5 Reasons to STOP Renting



5 Reasons to STOP Renting Now

If you’ve been contemplating homeownership, now is the time to make a move! Burlington and Oakville are great places to purchase your affordable first home and the market is moving.


Long term Wealth

When you pay rent, you are paying someone else’s mortgage down and you’ll never see that money again.  Yes, buying a home may come with some initial costs (downpayment, closing costs, land transfer tax), but there are many options for you.  You don’t have to have a 20% downpayment anymore.  Yes that’s ideal but there are other options.  You will make that money back over time in equity built in the home. In the GTA, homes appreciate by about 5 to 8 % a year. Some areas are still experiencing higher than normal appreciation rates. Homeownership is about building long-term wealth.


When you have a fixed-rate term on your mortgage it’s predictable. Most people buying homes today know that a fixed-rate is the way to go. This means your payment amount is fixed for the life of the term. For example: If your mortgage is fixed in a 5 year term and the payment is $1000 today, then it will still be $1000 a month in 5 years. This allows you to budget and make solid financial plans. Homeownership generally comes with a predictable table of expenditures. Even the big purchases are predictable.

Low Interest Rates

It’s a great time to buy! Interest rates are at historic lows.  This means big savings for today’s buyers. If you have steady income and cash for a downpayment, then be sure to talk to me about what homes could be a fit for you.  I also have great mortgage contacts eager to help the first time buyer.


Homeownership means you “own” your home. You can renovate, update, paint, and decorate to your heart’s desire. You can plant trees, install a pool, expand the patio, or do holiday decorating ~ your style. The bottom line is it’s your home and you can personalize it to your taste. Most renters are stuck with the same beige walls and beige carpet that has been standard apartment decor for 20 years. Now is your chance to let your style personality come out!


Renters tend to see their neighbours come and go quickly. Some people sign year leases while others are in the community for much shorter terms. Apartment complexes also tend to have less common shared space for people to meet, greet, and socialize. Homeowners, however, have yards & walking trails. Neighbours stay put much longer at least three to five years or even longer. This means more time to develop relationships. Research has shown that people with healthy relationships have more happiness and less stress.

Homeownership can be a real joy. It’s time to get in on the action and buy a home that is right for you!

Get in touch with me today to see how easy the homeownership process can be.  jennifer@jenniferbirch.ca  or call me @ 905-633-4607

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2011 – Check out #3

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2011

Which cities have the best weather? The lowest crime rates? The highest incomes? Canada’s most trusted ranking has the answers.

By MoneySense staff | Online only, 29/03/11

Home | Best Cities List | Map | Articles | Galleries | Podcast | Methodology

In a country as large and diverse as Canada, it’s only natural for comparisons to be drawn between cities. Which is more livable, Edmonton or Halifax? Is Vancouver better than Calgary for raising a family? Which city is best for retirees?

This is what drives us at MoneySense magazine to publish our Canada’s Best Places to Live list. We look at empirical, objective criteria such as housing affordability, incomes, job prospects, crime rates and access to health care. Even weather is taken into account. Information is taken from the Census Metropolitan Areas, Census Agglomeration and Statistics Canada.

We include every community with a population of more than 10,000 people — 180 cities and towns in all. Each one is ranked in more than 20 different categories for a final figure out of a possible 105 points. The scores are close (we go to four decimal places) and no city is perfect. Only two scored higher than 70, and just barely.

We don’t expect everyone to agree with our findings. What makes a city appealing for one person may make it unlivable for another. We’re often asked, “what about the scenery, or the community spirit?” The fact is there are plenty of subjective, intangible criteria that we intentionally leave out of our formulas for the simple reason that they cannot possibly be measured. Our list simply provides a fact-based comparison from which people can make their own decisions on where people would like to live.

Here are the top ten:

#10: Winnipeg, MB

The capital of Manitoba and home to 60% of the province’s population slipped one spot from last year. It can boast of low pollution, great public transit and a thriving cultural scene, but crime is above average and the winters can be brutal. However, access to health care is good and unemployment is low.

#9: Repentigny, QC

Celine Dion’s hometown just outside of Montreal slipped three spots from last year. On the plus side, low real estate prices and even lower crime rates make Repentigny an attractive place to live. The city ranks 7th in new cars on the road (a measure of prosperity) and has an extensive transit system — a good thing considering it ranks 161st in the ability to walk or bike to work.  However, this is balanced out by easy access to health care.

#8: Edmonton, AB

Alberta’s capital cracks the top ten this year, jumping 7 spots thanks to low taxes, high levels of discretionary income and an extensive public transit system. With temperatures sinking lower than 0 degrees C 178 days a year, weather may pose a problem for some. Higher than average housing prices and crime rates also hold the city back from a better score, but scant precipitation, low pollution levels and high household incomes from the recent oil boom balance this out to make Edmonton a great place to live.

#7: Brandon, MB

Manitoba’s second largest city kept its spot this year thanks to a stellar unemployment rate (second only to Estevan, SK), low real estate prices and tax rates and clean air. The city has room to improve in terms of crime and household discretionary income, but this is made up by the low number of rainy days and plenty of access to health care.

#6: Fredericton, NB

The New Brunswick capital has a lot going for it, including the 2nd lowest time required to buy a home (after Timmins, ON), very reasonable real estate prices and low unemployment. While the city is suffers from above-average crime rates and cold, rainy weather, this is balanced out by low taxes and healthy household income levels.

#5: St. Albert, AB

This Edmonton suburb gets top marks for low taxes and high household and discretionary income. Throw in low unemployment, a steadily growing population and above-average access to doctors and health care professionals and you’ve got a very nice place to live. However, St. Albert has room to improve regarding house prices (154th), and you can forget about walking or biking to work (163rd).

#4: Kingston, ON

The former capital of the united Canadas has slipped two places from last year, but only by one point. Kingston ranks 12th for walking or biking to work, and is above average in almost all criteria save for pollution (116th) and the number of new cars on the road (107th). Kingstonians have some of the best access to healthcare in the country, ranking 2nd in doctors per 1000 people and 13th in the percentage of health professionals.

#3.  Burlington, ON

This southern Ontario suburb remains in third spot this year thanks mainly to low taxes and high household and discretionary income. It has room to improve in terms of real estate prices (ranked 157th) but that’s the price to pay for the second lowest overall crime rate in the country after Caledon, ON.

#2: Victoria, B.C.

The temperate B.C. capital has jumped six spots from last year, thanks to low provincial income and sales taxes, low pollution and a steady job market. Plus, it ranks 5th overall for Victorians’ ability to walk or bike to work. While Victoria suffers from high real estate prices (it came in 170th out of 180), it cracked the top ten list for both culture and number of days per year above 0 degrees.

And the winner is …

For the second year in a row, Ottawa-Gatineau takes the top spot in our rankings. What does it have that other cities don’t? In a word, consistency. It does not rank particularly high in any individual category but it comes in above average across the board. It has jobs, accessible doctors, low crime, and household incomes and real estate are not drastically misaligned. There is a wealth of museums and galleries keep the culture-lover occupied, and the hostile winters are balanced out by beautiful summers.

How to Fund your Renovation Project?



Finding money for your renovation project can be tough.  Unless Grandma is handing you money you may be stuck looking for ways to fund your renovation project.  In the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) flipping houses can be a good investment but it has to be done right without breaking your budget.


Here are some ways to help you get the money you need to get you started on your project.If you aren’t doing all the renos youself and will be hiring a contractor,ask the contractor if he/she is willing to be a partner in your venture.  You can offer them a slice of the investment in exchange for their work.  If they are interested in this investment you can be assured they will do their best work on the house.


First and foremost as I’ve said in earlier posts – make sure you come up with a very realistic budget.  One that involves the unexpected expenses that come up with every project.  You don’t want any surprises that will cost you and extra $5000 – $10,000


Do your homework!!  Know what’s going on in the market in the area where the house is located.  If there are lots of older homes that have not been taken care of it may not be worth it for you to put top dollar into your house/investment.  You know that old saying “Location, Location, Location!”  Well, this is a time to be absolutely sure that the money you put in will also get you a return.


Know where to spend your money – there’s pretty cosmetic fixes and there’s necessary fixes – Know the difference!


Contact a Realtor – they know the market better than any one else.


If you aren’t doing all the renos youself and will be hiring a contractor,ask the contractor if he/she is willing to be a partner in your venture.  You can offer them a slice of the investment in exchange for their work.  If they are interested in this investment you can be assured they will do their best work on the house.


 If you decide to use a partner make sure you have each other’s roles and responsibilities in writing to avoid blurred lines and hurt relationships.  Creating some kind of contract give each person a very clear understanding of what is expected of them and also what they will get in the end.


Now to get to the Money Part:


Talk to your bank or mortgage broker.  There are options for you to get money to use towards an investment, however there are lots of restrictions.  Borrowing on a line of credit may be one way of doing it if you can convince the lender that the return will be a good one.

In Canada we hear a lot about the Smith Manoeuvre – something you can check out. We also hear a lot about the Manulife One mortgage option – talk to your lender or Financial Advisor about how this works.  Another way is to borrow from your RRSP’s  or if you have a property with a lot of equity in it then you can get a second mortgage on it to finance your new investment.  These are just a few of the creative solutions you can talk to your lender or Financial Advisor about.  If you have the desire to get this project done then your passion will lead you to the right people.

If you have questions about the Real Estate Market or Renovations in the Burlington, Oakville or surrounding areas, contact me today.  Jennifer Birch 905-633-4607


What’s the Market Doing?


I get this question every week when I talk to people.  Everyone wants to know How’s the market? Is it stable? When is a good time to buy/sell?

In Canada we have been blessed with a very steady and stable market for the past 15-20 years with slight variations.  Our current market continues to be stable.

 Here’s a look at what happened this summer:



Sales activity was stable for July and August but posted another big year over year gain reflecting weakened demand in the summer of 2010.

For a second consecutive month, national home sales activity held steady in August 2011 when compared to July.

Toronto and Ottawa posted a monthly increase in activity while Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver saw a slight decline in activity.


YTD sales pulled ahead of 2010 levels for the first time this year, and remain in line with the ten-year average.


Stayed firmly fixed in balanced territory. There were more balanced local markets in August than at any other time on record.
 The national average price posted another year-over-year gain in August, but has moderated from elevated levels earlier this year.

Fewer expensive sales and a declining share of national activity in Vancouver and Toronto have lead to an upward tilting of the national average price.


If you are a homeowner, your home’s value has increased and if you are thinking of selling you may want to get a free home market to see what your home is worth today. 

Call me at 905-407-3274 to book your complimentary appointment.


With interest rates continuing to be low, it is a great time to talk to a Mortgage Professional.  I have information that can help you start the journey to homeownership.

Contact me to find out more.


Whether Selling or Buying in the Oakville Burlington area,

 I help you with all your Real Estate needs.”

Source:  According to statistics1 released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA),

Closing Day – Be Prepared




Closing day in a house deal is a milestone for both the seller and the buyer. To make it go smoothly, it is very important that both buyer and the seller are properly prepared.

Sellers Closing Day Checklist:

1. Make sure you have given your lawyer a copy of any deed, mortgage, survey and current property tax bills. You should have received these from your lawyer when you bought the house.

2. Do not cancel your household insurance policy until you have heard that the deal has closed. Also, if you are moving out more than 30 days before closing, you need to notify your insurer that the home will be vacant. This way, you will still be covered if anything happens in the home up to the closing date.

3. You will visit your lawyer a few days before closing to sign the papers. Make sure you give one set of keys to give to your lawyer, which will be passed on to buyer’s lawyer at closing.

4. If you are a non-resident of Canada, you must obtain a certificate from Canada Revenue Agency regarding any income tax payable, or else the buyer will be holding back 25 % of the sale price until you do get it. Non-resident means you have not lived in Canada at least 183 total days in the past year before the closing day.  This can take up to two months so let your lawyer know right away so that the proper application can be filed.

5. Have all your utility meters read on the day of closing. That way you will only be responsible for your share of utilities. Also notify your cable and telephone provider so that your service can be disconnected. If your house is heated with an oil tank, you need to make arrangements to fill the tank on the closing day.

