Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer in Toronto: What is Simcoe Day?

Summer in Toronto: What is Simcoe Day?

Retail signs have started to go up announcing hours for the Civic Holiday on Monday of this upcoming long weekend.  Some people in Toronto refer to this holiday as Simcoe Day.  I love my work so long weekends don’t really get me excited but I was curious about the reason for this holiday. 
This mid-summer holiday is recognized in some but not all provinces.  In Ontario, the holiday has different names based on municipality. In Toronto, it is officially Simcoe Day.  For instance, here are some other names for the Civic Holiday:
Colonel By Day in Ottawa,
George Hamilton Day in Hamilton,
Joseph Brant Day in Burlington,
Founders' Day in Brantford,
McLaughlin Day in Oshawa,
Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia,
James Cockburn Day in Cobourg,
Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough,
John Galt Day in Guelph,
So who was Simcoe and why does he merit a holiday? Simcoe Day was named in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor for Upper Canada (now Ontario).  Simcoe influence on Ontario and Canada was remarkable. 
As Lieutenant Governor and British Member of Parliament, he was known to support the abolition of slavery before coming to Canada, supported the Act against Slavery in the 1793.  This meant that slavery was abolished in Ontario decades before all other colonies in the British Empire. 
Simcoe was also responsible for moving the capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) from Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York (now Toronto).  At the time, Toronto was severely underdeveloped and Simcoe’s decision began the development of the city.  Two main streets were built at this time through Upper Canada – Yonge Street and Dundas Street.           
In July 1796, Simcoe return to England due to ill health and never return to Upper Canada.
So, this weekend, enjoy time with friends and family and be grateful for Simcoe for putting Canada on the forefront of slavery abolition.

David Gharat
www.housecondopro.com

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Your Home, Your Investment: Low Maintenance Gardening

Your Home, Your Investment: Low Maintenance Gardening

So you want a nice garden or yard where you can relax and entertain your family and friends but you don’t want to be a slave to keeping it looking up.  While there is no such thing as a no maintenance garden, you can look at a low maintenance landscaping plan that requires minimal effort to maintain. 
What is low maintenance landscaping?
A low maintenance landscape reduces the amount and frequency gardening activities.  The type and number of features and plants will determine the amount and frequency of watering, weeding, pruning, deadheading and dividing you will need to invest. The best plan will move the frequency of maintenance activities from daily or weekly to monthly or seasonally. As you plan a low maintenance garden, you will want to consider landscaping design features, plant selection and ongoing maintenance requirements. 
Landscaping Design Features
What design features will reduce the gardening activities I need to do weekly or daily?  As you plan and continuously improve your garden, consider the following design features:
1)   Outdoor Living Areas:  Add outdoor living areas such as patios and porches, to reduce the amount of green space that needs to be maintained.  It is critical that patios and walkways be built on a solid foundation and in a proper manner.  Otherwise, you will have unwanted weeds and ultimately increase your maintenance.
2)   Plant Areas/Flowerbeds: Establish plant areas or flowerbeds with edging, landscape fabric and mulch or river stone.  Avoid over-planting flowerbeds.  Plan for the mature width and height of plants. Over-crowding can negatively impact the appearance of your garden.
3)   Ground Cover:  Do not overlook a grass lawn as part of your design as ground cover.  It takes a lot of plants to cover the same space as a grass lawn. Gardens without grasses tend to be warmer. 
Plant Selection
As you establish your garden, it will be important to understand the lot conditions and select plants are compatible with those conditions and easy to maintain. Study the information on specific plants online or on labels attached to plants. Consider the following points.
1)   Light and Soil Conditions: Consider what areas are shady, sunny or partially shady or sunny and select plants accordingly. Know whether your soil is sandy or clay-like and select plants accordingly. 
2)   Drought-Resistant Plants: Select drought-resistant plants to reduce the need to water.  Here are some to consider: Grasses, Marigolds, Portulaca, Sedum, Cricks & Hens, Daylilies, Lavender, etc.  Please note that new plants will require more water until they are established. 
3)   Slow-Growing Foundation Plants: Select slow-growing foundation plants to reduce the need to prune and trim plants.  Limit pruning to 1-2 times per year.  Here are some plants to consider: Green Mountain Boxwood, Peonies, Draft Norway Spruce, Blue Fescue Grass, etc.
4)   Perennials: Select more perennials than annuals.  Perennials are planted once and come back year after year.  Perennials, once established, will have roots deep into the soil, reducing the need to water and the need to deadhead. Annuals need to be planted each year and will require more watering. 
Ongoing Maintenance Requirements 
Once you have designed your garden to fit your taste and burden level, you will want to look at preventative maintenance as a key part of your plan.  Here are some suggestions to help make the garden maintenance so much easier.
1)   Interlocking Stone: Apply polymer sand to the crevices of interlocking patios and walkway blocks to reduce the growth of weeds. 
2)   Flowerbed Mulch or Stone:  Replenish flowerbed mulch or stone annually, as needed.  This will prevent the growth of weeds and improve moisture retention of the soil.
3)   Pruning:  Plan to prune or trim your slow-growing foundation plants in the spring and/or fall according to their specific care. 
4)   Weeds and Moss:  Spray weeds and moss with vinegar.  This will not only look after the menace but also prevent future issues.
5)   Gardening Tools: Invest in the proper gardening tools to do the minimal work you need to do.  There is an L-shaped weeding tool you could not live without.
 Happy Gardening!

David Gharat

www.housecondopro.com

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Your Home, Your Investment: Preparing your home for summer vacation!

Your Home, Your Investment: Preparing your home for summer vacation!

It’s summertime and you may be planning to get away to the cottage, the beach or across the country to visit family and friends.  If you are planning to be away longer than 3-4 days, you will want take specific steps to prepare and protect your home for while your away.  There are several checklists available on the topic.  Here is the one we use for preparing and protecting your home room by room.
General:
Home Monitoring: Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to check on your house every 3 days.  Investigate installing a security system to monitor your home more closely.
Social Media: Do not communicate beyond a trusted group that you will be away.  Avoid posting photos on social media while you are away.
Pets: Arrange for care of pets, if necessary.
Home Insurance: Review your home insurance policy to make sure you comply with insurance company requirements.
Yard and Driveway:
Flowers: Arrange to have summer annuals watered daily.
Lawn: Arrange to have lawn mowed if away longer than 2 weeks.
Flood Lights: Install motion-censored floodlights outside your home.
Windows: Close and lock all windows.
Vehicles: Leave vehicles parked as normal, be it in the driveway or in the garage, if possible.
Entry:
Additional key: Have an extra key made for a trusted neighbor or friend.
Mail: Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to collect your mail if you have an outdoor mailbox.
Newspaper: Discontinue the newspaper while you are away.
Air Conditioning: Set temperature 4-5 degrees Celsius higher than normal to save electricity.
Living Room and Bedrooms:
Lamps: Turn on one indoor lamp near a window during the evening hours using a timer or a web application.
Electronics: Unplug all small electronic while you are away to save electricity. 
Kitchen:
Perishables: Remove all perishables from your refrigerator that will go bad before your return.
Garbage: Remove all garbage from your inside home.  Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to put out on Garbage Day.
Recycling: Remove all recycling from inside your home. Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to put out on Recycling Day.
Compost: Remove all compost from inside your home.  Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to put out on Recycling Day.
Dishwasher: Run and empty dishwasher.  Leave dishwasher open while you are away.
Basement/Laundry Room:
Laundry:  Wash and dry laundry. Make sure last minute dirty items are dry.
Water:  Shut off water supply if away longer than 2 weeks.  Adjust hot water heater setting to vacation setting, if possible 
Relax and enjoy your summer vacation!

David Gharat

www.housecondopro.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Your Home, Your Investment: Toronto's Unwanted Guest

Your Home, Your Investment: Toronto's Unwanted Guest

What threat causes more damage than tornadoes; hailstorms, windstorms, and hurricanes combined and is not covered by home insurance? It’s Toronto’s Unwanted Guest: Termites.

What are termites and when did they arrive in Toronto?
Termites are small insects that eat wood.  This leaves Toronto homes constructed from wood vulnerable to the damage termites can create if left untreated.   The damage can range from triggering the need for minor repairs to causing significant structural damage. 

Termites are usually found where there is wood to soil contact in sheds or garages, in damp basements and in badly constructed crawlspaces. Termites will not eat concrete, stone, varnish or paint. Termites live in colonies and do not like open air so they can be difficult to spot. To survive, they hide in mud tunnels, wood or soil and build their nests in the ground.

Termites were first found on Cherry Street in 1938, likely coming from the US.  From there, termites have spread into several of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, mostly south of Bloor/Danforth Avenues at this point.
What should homeowners know about termites?
Homeowners should be aware that damage caused by termites is NOT covered by most home insurance policies, so homeowners need to detect, treat and prevent termite infestations. Once you know termites are near your home, the sooner you act the better.

How can termites be detected?
Getting a professional termite inspection is the best way to detect a termite infestation.   Working from the ground up anywhere wood contacts soil, inspect for the following signs inside and outside of your home:
·      Mud tubes that are brown and clay-like may appear on walls.
·      Termite droppings that look like sawdust piles may appear on the floors near a site.
·      Damage may occur such as peeling paint, rotting wood and sagging floors.
·      After shining a flashlight or banging on a wall, termites themselves may appear.

How are termites treated?
Professional treatment of a termite infestation is recommended. Treatment generally involves safe, odour-free pesticides being sprayed and injected 4 feet into the soil along all exterior walls, the foundation walls and the interior basement floors and walls as well as outside property.  Post treatment, you can buy a warranty that can usually be transferred to any future owners. These warranties typically allow for additional treatments, as needed, and also assert that the infestation has been managed.

How is a termite infestation prevented?
After the initial treatment, you will want to look at preventing another infestation.  You will want to assess your home and property to identify all areas, big or small, where wood contacts soil. If you have a wood structure that has contact with soil, you will want to place concrete or stone between the structure and the soil.  Any cracks in concrete foundations should be repaired as termites can enter your home in this way.  These home renovations can go a long way in preventing future problems.

What should potential buyers and investors know about termites?
If you are considering buying a home in a termite-affected area, you should consider doing a termite inspection prior to making an offer. Additionally, if the home has untreated termite damage or has been treated for termites, the seller and the selling real estate agent should disclose this fact.  It may not eliminate the home from your list but it is important to be aware of the situation and take into account all factors during the negotiation phase of your purchase.
So remember to treat and prevent unwanted guests, act sooner rather than later and never have any wood contact with soil! Good Luck!
David Gharat
www.housecondopro.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

Driving Around Toronto - For Sale And Open House Signs

Driving around Toronto these days, you actually see For Sale and Open House signs up in neighborhoods.  This is exciting! While the last few years have been exciting, I believe his balanced, non-frenzied market is strong with potential benefits for buyers, sellers, and investors.
Whether or not to buy, sell or invest at any given time for any one individual or family depends on many factors.  The real estate market and the prices that result from the forces of supply and demand are only some factors to consider.  Your current personal, professional and financial goals and milestones will also be key in your decision. 
If you are buyer, here are some positives to consider:
· Recent requirements for 20% down payment protect prospective buyers from over-extending their debt.
· With increased supply in the housing market, prospective buyers have more choice, more time to consider different homes and review home inspections.
· Increased tax requirements for foreign buyers tempers the foreign demand somewhat and may be beneficial to buyers who reside in Canada.
· Overtime, once the forces of supply and demand set in, prices may become more stable and predictable and potentially, more affordable.
· Real estate, over time, appreciates and continues to be a very good investment.
·   Interest rates remain historically low and any anticipated increase would likely be modest.
If you are a seller, consider the following benefits:
· With more days on the open market, sellers will be in a position to consider best offers over the course of days, not hours.
· Home prices (otherwise seen as asset value) may be more stable and predictable, allowing for better financial and retirement planning.
· If you have been in your home for a while, you can use the value from your home to downsizing and fund an earlier retirement or you can leverage the value from your current home to upsize to your future home.

David Gharat
www.housecondopro.com