Should We Airbnb a Room in Our Home?

With the booming sharing economy and travellers often preferring to forgo traditional hotel stays, the notion of renting out a room in your home (or the entire house itself) could seem appealing. But before you jump into peer-to-peer short-term rentals, there are some things you should consider:

Costs of hosting: starting up, cleaning, higher utility bills and more

Becoming an Airbnb host requires some startup cash along with ongoing expenses. These include the costs to set up and furnish the space, ongoing utility and cleaning fees which is usually not more than $30 per room.

You'll want to make sure each guest space is attractive and has all the amenities that a weary traveller needs such as fresh backup sheets and plenty of towels. A savvy host can reasonably furnish an empty room for about $1,000. However, $500 can do the trick if you already have an extra bed. Big box stores can help supply furniture for a range of pricing. 

The upside of being a host is that if you work hard, possess excellent customer service skills and treat the platform like your own personal business, the revenue generated from the listing can surpass the initial startup costs and provide a nice monthly return. 

Have you readIs Buying a Home and Renting It Out a Good Investment?

Young man and woman shaking hands


If your property is controlled by a homeowners' association or co-op, check its rules to make sure you're allowed to host; some may restrict Airbnb activity, while others may have no issue. If you rent, you'll want to get your landlord's blessing. 

A proportion of Airbnb hosts could very well be renters, who may or may not be telling their landlord. It is recommended to get your landlord's approval through a signed agreement. In most Canadian provinces, tenants cannot rent out their apartments without the approval of their landlords. 

Airbnb Canada details here how tenants should go about this process.

Bike hanging on living room wall.

Taxes and business licenses

Depending on where you live, you might require a business license and you might owe local taxes on any income you earn.

Quebec law requires short-term rentals of less than 31 days to obtain a licence from Tourism Quebec. Vancouver has proposed regulations that only allow the issuing of short-term rental licences for a primary residence — meaning the host, whether owner or tenant, must live in the dwelling. This rule targets hosts with multiple investment properties who operate as commercial hosts and eat into the housing stock.

Toronto has proposed a two-pronged approach to licensing, requiring both companies such as Airbnb and hosts to register and pay an annual fee. Hosts of short-term rentals in Toronto would be required to pay an annual fee ranging from $40 – $150. 

As tax is a relatively complex topic, Airbnb has provided some information about local regulations in different Canadian markets. Above all, it's good to consult a tax professional to get more specific information.

Clean + Declutter

You'll want to tidy your space, present it in the best possible light and hide your valuables before you photograph it.

Like the listings you love to peruse here on, the photos and listing title are the first thing a potential guest will see on Airbnb. This is your opportunity to catch their attention. 

You can either take your own photographs or contract out a professional photographer. Many hosts opt for professional shots, given how important eye-catching photos are for your space's profile.

Before photographing, ensure that you prep by arranging suitable lighting conditions and use a quality camera (now available on most smartphones).

Woman standing at bottom of stairs smiling

Insurance and liability

Airbnb's Host Guarantee provides up to $1 million in insurance coverage for property damage in 29 countries, including Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Airbnb's insurance is not a substitute for homeowner's or renter's insurance and it doesn't protect against theft or personal liability.

Airbnb states that damage to a host's property (home, unit, rooms, possessions) in every listing is covered up to $1 million USD. However, hosts must provide documentation as part of the resolution process. Payments made through the Host Guarantee are “subject to Host Guarantee Terms and Conditions,” meaning there are exclusions, limitations and conditions. As well, it's common for Airbnb hosts to receive emails from Airbnb, at random, informing them that various terms and conditions have changed. 

Call your insurance company to see what is covered, as some home insurance policies cover short-term rentals. But if there are multiple short-term visits, the insurance company might require you to buy a business policy that would cover a hotel or a bed and breakfast. 


Airbnb's host guarantee doesn't protect against wear and tear to your place, but you can charge a security deposit to cover possible damage.

Installing a reasonable security deposit is a no-brainer move for new hosts. Airbnb allows hosts to set up a security deposit to cover minor damages that would not be covered under the Host Guarantee. For example, if a guest breaks a door handle while staying at your property, you'll want to replace that before the next guest comes.

However, Airbnb won't consider this damage to be major and won't cover it under the Host Guarantee. As a result, this becomes an out of pocket expense for you, unless you charge the guest a security deposit. When guests make a reservation, they are not immediately charged for the deposit – only if a host makes a claim.

Even if a host is only renting a single room, a security deposit is a safe move just in case anything gets damaged. 

Couple meeting with another woman.

Getting paid

Airbnb could require you to refund a guest's payment if you cancel a reservation at the last minute, forget to leave the key, misrepresent your listing, don't clean your home or otherwise fail to meet Airbnb's hospitality standards. Airbnb suggests making sure you're available during the guests' scheduled check-in to address any concerns. 

Airbnb's payment system is quick and efficient. Payments are sent through direct deposit after the guest completes their first night (regardless of the length of stay). 

When a guest books a host's space, they also agree to the host's cancellation policy, which dictates the percentage of the booking costs (minus Airbnb's cut), if any, they will get back. Most moderate policies allow a guest to cancel within two days of the first night to get their money back. Less moderate policies allow the host to collect more of the booking money. 

Host cancellations also happen from time to time. One study found host cancellations are the top complaint on Airbnb, representing about 20% of all complaints. 

Depending on when a host cancels a stay, they'll be deducted either $50 or $100. If a host cancels three or more reservations within a year, Airbnb may deactivate the listing.

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb 

If you talk to enough long-time Airbnb hosts, they'll be able to tell you an endless number of stories about inspiring and interesting guests who shared their home. Others might have bad experiences. There are clear potential advantages and disadvantages to becoming an Airbnb host.

However, if all the regulatory checks are taken care of, the space is up to par and you're taking your hosting responsibilities seriously, the platform can serve as a nice way to earn extra cash and meet interesting travellers from around the world.

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel.



Find out if the Loft Lifestyle is Right for You: Everything You Need to Know

For some people, living in a city loft is the epitome of style; think skyline views, plank hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and heritage features offering inimitable character. With open floor plans and central locations, lofts make ideal crash pads for downtown living. However, the loft lifestyle isn't for everyone. 

Here are a few things to know before deciding if a loft is the right home for you. 

The high rise of loft living  

An open staircase leading up to a loft spacePhoto by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Lofts today are seen as upscale urban dwellings for city slickers, but this wasn't always the case. In the 1950s and ‘60s, New York City's decommissioned factories and industrial warehouses became popular housing alternatives for artists and bohemians. 

Lower costs and high ceilings made these spaces perfect canvases for galleries and workshops of large-format artists, like Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Warhol famously converted a loft on East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan into a studio called The Factory, which became a denizen for artists like David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry and Lou Reed. Rent cost $100 a month at the time. 

Artist Andy Warhol at 'The Factory' in 1966 taking a photo of his and a friend's reflection in a mirror.Andy Warhol at ‘The Factory’, 1966, via Kristine on Flickr

As uptown art buyers turned up for exhibitions and downtown happenings, the lure of the loft lifestyle prompted many to buy and retrofit lofts of their own. As the affluent moved in, market values went up and lofts became hot commodities. 

“Over the next few years, magazines praised the versatility and the creativity of loft design,” writes Sharon Zukin in Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. “In many lofts, the integration of work space, living areas, and art objects was paralleled by a fluid adaptation to structural features (primarily light, floor and volume) and “incidental” arrangements.”    

Loft living was instrumental in defining the Industrial aesthetic. And perhaps more importantly, the popularity of lofts redefined a way of living in the city. 

