Are Renos Worth the Effort for Resale?

At some point during the chaos of every renovation, one question is asked: “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the upheaval? Is it worth the cost? Most important, is it worth the effort when it comes time to sell?

The answer: It depends.

It depends on what you choose to renovate. Are you planning major overhauls or minor improvements? Recent statistics suggest small changes may actually be better than extensive renovations when it comes time to sell.

The 2018 cost-vs.-value report from Remodeling Magazine shows that smaller upgrades vs. larger renovations get you the most bang for your buck.

According to the report, those who renovate on a massive scale should expect a return of 56 per cent. This is less than the steady return of 64 per cent over the past two years.

Why the drop? Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling Magazine, believes it is because some real estate professionals suspect their local market may be reaching its peak. He explains, “Consequently, spending a lot of money does not automatically mean your house will just ride the escalator up and be worth a lot more.”

So, if you are planning a reno in 2018, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Forgo a major kitchen overhaul for a simple upgrade that could recoup you 81.10 per cent vs. 53.50 per cent. Instead of building that addition to the master suite (ROI 48.3 per cent), consider something with more curb appeal, such as a new garage door (ROI 98.3 per cent), manufactured stone veneer (ROI 97.10 per cent) or a wood deck (ROI 83 per cent).

When asking yourself if all the effort is worth it, keep your real estate agent in mind.

This professional knows your market inside and out and can best advise you about whether your potential remodel will help sell your home quickly. Seek his or her input before starting your next project.

Closing Costs: It’s about More Than Your Down Payment

The first step in buying a home is deciding on a budget. How much house can you afford? Within what price range will you shop?

A down payment is, unfortunately, only one part of that budget. To correctly determine the affordability of a home, it’s essential that prospective buyers consider the costs that arise at the time of closing.

Closing costs vary from province to province and from municipality to municipality, and they can represent anywhere from 1 to 4 per cent of a home’s selling price, according to ratehub.ca. That may not sound like much, but when you’re looking to buy a $750,000 home, closing expenses can add as much as $30,000 to your costs.

Here’s a look at a handful of those expenses and what they will run you:

Property taxes. A property tax adjustment at closing ensures the sellers and buyers pay the amount of taxes each rightfully owes for the year. Depending on the date of closing, you may need to pay a lump sum on your new home or one you’re selling.

Legal fees. The preparation of the required legal documents by a lawyer can cost you at least $500.

Home inspection fee. Most home buyers like to include a successful home inspection as a condition of their offer to purchase. A qualified home inspector will cost $500 and up.

Land transfer tax. Each province charges land transfer tax (LTT), which is calculated as a percentage of the home’s purchase price. The rate of the LTT varies by province. Some cities also charge a municipal LTT, adding an additional cost to consider.

Are Renos Worth the Effort for Resale?

At some point during the chaos of every renovation, one question is asked: “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the upheaval? Is it worth the cost? Most important, is it worth the effort when it comes time to sell?

The answer: It depends.

It depends on what you choose to renovate. Are you planning major overhauls or minor improvements? Recent statistics suggest small changes may actually be better than extensive renovations when it comes time to sell.

The 2018 cost-vs.-value report from Remodeling Magazine shows that smaller upgrades vs. larger renovations get you the most bang for your buck.

According to the report, those who renovate on a massive scale should expect a return of 56 per cent. This is less than the steady return of 64 per cent over the past two years.

Why the drop? Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling Magazine, believes it is because some real estate professionals suspect their local market may be reaching its peak. He explains, “Consequently, spending a lot of money does not automatically mean your house will just ride the escalator up and be worth a lot more.”

So, if you are planning a reno in 2018, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Forgo a major kitchen overhaul for a simple upgrade that could recoup you 81.10 per cent vs. 53.50 per cent. Instead of building that addition to the master suite (ROI 48.3 per cent), consider something with more curb appeal, such as a new garage door (ROI 98.3 per cent), manufactured stone veneer (ROI 97.10 per cent) or a wood deck (ROI 83 per cent).

When asking yourself if all the effort is worth it, keep your real estate agent in mind.

This professional knows your market inside and out and can best advise you about whether your potential reno will achieve the return you desire.

Seek his or her input before starting your next project.

Closing Costs: It’s about More Than Your Down Payment

The first step in buying a home is deciding on a budget. How much house can you afford? Within what price range will you shop?

A down payment is, unfortunately, only one part of that budget. To correctly determine the affordability of a home, it’s essential that prospective buyers consider the costs that arise at the time of closing.

Closing costs vary from province to province and from municipality to municipality, and they can represent anywhere from 1 to 4 per cent of a home’s selling price, according to ratehub.ca. That may not sound like much, but when you’re looking to buy a $750,000 home, closing expenses can add as much as $30,000 to your costs.

Here’s a look at a handful of those expenses and what they will run you:

Property taxes. A property tax adjustment at closing ensures the sellers and buyers pay the amount of taxes each rightfully owes for the year. Depending on the date of closing, you may need to pay a lump sum on your new home or one you’re selling.

Legal fees. The preparation of the required legal documents by a lawyer can cost you at least $500.

Home inspection fee. Most home buyers like to include a successful home inspection as a condition of their offer to purchase. A qualified home inspector will cost $500 and up.

Land transfer tax. Each province charges land transfer tax (LTT), which is calculated as a percentage of the home’s purchase price. The rate of the LTT varies by province. Some cities also charge a municipal LTT, adding an additional cost to consider.

Condo Life Is Now a Reality for Many Canadians

With the dwindling of land available for construction of detached and semi-detached single-family homes, Canadians are accepting the need for vertical living and high-density communities. Even naysayers are contemplating life in a “box.”

The reality is – as Canada’s most recent census numbers indicates – condo living is here to stay.

The 2016 census revealed that 13.3% of all Canadian households (approximately 1.9 million households) live in condominiums – an increase of 1.2 percentage points over the previous census conducted in 2011.

Of course, that differs across the country and from urban areas to suburbs and rural locations. In Vancouver, for example, some 30% of the population call a condo home. In Toronto, that number sits at 20.9%. But in both Halifax and Moncton, the number of condo dwellers drops to below 5%.

Notes a recent CBC article published after census results were released: “In other cities, meanwhile, condos barely rate as a living option. In Greater Sudbury, Ont., Saint John and St. John’s … less than one out of every 20 people live in a condo.”

The numbers, of course, correlate to population: Both Vancouver and Toronto boast larger populations, and wildly different real estate markets, than their smaller counterparts. The census reported that, by homeowner estimates, the cost of an average home in Vancouver totalled $1,005,920 compared to $734,924 in Toronto. And across Canada, the average value of a home was $443,058, up from $345,182 in 2011. And, interestingly, two-thirds of households owned their condos, while renters accounted for the remainder. Perhaps something to watch for in future?

‘Curb Appeal’ Renos a Growing Trend

As the winter thaw begins, and spring buying and selling fever heats up, there are certain renovations you can make on your home to ensure you get an optimal return on investment (ROI).

Whether you’ve been waiting for that perfect time to list, or are looking to flip fast, being strategic with your home renovations can make the difference between losing money and having extra cash in your pocket.

As a Houzz article points out, when it comes to home renovations, the “size of your space, the scope of work involved, your DIY abilities, the quality of materials you choose and even your geographic location all play a part.”

Invest in curb appeal

However, your renovations don’t have to be earth-shattering. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, the trend of making “curb appeal” renovations to your home scored a higher ROI than larger renovations.

Boost energy efficiency

Surprisingly, installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic came in as number one on the report. Although it doesn’t seem as exciting as other home remodels, it makes your home more energy efficient, and it can be accomplished yourself, inexpensively. Plus, it returns an estimated 107.1% on your investment.

Interestingly, something as subtle as replacing your garage door could yield you as much as an 85% ROI. Landscaping is another tried, tested and true improvement that can return as much as 650% to 900%, according to Global National, on your investment. Installing new windows, adding high-efficiency appliances and repainting the exterior and interior of your home can make a huge impact for little cost.

