Want to sell your house faster? Do this

To some sellers, it seems perfectly natural to remain in the home when buyers view their property. After all, the seller can point out all the fabulous features and answer any questions the buyers have about the home, right?

Wrong. This is not the time for sellers to put on their hosting hats and welcome guests into the home. If buyers are coming by to see the property, sellers should vacate the premises. Why?

When sellers are around, buyers feel less comfortable. They are likely to feel rushed and will spend less time in the home, since their visit feels like an imposition on the sellers.

This is the opposite of what needs to happen to sell a home. Buyers must be made to feel as comfortable as possible. This will encourage them to take their time and truly consider the home for purchase. They will be more likely to notice those very features the sellers were hoping to point out, since they won’t be rushed.

Buyers also typically feel more comfortable asking their real estate agent rather than the owner questions about the property. They may have a concern the agent can address that the buyer would not be willing to bring up in front of the seller.

Sellers can also get more helpful feedback indirectly through the agent. For example, a bad odour in the home may be an issue, but buyers might feel rude bringing this up in front of the seller. If sellers can obtain honest feedback, they can use this to improve future showings and sell the home faster.

Five Quick Staging Tips for a Faster Home Sale

Staging your home prepares your property for potential buyers so you can achieve a faster sale. Professional stagers and your real estate agent can help with this task. If you’re under a time crunch, use these simple staging tips to quickly get your home ready for viewing.

Declutter everything: All that “stuff” gets in the way of buyers seeing what your home has to offer. If you don’t have time for a full house purge, at least make sure all surfaces are clear and closets are neatly organized. Remember, you want your home to appear spacious, not crowded.

Spruce up the entry: Make a good first impression. Sweep the front porch. Clean outdoor furniture. Add a doormat and some potted plants. Keep the entry and walkway well-lit.

Rearrange furniture: You might be surprised at how easily you can transform your home with a little rearranging. Place furniture in symmetrical arrangements. Create inviting conversation areas. If you have a spare room that has become a catch-all, set it up as usable space. Arrange it as a guest room or office, so buyers see the room’s potential.

Clean from top to bottom: Your home should sparkle. If you have a lot of square footage to cover, consider having your home professionally cleaned. It will be worth the investment when buyers fall in love with your pristine space.

Minimize odors: Before showings, run some orange rinds through the garbage disposal. Remove odors in furniture and carpets with a dash of baking soda; let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. Heat a pot of water and a couple cinnamon sticks on the stove for an hour to add a pleasing aroma to your space.

Could Driverless Cars Drive Real Estate Values?

Imagine a world where humans never have to worry about wasted commute times. Imagine being able to use that time to work, spend quality time with your kids, plan dinner, or catch up on some much-needed z’s.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? That magic could be coming to a street near you, as driverless cars are poised to become mainstream technology worldwide.

As Tesla, GM, and BMW clamber to get their fleets on the streets, these autonomous cars could have a far-reaching effect on industries other than auto.

When the human is removed from behind the wheel, the potential for error diminishes. Therefore, safety precautions such as auto insurance, parking tickets, speed traps, and law enforcement may no longer be needed.

These vehicles could also have a significant impact on the real estate market. When autonomous cars become the new norm, public transit will no longer be the go-to for those who are unable to drive.

The loss of public transit could have a domino effect on the real estate industry, since cities would no longer be built around transit systems. What was once considered less desirable residential real estate may become more popularbecause of the distance from transit hubs. According to an article in Forbes, these areas could offer a “greater appeal [that] could translate into increasing demand and rising property values.”

The long-reaching impact these cars will have on society is still being mapped, but it should make for an interesting ride.

Prepping Your Home for Sale: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Every seller wants to maximize his or her profit. Partnering with a real estate agent is a great start. Homeowners can further increase their bottom line with a few simple steps. To get the most out of your house, complete the following before you list.

Hire your own home inspector. If a buyer’s inspector finds issues with your home, you can expect your profit to shrink. Stay one step ahead by hiring your own home inspector to unearth any potential issues.

Invest in repairs. In addition to addressing any trouble the home inspection reveals, it’s a good idea to have cosmetic issues addressed. Prospective buyers notice things like cracked tile, chipped baseboards, or a squeaky floorboard, and this will be reflected in their offer.

Upgrade where it counts. You don’t have to renovate your whole house to turn a healthier profit. Make small, impactful swaps, such as switching out lighting, cabinet hardware, or shower heads for cleaner, more contemporary options.

Add a few new accessories. Fresh flowers and potted plants go a long way in making a room feel inviting. For a cozier living room, drape a cable-knit blanket over the couch. String Edison bulb lights over a patio and put an Adirondack chair on the front porch. These small touches add major warmth.

Treat it like a model home. To sell your house quickly and for the most money, treat it like a house you’ve been hired to stage. Put personal effects into storage, declutter, remove artwork that could be seen as too loud, and make sure the house is absolutely spotless.

Want to Sell Your Home Faster? Try These Tips

When you’re getting ready to list your house, the goal isn’t just to sell – it’s to sell quickly! The longer your house is on the market, the less likely it is to fetch top dollar.

Want to sell your house as quickly as possible? These tips are essential.

Hire a real estate agent and follow their advice

Some sellers are tempted to go it alone. But for a quick sale that maximizes profit, go with a real estate agent – and listen to their suggestions. Their market knowledge is invaluable when it comes to pricing and marketing your home.

Boost your curb appeal

Give your front door a fresh coat of paint (punchy red, blue, or yellow is a nice way to switch it up), add hanging baskets and planters to your front stoop, and resod your lawn. A home that looks well cared for is more inviting to prospective buyers.

Stage it

If you really want to sell fast and you have the budget required, allow a professional stager to come and work their magic. Can’t swing the cost? Borrow some of their tricks: Get rid of all personal items, use mirrors to create the illusion of light and space, add throw pillows and blankets to seating, and put fresh flowers or small potted plants in each room.

Be flexible

Selling fast means maximizing the number of buyers coming to see your house, so be willing to vacate at a moment’s notice. Work with your agent to create as many viewing times as possible.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Is Lack of Space Cramping Your Green Thumb?

If your green thumb is out of joint thanks to limited (or nonexistent) outdoor space, try some out-of-the-yard thinking, and you’ll soon be digging in the dirt. You can garden anywhere if you’re resourceful.

Go vertical: If you’re in an urban setting, take inspiration from the high-rises that surround you. When there’s no room to spread out, go up. Use tiered planters and a trellis to create a living wall or a “room” divider on your balcony. Add wall pockets to grow small plants such as herbs. When you think of your outside walls as garden space, you suddenly have lots of room!

Think outside the window box: Who says plants only grow on prairies and in pots? Create a unique arrangement of washbasins, bowls, cookware, repurposed rain boots, previously loved furniture – nothing’s off limits for the innovative container gardener.

Automate it: If you have neither the space nor the green thumb, this solution may be for you. The recently invented Modgarden is a small indoor farm in a cabinet, and it’s fully automated. You simply fill the water reservoir, add seeds, and wait for your veggies and herbs to grow. Some restaurants in colder climes are trying it to grow off-season produce.

Redefine the fruit basket: Fit a large wicker basket with a plant-friendly container filled with potting soil, and add your favourite herb and edible flower seeds. Soon you’ll have a microgarden that’s useful, decorative, and different all in one.

Bring the outdoors in: If you love greenery but lack green space, why not bring the garden inside? Add small potted trees to sitting areas. Integrate potted plants into your décor. Fill your foyer with foliage. You may not have much square footage, but you can transform the space you do have into a garden that flows from room to room. Just remember to provide your plants with the right soil and lighting conditions, water regularly … and enjoy!

Improvements That Increase Your Home’s Value

We Canadians spend upwards of $71 billion improving our homes. That’s more than $5,000 per household. And there’s no sign this is going to change anytime soon.

This year, if you’re looking to increase the value of your home but are unsure what home improvements to make, think curb appeal. According to a recent report from Remodeling magazine, curb appeal projects, such as changes to windows, siding and doors, lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) than interior improvements. It supports the generally held opinion that today’s home buyers, while still enthusiastic about the bells and whistles, want to ensure their home is structurally sound with all systems functioning efficiently.

The Appraisal Institute of Canada agrees: The top five renovations associated with maintaining the value of your home are replacing roofing; updating the HVAC system; replacing windows and doors; updating electrical panels, wiring, sockets and fixtures; and making structural repairs.

In its 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling compares the average cost of current improvement projects with their value at resale, based on the experience of real estate professionals.

The projects chosen include a basement remodel, an entry door that was replaced with 20 gauge steel and the addition of stone veneer. All of the 29 projects tracked returned on average 64.3 cents per dollar spent.

Among the trends, the higher return of curb appeal projects and of projects that required the replacing of windows, doors, etc. Replacement projects generally scored higher than renovation projects; the ROI of replacement totalled 74% and of renos was 63.7%.

Those who want to tackle an interior project might do well to consider a basement renovation, providing it’s done well; a high-end basement reno was perceived as high value, returning 7.4% more than the same project last year, while a mid-range basement improvement project only increased in value by 3.3% over the previous year.

Canada’s Real Estate Market in 2017: How Is It Shaping Up?

Three months into 2017 it looks like predictions made in a study conducted by the Urban Land Institute and PwC are pretty much on track.

Canadians need no reminder of the crazy real estate ride of the past few years: Prices of homes skyrocketed, particular in Vancouver and Toronto; foreign investment surged; and governments tried to dampen housing demand with stress tests to ensure buyers could afford their homes should interest rates rise.

Lack of affordable housing: Housing prices were all over the map in 2016. (They ranged from +15.5% in Toronto to -2.8% in Saskatoon, with the Canadian average totalling a 10.6% change). The key issue was and is lack of affordable housing: All signs point to a continuation of this trend throughout 2017.

Slow sales: High prices, low inventory and new regulations are expected to dampen sales. We’re about to find out whether that will hold true in the spring months, which is traditionally a time for a boost in home sales.

Rentals – the new normal: It won’t happen overnight, but 2017 just could be the year of the rental home, especially in expensive urban centres. Thanks to expected high immigration over the next five years, as well as downsizing boomers and millennial urbanites, demand will grow for long-term rentals, once considered a short-term housing solution.

Challenges: There are challenges aplenty ahead in 2017 – both globally and domestically – that will impact Canada. Ultimately, our housing market will respond. However, in this first quarter of the year, how remains the question.

Should You Sell Your Home Yourself?

Every seller has had the thought: “I could keep so much money in my pocket if I didn’t have a real estate agent. Maybe I should do it myself!”

It’s an attractive thought. Selling your home yourself means no commission fee for an agent. You keep the profits. But what are you risking?

Buyers can take advantage of you: Using their experience and strategic tactics, buyers’ real estate agents will be able to dance circles around you. They’ll figure out your lowest possible price, and they’ll figure out a way to get you there.

You may not make more money: If you use the services of a company that assists private sellers, you’ll have to pay the fee upfront, before your house sells. Plus, prospective buyers know that a private seller is boosting profit by avoiding paying an agent’s commission. They’ll be keen to see some of that savings passed on to them.

Your lack of expertise can hurt you: Unless you have significant real estate training or industry experience, your knowledge of the detailed rules and processes of real estate is likely minimal. You could find yourself in hot water for skirting laws or not disclosing information.

You miss out on valuable expertise: A real estate agent has years of experience buying and selling many homes. He or she will use this experience to sell your home for a higher price, more quickly, and with a much smaller chance of stressful problems. Having an expert by your side has real value.

Demand Soars for Ever-Larger Homes in the Sky

It’s a fact: in Canada’s urban centres, room to build is dwindling, especially in the scarce-as-hen’s-teeth detached housing sector. That’s why high-rise condo towers continue to be the face of new residential building. When we build up, not out, we’re able to provide more shelter for more people while using less of a footprint. But there’s a problem.

Up until now, condos have been viewed as the perfect living solution for young, single professionals or empty nesters looking for less space. But what happens when those young professionals start families, and require more room? The ubiquitous one-bedroom unit no longer cuts it.

Larger units in demand

The need for condo units that can accommodate families is growing, and condo developers are responding. As the Financial Post reports, two-bedroom-plus-den units made up 29 per cent of sales in the second quarter of 2016, up from 18 per cent in 2011. In the article, Shaun Hildebrand, senior vice president at research company Urbanation, notes: “New condos have seen rising demand, which is leading developers to shift strategies and include more two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.”

If these bigger units are built in higher numbers, they could be the most sought-after form of housing in Canada’s biggest cities, partly due to the recently implemented “stress test” that has made it more difficult for first-time buyers to access the financing they need to purchase. With detached housing far out of reach for most of these buyers, three-bedroom homes in the sky could be the new normal.

Is Canada’s Housing Market Slowing Down? Stay Tuned

While media reports still centre on price wars and discouraged potential buyers, the national real estate story may have a new focus. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has expressed concern over several months that housing sales are dropping nationwide. Many wonder: Could the national resale housing market be slowing down?

Some are cautiously saying “yes.” Royal Bank of Canada Senior Economist Robert Hogue noted: “The long-awaited cooling of Canada’s housing market may be finally at hand; only time will tell. When you look at market conditions in Canada’s two hot markets, it is still very, very tight.”

Some signs: Interestingly, Vancouver’s market may now be partly responsible for the latest declining results. Vancouver’s hot real estate markets had been pushing up national results for some time. But the B.C. tax imposed in early summer on foreign buyers had an immediate impact: Sales fell 6.7 per cent in Vancouver in July. Meanwhile, Toronto’s market showed month-over-month declines for most of the summer.

Late reactions? Governments, meanwhile, have started to look for ways to control the housing market. For example, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI), Canada’s banking regulator, recently warned the country’s major financial institutions that it will be scrutinizing their loan books much more closely, and has instructed them to pay better attention to the finances of their mortgage customers.

One real estate watcher suggests that (with exceptions) the national housing market has already begun to slow-so no national interventions are needed. It remains to be seen.

Noisy Neighbours Bug Us More Now Than 10 Years Ago

Here’s something to consider when planning end-of-summer backyard gatherings: an increasing number of Canadians don’t like noisy parties.

While this may seem, well, not particularly newsworthy, a recent Statistic Canada survey on victimization reports that more people found noise to be a problem in their neighbourhoods in 2014 than in 2004. The survey didn’t address the issue of whether parties were noisier than they were 10 years before, or whether there were more noisy parties. Or even whether people are getting more sensitive to noise disruptions that impinge on their peace and quiet.

The Statistics Canada survey, released in spring 2016, measured how Canadians perceived overall disorder in their neighbourhoods. It compared perceptions in 2014 against the results of a similar survey in 2004. For survey purposes, disorder included mess, litter, graffiti and property damage as well as public drunkenness and drug issues.

One in four perceived some kind of disruption in their neighbourhoods, but fewer than one in 10 felt it was a big problem. Overall, 23 percent of respondents in 2014 described their neighbourhoods as orderly, compared with 25 percent in 2004. Other facts:

  • People in urban centres are also more likely to describe their neighbourhoods as disorderly than those who live in more suburban or rural locales.
  • In most provinces, perceptions of orderliness and disorderliness remained stable. Only two reported a significant decrease in perceptions of disorderly neighbourhoods: New Brunswick and British Columbia.

These Hacks Cut Noise in Open Concept Spaces

There’s no question that open concept living is still the way to go for designers and their decorista clients. And why not? It can make a space feel large and airy, provide the room-to-room flow that supports today’s relaxed lifestyles, plus it’s so in now that alternatives look dated.

But with the open concept lifestyle comes a problem: no walls means no sound barriers, which can raise noise issues for families with competing priorities. Fortunately, there are hacks to deal with all that racket:

Pad it, literally

If your open living area is a hardscape, without soft materials to absorb sound, fabric can help. Thick, high-quality floor coverings are a great first step. You don’t have to install wall-to-wall carpeting (although that would work wonders); instead, consider adding an area rug to anchor your living room furniture.

If well chosen for their sound-absorbing properties, fabric window coverings also make sense. Eschew sheers or other similar-weight fabrics, as they haven’t the chops to do the job.

Allow for options

Create ways to divide your space at will, including popular reclaimed wood sliding doors; pocket doors that disappear when not in use, and even movable sound-absorbing panels like those dividing office cubicles. There are also elegant screens on the market today that demarcate and reduce sound while keeping that open feeling.

Switch up your flooring

Hardwood, stone, and tile floors may look lovely, but they’re part of the problem, not the solution. Cork is a wonderful option, and it comes in all sorts of styles and colours these days. And like wood, cork is soft and comfortable to walk on. While concrete may also absorb sound (and look great), don’t install it in locations where you’ll be standing for any period of time, like the kitchen. Your legs and feet will notice.

With these and other hacks, decoristas can have it all.

Why Not Delight in White This Summer?

Is repainting on your summer to-do list? Instead of going with this year’s hot colour, why not bring light into your home by painting some of your rooms white and adding colour as an accent?

As white is classic, you won’t have to repaint regularly; just change your accent colours to stay up to date. Plus your art will look fabulous on white.

For those who have trouble deciding, white is not an easy out. Far from it; there are hundreds of different shades of white available from paint manufacturers. But if you delight in white, here are some things to remember before picking up a roller:

Size matters. White can make smaller spaces appear larger, and it enhances certain features of your home, such as beautiful crown moldings or wall niches. However, if your walls are less than perfect, white will point that out.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an open concept first floor, give your space flow by using different shades of white throughout.

Be sure to use the same undertone: choose a greyed white palette if you want a quiet effect, or select white paint with a yellow base for a sunnier feel.

On your paint card, the colour at the top is usually the lightest. Use this for a small room; paint a neighbouring room the next colour down on the card, and so on. The result will be subtle and elegant.

Consider the outside. White will highlight a beautiful view, especially if both walls and trim are painted in complementary shades of white.

And, yes, you can paint wood trim, and white is an excellent choice; pick a semi-gloss or gloss finish for easy maintenance.

If your room gets bright sunlight, a white with blue undertones will feel cooler. Darker rooms will benefit from a warmer white. And the best advice of all? When in doubt, consult a decorating professional.

Flood Insurance to Be Available Canada Wide

Homeowners who found they had little recourse after the severe flooding that impacted their properties in 2013 may now have a recourse.

Aviva Canada has become the first insurer in the country to introduce a consumer-based flood insurance product. The company has launched overland flood insurance coverage in Ontario and Alberta, and other provinces should be able to purchase policies by year-end.

According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, Aviva Canada realized the need for such a product after a 2013 summer storm caused tremendous damage in parts of Alberta. Homeowners claims were dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and many were disqualified.

Unlike the U.S., Canada does not have a national flood program, and until now, flood insurance existed primarily for commercial properties. Homeowners insurance typically covers sewage backup, but not flooding, and in the Alberta situation it became a matter of interpretation of individual policies-hence the need for some kind of flood protection.

As Sharon Ludlow, president of Aviva Canada, told the Globe: “We think there’s significant consumer demand for a product like this.” Customers, she added, are asking for it. Other companies are expected to follow Aviva’s lead.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), insurance claims for natural disasters totalled $3.2 billion in 2013. And the severe weather patterns are expected to continue. The flood of 2013 represented what the IBC terms “a wake-up call.” And for Canadians across the country, that can only be good news.