I have always wanted hollyhocks growing in the yard. You know, those tall stems with multiple flowers that bloom for a couple of months every summer. They come in lovely pinks, peaches, reds and maroons.
Maybe I read too many English Murder Mysteries with hollyhocks surrounding the sorry victims thatched cottage. Whatever. We have tried to grow hollyhocks and failed. Sounds like nonsense talk because, as you know, everyone can grow hollyhocks. We have even walked down back lanes and picked seed buds from hollyhocks that were growing like weeds thinking if they could grow in those conditions, they could grow in our yard.
Well, success at last. Several years of trying and here is the hollyhock in our yard. I was asked to go out and ensure that I took photos so that, should next year not be as good, we will have this memory preserved.
Thank goodness that we finally had…….
A Hollyhock on Gwynne
This is a story that is being repeated all over the country. Boomers want to downsize. This is hardly a surprise. The surprise or even shock is that it is going to cost them money to live in less space. To some, it is so appalling that they have decided to stay in their current home.
Boomers own their home in the suburbs. Most are mortgage free. The home has four bedrooms, three baths, a family room, a rec room in the basement, two or three car garage and a huge yard full of trees and shrubs and maybe a pool. Okay, there may be variations of this but the essence is – the boomers own family friendly property. Now…… The kids have finished school and left the nest. The Boomers are rattling around a big house and find that they live in the kitchen – family room space and their bedroom. It seems that it is time to move to something smaller.
Here is the rub. The new home or condo may cost more than the proceeds from the sale of the big home in the suburbs. What?
- The market has reacted to the demand for large condos and retirement homes by placing a premium on the sales price. Remember, the Boomers are a tidal wave moving through demographic data. If you, a Boomer, are thinking of downsizing then so are millions of your fellow 1946-1964 birthday buddies. Simple supply and demand economics at work.
- Your lovely home is a wee bit tired. Forty plus years of the same kitchen, with the wrought iron railings, pink carpet, parquet flooring and paneled rec room is telling the story. Although you have house size you have a house waiting for updating and renovations. Your home is not competitive. It is not giving Buyers what they want in updates.
- You want to move but you are certainly not going to settle for apples to apples. Your tastes are now refined and you want granite and a bungalow backing on a golf course with grounds keepers or the whole top floor of a condo in the downtown area. You are selling a MacIntosh apple to buy an organically grown Star Fruit. Would you be happy buying the little bungalow down the block from your current home with the need for the same updates as your current home? Would you be happy with the location? No?
After finding out that their home is not the gold mine that they hoped for, many potential Boomer Sellers make the decision to stay in their current home. In some cases, the Boomer will update the family home, adjust the buying expectations and make the move at a later time.
Photo Credit: UK Baby Boom and Bust by David Willets
Today is the perfect day for trimming back tree limbs, especially those that are hanging dangerously over your or your neighbour’s house. Last year, Brain Madigan (my favourite lawyer and real estate expert in Canada) wrote a wonderful post about the Liability of Fallen Trees. It is such a popular post that it is on the first page of google when I went searching for the legal aspects of fallen trees and branches. I highly encourage you to read and follow Brian’s blog. He provides amazing advice.
December is the perfect month in Ontario and most of Canada for cutting back trees. It is cold and the leaves have fallen so the crew can see all of the branches that need trimming. The sap flow has slowed so the branches are denser and easier on the chain saw. It is hard physical labour so the crew is not at risk of passing out from the heat and not so cold that they need to wear their heaviest and warmest clothes.
Our neighbour has a wonderful yard full of trees. One tree has a limb that seriously overhangs the roof of our house. We have discussed what to do about that limb. The neighbour is a great guy, very responsible and very neighbourly. Today, a whole crew showed up to trim back his trees and remove the huge branch that overhangs our roof. Apparently a crane will be coming this afternoon to do the proper job of removing the big branches. Right now, there are three guys, a chipper and their equipment truck. I cannot wait for the real action this afternoon when the crane arrives.