Key to success

Bryan Baeumler, host of a variety of reno shows on HGTV Canada, tells Global National the keys to a successful home reno is: Fitting your plan into a budget and not your budget into a plan; cost vs. impact; and what makes the most sense for you.

‘Is It Done Yet?’ How to Renovate With Kids

Spring home improvements can be stressful, especially when you’re living in the middle of it. Add children to the mix, and the tension increases.

But you don’t need to take a vacation while your home is being remodeled – even if walls are coming down. Here are some tips on how to continue to live as a family during a major renovation.

Your children’s space – and their routines – will be disrupted. To avoid comments like “When can we use the kitchen again?” share the construction schedule with them.

Prepare for disruptions: Kitchens and bathrooms are often the rooms being remodeled; unfortunately, they’re also the most used. If possible, consider completing one room at a time.

Set up a temporary kitchen in another room and prepare meals in advance that can be quickly reheated. Get the kids to help you devise a bathroom schedule; they may be more inclined to follow it if they’re involved.

Make safety a priority: Know where your kids are during work hours. Make sure they understand the safety risks, and put lots of space between them and the work. Also ensure your contractor stores tools away safely at the end of the day.

Dust can be hazardous for anyone with allergies. Plastic sheeting should be used to seal off the area under construction from your temporary living space, but you also may want to consider closing the heating and cooling vents. As well, your contractor should use nontoxic paints and stains.

Choose your contractor wisely. Make sure the company has a reputation for completing jobs safely, and be prepared to pay more for contractors who are properly insured and follow regulations. Ask them how comfortable they are with children on site and make sure everyone agrees to and obeys the safety rules.

Finally, when it’s finished, have fun together in the new space. After all, you – and the kids – deserve it.

Why Canadians Are Embracing the Trend of Smaller Homes

The small house movement may be coming to a neighbourhood near you, proving that “bigger is better” is not necessarily true.

Having a bigger space to fill, a bigger mortgage to pay, and a smaller disposable income make having a large home unrealistic for many young professionals and families.

In an article in homify.ca, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association suggests that Canadian homes have long been among the world’s largest, at 2,300 sq. feet (213.68 sq. meter) on average. And this hasn’t changed. In the same article, a 2017 report from consultant PwC suggests homes in Canada are the third largest in the world.

However, rising prices, dwindling space and an influx of immigration may make room for the small housing movement to gain a foothold in Canada. As the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) states: ” Home prices have risen ahead of economic fundamentals such as personal disposable income and population growth, resulting in overvaluation in many Canadian housing markets.”

In fact, cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have already witnessed the small housing phenomenon as limited space and affordability have forced developers to think small.

Paul Kealey, co-owner of EkoBuilt, near Ottawa, told The Ottawa Citizen that there are many positives to the small housing movement, as the houses are “cheaper to build and operate, less expensive to maintain and repair.” That also may mean lower taxes.

Sounds like the small housing movement is on the verge of packing a big punch in housing markets across Canada.

Make Your Home Buyer Friendly with Focused Staging

With the move to buyers’ markets in many areas, you’ll want your for-sale home to look its best. And that requires focus. Focused staging, that is.

Staging your home can increase the offer amount by up to 10%, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2017 Profile of Home Staging. But what if you haven’t the time or cash to stage the whole house?

You focus on the rooms that push buyers’ buttons. A messy mudroom may not kill your sale, but an unusable kitchen or master bedroom may be a deal-breaker.

Few buyers can see beyond your personal style, particularly in hot-button areas like the living room, kitchen and master bedroom. So concentrate on staging these.

This article – from RISMedia – may help:

According to the NAR Profile, the living room is one of the most popular to stage. Make it feel larger by replacing bulky furniture with smaller pieces. Help buyers to imagine their things here; leave lots of space on shelves and around furniture.

In the kitchen, declutter countertops, the fridge and inside cabinets (yes, buyers willlook). Add colour with a bowl of fruit.

“Most bedrooms don’t need much more than the bed, dresser, end tables, and a mirror,” the article suggests. Make the bed the focus with beautiful, but not necessarily expensive, linens.

A clean bathroom is a saleable bathroom. The master bath, especially, should gleam. Add attractive towels and battery candles for atmosphere.

And don’t forget to tidy the outside. You know what they say about first impressions.

Polishing the Crystal Ball: Real Estate in 2018

Whether you’re planning to become a home buyer in 2018 or hoping to sell your current property, it can be hard to forecast the way the real estate market will go. Here are some trend predictions, gathered from several sources, which maydominate in 2018:

A recent report from the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers brings good news: the usual boom-and-bust cycle isn’t behaving typically, so what could have been a bust may be a gentle downturn instead.

Smartcitiesdive.com, which highlighted elements of the PWC/Urban Land Institute report, suggests the real estate industry has begun to take an interest in a new generation.

This is not to detract from the importance of millennials who, incidentally, are expected to become more interested in purchasing a home in 2018 than in previous years. A new generation, “Gen Z,” is indicating an even stronger interest in becoming homeowners at an earlier age than their millennial counterparts. Born after 1995, Gen Zers are enthusiastic about fixer-uppers and do-it-yourself projects and may lead the way in gentrifying distressed urban neighbourhoods.

The Internet of Things is changing everything, so why not real estate? Smart home automation is driving the industry to incorporate the latest tech in new home builds and attract tech-savvy buyers by focusing on tech amenities in listings. The PWC/Urban Land Institute report suggests the industry has been lagging behind, technologically speaking, so 2018 may well be the year of the high-tech home.

Little is known yet about the economic and political factors affecting the industry across Canada. Continued government intervention in selected markets, such as Vancouver and Toronto, remains a question mark as does the movement of interest rates. The Canadian economy appears stable, and ultimately it may be that stability that will impact real estate at the seller and buyer level. Continued concerns about affordability and household debt will remain issues to contend with in 2018.

Millennials Seek New Housing Opportunities

Canada’s millennials are transforming the housing landscape in their search for new kinds of homes.

And they pack a big punch financially. According to a report by CBC News, more than 50% of 25 to 35-year-old Canadians own a home, compared to 36% of U.S. millennials. The research, from TD Economics, says that Canadian millennials have less student debt, better jobs and higher incomes than their U.S. peers. What do millennials want it comes to housing? The answer is: Pretty much everything. And a U.S. innovation called an “Urby” may suit the bill.

The Urby is a mixed-use residential development that brings a little bit of city, a little bit of community and a little bit of entertainment to a little apartment. Emphasizing “New Urbanist” principles such as walkable neighbourhoods and access to public transportation, Urby developments are designed for urban professionals.

Key to Urby projects such as the Urban Ready Life (URL) complex in Staten Island, N.Y. is providing opportunities for social interaction. URL common areas offer chances for interpersonal connections between residents by including lobby coffee shops, communal kitchens and a cultural director. Sounds ideal for this work-hard, play-hard generation, and Canadian developers are watching the progress of projects such as Urbys, the tiny house movement and co-op housing developments.

So far, however, they’re just watching: Notes Steve Jackson, program manager for the Cooperative Housing Association of Canada: “It’s unfortunate that there are no major programs to develop new co-op housing … We know that a lot of millennials do see co-op housing as a wonderful option.”

Redecorating Your Child’s Room? Start Here

Redecorating a child’s room is enjoyable. Figuring out creative ways to make your kids’ spaces whimsical yet functional is a fun design challenge. And watching their faces light up when it’s all done? Priceless.

Home design website Houzz conducted a survey of users who have “recently completed, are working on or are planning a home project with kids in mind.” The results provide an interesting look at what’s currently trending in the world of children’s rooms. If you’re about to embark on creating a special room for a child, keep the following in mind:

  • Close to 70% of respondents said their kids’ rooms have themes. The most popular looks, in order: nature, animals, sports, and princesses. But note: kids grow up quickly and tastes change just as quickly. Today’s trendy decor may look dated tomorrow.
  • Functionality and maintenance are top priorities. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they wanted a space that was easy to clean and maintain, and 64% said they needed a functional setup. Be sure to incorporate washable and durable materials, and include labeled storage boxes and bins.
  • Blue reigns supreme. Fifty-nine percent said blue is the dominant colour for kids’ rooms, followed by white, gray, green, and pink.
  • The cost of redecorating a kid’s room varies. Of respondents who had completed their project, one-third spent $1,000 or less. Establish a budget before starting; it’s easy to get carried away with cute decor and playful features. And unlike adults, kids don’t notice the difference between the more expensive option and a more affordable one.
  • Nearly 70% of participants cited clutter as a challenge. Make toy management a priority in your kids’ rooms. Oversized bins in fun colours and/or closet storage systems are key to keeping toys and “stuff” out of sight and out of mind.

Finally, involve your kids in the decisions. After all, it is their room.

Will Balance Return to Real Estate Markets?

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the summer of 2017 delivered the first year-over-year decline in home prices in four years. And this may be a sign of balance returning to housing markets across Canada.

As reported by CREA, the across-the-country decline was only 0.3 per cent, but many believe this downward trend will continue at least into the new year. According to CREA, home sales declined in two-thirds of the Canadian market, including Calgary, Halifax and Ottawa, and the Greater Toronto Area.

As CREA chief economist Gregory Klump says: “Sales may be starting to bottom out amid stabilizing housing market sentiment. Time will tell whether that’s indeed the case…”

The national news magazine Maclean’s believes that prices will also fall, especially in the single, detached-home market. And, to the relief of many, Maclean’s suggests the days of bidding wars are most likely behind us.

Market watchers attributed the drop in home sales that initially affected Vancouver, and was still impacting Toronto this fall, to recent measures imposed by both provinces designed to cool overheated housing markets.

Also this fall, the Bank of Canada increased the interest rate for the second time in two months – which had the immediate effect of raising mortgage rates. Expectations are that rates will continue to rise. As well, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is considering again tightening credit regulations. But industry pushback may put this on hold.

What are buyers and sellers across the country to do? With the usual slowdown in the housing market in fall and winter combined with uncertainty on many fronts, both may be inclined to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Or they may adopt the position of cautious optimism espoused by some experts, who are anticipating calmer, more balanced housing markets across the country with more choice for buyers and sufficient profit for sellers.

After all the instability, this may be news to take action on.

Downsizing Happens at All Ages Now: Here’s How to Ace It

Downsizing is often associated with empty nesters and retirees, but as it turns out, more and more homeowners of all ages-including millennials-are looking for smaller residential footprints.

Currently, more than 40 per cent of Canadian millennials rent, and many say they prefer it. But those who are buying are lining up for small condos that will allow them to live in urban centres at affordable prices.

Downsizing dilemmas

Getting rid of belongings that won’t fit in your smaller space is challenging. The upside-of particular interest to millennials-is the opportunity to dump old inherited pieces for trendy modern furniture.

Measure your new home before moving day, and decide what to take before you start packing. If there’s a too-big item that you can’t bear to part with, store it. But not at mom and dad’s, say experts; they may be downsizing soon themselves.

Emotional attachment can make it hard to decide what you should throw out. Ask a straight-talking friend or family member to help with an unbiased second opinion on tough decisions-like whether your bookcase or king-sized bed is way too big for your new digs.

Once you’ve rounded up everything you won’t be taking, have a garage sale. You’ll feel less guilty about parting with so much, and you can make a surprising amount of money to help with moving expenses.

Trying to dispose of all the items you can’t sell can be overwhelming. Hiring a pickup service for junk removal or to take to a charity can be well worth the expense.

Wait and Save: We Still Believe in Homeownership

Do you dream of owning a home someday? If so, you’re not alone. The desire to put down roots and invest in a home is a common one.

And this dream is still strong across North America. The problem is, many can’t afford it.

To many, the dream seems elusive as a result of the significant cost not just of purchasing a home but also in carrying it. Many who would like to and can pursue the dream never will due to fears associated with the lack of affordability (“Will I be in over my head?” “Will I lose money?”).

Affordability is a concern

According to the RBC 2017 Home Ownership Poll, 80% of Canadians believe homeownership is a good investment.

However, only 25% plan to purchase a home this year. Why the discrepancy? Considering the average Canadian home price has climbed over the $500,000 mark, it’s understandable why many won’t find home-buying affordable just yet. And “yet” is the key word. For many, their plans to own a home someday have not changed. They’re simply delayed. For example, nearly 40% of Canadian millennials plan to buy a home in the next two years.

As some Canadians put their home-buying plans on hold, they cite three main reasons for the delay. More than half of those participating in the RBC poll believe that housing prices may come down. Others are uncertain about the state of the economy and also express concern that carrying costs continue to increase.

How are they dealing with it? As RBC vice president Nicole Wells suggests: “For many Canadians, buying a home is a financial and personal milestone – often the biggest investment one will make.

“In today’s market, the best advice is to start with understanding exactly how much you can afford, and focus on your wants and needs ahead of starting the house hunt. … Knowledge and education are key.”

Family Living in the Sky: North America’s Newest Reality

As land available for new construction shrinks in urban centers across North America, governments, builders, and families are looking upward. Living high in the sky isn’t how many young families would have envisioned the family home, but for many, it’s a reality.

This new reality is playing out in Toronto, Ontario, where family-sized condo units are rare. Some 80% of new housing built in the past decade are buildings of five or more stories. Yet fewer than 10% of high-rise homes in the city have three or more bedrooms. And this is presenting a problem for young families who want to live and work there.

According to a recent story in Citylab.com, Toronto is on its way. Guidelines generated in a 2015 study by the city’s Planning Division were adopted this summer by its City Council and will be used in evaluating current and future projects. The guidelines, points out CityLab contributing writer Mimi Kirk, “are not only applicable to Toronto, but to cities across North America and beyond …”

Among the recommendations: 15% of units should include two bedrooms and 10% should include three, with these larger units located on lower levels, close to each other, and adjoining outdoor spaces.

Meanwhile, in New York City, where raising kids in high-rises is nothing new (but not particularly family-friendly), some existing buildings are currently updating and repurposing their amenities, thanks to the growing number of New Yorkers choosing to raise their families in the city.

Maybe life in the sky isn’t such a hardship after all.

Millennials’ Homeownership Dreams Can Come True

For many millennials, the dream of homeownership feels far away, if not impossible. Salaries that haven’t grown with the cost of living, new mortgage rules, volatile housing markets, and a plethora of other reasons have made buying a home more difficult than it’s ever been for young people.

A survey by Apartment List of 24,000 American renters found that 80% of millennial renters want to become homeowners, but 72% are held back by affordability. Some 44% don’t have savings to put toward a down payment.

Many who find themselves in that position are trying to reach their homeownership goals with second and even third jobs in order to save extra money. Some are moving to smaller towns where housing is cheaper, while others are living with Mom and Dad in order to save on rent. But Fundrise, a Washington, D.C.-based start-up, has another, more creative solution.

Fundrise is a real estate crowdfunding start-up that sells shares in “eFunds” that build and/or remodel urban housing. An investor can be part of an eFund for $1,000, and the target audience is millennials.

Notes a recent Forbes article on the project: “(T)he goal is for a subset of the fund investors to become owners of the very places their money is helping build. Fundrise calls these ‘homebuyer investors’ or HBIs.”

So if a millennial could invest in a property today, he or she could be taking advantage of gains toward what might eventually become his or her home.

As well, says Forbes writer Samantha Sharf: “Fundrise’s effort is unique in tackling the dearth of affordable supply, which many economist [sic] agree is the biggest issue in the housing market today.”

The Fundrise project launched this past summer, so it’s too early to assess its success in encouraging new supply or in attracting millennials.
But this initiative may soon become one of many – millennials deserve their shot at homeownership too.

Green Renos Are Increasing by Leaps and Bounds

Not all home renovations are made in order to improve a home’s aesthetics or comfort. A June 2017 article in Real Estate Magazine took a look at a growing trend – additions and improvements for the purpose of improving a home’s efficiency and environmental friendliness – and its value.

Michael Garrity, CEO of finance company Financeit, told REM that in the past four years his company has seen a 200 per cent increase in the number of loans intended for “green” usage; and from 2013 to 2016, the company’s financing for residential solar projects alone increased by 232 per cent.

One homeowners’ survey conducted by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) indicated that energy efficiency was the third most desired factor in a new home purchase, behind cost and location. The reason: a desire on the part of homeowners to reduce utility costs.

As well, the past 30 years have brought continuous improvement in energy-saving technology, including heating and cooling and solar energy advances. Homes now use about half as much energy as they did in the 1980s, another CHBA survey found.

So what does this mean for homeowners and buyers? While upfront costs may be steep, they’re worth it. (Garrity suggests new state-of-the-art windows may cost between $5,000 and $15,000 while solar panel installation may be as high as $25,000, depending on the size of the project.)

Homeowners will benefit from reduced energy costs while they live in the home and see its value increased when they go to sell, because, increasingly, home buyers are willing to pay the price.

Rules Differ in a Condo Remodel: Here’s How

You’re ready to renovate. Your creative juices are flowing, and you’re excited to create that perfect space.

But wait. Are you remodeling a condo? If so, this requires some special considerations. The game rules differ from those for a detached home. Here’s the playbook:

Read the regulations: Condos come with associations. These come with rules. The association has put certain standards in place to maintain the best possible conditions for your building. Before forging ahead with any plans, read through the regulations of your association and consult with your board or property manager for anything that will need the association’s approval.

Consider condo limitations: Your unit may be linked to others, so you may not be able to alter certain aspects of your home: plumbing fixtures might have to stay where they are; you may not be able to remove walls that support the structure, or install pot lights in ceilings. But don’t let these limits stifle your creativity or dash your renovation hopes. Just keep them in mind as you plan.

Plan ahead: If your renovations are extensive and the space small, your contractor and workers may require an extra space in which to work. Ask if there is a workshop or outside space they may be able to use.

Don’t fear the painter: One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to transform a space is by painting it. However, many condo owners are concerned about personalizing their walls, especially with deep, dark colours. Unless you’re renovating for an immediate sale, go ahead and make the space your own. Enjoy it while it’s yours. When you are ready to sell, you’ll likely need to apply a fresh coat of paint anyway, and you can make it neutral then.

Get out: For your own sanity, stay with a friend or relative during construction, or treat yourself to a hotel.

Home Hungry: Why Not Co-Own a Home with a Co-Stranger?

Not unlike speed dating, the goal of a recent Toronto meet and greet was to discover a soul mate. Only the objective here was to find a soul mate with whom to buy a house. For many living in expensive urban centres, it might be the only way they’ll ever become homeowners.

Co-ownership of property has been around for years. However, with the housing price increases in some areas of the country, it appears to present a viable solution to home-hungry Canadians, particularly millennial wannabe-homeowners used to sharing.

That’s because you and your co-owner will jointly own a property purchased together. And you may or may not be friends or even acquaintances; these days many are looking to go halvsies with complete strangers.

At the Toronto meeting, a number of wishful homeowners “speed-interviewed” each other, hoping to find a compatible stranger. But even if the homeowner vibe is right, don’t go blindly into mutual homeownership without knowing the risks. As real estate lawyer Lauren Blumas told the CBC, it’s important that co-purchasers sign a legally binding agreement before they buy.

This agreement should detail the percentage of the property each individual owns, as well as the responsibility each has for maintenance and repairs. Also necessary is a resolution mechanism in case the co-owners decide to go their separate ways.

Says Blumas: “(The agreement) would … force you to sit down and think about how you want to structure your arrangement and then formalize it.”

Not to mention to decide if it’s worth the risk.