Accommodating Your Growing Family

Helping Your Dog Adjust to A New Home

Our pets are our family.  We love and care for them and they return the favour with loyalty and companionship.  While our pets have a remarkable capacity for understanding us based on tone of voice, body language and sensing changes in our body chemistry, they can only react to what they see at the time.  We can’t explain things that are going to happen in the future, such as an impending move.

Moving can be a very stressful experience for your dog, compounded by the fact that most of us find moving stressful and the dog can sense that.  To ease the experience for your furry friend, here are a few tips.

Before The Move

If possible, take your dog for walks in the new neighbourhood so he can get used to the new environment and new smells.  If you can, take him into the new house a couple of times before you move in.  Plan to move all his old stuff – his bed, toys, food dishes – anything that is familiar for him.  Don’t use the move as an excuse to buy everything new.  Having familiar items around will help your dog to settle in to the new house

Day of the Move

If your dog is used to being left with a sitter or going to doggie daycare, it is best to send him there on the day of the move.  That way, he will be safe and won’t feel the stress of the move.  If it is not possible to leave him with someone, confine your dog to a crate/room he feels comfortable in and make it clear to everyone that the door to that area stays closed!  With the front door open to facilitate the movers, it is easy for dogs to escape on a move day.

When you arrive at the new property, go for a good walk around the neighbourhood before going in.   Keep your dog on a leash when you enter the new place and show him around the rooms.  If the dog seems anxious you can either a) tie him to you with a long leash as you move around or b) close him into his crate/a room while he settles down.  You know your dog best – would he prefer to stay close to you?  Or be by himself?  You decide based on your dog’s preferences.

After the Move

Try not to leave your dog alone in the new place on the first day as he may develop separation anxiety even if he hasn’t had any in the past.  If possible, plan to be home for a few days and gradually leave your dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.  As much as possible, try to keep his routine consistent.  Same meal times.  Same walk times.  Same frequency of trips outside for toilet.  It is also important not to leave your dog outside unattended for a few days following the move.  Until he settles in, he may decide to make a break for it and jump or dig out of the yard in an attempt to get back to the old place.

How To Sell A Home With Kids Living In it

You want to sell your home and you know it needs to look its best…but you have young children. As quickly as you pick up and clean up after them, they are leaving a trail of toys somewhere else in the house.

I’ve been there and I remember how tough it was. Luckily, we were able to move out and in with relatives for a couple of weeks while the house was being shown. Once we had a deal, we moved back in.

Remember that you want to get the most money you can for your home, so you must try to show it in the best light. If you can, move out. But if you can’t, here are some tips to help you make the best of it.

1. To minimize the potential for toy trails, pack away all but the favourite toys. In particular, put away the big toys like ride ‘ems, saucers, bouncy chairs and swings.

2. Not everyone has kids, so to make the home look like it would work for anyone, keep the décor neutral. Try to remove the kid décor from all but their bedrooms. Change shower curtains in family bathrooms to something understated and put bath toys and potty seats away. Make sure other common areas in the house look suitable for anyone.

3. It is important that the house is spotless before showings and open houses. Make sure that you get down to kid level when you’re cleaning so you don’t miss fingerprints. If possible, try to entertain the kids in one room while you’re cleaning – try a Disney movie.

4. Selling a house is tough enough without creating undue stress for the family. Minimize everyone’s stress by trying to keep kids on their routines. Say no to appointments after 8 and ask for long notice prior to showings.

5. When in doubt, enlist a trusted babysitter to help watch the kids

This is going to feel like a lot of work and stress, but once you sell your house and for a lot of money, you will see that it was worthwhile.

10 Tips to Help You Recognize the Next Hot Neighbourhood

Never was there a truer saying than “What goes up must come down.”  Just about every cycle in life includes a starting point, a rise of some sort and then a decline.  The same can be said for the life cycle of a neighbourhood.  A new neighbourhood is vibrant and clean.  It’s popularity rises.  And then it begins to lose its lustre as other new neighbourhoods are born.  It becomes less popular, less vibrant and less attractive. 
 
The goods news is that the neighbourhood cycle repeats itself driven in part by demographic cycles and government policies about things such as land development and immigration.  Buying in to a neighbourhood about to rebound is a great investment to make.  Here are tips on how to spots those neighbourhoods.

Convenient, but downtrodden.  Neighbourhoods with convenient access to public transit or main arterial roads are always in demand.  Those neighbourhoods that have largely fallen into disrepair, but that are convenient are likely to be re-gentrified at some point.
 
Infrastructure improvement.  A planned infrastructure project such as a transit extension or other civic improvement may increase a neighbourhood’s desirability.
 
New employer.  A large business moving in with prospects for employment can signal a renewed interest in a neighbourhood.
 
Trendy retailers.  When “opening soon” signs appear along a main street, that is often a sign that the neighbourhood is up and coming.  Companies invest a lot in identifying population trends to help them predict where to open viable locations.
 
Architecture style. Resurgence in interest in the neighbourhood’s predominant style of architecture (for example Gothic Revival in Toronto) can create demand for a neighbourhood.
 
Home renovations.  Seeing dumpsters up and down the street is often a sign of renewed popularity.
 
Pride of ownership.  Curb appeal is a sign that someone cares about their home.  This often goes hand-in-hand with neighbourhood rejuvenation.
 
An art scene.  It’s true that artists and musicians often herald the way into “hip” neighbourhoods.  As others follow, the popularity increases and the spot is gradually re-gentrified.
 
 Hip ‘hoods.  Neighbourhoods next to desirable neighbourhoods generally benefit from proximity.
 
The stats.  If crime rates are going down, ‘days on the market’ stats are going down and home prices are on the rise, this is a pretty good indication of a hot neighbourhood.  It may already be too late to get a good deal, but watch just in case.
 
If in doubt, a REALTOR® can help you identify the next hot neighbourhood.
 

Planning for Multi-Generational Living

When I was growing up my grandmother lived with us for much of the year, alternating between our house and my Aunt’s home in Agincourt.  I feel very grateful to have gotten to spend that time with Granny – we were good company for each other - but I remember it was not always ideal.  Sometimes feeling “in the way”, Granny tended to stay in her room despite our efforts to draw her out.

The reality for many families these days is the multi-generational house.  The ‘sandwich generation’ cares for both children and older parents and often these circumstances dictate everyone being under one roof.  So if it were possible to buy or design a property specifically for a multi-generational family, what would it be like?

Together but apart.  Ideally the grandparents would have a suite or apartment that is self contained, such as over a garage.  That way the three generations could be together if they wish or stick to their own space if privacy is desired.  A basement suite can work as long as it doesn’t feel like a basement.  Enlarged windows to let in natural light and a walk-out are good ideas.

A separate entrance would be ideal so that family members are free to come and go without feeling that they may be disrupting the others.

Sufficient separate living space.  At minimum, there should be a bedroom, bathroom and living room for the grandparents so that they have space to pursue their own interests.  Assuming that they are downsizing from their own homes, they should have their own furniture and decorate in a way that makes them feel at home.

Safety is a consideration for seniors’ spaces.  Carpet is less slippery and more forgiving than tile or wood floors.  Bathrooms should be equipped with walk-in showers with handrails.  Sharp corners on counters and furniture should be avoided if at all possible.  An intercom system or some other means of communicating between the separate spaces is a good safety measure to take.

If you're looking for a house that will accommodate your extended family, get in touch with a local realtor. They will be able to help you out.

Buying a Child-proof Home

The genesis of this month’s topic is something that happened to friends of ours.  They bought their first house, a fabulous contemporary design, before they started a family.  And when they were expecting their first child they realized that the house wasn’t at all safe for small children.  Between the open sleeping loft and the main floor below was only a minimalism railing consisting of posts and wire cabling.  They had to move before their son could crawl.

If you plan to start a family some day, here are some things to consider when looking at properties to buy.

Railings.  As my example highlighted, child-safe railings need to be 2’ 7” tall with the spaces between the balusters no wider than 3.9” to prevent kids from getting stuck or falling through.

Stairs.  Open stairs, meaning those with treads but no risers, could also pose a problem.  Particularly steep stairs, such as those sometimes found leading to lofts or attic conversions could be difficult to manage, not only for children but also for parents carrying their little ones.

Flooring.  Learning to walk requires a lot of trial and error.  Carpet or even wood floors are more forgiving to fall on than stone, porcelain or ceramic tile.

Pools/ponds.  In fact anything that holds even a small amount of water is a drowning danger for children.  And it only takes a moment of parental distraction for the unthinkable to happen.

Fireplaces.  Woodburning fireplaces are an obvious watch out for parents of small kids, but even enclosed gas fireplaces become hot enough to seriously burn anyone who touches them.

Glass.  While not necessarily a safety hazard, large amounts of decorative glass will be difficult to maintain once children start to crawl.  There will be fingerprints everywhere.

Tip from Steph.  Similar to the comment about flooring, raised stone or brick fireplace hearths can be a real danger if a child falls into one.   When our kids were  small, one of our friends showed us how to cover our dangerous hearth with a custom-fit cushion made from thick styrofoam and upholstered in a decorative fabric.  This would help in the case of a fall – the child would still hurt, but hopefully not be seriously injured.

Homes For Growing Families

Remember when your first child started to crawl?  You went all over the house installing baby gates on top of stairs, safety covers on electrical outlets and locks on all the cabinets.  And the ideal home was open concept with bedrooms next to one another so you could keep an eye and an ear on the kiddies.  Remember that?  Well those days are over.  The kids have grown and the family’s needs are changing.  Here are some things to consider as your home needs transition along with the family.

Their own space: When they were little, kids might have been fine sharing a room.  But as they grow up privacy and space become more important to them.  Ideally each older child has their own bedroom, not only to sleep in, but as their own refuge when they need some alone time. 

Older kids should be encouraged to participate in designing their room to allow for personal expression.  Don’t forget to accommodate for sleepovers whether that means a bunk bed, trundle bed or room on the floor for an air mattress.

Understanding space limitations won’t always allow for this, it is ideal if bedrooms aren’t right next to each other so the sound of music or video chatting with friends doesn’t disturb the rest of the family.

Your own space: Equally important is that mom and dad have their own space to relax and unwind in.  Ideally the house has room for both a living room and a family room or basement rec room.  That way when the kids have friends over there is separate space for all.  Furnishings in the kids’ space should be hardy enough to stand up to whatever the kids get up to. 

(I know its a cliché, but) bathrooms: Again, if space were no object, there would be multiple bathrooms in the house.  As kids get older, the time they spend on personal grooming increases.  To avoid line-ups and frustration from other family members, extra bathrooms would be ideal.

If your family has outgrown your house, your REALTOR© can show you some family friendly options within your budget.

Tips on Decorating Kids' Rooms

One of the things that most moms look forward to is decorating the baby’s room.  And once the crib, change table and glider are no longer needed, it is time for a room makeover once again.  While fun décor ideas are abundant on Pinterest, you can never have too many ideas for your pre-schooler’s room.

Keep storage within reach.  It’s never too early to start teaching your little ones about picking up after themselves.  Make it easy for them by lowering the hanger bar in their closet and using lots of kid-height drawers and storage baskets.

All hail the hamper.  I thought my parents’ clothes hamper was obsolete…until I had children.  Having a large, easy access clothes hamper is a good way to keep dirty clothes from ending up on the floor.  For extra enthusiasm, make a game out of the hamper as in ‘scoring baskets’ by throwing clothes and trying to land them in the hamper.

Changeable decor.  Think about how quickly kids grow and outgrow things.  One minute Disney Princess is “in” and the next minute it’s Harry Potter.  This is the insight behind the success of removable wall art.  Rather than re-paint in two years, you can try to satisfy your kids’ latest craze with peel and remove wall stickers.

Cozy spaces.  Kids love cozy spaces; think the fort under the dining room table or made of sofa cushions.  Help your kids create cozy spaces in their rooms.  Kids love bunk beds for their cozy space potential.  Ikea is a great source of bed canopies and bed curtains.

Sweet Dreams.  With peel and stick star galaxies, glow in the dark paint and lots of cute and inventive night lights, think about giving your child something wonderful to enjoy when you turn out the light.  Helping children to be comfortable, and not scared, in the dark is a useful life-skill.

Create an art gallery.  Whether at daycare, camp, school or birthday parties, kids create works of art.  Hanging a corkboard allows the masterpieces a place of honour for a time.  Whiteboards, chalkboards and blackboard paint create spaces for artistic pursuits whenever the inspiration happens.

Shared spaces.  Some kids share rooms with their siblings; inevitable given the size of some urban homes.  An important part of a child’s identity is the ability to have their own space, done up the way they like.  If your child shares a space, try to use the furniture in such a way that it defines individual spaces i.e., bookcase as divider, and invite the children to participate in decorating their space, picking a comforter or lampshade.

Urban or Suburban?

Deciding whether to buy urban or suburban is a common dilemma for homebuyers; so common, in fact, that they’ve made a television show about it. But it’s true that once you start thinking about having a family, many people struggle with whether or not to head for the ‘burbs.

Here are some of the points on both sides of the question.
 

Urban

- Convenient public transit is a big draw for city dwellers. Some prefer it for cost reasons: why pay for upkeep on a car, insurance and fuel – especially with rising fuel prices - when you don’t have to. Some have more altruistic reasons: why not reduce your carbon footprint by riding the subway.

- For those who work downtown, living there greatly reduces the time spent commuting to and from the office. Suburbanites generally spend one or two hours every day commuting to a downtown job.

- Having a multitude of restaurant and entertainment options is a key draw of the city. When my husband and I first moved to the suburbs two decades ago, the lack of dining options was a difficult adjustment. There are many more dining options in the 905 today.


Suburban

- Typically the suburbs offer more space for your money. With space at a premium in the city, infill projects and vertical living spaces are much smaller than homes in the suburbs. And for those wanting a yard for a pool, a pet or a play-space, the suburbs is a good bet.

- The suburbs, thanks in part to lower population density, generally have a lower crime rate than urban areas.

- Usually you will find more kid-friendliness in the suburbs. More daycare options, more parks, more sport leagues and newer schools are part of the draw. A street with other families is a bonus as well.

One last fact in favour of the suburbs: A recent study by Brookfield RPS showed that the average change in house price per minute of driving away from downtown Toronto was $16,200.00. All the more reason to consider the 905. If you want to see what’s available for your budget in the suburbs, give me a call.

What to Buy? New or Resale?

Fewer housing questions are as hotly debated as whether a newly constructed (or pre-construction) property or a resale is the better option.  And the truth is, it depends on what your individual preferences are.
 
The pros to buying a new or pre-construction home are:

 
  • Move in ready.  The big plus about buying a new home is that you can generally customize it with your own choice of colours and finishes (based on the builders selection of course, and beware of “premium” choices that will add up quickly!) meaning that you won’t need to do any work before moving in.

  • Maintenance Free.  Your new home should not need any major repairs or replacements for the first few years.  And the Tarion New Home Warranty program provides insurance for major construction defects such as problems with foundations.
  • Modern.  New home are built to modern standards in both of design (modern finishes, en-suites and walk in closets) and infrastructure (wiring for cable, Internet, security systems built in).
 
The pros to buying a resale home are:

 
  • Lots and location. Generally speaking older homes are built on more spacious lots than new homes.  And older homes tend to be found in well-established neighbourhoods close to existing schools and amenities.  Many new communities are built outside of the city core where vacant land is available.  It takes a number of years for these new communities to mature once the construction is complete.
  • Cost.  Resale homes generally have a price advantage over a new build.  One significant cost advantage is that GST is not collected on a resale property but is payable on a new home.
 
There are two schools of thought as to whether new or re-sale construction is better.  To some, older homes were built to last with sturdy materials and pride of workmanship.   To others, the advances in materials and energy efficiency make new home construction their preferred choice.
 
If you do choose to buy a new construction home, choose a reputable builder.  Each year J.D. Power conducts a survey of customer satisfaction with home builders in the GTA.  This publication is a good source of information on which builders to avoid.

Things to Think About Before You Buy Your First Home

At some point everyone asks themself if they’re ready to buy a home.  And while the answer is different for everyone, there are some questions that can help you find the right answer for you.

What are your reasons for wanting to buy?  Home ownership can be a good investment towards your future.  If you are reasonable established in a career and with steady income, buying a home may make good financial sense.  Your monthly housing payment could be building up your own equity for the future rather than your landlord’s.  And if the property you buy happens to appreciate while you own it, you will grow equity even faster.
 
If you remain unsure about your future or uncommitted to a job or city, the flexibility of renting may make the most sense for you.
 
What is the right home to buy?  Before investing in a home, make sure you anticipate your housing needs.  On average Canadians buy and sell every five years so think in terms of a five year timeframe.  Many young singles and couples prefer to be where the action is, meaning downtown in a highrise condo or loft.  But if having children is in your near term plans, this might not be the most prudent purchase.
 
Should I become a landlord?  Many first time homebuyers consider renting out part of their properties in order to afford a larger payment.   Consider yourself carefully before you do this.  Are you prepared to put up with the inconvenience of sharing your home?  Are you prepared to be “on call” whenever the tenant has a problem that needs to be fixed.  What if the space goes unrented for a period of months?  Can you afford to carry the mortgage yourself? 
 
Even if the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, consider the future.  Many of the “landlords” I know were fine juggling the demands until they started their own family.  Once babies came into the picture, their free time was so diminished that being an effective landlord became next to impossible.
 
If still in doubt, a realtor can help by showing you your options.