The Riz Team Blog

Archive for October, 2012

Canada need not fear U.S.-style housing crash: CIBC

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

National Post CIBC says the U.S. market bubble was partially fuelled by speculative buying — something that has been less of an issue in Canada

Canadian Press, National Post Wire Services | Oct 30, 2012 10:16 AM ET | Last Updated: Oct 30, 2012 12:14 PM ET

TORONTO — The news out of Canada’s real estate market isn’t good, but the country will avoid a U.S.-style real estate meltdown, CIBC said Tuesday.

Economist Benjamin Tal said in a report that even recently released data about high levels of Canadian consumer debt aren’t proof that there were be a sudden, big drop in home prices.

“To be sure, house prices in Canada will probably fall in the coming year or two, but any comparison to the American market of 2006 reflects deep misunderstanding of the credit landscapes of the pre-crash environment in the U.S. and today’s Canadian market,” he wrote.

Tal noted that Canada’s debt-to-income ratio has just broken the U.S. record set in 2006, but said other countries have had even higher levels without a crash.’

Statistics Canada, in revising how it estimates household credit market debt, earlier this month reported record household debt of 163% of disposable income in the second quarter.

However, Tal said the U.S. market bubble saw U.S. homeowners with little or no equity value in their homes making them vulnerable when prices fell.

As well, many buyers in the U.S. benefited from low introductory teaser rates on their mortgages only to be caught short when rates increased and they were faced with increased monthly payments.

“The introduction of the teaser rate, a low introductory rate for a period of two or three years that would adjust upward at the end of the initial period, worked to effectively neutralize U.S. monetary policy,” Tal wrote.

“The practical implication of that was that when the teaser period expired, millions of Americans felt the full impact of two years’ worth of monetary tightening virtually overnight.”

Home sales in Canada have been falling amid uncertainty about the economy and Ottawa’s tightened mortgage lending rules.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, September home sales fell 15.1% from a year ago, while the national average price was up 1.1% to $355,777 in September from a year earlier.

The association said excluding Vancouver, the country’s most expensive market, the average price was up 3.4% from a year ago.

Tal said home prices in large cities like Vancouver and Toronto are overshooting their fundamentals and will likely slip as sales fall.

“But the Canada of today is very different than a pre-recession U.S., namely as far as borrower profiles are concerned,” he wrote.

“Therefore, when it comes to jitters regarding a U.S.-type meltdown here at home, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The Canadian Press


50 Cheap and Chic Kitchen Perk-ups

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Organizing, styling and mini-makeover ideas to transform the hub of your home


By: Margot Austin  Style at Home Magazine

1 Elevate the everyday – invest in a set of handmade cereal bowls.

2 Granny Smith apples – a stylist’s secret weapon – are a pretty countertop accent and a healthy snack all in one.

3 When was the last time your toaster made toast the way you like it? If you can’t remember, it’s time for a new one.

4 Use a bench with storage as a kitchen banquette.

5 Treat yourself to a fresh set of dishtowels. Reuse the old ones as rags to polish silver, shine shoes or wipe up paint spills.

6 Display a vintage dishware collection on open shelves.

7 Hot-glue a seldom used vintage kitchen utensil in a shadow box and start a collection to adorn your walls.

8 Overhaul the area under your sink cabinet to make room for garbage, recycling and composting.

9 Bake a pie or layer cake – your kitchen will be transformed in less than an hour.

10 Hide the counter clutter of keys, cellphones and sunglasses inside a Moroccan tajine.

11 Remove everything from the tops of cabinets. Thoroughly clean the area. Do not replace the items!

12 Get rid of any chipped plates or cups – they’re getting you down.

13 Dress the windowsill with two or three pots of moss or herbs.

14 If you have glass door cabinets but can’t keep what’s inside looking tidy, line the glass panels with wallpaper or fabric, or apply frosted window film.

15 Install energy-efficient under cabinet lighting.

16 Use crystal flutes for your orange juice tomorrow morning. Champagne optional!

Create a photo wall of family members with their birthday cakes over the years.

18 Conceal scratches or dents on an old fridge with decorative wall decals.

A rough-hewn wooden bowl looks just as great empty as it does filled with rustic breads, artichokes or newspapers.

20 If there isn’t a window above your sink, hang a mirror there.

21 Add French flair: opt for a rustic table and chairs in the centre of your kitchen rather than an island.

22 Wallpaper the ceiling.

23 Tall ceilings? Install a large nontypical central light, like a chandelier, lantern or industrial pendant.

24 Cook up some natural air freshener: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of apple cider to a simmer. Add a few slices of lemon, cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp whole cloves. Simmer for a couple of hours, adding more cider as it evaporates.

25 Hang a fabric blind with an elegant swag for a touch of grandeur.

26 A potted orchid in a white ceramic pot is a sophisticated living accessory that lasts longer than cut stems.

27 Install a new faucet.

Use a shallow baking dish to store cooking essentials by the cooktop or stove. It will keep everything exactly where you need it and save your counter from oil rings and pepper grinder debris. Decant olive oil into an opaque or dark glass bottle to protect it from light.

29 Treat yourself to a new set of canisters.

30 Say no to paper napkins and switch to a colourful fabric set.

31 Switch out your dated kitchen chairs for black Windsor chairs. They’re a design classic – great with mod or trad tables.

32 Remove a pair of cupboard doors and style the open shelves with your prettiest things.

33 Install invisible touch-latch hardware for a sleek, modern look.

34 Hang wallpaper as a backsplash. Protect it with acrylic or glass panels custom cut and installed by a glazier.

35 Leave only your chicest small appliances on the counter.

36 Conceal an ugly backsplash behind peel-andstick Smart Tiles.

37 Banish old knobs in favour of sexy new ones.

38 Conquer the junk drawer.

39 Get a handsome mortar and pestle. When you aren’t using it to muddle mint for a mojito, press it into service as a bookend for cookbooks.

40 Paint your cabinets nature’s neutral – green. It will look great with all your fruits and veg.

41 Display a pineapple when you’re expecting guests – it’s the universal symbol of welcome.

42 Make a pretty message board by placing fabric or decorative paper behind the glass of a large frame. Then use a dry erase marker to write on the front.

43 Add shaped brackets along the toe kick to make your cabinets look like fine furniture.

44 Install decorative casing trim around your pass-through.

45 Banish the smelly dishcloth hanging over the faucet! Organize your sinkside essentials on a rectangular dish or tray. The must-haves: dish soap in a pretty container (or decant some into a translucent white squeeze bottle), an all-natural cellulose sponge for dishwashing, a scrub brush and a plastic scrubber for pots.

46 Install a plate rack. Use it to display a collection of platters or cookbooks.

47 Splurge on a marble-top dining table for your best friend.

48 Keep utensils contained and at the ready in a plain white pitcher – it goes with any kitchen.

Perk up a family table with cheerful oilcloth that you can wipe clean in a flash.

50 The next time you buy groceries, bring home a bunch of daisies for the kitchen table.


How to: Stage your home

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Woo potential buyers with these DIY tips for the perfectly staged home.


There’s no escaping the raw power of first impressions, especially when it comes to selling your home. Each time a potential buyer walks through your front door, you want their immediate thought to be: WOW!

The key to creating the right impression is being able to envisage what potential buyers will look for in your home.  Can they see themselves living there and spending time with friends and family? Is this a space they’d love to entertain in?

Home staging is essential in helping you bring their vision to life and can make a big impact on the selling price and timeframe. Ideally, you’ll want to focus on the entire house, but depending on time and budget, your main selling rooms take priority.

Your front entrance is the introduction area buyers will see. This is where they’ll base their first impression and determine how the rest of the house is going to show. The living room is usually one of the first rooms buyers see as they go through the house. This room will determine the general style of the home whether contemporary or traditional or somewhere in between. The dining room is where buyers will enjoy meals and celebrate holidays and special occasions. The kitchen is where people spend most of their time, and when entertaining friends and family, that’s where everyone tends to gather. The family room or great room is the second area where people spend most of their time relaxing and entertaining. The master bedroom and en-suite is a special sanctuary for buyers. They want to be able to go into this room, close the door and forget about everything else. It needs to feel like the perfect escape from their hectic and busy lifestyle.

The key is to look at each room and determine how you would feel if you were a buyer standing in the doorway looking in. How does your flooring look? Buyers want to purchase a home that is move-in ready and flooring is one of the top selling features  a buyer  is looking for, so invest in your equity and replace any worn or outdated flooring.  What colour are the walls? If your house is painted in very bright or unusual colours, potential buyers may be turned off or at least feel that this is a starting point for them to negotiate on price since they will have to paint as soon as they move in. By going neutral with your colours and adding colour and texture with accessories like pillows and throws, potential buyers will be able to emotionally connect with the home and visualize living there. Does the position of your furniture show off the size of the room? Does the room feel cluttered? Does the furniture in the room tell the buyer how this room can be used? How much lighting is in each room? Properly placed furniture and lighting will show off the prime features and allow buyers to see how each room functions.

1 Clean your windows inside and out. When buyers are touring your home they want to see the view from each room. If the windows are dirty, it may make them question how well your house has been maintained.

2 Use frosting spray or interior design film on windows that don’t have the best view. This will block a not-so-attractive view, but still allow light to come in.  And it’s cheaper than buying blinds. If you already have blinds, turn the slates up so that light can still come through but the view is muted.

3 Clean out your closets.
  Buyers always check closets so pack away any off-season items and anything you don’t use on a regular basis. Try to remove as much off the floor as possible; this creates the feeling that the room is more spacious.

4 Create a spa-like feeling in all of your bathrooms.
Use white or off-white towels and add a fabric shower curtain. Place greenery on counters or the tub area to create the feeling of warmth and relaxation.

It’s important that you depersonalize and emotionally disconnect from your house. By doing this, you will allow yourself to transform your home into what your potential buyers are looking for. And remember, taking the time to properly prepare your home for sale will help sell it quickly and for top dollar.

Carla Woolnough is the creator and host of the How to Stage your Own Home DVD series. She’s also the founder of the home decorating and staging company Nex-Step Design and the national spokesperson for “Are you Fit to Sell” program.

A Good time to Look for Investment Property

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Now is a good time to enter the rental property market for both residential and commercial buildings

 By Mark Weisleder |                 Fri Oct 19 2012

If the real estate market is headed for a correction, then it presents a historic opportunity for buyers of investment properties. The main reason is that interest rates should continue to remain at historic low levels, even as prices fall. The key thing to remember is that the property must have positive cash flow.

What I mean by positive cash flow is that after you make your down payment, the income you receive from tenants is more than what it costs for your mortgage payment, property taxes, maintenance and utilities (if not paid by your tenants). Budget an additional 10 per cent for unanticipated repairs, as these always come up.

If you’re going to take a dip into commercial real estate, make sure, you must have the right team of people working with you. Who do you need? Here are some suggestions:

The right real estate agent: You want to find a real estate agent who specializes in this area and preferably owns investment properties themselves. They can introduce you to their contacts, such as insurance brokers, home inspectors, mortgage brokers and property managers, to protect you when making this investment.

A knowledgeable mortgage broker: You need someone who understands your personal financial situation in advance so that you are aware as to how much you can afford on any mortgage needed to finance any property.

A home inspector: You want a firm that specializes in the type of property that you are interested in. Ask for references and check them out. You need to have an unbiased opinion as to how much you may have to invest in the property itself after taking ownership.

An experienced lawyer: Depending on the type of property, you may need special clauses to protect you regarding verification of income, tenants or even the condition of the property. You will also need advice as to whether to hold title to the property in your own personal name, a partnership or a limited company.

An accountant: Besides tax advice, if there are commercial tenants involved, then you will need to be registered for HST purposes.

Private planner: If you are considering any changes to the property, whether it is an addition, basement apartment, to bring in more income, you need to know before you buy as to whether this is permitted under the local zoning by-laws and what applications may be necessary to get this done.

A building contractor: Renovations to improve your cash flow require someone experienced who can bring any project in on budget. Make sure that you check references and that a proper building permit is applied for in advance on any job. Put everything in writing so that there are no arguments later.

