Budgeting for Home Maintenance Projects


Well now that Christmas is behind us, what better time to think about saving for projects around the house!

Every year that goes by as a homeowner, there’s always some updating to do, whether it’s landscaping, replacing the roof, driveway paving, basement renos, etc. The list can be endless. Just like your car, regular maintenance is a necessity, and the same holds true for your home. Even for condo owners where much of the exterior maintenance is covered by condo fees, there may still be some “beautifying” that you’ll want to undertake in addition to what it covers.

So that leads to the next big thing. Budgeting for these updates. How much money should you be putting away for these types of regular maintenance or repair items that come along? These tips will help you figure it out:

Use the 1 %
To set aside enough money for home maintenance projects every year, a popular guideline is to follow the one per cent rule. Basically, set aside one percent of the purchase price of your home each year for ongoing maintenance. For example, if your home cost $500,000, budget $5,000 per year. It’s a pretty safe estimate to make, especially when not all things need to fixed at once. One year it may be the roof, but the next year, it could be a fresh coat of paint on the front door and other smaller miscellaneous items. It all balances out and at least you’ll be prepared.

Assess your home
The age, size and condition of your home will also need to be taken into consideration when determining a maintenance budget. For example, do you have an older detached home with a generous-sized backyard? Your budget for maintenance could be higher than a newer townhome with a smaller backyard. Or, if you’re in a condo, find out what the condo corporation has planned for future maintenance and beautifying projects that could result in increased condo fees.

Keep track of repairs

Keeping track of repairs allows you to see how much money you have invested in your home once it comes time to sell.  It is also good for your own sanity, keeping track of repairs as they happen is key to keeping within your budget. Keep receipts and contact information from contractors and mark everything down in a calendar, daytimer, or create your own tracking sheet using your favourite computer program. Microsoft Excel is a popular one to create great spreadsheets and budget worksheets; Microsoft Word is also a good option and very simple to use.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Who doesn’t love Bruschetta?!


Here’s a different take on that appetizer we all love so much – bruschetta!

Prep Time 10 mins.
Cook Time 20 mins.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb. fresh Mushrooms, diced
2/3 cup chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Each dried basil and oregano
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 10″ (20 cm) unsliced round Italian loaf
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat, cook and stir mushrooms and onion for about 3-4 minutes or until moisture is released form mushrooms and evaporates. Add garlic and herbs, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cool slightly.

In a bowl mix tomatoes with Parmesan cheese. Slice loaf in half horizontally; cut off some of the crusty crown on top half so it will sit level cut side up. Place bread halves on baking sheets cut side up. Stir mushrooms into tomato mixture and spoon evenly over bread, pressing down firmly.
Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for 12-15 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted. Cut into 16 wedges. Makes 8 main course or 16 snack servings.

Substitute thyme and rosemary for basil and oregano and Cheddar or mixed cheese blends for mozzarella.

Courtesy of www.mushrooms.ca

Want to Sell your house in the spring? Start Prepping it NOW!


It’s a bit challenging to think “spring” when the snow is swirling and the icicles are forming, but if have plans to list your home in 2015 during real estate’s spring season, it’s a smart idea to begin preparations now.

Though it may seem a bit premature, the goal is to alleviate some of the stress that comes with selling your house. By starting during the winter months with a few of the bigger tasks, you can breath easy come springtime when your realtor begins preparations.

Wondering where to start? Think of what buyers will be looking for. There are some improvements that may cost a few thousand dollars but are almost guaranteed to increase the value of your home, thus providing a return on your investment. These include projects like replacing old, worn-out carpet, updating a dingy bathroom or finishing your basement.

If you’re not interested in undertaking any major overhauls, there are a number of smaller projects you can take on during the winter to get your home in tip-top shape for a spring sale.

Painting – For the few hundred dollars you will spend on supplies, it’s incredible the impact a freshly painted house has on potential buyers. Stick to a neutral palette to appeal to the masses and be sure to repair walls first and paint high traffic areas like the front entry, kitchen and great room.

Declutter and start packing – If you know that you will be moving in the spring, start packing away summer items. If it’s an option, consider storing belongings off-site, perhaps at a storage locker or relative’s home. Pack up kids bicycles, sporting equipment, summer clothing, gardening materials and tools, etc.

Get a home inspection or appraisal – Normally it’s the buyer who sets up and pays for a home inspection. But if you want to stay one step ahead of the competition in a hot spring market, home improvement guru Mike Holmes recommends that sellers get a home inspection done before listing their home. This way the seller will learn of any issues and fix them before a buyer finds out about them. Sellers should display the home inspection report during showings and open houses so that potential buyers can see that one has been completed and no major issues were found.

If you are seriously considering putting your home on the market in the spring, contact me for a FREE home market evaluation.  I also offer you a personal Step By Step guide that is specific to what you need to do to have your house market ready.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Help for First Time Home Buyers

Happy couple in front of home

If you’re buying a home for the first time, you will need all the help you can get. Make the most of guidance from parents and experienced friends, advice from your realtor and assistance from your mortgage broker! These are individuals who have been in your shoes and have your best interests in mind. The provincial government also lends a helping hand to first-time buyers, offering a number of programs designed to alleviate the financial strain that buying a home can put on young people.