Doing this work is not cheap. We have also asked this company to trim the branches of two small trees in our backyard. No cranes needed and it can be done by hand. This will cost just over $100, I can only imagine that the work our neighbour is having done will be in the thousands. What is the cost of peace of mind – for us – with that huge branch removed. Immeasurable.
If you are thinking of selling your home in the next 12 to 24 months and have trees that need some work, now is the perfect time to get the job done.
Good fences make good neighbours as do well trimmed trees.
This work was done by: Joe Trudeau, Premier-Treeservice.com Cell: 613-880-5233
Photo Credit: Taken from the second floor window, Nikon D90
Yesterday I bought a bird.
We went to the Lansdowne Market. Normally, the market ends in the fall but the Cattle Barn has been let to the local producers for a few Sundays. The guidelines for the market are locally produced goods and food within a 100 mile radius – with the exception of fruit from Niagara. It was a bit of a surprise to see how many crafters have rented booths. It was the best of both worlds – shopping for food and for gifts. There is one more Sunday (December 18th) left to go and get your baking, bread, meat, fall veggies and hand crafted goods.
I found a wonderful booth of wire-made ornaments, wall hangings and free standing birds. I fell in love with a gorgeous little crow. This is the photo of the little guy settling into the bookcase. The artist, Denise Atkinson, said that this was her favourite bird so far, that the irregularity of his wings is true. I had to have him and know that there will never be another identical bird.
I have noticed that we like to decorate with birds. Since the beginning of time, man has used birds in his art – they symbolize energy and freedom. There is significant symbolism for each bird, many that we seem to know intuitively. When I looked around, I found that
- Crows: Intelligence, crafty and omens of change
- Doves: Peace and faith
- Bluebirds: Happiness
- Peacock: Abundance and good luck
- Rooster: Ward off evil (is that why the black rooster is so common in some kitchens?)
- Cranes: Longevity
If you are decorating or staging your home for sale, look at birds as part of the decorations and check what symbolism they reflect.
It is a rare bird who is not attracted to avian decorations.
When you finally put your house on the market, the real estate agent is going to ask you for a set of keys that prospective Buyers and their agent can use to get in the house and the yard. Well in advance of the sale, make sure that you have that set of keys made and then put away all the other keys that are scattered everywhere in your house.
Managing keys reduces time you spend every day locating keys that you need or looking at keys and wondering what they open. Also, it is a security risk to leave keys all over the house when you have an Open House or unattended visitors. Here are 5 tips on how to manage your keys.
- Always put your keys in the same spot in your purse or briefcase and, when you get home, in the same spot in the house. This will save you months of time over the years that you would normally spend searching for keys.
- Tag all the keys in your house. Sometimes we don’t use a key for a couple of years and then are left wondering what the key opens. Especially tag the neighbour’s key and the key to your relatives’ homes so that you can find them in a hurry – should you get the emergency calls.
- Find a nice tin and put all the spare and infrequently used keys in this one spot. You will be able to quickly find those tageed luggage keys, safety deposit box keys, locker keys, shed keys, cottage keys, your parents’ home keys, etc. We do have a lot of keys to keep.
- Many key shops sell fancy metals for their keys. If you have trouble distinguishing keys on your chain, try having them made in leopard print, blue and the third one in flowers.
- Never leave your whole key ring at the auto repair shop. Find a key ring where you can remove your key – or better yet – give them your spare key so that you will be able to keep a car key yourself.
Photo credit: Keys 1
One thing most home inspectors will verify is the age and condition of the windows in a home. Of course some money was likely spent on making the house look good – a lick of paint, a good cleaning and some flowers inside and out. However, the real money (thousands of dollars) may not have been spent on replacing old leaky windows.
My house in the Glebe needed new windows as it was over 100 years old. No one likes putting up the winter/storm windows every fall and taking them down in the spring. They were single pane windows and highly inefficient. It cost approximately $12,000 to do the windows. Overall I used an average of $1,000 per window – some far less and some far more plus installation on a three storey house.
If you are buying a house get to know how to date windows and understand the cost of replacing windows if they are close to the end of their usefulness.
