Winter’s Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other Landscaping

Winter's Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other LandscapingFrom the approaching holiday season to the New Year, there are a lot of things to prepare for when it comes to the winter. It’s important, though, not to forget about the needs of your lawn for the upcoming cold season. If you’re wondering how to ready your trees, your plants and your yard, here are some tips for saving your vegetation until the springtime.

Fertilize For Grass Growth

It might seem like a waste of time to fertilize your grass going into the winter months, but this is actually the perfect time to prep it for spring. As fertilizer will provide much-needed nutrients to the grass in the months when there is less growth, it will actually stimulate improved growth down the road. It’s just important to ensure that you provide a consistent amount of fertilizer so a patchy-looking yard can be avoided. Since weeds scale back in winter, like most other varieties of plants, it can also be an ideal time to apply a herbicide.

Garden Plants And Perennials

While plant maintenance duties like pruning can be done in the spring or fall months, it can actually be a better idea to give your plants the summer months to grow before diving in. Cutting them back will enable the plant to focus its energy on maintenance through the cold winter months, so it’s a good idea to get to work in before the first signs of cooler air set in. If you happen to have plants that won’t last through the winter, you’ll want to compost them so they can be used for soil in the next gardening season.

Clearing Away The Wood

Beyond the garden and the lawn, it’s also worthwhile to provide a little care for your favorite trees before the winter hits. While you’ll want to be cautious about what you do and may want to consult with a gardening professional, clearing away dead branches can help your tree retain its health throughout the year. You may notice the difference in your trees when the spring rolls around again, as they’ll likely have a revitalized look and show signs of new growth.

Winter is a busy time for many people, but it’s important to make the time to fertilize your grass and prune your perennials so your yard will be ready for spring. If you’re currently prepping your yard for a spring home sale, contact your local real estate professionals for more information.

Five Unique Renovations That Can Make Small Living Spaces Feel Bigger

Five Unique Renovations That Can Make Small Living Spaces Feel BiggerJust because you live in a small space doesn’t mean your home needs to feel cramped. There are several renovations that are popular among interior designers to make a space feel larger. Incorporate them into your own home to give it a more open, spacious feel.

1. Crystal Clear

Glass is an absolutely phenomenal way to make a small space feel larger as it removes visual barriers to show off additional square footage, making it seem as though it’s part of the room. Whether you choose a glass railing for a staircases or room divider or incorporate a glass shower into a small bathroom, glass can help your home feel more spacious.

2. Make The Most Of Mirrors

Similar to glass, mirrors can make a small space feel big as they add an illusion of depth to a room. Try installing a large mirror on a wall in lieu of paintings or other decor if you’d like to make a room seem larger than it is.

3. Goodbye Island

If it’s your kitchen that’s feeling cramped, consider removing the island. Islands can add value to a home, but if your kitchen is small enough that it shouldn’t have been there in the first place then getting rid of it will create a much more functional space. Consider whether you’d still have ample counter space and storage without your island, and if the answer is yes it may be time to say goodbye to your island.

4. Tear Down The Walls

Creating an open concept floor plan is a fantastic renovation for a small home as it removes barriers between several small spaces to create one larger open space. Do you really need a wall between your kitchen and dining room? How about between your dining room and living room? If there’s a wall that simply isn’t necessary, it may be time to tear it down.

5. Keep It Light

A very quick and easy renovation to help open up a small space is to paint the walls in a light color as it will reflect more light than a darker shade, making the room feel airy rather than cozy. If you’re considering re-doing the floors, choosing a lighter color can further contribute to the feeling of a larger space.

Small spaces don’t have to cramp your style. In fact, they offer unique design opportunities and can make wonderful living spaces. If you’re looking for more homeowner advice, get in touch with your local real estate professional today.

Let’s Talk Basements: How to Finish Your Basement so It Adds Value to Your Home

Let's Talk Basements: How to Finish Your Basement so It Adds Value to Your HomeAre you on the hunt for home renovations that will boost usability and value? Look no further than that unfinished basement. In this article, we’ll show you how to turn that dusty cave into an amazing new living space.

Note: finishing a basement isn’t the easiest job. For most basements, it’s a lot more than a weekend do-it-yourself project. If you’re not comfortable with construction be sure to enlist the help of a professional.

Step 1: Plan Everything Out

The first step is to plan out how you’re going to use the space. Are you going to make an office? A full suite? Is there any plumbing or wiring involved? Will you need to create full walls? Map out how you plan to use the available space so you have an idea of what you’ll need.

Step 2: Measure And Deal With The Floor

Once you figure out how you’ll use the space, you’ll need to measure everything out. Height can be an issue — especially in basements not designed as a living space. You can solve height problems by digging out the concrete slab. Once you get down deep enough, you pour a new slab.

Step 3: Frame Everything In

Is the basement at a good height? Next you’ll need to start framing everything in. Depending on how you have your walls mapped out, this might take a while. You may also need permits or to enlist licensed tradespeople, such as an electrician. If you’re just framing in a single room to add walls, it will be easier.

Step 4: Insulate And Install The Walls

After the framing process, you’ll insulate everything before installing the walls. Adding insulation can drive energy and heating costs down by a lot. So much so that in colder areas of the country, new homes must have insulated basements. After the insulation is in place, you’ll install the drywall and ready the walls for painting.

Step 5: Paint, Carpet And Finish Up

The final step is to get everything painted and finished. If you chose to go with a carpeted floor, you’ll want to save this for last. Once the painting is complete, install the carpets, baseboard and trim. Touch up any final areas and you’re all set.

Finishing your basement into a usable space is an excellent way to add value to your home. To learn more about building your home’s equity, give us a call.

Do You Own an Income Property? Here Are Four Tips for Finding Great Tenants

Do You Own an Income Property? Here Are Four Tips for Finding Great TenantsTrusting another individual with your property can be nerve-wracking because it’s difficult to gauge how well they’ll care for their home from a viewing and rental application alone. However, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that you select responsible tenants that will take good care for your property while they live there.

1. Make Your Home Desirable

When creating your rental listing, show your property at its absolute best and list its attractive features. The listing should be well written with proper capitalization and full sentences, even if it’s only going on Craigslist. Include plenty of photos that are staged nicely to show the full potential of the home both inside and out.

If you want the best applicants, strive to be the best property! You need to attract tenants who are looking for a home rather than a crash pad.

2. Have A Thorough Application Process

Don’t be afraid to ask for in-depth information from your applicants. The more you know about them the more you can assess what kind of a tenant they’ll be. An application should ask for:

– full name
– the applicant’s job & their supervisor
– their income
– current address
– government identification (i.e. a photocopy of their driver’s license)
– next of kin or an emergency contact
– previous landlord references
– any additional info you think is necessary

3. Check References

One of the most important things you can do when choosing a tenant is check their references. At least one reference should be a past landlord, and it’s great to contact a current employer as well. Favor applicants who can prove they’ve been a good renter in the past and who seem to have reliable employment.

When calling references have a prepared list of questions. For past landlords you’ll want to ask about their cleanliness, if there was any damage to the property, noise complaints, or missed rent. When speaking to an employer, make sure to ask how long they’ve been working there, whether they’re a reliable worker, whether they’re respectful, and if they can see them continuing to work there for the long-term.

4. Meet Them!

Always meet potential tenants in person. See if they have a pleasant demeanor, if they’re easy to talk to and are polite to you, and whether they seem to take care of themselves. Trust your gut, if you have a bad feeling about someone then it may be best to keep looking.

Need more advice on income properties? Contact a your trusted real estate professional today.

Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint With These Energy-Saving Tips

Reduce Your Home's Carbon Footprint With These Energy-Saving TipsDo you believe that humans are changing the climate? As of today, the debate over carbon dioxide and climate change continues to rage. But regardless of your political standpoint, there’s always a case for reducing electricity use. Because who doesn’t like saving money, right?

Let’s explore a few ways that you can save energy while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

Leverage The Power Of Automation

The technology behind home automation is improving at an amazing rate. Thermostats from companies like Nest make home heating and cooling simple. They learn from your use to automatically set temperatures up and down as needed. Going to be home late from work? No problem — you can use your smartphone to ensure your heat doesn’t come on until later.

Wash Cold, Hang Dry

You might not be aware of this, but cold water washing makes sense. Most washing machines and detergents are just as efficient with cold water as hot. So it makes sense to switch to washing in cold, especially if you have a newer washing machine.

To cut back even more, hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. The technology behind clothes dryers hasn’t improved much over time. They still rely on warm air, forced ventilation and spinning around. All of which use a lot of energy.

Note: if you have to use your dryer, add a clean, dry towel to each load. Adding a towel will help your clothes to dry faster, thus saving you both time and money.

Modernize Your Home Lighting

Have you made the switch to power-efficient LED light bulbs yet? This one change can save an immense amount of electricity depending on the size of your home. And you can take things a step further by automating your home lighting as well. Systems from companies like Philips allow you to turn lights up, down and off as needed. You can also control these from your smartphone.

Kill Off The Vampires

Finally, watch for appliances and accessories that draw power when they’re not in use. ‘Electricity vampires’ like smartphone chargers, laptops and televisions can draw power 24/7. It’s a bit of a pain to have to unplug everything all the time. Instead, consider having these appliances plugged in to power bars. When you’re finished using them, you can switch the power bar off and go on with your day.

The above are just a few ways that you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint. If you’re interested in upgrading to a power-smart home, talk to your local real estate agent today. We’ll be happy to recommend local homes that are high-value and low-carbon.

7 Easy, Inexpensive Home Storage Hacks That Will Free Up Your Space

7 Easy, Inexpensive Home Storage Hacks That Will Free Up Your SpaceEven small spaces can feel spacious when the art of storage is mastered. Here are 7 inexpensive storage hacks to free up space in your home.

1. Racks On Racks On Racks

It’s often the first mess you see when walking into someone’s home a clutter of shoes sprawled out by the entrance. Take care of this mess with a shoe rack, which will only take up a few feet of space but allow you to store numerous pairs of kicks.

2. Fold & Hang

Not your clothes, your chairs! If you don’t use chairs often or rarely eat at the table, consider buying folding chairs instead as they can easily be put away when not in use. Attach a few hooks to a nondescript area of your home and hang the chairs to store them.

3. Slide Into An Island

Need more counter space but can’t sacrifice your kitchen table? Well now you can have both (without renovating!). Install a small island that has a slide-in table: you can slide out the table during meals and slide it back in when finished. Perfect when paired with folding chairs.

4. Make The Most Of Your Cupboards

Install small storage solutions inside of your cupboards to make the most of their space. Hooks can hang mugs from the tops of shelves, and towel racks placed on the inside of a cupboard door can fit pot lids. For a large cupboard, consider a hanging shoe rack for compartmentalized storage space from top to bottom.

5. Multi-Purpose Furniture

When trying to maximize space, choose furniture that also offers storage, such as a bed frame with pullout drawers underneath it, or an ottoman that opens up to store remotes, books, or toys. There are countless pieces designed for small spaces, so find ones that meet your own unique needs.

6. Build Me Up Buttercup

When floor space is limited, you have no choice but to build upwards. Shelves allow you to make the most of vertical space, and can fit into almost any area. Corner shelves can help you take advantage of otherwise dead space, and tall shelving units can act as a room divider which is perfect for a studio. If you want to create a more open concept, choose wall-mounted shelves as they have minimal design impact.

7. Hang It Up

Along with every door comes a fantastic storage opportunity! Choose a door-mounted hanging storage system to keep clothes, robes, towels, or shoes off of the floor. Feel free to be creative you can use them to store whatever you like.

Want more tips on small space living? Contact your trusted real estate professional today.

5 Futuristic, Connected Home Upgrades That You Can Install This Fall

5 Futuristic, Connected Home Upgrades That You Can Install This FallThe future is now! You may know that there are already many smart (Internet-connected) appliances and items that you can use to update your home for the connected age. But for your reading pleasure, here are five of them already on the market.

Energy Efficiency: The Smart Thermostat

One of the first smart home upgrades to make it big on the market is the smart thermostat, specifically the Nest Learning Thermostat. Connected to your heating system, and to your phone through Wi-Fi, this device ‘learns’ your energy use habits so it can adjust to them. It saves you money by tailoring its output to your usage, which means it is kinder on the planet as well. Smart tech for the win-win.

Intelligent Alarms: Smart Smoke Detectors

In the same vein is the smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector technology. These alarm systems assess the danger and speak to you. They report on multiple details, including what kind of danger you’re facing (fire or carbon monoxide poisoning), where it is exactly in your home, and whether it constitutes an immediate risk to you.

Turn It On!: Smart Light Bulb

A-ha! The intelligence continues. There are smart light bulbs now like the Philips’ Hue Connected Bulb which speak through your Wi-Fi. This light can be controlled remotely through your phone or computer, where you can change its color and adjust the brightness without ever touching the bulb itself.

Baby Care: The Smart Onesie

You know those moments you need to yourself, when you step out of your baby’s room to let them sleep? Well, there’s now a device to help keep track of them even then. The Mimo Baby Shirt is a smart onesie. Its organic cotton is woven with sensors that monitor elements like your child’s temperature or sleep pattern and streams that info to your device through your home’s Wi-Fi. It can be fitted with a microphone, again linked to your phone and it’s machine-washable!

The Next Mouthful: The Smart Fork

Last but not least, there’s the HapiFork. This smart utensil monitors your eating habits how fast you’re eating, the time between meals, how many bites it takes to finish the meal. These tidbits can be uploaded to your laptop or phone, and can help you track and change how you eat.

As technology continues to progress, our homes are becoming smarter and smarter. Keep up with the tech by staying abreast of new developments starting with these five. Oh, and one last smart thing? Reaching out to your local real estate agent for more information, recommendations or just to chat about the future.

Don’t Trash This: 7 Common Home Items That You Can Repurpose and Give New Life

Don't Trash This: 7 Common Home Items That You Can Repurpose and Give New LifeThere are untold benefits to reusing old household items instead of tossing them. Not only are you reducing your ecological footprint, but you can also save lots of money by recycling what you’ve already bought. Read on for some common items that are easily repurposed.

Finish The Milk, But Don’t Toss The Jug

Go for plastic milk jugs instead of cartons and easily repurpose them as, for example, watering cans. Simply, and carefully, use a nail and a hammer to poke several holes in the lid. Go for the 2-litre jugs if you only have one or two indoor plants, and the 4-litre if you have more.

Mason Jars, Beer Bottles And Applesauce, Oh My!

Glass containers are brilliant as storage, in the kitchen or elsewhere why not use a jar as a toothbrush or writing utensil holder? Beer bottles or other narrow-necked containers become flower vases. Jars with tight screw lids and a narrowing neck, like applesauce jars, can become a travel-sized water or juice bottle. And all of these containers can be covered in fabric or paint, to make them functional and beautiful.

Broken Dresser? Don’t Chuck The Drawers

So your dresser broke? That’s okay. Drawers never go out of style. Use old ones as under-the-bed storage, or stack and secure them with the bottom against the wall for a DIY shelving unit. You can also fill them with soil and use them as planters in your garden or yard.

A New Take On Hand-Me-Down Clothes

Clothing is one of the most ubiquitous household items which is perfect, because it’s also one of the most versatile. Cut up an old dress or collared shirt and, with a quick run through the sewing machine, you have a new baby dress or bib. If you use a scarf to wrap a present (for more info, look at “furoshiki” techniques), you’re giving an extra gift to your friend, and the planet.

Use Up The Floss And Break A Dish

Next time you’re travelling, finish up the floss first and use the container to store cash. This recycles the container and it disguises the money in case of burglars. And if you break a dish, don’t worry you can smooth the edges of the broken pieces and use them as mosaic tiles, or a garden border, or jewelry.

It’s simple. To start saving money, and the planet, use these easy ideas, or reach out to your local real estate agent for more tips and tricks on how to reuse old household items in funky, handy ways.

Dealing with Mice: Peppermint Oil, Dryer Sheets and Other Crazy Tricks to Try

Dealing with Mice? Peppermint Oil, Dryer Sheets and Other Crazy Tricks to TryThere are things that everyone shares: the need for food, the search for love, and the intrusion of mice into our homes. But don’t despair! There are several ways to deter and remove mice. Read on to learn about a few of the more well known, if a little out-there, methods.

Peppermint Oil And Cotton Balls

The smell of peppermint is lovely for humans, but terrible to a mouse’s nose. Put a few drops of pure peppermint oil on cotton balls and place them where you’ve noticed evidence of mice. Be careful to change those balls for fresh ones at least once a week once the smell wears off, cotton balls are great material for a mouse nest.

Dryer Sheets

Another strong smell that will discourage mice from your home is dryer sheets. Place fresh ones around mouse hangout points, or stuff them into entry holes. Same thing here, though: make sure to remove them once the smell wears off. Nothing looks nicer for a nest than an unscented dryer sheet.

Mousetrap! The Glass Bowl Version

One humane and cost-effective choice is to build a live trap by balancing a glass bowl on an upright coin. Put some chocolate or peanut butter high up inside the bowl. When the mouse reaches for the treat it’ll upset the coin and drop the bowl to the floor, trapping itself. Then slide stiff cardboard over the bowl opening and carry the mouse at least 1km from your home before releasing it. Or you can go the store-bought route but either way, check all traps at least once a day.

Plug Those Holes!

With the mouse gone, there’s two things left to do. First, clean up after it (remove its droppings and sanitize the area) to discourage a return. Then close all its doors. Block any holes bigger than a pencil with caulking, steel or copper wool, or even aluminum foil all of these are tough to chew through.

And that’s it! Keep an eye out, and call in help if it becomes too much to handle these steps are most effective for a small number of rodents. If you need more help, call your local real estate agent for advice and referrals.

What Types of Coverage Are Included in Standard Home Insurance Policies? Let’s Take a Look

What Types of Coverage Are Included in Standard Home Insurance Policies? Let's Take a LookEvery insurance policy is different and can provide certain levels of protection tailored towards the needs of the policy holder. However, there are some standard types of coverage that are included in most basic home insurance policies.

Basic Levels Of Protection

Most homeowner insurance policies will include some basic levels of protection and coverage. The main dwelling will be protected from many forms of damage and the insurance company will pay to repair the damaged dwelling. This will extend to other smaller structures on the property, like sheds and separate garages, but the level of coverage will differ.

Damage is one important aspect of insurance, but protection for personal belongings is equally important and is also included in a standard home insurance policy. The monetary value of items in the home will be covered in case of damage or theft, so it’s a good idea to keep track of valuables. Every insurance company will have a different limit on the amount covered, so it’s wise to compare the value of belongings against the level of coverage.

The third aspect of home insurance policies is liability protection. This will cover any personal injuries that are incurred on the property by people who do not live there. It may seem silly, but having protection in case of a lawsuit can go a long way to saving a family financially as attorney fees and medical bills add up.

What Is Not Included?

Although each insurance company has different policies that cover different parts of the home, almost all of them do not include one important aspect in their policies. Damage caused by floods, earthquakes and war will not be included in most standard home insurance policies and may be important depending on the geography of the area.

Another important note is that flood damage does not just apply to natural flooding in the region, but will also include water damage from broken pipes or backed up sewage lines. It’s an important distinction because many first-time home owners assume this water damage will be covered under their basic insurance policy.

The right insurance policy can be difficult to figure out for first-time home owners. There are many questions to ask about the property to determine the right policy and it’s a good idea to consult your local real estate agent to get their insight into what additions may be needed.