Sep. 28, 2009

How to Keep the Temperature in Your Home within Pleasant Limits in the Hot Months

Is your icebox one of the most often visited places in your home during the summer time? Is your house so unpleasantly hot that you dream you lived in Iceland? Millions of homeowners in Toronto and elsewhere are impacted by this problem every summer. We are bringing you some advice on how to get ready for the next hot summer.

The easiest option: Air-conditioners

The internal temperature of our houses can be decreased by more ways, let's take a short look at them. The most effective, but most expensive, is the well-known air-conditioner. If you want to get the best value possible from your AC unit, there are several tips to follow - of course if you decide to go this way. First, pick a machine of the correct size according to the size of your house or condo. If you have a common family home with two bedrooms, look for units with around 5,000 btu - that should be enough. Ideally, the unit should be placed in a window on the wall that faces north, if that is possible. This will ensure optimum conditions for the unit which will allow it to operate more efficiently. Clean the internal filters at least once a month to prevent house dust from building up and having a negative effect on its operation. If you know you won't be home for more than an hour, just turn the AC off and then after your return re-cool the rooms, this way it is more economical.

Solutions for green-thinking customers

But what to do if you think more eco-friendly and don't want to use precious energy for these power-hungry machines? Well, there are more ways to decrease the internal temperature without adding to global warming by excessive and unnecessary use of CO2 producing fossil fuels. We will begin with the top of your house and go downwards step by step.

Roof

As you might already know, the amount of heat transferred depends on the sort of material it goes through. Tiles, shingles or other sorts of roofing materials are a perfect example of this. If you wish to save on air-conditioning, think about applying a good-quality insulation to your attic space. A 12-inch layer instead of a 3-inch might reduce the cooling costs by as much as 10 percent.

To read the rest of the story, please follow the Keeping your Toronto home cool article.

Photo by jon starbuck

Sep. 22, 2009

The Stockyards Review: The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder


The Stockyards is a new kid on the block that's surprisingly been voted Toronto's Best Barbecue by NOW Magazine, scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 n's. When you hear about new barbecue's your first thought is to be wary. I'm no different especially as I make great barbecues myself. Cluck, Grunt n' Low at Bloor and Walmer had the greatest southern food and barbecue I've ever sampled, and they're out of business, while some of the pulled pork offerings I've had lately tasted like sawdust coated in sauce. Poor quality barbecues seems to be normal in these places. Coating a thick smokey, sweet sauce over anything can hide the worst cooks mishaps. So I'm already a doubter, but definitely up for some good greasy meat, when I seize three friends and head to the Stockyards.

We go to St Clair West subway station and take the bus west, just following the stop that lets you off at the Artscape Wychwood Barns - a multi-purpose enterprise combining artists' lofts with a greenhouse, historical museum and gallery space, typical of the upswing of this area. The neighborhood is a bit destitute at the moment, but a Starbucks on the corner demonstrates that the St Clair strip is up and coming.

The place is very busy and we are squished tightly next to people consuming barbecue from paper-lined cast iron pans. The noise of a busy restaurant is awesome. The telephone never seems to stop ringing, customers talking, the cooks shouting orders and instructions to each other. The amount of people waiting to eat, eating, waiting to pay is outstanding. As there were four of us, none of us thought our chances of getting seats together were likely until a woman sitting at the counter grasps hold of me.

It is a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in years called Gail. "All the people I work together swear by this place," she says. I notice that she hasn't any food to which she answers that she is a vegetarian. Vegetarian choices are only available as side orders on the menu. Gail says she won't consume the chips because they are prepared in lard. Another thing that is not vegetarian accommodating is the rib night which is done three times a week. It's good to have an adviser because the restaurant has a frenzied feel, though there's method to the madness as the staff brown-box boundless take out orders to accommodate the herds.

When a vacant space opens up at the massive counter, directly across from the cooks, we nab it and put in our orders, then go to the front to pay. Stockyards has a wait-service and takeout which is re-mindful of a large burger chain. As it was busy I have to admit we overlooked the need to tip. We get our own drinks from the fridge; my friend has a homemade lime-ade infused with mint that she pronounces 'delicious' ($2.75) Fortunately none of us are drinkers, as The Stockyards doesn't yet have a liquor license four months into opening.

"Is it always this lively, even from day one?" My friend asked a man. The man introduces himself as Tom Davis, the proprietor. He is a very solicitous, energetic and frank kind of person, who said that it had.

For the rest of the Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder review, please visit our main website.

Photo source: Sifu Renka

Sep. 21, 2009

Calmer times arrived to Toronto real estate market in August

For many of us, August means a time for holidays and relaxation to calm down your nerves after the hectic times before. This is also what has been going on concerning the housing market - the rapid growth from June and July has now ended and things are calming down, moving towards a more healthy and stabilized environment. Compared to August last year, all the indicators are showing much better results now, however lower than during the few months before.

Tom Lebour, the TREB President, points out the demand has increased across all housing types and also price ranges. The market is now very active, which is reflected by the days on market and active listings indicators both dropping. For a more detailed analysis, please follow our Toronto real estate market article.

Sep. 3, 2009

What are you scouting for? A house or Condo (second part)


In our first text of this series, we have focused on the profile of a typical condo purchaser. The features of a typical house owner will be the concern of our today's article.

Susie likes living in a house.

Having a personal space is one of the things Susie likes the most. She left communal housing behind in college and hasn’t looked back – who wants to be separated from their neighbours by just a single wall? Susie just wants to have her privacy and enough space, and she doesn't mind having to spend some more time for commuting to work. Also shopping has to be done weekly, but it is no problem for her to take her SUV to the supermarket and fill it up. Her two kids are what Susie values the most, and she wishes to have a safe yard for them to be able to run and play around, just the way she did during her own childhood. Susie and her family also live in a neighbourhood where they know the other families nearby which is really useful, because there is always someone at hand to give advice about the best babysitters, school sports or the new off-leash park. And also Susie's family may still grow in the future (although they still haven't really planned it yet with her husband Stuart), they might decide to have another baby or maybe Stuart's mom may need help and move in with them. Therefore they definitely need enough space for the family to expand. Also the family members have different hobbies - Stuart works on his vintage car in the garage and their daughter Jenny plays the drums, which would be impossible to do in an apartment - it is loud enough in the basement, so Susie is thinking about getting it soundproofed and putting in a bathroom, then they would have a great teen retreat. On weekends, Susie loves to tool around in her garden, which is really her pride and joy – there’s nothing like picking fresh vegetables for a salad while Stuart fires up the grill. Susie and Stuart also consider very important the fact that they legally own the land they live on. Well, if the roof leaks (as it did last year after all those storms), it's still their own roof and they had some money for such emergencies saved aside. Occasional house reparations just come with the territory. Susie and Stuart don’t mind staying on top of the maintenance work, because they each have their own tasks and responsibilities (Susie cuts the grass and Stuart takes the recycling to the curb). As far as safety is concerned, Susie believes that their new system will keep the burglars out of their house. And also there is a residents' association that keeps an eye on what's going on in the neighbourhood. She is just happy in their secure neighborhood and wants to stay there long-time and put down roots.

So now which one of our two profiles felt closer to you - Hari or Susie? None of them? Well, in that case you might like to consider living in a condo town house, which has some benefits of both a condo and a house.

Final advice If you decide to purchase a house, then we recommend that your mortgage combined with all property taxes shouldn't eat up more than 25 per cent of your monthly income, just to make sure you have enough money left for any necessary up keeping. First try to estimate the necessary up keeping expenses and also to what extent you are able to keep up with the repairs needed, as all the responsibility (from a leaky faucet to a flooded basement) will be just upon you. And how much will be your expenses for transportation? Don't forget about these, as it is important to be considered, mainly when moving to a suburb. Always ask for a new home inspection and examine it in detail, so that you won't come across any ugly surprises that would ruin your carefully planned budget. For example, a fixer-upper with an ancient furnace, old wiring and insufficient insulation will demand a more or less immediate cash infusion just to make the house livable.

Photo Source: sssteve.o

Sep. 2, 2009

Condominium Or House: The Tough Decision


Deciding between the choices of a House or a Apartment Specifically for first time purchasers, this can be a hard question because each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide what’s best for you, we’ve assembled profiles of the ‘typical’ happy condo and happy home owner. Both options will help give you an vision of what works for you even if they don't match your circumstances exactly. This first report looks at a apartment buyer.

Hari needs a apartment.

Hari left home and sub let an apartment. He is a professional who is always on the go. Many of his friends still lease, but some have gotten into lasting relationships which led to bigger apartments and even homeownership for them. Suddenly, Hari’s single person pad feels a little closed in and sterile (as his mother always points out). He is now looking to the future. A more spacious place, one that he can call home. A place he can entertain, decorate and buy some furniture for. Hari works drawn out hours at the office, so it’s important for him to minimize the commute and the time spent running jobs, shopping, picking up healthy take-out, grabbing his dry cleaning, and going out for fun. Hari's hobbies do not require a lot of room, so room is not something that he needs. He also doesn't like the idea of the upkeep and money needed to maintain masses of room. In the space department, Hari only really wants closet space and a nice large wall for his flat-screen TV. Simple, sleek with new accessories are the main aims. Caring for an outdoor area is not something he desires to do. He needs a apartment that has all inclusive services so if something goes askew its fixed and at no extra charge. Hari gets on well with other people but he’s not all about making lifelong bonds with his neighbours; he’s fine keeping to himself. A bit of noise isn't an issue. But he draws the line at personal protection – that’s why he really likes knowing that the apartment building he’s considering is patrolled and monitored 24 hours a day. When it comes to taking care of himself, Hari cares about fitness, so it’s great that the building has state of the art training facilities and a nice pool – there’s a savings on his gym membership right there, because the monthly apartment fees cover all the resources! Looking to the future, a parking space would increase investment profit to the property. Hari doesn’t plan to be in his apartment evermore, after all. Who knows what the future holds? For someone in this situation now, the benefits of apartment life make sense.

If you determined that a apartment could be a better fit, never let the monthly apartment fees, combined with property taxes, mortgage and insurance, outstrip 30% of your monthly income. Always look at the fiscal health of the Homeowners Association (HOA) to see if the monthly apartment fees actually cover pricey repairs to the building, or whether residents have to pay an additional premium every so often (this depends on the health of the reserve fund, which your real estate lawyer can examine for you, as well as the apartment by-laws; sometimes, for grave or unexpected repairs, plans are made for special assessments to cover these costs). What is made available in your fees? If there are extra amenities included do you really want them? Make sure your proposed building is pet-friendly if that is an issue for you, and find out the probable utility costs for anything not covered in the apartment fees (i.e. heat, hydro). If your condo has many of windows there could be significant heat loss so your expenses could rocket if heating is not covered.

In the following article we will look at a usual house owner profile.

Photo source: mannequindisplay