There’s still time to donate! And look at this wonderful donation from Welch LLP! #SockittoChristmas

There is a friendly competition in my office between realtors: Bill Edelson has donated 80 pairs of socks as has Joanne Batchelor, and I’ve said whoever donates the most socks will get a book of car wash tickets donated by Island Park Esso (thanks, John Newcombe!). But yesterday the ante was raised considerable when Welch LLP donated 100 pairs of socks, topped off by 56 pairs and five blankets donated by Mark’s Work Warehouse!

Mark’s Work Warehouse was wonderful: they offered Welch LLP a discount on the socks and then scoured their warehouse to see what else they could come up with. Here’s a picture of all these giving folks from Welch LLP and Mark’s Work Warehouse.

socks Welch LLP

(Back row, in Santa hat, Brigitte Lacroix, Mark’s Work Warehouse and Ms. Stephanie Burch. Front row, Welch employee (?),  Peggy Blair, and Sean Yip Choy, Mark’s Work Warehouse)

Kelly Patrick, a Twitter pal, was the catalyst behind this donation. She writes:

“It all started over dinner and a conversation about privilege.  Stephanie Burch, daughter of Mike and Marianna Burch, Welch LLP, was asked what local issue needing support would she focus on if she had $100,000 dollars to donate. Her immediate response was the homeless.  Stephanie said she is amazed that such a wealthy city, in a rich country as ours, could have so many homeless people.

“Conversation quickly turned to Sock it to Christmas, a local initiative established by Peggy Blair and shared over Twitter, about helping the homeless with one thing we all take for granted, socks.  On the spot, Mike pledged 100 pairs of socks to Sock it to Christmas, to close off Welch’s 100 anniversary year as one of Ottawa’s top accounting firms.

“Finding 100 pairs of socks in stock wasn’t easy.  One call to Mark’s Work Wearhouse and Sean Yip Choy on the other end of the phone and within two days, and Brigette’s stealth thinking, 156 pairs of socks and five blankets were donated.

“All it took was concern from a passionate university student, one extremely empathetic employee on the end of a call, Welch’s commitment to community, and the rest is history.  For this year at least!”

Thanks very much to Stephanie, Kelly, Mike Burch and the good folks at Mark’s Work Warehouse. That donation was so big I had to make up another bin!

It’s not too late to drop off your sock donations, but we will start bringing in our bins tomorrow morning for Thursday’s draw at 4 PM. We have bins at Freshii Westboro, Churchill Senior Recreation Centre, Catherine McKenna’s constituency office on Catherine, and my office at 1335 Carling, Unit 200. There is also a bin at Royal LePage Team Realty’s Barrhaven office. If you donate socks to our Royal LePage Team Realty Carling office, we’ll enter your name in a draw for great prizes!

Help us Sock it to Christmas! And thanks again, Welch LLP and Mark’s Work Warehouse – great community spirit!

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Christmas gifts for your beer-loving #Ottawa buddies!

I have a friend who really likes beer and I was trying to figure out what to get him for Christmas. I turned to my friends on social media, and as always, there were tons of great suggestions. These were so good I decided to do a post pulling them together — it’s always hard to find great Christmas gifts and these are quite unique and different.

On the craft beer front, it seems there are tours you can buy through Brew Donkey. They will take you around on a craft beer tour to the various breweries in the Ottawa area. You can book a tour as a gift or buy a gift card, ranging from $ 25 to $ 350. Tours are arranged and booked 6-8 weeks in advance. (They have a swag page on their website but no swag posted yet. Also, I’m told that one of these tours involves Vodka, pretzels and axe-throwing. Now THAT’s a party!)

brew 3

Twitter pal @Tracyvirtually  recommended buying a gift “box” of beer from the Brew Box Company. You  sign up the recipient and they get a box of beer delivered every month. It’s Toronto based but the craft beer they deliver comes from all across Canada. She bought a three month package for her husband. She wrote: “When I signed up I got a printable card to give him so he knew to expect the box on such-and-such a date.” She says he loved them!

brew 1

Some of my friends suggested putting together a sampler of local beer for example, with several Beau ‘s flavours or from other local Ottawa brewers  like Big Rig , Beyond the Pale, Kitchissipi etc. (No one seemed to think that wrapping up beer as a gift was tacky, either, by the way! They all felt that a beer-lover would really enjoy getting a variety of craft beers to sample.)

You can also buy boxed gifts at the LCBO (quite a few people mentioned they sell beer advent calendars but that these were probably all sold out by now.) My neighbour, Nicholas, posted this gift box he had received, on Facebook, and said that “Innis and Gunn is fine and different. A Scottish beer aged in whisky barrels,” so he’d quite enjoyed it.

brew 8

Another twitter pal, @HeatherBadenoch, suggested Bar Lupulus at Wellington-Holland — she says they have  a long beer menu, plus exceptional food and service and thought a gift certificate there would make a great gift for the beer-lover. (She also recommended Brouhaha  in Gatineau, “which is reputed to have, hands down, the best beer selection in the region.”)

brew 5

Fellow realtor Kevin Drew says that he usually picks up up a bunch of “Growlers” from craft brewer, Ashton Brewing Company,  and does pop bys with them for clients who like beer. He says: “I like their beer and they can keep the cool bottles …. or Growlers as they are called.

Local artist Sharon Van Starkenburg suggested buying a set of a set of beer glasses. “Each beer is meant to be had in a specific shaped glass.” She also recommended a brewery in Hull that makes amazing craft beer: Les Brasseurs du temps.

For those who want a more lasting gift, like beer glasses, there were plenty of those too. I found this set of marble coasters at Maker House on Wellington. They have maps of different parts of Ottawa on them. This particular set has Hintonburg, which I think is pretty cool but they have dozens of other coasters in all kinds of designs. They are located at 987 Wellington, right where Wellington turns into Somerset.

brew 2

Nita Beer on Colonnade Road has a swag shop where you can buy various Nita brand gifts including glasses and baseball caps. I thought this gift basket was really good value and you can add individual items to the basket as well.

brew 6

 

One of my Facebook friends suggested picking up an Ontario Craft Beer Guide. Apparently there is a second edition out as of last year. Not an expensive gift, but I’ll bet that the recipient will enjoy marking off each beer they try. I found it on Amazon but I’m sure it’s sold elsewhere too.

brew 4

And finally, FB pal Robert Jago says that you can buy a device that turns craft into draft called Fizzics. “They have these soda stream sized things that you put your can of craft beer in and it turns it into draft. If there’s one thing beer nerds like better than obscure beer in a can – it’s obscure beer on tap.” Very cool!

brew 7

Thanks everyone for all your great suggestions. I’ve ordered the gift I plan to give to my friend and I know he’s going to love it!

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UPDATED: Sock it to Christmas – prizes!

Our bins are now out at several locations for sock donations: we have two at the Royal LePage Team Realty office at  # 200, 1335 Carling, one on the main level and one on the second level. We have a bin at our Royal LePage Team Realty office in Barrhaven, located at 3101 Strandherd Drive. We’re open weekday evenings until 8 PM and weekends until 4 PM. We have a friendly competition between these two offices to see which office can get the most pairs of socks donated!

If you drop off a new pair of socks at either location, you can be entered in a draw for some great prizes including:

This gorgeous framed photograph from local photographer, Nancy Mooney:

prize bird

A gift certificate to Host India Restaurant:

prize

A wide assortment of children’s and YA books donated by Simon and Schuster Canada (we will draw these in groups of four):

A gorgeous woman’s wrap in Dress Stewart Plaid donated by Popolo Design:

A book of car wish tickets from John Newcombe Island Park Esso;

A $ 200 Floral Envy gift basket donated by Proof Strategies (with thanks to Greg MacEachern)!

basket 1

 

We also anticipate receiving a donated original painting by Bruce Anderson, so be sure to get those socks in — these are great prizes! And a big warm shout-out to our very generous donors!

Our other sock drop-off locations include a  shared bin at Freshii Westboro (which is accepting Food Bank donations as well). We have a drop off bin at Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre at 345  Richmond Road and MP/ Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s constituency office at 107 Catherine Street has one too.

All our socks will go to our neighbours in need. Men’s socks will go to Shepherds of Good Hope and the Ottawa Mission and women’s and children’s socks will go to Parkdale Food Centre’s Soup and Socks Program. So swing by with some new socks and help us give the gift of warmth this winter!

 

 

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Sock it to Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, and despite the fact that I’m still in a walking cast, thanks to a fractured ankle and torn ligaments (I fell off the front step during a showing), I’ve decided to do the Christmas sock drive again! Last night I limped over to Superstore and picked up some rolls of Christmas wrap and we got to work today wrapping up drop off bins and getting things ready!

As always, the folks at my Royal LePage Team Realty office are awesome.

Stephanie Briscoe did up this poster for me: it features the sock monkey that Marina Doran, one of our volunteers, gave me during last year’s drive. Isn’t it great?  Vicky Assad, owner of our printing company, Color By Design, printed them off within seconds, it seemed, and again, donated them, so that was amazing.

Sock it to Christmas 2019 poster

Realtor pal Eric Kalbfleisch picked up boxes and packing tape as his contribution.  Angie Zarysky, also of my office, helped me number raffle tickets today and then she and Rebecca Wilson, another realtor,  helped me gift wrap up the bins (as did my friend Catherine Duncan who popped around to lend a hand).

And then we started delivering them to our various locations.

office 4

Most of our bin locations are drop-offs only, but we’ll be doing an office draw on December 20th at our Royal LePage Team Realty office at 200, 1335 Carling Avenue that will include our Barrhaven office as well; if you drop off socks at either location, just check in with one of our receptionists and they’ll make sure you get entered in the various draws. And cash donations are always welcome!

Where To Take Your Donations! 

We have bins at the Royal LePage Team Realty office at  # 200, 1335 Carling one on the main level and one on the second level. We’re open evenings until 8 PM.

We have a shared bin at Freshii Westboro (which is accepting Food Bank donations as well).

We have a drop off bin at Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre at 345  Richmond Road.

MP/ Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s constituency office at 107 Catherine Street has also once again agreed to take a bin, which is great, because they really collected a lot of socks last year for us! (They’re also trying to see if they can get us a pair of Justin Trudeau’s socks — which would really be awesome!)

And we will have a bin at our Royal LePage Team Realty office in Barrhaven, located at 3101 Strandherd Drive by this Thursday.

Remember – all socks must be new; we can’t donate used socks unfortunately. And women’s and children’s socks are just as welcome as men’s socks.

The men’s socks will go the Ottawa Mission and Shepherds of Good Hope and the women’s and children’s socks will go to the Parkdale Food Centre’s Soup and Socks Program. And believe me, everyone who gets a pair will be very grateful and you’ll feel great about doing it, because we all know what it’s like to have cold feet, right?

 

 

 

 

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The home inspector found things that are wrong – as buyers, what do we do?

Okay, so you put an offer in on a new home – congratulations! One of the terms of the offer, or as we call it, a condition of sale, was that you would have a home inspection. The standard clause says the home inspection will be at your expense and that you will get a report  satisfactory to you in your “sole and absolute discretion.”

The home inspection is intended to find things you might not have noticed on your own, or couldn’t see (like inside the attic) or assess the extent of things you might have seen but weren’t sure about.

Sometimes the home inspector will find things that are very minor: a missing GFI plug in a bathroom, for example, or a cracked cover plate or a leaky tap. I think in every single home inspection I’ve been at, the home inspector has commented on the need for grading or extending downspouts. In a lot of homes, the smoke detectors are old and should be replaced. These are not the kinds of things we would walk away from a deal over: the costs of those fixes are minimal when we’re talking about several hundred thousands of dollars.

But sometimes, big ticket items pop up in an inspection, or at least major enough that  they can cost quite a bit to fix. One example is where the exhaust fan from a bathroom has been vented into the attic instead of out the roof or soffits. That means moist, warm air has been circulating above the bathroom and usually we’ll find damaged, saturated wood and mould. That’s the kind of thing that we might ask the sellers to fix  or seek a price reduction to cover the cost of re-venting the fan outside, and replacing any damp insulation. (Although I’ve had buyers who said they’d take on that cost themselves, so it really depends on the buyers.)

But there can be all kinds of things that show up in a home inspection: cracks in the foundation, windows that have lost their seal, furnaces that don’t work properly, asbestos in the ducts, knob and tube or aluminum wiring, and so on.

In these situations, your realtor picks up the phone and calls the seller’s agent to see if the sellers are aware of the problem  and how they want to deal with it. Most times the sellers are mortified. They had no idea there was mould, or knob and tube wiring, or whatever your inspector has found, and quickly agree to address it.  Sometimes they’ll get it done so quickly we don’t even need to amend the agreement. Other times, we’ll do up an amendment saying  the sellers will do the work at their expense, and provide receipts to the Buyer or the Buyer’s lawyer verifying it has been done in a good and workmanlike fashion, before the buyers take possession.

In the latter situation, the receipts are usually enough, but we will sometimes specify that the buyers have a right to a further inspection. Some home inspectors won’t agree to come back to take a look at the work for liability reasons. They might flag an electrical problem, but since they are not electricians, they won’t confirm whether it’s been corrected properly. You may need to have an electrician, or a plumber, or an engineer, or whatever the trade is with expertise,  to verify that the identified problem has been corrected.

If you do the additional walk through and discover that the work hasn’t been done,  or wasn’t done properly, we notify your lawyer and they will negotiate a hold back amount, if one hasn’t been agreed to in the amendment.This means that some of the closing funds due to the seller on closing are held back until the work is done or the seller agrees to release the funds so the buyer can do the work themselves.

I had one situation, for example, where a window that was still under warranty had lost its seal. The seller ordered a new one to replace it, but it hadn’t arrived by the time of closing. The lawyers agreed to a value for that repair, enough to buy a new one if need be, and the hold back money was held in trust until the new window was installed as agreed to, then the funds were  released to the sellers.

But what if the sellers won’t agree to do the work at all? Sometimes, they can’t afford to. Or perhaps you just don’t trust the seller to do the work properly and would prefer to do it yourself. We will try to negotiate a price reduction; after all, now that the seller knows about the problem, they also know they’re going to show up in any home inspection, so it’s in everyone’s interest to find a way forward.

But what if we can’t agree on an amount of a price reduction?

If you really want the property, you have to decide if you can afford to do the repairs yourself and if you are prepared to move forward on that basis. If so, we will have you either waive the home inspection condition, or sign a Notice of Fulfilment of Condition, and the repairs will be your problem to deal with.

But if you don’t want to deal with them either, you have the right to walk away from the deal. That’s because “sole and absolute discretion” means you don’t have to do any work you don’t want to do. We would have all parties (including the managers of both real estate brokerages) sign a Mutual Termination and Release and that’s it – there’s no deal and you get your deposit back without interest or deduction. You will be out of pocket for those inspections you did, so that part sucks. It’s not an ideal situation particularly in a rural property, where inspections for well and septic can run pretty high, but at least there’s an escape hatch. You’re not stuck in a situation where you can’t get out of the deal.

It can be heartbreaking, but if there are enough red flags, it can be prudent to say, “you know what, I love this house, but I’m not willing to go forward.”

I had buyers who really loved a house that on the surface was gorgeous, but the home inspector found serious issues:  foundation cracks, black mould, asbestos, a fireplace that needed major work, and structural problems.  My buyers decided to walk away. I thought they’d be upset that they’d lost $ 600 in inspection fees, but they felt they’d actually saved thousands of dollars. And we went on to find a house they loved even more, in much better shape than the one they walked away from, so it all turned out well in the end.

 

 

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Help – the bank wants to sell my home under a Power of Sale. Is there any way to keep my house and/or my credit rating?

A Power of Sale is where a bank or lender has evicted the occupants of a home for failing to pay off their mortgage (often referred to as “defaulting” on their mortgage payments) and are now taking steps to sell the property. The lender is under an obligation to sell the property at fair market value. Any proceeds of sale over and above the debt, the late payment interest, legal fees etc. go back to the homeowner, so the lender doesn’t make anything on a Power of Sale beyond what they are entitled to receive under the mortgage.

A Power of Sale is different from a foreclosure, although both are legal processes arising from a default in the mortgage. In a foreclosure, the mortgage-holder actually takes title to the property, rather than simply having the right to sell it. Because of this distinction, the homeowner is not entitled to any proceeds of sale.

So what impact does a Power of Sale have on a buyer?

Well, there are never any warranties by the lender, so the Buyer really has to do their due diligence. They need to verify taxes, lot size, have a home inspection etc. to make sure there are no nasty surprises. There are a lot of clauses in the agreement the lender will want the prospective purchaser to sign, so the buyer will want to insert a clause allowing their lawyer time to go over it and give them advice. Often the lender will require a lengthy period of time themselves to review any offer submitted by a Buyer before they decide whether to accept it or not. Sometimes they want a hefty deposit up front too.

These properties are often not in good shape. Sometimes they have no appliances. They may be dirty or bug-infested, and in desperate need of repairs. Because of the obligation not to sell them below fair market value, they can be over-priced and get quite stale-dated. Before the prices come down to the point where a buyer is interested, the lender can be carrying the properties for quite a while, so it’s not an ideal situation for them either.

The homeowner has what is called a right of redemption right up to the point of sale, which means the buyer can have an accepted offer, pay the deposit, pay for their inspections and lose the property if the homeowner is able to come up with the money to make the overdue mortgage payments and costs. That’s not usually a big risk, but it still adds uncertainty to the purchase. Because of all of this, it can take a while to sell a home under a Power of Sale: they don’t show well, the prices may be higher than market value, and there is a crazy amount of due diligence required on the part of a buyer.

From the homeowner’s perspective, then, it’s always better to try to refinance the property before it hits the Power of Sale (or foreclosure) stage. If that’s not possible, it’s best to sell before things get too far out of hand.

I’m always surprised to see Power of Sale listings in a hot market like the one we are in now in Ottawa. This is because if there is enough equity left in the home to cover the mortage plus late payments and penalties and realtor commissions and legal fees, we can get that home sold quickly for top dollar before it’s too late. And we can often find a buyer willing to take immediate possession.

Bottom line? If you are having problems, call a realtor. We’ll refer you to a mortgage broker to see what they can do for you in terms of re-financing, in case it’s possible for you to keep your home, and we’ll let you know if we can help you sell your house. Bring your mortgage paperwork with you: this is one where we really need to know the numbers before we can offer any help: we can’t work for free, so there has to be enough money to pay our commissions. However, in a market that has gone up on average 8.7% this year and is still rising, there may be more equity in your home than you thought.

 

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How far will a realtor go to get a deal? This realtor kept working on an offer even after she broke her ankle!

How’s that for clickbait, LOL! (I’ve always wanted to start a blog post with one of those, “you’ll never believe what happened!” ledes — finally  I get to use one!)

Anyway, I was showing some first time buyers a property on Friday night. I knew they would love the property as soon as I saw the listing, and I’d spent all day getting ready for them to put in an offer: I had a draft offer ready, had talked to the listing agent, had checked the survey, etc. I KNEW they were going to love it and they did.

I rushed them over to see it after they finished work so it was a little dark out. It was a beautiful house, immaculately maintained, and they loved it the moment they walked in. I knew we had to get an offer in quickly as there had been other showings already, and it was listed at a price where I was sure there would be other interested parties. So they jumped in the car while I put the key back in the lockbox.

The front step to this property looks like a deck and the way the boards were configured, from my vantage point, it looked like one level. So I stepped onto what I thought was solid ground to find it wasn’t.  As soon as I hit the ground, I knew I was badly hurt.

I limped over to the car and told my clients (and their parents, who were with us) that I’d fallen. Luckily, they hadn’t noticed, so at least I was spared that humiliation, but by the time we got to  my office to do up the offer, my foot had swollen up like a balloon.

I called the other agent to say we would be putting in an offer, and she said she’d just received one, meaning we were in a multiple offer situation. (My clients kept offering to take me to Emergency, and I was like “No!” (teeth gritted), “We’re going to get you this house.”

I limped around at the office scanning and emailing pages; by then, it really hurt.

I told the other agent I’d fallen down and joked I wouldn’t sue her clients if her clients accepted my buyers’ offer. My client’s mother was kind enough to run home and get me an ice pack, but I didn’t have time to apply it until we headed off to a local pub to wait for the seller’s response; that’s when I realized I couldn’t take my shoe off. I hadn’t eaten all day and by then I was getting shaky, but looking back, I now know that I was actually in shock.

We ended up at my place to wait for  the counter-offer (by then the Carling office was closed) and my foot looked like this:

ankle

I’m very happy to say my buyers got the property (and I was as thrilled as they were). As soon as they left my home, I packed on more ice and tried to sleep, but it was impossible – I was in too much pain. By then, my foot looked like this and I was starting to suspect a fracture.

ankle 2

So I got up, because I couldn’t sleep anyway, got myself dressed and drove myself to the Perth Smiths Falls hospital’s Emergency room. It’s 45 minutes away but I knew a small Emergency department would be able to see me sooner that I’d get seen in Ottawa, and sure enough, at 5:30 AM, I was the only person there.

The emergency doctor was great. She said I had torn at least two ligaments and she suspected a fracture as well. X-rays confirmed that the tendon had torn away from the bone, taking a bone chip with it. She prescribed a walking cast and referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. She told me to use lots of ice and elevation, and told me to stay off the foot as much as I could. I came back to Ottawa and purchased the walking cast, and went to bed for close to 15 hours. So, it’s a bit of a pain for sure.

But the good news (and there was a lot of it) was:

1) My buyers got the house! There is no way that would have happened if I’d gone to Emergency instead of doing my job. And they are so happy! I’m thrilled for them.

2) The listing agent and I had a real bonding moment over this. We had lots of back and forth (she was so kind, offered to help, even volunteered her Curling Club if I needed anything). Even though we didn’t know each other before, I have a sense we’re going to end up being really good friends. We’ve already made plans to have coffee.

3) It could have been much worse; it’s a small fracture, and it will heal. The torn ligaments are painful, but hardly fatal. I know lots of people with mobility issues whose problems will never get better; mine will. And this will give me a first hand look at how they navigate those issues (I’m already finding out how hard stairs are to climb when you can’t put your weight on one foot). All of this will make a better realtor.

4) I had so many wonderful offers of help from my pals on social media, especially Twitter. They offered to pick up wine for me, lend me crutches, walk the dog etc. which was fabulous. It was pretty amazing, actually — I’m so grateful to the really lovely people who follow me on Twitter and the great friendships I’ve made because of it.

And finally, 5) now my buyers know to put some reflective tape or something on the edge of that deck so no-one else falls and gets hurt. Better me than them. Seriously.

So it’s all good, just a little inconvenient. I was really sorry to miss the Hallowe’en party I had planned to go to last night. I’d spent a lot of time on this damn parrot ( you can guess the costume).parrot

But I plan to wear it to the office this week, and I told the listing agent I would leave the gingerbread cookies I’d made for the party at her seller’s home the next time I’m there, so she and her clients can enjoy them. So really, it’s all good!

gingerbread-2-e1540849294651.jpg

 

Update: this is me, Day #4. Swelling is worse and so is the discolouration. Now I’m thinking I really should dress up as The Walking Dead!

ankle day 4 3

 

 

 

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