.

The right fastener for the job

When it comes to fastening, I always say to glue it and screw it. Gluing gives you a solid connection while the screws will keep it there — and not loosen over time. Find the right fastener for the job by checking code first.

There are some projects where you need the right kind of screws, and other jobs where screws on their own just won’t cut it.

Wood screws are used to secure lumber, but the kind of job you’re doing will dictate what kind of screws to use. There are screws that are designed for interior or exterior projects.

In the case of exterior wood screws, you can get them specifically designed for the type of wood you’re using, like cedar, or a pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood is treated with Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), which is more corrosive for metal. That means you need a fastener that is approved for outdoor use with ACQ treatment in mind.

For indoor projects, drywall screws are designed to hold drywall securely in place because they have deeper threads than a typical screw, which keeps them from dislodging from the wall.

Screws popping out of drywall

Have you ever had your screws pop right out of your drywall? There are a few reasons why this could be happening — but it usually comes down to an issue with the installation. A lot of installations are done too quickly. If you’ve only got one guy installing the drywall as fast as possible they might not be putting proper pressure on the sheet of drywall making sure it’s on tight.

Too many builders worry about speed, without taking the time to truly do the job right.

In the case of minor popping there’s a relatively simple fix. Push the drywall in and ensure it is snug against the stud, and add some new screws. From there, mud over the screws, sand it, and add a fresh coat of paint.

Squeaky floors

If you’ve ever tried to quietly sneak around your house only to be given away by the telltale sound of a squeaky floor — the problem may actually lie in your subfloor, and how the builder fastened the sheathing to the floor joists. You can sheath a subfloor with hardwood but you will find that it contracts and expands depending on the humidity conditions in the home.

Because the hardwood is nailed to the subfloor, in time, as the wood contracts, the nails can pop out.

To keep things quiet and in place, use a plywood subfloor that’s been properly glued down and secured with screws. The glue makes the connection between the sheathing and the subfloor, and the screws hold everything in place without loosening over time.

Builders often use a nail gun to install subfloors, and you sometimes have the nail missing the joist. When not completely secured, the floors will move when pressure is placed on them (every time someone walks on them), causing that annoying squeak you hear.

Before you decide on fasteners for your next project, always check what code dictates in your area. The spec of the job will let you know what kind of fastener you should be using. If it’s my choice — I’m going to glue it and screw it.

Building a strong house that will stand up to anything you can throw at it is all a matter of building it right and choosing the right materials.

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

Source: National Post – Mike Holmes | April 1, 2017

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