4 Spring Home Maintenance Tips

Home maintenanceSpring has officially arrived! As a homeowner, the arrival of each new season usually brings with it a few maintenance chores that will need to be tackled, so wait for a nice, sunny day and check these jobs off your to-do list!

1. Repaint windows, siding and doors if needed. While wood will always be a popular material in home building, unfortunately it does require regular maintenance to keep it looking its best and realizing its life span. As with any job, take the time to gather the proper materials before getting started – it will make things run smoothly. Scrape away old, chipped or peeling paint from window and door frames and wood siding. Sand if necessary and finish by pressure washing on a low setting. Prime and paint as needed with a good quality exterior paint.

2. Organize the garage. After a long winter, your garage may have become a drop-zone for gardening supplies, sporting equipment, toys, broken items, etc. Enlist the help of kids to help create piles, including one for items to throw out, one for items to sell and a third for items to keep. If storage is an issue, assemble some heavy duty shelving or hooks. If your garage floor has seen better days, consider sealing and painting the floor for a tidy, clean look that will also extend its lifespan.

3. It’s likely been a few months since your air conditioner saw the light of day, so remove the cover on your outdoor unit, shut off the power and give it a good cleaning, removing any dust and debris. Inside the house, you’ll want to change the air filter and check for any leaks in the ductwork. Almost every HVAC company offers maintenance packages, so if you’re not up to the challenge or just don’t have time, schedule an appointment with a professional. Proper A/C maintenance will extend the life of your cooling unit and keep your energy bills down all summer long!

4. Clean or pressure wash deck. Canadians certainly spend as much time as possible during the summer months enjoying their outdoor spaces, so start off the season with a fresh slate! Take great care when pressure washing soft wood surfaces – one would rarely need more than 1500 psi to complete this task – any more can damage the wood. You can skip the pressure washer and buy a good quality wood cleaner and use some good, old-fashioned elbow grease to get your deck gleaming for the season ahead!

Jennifer Birch

Are you ready to buy?


Thinking of buying a home during this red hot spring market?   The biggest question to ponder when considering home ownership is affordability.   Take the time to determine a realistic budget, taking mortgage payments, property taxes, closing and moving costs, monthly utility and home repair and maintenance into account.

If you’re confident that buying a home is within reach, contact me, I work with a great Mortgage Broker who will help you to determine your options!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

The Changing Face of our cities

Construction of building.

Have you ever wondered what will happen when we start running out of land to build new houses and communities? Cities across the province have been growing steadily and many municipalities are already reaching their boundaries. This has led to a push for more infill communities and intensification, something that is addressed in the Places to Grow Act, 2005.

The main goal of the Places to Grow Act, 2005 is to establish a plan for growth in certain areas. One such area is referred to as the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), which includes cities like Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph, plus regional municipalities such as Halton, Peel, York, Durham, Niagara, Haldimand and Waterloo.

The plan for the GGH sets out a number of goals and directives, some of which focus on revitalizing downtown areas and city centres, reduce development pressure on agricultural lands and naturalized areas and improve transportation and housing options.

Intensification is a multifaceted approach to redeveloping downtown areas. It is a term coined by urban planners to describe the process of “increasing the use of existing housing stock and more effectively utilizing municipal services”. Examples include adding accessory apartments to single-family homes, creating mixed use developments in urban areas and repurposing industrial lands for residential use. Industrial loft conversions are a good example of intensification.

Infill communities have been cropping up for years now in cities across the GGH. This type of development involves the building of townhouses or semi-detached homes where one home previously existed or building homes on formerly vacant land.

While it’s sometimes disheartening to see a beautiful, old home torn down and replaced with townhomes, the bottom line isn’t always financial gain. Intensification through infill and the purposing of existing buildings is just one way that planners and builders are working to reduce urban sprawl and create thriving cities with plenty of housing options.

Jennifer  Birch

Record Breaking November Sales

White clock with words Time to Sell on its faceThe REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington reported 1,323 sales were processed through the RAHB Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System in November. Sales were 5.6 % higher than the same month last year – which had the record for November sales – and set a new high for the month of November. There were 1,500 properties listed in November, an increase of 11.4 % compared to November of last year.

Breaking Records: “This is the fifth month this year for record-breaking monthly sales,” said RAHB CEO George O’Neill. “Even though new listings are up from last year, the brisk sales we’ve seen all year leave us with low inventory at the end of November. It is interesting to note that for all the monthly records set this year, year-to-date sales are very slightly below what they were last year at this time. – less than one per cent lower. It’s a testament to just how hot the real estate market has been for the last two years.

Average Price:  The average price of freehold properties showed an increase of 20.2 % compared to November of last year; the average sale price in the condominium market increased by 23.5 % when compared to the same period.

Average sale price is based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold through the RAHB MLS® System. Average sale price can be useful in establishing long-term trends, but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. Contact a REALTOR® for information about your area or property.

Days On Market: The average number of days on market decreased from 36 to 25 days in the freehold market and from 34 to 26 days in the condominium market, compared to November of last year.
“It isn’t taking long at all for properties to move in this market,” noted RAHB President Kim Alvarez. “It’s always a good idea to use the services of REALTOR® when you buy or sell your home, but especially important when properties sell as quickly as they do now.”