First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit – This program provides a 15 percent credit on closing fees, up to a maximum of $5,000. This provides a maximum credit of $750 come tax time.

Land Transfer Tax Rebate – When you purchase a property in Ontario, you pay the province’s land transfer tax. A rebate is offered to first-time buyers only, providing a rebate of up to $2,000. The eligible rebate amount is higher in the City of Toronto, capped at $3,725.

RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan – This program allows first-time homebuyers to withdraw up to $25,000, tax-free, from RRSPs in order to purchase a principle residence. This means that you cannot take advantage of this program if you are purchasing an ‘income property’ that you don’t plan on living in.

The government also offers another program for homeowners who wish to make their homes safer and/or more accessible:

Ontario Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit – This personal income tax refund is offered to seniors and the family members who they live with. Qualifying homeowners are eligible to claim up to $10,000 in home renovation expenses and will receive 15 percent back, meaning a credit of $1,500. There are a few eligibility requirements: applicants must be 65 or older (family members may apply if they are making home modifications to accommodate a live-in relative who is 65 or older) and the home renovations must be an improvement that will make the home safer and/or more accessible. Examples include walk-in showers; grab bars in bathrooms; handrails in hallways; wheelchair ramps; non-stick flooring and others. Visit http://www.ontario.ca/healthyhome for a complete list of eligible expenses.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor



Love it or hate it, winter is on its way. You have probably spent some time during the past month readying your outdoor spaces for the winter months, cleaning up the yard, pruning and storing outdoor furniture.

Now that your garden and lawn are prepared for six, frosty months, it’s time to turn your attention to your home and begin the task of winterizing for another frigid season.

1. Every fall, it’s a good idea to change your furnace filter. You’ll probably want to replace or clean it once more before spring arrives. It’s also a good time to call in an HVAC professional to have your heating system inspected.

2. Improve the air quality in your home and save on energy costs by having your ducts cleaned once every two to three years.

3. If you have some notoriously drafty areas in your home, take measures to keep the warm air inside. Window insulation film is effective and affordable and it’s easy to install. You can also invest in some weather stripping for doors and windows and buy or make a few draft snakes to place along the base of doors and windows.

4. Help prevent a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning at home by regularly changing the batteries in these detectors. The Office of the Fire Marshal recommends replacing smoke alarms every ten years, or when it has exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended life cycle.

5. Maximize the hot air in your home reversing your ceiling fans so that the blades run in a clockwise direction. Energy Star recommends this tip to help push the hot air down into the room.

6. Before it gets too cold, inspect the eavestroughs around your entire home. With gloves on or using a trowel, clear out leaves and debris.

7. Turn off the water supply to all outdoor taps after draining thoroughly.

8. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have your chimney cleaned. You should aim to do this once per year.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Laundry Room Organization – Show some love!

laundry room

What is the most underappreciated room in your home? The room that works so hard for your family yet is rarely updated, never receives guests and misses more than a few scheduled cleanings? If you’re like many homeowners, it’s the laundry room! As an integral part of the home (especially if you have children!) we spend more time in the laundry than we’d care to admit but it’s generally ignored when it comes to decorating. If you want to show your neglected laundry room a little overdue TLC, take a look at these tips for getting organized and adding some style to your laundry room.

Make it shine: Before you make any improvements, give the entire room, including your washer and dryer, a thorough cleaning. You can find tips online for cleaning your washer and dryer – you will be amazed at how much dirt and grime is hiding in there!

Give it some colour: If you’re reluctant to try a bold paint colour in a main room, use your laundry room as a guinea pig. Good choices include calming aqua, lively lime or vibrant orange.

Add lots of shelving: Work with the size of your laundry room and add shelves to neatly store everything away from sight.

Add accessories: Add those finishes touches as you would any other room in the home like framed artwork, decorative objects, curtains if you have windows, light fixtures, and even an accent chair if the space allows.

laundry 2

6 ESSENTIALS that every laundry room should have to help get the job done:

Large sorting hampers – Organize by clothing type or colours to make laundry day easier.

Zippered Mesh bags – Perfect for those delicate items.

Drying rack – Extend the lifespan of your clothes by using a drying rack.

Counter space – If space and budget allow, add a countertop with some storage below.

One laundry basket per person – Colour coded or numbered, having a separate basket for each family member will make folding and putting away more efficient.

A system– Some homeowners designate a laundry day each week and tackle the washing, drying, folding and putting away all in one shot. This method is great because you get to enjoy six laundry-free days every week!

But anyone who has children knows that this could mean quite a few loads of laundry in one day – not an easy feat. Others try to stay on top of the washing all week long, throwing in a load or two every night. Find out what works for your family and make sure everyone is on board. Teach your kids at a young age to bring their dirty clothes to the laundry room also help to put folded laundry away.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor