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Mike Holmes: Getting ready for cottage season

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

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

Start From the Top

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

Animal Patrol

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

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

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

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

Let Your Home Breathe

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

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

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

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

Bring Back the Power

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

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

Inspect Your Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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Tired of Toronto? Why not move to the St. Catharines-Niagara region

Affordable homes in the St. Catharines-Niagara region are attracting buyers from Toronto.

It took Russell Phipps just one day to sell his three-bedroom, 1,800-sq.-ft. house in Ajax, Ont., after a fierce bidding war. With an early closing and no place yet to live, the Toronto native moved into a friend’s 550-sq.-ft. Corktown condo in the city to give downtown living a try. It didn’t take long before he realized he wanted out − far out.

“It’s expensive,” Phipps says of living in the core, where the average price of a detached home is $1,336,640, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). “Parking is expensive. When people come to visit you and you try to find them parking on the street, that’s a hassle. And I was always in the shadow. Wherever we seemed to go downtown, it seemed the buildings were always blocking the sun. I like a little bit more of a view.”

Like many others, Phipps, 48, turned his views to the St. Catharines-Niagara region, which is benefiting from Toronto’s spillover effect as buyers look for more affordable homes.

When Phipps’ request for a job transfer came through, the case manager with the Ontario government, started shopping for a condo. Within a few days he found the perfect pad: a two-bedroom, 1,118-sq.-ft. penthouse in Pinewood Homes’ mid-rise Fairview Condominiums project now under construction in St. Catharines. He’ll move in this fall.

Phipps can’t gush enough about all the pluses of leaving Toronto. He didn’t have to deal with intense condo bidding wars. He only had to pay a $20,000 deposit instead of about $80,000 in the big city. He avoided what he calls Toronto’s “double land transfer tax.” Parking, storage and finish upgrades were all included in the $389,000 price tag. He can walk to work, the mall and the gym but is still within an hour’s drive of Toronto if he wants to pop in to see friends. And he’s just 10 minutes from the beach. “I get all the bonuses of condo living but I get it in a suburban atmosphere.”

Affordability

With the Toronto Real Estate Board pinning the average cost of a home in 2017 at $727,928 in Toronto and almost $800,000 in the 905, it’s no surprise folks are starting to look further afield for affordable living and, perhaps, a less frenzied lifestyle.

According to the Niagara Association of Realtors, the average price of a home across the region is up 24 per cent year-on-year to $345,294, while condo prices rose 31 per cent to $288,868. They don’t release the average price of a detached house. However, in The Six a detached house costs about $1,337,000 and a condo is about $471,400, the TREB said.

While high-end properties in Niagara can swell far above $500,000, there are still a lot of savings to be made for more space. And with a 10-year, $13.5 billion program to expand the GO regional express train network − including weekday service to Niagara Falls by 2023, new stations in Grimsby and upgrades to Via Rail stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls − there’s even more incentive to make the move.

“We’re probably the best bang for your dollar in the country right now, anywhere from Port Colborne to Grimsby,” says Patrick Dummitt, president of Niagara Association of Realtors. “Even the further east you go − Fort Erie, Port Colborne − people never used to venture out that far. Now people are leaving Toronto and settling in Fort Erie and doing the commute…. We’re becoming quite metropolized to the chagrin of a lot of people. But what the heck, why not? We’re like the last frontier for people. We’ve been dubbed as the suburbs of the GTA.”

Dummitt first noticed the region’s real estate landscape changing about a year ago when bidding wars started cropping up in Niagara for the very first time. Today, $340,000 will buy a 30-year-old house needing $40,000 in upgrades. But with so many people wanting in, supply is scarce and properties are fetching multiple offers 30 to 40 per cent over asking prices. He says those coming from Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, or Oakville don’t bat an eye because their houses are selling for more than double Niagara’s prices so they have extra money to renovate.

All the attention has developers busy, with dozens of condos, townhouses and single-family homes on the go, or in the works across the region. St. Catharines, for instance, issued permits for 383 new dwelling units last year, up from 224 in 2015, and 36 to date this year in and around town. As such, the city has built a performing arts centre, a 5,300-seat arena and new parking facilities to accommodate the traffic.

“We’ve sketched out a bold new vision for our city,” says Brian York, director of economic development and government relations at the City of St. Catharines. “Now we’re adding colours, and the palette is perfect for new business and good living.”

Unprecedented growth

In Niagara Falls, Mayor Jim Diodati uses words like “explosive” and “feverish” to describe the unprecedented growth in his city’s south and southwest ends. More than half of the new home and condo purchases are from GTA buyers, he says, with “entire subdivisions selling out before we can get services in the ground.” Some 761 building permits worth $238.5 million were issued last year, up 27.3 per cent from 2015. Those numbers “are from outer space,” Diodati says.

The Niagara region’s population is expected to grow from 447,888 now to 610,000 by 2041, according to the municipality’s forecasts.

The city and the region are building and upgrading water and sewer treatment plants, pumping stations, fire halls and expanding transit to ensure infrastructure keeps up with demand. There’s a commuter airport and talk of a ferry service to the Toronto area, and the Go train expansion will improve capacity and service levels.

“You don’t have to look too far down the QEW [Queen Elizabeth Way highway] to see where the average house price is $1.2 million,” says the mayor, who grew up in Niagara Falls. “For a third of that you can get a lot more house, a lot more yard, in Niagara, and with that extra equity you can start a business, buy a place in Florida or a cottage…. It really is the perfect storm of opportunity.”

Along with a host of local, GTA and overseas developers getting on board with intriguing projects of all shapes and sizes. Entrepreneur Ted Zhou of Evertrust Development Group Canada Inc. in Toronto, for one, considered building luxury condos in the GTA but felt the market was saturated.

He inspected more than 100 sites before settling on two acres within Thundering Waters Golf Course in Niagara Falls that will soon house his 150-unit Upper Vista Condominiums, fulfilling the Toronto resident’s goal of becoming Niagara Falls’ “pioneer” of luxury condos. It’s now one of dozens of low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise projects drawing eyeballs from out-of-towners.

Another project that has people talking is Paradise, a $1.5-billion development being proposed by GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd. of Niagara Falls on 480 acres of land surrounding the golf course. The city has conceptional plans from the group calling for about 3,400 residential units (including bungalows, townhouse, condos, estate homes and vacation homes), a five-star boutique hotel, restaurants and 200 acres of wetland.

It’s the Hong Kong-based company’s first foray into Canada but chief executive officer Zhiying Chang, who moved to Toronto in 2011, expects to replicate it in other cities here. A longtime lover of Niagara Falls for its natural beauty, she’s excited about increasing Niagara Falls’ curb appeal to both residents and tourists.

With so many projects and proposals, there’s no doubt that the region will continue its ascent as the new “It” spot for frazzled city folk looking for a happier, more affordable life.

“They can keep the smoke stacks in Toronto as long as people come home [to Niagara] to buy their groceries and their cars and their clothes and pay their property taxes and have community,” says Mayor Diodati. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Source: Suzanne Wintrob, Special to National Post | February 20, 2017 |

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8 factors influencing the cottage real estate market in 2015

Waterfront property

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

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

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

Hot home market = hot cottage market

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

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

Province-hopping 

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

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

The cottage office 

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

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

Year round, all the way 

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

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

A little help from some friends…or family 

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

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

Better roads = new cottage options

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

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

Are the Americans coming (back)? 

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

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

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

Reno? No thanks 

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

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

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

Source: Cottage Life by By y

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