Have the spookiest house on the street

Spooky house

Do you love driving around your neighbourhood during October, checking out the ghostly and gruesome Halloween decorations? Thinking of upping your game this year? With plenty of time to get crafty before October 31, make this the year to go all out and enter the running for your street’s creepiest house!

Here are 8 spooktacular ideas for creating a spine-chilling, Halloween home:

1. Remove your doormat and use black duct tape to create a spider web on your front porch.

2. Cut eye holes in empty toilet paper rolls, insert a glow stick in each and strategically place in bushes around your yard.

3. Think large scale and drape spider webs from your eavestrough down to your front porch. Make or buy some massive spiders (you can find instructions for creating your own on Pinterest) and place the creepy crawlers in the web.

4. Use some discarded Barbies or other dolls (you can find them at your local thrift shop) to create an army of zombie dolls. Use grey paint on their faces, mess up their hair and remove a few limbs for the full effect!

5. Nothing says Halloween like swirling fog! Make your own fog machine with a few simple ingredients. You’ll need pure gylcerin, distilled water, an empty 2 litre bottle, a small tin foil pie tin and a couple other easy-to-find supplies to create your DIY fog machine. Check online for detailed instructions.

6. Instead of a red carpet entry, offer your guests a faux blood-stained pathway! Cut 3-foot strips from an old, white sheet or drop cloth and lay along your front walkway a few hours before trick-or-treaters start arriving. Step in red paint with bare feet and add some bloodied footprints and splatter some more red paint for a little extra gore.

7. To create the illusion of desperate folks trying to escape your home, cut out forearm/handprints from black bristol board and affix to windows. Use dim lighting for the desired effect.

8. For a weird and whimsical look, shape chicken wire into ghostly figures, spray with glow in the dark paint and place on your front lawn.

You can find plenty of exciting ideas for Halloween decorating at http://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/g1370/outdoor-halloween-decorations/

Why you should work with a realtor when buying a home

blog-5As a consumer, you take your time when making a major purchase, researching products, asking for opinions and weighing the pros and cons of the many different options available. When it comes to making life’s biggest purchase – a new home – you’ve likely done the same. You’ve visited the neighbourhoods you’re interested in and have an idea of the average market price. You may have toured a few open houses and have your mind set on the ideal floor plan and style of home you prefer.

It’s true; There’s a lot to think about and even more to understand when buying a home and what you see when you walk from room to room is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s for this reason that finding a seasoned professional to guide you every step of the way is a smart decision for house hunters. Even if you’ve owned a home before and feel confident in your ability to find “the right house”, a real estate salesperson has the breadth of knowledge and a special skill set that comes only with experience – they are dealing with the sale and acquisition of homes on a daily basis.

Here are just a few of the things that a realtor will be looking for during your hunt for a new home:

Wiring – Homes built up until the 1940’s were likely outfitted with knob and tube wiring. In the 60’s, aluminum wire became a popular choice. Both are considered a fire hazard and today many insurance companies will refuse to insure a home with one of these types of electrical wiring or will charge a higher premium. Your realtor will be able to tell if a home has knob and tube or aluminum wiring. Replacing the electrical wiring in an entire house can cost anywhere from $7,000 – $15,000.

HVAC system – A salesperson will be able to tell you the exact age of the furnace and air conditioner and may be able to tell you if these systems have been properly maintained.

Plumbing – Sump pumps, septic tanks, wells and sewer systems….your realtor will be able to explain each of these features in detail.

Ontario’s next step towards waste free province

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Did you know that, on average, every Ontarian produces more than 850 kilograms of waste every year? For the past 10 years, residents have only recycled about 25% of their waste, meaning that over eight million tonnes of waste is being sent to landfill each year.

In an effort to improve these numbers, the government announced details about Ontario’s Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy this past spring. This new initiative outlines the province’s plan to fight climate change by reducing landfilled materials that could otherwise be reused, recycled, composted and reintegrated into the economy. The Waste-Free Ontario Act will make it mandatory to separate food and other organics from the waste stream with municipalities told to implement programs by the end of 2018. This means that families will need to start being more diligent about recycling and composting in their homes in the very near future.

The good news? Composting is easy! You can find a composting unit in plastic or wood at your local hardware store, or you can make your own. Check online for step-by-step instructions.

Here are some tips for ensuring that you have success with backyard composting:

1. Place your composter in a dry, shady accessible location (remember, you can use it during summer and winter).

2. Add your compost material in alternating layers of greens and browns. Greens are kitchen scraps, such as vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds and crushed eggshells. Browns are leaves, grass clippings, cut-up twigs, sawdust and shredded paper products.

3. Occasionally you may need to add water. Your compost should be damp, but not soaking wet.

4. Add a layer of soil every so often. This will introduce micro-organisms that will help break down the material and deter insects.

5. Add air. Every month or so, turn the compost well. Some composters are even mounted on frames that allow for easy turning.

For a backyard composter, avoid any fish, meat, dairy products, fats or oils. These materials may attract pests. If your area has a green bin system, these materials are still fine for pickup. After a few months, your compost will be ready for your garden. Its nutrient-rich qualities will keep your plants healthy and happy while reducing your household waste.

Happy composting!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Closing up your cottage

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September has arrived and, while we’re still enjoying warm, sunny days, the end of summer is inevitable and it will soon be time to close up the cottage for the frosty winter season. There are also a number of tasks that recreational property owners need to tackle in order to protect their cottage from the elements, wildlife and would-be thieves.

• Before turning off the electricity, go room to room to turn off and unplug all electrical devices.

 

• Drain the plumbing system to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

• Drain the water tank. Remember to turn off the power supply to the water heater before draining to avoid damage to the heating element.

• Leave the refrigerator door open slightly to avoid nasty smells come springtime. Be sure to remove all food from the cottage.

• Lock windows or board them and safely secure all entry points. Pay close attention to patio doors (use a security bar) and beef up your deadbolt and entry doors if they haven’t been replaced in decades.

• Remove all valuable possessions from your cottage. Prepare for the worst – do not keep jewelry, pricey electronics, family heirlooms or expensive artwork in your cottage during the off-season.

• Turn to any neighbours who remain up north all year long and ask them to keep an eye on your property and do a closer inspection every so often.

• Store boats, jet skis, paddle boats and any other recreational ‘toys’ in a secure, locked building. Add a couple motion-activated lights, which might help scare off unwanted visitors.

• A security system is an excellent deterrent to would-be thieves. Do some research to find out if there is a local monitoring station that covers your area.

By taking a few easy steps at the end of the season, you can ensure that your cottage will be just as you left it when you return next summer!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Biking in Burlington!

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If you’re a cycling enthusiast, a wonderful place to take residence is the City of Burlington. From the shoreline of Lake Ontario up to the foothills of the Escarpment, Burlington provides opportunities for cyclists like nowhere else in Halton Region. The Burlington Cycling Committee, established in 1990, oversees, advises and supports the sport in the city.

Numerous parks and trails are dotted all along Lake Ontario right across the city. Burloak Park, Paletta Park and Spencer Smith Park all provide the perfect place to get away for a relaxing ride on a hectic day. There is nothing more picturesque than a bike ride along Lakeshore Road in the springtime! To learn all about the parks and trails in Burlington that cater to bikers visit http://www.tourismburlington.com.

Downtown Burlington is a fantastic place to take the whole family for a joy ride on two wheels. Begin at Spencer Smith Park and hop on the Waterfront Trail, which takes cyclists all along the shoreline with a number of interesting sights along the way. Stop for a dip in the lake, grab some fish and chips at Hutch’s or relax at Beachway Park.

On the outskirts of the city, cyclists will discover an entire network of conservation areas, beaches and heritage sites. Mountain bikers and cyclists can also be found circling Halton Conservation’s Kelso Park, well known for its picturesque trails.

As the Burlington Cycling Committee nears its 30-year anniversary, it’s a great time to get out and discover Burlington by bike!

Pretty Patios & Balconies

Summer-Porch-with-CoffeeJune is almost here and it won’t be long before we’re enjoying our morning coffee on the front porch or catching some rays on our backyard patios! At this early stage in the season, trees and shrubs are still budding, your gardens are rather barren and you might be craving a little colour! Luckily, there are so many ways that you can add some serious style to your patio, porch, decks and backyards without spending a fortune!

For some instant green foliage, bring your indoor plants outside. May is usually a safe time to start acclimating plants to the outdoors for the summer season but be sure to bring them inside at night if it’s still cool, and don’t place them in direct sunlight for more than a few hours. Strategically place plants around the seating area, just as you would indoors.

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Using fabric is a wonderful way to make an outdoor space homier. Search clearance bins for colourful throw pillows you won’t mind tossing after the summer season and find a couple outdoor rugs to really bring the space together. Place a larger, neutral-coloured rug down first, underneath your patio furniture and place a smaller, more vibrant area rug centred on top of the first to add a little pizzazz. If your space is very exposed, you can create privacy with a screen, some old shutters or a few curtain panels. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells outdoor curtains in a variety of pretty patterns that are built to withstand the elements.

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A hot trend in 2017 is the vertical garden. Ideal for backyards where space is a commodity, a vertical garden will become a gorgeous focal point in your outdoor space while providing privacy, visual interest and even food! You can DIY the project using old pallets, chicken wire, wooden boxes, an old dresser, even old, plastic pop bottles! Check Pinterest for ideas and step-by-step instructions. Love to cook? Plant herbs in your vertical garden and enjoy fresh, flavourful dishes all summer long.

For the finishing touches on your outdoor space, hang some artwork or a mirror on outside walls, add some mood lighting or place a few sturdy candle holders on tables.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

What do you know about Rent to Own?

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Renting to own, also known as a lease option, is another choice in today’s real estate market. Traditionally, if you were looking to purchase a home, you would save 20 percent of a home’s cost for a down payment and get a mortgage up front from a financial institution.

That option may be challenging if you have a bruised credit history, or you don’t have an adequate down payment, if you are new immigrants with little or no credit history or are self-employed.

Renting to own means you can save for a down payment while actually living in the house you want to buy. Usually, a portion of the monthly rent is set aside toward the down payment and there is often a significant deposit as well. At the end of two to four years, the down payment is collected and the renters apply for a mortgage.

Although it sounds like a win-win, there are pitfalls to watch for. Your monthly rental costs, due to the down payment portion, will usually be substantially higher than a regular rental. If you’re a renter in this kind of arrangement and you must break the agreement, you risk losing your deposit and the monthly savings in order to walk away. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. If you still don’t qualify for a mortgage at the end of the rental period, you may have to walk away from the home and from your money too. If you’re late on a monthly payment, you could be evicted, forfeiting your cash.

As with any contract that involves large amounts of money, make sure you obtain legal counsel before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure your investment is protected and that there is a clause for breaking the rental agreement that won’t break you!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor