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Back to school organizing tips

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Get your kids and your home ready for the hectic back to school season with these easy organizing tips.

By Kelly Potter ¦ Style at Home Magazine

As the summer comes to an end, the fall brings a season filled with packed lunches, rushed mornings and a house in disarray. It’s that time of year again, when the kids head back to school.

Wendy Hollick is a proud recipient of the 2011 Professional Organizers in Canada Ambassador Award and owner of Neat Spaces where she offers clients professional organizing help. Wendy is also a mom of three kids, so she knows a thing or two about the back to school rush!

Keeping the house organized once the kids are back in school can be difficult. According to Wendy, keeping things simple, getting the kids involved and organizing one room at time are helpful approaches to organizing during the back to school months. “Rooms that need the most attention are the bedrooms, bathrooms, homework area and the kitchen,” says Wendy. Here are some practical back to school organizing tips for each of these rooms:

Back to school organizing tips

Kids’ bedrooms

Wendy says the bedroom is a place of rest and that toys should be limited here. “Getting the kids involved and giving them the tools to become responsible is essential to keeping their rooms organized, “ she says. Large hooks on the back of the bedroom doors are a great idea for the kids to easily throw their hoodies, baseball caps, etc. Having shelves is another simple way for the kids to store their belongings. Wendy suggests big open shelves so that they can put their books, trophies and pictures on display, while staying organized. “Once the stuff is off the floor, it’s not clutter,” she says.

According to Wendy, clothing tends to be the biggest issue in the kids’ bedrooms once they go back to school. She suggests purchasing an affordable clothing organizer or getting a customized one put in. Keeping the clothes off the floor by having ample hanging space is essential. It’s also important to keep the hangers all one colour to bring a sense of simplicity and organization to the room, she says.


If more than one child needs to use the bathroom in the morning, things can be hectic. Wendy suggests making a schedule for the kids to have their showers/baths to avoid fighting over time in the bathroom. “Older children prefer to have their showers in the morning, so the younger children can be scheduled before bedtime,” Wendy says. “Schedule a time that makes sense.” Assigning a specific colour of towel to each child will also eliminate bickering over whose towel is whose and reduce laundry loads.

In order to have clutter-free counters, Wendy suggests installing pullout drawers in the cabinets for an easy storage idea and to help the kids see what is in the back of the cabinets. According to Wendy, using the wall space is essential. She says using small decorative shelves and wall organizers for towels, shampoo, soap, etc. will provide extra space. Hooks on the back of the bathroom doors are a great solution for hanging towels and housecoats.

Wendy says that Mom should get the kids involved in organizing the bathroom by assigning the children plastic caddies for their personal items. They can bring their stuff back to their rooms and back again when needed. Having small, colour-coded bins for their stuff in the bathroom also helps each child be responsible for their own items and keeps the counters clear.

Homework area

Setting up a homework area will help the kids  stay organized and keep school papers confined to one area. Wendy  suggests setting up a small area in the kitchen. “Kids tend to  gravitate towards the kitchen after school, so setting up an area for  them to do their homework there is ideal. They don’t need fancy, they  just need practical,” she says. Having everything they need at their  workstation, such as pens, pencils, magazine files and calculators will  eliminate wandering and help them focus.


According to Wendy, organizing the kitchen  means removing anything that doesn’t belong there. You must remove  anything that doesn’t serve a purpose in the kitchen (e.g. paperwork,  exercise equipment). To keep the counters clear in the kitchen, Wendy  suggests using decorative bins and baskets. “If things are  ‘containerized’, they tend to stay organized,” says Wendy. Labeling the  bins is also helpful. If something is labeled, the kids are less likely  to stash the item somewhere else when they go to put something away,  says Wendy.

Wendy suggests making the kids’ lunches the night  before. “You don’t want to stress yourself out in the morning,” she  says. Having plastic Tupperware that is colour coded for each child will  help the kids know whose lunch is whose in the morning. Colour coding  each Tupperware that contains a different type of food item also helps  Mom know who ate what, and what to look for if the container goes  missing, says Wendy.

Donation bins, garbage and recycling bins  for easy disposal are also helpful for organizing the kitchen (and other  rooms), says Wendy. Separate bins make it an easy and efficient way to  sort items that you are getting rid of.
In order to maintain an  organized home during the back to school months, Wendy suggests taking  15 minutes to clean and organize at the end of each day. “Go into any  room and picture what the space looks like when it’s organized, and then  work clockwise and remove anything that does not belong within the  vision of that space,” she says.




Buyer beware the ‘as is’ clause

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The “as is” condition might mean the homeowner does not have the time or money to make repairs, or in the case of a foreclosure or estate sale, the seller may not be familiar with the condition of the house.

By Joe Richer |   Fri Jan 25 2013 |

Q: What do I need to know about buying a home listed in “as is” condition?

A: When a home is listed for sale “as is,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in a poor state of repair. The term simply means the property is being sold in its current condition and the seller will not be making any repairs to complete the sale.

The “as is” condition might mean the homeowner does not have the time or money to make repairs, or in the case of a foreclosure or estate sale, the seller may not be familiar with the condition of the house.

Whatever the reason, if you’re interested in the property, the only way to know the true condition is to have a home inspection carried out. Consider including a contingency clause in your offer based on your satisfaction with the inspection. If a deficiency with a budget-busting repair cost is uncovered during the inspection, you’ll want the option to walk away without penalty.

The advantage of an as is sale is the purchase price may be comparatively lower than similar properties in the neighbourhood. But be sure to factor in the cost of repairs and renovations when accounting for the total cost of the purchase.

Buying as is isn’t for everyone. If you’re planning to ask the owner to address a defect or are unwilling to follow-through on the purchase if the inspector finds anything wrong, you’re probably best to avoid making an offer on an as is property.

If you have a question for Joe, email Joseph Richer is RECO’s registrar and is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. You can find more tips at, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at



Why more home sellers are listing in January

Friday, January 11th, 2013

With an uncertain housing market, more homeowners are opting to put their houses on the market in January. Here are some tips for buyers and sellers to negotiate a safe and successful winter home sale!

By Mark Weisleder |   Fri Jan 11 2013|

January is a slow month for real estate as most sellers choose to wait until the middle of February in the hopes of capitalizing on the early spring market. However, given the uncertainty in the housing market right now, more sellers are opting to put their house on the market in January.

This presents an opportunity for buyers. Most people are reluctant to uproot their families during the school year, so that means less competition — and fewer bidding wars. Lenders will not be as busy, so buyers can expect a more efficient process to get approved for a mortgage to ensure they have financing in place before making an offer.

But there are things you simply won’t be able to inspect during the winter. Here are some tips for protecting yourself when making a deal during the winter months:


Spruce up the outside: Use urns with light wood branches to brighten up the exterior of your home, to compensate for any overcast day or snow on the ground.

Get rid of the Christmas lights: homes that look dated on the outside give the impression that they are probably dated on the inside.

Make sure your fireplace is working during any showing, that the temperature is comfortable in the home and that any interior lighting compensates for what is usually grey lighting from outside.

Have pictures of your landscaping available from the summer and autumn, showing how beautiful your home looks year round.

Have available any inspections that you may have done on your air-conditioning unit or swimming pool before they were closed for the winter, as buyers will likely not be able to conduct inspections on these items and will have questions.

Consider inviting a company to do an environmental audit on your home in advance, confirming that there is no moisture behind the walls that could lead to mould and that you have sufficient insulation behind the walls.


If there is anything that cannot be inspected because of the winter, such as the air-conditioning system or any swimming pool, then negotiate an extended warranty in the agreement, to give you until at least May 1, to inspect and have the seller be responsible for any damages. In addition, also negotiate a holdback of, say, $2,000 so that if a problem arises, the money comes out of that fund to fix it and you don’t have to chase the seller in court later.

Be careful about snow accumulating around the base of the home. It will be difficult for a home inspector to figure out whether the grading is likely to cause water problems in the basement later. Consider doing your own environmental audit to check for moisture behind any walls.

If the snow on the roof looks like it is evaporating faster than the snow around the house, it is likely a sign that there is not enough insulation in the home.

Check with your insurance company early as to whether you will have any difficulty obtaining insurance on the home; for example, by finding out whether there have been claims made in the neighbourhood about water damages or sewage backups.

Check whether snow accumulation makes it more difficult for street parking, as this may be the only parking available on certain streets. Also see how bad weather may affect your morning commute.

Check the last electric/gas bills, to determine how energy efficient the home is in winter.

People tend to hibernate and stay at home in the winter, so take the opportunity to get to know the neighbours before you finalize your purchase.

By being properly prepared in advance, buyers and sellers can negotiate a safe and successful winter home sale.

Read more stories from Mark Weisleder: click here.

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



How to Flu-Proof Your Home

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Show winter illnesses the door by keeping the house as germ-free as can be. This Old House has some time-honored tips for making your house a healthy home.

Jeanne Baron • This Old House online

Protection Begins at Home

As the official influenza season begins—and fears about swine flu ramp up—it’s important to find ways to keep winter’s ever-present illness at bay. That’s especially true this year, as one in every 20 outpatient doctor visits will be for the flu, as influenza is commonly known—twice what it is in an average year.

But dealing with the virus that causes the flu can be tricky. Health officials recommend getting a yearly flu vaccine, and they urge everyone to protect themselves with one time-honored tactic: wash your hands, well and often. That may be the single best way to stop the disease in its tracks.

But in case you find yourself facing an encroaching onslaught of the illness though coworkers or school-age kids, This Old House has a few strategies to make life as hard as possible for the flu—or any germs, for that matter—to take root in your house.

Watch Out for Germy Hot Spots

The sink, the telephone, children’s toys, and doorknobs are popular landing sites for virus and bacteria.  If someone is sick at home, disinfect daily, especially the remote control and the phone. Charles Gerba, microbiologist and author of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, says remote controls and countertops can be the germiest locale in the whole house. “What’s the first thing you do after you call in sick? Pick up the remote control,” he says. “Sixty percent of them contain influenza virus in the home of a sick person.”

In fact, Gerba says, remote controls are the germiest thing in hotel and hospital rooms. And since a virus like influenza spreads through touching something a sick person has also touched, or an object that’s been sneezed on, cleaning off the places your hand usually goes is most important.

Find out more from about the germiest places you’re likely to encounter during an average day.

Disinfect the Desk

According to Gerba, the home office is another place to watch out for germs. “Desktops have 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat,” he says.

Gerba says to disinfect your desktop weekly, along with the rest of the house. This could reduce your exposure to colds and flu by as much as 50 percent.

Don’t Forget the Sponge

Your kitchen sponge should be replaced every couple of weeks. If that runs counter to your frugal ways, you can microwave it for one minute or run it in the dishwasher to eliminate germs.

Stop Pushing Germs Around

Beware of dust rags, dishrags, mops and other cleaning tools. Unless sanitized between uses, they only spread around the germs you are trying to kill. “It’s a free ride for the virus,” says Gerba. Some of the cleanest houses he’s tested had the highest germ counts. And get this: a few untidy bachelor pads tested very low for germs, which he attributes to lazy housekeeping. “They don’t move anything around, everything is in the sink or the garbage.”

But you don’t have to descend into bachelor habits to defeat contagion. Gerba advises heavy reliance on paper towels. If you don’t want to stockpile disposable towels, wash and dry cleaning tools at high temperatures so your house is clean and germ-free.

Examine Product Claims Closely

There’s a lot of goods that tout themselves as “anti-bacterial” on the label, from floor tile and paint, to hand cleanser and magic markers. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of 500 products that disinfect hard, non-porous, surfaces against flu. It includes common household cleaners such as Pin Sol, Clorox, and Lysol.  Look for the word “disinfect” or “sanitize” on the label; that means the EPA has tested and approved its germ killing power.

Some alternatives such as lemon juice, tea tree oil, oregano oil, or lavender oil have properties that kill microbes. But according to University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, these natural alternatives often work more slowly, impact a smaller spectrum of microorganisms, and kill fewer of them than products that have passed muster with the EPA.

Put It In the Wash

Modern technology can help do the disinfecting for you through powerful cleaning. If you’re already shopping for appliances, take a look at the list of household appliances cited by the NSF (formerly the National Sanitations Foundation). The group has certified dozens of germ-fighting appliances, including dryers, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Make Handwashing Fun

There are at least six occasions each day when children should wash their hands. So the Visiting Nurses Associations of America, in partnership with the Clorox Company and Families Fighting Flu, Inc. has launched a program to help people ward off the virus. They created a handy refrigerator chart to get children involved in proper handwashing. It teaches them to keep track of all the daytime activities when handwashing is important: before mealtime, before playing with babies, after playing with friends, after coming home from school, after using the bathroom, and, of course, after every cough or sneeze.

Pick Your Cutting Board

While the question of whether wood or plastic is a cleaner surface for a cutting board is more about food-borne pathogens than about flu virus, it’s worth noting that germs of any kind can live on either one. And food poisoning is as much an issue these days as the flu.

So which is safer? The Food Safety Laboratory at the University of California at Davis is leaning toward wood. Plastic cutting boards can go right in the dishwasher, a virtue that’s won favor among many germ slayers. But if you are washing by hand, a knife-scarred plastic cutting board holds onto bacteria, and wooden cutting boards do not. Robert Donofrio, Director of the microbiology laboratories at NSF, says to be safe, have one board for veggies and another for meat. Plastic boards must be washed in a dishwasher. Wooden boards should be made of hard, closely-grained woods, such as maple.

Think Copper

Bacteria and viruses can live about twenty minutes on your sleeve or couch cushion. But they can live a couple of days on the countertop, or other hard, non-porous, surfaces…unless that surface is copper. The EPA has approved copper and copper alloys, such as bronze and brass, as a bacteria killer, and ongoing research suggests it has anti-viral properties, as well.

These days it’s not hard to find copper sinks for the bathroom or kitchen, or even doorknobs and switch plates in the trendy metal. Or go vintage and pull out that classic brass hardware for your home.


Some scientists believe an increase in humidity can make it harder for viruses to thrive and multiply, and using a humidifier can help create this inhospitable environment for the flu.

But be careful; humidifiers can breed bacteria. Individual units must be cleaned regularly, and a whole house system serviced yearly—preferably when it’s deactivated in the warmer months, says Barney Burroughs, President of Building Wellness Consultancy and former president of The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

Honeywell TrueSTEAM Humidification System, about $550 to $900

Find out more from about how humidifiers can help beat the flu.

Go Ultraviolet

Air purification can make a small amount of difference in stalling viruses, according to Burroughs, though few strategies offer complete protection. While bacteria, pollen and allergens are airborne risks, viruses mostly spread by touch.

However, ultraviolet air purification systems do keep mold and fungi, both of which can aggravate the flu, from developing in your heating and cooling system.

Honeywell TrueUV Ultraviolet Treatment System, about $285

Be Bullish on Air Filtration

The most benefit you can get from technology comes from air cleaners. Modern filters mostly catch larger particles such as bacteria, pollen, mold spores, but any virus traveling on a larger host can get caught by the filter. “It’s not a see all, fix all. It will reduce, but not eliminate exposure,” says Burroughs.

There’s one caveat, though: The system must be working 24/7 to be effective. “It only works if the fan is blowing,” says Burroughs. When properly used, a system like Honeywell’s Electronic Air cleaner captures 99 percent of the larger particles, and some of the smaller particles, too. And that’s one good way to keep the flu virus from spreading in your home.

Honeywell F300 Electronic Air Cleaner, about $955 to $1280.

After you’ve flu-proofed your house, take things one step further with secrets from women who never get sick from




Budget Fixes for Drafty Windows

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Keeping your home warm doesn’t come at a high price, thanks to these easy-to-do fixes. Bring on the Heat!

Elsa Satella • This Old House magazine

On average, 10 to 25 percent of a home’s heat escapes through its windows. If you’re feeling drafts, you should consider reglazing or even replacing your windows. But if you can’t because of time—or budget—first weatherstrip, then try these other temporary fixes to help beat the chill.

Plastic Film

Applied to panes with double-sided tape and sealed using the heat from a hair dryer, this inexpensive clear shrink film can allow a room to retain as much as 55 percent of its heat. In a pinch, bubble wrap makes an effective replacement; just push the bubble side of the wrap against the glass and adhere with double-sided tape.

Shown: Duck Crystal Clear Shrink Film, about $13 for two 3-packs, My Brands.

Draft Snakes

Stop cold air from creeping through windowsills with a snake. You can buy one online, or easily make one yourself by filling a tube of fabric, like an old knee sock, with dry rice.

Shown: Window and door draft stopper, about $10, Improvements

Rigid Foam

For basement and attic windows you don’t need to see out of, cover the panes with a piece of foam board glued to ⅜-inch drywall. Cut pieces to fit snugly inside the frame, press the foam side against the glass, then simply pop out when you want to let in sunlight.

Shown: Dow ½-inch polyisocyanurate rigid foam sheathing, about $12.50 per 8-4-foot panel, Lowe’s



GTA new home sales fall 38%

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

November condo sales in the GTA fell 59 per cent from the same month last year


By Susan Pigg |   Wed Dec 19 2012While all eyes were looking skyward for fallout from the GTA’s softening condo market in November, sales of new single-family homes plummeted to lows not seen since the recession, as prices soared almost 17 per cent year over year, according to a new study.

Total new home and condo sales to the end of November this year were 16 per cent below the long-term average across the GTA. But the biggest decline — some 38 per cent — has been in the sale of detached, semi-detached and townhouses, according to a report released Wednesday by market research firm RealNet Canada.

Condo sales were down just seven per cent over historic averages for November — although they fell a whopping 59 per cent compared to the same month in 2011, the tail end of what was record year of 28,000 new condo sales across the GTA.

Three new condo launches in particular buoyed highrise sales numbers this November, says RealNet, led by Tridel’s Ten York project in the waterfront area, which is considered an important bellwether of the softening market. Some 85 per cent — 596 of 694 — of its preconstruction units put up for sale Nov. 3 sold within the month, says Tridel vice president Jim Ritchie.

The RealNet study provides some of the best evidence yet of the growing gap between what’s become, just since 2011, the tale of two housing markets across the GTA — new condos and new low-rise homes, which includes detached, semi-detached and townhouses.

The average price of low-rise homes hit a record $625,473 in November, while new condos averaged $437,264, says RealNet.

While the gap between houses and condos has traditionally averaged about $78,000, it has soared to $188,000, largely just in the last 18 months, says George Carras, president of RealNet, which provides new housing market analysis for the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD.)

“Sales of low-rise homes in November were the worst on record next to the gloom of November 2008, when we weren’t sure if the world’s financial system was going to hold together or not,” says Carras, citing scarcity for the fact that prices soared to the point that they, combined with tighter mortgage rules, pushed down sales in November.

The scarcity includes a shortage of develop-ready land for new subdivisions caused by a lack of municipal roads, sewers and other infrastructure, as well as the fact that thousands of hectacres of future-growth areas within the provincial greenbelt are tied up in disputes at the Ontario Municipal Board, says Carras.

That supply pressure, at the same time the GTA is seeing a “mini baby boom” among echo boomers, could push up new home prices an average 15 per cent a year, says Bryan Tuckey, president and CEO of BILD.

“In Vancouver, the gap has grown to $700,000 between a condo and a detached house. Vancouver is about 15 years ahead of Toronto in terms of the maturity of its intensification policies and their impacts,” says Carras.

“That city is between the water and the mountains. Here we’re between the water and policy mountains and the same impact is starting to show.”

But John Stillich, former executive director of the Sustainable Urban Development Association, says too many developers remain fixated on the two extremes of new housing — high- and low-rise — instead of a new middle ground of two- or three-storey housing types that allows GTA residents to “live sustainably on the lands that we do have.”

“It’s not about a scarcity of land. It’s about how you use the land. The development industry could probably build twice as many ground-related houses if they started thinking in a completely different way.”


6 Smart Year-end Money Moves

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The end of every year is a good time to see where you stand financially, and get organized for the coming year

By Krystal Yee   December 17, 2012

The end of every year is a good time to see where you stand financially, and get organized for the coming year. December is busy with holiday parties and family,  but doing a few small things before Jan. 1  could significantly increase your financial success in 2013.
Here are six things to do before the end of the month:

Roll over your vacation days If you didn’t use all of your vacation days,  check with your HR department to see how many days you can roll over into 2013. Some companies don’t allow employees to roll over vacation days – so be sure to inquire about cashing out your vacation days instead.

Maximize your extended benefits Insurance deductibles on extended health care plans usually reset on January 1st, so if you haven’t already reached your plan’s annual limit, you might want to renew prescriptions, and schedule any doctor, dentist, optometrist, or supplementary healthcare appointments before the end of the year.

Check your credit score Once a year, Canadians you can get a free credit report from both of the two main credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion. Checking your credit score on an annual basis will help you monitor your financial health, and make sure there aren’t any mistakes on your report that could negatively impact your score.Since Equifax and TransUnion are separate companies, they collect financial information from different sources. That’s why it’s important to receive credit reports from both companies on an annual basis.

Make charitable donations If you haven’t already done so, consider contributing to your favourite charity. Donations must be made by the end of the tax year in which you want to claim the deduction. Anything you donate after December 31 will count toward next year’s deductions.
Related: How to give to charities on a tight budget

Make RRSP and TFSA contributions The money you invest in an RRSP is tax deductible, which means you can claim them as a deduction when you file your tax return. Contributions made to your RRSP on or before March 1, 2013 can be deducted from the previous year’s income tax return.
Use your refund for next year’s contribution or to pay down debt.
Related: 10 end of the year tax saving strategies

Re-balance your investment portfolio Part of any  investment plan should be to re-balance your portfolio on a regular basis. Look at re-balancing your portfolio to keep it in inline with  your plan.
This will also give you a chance to re-evaluate your priorities. If you plan on getting married, having a child, or buying a home –your investment portfolio might need to change to reflect your new goals.

What year-end money moves will you be making this year?


Real Estate Association Cuts Canadian Home Sales Forecast for 2012 and 2013

Monday, December 17th, 2012

The Canadian Real Estate Association is forecasting that house sales will decline two per cent in 2013

The Canadian Press   Mon Dec 17 2012 11:49:00

OTTAWA – The Canadian Real Estate Association cut its sales forecast for this year and next on Monday as it said slower sales in the wake of tighter lending rules this summer have remained.

The industry association said now expects home sales this year to slip 0.5 per cent compared with 2011 to about 456,300.

That compared with a forecast in September that called for sales this year to rise 1.9 per cent to 466,900 units.

The association also said it now expects sales next year to drop two per cent to 447,400 compared with earlier expectations for a drop of 1.9 per cent to 457,800 in 2013.

“Annual sales in 2012 reflect a stronger profile prior to recent mortgage rule changes followed by weaker activity following their implementation,” said Gregory Klump, the association’s chief economist.

“By contrast, forecast sales in 2013 reflect an improvement from levels this summer in the immediate wake of mortgage rule changes. Even so, sales in most provinces next year are expected to remain down from levels posted prior to the most recent changes to mortgage regulations.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved in July to tighten mortgage rules for the fourth time in as many years in order to discourage those most at risk of becoming over-leveraged. Flaherty made mortgage payments more expensive by dropping the maximum amortization period to 25 years.

The association said the average price for 2012 is expected to be $363,900, up 0.3 per cent compared with a September forecast of $365,000, up 0.6 per cent.

For 2013, the association said it expects prices to gain 0.3 per cent to average $365,100. That compared with earlier expectations of a drop of one tenth of one per cent to $364,500 in 2013.

The downgrade for the outlook for the year came as home sales edged down 1.7 per cent month over month in November and were back where they stood in August.

The decrease followed a drop of about one-tenth of a per cent in September.

Actual, or non-seasonally adjusted sales, were down 11.9 per cent from November 2011 while the national average home price in November was $356,687, off 0.8 per cent from November 2011.

Sales were down on a year-over-year basis in three of every four of all local markets in November, including most large urban centres. Calgary stood out as an exception, with sales up 10.6 per cent from a year ago.

Kitchener and Waterloo also recorded a sales increase in November, with sales rising 7.3 per cent. Sales in Cambridge fell 14 per cent.

Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver contributed most to the small decline at the national level.

A total of 432,861 homes have traded hands over the MLS system so far this year, down 0.2 per cent from levels reported over the first 11 months of 2011 and 0.8 per cent below the 10-year average for the period.

The MLS Home Price Index, which is not affected changes in the mix of sales, showed prices up 3.5 per cent nationally on a year-over-year basis in November.

However, it was the seventh consecutive month in which the year-over-year gain shrank and marked the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.

The MLS HPI rose fastest in Regina, up 11.6 per cent year over year in November, though down from 13 per cent in November.

Among other markets, the HPI was up 4.6 per cent year over year in Toronto, 1.9 per cent in Montreal and 7.1 per cent in Calgary. In Greater Vancouver, the HPI was down 1.7 per cent year over year.


5 fun and easy Christmas gift wrapping ideas

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Get inspired with these simple and pretty Christmas gift wrap ideas.

Photograph  Jennifer Bartoli  Style at Home Magazine

With the holidays right around the corner, we’ve put together a few fun ideas to easily update your gift wraps this year. From adding small festive treats to the top of a gift to trying new colour combinations, these simple ideas will make Christmas gift wrapping a fun holiday activity.

Add a candy cane A simple red and gold colour palette is always chic and festive but can be a little boring year after year. For an instant update, add a red and pink candy cane to each gift, tightly securing it under the ribbon.
Gift wrap courtesy of Hallmark.

A golden pine cone For smaller gifts, adding a festive item like a pine cone really transforms the look of a gift. For this project, simply spray paint a few pine cones with gold paint. Once they are completely dry, secure to the top of a wrapped gift using a glue gun.

Use a stencil Using craft paper is an inexpensive way to give a rustic feel to your presents. This project was made by using a pretty patterned stencil and lightly dabbing paint to create a fun design. We used a touch of silver and black paint to give a two-toned look. Once the paint has completely dried, add a bright ribbon and a personalized gift tag.
Tip: Depending on the size of the gift, it may be easier to apply the stencil once you have already wrapped your gift. You can then decide exactly where you want the pattern to go.

Try a new colour palette Switching up your usual Christmas colour palette is the easiest way to update you holiday style. We particularly love the silver and blue combination: it’s still festive, but has an understated, sophisticated feel. For this look, we paired silver wrapping paper adorned with blue, white and maroon snowflakes and used a thick fabric ribbon tied in a simple knot.

Make it personal If you don’t have a set of gift tags on hand, adding the name of the recipient of your gift directly on the paper can look lovely too. For this project, use matte wrapping paper making sure that paint will adhere to the paper. We used craft paper with a simple thick black ribbon. Using an alphabet stencil, simply dab coloured paint to spell a name.
Tip: Try to tightly secure the stencil while you are using so that letters do not smudge.If you’re not used to using stencils, practice on a scrap piece of wrapping paper before printing a name on an already wrapped gift.



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