The difference between hard lofts and soft lofts 

Demand for the “loft look” has inspired many developers to replicate loft aesthetics in newly-constructed developments. Known in real estate as soft lofts, these constructions mimic characteristics of typical lofts, such as open concept spaces, large windows, high ceilings and exposed features. 

An open-concept corner condo loft with floor length windows and exposed piping in the ceilingPhoto by Yucel Moran on Unsplash

By contrast, hard lofts can be found in heritage buildings, vacant factories and other places that have been repurposed for residential living. While these industrial buildings tend to be a little rougher around the edges, they often abound with character via exposed brickwork, original wood beams and other inherited traits. 

A large loft warehouse style loft space with a high, exposed ceiling.Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

Two-storey lofts  

The living room area of a small, open-concept loft space with an upper level for a bed.Photo by Antoine Gayraud on Unsplash

Unlike single-floor lofts, two-storey lofts have the advantage of offering occupants more privacy. Two-storey lofts often preserve the open concept feel by limiting the reach of the second storey. Often, this top tier overhangs the first floor and is finished with open walls, so the bottom floor is kept in view. Bedrooms are the most common use for the second floors, as added distance allows for more privacy. Two-storey tall ceilings and walls are often utilized for an expansive gallery of windows. 

Pros and cons of loft life  

A softly lit second-floor sitting area in a loft spacePhoto by Nathan Van Egmond on Unsplash

Because soft lofts tend to be more modern constructions, they're often equipped with more modern furnishings, plumbing and electricity. Hard lofts, on the other hand, may require more work and repairs, depending on the condition of the property. Tall ceilings can mean tall energy bills, too. 

While hard lofts were once located in rundown parts of the city, many of these areas have gentrified and transformed into vibrant urban centers thrumming with activity. For young professionals who work in city centers, lofts are often well connected and ideally located for short commutes and enjoying the cultural advantages city life has to offer. 

Arguably, the primary feature of a loft is an open-concept layout. This setup is ideal for those who feel at home in tall and airy spaces but, for others, it can lack privacy and coziness. These spaces are ideal for singles or couples but can become cramped when children enter the equation. Likewise, hosting company can pose the occasional challenge, especially for a more private person. 

Decorating your loft  

Lofts leave space for a fair deal of decorative freedom, but also pose some unique challenges. Here are a few design tips to help you make the most of your loft lifestyle. 

Define spaces 

A warmly lit sitting area of an exposed brick loftVia Jennifer D. Ames on Creative Commons

Use large pieces of furniture, such as L-shaped couches, bar counters, bookcases, or even folding screens to help divide and define spaces in your loft. In small spaces, curtains can make for good hanging room partitions. Install a curtain track so they can be easily drawn or closed. 

Opt for oversized art  

A bed sits in the middle of an open-concept, white room

Stay true to the loft's legacy by investing in a large painting or sculpture. Small pieces tend to get lost on tall ceilings and in open spaces, whereas larger prints and installations have obvious impact and can help to organize space. 

Add contrast with soft furnishings 

An open-concept loft space with exposed beams, pipes in the ceiling and wooden support beamsPhoto by Israa Hilles on Unsplash 

A large area rug lends warmth to hardwood or concrete floors typically found in lofts. Try curtains instead of blinds for window coverings, as they can bring contrast to gridded industrial panes, while still exposing their character. Look to Urban Modern design for examples of how to embrace this aesthetic. 

Embrace character  

A bedroom with exposed brick and a large windowPhoto by Matthew Henry from Burst

Think twice before covering up raw features of your loft like exposed brick walls or open ducts and beams in the ceiling. These characteristics are prized by fellow loft buyers. 

Ready to embrace the loft living? Work with a REALTOR® to help you find the perfect space. 



The Sky’s the Limit: Guide to Skylights

I often find myself dreaming up features I would want in my dream home. At the top of my list is an outdoor wood-fired oven, a spiral staircase, a “she shed” and many skylights.  

Why skylights? They're dramatic, they make spaces feel larger, create a strong connection with the outdoors and the natural light they provide is beneficial to both people and house plants. Skylights can be fairly easy to install with the help of a professional but, as with all home renovations, there are a few things you need to know before you kick off the project. We have the lowdown on the big things to think about before getting started.  

Types of skylights

Before cutting holes in your roof, you need to determine which type of skylight is best for your home. There are three main types: 

1. Fixed

Photo via Flickr

The most common skylight option, fixed skylights (as their name suggests) are sealed to the roof and do not open for ventilation. They are a great option for vaulted and flat ceilings as they let the light pour in and help enhance the view. If you're looking to install a skylight in a hard-to-reach location, fixed skylights might be your best option.  

2. Vented

Photo by Anne Dudek on UnsplashPhoto via

Vented skylights open slightly and allow natural light in along with fresh air. They are a beautiful and dramatic solution to small spaces without windows that open— like an attic— as well as spaces with excessive moisture, like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms. Vented skylights have options to open either manually or with an electric motor, so don't worry if you envisioned one in a room with cathedral ceilings. 

3. Tubular

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (image cropped)

Tubular skylights (solar tubes) are a great option if space restrictions make installing a traditional skylight difficult and are best for small, enclosed spaces like closets, hallways and pantries. Tubular skylights are complex in their function. A roof-mounted parabolic lens collects light throughout the day and dispenses it down a highly reflective tube that releases light indoors through an interior fixture. Keep in mind that while you will gain more natural light with a tubular skylight, you won't gain a view. 

Things to consider before installing a skylight


There might be regulations in your region requiring a special building permit for installing new windows (or a skylight in this case). Check with your municipality first.


Glazing can improve energy efficiency by reducing the effect of heat gain in the summer and loss in the winter. Glazing is usually either plastic or glass. Plastic is generally less expensive but has less UV protection, where glass is more durable and won't discolour (plastic might over time). 


Installing a skylight means precise measurement of your roof and ceilings. The exact placement will depend on the location of your rafters and the slope of your roof. Be sure to consult a professional before making any permanent decisions.  They can also make sure installation is completed correctly in order to avoid leaks. Inside, you'll also want to consider the level of exposure you're looking to achieve and keep in mind the added sunlight will likely increase the temperature of your room. 

As a general rule of thumb: 

  • Skylights on east-facing roofs bring in early morning light.
  • Skylights on west-facing roofs provide afternoon light and heat.
  • Skylights on north-facing roofs provide consistent light.
  • Skylights on south-facing roofs will bring in heat during the winter but may let in too much over the summer.

Cost and installation 

In Canada, the average cost of installing a skylight can range from $500 to more than $4,000, with installation being the most costly. The price of the skylight itself will vary based on its size, glazing and type but, generally speaking, tubular skylights are the most affordable, with fixed skylights being somewhere in the middle and vented skylights being the most costly.  

Skylights can be a beautiful addition to any home, whether you have little natural light or loads of it and just want more. Once you've selected the skylight that's best for you, determined where to put it and sorted out your permits and installation costs, you will be able to enjoy this upgrade to your home for years to come.



The 10 Most Popular Laundry Rooms on Houzz Right Now

This Trending Now story features the most-saved laundry room photos uploaded to Houzz since July 1, 2019.

If you’re looking for ways to make your laundry room look and function better, you might consider wild wallpaper, a custom drying closet or even a yellow rolling ladder to access high-up shelves. These ideas, and more, feature in the most-saved laundry room photos recently uploaded to Houzz, presented here in descending order.
KBG Design
10. Farmhouse Fresh

Shaker-style cabinets, a vintage-style sink and a soft color palette give this San Francisco laundry room classic farmhouse style. The designers at KBG Design elevated the look with a stunning textured backsplash tile that reflects the light. The clever compact layout functions well thanks to a folding counter on top of the appliances and a drying rod over the sink.

Find an interior designer on Houzz
The Cabinet Gallery
9. High Contrast, High Style

This Salt Lake City laundry room by The Cabinet Gallery has a farmhouse look that’s quite different from the previous example. While both have Shaker-style cabinetry and classic hardware, the black countertop and black-and-white plaid tile on the floor provide strong contrast to the white cabinets and subway tile. And the pendant light, picture frame, faucet, appliances and cabinet pulls add a sophisticated mix of metallic finishes.
VBM Home
8. Gorgeous and Glamorous

April Rossdeutscher of VBM Home transformed this space into one that makes doing laundry seem downright glamorous. Quartz that mimics Nero Marquina marble, a custom brass-colored library ladder and high-gloss white cabinets with black-and-brass handles make this Hollywood Hills laundry room a star.
Kresswell Interiors
7. Wallpaper and Warmth

After toiling away doing laundry in a dark, unfinished basement, this homeowner wanted a more warm and inviting space. Kristina Eustace of Kresswell Interiors elevated the laundry area with a gorgeous peacock-themed wallpaper, wood countertops, farmhouse-style sink and leather cabinet pulls.

Browse white farmhouse sinks in the Houzz Shop
Haven Design and Construction
6. Well-Planned Drying Cabinet

The pros at Haven Design and Construction made the most of every corner of this 70-square-foot room. There’s a dog-washing station, a utility sink and plenty of storage and countertop space for folding. But it was the drying cabinet, shown here, that really grabbed Houzz users.

A vent inside helps draw moisture out of wet clothing. There’s room for hanging clothes as well as sliding shelves that allow the homeowners to lay items flat. The decorative grilles on the doors let the air in with style.
Acacia Architects
5. Happy and Bright

A cheerful floral pattern on the walls and sink skirt perk up even the coldest, darkest Minneapolis days for these homeowners. The designers at Acacia Architects carried a leafy green from the pattern over to the shelves. A window bathes the room in light.
Grantham Woodworking
4. Dog-Friendly Destination

In this Arizona laundry room, the pros at Designlink Architecture and Interiors created plenty of room for laundry- and dog-related items. The rough-sawn rift-cut white oak shelf and the pull-down drying rack add warmth to the space, while Shaker-style cabinetry keeps things classic and clean.
Soda Pop Design Inc.
3. Light Blue and Beautiful

Cynthia Soda of Soda Pop Design gave her clients a hardworking mudroom-laundry room that looks elegant but can handle heavy traffic. The dark floors can take whatever gets tracked in during Ontario’s snowy winters. Meanwhile, the light blue cabinets and diamond-pattern backsplash tile make things pretty. The homeowners opted for stackable appliances to make room for extra storage and space to hang clothes for drying.
New Generation Home Improvements
2. Tiny Space, Big Impact

This small laundry closet contains some major style. The bohemian vibe in the Los Angeles casita by New Generation Home Improvements carries all the way to the back of the closet. There’s a vintage-style red sink and dramatic blue wallpaper, and even the machines are blue. Small details such as the oval mirror and woven laundry basket are the icing on the cake.
Becky Rose Design
1. Minty Fresh and Organized

The most-saved laundry room, which is by Becky Rose Grinwald, features light green cabinets, white subway tile and ample folding, storage and hanging space.


8 Eco-Friendly and Natural Tips to Make Your Home Smell Fantastic

Everyone loves walking into a home that smells amazing

Unfortunately, many products, such as aerosol room sprays, plug-in units or wax melts, also come with questionable ingredients and unnecessary packaging.  

If you crave a wonderful smelling space in a more natural and earth-friendly way, it's never been easier. We've compiled this handy list, along with a few simple DIYs that will be as delightful to your wallet as they are to your sense of smell. 

1. Reed scent diffusers

Reed diffusers, a low-maintenance home scent option, use natural hollow reeds that absorb a scented oil and naturally disperse the fragrance into the air. It's easy to dial the effect up or down by adding or removing the reeds and the vessel can easily be refilled when the oil has evaporated.

Pro Tip: Keep these out of the reach of pets and young children to avoid finding a giant puddle of oil on your living room rug.

2. Eucalyptus in the shower

There's nothing like the crisp smell of eucalyptus to add a refreshing element to your bathroom routine. This plant has long been touted as an anti-inflammatory, so it's especially helpful if you're feeling a cold coming on. Roll a few sprigs of fresh eucalyptus under a rolling pin to unlock their aromatic oils, then tie the bundle with an elastic and hang it over the back of your shower head. The warmth and humidity of the shower will release the leaves' healing essence. Bonus: this trick will also make your bathroom look even more Pinterest-worthy.

Pro Tip: Some research indicates eucalyptus can be dangerous for young children and babies, so skip this option if you share your bathroom with little ones.

3. Orange clove pomander

A favourite around the holidays, orange clove pomanders bring a spicy, warm and delicious fragrance into your home. They also make for a fun family craft! All you need are some fresh oranges and whole cloves. Use a toothpick to punch holes in the orange peel, and press in the little clove “studs” in any pattern you choose. Soon you'll have a bowl filled with bedazzled, heavenly-smelling oranges.

Pro Tip: Dispose of fresh orange pomanders before they can develop mold–usually after a few days. To prolong their life, you can also hang them from a length of twine in a cool, dry place until dried. This will also enhance their irresistible scent.

4. Essential oils on your furnace filter or vacuum cleaner bag

A few drops of your favourite essential oil will easily diffuse throughout your home with a little help from the forced air of your furnace or vacuum.

Pro Tip: Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet before vacuuming to help deodorize at the same time.

5. Lavender linen spray

Refresh your linens between washes (and gain instant credit as the host with the most delightful-smelling sheets) with a DIY lavender linen spray. Believe it or not, low-priced vodka makes the best basis for this concoction: simply mix one part vodka (or witch hazel) with three parts water in a glass spray bottle, Next, add 10 drops (or more depending on your preference) of high-quality lavender essential oil. Spray whenever a sheet, curtain or closet is in need of refreshing.

Pro Tip: Lavender is known for its calming properties, so this spray can pull double-duty as a pillow spray to help you nod off to dreamland.

6. Cotton balls with essential oils

Adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to cotton balls is one of the simplest DIY home scent hacks that can also go pretty much anywhere. Stash them in your closet or drawers, in bathroom cupboards or behind your computer at the office (if scents are permitted). Be careful not to add too much oil or the ball may leave a stain on surfaces.

Pro Tip: Scented cotton balls are an easy swap for plastic car vent air fresheners. Simply wedge a few into your dash vent or under the floor mats. When the heat is on, the hot air will swirl the fresh aroma around your vehicle.

7. Vanilla or almond extract on light bulbs

Here's a sweet way to scent your space at the flip of a switch— remove a cooled light bulb from its socket and apply a few drops of pure vanilla or almond. Allow it to dry fully and replace it back in its fixture. Anytime you turn on the lights, you'll be rewarded with a yummy glow, as the warmth of the bulb spreads the scent throughout your room.

Pro Tip: This trick also works with lemon juice if you prefer the zing of citrus.

8. Simmering potpourri

This eco-friendly method fills your home with fragrance using only water and what you can find around the kitchen. All you need is a simmering pot of water on the stove (or in a slow-cooker). Add a blend of your favourite scents: apple cores, citrus peels, extracts or whole spices such as cinnamon sticks or star anise. In no time, your space will be infused with delicious, comforting or invigorating smells. 

Caution: The use of certain essential oils may be hazardous to young children or pets. Always research the safety of any essential oil before using it in your home.