Photo credit: Old Window @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/doc-adams/3857296378/
Before buying your house along the river find out the history of flooding on that section of the river. Most rivers, with residential property on the banks, have a conservation authority that established building rules (such as proximity to the bank, type of construction and plantings). Go to the Authority and find out the flooding history.
Don’t get sandbagged into buying the wrong property.
Stippled or popcorn ceilings have been popular to builders for decades. The drywaller or painter would be hired to tape off the dry walled ceiling and then, rather than do the fine sanding and make the joins invisible, stippling was added. This covered any and all imperfections. Once up, this application is a real bugger to remove.
Times change and Buyers and Owners seem to hate stippled ceilings. Removing stippled ceilings is not for the faint of heart. You need a shower cap and cape, you need a lot of water to loosen the stippling and you need plastic sheet to cover everything in the room including you. Wet – scrape – wet – scrape – wet – scrape. This is followed by: drywall – tape – sand – mud – sand – mud – paint. Now you know why those stippled ceilings are still around. If you consider this process also consider hiring someone to come in and do the ceilings professionally. An alternative is to drywall right over the stippling / popcorn and start fresh. Using ceiling tiles in fancy material and patterns is another way to hide the stippling. Whatever your decision on your ceilings, minimize the odd and bizarre.
Be proud of the house you are selling.
Ottawa summers are very humid. Just check the humidex and you will see that being located in a valley impacts the temperature and level of discomfort with June, July and August being the worst. Now, if you are buying a house in Ottawa don’t be surprised to see a dehumidifier working non-stop in the basement. In some houses, the owner has not run the line to the drain and there is a beeping sound because the tank is full. On really hot days in summer, the tank can fill up overnight. Having a dehumidifier is essential. Not using one can often lead to problems.
With moisture being a house buying issue, Buyers need to be aware that a running dehumidifier may be disguising problems that the owner has not be attending to over the past years. Is there a musty smell? Another sign is a lot of room deodorizers in the basement. Can you see water forming on the windows? Is there visible black mold in the corners of rooms or in the basement along the baseboards. Have the home inspector test for humidity levels. If the level is above 45% and it is in the middle of winter then humidity is an issue resulting in bacteria, mold, mildew and wood rot.
Watch and smell for all the warning signs of high humidity.
Photo credit: CIMG1106 @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcasimir/3709152335/in/photostream/
During a home inspection, you will be looking for evidence of water related problems with the house. A look at the roof, a look at the slope of land away from the house, peeling of paint inside and outside the house, mould on the walls and in the basement, etc. There are serious implications (cost and structural) to water damage.
In addition to the obvious structural issues, there are many water related things to investigate. Here are a few:
- To see if the water pressure is going to be adequate for your needs, set the dishwasher, washing machine and shower going. See if there is enough pressure.
- Some older homes do not have regulators on the water temperature in the shower/tub. Check by turning the shower on and then flush a toilet. Does the water go from water to boiling hot? What happens to the water pressure?
- Fill the therapeutic tub (water over the jets) and then turn on the motor. Do all the jets work? Is the noise level bearable? Replacing a motor on a tub cost several hundred dollars plus labour.
- Turn on the dishwasher and wash machine – if these appliances are included in the purchase. Do they work? If you are bringing your own, measure the space to ensure they will fit. Not all appliances are the same size.
- If it is spring through fall, try out the exterior taps. Do they work? Remember, some owners have turned off the water during the winter so you need to find the shut off valve.
- Do all the taps, toilets and appliances have shut off valves? In the middle of a leak, it is hard to remember where the main valve for the house is located. Again, shut off valves can be installed. The plumber’s visit may end up costing hundreds of dollars if there are a number of valves and if they are difficult to install.
- If the home is an apartment condo and there is no room for a washer/ dryer, find out where the laundry room is and the condition of the room and machines. Is there going to be a yuck factor every time you do a load of wash?
The devil is in the details of your home inspection.
Photo credit: lost thoughts @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawee/3469678953/