An arborist: Sometimes there are trees on the property that will have to be removed in order to do the renovations that are needed. There are many restrictive tree by-laws out there that may prevent taking down a tree. A lot depends on the diameter of the trunk of the tree. You need an experienced arborist who can advise you in advance how difficult it may be to remove any tree from the property.

A local property manager: You do not want phone calls in the middle of the night to fix something on the property. You need to hire an experienced manager with local ties to where the property is to make sure that your investment is well cared for and that all tenants are properly qualified in advance. Again, ask for references and check them out. Budget approximately an additional 10 per cent of your total expenses to pay for the manager.

By having the right team assembled, you can do the homework you need to do in advance of making such an important investment decision.

Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at



Pumpkin soup

Friday, October 19th, 2012

By  Tara Ballantyne

Beat fall’s chill with a bowl of creamy pumpkin soup that is bursting with autumn flavour

Pumpkin soup

Serves 8


  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3½ cups fresh pumpkin purée
  • 1½ cups unsweetened condensed milk or cream
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds and sour cream for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions
and garlic and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Add the curry powder and the flour and stir until smooth. Cook until the mixture bubbles, stirring frequently.

3. Gradually whisk in the broth and cook until the liquid has thickened. Stir in the pumpkin and the condensed milk. Season the soup with the soy sauce, honey and salt and pepper.

4. Bring the soup to a boil; remove from the heat. Transfer to bowls, garnish with the pumpkin seeds and sour cream and serve.

Serves 8

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3½ cups fresh pumpkin purée
  • 1½ cups unsweetened condensed milk or cream
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds and sour cream for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions
and garlic and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Add the curry powder and the flour and stir until smooth. Cook until the mixture bubbles, stirring frequently.

3. Gradually whisk in the broth and cook until the liquid has thickened. Stir in the pumpkin and the condensed milk. Season the soup with the soy sauce, honey and salt and pepper.

4. Bring the soup to a boil; remove from the heat. Transfer to bowls, garnish with the pumpkin seeds and sour cream and serve.


The $967 Kitchen Remodel

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Warm brown paint, glass mosaic tile, and fresh fixtures update a drab old kitchen

Natalie Rodriguez   This Old House Magazine

Looks Like a Million Bucks


With kitchens, simple does not necessarily equal streamlined. For homeowners Eduardo Perez and Moo Sirikittisup, the kitchen that came with their Atlanta condo fell short on both frills and function. Builder- grade cabinets and white laminate counters set a cheerless, monotonous tone in an open space that can be seen from the front door. And washing dishes meant looking at a worn wood cabinet, as the window didn’t line up over the sink. Opening the dishwasher blocked the oven door and vice versa. “It was a sad-looking space,” says Eduardo.

Sad-Looking Space


A bland color scheme and an awkward layout made this kitchen boring and inconvenient. So after a year—and with some DIY know-how passed down from his contractor dad—Eduardo spent two weeks removing the oak cabinets, refinishing and reinstalling them, then putting in new counters. The sink and the dishwasher swapped places, improving the room’s flow, and he added sleek new hardware and fixtures to update the space.

Beautiful Backsplash


The new faucet (Delta) is classic and functional, with a graceful shape. The priciest splurge was the colorful mosaic tile (Casa Italia, Green Mix Mosaic Glass from Floor and Decor Outlets of America), but the green-and-white glass-tile backsplash brought in a finishing touch of color. Says Eduardo, “Now, when I walk in and see the kitchen, it makes me smile.”

Homeowner Tip: Eduardo picked up a small wet saw for just $59: “It cut the glass tiles like they were cookies. It was so easy.”

Dynamite Details: Cabinet Pulls


The removed-and-reinstalled cabinets look like completely new boxes, thanks to a DIY paint job. Rectangular bar pulls (IKEA) updated the cabinets and complemented their new modern chocolate-colored finish.

Dynamite Details: Lighting


An inexpensive home-center find, the spotlight fixture (Home Depot) targets its beams on the kitchen’s separate workstations. And, the brushed-nickel finish matches the new cabinet pulls beautifully.

Finding Storage in Small Spaces


Since the kitchen is on the small side, the homeowners added shelves underneath the breakfast bar area to hold the microwave and other appliances when not in use. This smart use of space clears up the countertop for food prep and other everyday use.

Eduardo and Moo are saving for the next phase of the makeover: new appliances. But for now, chocolate-colored paint (Behr) on the cabinets and a countertop swap (IKEA), along with nickel-finish fixtures and cool green mosaic tiles complete the contemporary makeover.

Project Tally


• Removed and reinstalled original cabinets in a slightly new configuration, $0

• Replaced old laminate counters with new ones that have stainless-steel edge banding, $300

• Put a fresh coat of paint on walls and ceiling, $34

• Sanded original oak cabinets and brushed on a gallon of new chocolate-brown paint, $28

• Added a brushed nickel, three-light ceiling fixture, $35

• Swapped in nickel-finished cabinet pulls, $80

• Upgraded the kitchen faucet, $45

• Added undercabinet pucks for task lighting, $45

• Installed new glass tile mosaic backsplash, $400

TOTAL: $967



Small Investors Discover Commercial Real Estate

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

By Susan Pigg |   Wed Oct 17 2012

Stan Vyriotes and his business partner David Wedemire have been scouring downtown Toronto streets for the last two years, looking for the perfect pension plan — a storefront topped by a couple of apartments that they hope will keep them going in retirement.

The small businessmen — they are both realtors — are far from alone, according to a new ReMax report.

While residential sales may be sagging across the GTA, commercial real estate is in high demand as even amateur investors look for income-generating real estate to compensate for decimated pensions or slumping stock market holdings.

“People see commercial real estate as a tangible item that you can feel, you can touch, that you have some control over, unlike the stock market,” says Vyriotes who has been looking for storefronts within easy transit distance of Toronto’s burgeoning downtown core.

“We see a big shift happening with the Manhattanization of Toronto,” adds Wedemire. “The core is getting bigger, it’s getting busier, it’s becoming a 24-hour city. We want to be part of that.”

Related: Buying a vacation home: 10 things to know

Right across Canada the commercial real estate sector is booming back from the 2008 recession. Major office towers are under construction in many downtown centres and American retailers are jostling for space from coast to coast, creating “a flurry of activity that is changing the Canadian real estate landscape,” says the ReMax Commercial Investor Report released Wednesday.

While many investors such as pension plans and real estate income trusts have dominated the commercial sector for some time, “smaller investors are making the foray into the commercial world,” the report notes.

“The presence of doctors, dentists, small business owners, and teachers, for example, is an emerging trend and a sign of the times, given cutbacks to many pensions and the often slow-growth of self-directed models,” says Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice president and Ontario-Atlantic regional director for ReMax.

“The desire to build a nest egg has some considering mainstream alternatives like commercial real estate.”

The push to purchase small storefronts, duplexes and smaller apartment complexes, generally no bigger than six units, has been going on for some time, but has become especially pronounced because of low interest rates and returns on investments for rental properties now averaging three to six per cent, says Derek Lobo, CEO of apartment brokerage Rock Advisors Inc.

“Apartments really are the domain of mom and pop,” says Lobo, “it’s just that there’s more competition for them now. People are saying, ‘I’m getting a quarter per cent interest in the bank. I hate the stock markets, but I understand real estate.’

“In 25 years the building will be paid off and then you still have the monthly income.”

But finding the perfect property is getting tough, especially in Toronto where the condo boom has added tens of thousands of new residents to the downtown core and, with them, demand for restaurants and “concept stores”: smaller, multi-level urban models of the old sprawling big-box stores.

That growing demand from investors for prime storefronts topped by apartments has created what Wedemire likes to call “the Jed Clampett seller”: owners of over-priced, aging storefronts “who think they are sitting on oil.”

Which is why his search for the perfect pension plan continues.


Canadian housing sales revive somewhat; up from August, down from September 2011

Monday, October 15th, 2012

THE CANADIAN PRESS   Monday October 15, 2012

OTTAWA – The Canadian Real Estate Association says there was a slight improvement in the resale housing market last month, although it’s still slower than a year ago — mainly due to a slowdown in Vancouver.

The association said Monday sales in September were up 2.5 per cent from August — the first month-to-month gain since March.

Compared with September 2011, however, the number of deals across the country last month was down 15.1 per cent.

The association said there was still a balance between the number of homes for sale and the number of buyers in September but conditions have eased.

CREA attributed the slowdown to new rules brought in by Ottawa that make it harder for first-time buyers to qualify for mortgages.

However, other observers have noted that reduced affordability after years of rapid price increases — particularly in some markets such as Vancouver and Toronto — and an uncertain world economy have also dissuaded buyers.

“National activity is likely to remain down from year-ago levels over the fourth quarter of 2012,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

“While some first time home buyers may no longer qualify for mortgage financing under the new rules, it is likely that many others are stepping back and reassessing how much house they can realistically afford, which is one of the things new mortgage rules were designed to do.”

The national average home price was up 1.1 per cent in September from a year earlier.

But the MLS HPI home price index, which also takes into account other factors, showed its smallest gain since May 2011, rising by 3.9 per cent in September.

The association said Vancouver, the country’s most expensive residential real-estate market, skewed the national results.

Excluding that city, the national average price was up 3.4 per cent from a year ago.

The MLS HPI in Vancouver posted a 0.8 per cent decline year-over-year in September. In contrast, Calgary had a 6.5 per cent increase in the index, the Toronto area was up 5.7 per cent, the Montreal area was up 2.2 per cent and the Fraser Valley in southern British Columbia was up 2.1 per cent.

Regina had the biggest increase among markets measured by the HPI, with a gain of 14.2 per cent from September 2011.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio, a measure of market balance, stood at 49 per cent in September 2012, remaining near the midpoint of a balanced market.

Based on a sales-to-new listings ratio of between 40 to 60 per cent, a little less than two thirds of all local markets were in balanced market territory in September


10 Cheap Home Selling Tips

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Easy ways to make your home more attractive to potential buyers

ByYuki Hayashi

Getting ready to sell? Move your property fast – and for the highest selling price possible – with these easy, affordable staging tricks. These deal-sealing changes will make your home attractive to the largest pool of potential buyers, and the best part is, you can start at any stage in the game. Who knows – you may love your home’s new look so much that you decide not to list after all!

1 Paint!

Dollar for dollar, a fresh coat of paint gives you more bang for your decorating buck than anything else. Even if your current palette is relatively new, any scuffs or wear marks will channel an unkempt vibe. And an unusual colour choice – even if the height of fashion – may limit your home’s appeal. So break out that roller and slap on a couple coats of crowd-pleasing warm white or sand paint.

2 Improve the lighting
Replace any dated light fixtures ASAP. How can you tell if it has to go? If it’s over 15 years old and looks it – yet isn’t a vintage (50-75 years old) or antique piece (older) – it should probably go. “Retro” is not something most homebuyers are looking for. You don’t need to break the bank, just head to IKEA or Canadian Tire.

3 De-clutter
Take the collectibles off the mantel, put the mismatched armchair into storage (or better yet, donate it) and pare your closets down to what you’re actually wearing this season, packing away the rest. Ideally, all this extra stuff would head to charity (if in good, saleable condition), the garbage dump, or into storage. The more you store onsite, the more cluttered and small your home appears.
4 Give dated bathrooms a facelift
A nice bath helps sell a house but, don’t invest in a total renovation. Renos are costly, and you won’t recoup your costs unless you find your exact décor doppelganger. Bring an out-of-date bath up to speed with gleaming white walls whether via a fresh coat of white bath and kitchen paint or ceramic tile and new lighting (Home Depot excels at affordable, stylish bathroom vanity lighting). Buy neutral new shower curtains, a simple new bath mat and vanity set, and have fresh flowers in the room during open houses.

5 Take down curtains
Dated window treatments need to come down, pronto (if it’s over 10 years old, get rid of it). If privacy isn’t an issue, just leave the windows bare to maximize natural light and make the room’s dimensions seem more generous. Otherwise, buy basic-issue cotton or linen drapes from Linens ‘N Things or another well-priced retailer. Always tie drapes back during viewings and open houses.

6 Put up mirrors
Make small rooms appear bigger and dark rooms seem brighter by adding an attractive wall mirror. A boxlike dining room will benefit from a leaning floor mirror (Lowes sells well priced ones, and HomeSense often has great deals) and an entranceway more welcoming with a console mirror.

7 Update porch hardware
Increase your home’s curb appeal by updating the hardware on your front porch. Buy a doorknocker or bell, mailbox, kick plate, doorknob and lockset in a set or in complementary styles. Brushed nickel is a neutral finish that will never date, while oil-rubbed bronze is another favourite.

8 And the porch light
Update your porch light to coordinate with the new hardware, if needed. They don’t have to be an exact match or even come from the same period, but the finishes and styles should look pleasing together.

9 Spiff up the front yard
Refresh your front yard according to the season. In spring, summer and fall, trim back dead plants and foliage and plant attractive annuals or perennials in flowerbeds. In winter, keep the walkway shoveled and cut back any tree or shrub branches damaged by heavy snowfall. A pair of planters flanking the front door and filled with seasonal arrangements instantly conveys pride of ownership.

10 Tend the backyard

Simple fix-its will make the most of your existing yard layout. Replace any damaged boards on your deck or fence, and apply a fresh coat of paint, or stain and sealant if the finish needs it. Weed and groom your garden and add some perennials for colour when in-season. If kids’ toys are taking over the space, put some in storage. Think “tidy,” “update” and “refresh”: never do anything costly or major like adding a swimming pool or pond, which may put off potential buyers.



How Fight Over a 19-foot Bookshelf Ended up in Court

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

If a wall unit is attached by a hook or other device that can be easily removed, then it may not be included with the house

By Mark Weisleder |  Tue Oct 9 2012

When there is confusion about what fixtures are to remain in a home after closing, it often ends up in court. The lesson is to be careful and clear when you write up your contract so you don’t have to sue later.

In 2009, Mark and Denise Holland bought a house on Sherwood Road in Ajax. The listing said a “built-in” bookcase in the recreation room was included. This bookcase was 19 feet long and 7 feet high.

The couple’s offer said that all “built-in cupboards” and permanent fixtures were included in the price, but when they moved in, the bookcase was gone. The sellers said it was a mistake that it had been included in the listing and since the bookcase was not attached to the wall, it was not a fixture.

The agent admitted that the bookcase was mentioned in the listing by mistake. The buyers complained to the Real Estate Council of Ontario. The council ruled that the error was made by the listing agent, and that the sellers were not properly protected and the buyers were misled by the false advertising. However, the council does not award damages, so the buyers had to sue in small claims court for the cost of the bookcase.

In court, the seller’s daughter testified she was present when the buyers toured the property and were told explicitly that the basement bookcase did not go with the house. The buyers admitted they did not closely examine the bookcase to see whether it was attached to the wall. In a decision on September 2, 2011, Justice Albert Cooper accepted the daughter’s evidence and noted that the buyers offered no evidence to contradict her story. He ruled that the buyers were not entitled to the bookcase.

I had a situation where the offer said “built-in microwave.” The microwave was not built-in so the sellers took it with them. The buyer complained after closing. When I asked the sellers whether there was another microwave in the kitchen, they said no. So I asked them, what did you think the words built-in microwave meant? They could not answer and eventually agreed to give back the microwave.

Related: They walked from house deal and were sued

When you are buying any home, you can never get too detailed about what you expect to be included. Ordinarily, the rule is that if it is attached to the house, it is a fixture and it stays with the house. If it is not attached, then it is considered a chattel, and it doesn’t stay with the house unless the buyer includes it in the contract.

Try to avoid general statements such as “built-in.” They may not be built in after all and may only be attached by a hook or other device that can be easily removed. Instead, be careful to list the make and model number of all appliances, and also note the colour and location of any drapes, carpeting, closet organizers, cabinets, bookcases, mirrors, pool equipment, satellite dishes, barbecues, sheds, garage door openers and anything else that you expect to be on the property after you move in.

Take pictures of the items during your home inspection so that you have proof in case the seller tries to replace anything with cheaper items.

By being careful and clear when you write your contract, you can avoid aggravation after closing.

More Mark Weisleder real estate columns

Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at


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