5 Common Bathroom Design Mistakes to Avoid

Get your bath right for the long haul by dodging these blunders in toilet placement, shower type and more

Adding to or remodeling your house is one of the most exciting and creative processes you can go through. But with all that responsibility comes pressure to make informed decisions that will last. How can you make sure to get the right design for your lifestyle, stay within your budget and maximize the return on your investment? Start with a great design for every room in your house — including (or especially) the bathroom.

Bathrooms, whether big or small, should always be well thought out and carefully located, and should function with multiple users in mind. We’re long past the era where there was one bathroom for every three bedrooms in the house, and everyone had all the time needed to use it. Today’s bathrooms need to be beautiful, use space efficiently and serve the users functionally. Avoiding common design blunders, as these rooms nicely do, can help you be happier with your bathroom for the long haul.



10 Clever Hacks for Small Kitchens

If there's one part of the house where clutter can quickly build up, it's the kitchen. With so many tools, cookware and gadgets, where can you keep everything without feeling like you belong on “Hoarders”? If you've tried some of these space-saving ideas and crave further inspiration, check out these 10 ways to make the most of small kitchen spaces.

1. Ditch the fruit bowl

Many people have the token fruit bowl—or basket—that takes up prime real estate on their counter. Try placing small bins inside a deep drawer to store fruit and vegetables that don't need to be refrigerated.

baking measurements inside of cupboard door Photo via Pinterest

2. Store on the door

With just a little paint and some hooks, you're all set to make your own measuring station and conversion cheat sheet on the inside of a cupboard door. Just think, no more searching on your smartphone or tablet with sticky, food-covered fingers.

3. The great shelf recession

Installing shelves between inner wall studs is an efficient way to maximize space and an eye-catching way to store pantry items. 

pegboard kitchen storage

4. Up your pegboard game

Pegboards are a fantastic way to make use of vertical space in your kitchen. Pegboard kits and components can be found at most hardware stores and adding a coat of paint will make them blend or pop with existing kitchen décor. Try using different styles of pegboard hooks (straight, curved and multi-tool) to hang your cookware and utensils in an organized and tidy fashion.

magnetic spice rack on fridge

5. Spice things up

Clean up that jammed spice and baking cupboard with some magnetic spice canisters. Not only handy for spices, but also smaller baking ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, sprinkles or coloured sugar. They sit easily on the side of the fridge or metal strips on the sides of or underneath cabinets. Label them with a personal flair by using chalkboard paint or custom labels.

sliding cupboard shelf beside a fridge Photo via

6. Sliding with style

An ingenious way to make use of extra space around your fridge is to build a sliding cabinet for smaller items like canned goods, spices and kitchen tools. Not only do they look good, but your guests will be all over your space-age kitchen design. 

Photo via Pinterest @jenwoodhouse

7. Space with a repurpose

Small kitchens require getting spatially creative when cooking. A DIY stove cover means extra counter and prep space. Consider using a  beautiful wood cutting board or something personalized. 

Photo credit: Instagram @101residential

8. Tip-out below your counter

If your kitchen has false drawers in front of the sink, you can convert them into handy tip-out trays that store sponges and scrubbers- keeping them off the counter and out of the way. 

Photo via Pinterest @thekitchn

8. Plain sight, on the side

A rail rack is a superb solution to avoid cluttered drawers by allowing you to conveniently hang utensils on the sides of your cabinets, within reach yet out of the way. They are usually low-cost to either purchase or make yourself.

Photo via Pinterest

9. File folders—more than just office supplies

These low-priced office supplies make great holders for things like food wraps, sandwich and freezer bags, container lids or cutting boards. Mounting them on the inside of a cupboard door keeps them within easy reach. 

Photo credit: Pinterest @thekitchn

10. The window of opportunity

If your kitchen has a window, consider making use of that space by installing curtain rods across it and using hooks to hang pots and pans. You could also consider adding a floating shelf or two across your kitchen windows, too.

It's amazing how much space you can find in a small kitchen by changing the way you approach storage. Plus, having a clutter-free space makes cooking more enjoyable. You might even be ready to host the next family holiday meal—a feat long considered impossible, until now.



Staging Techniques to Attract Better Buyers

Highlighting a space's best features and making it feel lived-in but also universally livable is in the details. You need potential buyers to see themselves in the space—knowing that it is staged—but still get drawn into the fantasy of making it their own. Staging is a proven tactic for increasing the value of your home and getting it sold faster.

Clever staging in high-end markets is even more crucial, with some professionals spending upwards of $400,000 to attract the right buyer—but for good reason! That spend can make a million-dollar difference in the sale. That budget might seem like an outrageous stretch for your listing, but applying similar methodology to houses in the average buying bracket can have powerful results.

These staging tactics—some fairly standard (scentlightingcurb appeal); some with more panache—could help you attract better buyers and sell your home for more.  

Universally livable

You're not just showing off the space, you're giving people a glimpse into the lifestyle they're buying. Potential buyers are more inspired to buy when they're able to see themselves in the home—so omit your family photos and personal keepsakes.

Personal items can be easily replaced with things like a cocktail making set, contemporary art or even a borrowed collection of rare vinyl. Just like in multi-million dollar listings, you want to fill your space with items that are desirable and aspirational.

Staging professionals have been known to replace personal family photos with striking landscapes and travel adventures. Some will even go as far as hiring actors and even pets to produce family photos to suggest a lifestyle to prospective buyers.

These tactics may seem a little extreme, but if you can think of simple ways to help the right buyers envision themselves in your space, you'll be off to a good start.

Rent a vintage or luxury vehicle

In one of the most expensive houses ever listed in the United States, the seller included a more than $30-million U.S. collection of classic and exotic cars, collectables and even a helicopter.

Okay, that's an extreme example, but exotic and classic cars can be rented from businessesrental apps or even local car owners to help strike a subconscious chord that gets buyers excited and attached to the listing. 

Add a bar

Multi-million dollar listings often have a wine cellar, complete with bottles on loan to impress buyers. 

Displayed properly, wine and spirits can help your listing punch above its weight class. If you are left with a variety of expensive bottles after the sale, you can put them towards a celebration in honour of all those who helped make it happen.

High-end staging gets results

In hot markets, staging might just mean a thorough cleaning and decluttering, but in other markets—especially in vacant or high-end properties—these extra details can have a greater impact.

Taking these tactics and applying them yourself with the input of your REALTOR® could make a surprising difference in the sale of your home.

More on staging: 8 Tips for Staging Your Home This Winter9 Things to Never Leave Out During an Open House



Stairs: The Functional Focal Point

Stairs are an often-overlooked but hardworking feature of your home. They take you from A to B, they're the stage of that adorable video you shot of your puppy learning to climb them and they've endured endless feet running down and then back up when something has been forgotten in a bedroom. “Upstairs” even pulls overtime shifts as an adverb, adjective and noun.

Remember, the stairs are often the first thing you notice when you walk into a house. Let's turn this often more utilitarian construction into the beautiful focal point your home deserves.

A big personality

Looking up a palatial staircase

A good staircase can do a lot to add new flow to your home and even change its personality; from traditional to contemporary, unassuming to head-turning, busy to breezy. If your home is feeling a little ho-hum, why not consider elevating your stair game?

Be sure to do your research before you start tearing things up; a staircase transformation can be costly and time-consuming, especially if you want to move your stairs from one side of your house to the other. Remember, you won't be able to easily access your second floor during these renos so plan ahead—you might need to camp out on the main floor for a night.

Stand in Scarlet O'Hara's shoes

Luxurious staircase with wood rails and cast iron detailing

A Scarlet O'Hara staircase, or split staircase, is the height of luxury to many. Those sweeping bannisters curling up into a second-level balcony are the scene of many prom and bridal photoshoots. If you have the room to spare in your home's foyer and love a grand entrance, a split staircase can do wonders to open up your space.

Multipurpose, but make it fashion

Custom under-stair drawers and cabinetry

Utilitarian design still has its place here—just jazz it up. Rather than a classic cupboard under the stairs, transform that storage space with sleek drawers and cabinet doors to hide away winter gear in the summer, your old DVD collection, luggage or whatever else always finds its way under the steps.

If your straight staircase is closed in, that blank wall can feel detached; you can't put much against it since that area is often a thoroughfare. A photo gallery will fill it up, but why not warm up to new ideas? This custom-built fireplace is a great use of space and makes the stairs the focal point for the room.

Staircase with a wood fireplace underneath

Loft life

Spiral iron staircase

A spiral staircase might give off loft vibes but there's no rule book when it comes to adding stairs to your home, big or small. In some cases, a smaller space might benefit the most from a flashy spiral staircase. This highly decorative wrought iron staircase is a work of art in its own right and ties the room together by matching with the granite countertop of the kitchen.  

Of course, a spiral staircase isn't for everyone, especially if you have mobility issues, small children or even pets. To help decide whether a spiral staircase is the right move for you, your family and even your home, consider asking your friends, family and REALTOR® for their opinion and insight.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery

Wood floating staircase with glass and wood rail

Marry the wow-factor of unique show-stopping stairs with the harmony of your home's décor and colour palette by matching your treads, railing, balustrades or risers to the motif of your home. Choose the same wood for your staircase as your hardwood floors—it's a great look if you're going with floating-style stairs.

The black countertops and backsplash in the kitchen below perfectly match and compliment the black railing and balustrades of the staircase and make the oak of the flooring, cupboards and stair treads seriously pop.

Wood and black iron staircase descending to a kitchen.

Don't forget the frills

Staircase with rail under-lighting.Photo by Alessia Cocconi on Unsplash

Ambient lighting can happen along the stairway, as well, especially if you backlight the railing. Not only can it help prevent any nasty spills in the night, but it's also a seriously polished look. For added effect, you could light up the risers or use LED strips as runners à la the movie theatre.

Looking for a stairway to inspiration? Take a look through our Pinterest board. We're always adding new eye-catching staircase pins. 

With a bit of creativity and a construction budget to boot, put your stairs to even better use as the breakout star of your home's interior design. But before you get building, check out these reno tips for more information on building codes and materials that might work best.



Room Colour Psychology: Choosing the Perfect Shade

Colours influence our emotions and mood in a number of surprising ways. According to colour psychology, the right paint shademay enhance productivity, promote calm, boost creativity levels and even increase your appetite. 

We dug a little deeper to unlock the meaning behind your favourite paint colours and the rooms they work best in. Keep in mind, it's not just colour that makes an impact; the intensity of the shade is also important. 


An illustration of a bedroom in deep purples and greys

Your bedroom is your oasis. If relaxation is your goal, you'll want to opt for soft, soothing colours—lavender, soft green or pale blue. Purple and blue are said to be stress-reducing shades. While deeper tones can often be intense on your walls, a muted amethyst or powder blue keeps things calm and cool. A neutral palette also works well in a bedroom, since you can always change out your décor accents to suit your mood. If you love bold colours like red or yellow, use a muted shade and opt for an accent wall instead of an all-red bedroom. 


An illustration of a small eat-in kitchen in red, brown, and blue

It's no surprise Martha Stewart is singing the praises of warm tones for this high-traffic area, as they're said to have a comforting effect. Red and orange are incredibly versatile and are thought to stimulate the appetite. This year, make way for terracotta and dusty rose—these kitchen-friendly colours are making a comeback. 

Living room

An illustration of a living room in shades of grey

Grey is a popular neutral for any room but looks particularly elegant in the living room. Grey is a safe bet, since it's versatile and will go with most styles of furniture, so you won't have to repaint even if you redecorate. Lighter hues will make your room seem bigger, while darker greys can add drama. Grey works fabulously as a backdrop for ScandinavianIndustrialUrban Modern and Minimalist designs. 


A personal office illustration in shades of blue

Blue is an intellectual colour, representing trust, logic, communication and efficiency. Green works great for an office, too, promoting calmness and concentration. Use blue or green as the primary colour in your office area if you require intense focus. If you're looking to spark creativity, however, yellow is your friend. Yellow is an emotional hue, representing friendliness, optimism and inspiration. Not brave enough to highlight all four walls? Choose one as a focal point, ideally the wall your desk will face. Remember, you can play with the shades–your space doesn't need to be all-over neon. 

Kids' room

A baby's nursery illustration in shades of green and brown

Kids are extra sensitive to a colour's psychological effects and green in particular may have a calming, soothing impact. We recommend involving your children in the process and letting them choose a colour that speaks to them (within reason). They generally have great intuition about how certain colours make them feel. Avoid using wall-to-wall red in a baby's room and save it for accents only, as it can be overstimulating. 


An illustration of a small bathroom in contrasting pink, black and white

The best way to make any bathroom appear larger is to use light colours. Play with happy, pastel colours like yellow and pink, don't be afraid to mix in some bright wallpaper as well. In small doses, pink has a calming effect but, if overused, can lead to irritation. 

Of course, paint colours are highly personal and should complement your existing furniture, lighting and taste. There are no “wrong” colours when it comes to designing your home. The best hues are the ones that speak to you. 



How To Get a Construction Mortgage Loan to Build Your Dream Home

For most, the fantasy of building a dream home is just that—a fantasy: the perfectly styled gourmet kitchen, the shower big enough to fit an elephant and every tiny detail carefully considered to be exactly what you want.

As a trained architect, it haunts me that at my age I still haven't designed and built my own home. With so much to consider, where do you begin? As always, a good place to start is with your budget.

The Basics: what is a construction mortgage?

View looking down through scaffolding at construction crew working

If you want to build a home from scratch or if you're planning significant renovations or expansions to an existing property, a construction mortgage can help give you the financial framework to make it happen. Essentially, it begins as a loan to finance the build during the construction period. When the construction ends, the loan is due and it becomes a normal mortgage.

To qualify, you'll likely need:

  • good to excellent credit;
  • A stable income;
  • low debt-to-income ratio; and
  • a down payment of 20%

Loan funds, totalling the full amount needed to complete the construction, are given to you in stages called “draws” throughout construction. Common stages include: purchase of land, foundation, framing, lock-up (for example, doors, windows and roofing) and completion. The work is inspected by the lender at each stage to ensure it's complete before the next draw is made available. Most lenders charge a fee for this inspection that goes beyond the cost of the loan. Also, keep in mind this inspection is different from the ones you'll require as part of your permit, so be sure the work is up to code.

If you're buying a new construction home through a builder, your construction loan is secured directly with them so you won't need to get one yourself.

Starting point

Construction plans and blueprints on a desk with notes, coffee and a black marker pen.

First thing's first: you need to consider what type of home you plan to build and how large you want it to be. Specific rules vary by province, so make sure you're well informed before you start. You'll likely want to (and may be required to) enlist the help of a licensed architect and/or engineer to help develop your plans. 

When building, you might be inclined to align your build's design with your wildest desires and whims. That might be fine for your forever home and if you have no intentions of ever leaving but, if future resale is a consideration, you might want to avoid unusual elements or unconventional floor plans. A REALTOR® is a great resource to help guide you through the most common and sought-after features of your neighbourhood.

Custom designed open concept kitchen, living and dining room.

Another consideration is the land you're going to build on. Do you want to raise animals or have a farm? Is accessibility an issue or do you think it might be? How important is privacy? If you're building a custom home to retire in, think about the future of that location and how its accessibility could factor in later in life. 

Choose what you want, but choose wisely. If you are buying your own plot of land to build on (opposed to buying a new home through a builder with predetermined land) you may need a different type of loan. Vacant lots can come higher interest rates and require larger deposits. Be sure to discuss your intentions with your bank so you can look at all of your options.

Getting the mortgage

Couple consulting with a mortgage broker

A construction loan can be obtained at any major bank or broker. The loan can be a fixed or variable rate depending on your preference and payment needs. 

Pro tip: fixed rate vs. variable rate

The difference between a fixed rate and a variable rate mortgage is fixed rates set the interest rate for the term of the loan, whereas the interest rate of a variable rate mortgage may go up or down depending on market conditions. 

Be sure to ask your lender the draw dates and percentage payout of their loan, as well as their inspection fee at each phase.


Smiling couple looking over constructions plans

Once you're approved (congratulations!), the construction mortgage can secure the purchase of land with an initial draw or pay off any existing loan if the property has already been purchased. 

You'll be able to request subsequent draws from the lender as the construction moves forward, pending inspection.


Woman looking over construction plans

Timing is the key to ensure everything runs smoothly. Consider the schedule around the completion of your project, including payment of subcontractors and inspection fees. You'll also want to consider the sale of your current home or whether you'll need to find a place to live in the meantime.


Custom designed living room with overlook from the second floor.

Once the scheduled construction is complete and on-time, the bank or lender will convert the loan into a mortgage with regular interest and principal payments. 

A construction loan/mortgage, coupled with the assistance of licensed, professional trades and contractors could be the key to your dream home! Imagine the satisfaction from moving into a house tailor-made just for you. 

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel.



How to Create a Brew-tiful DIY Coffee Bar at Home

Even though we all have the ability to make coffee at home, there's something comforting about recharging at our favourite coffee shop. Money doesn't matter, because we're not just paying for a $5 cup of coffee—we're paying for a vibe. Good tunes, dog-eared magazines and beat-up leather chairs pull you in like quicksand. And that sensory punch of ground beans and steamed milk? It's a delicious addiction.

The coffee shop is so beloved and ubiquitous that some modern workplaces have even gone so far as to emulate that coffee shop feel at the office. But why not take it a step further and recreate your favourite café atmosphere at home? 

When you break it down, the coffee bar “look” can easily be achieved with a few carefully curated items and essential equipment. Soon, you'll have friends and family dropping into your kitchen for a cup of java instead of the local!

Pick your style

Photo by Katlyn Giberson on Unsplash

First, nail down the design elements you love about your latte loafing headquarters. This is best determined by doing some research and visiting a few other shops to suss out the vibe. Do you gravitate towards the stark Scandi approach? Are you most at ease in an Industrial setting? Or do you err towards the comfortable, colourful cafés of bold Bohemia? Whatever your preferred design style, think about whether you're planning on working in your home café or simply want to use the space to hang out. 

Lighten up

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

Coffee shops generally rely on lots of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. The further recesses are easily warmed by floor lamps and swing arm reading lamps. If possible, create a café nook near a window and remember, pendant lights over countertops create ideal lighting for spreading out the weekend paper.

Shopping list: lighting

Scandinavian: Satin nickel LED floor lamps, drum-shaped wooden and metal flush mounts.

Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

Industrial: Foundry lamps, seven-light cluster pendants, oil-rubbed bronze caged ceiling lights, aviation-inspired double blade fans.

Photo by Tomas Jasovsky on Unsplash

Bohemian: Geometric pendants, Turkish Moroccan lanterns, aged brass pharmacy floor lamps, antique stain wicker blade fans.

Photo by Omar Tursić on Unsplash

Take a seat

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

It all comes down to ergonomics versus slouching. If your kitchen counter is going to double as a workstation, matte iron counter stools are sleek space-savers but aren't designed for the long haul. Window seats or banquettes offer casual flopping spots in micro spaces and can be piled up with throw cushions that lend to your look.

Shopping list: seating

Scandi: Polypropylene desk chairs, beech wishbone chairs with woven seats.

Photo by Blake Parkinson on Unsplash

Industrial: Drafting table stools, adjustable height swivel stools.

Photo courtesy of Jules Torti

Bohemian: Pear-shaped twill bean bags, Bardi's bowl chairs, howdah (traditionally used to carry people on the backs of elephants and camels), chunky knit or leather poufs.

Photo by jose aljovin on Unsplash

Against the wall

Ingridi Alves Photograph on Unsplash

Don't overlook the surface that allows you a free-range canvas of possibility! While you can rely on paint to achieve coffee shop coziness, textured options like faux brick walls will flip a room instantly. Consider open shelving with apothecary jars or hang unexpected art pieces like a spray-painted beach cruiser bike or an old axe or dart target board.

Shopping list

Scandi: Create your own blackboard surface with paint or visit a printer to design a retro vertical flat menu with your favourite or peculiar coffees from around the world like Scandinavian Egg Coffee. It's a thing!

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Industrial: If you don't live in a former warehouse with exposed brick, you can still achieve the look by purchasing faux brick wall panels and applying the German Schmear technique (a carefree whitewash of mortar and paint). It's a simple DIY with gratifying results.

Bohemian: This look offers so much freedom—from elephant tapestries, Batik designs, antlers or a collection of mismatched mirrors… anything goes.

In re-creating your favourite coffee shop at home, don't forget the vitals. Canvas friends for soundtrack requests or swap magazine piles. Grab games like Mahjong or The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game. Have an ongoing Scrabble board for drop-in players—everyone must leave a word.

Most importantly, start collecting cool mugs, buy good beans and hone those barista skills!



How Much Room Do You Need for a Kitchen Island?

Installing an island can enhance your kitchen in many ways, and with good planning, even smaller kitchens can benefit

A well-planned island layout can allow a smooth workflow and provide a comfortable space for preparing and cooking food. Islands also frequently provide space for dining, working and storage. But while a well-planned layout offers much enjoyment, a poorly planned island can be frustrating. This is particularly true if there is insufficient space for an island to begin with. If you’re considering a kitchen island, follow these tips to help you decide whether you have enough space to make an island work for you. And if you don’t, discover what else you can try.

RRSP vs. TFSA: Which is the Best Investment Tool for First-Time Home Buyers?

So you've decided you're ready to buy a home. Now the real work begins—saving enough money for a down payment.

“It's absolutely critical the down payment is a good size on a first home—somewhere in the range of 10 to 20%,” says Lesley-Anne Scorgie, a personal finance author. “The rationale simply being that the habit of saving is the same habit you'll need for actually owning a home—keeping up with the payments and preparing yourself and your bank account.”

There are many online mortgage calculators available to help you determine how much home you can afford.'s mortgage affordability calculator can help guide you through this entire process. It's important to save a healthy down payment to avoid, what could be, steep mortgage insurance fees.

To help, the federal government has set up a number of tools you can use to build up sizeable savings, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Each offer benefits for first-time home buyers to help them achieve their home purchasing goals.

a woman with her baby on her lap while working on a laptop

“For most first-time home buyers who earn an income of over $60,000, the RRSP is a very good choice, as they're building up their down payment while they receive the benefits of a reduced tax bill,” said Scorgie. “That money can then be put towards further beefing up their RRSP, with the ultimate goal of taking out the money for buying a home.”

First-time home buyers can use their RRSPs towards their down payment, which again, isn't taxed. Recently, the federal government's 2019 budget increased the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000. The repayment period starts two years after the funds are withdrawn, and one-fifteenth of the withdrawn funds need to be repaid each calendar year (over a max of 15 years) or it will be taxed as income.

