Protecting your belongings during an Open House

ProtectAs a seller, you know that your home will be under intense scrutiny during an open house. Your cupboards and closets will be opened and every nook and cranny will be studied for space and capacity. Strangers will wander through your office and bedrooms and essentially have access to all your worldly possessions. Though it can feel like an invasion of privacy, open houses are generally accepted as an advantageous step in selling your home.

But it’s a good idea to take precautions to protect your privacy, your home and your belongings during the process. Thefts during open houses do happen on occasion. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) offers a number of tips that can help prevent you from becoming a victim of theft during an open house:


1. If you’re really uncomfortable, talk to your realtor about some of the precautions they can take to protect your home. Do they escort potential buyers through each room? Will they limit the number of people permitted in at one time? Most realtors nowadays ask every visitor to fill in a registration form and some may even ask to see identification.

2. Remove or secure small electronics (tablets, smart phones, cameras etc.) jewelry and cash before your open house.

3. Protect your privacy by keeping bills, credit card receipts and bank statements out of view.

4. Remove all prescriptions medications from the home (including those kept in the medicine cabinet).

5. If you have a large collection on display – whether its figurines, sports memorabilia or art – take an inventory and photos so it will be noticed immediately if something is missing.

Your realtor may be able to offer more suggestions so be sure to arm yourself with your best ally during any real estate transaction – a registered real estate agent! By taking a few precautions in advance, you can help ensure that your open house is a successful one.

For more handy tips for buyers and sellers, visit the RECO website at

Jennifer Birch

Warm up your interiors with a new rug

One may think buying an area rug is an effortless purchase, but there are actually a lot of variables that come into choosing the perfect one. First and foremost is choosing the desired space that the area rug of choice will enhance. Whether for design purposes, a punch of colour, warmth and comfort, traffic flow or to create a furniture grouping, the myriad of choices in fabric, style, pattern, colour and size is overwhelming. Prices are as variable as personal preference.

Handmade or hand-knotted area rugs are in a league of their own. These types of rugs are manufactured from natural fibers, such as wool, silk and cotton and can be antique or brand new. Research your retailer before considering such an investment.

Should you want the ‘look’ but not the price, wool/polyester blends over silk or even wool will enhance any decor.

Machine made rugs can be manufactured to replicate some of the ancient patterns as well as today’s most exciting contemporary designs. Made from natural fibers, they also come in synthetics, such as nylon and olefin.

Area rugs are personal. They are bought for various reasons by people with different lifestyles and taste. But there are many rules to consider that are universal. The number one being size.

Here are other considerations when choosing a rug:

DO make sure that area rugs are not too small and extend under all the key pieces of furniture.

DO leave the same amount of floor space on all sides of your rug.

DO fully cover heavily trafficked areas.

DO check the cleaning instructions before you buy. Sisal, jute and other natural fiber rugs are inexpensive but they can’t be cleaned and they wear quickly.

DO use a quality under pad! Not only does it add to the longevity of the rug, it cushions your steps; helps insulate the room and aids in noise reduction. Rug pads help extend the life of your rug by keeping it in place while providing extra cushioning and insulation. They also prevent moisture and spills from seeping through the carpet and staining the floor.

DON’T go too small in the bedroom. The rug should be large enough to extend beyond the sides of the bed.

DON’T be afraid of colour and pattern. There are many inexpensive options available so if you decide you don’t like it after a couple of years it’s easy to change. With that in mind, don’t put an expensive area rug in an area where there are likely to be spills and accidents.

Jennifer Birch

Halloween Decorating Spooktacular!

For many, Halloween is the celebration of the year. For children especially, the anticipation of ‘All Hallows Eve’ can surpass any other time of the year! There’s candy, costumes and kids get to stay out past their bedtime – what’s not to love?

Decorating can also be just as fun! Here are some simple and affordable decorating ideas to involve the whole family!

Pumpkins reign high on the must-haves for Halloween decor. Use them uncarved as the perfect fall accessory for your front entrance, or use more than one in various sizes and shapes to create a focal point. You can even paint your pumpkins – use an acrylic paint in any colour and use your imagination!

If you want to carve a design into your pumpkin, check out a site like Pinterest for thousands of unique ideas. Your creativity will instantly begin to flow!

When choosing a theme or colour scheme for Halloween, think non-traditional – black is always a good base, but glam it up with sparkling pink or silver. String tiny interior lights in indoor plants or doorways to give a soft glow.

For projects the whole family will enjoy creating together, try pasta skeletons! Raid your pasta cupboard for different sized pasta and dried beans and build your “skeletons” using glue onto black construction paper. Hang the masterpieces in your window or create more than one for a garland affect.

Old-fashioned paper ghosts are always an easy craft for kids – use any type of white paper, fill the “head” with crumpled tissue, tie a string around the “neck,” colour two eyes and you’re done! You can also trace bats and spiders on black construction paper and hang them from windows, trees, and your entryway. Fast and fun!

Jennifer Birch

Creating a Home Office could add value to your home


Home-based business spaces can range from a little office nook in the kitchen to converting an entire garage or basement. Depending on the type of business a homeowner has invested in, working from home has its benefits. But will your home business have an adverse affect come resale?

Countless people are working from home nowadays, so it is not surprising to find many a house with a bedroom delegated as an office. In fact, people often look for a home with a larger number of bedrooms than needed for that very purpose. However, when planning to work from home consider the type of space you require and the impact it will have on potential buyers down the road.


If your business can be run from one simple bedroom conversion, ensure that you stage it as such upon selling – or change it back to a bedroom if there is not a sufficient amount of bedrooms as per your marketplace requirements. Should you run a daycare, your basement would presumably require a makeover upon selling. And if renovating a garage for your business, keep in mind you have drastically limited your market for resale. Bottom line is extra square footage that can be used as a workplace is a profitable improvement. Never lose a room which will usually devalue your house.

Cost is a major factor when creating a home business space. Always keep in mind the future resale. Will you be able to recoup this buyer-specific investment? This could include custom lighting, built-in cabinets, special paneling, granite counters and high-tech gadgets such as flat-screen TVs and an entertainment system. If designing such an opulent office, it would be smart to plan it in such a manner that the space could be utilized in other ways…such as a media room or family entertainment centre. When going over the top, be prepared to not regain full value.


Many home businesses require clients to come to their office. Often this requires a separate entrance and washroom facilities. This could be a real plus for potential homebuyers who wish to rent or have an in-law suite!

Think for the future and always plan ahead. There are a zillion things to think of when starting a business from home, but remember it is just that – your home and your investment.

Jennifer Birch

Photos: Motivointeriors, Houzz

Haunted Houses & Stigmatized Properties


As the spectre of Halloween looms, there’s no better time to approach the notion of viewing a haunted house – if you dare. With ghosts, zombies and other spooky characters preparing to descend on houses across the province this month, this is as good a time as any to ask yourself: Would you be comfortable living in a house that has a reputation of being haunted?

The thought would send a shiver down the spine of some prospective buyers, while others wouldn’t mind as long as it had the location and amenities they’re looking for. Who knows, some may even consider it a selling feature.

Then there’s the psychological stigma – a non-physical attribute of a property that may provoke a negative emotional response by the potential buyer, like the ghosts rummaging about in the attic or if it was previously owned by a notorious individual or another member of horror movie royalty. Stigmas are based on perception and individual sensitivities, so they vary greatly from one person to the next.

Some psychological stigmas may impact the value of a property because the stigma stems from a valid concern or something that most people would find spooky. Other stigmas are more individual in nature.

While sellers are required by law to disclose latent physical defects that are known to them, there is no legal precedent in Ontario that requires disclosure of a stigma to buyers. However, all registered real estate professionals are obligated to act with fairness, honesty and integrity when dealing with others in a transaction.

A survey from October 2013 found that more than half of home buyers surveyed would be open to buying a haunted house, and 22 % of them would consider buying it on one condition – that the home was substantially discounted at 31 – 50 %! But, even those that were interested in buying a haunted property, there’s only so much they would be able to take. These spooky occurrences would scare them away:

75 % said levitating objects;

63 %  said objects being moved from where they were placed;

63 % said ghost sightings;

61 %  said supernatural sensations;

60 %  said strange noises (footsteps, doors slamming)

What about you?  Would you consider buying a haunted house?

Jennifer Birch

Fall Garden Maintenance

Though spring and summer are now over, your garden is still very much alive and needs some care to ensure it can handle the harsh winter and save you some work come spring again. Here are some tips to help you maintain your garden:


1. Don’t forget to water!

You may think because the weather is cooler, your plants and lawn don’t need watering, but that is not the case. Watering will help you keep the beauty of your yard longer and will minimize winter damage to your garden. According to the roots of plants are still active in the autumn and they will absorb and store any water they get in order to replace water that gets lost during the winter. Even when flowers and leaves start to fall off, keep watering trees and shrubs. This will help keep moisture in the ground and keep roots warmer for a longer period of time, helping plants survive the winter. Water lightly until the first freeze.

burlap wrap

2. Insulate your shrubs

Have shrubs or trees in your garden? Insulate them with mulch at their base. This will limit frost penetration and help prevent sudden changes in soil temperature from deep freezing, which will help protect the root system of tender plants.


3. Don’t cut perennials too early

After the beautiful September we had, it’s pretty safe to say that Canadian weather is unpredictable. Which is why cutting back your perennials too early may actually be detrimental to it. Allow the perennial to be dormant first until the weather is more stable and cooler (late October and November) then begin pruning. Also, trim any damaged or dead branches on trees and shrubs before the first snowfall.


4. Shelter delicate trees and shrubs

If we have a winter like last year, we know it will be biting cold and can be especially hard on tender trees and shrubs. To minimize damage caused by frost and snow, recommends wrapping your trees and shrubs in burlap and securing them with twine.

Jennifer Birch

Pitfalls of Home Buying & Selling


For most people, buying or selling a home is one of the most important and highest value purchases they will make, and potentially the most challenging. Here are some major home buying and selling mistakes that can lead to an unsatisfying experience or even serious complications, courtesy of The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

1. Allowing emotions to overtake common sense. When you fall in love with a property it can be hard to walk away. Know your budget. Don’t forgo a home inspection to win a bidding war.

2. Not making your expectations clear with your real estate professional. It’s important that you and your representative have a mutual understanding about what you’re looking for, and what services the brokerage will be responsible for.

3. Failing to read and understand forms and contracts. It can be tempting to speed the process along by signing forms that you haven’t read. But taking the time to understand what you’re signing can avoid a lot of problems later on.

4. Assuming everything is included with the property. For example, the seller may want to take the dishwasher with them to their new home, and the furnace might be under a rental contract that you’ll be required to take over.

5. Forgetting about what’s within the walls. Granite countertops and new hardwood floors are appealing, but the insulation, wiring and plumbing are just as important when you’re evaluating a property.

6. Forgetting about what’s outside the walls. When you buy a house you’re also buying a place in a community. Visit the neighbourhood at different times of the day to see if it fits your lifestyle. Talk to the neighbours about the community and the locations of various amenities.

7. Not doing your research. If you’re concerned about buying a home with a troubled past, a simple Internet search for the address can go a long way. This is also something you can ask the neighbours about.

8. Making verbal agreements. Verbal agreements aren’t a problem, until they’re a problem. Putting everything in writing forces both parties to be clear about their expectations and provides a record that can prevent disputes later on.

9. Underestimating closing costs. From land transfer taxes to title insurance to a home inspection, the costs of a real estate transaction can add up quickly. Take the time to include estimates and other expenses in the full cost of buying or selling a property.

Jennifer Birch – Your friendly neighbourhood Realtor