6. Cancel any pre-authorized or postdated cheques at your bank, to make sure you don’t pay for anything after closing.

7. As you have to be out of the property when it closes, arrange to move out before 5 p.m.

Buyers Closing Day Checklist:

1. Schedule your pre-closing visit shortly before closing, so that you can conduct your final inspection to make sure that the home is in the same condition as when you signed the offer.

2. Arrange moving time late in the afternoon, as that is likely when the seller will have moved out. If it is a condominium, and you need use of the elevator, contact the management company well in advance of closing to reserve the elevator.

3. Fire insurance must be arranged for the full replacement cost of the home. If it is a condominium, you need a policy to protect your contents and liability. Do not leave this to the last minute.

4. If you are arranging a mortgage for less than 20 per cent down, the bank will be deducting certain costs, such as mortgage insurance, appraisal fees and HST. Find out early what all these deductions will be, as you will have to come up with any difference needed to close your deal. Make sure you have provided the lender with all required proof of income, or down payment well in advance so that it does not delay the money.

5. Your lawyer will be receiving a statement of adjustments just before closing. This could add to your closing costs if the seller has prepaid some expenses, especially property taxes. Find out exactly what this is as it can add up to 0.5 per cent more to what you may owe.

6. You will need to deliver, at least 2 days before closing, the balance of money needed for your lawyer to close the deal, by certified cheque, money order or bank draft.

7. Let the lawyer know how you will be taking title to the property. If you take as joint tenants and one of you passes away, the other party immediately becomes the owner. If you take as tenants in common, you can transfer your interest to a beneficiary under your will.

8. Tell your lawyer to order title insurance for you. This will protect your property against title defects, survey issues, work orders and frauds while you own the property.

9. Arrange for your cable and telephone providers to install service on the day of closing or immediately after closing.

10. Contact the utility companies, to make sure they read the meters on closing, so that you are only responsible for charges after you move in.

Being prepared in advance will ease the stress of closing day and hopefully begin the creation of happy memories for you and your family.



Are you wondering if you should do some renovations before you sell your house? Wondering if the aggravation and money spent will be worth it in the end? If you are thinking of doing some renos to get your house ready to sell – keep reading.

Here are some renovation suggestions:

Curb appeal – This might sound like a no – brainer but cut your lawn and keep it nice and short. Edge the garden, plant some colourful flowers and lay down some mulch. A little under $100 can make your curb appeal pop. Fix all cracks in the walkways, and dig out those weeds between any interlocking brick. If pulling weeds is not your thing pay your kids to do it or pay a neighbours kids to do it, kids are always looking for ways to make money. Give your front door and garage doors a fresh coat of paint (after you take off the flaky paint). Hang flower boxes or plant some big pots by the front door. There is a large Home Depot in the Rio Can centre off of Burloak in Oakville and it is a great place to get ideas and they have a range of products that can fit any budget. Spending a few hours on the front of your house will ensure that it is appealing for any potential buyers.

Upgrade the kitchen – One of the biggest return on your investment will be in the kitchen and in Burlington and Oakville, people expect a decent kitchen. Buyers want granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, modern cabinets and hardware and updated light fixtures. Not sure where to start? Pick up a House & Home decorating magazine or Style at Home. Both are Canadian publications and they will give you a visual picture of what people in the GTA and across Canada are looking for in homes. IKEA, just off of Plains Road in Burlington is a great place to start looking for a budget friendly update. Home Depot would be your next step. There are also many DIY (Do it yourself) stores out there where you can pick and choose from bargain pieces that were floor models. Expect to spend anywhere from $500 and up depending on how dated your kitchen is.

Beautiful bathrooms – After kitchens, bathrooms are the next place in your house that will see the biggest return on investment. Granite countertops, modern faucets and light fixtures and tile floors are popular with buyers. The more you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save. Expect to spend about $200 – $1500. You can save even more by buying store floor models for sinks and vanities or going to ReStore at 1800 Appleby Line in Burlington it is a great place to find used or slightly damaged products.

Basements – If you have the money, consider finishing your basement properly. If you have an older home and it’s got the good old wood paneling then consider painting it. This is a budget friendly way to update and neutralize the space. It will make your basement appear large and open. If you have cement walls, talk to a contractor to see what the cost would be for dry walling the basement. If you don’t know a contractor – I’ve got a great guy who can help you out – just give me a call. Another thing to consider is that if your basement has old carpeting you may want to replace it. If it’s been there for years there is probably a bit of a smell that goes along with it. Basements are prone to dampness and removing the smell will be more appealing to potential buyers.

Before starting any renovations, make sure you do your homework.

Think about what you want to do
Make a budget
Figure out what you can do yourself
Contact a contractor for jobs you don’t want to do
Don’t go overboard or you won’t get your money back
One last thing my father always said: Remember to measure twice and cut once!

If you have any questions about Renovations please contact me and I would be happy to help you out. I can be reached at 905-407-3274 or you can email me @ jennifer@jenniferbirch.ca

Renovation 911

Flipping Houses – It’s easy right?

 HGTV has so many great shows that feature flipping houses as a great way to make money.  It looks messy but fun AND you can make a profit!  We watch them with voyeuristic pleasure and wonder if we could do the same thing.

What the TV shows do not allow us to see is the aggravation that comes with trying to get all the renovations done on time and within budget.

As someone who has flipped a few houses, albeit over a period of time while living in them, I have to say, it is NOT for the faint of heart.

It’s Flippin’ Fun

I will share with you the short story of one of my homes that I got excited about that had great “bones” as they say.  It was an old brick home that was 90 years old and perched on the brow of a city with a great view.  I took video of the inside before I purchased it and sent the video to my father who lived 8 hours away.  His exact words to me were “Walk away, walk away!”

I balked, so what if the tenants had been evicted and there were holes in the walls, the stairs were falling out of their stringers and there were mice in the dishwasher!  This was going to be a great house for a flip – I could feel it!  So began the renovation that took a year and a half.

During this time I brilliantly decided to finish university, something I should have finished years before.  I had two children at home both under the age of 3 and I thought renovating, working with contractors, going to school and being a mom would be something I could handle.  No problem – I was a super mom!  In hindsight I look back at those years as the crazy years and tell people never, ever attempt to do that unless you are a wee bit crazy.

Help Please!

With a lot of help, and I mean a lot of help from my father – my husband and I got the job done.  There were many days that we sat around the kitchen table with drywall dust covering everything around us.  And there were areas of the house we could not live in for periods of time.

Then the moment finally came where the house was perfect and the vision of what I had in mind for this beautiful home was realized… then the For Sale sign went up on the lawn – that same day.  Bittersweet!

Lightbulb Moment

At that moment I realized that flipping is kind of like a wedding in the sense that you have a vision of what it will look like at the end and then all too soon the event is over.   The good news is – I learned a lot from mistakes made and –  did make money but it was a lot of time, mess and sacrifice to get there.

What About You?

Do you seek the thrill of turning something ugly into a profit? Do you see potential in older run down homes?Are you up for doing a flip?  Are you prepared to eat take out many nights during the week if your kitchen will be under renovations?  Or would you rather purchase a flipper that won’t be your primary residence?


Crucial points to think about before

buying a flipper:


  • Talk to a Real Estate agent before you begin shopping
  • Realtors know the market and know what will sell after you’ve done the renovations
  • Choose a Real Estate agent who has flipped or knows what is involved in flipping houses
  • Choose the right location!  It is key to getting a return on your investment
  • Figure out if you can afford to put 20% down on a secondary property (or look for private lenders who only require 10% down)
  • Do you have a budget to work with?  If so, add 25% to account for unexpected issues that may come up
  • What is your timeline for the project? 1 month? 3 months?
  • Do you have reliable contractors that you will work with?
  • Do you know exactly what adds value to a home in the area you are looking?
  • And lastly – are you truly ready to get your hands dirty?


I personally feel that there can be money made in flipping a house but it has to be done right.  All too often I see people who have put way too much money in a house and their asking price reflects the money they have invested, they are desperate to get back what they put in.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do their research.

Be Smart and do your homework!
If you have any questions about flipping a house in the Oakville or Burlington area, please contact me and I would be happy to give you more information. Jennifer@jenniferbirch.ca or call or text me @ 905-407-3274