Carpet Misconceptions


Carpeting often gets a bad rap. Common complaints include cleaning, texture surface retention, rippling, fading, allergy aggravation and odour. It turns out most can be prevented with proper care and installation.

There are many benefits to a carpeted room. Curling up in front of a crackling fire isn’t quite as cozy on a hardwood floor as it is on a plush carpet. It’s safer for families with young children – carpet provides a much softer landing than ceramic tile or laminate floors. For households with elderly family members, carpets are much better for preventing slips and falls. If noise is a factor, carpeting acts as a sound barrier between rooms and levels. And, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), carpet provides thermal resistance or “R” value, meaning that it retains warm air longer during the winter, helping you save on energy costs.

Allergy sufferers have long lamented that carpets lead to attacks. But according to a 15-year Swedish study, the link between carpets and allergy and asthma attacks was non-existent. The reason is that carpets act as a filter, trapping allergens and removing them from the air your family breathes in. With proper cleaning, the allergens are then removed from the carpet. The CRI recommends vacuuming once or twice per week with a HEPA filtered unit, being diligent about wiping dirty shoes before entering the home and giving carpets an annual deep cleaning by hot water extraction.

There are countless carpet styles available. Before you make a final decision, make sure you have considered the different types of carpet fibres and how well they clean and wear and which room they are best suited for. Your local carpet store can answer any questions or you can do some online research before shopping around.

When comparing prices remember to determine if the price includes the carpet padding, which is the most essential accessory in carpeting. Good padding will absorb the pressure of foot traffic, provide additional insulation and prevent buckling or wrinkling of the carpet (as will proper installation).

Jennifer Birch

Transferring Title

hometitleA recent study by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals showed that the average first-time home buyer has a 21 percent down payment, with 13 percent of that money coming from family members. In most cases, and sometimes because of this gift, first-time buyers are able to purchase a home on their own, meaning their names are the only ones that appear on the home’s title (so they have full legal rights to the property, regardless of where down payment funds came from).

Occasionally, first-time buyers do not qualify for a mortgage on their own, even with a sufficient down payment and the ability to cover costs. Reasons a lender may turn down a first-time buyer include insufficient job security (i.e. young entrepreneurs, someone starting a new job), bad credit or high debt. In this case, a parent or family member may be included on the title of the property and is legally part owner. This means that if the principle buyer defaults on mortgage payments, the person that is also included on title is fully responsible to keep payments up to date.

Fast forward a year or two, and the young buyers may find themselves in a better position, able to secure financing on their own and eager to transfer title solely to themselves. It isn’t a complicated process but because there are legal documents necessary, there will be lawyer’s fees involved.

In Ontario, your real estate lawyer will require a completed Title Transfer Intake Form, a document proving ownership of the property, a recent property tax bill and confirmation from your bank that the transfer is approved. Your lawyer will draw up the legal documents and prepare necessary paperwork for both parties to sign. The cost varies from lawyer to lawyer but you can expect to pay between $500-$700 (this includes a government registration fee of $75.)

Jennifer Birch

Pay your Mortgage Down Faster


Even with a substantial downpayment, the purchase of a home means that you’re in it for the long haul. The most common amortization periods in Canada are 20 or 25 years. This means that your monthly payments have been calculated in such a way that in 20 (or 25) years, the full amount will be paid off. So, if you opt for a 25-year amortization period, your monthly payments will be significantly lower than with a 15 or 20-year amortization period. Why, then, doesn’t everyone purchase a home and opt for 30, 35 or even a 40-year amortization period in order to lower their monthly payments? For a few reasons, the number one being that in Canada, as of July 2012, the maximum amortization period allowed was reduced from 30 to 25 years. But there are a few other good reasons why paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible is in your best interest (no pun intended).

Typically with a 25-year commitment, a mortgage is compounded with hundreds of payments to slowly reduce both your principle loan as well as interest charges. You can expect interest-heavy payments for the first five to seven years as your bank makes lending you all that money worth their while.

Here are some simple ways to pay down your mortgage faster and save money in the long run:

Bi-weekly is best – Opting for an accelerated biweekly payment schedule will not only allow you to make 26 payments a year, it will also reduce both your interest rates and principle amount faster. Lenders may charge you an additional fee, but this is money well spent.

Round it up – Homeowners are surprised to learn that a hypothetical increased payment of $1,000 instead of $830 could save up to $48,000 over the course of the mortgage. That’s nearly eight years of payments! Another popular option is the anniversary payment. Depending on your lenders stipulation, saving this extra money for a yearly lump sum payment is a great way to celebrate your purchase while significantly decreasing your mortgage.