Tax Deductions for homeowners

blank POSTCARD back

Tax season is here and if you’re like most Canadians, you’d love to find a few ways to keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket. If you’re a homeowner, there are a few tax breaks to look into before filing for the 2015 tax year.

First-time homebuyers can still claim $5,000 if they purchased a home in 2015. Qualifying homes include single-family and semi-detached houses, townhouses, mobile homes, condominiums, and apartments in duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, or apartment buildings. Some co-op housing also qualifies, so it’s worth checking if you bought a co-op property in 2015.

A home purchased by or for a person with disabilities also qualifies for the same $5,000 tax credit regardless of how many homes they’ve owned before. As long as the person is qualified for the disability tax credit, they can claim the $5,000 homebuyers credit.

Senior homeowners, or those who live with them, can claim the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit for any improvements to a home that help a senior live safely. Available in Ontario only, renovations for wheelchair accessibility, grab bars, railings and other features qualify for this tax credit, regardless of income. The credit is based on 15% of eligible expenses up to $10,000. The new Ontario budget has killed this credit, so 2016 is the final year to claim it.

Additionally, seniors living in Ontario who own their own home can apply to receive the Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant (OSHPTG). This program allows seniors to receive a $500 per year grant toward their property taxes. You apply each year so seniors applying on their 2015 tax return will receive the grant for their 2016 property taxes.

Work with your tax professional to make sure you take advantage of all of your qualifying tax credits for 2015.

Here are additional resources:

Homeowners: CRA Tax

Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit

Ontario energy and property tax credit

Jennifer Birch

Should you put more money towards your mortgage payment this year?


Have some extra money and want to know whether you should put it toward your mortgage payments? Making prepayments on your mortgage could save you thousands of dollars over the years…just as long as your mortgage lender allows them. Here’s some information, courtesy of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, to help you make the best decision.

  • A mortgage prepayment is any amount you pay in addition to your regular payments. This can include increasing the amount of your regular mortgage payments or making a lump-sum payment to reduce or pay off your mortgage balance. The sooner you can make prepayments, the less interest you will pay over the long term. For example, consider a 25-year mortgage of $150,000 with a 5.45% interest rate. Assuming the interest rate remains the same over the life of the mortgage, the monthly payments would be about $911. Increasing the payments by $50 per month would pay off the mortgage two years sooner and save $14,000 in interest.


  • A one-time lump-sum payment of $15,000 in the second year of that same mortgage would result in paying off the mortgage more than four years earlier and saving over $33,000 in interest.


  • Check your mortgage agreement first, because not all mortgages have prepayment privileges. A closed mortgage may require you to pay a penalty or fee for any prepayment.


  • Federally regulated financial institutions, such as banks, must show your prepayment options in an information box at the beginning of your mortgage agreement. It will specify whether you can make prepayments, when you can do so, plus other related terms and conditions. Read your mortgage agreement carefully, and before signing ask the lender to explain anything that you don’t understand.


When shopping for a mortgage, ask the following questions:

How much can I prepay without penalty or fee?
Is there a minimum amount for a prepayment?
When can I make prepayments?
Are there any conditions or limitations?
If there are fees or penalties, how much are they, and how are they calculated?
Want to know more? The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has more information on this topic at itpaystoknow.gc.ca


Jennifer Birch

6 Things to do before you move

Single buying

Congratulations! You’ve purchased a new home and moving day is almost here! But before that day comes along, there are quite a few tasks still ahead of you that should be taken care of early to make the transition to your new home a smooth one. The less things to worry about, the better. Here are some reminders to add to your to-do list:

1. Forward your mail. It’s so easy to do online or in person at your local post office. It will also give you peace of mind knowing there won’t be any interrupted mail delivery. Go to the Canada Post website to get started at http://www.canadapost.ca.

2. Call your utility companies and let them know of the move. You’ll need to call your current utility companies to cancel or move your current services. There may be fees associated with this, especially if you’re not moving a service, but becoming a new account holder. Also, if you are cancelling services, ideally you should do this more than a month in advance of closing so you are not on the hook for another month’s services. Some companies even need an email with a written statement to cancel services, so keep the timing in mind.

3. Internet/phone/cable. Just like the utility companies, be aware of payment schedules and let them know of the move or any cancellations as early as possible.

4. Start moving things into storage and start packing as early as possible. This way you’re not rushing to get things out of the house and have time to declutter and pack properly. For those that have moved more than once, you know that by the end, you are just trying to move things as quickly as possible – packing whatever you can in boxes and bags – just to make the deadline. It can be very stressful if you leave it to the end. This way, you have time to label and package things properly.

5. Hire a cleaning service for your new home before you move in. One more thing you won’t have to do and you can focus on unpacking. You’ll love walking into a freshly cleaned new home!

6. If your new home needs updates or renovations (flooring, stairs, etc.), then have painters and contractors complete the work before you move in. Sometimes this isn’t possible but if it is, it will feel wonderful walking into a fresh new home. Of course, you’ll need alternate living arrangements if the renos are extensive, so that will need some planning as well. People have good intentions of doing a lot of these things themselves but get overwhelmed once they do move-in, so hiring professionals to do the job will help you focus on enjoying your new home.

Jennifer Birch