“When you pool that with a spouse or a partner, they can each take out that amount in their RRSPs. When you have 15 years, that's a nice length of time to pay it back,” Scorgie said.

There is one drawback: When money is withdrawn from an RRSP, it's not invested in any financial markets but rather in the real estate market. Home buyers are trading off one market exposure for another. In real estate, your investment is exposed to the fluctuations of the local market. Meanwhile, money invested for the long-term in stocks, bonds or mutual funds is exposed to the changes in the financial market.

“If you feel you'd be better off making more money in the stock and bond market, keep your money there. Consider instead taking the money you need for the down payment out of a TFSA,” says Scorgie, adding it can also be a better option when household income is lower.

Young woman moving to a new apartment

For example, if you've been over 18 since 2009, you would have TFSA contribution limit of $63,500 in total; $5,000 for each year from 2009 to 2012; $5,500 for each of 2013 and 2014; $10,000 for 2015; $5,500 for each of 2016, 2017 and 2018; and $6,000 for 2019. (TFSAs were not available before 2009).

“If you invest your money in a TFSA, there's no penalty for using that money for a down payment. You can also re-contribute all that money back because you get your limit back. You can keep saving. There aren't many drawbacks,” Scorgie said.

In the end, it really comes down to a personal preference between an RRSP and a TFSA. According to Scorgie, you could also use both to improve your savings power.

“In expensive markets, it's very common to use both,” explains Scorgie. I would say 90% of first-time buyers in expensive markets have to use both because of the limit of the RRSP.”

Saving for a down payment is hard work, no matter how you choose to do it. Be sure to take advantage of all the savings tools at your disposal and, before long, your dream of homeownership could become a reality.

REALTOR® can help recommend a mortgage broker, online tools, and make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck when negotiating the sale of your first home.

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel.



Your Guide to Shopping for Home Insurance

Becoming a homeowner is about more than simply finding your dream home. Before closing a deal, you'll have secure your financing, complete inspections and set up your home insurance.

Insurance companies take many factors into consideration when compiling your quote, but they don't all ask the same questions. Quotes can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The goal when purchasing home insurance isn't just to find the lowest price. It's wise to speak to at least three different insurance companies (or a broker who will present you with quotes from multiple insurers) to compare prices and coverage, so you can find the plan that best suits your needs and budget. 

While some things are out of your control, like the age of your home or the area's risk of water damage or flooding, knowing which questions to ask and which details to provide can help you get the best price for the best coverage. Before you get stuck paying more than you need to, here are a few things to bring up to each company when you're shopping around for a quote.

Your existing policies

GIF of a mom with her child on her lap and a caption: "well, that sounds lie a good idea"Via Giphy

If you have an existing auto or life insurance policy, you could be eligible for a bundle discount. Speak to your existing insurance lender; this will set the bar when it comes to negotiating with other lenders, but don't automatically assume your agent will be giving you the best price.

When I moved from a condo to a detached home, even with bundled auto and home policies, a different insurance lender was able to provide me with a quote of nearly $250 less (for the same amount of coverage) than my existing insurer had quoted me. So always remember to shop around even if your existing lender offers you a discount.

Your credit score

a GIF of a boy handing a credit card over to a clerk with the caption; "put it all on my credit card my good man"Via Giphy

Credit scores aren't something most people think about when purchasing home insurance, but if you and your partner are buying a home together, try putting whoever has the higher score first on the application. For example, when my boyfriend and I swapped out his name for mine (my score is about 40 points higher), we managed to lower our quote by $300.

If you're buying a home solo, work on improving your score as much as possible before you begin the insurance application process. Pay off credit cards and student loans (if possible), and pay your bills on time. The higher your credit score, the more you could save.

Location and other details

GIF of a wolf using a pair of binoculars to search around a valley from the top of a clipVia Giphy

Many factors affect your home's insurability and insurers can't inquire over every detail. Make sure to point out any additional features making your home less of a liability. If you plan to revisit the home before closing, drive around the area and keep an eye out for a few things:

Fire hydrant: A fire hydrant on your property or across the street will lower your premium.

GIF of a minion flirting with a yellow fire hydrantVia Giphy

Sump pump: A sump pump is vital if the area has a high risk of flooding. If your home has a sump pump, your insurer may lower the water damage premium.

Fire or police stations: The closer your home is to a fire and/or police station, the lower your premium will be.

Security system: If the home doesn't have a security system but you'd like the added safety, let your insurer know, and find out which systems are eligible for the best insurance discounts. Installing the cheapest system won't necessarily save you money, but the right one can lower your premium by as much as 15 to 20%.

GIF of a spy obstructed by laser security system with the caption: "McCain we've got a problem."Via Giphy

The roof: Some homeowners forget to inform their insurance company when they make an update, such as replacing the roof. If the insurer has it on file your roof was last replaced in the ‘80s, but the shingles look brand new, have your REALTOR® contact the seller to determine whether they've been replaced recently. The newer the roof, the less of a liability and the lower your insurance premium.

Amount of coverage

GIF of a penguin pushing a bi red button with the caption: "I make my own options"Via Giphy

Depending on the home's location and the company you're dealing with, you may be able to choose to increase or decrease the amount of coverage you get for certain parts of the home. For example, if you're moving to a high water-risk zone and your home has a finished basement, coverage will be costlier; but if you plan to strip the basement past the drywall and rebuild it in a year or two, you might not feel the need to have such high coverage.

Once you've found your dream home, the hardest part of your house hunt is over. But you're not done just yet! Now, you still need to inspect it, pay for it, insure it and decorate it. A REALTOR® is a great resource for helping you make informed decisions and navigate the next steps. Armed with this knowledge, you can negotiate for the best possible insurance quote for the best coverage and save yourself money and headaches in the future.


The Burden of Beauty: Instagram-Famous Houses Are a Curse for Residents

It's not hard to see why Rue Crémieux is a hit on Instagram. The stretch of pastel-hued row houses that line the cobblestoned road of Paris' 12th arrondissement is so charming, so picture-perfect, it's become overrun with influencers staging elaborate photoshoots.

Residents are fed up. Antoine, a local resident spoke with radio station France Info about how the Insta tourists have disrupted his daily life.

“We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos—rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath the window or partygoers who scream for an hour,” he said. “Frankly, it's exhausting.”

There's even an Instagram account that pokes fun at some of the ridiculous photographs taken by tourists on the street. Shots include everything from over-the-top fashion shoots, yoga poses in doorways and flash mobs, to popping champagne bottles… you get the idea.

Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 
Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 
Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 

The candy-coloured houses on Crémieux are a relatively new phenomenon. In 1996, residents began painting their facades in bright hues in contrast to Paris' neutral palette. They could have never predicted their creative vision, emblematic of small-town European charm, would be a target for smartphone-wielding tourists. It's at the point residents are demanding the city close their street to visitors on evenings and on weekends.

Paris isn't the only city dealing with the dilemma of being too pretty for its own good. The picturesque neighbourhood of Notting Hill in London, England has its fair share of Insta-tourists flocking to their quiet neighbourhood, too.

Via marinelabezer on Instagram

Local Daphne Lamirel, who lives in the area, told The Standard she found the selfie-takers sweet at first. As their numbers grew, however, so did her annoyance. “The walls are quite thin and you can hear them laughing and directing photos from our living room,” Lamirel said, adding that on weekends, there are “at least four groups taking pictures at the same time.”

Via albabaig on Instagram

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the colourful Choi Hung apartment complex has gone so far as to post signs forbidding cellphone photoshoots. Vincent Yeung, who has lived at Choi Hung Estate almost his entire life, complained to the New York Times tourists are crowding the public basketball courts in front of his home. “There are too many people taking photos here,” he said. “My friends have gone elsewhere to play.”

Via jutaviajando on InstagramVia helenabordon on Instagram

Other residents aren't phased by the Insta-loving tourists. “It's nostalgic to see an old estate like this now attracting tourists,” explained K. Pang, who spent his childhood in Choi Hung. “I think it's pretty good, to make this place a tourist spot. It's better than not having people here.”

Indeed, it seems Instagram-famous homes and the locals have a dilemma. On the one hand, people love to experience beautiful homes, take photos and share them with the world. On the other hand, should residents have to deal with the added ruckus?

Thankfully, the days of perfectly posed pictures in front of pastel houses may soon be overThe Atlantic reports the carefully staged, candy-coated aesthetic on Instagram is giving way to more authentic, less manufactured images on the platform. As Lynsey Eaton, a co-founder of the influencer-marketing agency Estate Five explains, “the pink wall and avocado toast are just not what people are stopping at anymore.”

Of course, an appreciation for beautiful homes will never go out of style and you're certainly allowed to take photos when you travel. But it’s one thing to snap a picture on a pretty street; it's quite another to sit on the stoop of someone's home or use their windows as the backdrop for your music video.

If you absolutely must snap a photo, be respectful. Don't trespass; porches are private property, not your personal playground. Avoid staging lengthy, elaborate photo shoots and put your camera away if you see locals quietly enjoying their stoops in peace. A little consideration goes a long way.



A Guide to Smart Home Hubs and Devices

As use of smart home technology continues to grow, it's hard to keep up with what's out there, what's compatible and how it all works together. Setting up your smart home can be as simple as putting a device in your living room or as complicated as installing a system of interconnected devices that speak to each other; how intricate you want to get is completely up to you. Keep in mind, however, not every system will be compatible with every product.

Check out our guide to setting up your smart home and control your lighting, security, thermostat, music and more with these smart devices and hubs.

Entertainment and assistants

a smart speaker on a pile of booksPhoto by Andres Urena on Unsplash

The simplest “smart devices” are voice command speakers. Consumers can choose from an assortment of smart home systems, including Amazon's Alexa and EchoGoogle HomeApple HomeKitSamsung's Smart Things and more. These devices are typically voice command-activated and can do things like stream music,read news headlines, set reminders or tell you what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. In some instances, you can link up your smartphone and make hands-free calls, send messages and even answer calls. You can also find nearby open houses with the skill for Amazon Alexa. For those of you not using an Amazon Echo, no problem, simply download the Amazon Alexa app and enable the skill for Alexa to use on your phone!

Security systems

a person using a smartphone to open a smart lock on a front door

Security products like cameras and alarm systems tend to be most people's first foray into home automation. Smart door locks, alarm systems, cameras and movement sensors can offer peace of mind when you're away from home. August Smart Lock is an easy way to lock and unlock your doors remotely through a phone app, making it popular for offices and shared workspaces. The Skybell Doorbell lets you see who's at your door and speak to them through your phone, even if you're not home. Plus there are many alarm system starter kits out there, like Nest SecureGo AbodeSimpliSafe and more.

Energy savers and automation

a smart thermostat on a wallPhoto by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash

It's nice having things done for us, isn't it? One study suggests 1 in 6 Canadians have invested in some kind of home automation. Some of this automation makes our lives a bit easier—like scheduling the coffee maker to brew when your alarm goes off in the morning—but some can help save energy, too. LIFX smart light bulbs are Wi-Fi enabled and can be programmed to illuminate whenever you want, in a variety of colours. Smart thermostats like those from NestHoneywell and Ecobee, use sensors to help improve your home's energy efficiency by perceiving how many people are in a room and adjusting the temperature accordingly. They also allow you to make adjustments remotely from your smartphone. (In larger homes, you may need additional sensors).

The “home hub”

Photo by Status Quack on Unsplash

All of this technology can get overwhelming pretty quickly. If you want to be able to control everything from a single interface rather than delving into a dozen different apps, you're going to need a home hub. Smart speakers can only communicate directly with devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so if you're trying to automate your light bulbs or thermostat, you might need a software hub to unify your devices.

Most home hubs will be able to discover your other devices. Although technically not classified as hubs, Amazon Echo and Google Home have “Works With Google Assistant” and “Works with Alexa” programs so you'll know which devices will be compatible. (For example, Honeywell, Nest and Ecobee are just a few smart thermostats that work with Alexa). In addition, the Amazon Echo Plus works as a ZigBee hub. ZigBee and Z-Wave are alternatives to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and operate on a mesh network to control your devices.

It's important to note that while these devices can be helpful, you will need to do your research, as no one app controls every smart device on the market. Prioritize which features matter most and build from there. Before long, you'll have the smartest house on the block.



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Will Solar Panels Add Resale Value to Your Home?

Solar technology is more reliable, more efficient and more affordable than ever. As some Canadians opt to harness the power of the sun, let's look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of going solar in 2019. 

Things to consider 

solar panels of the roof of a house

Unlike sunny California, Canada has long winters and fewer hours of sun during the colder months, making nuclear and hydroelectric power dominant in the Canadian power market. Although large-scale solar panels aren't always viable, there's ample opportunity to harness the power of solar at home all year, especially if you have a large roof with great sun exposure.

According to installer Adam Coughlin from Bison Solar, the broader and flatter your roof, the better. Steep or complete roofscapes aren't as conducive to solar panels.

solar panels of the roof of a house

If you have land to spare, you can install numerous or larger solar cells mounted on poles, for larger Kilowatt (kW) returns. The output power cable will have to be trenched back to the property to hook up with the main power feed.

the output cable of a solar panel on a roof of a house

Costs and savings

solar panels of the roof of a house

The upfront cost of installing solar panels is its biggest deterrent. While there's is no federal government rebate or tax incentive for installing solar panels, there are a handful of provincial and regional incentives to help with installation costs and offering rebates by selling your power back to the grid. Even with incentives and rebates, the initial costs can range from $15,000 – $25,000 depending on the size of the system. However, these costs have greatly improved over the years and are only poised to get better thanks to innovative technology.

“The price of solar has come way down from the olden days,” Paige Campbell, a Canadian who works for a company offering solar services around the world said. “There are amazing quality panels coming from Asia, which are in the $100s now and not $1,000s.”

The national average cost, including all components, installation and fees, adds up to approximately $3.07 per watt. For an average 7.5 kW system, you're looking at around $21,000 up front.

Solar offers savings because many provinces are beyond grid parity. You'll save on your monthly electric bill and in some cases, for systems under 500 kW, the extra power can go back into the power grid and be sold back to your power company for credit.

However, depending on solar power as your only energy source can have its drawbacks. When there's a power loss, due to a storm, for example, you'll lose power as well. Homeowners may want to consider investing in a backup generator.

a transformer on the side of a house that connects the solar panels to the existing home power supply feedPower coming from roof-mounted panels, directed into switching and the transformer then feeding into the existing home power supply feed on left.

In Ontario, the Net-Metering program allows for any electricity generated to pump back into the grid and result in a credit on your power bill. Ontario is the largest producer of solar power in systems below 500 kW due to various now-defunct programs like GreenOn and Feed-In-Tariff.

How does it affect my resale value?

a Tesla electric vehicle charger

With the proliferation of EV cars and the reduction in panel costs, solar energy is becoming a more desirable selling feature for a home. Solar panels can last up to 25 years and one American study found home buyers see them as an attractive upgrade, much like a renovated kitchen.


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