Increase your payments – Putting aside unexpected income towards a lump payment at the time of your mortgage renewal is an easy way to pay your mortgage down faster. Bonuses, raises, gifts and overtime earnings are extra money, which should not affect your budget. As your income increases, apply these earnings to your mortgage, instead of your lifestyle.

Know your stuff – Talk to your lending institution occasionally and stay informed. Keeping up-to-date with interest rates is an easy way to responsibly manage your mortgage.

Jennifer Birch

Smart Renos with the BIGGEST Return on Investment

basement apartment

If you’re planning on tackling some major home improvements this year, it’s a good idea to do some research first. If increasing your property value and eventually getting a high return on your investment (ROI) is important to you, steer clear of projects that don’t have universal appeal and aim for improvements that a majority of buyers are seeking.

Did you know that a sunroom addition is considered one of the worst renovations for getting a high ROI? A home office remodel is right up there, along with an upscale garage addition. All three projects provide only an estimated 50 percent cost recoup.

Here are five projects that could see a recoup of up to 80 percent of your investment:

1. Flooring. Today’s buyers prefer hardwood, even in places like bedrooms. If hardwood isn’t in your budget, there are a number of excellent quality laminate substitutes out there that look as good as hardwood and last nearly as long. If carpet is old, dirty and worn down, replacing it will also offer a good return on your investment.

2. Bathrooms. If your bathroom is stuck in the 80’s and desperate for some TLC, you can tear it out and rest easy knowing that you will likely recoup most of the money you spend on the renovation when it comes time to sell. Spend a few extra dollars on fancy faucets and light fixtures – these are good selling features.

3. An income suite. A properly completed and legal income suite is one sure way to raise the property value of your home. Plus, you can look forward to collecting rent each month you remain in the home.

4. Kitchens. We’ve all heard it before – kitchens sell homes. Even when completed on a budget, a kitchen renovation will earn you a good ROI. Buyers look for new or refinished cabinets, pretty backsplashes, new flooring and upgraded appliances.

5. A finished basement. Any time you are adding living space to a home, you are appealing to buyers. The key here is to avoid expensive, luxury finishes, like a state-of-the-art wet bar or solid hardwood flooring. Keep the space open and usable, install a drop ceiling and use good quality flooring.

Jennifer Birch

10 STEPS to Protecting your home while on vacation


If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be packing your bags soon and heading south for some much needed fun in the sun. Vacations should be stress-free so be sure to take a few measures before you leave to ensure your home is just as you left it when you return.

1. Don’t share the details of your trip with friends on Facebook or other social media sites. No sense in letting the world know your home is sitting empty.

2. Use timers to turn on lights inside and out.

3. Ensure that all windows and doors are locked and don’t leave a spare key hidden outside.

4. Remove treasured valuables (family heirlooms, expensive collectibles or pricey jewelry) from the home if possible or lock up in safe.

5. Arrange to have your mail and newspaper picked up by a close neighbour. Suspend service if you’re planning a lengthy getaway.

6. Disconnect your automatic garage door opener.

7. Arrange to have a neighbour or friend shovel your driveway and sidewalk in the event of a snowstorm.

8. Be sure to unplug any and all appliances, including the coffee maker, television and computer.

9. Reduce the thermostat to no less than 15 degrees Celsius, depending on the age and condition of your home. You will save money on energy costs while avoiding frozen pipes.

10. If you’re a frequent traveller, consider investing in an automatic generator to protect your home’s plumbing from freezing. If the power goes out during a nasty winter ice storm, your heat may go out and your pipes could freeze. A generator will not only keep your heat running but also your alarm system.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

MARSALA the Hottest Colour of 2015


Marsala is a fortified wine, similar to port or sherry, that hails from the Italian city of Marsala. It is this rich, earthy wine that lends its name to the equally rich and earthy colour of the year – marsala!

We have already started to see marsala shades in handbags, nail polish and lipstick. Soon, it will adorn accent cushions, graphic area rugs, and more.

This is a bold but warm red that you can live with. For the adventurous, marsala can be used as an anchor colour in any room – an accent wall, a carpet, bedding. Wrap your room in marsala for the rich but warm drama.

For the more restrained palate, sprinkle liberal amounts of marsala accents in a more neutral colour scheme. Accent pillows, a cozy throw, some scented candles – these will all contribute to the sensual enticement of 2015’s choice of colour.

Still grounded in earthy brown, this red brings a sophistication that more flashy hues may have lacked. It looks fantastic in candlelight in a dining room, elegant in a living room and warm and enveloping in a main bedroom.

Marsala looks best paired with other warm hues, such as warm taupes or rich beiges. It looks great with ethnic or bohemian styling, but can easily warm up contemporary designs as well.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor