Bathroom renovation finished!

The upstairs bathroom in my new home had one of those acrylic tub surrounds that I really hated. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that renovating this one was a chore – we had to move venting pipes and redo shower valves twice. But it’s done and I think it looks great! Here’s the before –

And here’s the after!

I’ve posted a couple of shots below so you can see the details. What you can’t see is how we had to remove the drop ceiling and create new part walls once we took the acrylic liner down.

Those lovely ceramic tiles in the tub surround are from Home Depot – they look like marble but aren’t. $ 6.88/ square foot! I used a darker grout this time (Platinum 27, Mepei) to show off the hexagonal shape. We ended up having to repaint the room because of all the drywall work we had to do: I chose Moonshine by Benjamin Moore in a pearl finish as I had it in my old house and found it worked with everything.

I added a second  towel bar and a proper shower rod that screws into the tiles (the first one  Alex installed was crooked so he had to come back to re-hang it, and then one of the little tiles broke, so it became a bit of a production to get that done, with multiple trips — luckily I still had a lockbox up and he finished yesterday).

The blue/grey/beige white shower curtain is from HomeSense, as I thought the room could use a bit of colour. The white fabric liner is from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The blue/beige woven hamper is from HomeSense as well (a purchase I made years ago) as are the new dusky grey-blue coloured towels that I picked up there yesterday. The painting came from a farmer’s market in Nice, France when I was visiting there several years ago — I met the artist, and watched him paint, so I’ve always loved it.

Next post, I’ll show you the transformed bedrooms and the master bath!

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Renovations continue – new lighting!

I move into my new house this week and there is a lot of frenzied activity underway to try to get these renovations finished. One thing I made a lot of changes to were the lighting in this house.  The previous owner preferred Mission-style fixtures to go with the Craftsman style and while it was lovely, I tend to like funky lighting, probably because I see so many standard fixtures.  I love mid-century modern, but my tastes are quite eclectic.

So, in some cases I removed potlights and replaced them with fixtures, and in others I removed fixtures and replaced them with potlights. My electrician Mark Dods spent two full days on lighting and will come back again in November to tidy up some loose ends, but here’s the progress we made so far:

Lighting over the fireplace. There are only two lights in the living room, and these were above the fireplace. I wanted something with a bit more heft. Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

Lighting in the MBR ensuite. Before, there was a potlight above the tub. I replaced that with a chandelier:

 

And here’s the after:

Lighting in the kitchen. There was a large pendant light in the kitchen and three smaller ones over the island and sink. I took out all of them and replaced the smaller pendants with pot lights. I love the new mid-century light that will be over the dining room table! Here’s the before:

And here’s the after (pot lights are down so we can paint the ceiling where there were fixtures before, so I can’t show the room with the lights on, but you get the drift):

Lighting in the hallway.  There was a pot light in the hallway outside the MBR: I replaced it with a crystal light with six arms to tie into the MBR lighting. It’s really lovely (will try to get a better picture later, when everything is done).

There are more lighting changes in the bedrooms, but that will be the subject of another post!

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Bathroom Renovation – day 27!

Normally, I can get a bathroom done within a week or two but as usual, we ran into some glitches. I realized when I went out to look at the tub that the plumbers had put the shower valve in the wrong spot — it was 72″ when it should have been a minimum of 78″. I also wanted copper pipes not PEC. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I also wanted a different drain overflow than this standard “tombstone” style.

Like most things, it came down to communications. I can’t say enough good things about Jason at GK Plumbing — he took full responsibility for the shower valve and drain overflow and his guys were great after this at contacting me to get approvals.

I’m pretty hands on, which likely most owners aren’t — anyway, like any new relationship, we’ll get better at working together once we figure things out. Patrick and Thomas came out and everything looked great when they were finished! You’ll see that the shower valve is now at 80″, the pipes are copper and the drain overflow is round, which will match the flanges on the shower curtain rod. Much better! 

All of this slowed things down, however, because we had to get the plumbers back out and it meant Alex couldn’t get started on tiling. Once they were done, he got the greenboard and Kerdi down and started tiling, but couldn’t finish because the drywall around the tub needed to be repaired.

For that, I brought in Cedric Poon, who is one of the best drywallers I know, and he has been working around Alex’s schedule. All of which is to say I hope to have this done by this weekend!

I really do love the hexagonal tile. One small problem there too, though: if you look at the tile at the bottom, above the tub, one 12″ square doesn’t match (I’ve marked it with a piece of red tuck tape).

This particular tile comes in two patterns – the Carrara marble swirl and one with faint stripes. Somehow one of the striped tiles got mixed up with the Carrara and it’s so hard to see the difference that Alex installed it. (I almost bought a box of the wrong tile at Home Depot: it was the salesperson who pointed out there were two different patterns, so that was an easy mistake to make.) He’ll fix that when he comes back. 

It was a busy weekend at the house! Thomas Duncan was there, working on an extension to a wall (more on that later) and Mark Dods, my electrician, was installing new lighting for me. He’ll come back this weekend, but here’s a sneak peek of one before and after: the wall sconces above the fireplace. There is no other lighting in the living room, so while these were fine (the owner had lovely taste!), they didn’t provide quite enough light for me.

And I don’t have a TV over the fireplace, but a painting, so I wanted something to complement the art. This is what the sconces looked like when I bought the house — the “before”:

And here’s the “after” ! 

I had a couple of wall sconces I bought about 15 years ago for a condo I’d purchased in Montreal for my daughter while she went to McGill. They are the type that needed to be wired in, so they didn’t work there, but I hung on to them. And I’m glad I did, because they look perfect in this living room!

Ignore all the cards on the mantel and all the items on the bookshelves — I haven’t moved in yet, so I’m   putting stuff wherever I can until my furniture arrives. The crow, the painting and the bowl (which I purchased in Westport) will stay.

I have several book cases coming, so all these items will be curated and put elsewhere. But look at those lights — don’t they look great?

When I have time, I’ll do another blog post on the other lighting changes we’ve made to this house — they are pretty dramatic! And another on the work Thomas has been doing for me — there’s lots going on! 

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Another bathroom reno! This time – MY house!

I’ve bought a country property and love it BUT I didn’t love the acrylic tub liner in the upstairs bathroom. It was framed in and reminded me of a kid’s stage.

Since I haven’t moved in yet, this is an ideal time to get some work done, and I decided that bathroom would be the first thing to tackle. I wanted to open up that space, and put in a real tub and a tiled tub surround and a rain head shower. The rest of the bathroom is perfect, although it could use an extra towel bar.

So Alex Martinez, who I often work with on renos, ripped everything out, only to discover that there was a problem. (Isn’t there always?). He called me and I went out right away to take a look.

There was no framing at all behind the tub/shower liner and the black plastic vent pipes, to the left of the shower curtain, jutted out from the wall several inches. That meant the new tub would have to be off centre. Needless to say, I am sufficiently OCD that that kind of thing would drive me crazy.

Alex had spent about 15 minutes on Facetime with Justin Gauthier, from GK Plumbing, who is doing the plumbing work, tossing around the problem. They decided the black pipes needed to stay where they were. So Alex and I threw  around a few options, none of which made me happy. I wanted to get rid of the dropped ceiling so the ceiling would be flush to the rest of the ceiling. That was do-able. It was the fact that the tub couldn’t be centred that really bugged me. It would make the work look like an afterthought  — after all, any good builder would put a tub in the centre of the space, not several inches off to one side.

I finally decided the best option was to leave the tub off centre and make the wall on the shower head side flush to the rest of the wall on that side of the room. On the other one, where the new drywall had to cover the pipes, we’d put in a built in cubby for shampoo and try to make it look deliberate. Still, I didn’t really like that solution; it kept me tossing and turning all night.

I got hold of Alex the next morning and asked if the black pipes could be moved. He said he and Justin had discussed it and decided it was best to leave them, but agreed there is a huge open space right behind them so there was certainly room to push them back. I called Justin and he said if they could get access from below, they could move them. Of course, there is an additional cost. But that was fine with me!

When you’re doing something to make a space look beautiful  there’s doing something that will distract the eye if you can do it right. So the decision was made to move the vent pipes and centre the tub.

I popped around today to take a look. The vent pipes had been relocated and Alex had done the framing. And GK Plumbing had put the plumbing  in place as well as the tub. It looks great!

The only thing I didn’t love was the drain overflow cover, which was in the shape of a tombstone, so Justin is going to replace that with a circular one for me.

 

The tub is Sapphire from Lowes — I love the clean design and have used it in several renovations now.

And the tile I’ll be using is a hexagonal Carrara marble-look alike. It’s porcelain and way less expensive than marble but just as lovely and will work perfectly in this space, given the Craftsman style of the house.

So that’s where things are at so far — I’ll be changing the shower fixtures, adding a new towel bar, and that’s pretty much it for this space. Thinking I may use a dark grey grout this time to show off that lovely tile. I’ll keep you posted!

 

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Moving to the Country (Part 3) – Well, Water treatment and Septic

Now that I am in the process of moving out to the country from the city, I’ve had to learn a lot about wells, water treatment systems, and septic systems because these properties are not hooked up to municipal water or sewer. There’s a plus side to that of course: lower taxes and no water or sewage fees, but the minus side is that you have to do some work to maintain them.

My new house has a well. When I bought the property, I didn’t order a well inspection because it was a multiple offer situation, the house was only five years old, it had been built by a reputable builder, and I was willing to take a risk. This is not something I recommend to buyers, but as a seasoned realtor, I felt that I knew what I was doing.

To get title insurance, however, and financing, your lawyer does need a water treatment report and a well record. I thought getting those would be pretty easy.

You contact Ministry of Environment for the latter and fill out an online form — it’s free; you just need to provide the municipal address and the legal address (concession number etc). Imagine my surprise when no well record could be located and the buyers (who built the house new) said they didn’t have one either.

I talked to my water guy, Moe Rayyes, who we all use for water inspections, and he told me there were two well drillers in that area and that one of them might have the record, so I contacted them, but nope, nothing there. I was starting to freak out a little when the listing agent contacted me and said her sellers had found the record: the well had been a test well for an adjacent subdivision and so it appeared on a different address/legal description. With that information, I was able to get the record from MOE, which was a little more legible than the seller’s copy.

The moral of the story: be sure to ask for a well record if the seller has one, when you put in your offer! Most sellers are cooperative, and mine were terrific, but I can imagine a situation where that isn’t the case.

Now Moe explained to me that if there isn’t any paperwork like a well record for a given well, it doesn’t matter as long as the well is working properly. Setting aside the legal reasons for wanting one, it’s one of those things that’s nice to have but not essential.

One of the ways (and an essential one) to indicate that the well is functioning properly is the water test. You have to get a sample of cold water after running the water for a while, using a special bottle supplied by the township or city. You label it, keep it cold, and then take it to one of the drop off spots that do lab  tests to make sure there is no E. coli or bacteria in the water.

In Ottawa, where there are still some homes on well water even within the city proper as well as in the rural areas, you can pick these up at the City Hall office on Constellation Drive — the box is by security on the main floor and so is the drop off . In Beckwith township, where my new home is, you can pick up the plastic bottles at the township office on Highway 15 and there is a form that indicates the various drop off locations.

In my case the sellers had just done one, so they provided it to me and that satisfied my lawyer’s needs.

In my area, the water has a lot of iron in it and is very hard, so there is a water treatment cannister that needs to be maintained — the seller was kind enough to explain what’s required:

The water softener is easy to maintain- just dump the salts in it when it gets low. It takes a bag or two per month. We’ve tried a few different brands and like the “rust remover” kind the best- when we first moved in it we would get a tiny bit of staining in the toilets in between cleanings, but none since switching to those salts. You can buy them at the BMR in Richmond, any Home Hardware or Lowe’s- Home Depot doesn’t carry them for whatever reason. There is also a small reservoir on the side for a cleaning/maintenance solution called Res Care.

As for the septic, one of the mortgage brokers I work with mentioned that you have to clean the filter every so often: apparently, his daughter bought a house with a septic and didn’t do that and it backed up. I have an old septic tank at my cottage that doesn’t have a filter so I was off to Youtube to find out what I have to do. It looks a little gross, but essentially you screw off the top, pull out the filter and rinse the grunge out of it with a hose, then put it back. Once again, the sellers were super helpful:

The septic tank lids are in the front lawn, a few feet from the porch. They screw off. We can show you how to get the filter, you have to reach down to pull it out, and then just spray it off with a garden hose every year. It’s not as gross as it sounds, it just gets a scale-y type of build up.

So – that’s it for me and country moving tips! Next posts will be about the renos I’m doing to tweak my new house!

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Moving to the country? Useful tips Part 2 (Garbage Pick up/Hydro/Propane)

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve bought a property in the country and am having to get up to speed on how to get utilities hooked up, among other things. It’s been a challenge!

Hydro. Ottawa Hydro doesn’t extend to my new area, so I had to contact Hydro One. They encourage you to use their website, but it’s confusing. Their online form didn’t recognize my new address so I called, not once, but three times.Each time, I was encouraged to use the online form to avoid a $ 25 service fee.

The first customer service person was annoying, in all honesty. She told me that my address appeared in their database but when she spelled it out, it was spelled incorrectly. I asked her if she couldn’t correct the spelling and she said no, I had to use the incorrect spelling. Sigh.

So I did that and once again, it didn’t recognize my address because (as it turned out) they had the address listed to the township of Beckwith instead of to Ashton, something she hadn’t mentioned.

Once again, I called Hydro One. The second agent couldn’t find my address and suggested I try Ontario Hydro, but I knew it was Hydro One, so I tried again.
The third agent was great. She told me the solution was to hit “update” when the form didn’t recognize my address and then input my new address and save it. So, I set up my move and thought it was all done. I did not want to have paperless billing because I wasn’t sure what my new email address would be and de-selected that option. A few days later, I got a “congratulations!” email from Hydro One telling me they had, by default, switched me back to paperless billing.

I emailed them back at CustomerCommunications@HydroOne.comexplaining why a paper bill would make more sense for the next while but  didn’t hear anything. So once again I called, and was told I could make the change by creating an account and changing my settings, so after much lost time, I did that, and changed my preferences.

A few days later, I got an email from Hydro One telling me that *they* had switched me to paper billing. Anyway, all done now, but it took much longer than it should have, and they really need to fix their website to make it easier to navigate.

Propane. My new heating source will be propane. This is a new one for me, so I called Levac Propane, which handles that area. They have two offices, one in Quebec and one in Perth, but I ended up dealing with the Quebec office, and they were terrific. Crystal Potvin responded first thing the morning after I emailed.

She told me they would switch the account over and to let them know when the levels were down to 25%. I had no idea how to do that so Crystal explained that there is a gauge on the tank under the lid, but that I could pay $ 4/month  to have one installed that lets them see how low my tank is and refill it automatically. There would be a $ 150 installation fee, which they offered to waive. I decided to go with that option because the last thing I want to do in winter is climb through the snowdrifts to read a gauge, and I think it’s well worth it for peace of mind.

Nothing but good things to say about Crystal Potvin  — she was prompt to respond to emails, courteous and patient!

Garbage. I’m used to garbage pick up in the city that takes away the blue box one week, black the next, and green bins every week, but bagged garbage alternate weeks. The nice thing about the country pick up is that they take away bagged garbage every week (the way Ottawa once did). They also handle recycling, but there will be no green bin or composting, which I will miss for sure.

Garbage bags have to be tagged, and these are sent out with your tax bill. If you run out of tags, it costs $ 2/tag to get more from the township. I chatted with one of the folks on the street the last time I was out there and he said they’ve never run out of tags with a family of three, so I think I should be fine.

The current owners said they will leave me their tags. They were also kind enough to request a new blue bin from the township for me because they said theirs was pretty beaten up, but that I will have to call and arrange to pick it up. Apparently, there’s some kind of welcome basket as well for new residents!

Next:  Part 3: all about wells, septic and water treatment systems!

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Moving to the country? Useful tips Part 1 (Setting up Email/ internet/TV/Phone)

I just bought a country acreage in Ashton and am busy arranging the details of my move. As someone who has lived in the city in the same house since the early 1990s, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to making the switch. I discovered the  realtor’s checklist that we give our clients isn’t that helpful –telling people to remember to change utilities doesn’t really tell them *how* to do that- so hopefully this will fill in some of the gaps.

Email. There are only two Internet service providers in my  new area and neither are Rogers, who I’ve used for decades. This creates a problem when it comes to my email address—I’ve got thousands of people in my database and an interruption in use will be problematic for my business, as emails to me will bounce.

The only way to keep my Rogers address is to pay for Rogers Internet even though I won’t get the service out there,  or piggyback on someone else’s Rogers account. (This can be done through social media and requires them to complete a permission form and provide my account details.)

This will make my address part of their account so that technically, they would have access to my emails.  I trust my friends to maintain my privacy, but more problematic is that if there is a password change, they will have to do the reset, as this is their account not mine, so this is not a great option if they happen to be away.

My IT guru, Samesh Naidoo, wants to set me up with Office 365. It costs about $ 8 a month and we can tie it in to my existing domain name, peggyblair.ca. However, that means there will be a period of time where I have to keep updating people to the new address and because I’m notoriously cheap as well,  I am considering whether I will use my Royal LePage gmail account instead.

Still sorting this one out: the point is to be aware that you may lose your service provider and have to switch your email addresses, so be aware. Whatever solution I go with will involve some overlap and additional cost for at least a few months. I’m shooting for the least disruption possible.

Internet. At my new address, the only two service providers are Explore.net and Storm. No-one I talked to  seems very happy with Explore.net because it’s quite slow: there is a FB page for residents the street, and one neighbour said she could go and make a cup of tea while waiting for emails to load. Clearly that won’t work for me, so I checked out Storm. Their number is 1 888-554-7827.

I was super impressed with Storm’s customer service and spoke to Jason several times about how to do this. He arranged to run a technical test to make sure the existing service at my new address was adequate  (the concern being the service installed a few years ago might have slowed down due to trees growing taller) and thankfully it was fine, so I don’t need to have a tower or tripod installed: those would cost extra, but they can use the existing antenna.

They can either courier me a router ($ 130 to purchase or $ 10/month rental) with a preset password and username that I can just plug in and use, or I can buy a router and he will supply the password and username. Samesh suggests using the Storm one so that if there are any problems, they can’t blame it on the router.

The router has to be plugged into a router cable that runs to the antenna.  Jason said I would find the cable on the wall closest to the part of the roof that has the antenna on it. The antenna is about the size of a pizza box, and I hadn’t noticed it during my walk through. I asked the new owners when I had my final walk through and they actually showed me where the router is positioned in the basement,and offered to leave it behind. I’ll have to check to see if it is a Storm router, but very kind of them indeed!

To use the existing account/antennae and transfer it over, I have to sign up with Storm within 60 days of taking possession, otherwise, I have to pay for a site visit. So that’s on my “to-do” list.

There is also Community Fibre supplied to some streets in this area as well by a local start up, but unfortunately it hasn’t reached mine. Good to check though, as reports are that their TV/Internet  is great. Ben LaHaise is the entrepreneur behind it, and if he can find a loan for $ 50K, he says he can extend service to my street. Here’s hoping! And some of the new subdivisions nearby have Bell Fibe. So do check out your options.

Phone. I have a cell but for long calls, I do like a land line. Turns out I can  get voice over Internet from Storm for an additional $ 18.95/month or 19.95/month for long distance to the US — I think there is an additional charge for international, but I haven’t made an international call in years. Anyway, they will send me an adapter and I can use it with any touch tone phone; it just plugs into the back.

To keep my Ottawa phone number I have to sign up with them for it before I cancel my landline with Bell as there are forms that need to be signed. This is much less expensive than my Bell line, so I’m going to see how this works.

Television. Shaw Satellite Direct provides service to my area. I wasn’t able to reach anyone when I called them at  1 888-554-7827 ( I was on hold for quite a while) so I used their chat bot on their website and was  quickly transferred to Mehdi, who answered all my questions online and gave me a number to reach him when the time comes to set things up.

They have a bewildering number of packages, so I have to sit down at some point and figure out what I need and what package I want. Mehdi said that it’s $150 for a regular HD receiver (I don’t record anything; have never figured out how to PVR — I’m such a Luddite!) but they would apply a $ 150 credit to my account, leaving me to pay $ 19.50 in taxes on the first bill. The various packages start about $ 55.95/month, but the current owners of my home have been happy with the service, so once I get that all figured out, that’s what I’ll use, and they will probably use the existing satellite, but Mehdi says it will involve a site visit with an installer to get things set up.

That’s it on the tech front: tomorrow – garbage pickup,  setting up a propane account,  and  arranging hydro! (Trust me when I say all of this was more complicated than I expected!)

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Why maintain my house if a developer is just going to tear it down anyway?

There is a common misperception out there that if you own an older home in one of the hotter parts of town where there is a lot of development going on , and put it up for sale, it will be bought and torn down automatically by a developer.

That just isn’t the case.

Now, if the home actually is  a tear down, then the highest and best value probably is the  lot value. But not all homes are tear downs. And nice homes that people can live in have a value all their own. Put it this way: lot value is the minimum value. But a property with a lovely updated, well-maintained home, regardless of age, has a much greater value than a lot alone.

What’s the difference in price between a well-maintained home and a tear down, with similar lot sizes? Well, here’s one example from my street in Westboro.

An  older home that was built in the 1950s sold for $ 910K last year, to a family. I see the kids playing outside every time I go for my daily walk. They love the big yard and the mature trees.

But another house several doors down, same lot size, sold to a developer for $ 710K around the same time. It really was a tear down, and there was a $ 200K difference in value because of it.

So, if you have an older home, don’t stop fixing it up because you assume it will be torn down eventually just because you see construction all around. You could be sabotaging your chances of getting the highest and best price for your property!

Not sure what to do? Talk to your realtor! They can tell you what lots in your area sell for, compared to homes in similar condition to yours.

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More CMHC rule changes July 1st — bad news for buyers

So, CMHC is once again making it harder for buyers to borrow money. My guess is that this is due to fear of buyers not being able to manage debt because of the pandemic, but it strikes me as a very dumb move. It will offset the economic stimulus packages, because housing is an economic driver. The last thing the country needs as it tries to recover is an even  slower housing market.

National sales volumes are down dramatically. That’s because the number of listings are down, due to the pandemic. Making it harder for buyers will just slow things down further in expensive cities like Toronto. But regionally, in more affordable cities like Ottawa, it will have an opposite effect when it comes to lower priced homes, and make them more expensive. Here’s why.

In Ottawa, where the market has been super-heated due to low inventory, the new rules will force first time buyers to rent longer while they try to save up that 20% down payment. Rents will go up as the rental market tightens. For investors, the lower priced properties become cash flow positive because they can be rented at a profit. And remember, a lot of investors are foreign cash buyers. Meanwhile, buyers who need to buy will adjust their expectations and start to look more seriously at lower priced properties. All that activity at the lower end of the market drives up prices.

We’ve seen that in Ottawa over the past two years after CMHC tightened the mortgage stress test for a second time, applying stricter borrowing rules not just to first time buyers, but all buyers. Townhouses that were priced under $ 400K  have jumped to the high 400s and even over $ 500K this year, despite the pandemic. We are still seeing multiple offers in that price point. And a lot of smaller condos that were selling below $200K  have jumped to over $ 300K — again, with multiple offers.

Here is a précis of the new rules as set out in an email I got from Cathy Macdonald, an Ottawa mortgage broker:

As you have probably already heard, CMHC announced some changes that will be coming into effect on July 1st.  These changes apply only to CMHC insured mortgages at this point. The other two insurers have not indicated whether they will follow, and the new rules don’t apply to borrowers with 20% or more for a down payment.

CMHC is reducing the maximum debt ratios and increasing the minimum credit score requirement for borrowers with less than 20% down.  These changes are most likely to affect first time buyers, lower income earners, or self employed (where we use net income), the most since they are usually trying to maximize their purchasing power.

The debt ratio changes will impact the maximum mortgage/purchase price significantly.  For example, I’m currently working with buyers who are pre-approved for a purchase price up to $600,000 (with the minimum down payment).  Under CMHC’s new debt ratios, they would qualify for a purchase price up to $535,000.

Current pre-approval amounts are still in effect until the end of June, and if the other two insurers don’t change their rules, the pre-approvals will still be valid beyond that date, but purchasers should be prepared for lower pre-approval amounts after July 1st.   If all of the insurers follow CMHC, in order to qualify under the current rules, a purchaser would have to have an accepted offer on a property that has been submitted to the lender and insurer before the end of June.

Bottom line: if you are a seller, regardless of price point, the very best time to list in Ottawa is right now, while buyers can still borrow money under the old rules. If you own an expensive home, your pool of buyers is really going to take a hit. A drop from being able to afford $ 600K to $ 535K is a huge price reduction.

In order to qualify under the old rules, buyers need to have an accepted deal in place by June 30. (Conditions of offer like financing and home inspections can be fulfilled later from the looks of it, and still allow a buyer to take advantage of the old rules.)

So here are my thoughts on how to stick-handle this situation. If you are a buyer with more than 20% down payment in cash, and are looking for something over $ 600K, it’s probably best to wait until after July 1. The pool of buyers will be greatly diminished and the new rules won’t apply to you when it comes to getting financing.

But if you are a buyer looking for something priced more affordably, and you don’t have 20% down, there’s no good strategy.

After July 1, when it becomes harder to borrow, even more buyers will be flocking to those properties.  But if you try to buy now, you’re going to be competing with a lot of other buyers who are also going to be trying to beat the deadline.

Either way, expect multiple offers on lower priced properties. And that will drive up prices, making previously affordable homes  even less affordable than ever. I’m shaking my head.

 

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Planning a post-pandemic wine cellar? More great wines to consider! (Part 2)

I’m planning what the contents of my post-pandemic wine cellar should look like (can’t hang on to wine long enough right now to cellar it).

Yesterday I posted most of the great wines that my Twitter pals recommended but I wanted to give the wines recommended by my friend, Ross Macfarlane, an entire post. Ross is a lawyer (and former student of mine!) who lives in Niagara, and he is a member of Les Marmitons of Niagara, a gourmet cooking club, so I knew he would have some great suggestions. (Here’s a great story about the club, and how Ross actually created this chapter of it: he’s now the International President of Les Marmitons.)

Ross posts on Twitter as @niagaramarmiton and in response to my request for his help in choosing wines for a wine cellar, he writes:

“It’s a great time to start stocking your cellar, because most of the wineries are offering free shipping in Ontario with a minimum purchase. My favourite varietals in Niagara are Pinot Noir and Riesling. That said, we make some great wines across the board. You have already mentioned @Rosewoodwine and @CaveSpring which are two of my favourites.

“For great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, I love Domaine Queylus and @Bachelder_wines. The dry riesling from @VinelandEstates is one of the best value whites around. @back10cellars does great sparkling, chardonnay, and cab franc. @StratusWines is known for their blends, and both reds and whites are great. Also love @BigHeadWine reds. I’m a big fan of the rose from @goodearthtweets and I’m on the board for the @NCTWinery so I would be remiss not to mention the fantastic wines made there! This is not an exhaustive list, and there are lots of others making dynamite wines here.”

Okay, so I had mentioned Rosewood Wines and Cave Spring as my starting points on Twitter. Rosewood is a new discovery of mine, thanks to my daughter, who sent me a box of their wines for Mother’s Day. So far I’ve only tried White Rabbit but it’s fabulous! This vineyard is also a beekeeping operation, and I adore their packaging.

This one was so good, I ordered more and I now have Rosewood’s Looking Glass and Riesling in my collection.

I had never heard of Domaine Queylus before, but they are located in St. Anns. Their Pinot Noir, Tradition, is priced at $ 31.95/bottle.

Bachelder is another Niagara vineyard. Their Pinot Noir is  priced at $ 240/ six bottles and their three terroir Chardonnay is priced at $ 248.10/six bottles.  Here’s a blog post about their Chardonnays I came across; these sound terrific!

Vineland Estates is having free shipping if you buy six or more bottles. Their restaurant is currently offering take out as well with curbside pickup. A lot of their wines are priced at $ 14.95, which is very reasonable! You can check them out here. But best of all, the dry Riesling that Ross recommends is one of them.

Back10Cellars is another interesting looking pick. They have a wine club as well as online orders.  Their sparkling wine (Smitten) is $24.95/bottle, the Chardonnay is $ 27.95/bottle,  and the  Cabernet Franc is $ 28.95/bottle.

Stratus, which Ross recommends for reds and whites, is offering free shipping for orders over $ 100 with a product code that you’ll see when you visit their website.

I wasn’t able to log in to Big Head Wines: I entered my birthdate and it didn’t want to recognize me for some reason (that’s when you know you’re getting old. I don’t want to recognize it either). But you may have better luck.

Good Earth Food and Wines, another Beamsville vineyard,  is offering free shipping on orders of over $ 120. Their prices range from $ 17.95/bottle to around $30/bottle with most varieties falling in between.

And finally, as Ross mentions, he sits on the board of the Niagara College Teaching Winery. I had problems logging in to their website as well but they sent me some pictures on Twitter of their menu:

 

They are offering 15% off if you buy 12 or more bottles! Free Province wide shipping and you can order online at or call them at 905.641.2252 ext 4070.

So, all great suggestions and thanks so much, Ross! Looking forward to trying all of them and creating a great wine cellar!

 

 

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