Housing trends and styles are changing constantly. Today, more than ever, buyers have a strong sense of what they want in a home.

 

Today’s desirable home features depend greatly on the type of buyer.  Buyers can be divided into two main groups. The first group are first-time buyers which is pretty self-explanatory. The second group are the move up buyers, which are looking to move into a home that addresses the shortcomings of their existing home. They aren't necessarily second-time buyers but they are often people that have out grown their current home. Buyer age is also a main factor in deciding the desired home features.

 

This article focuses on what is hot in the housing market today. Whether you are planning on renovating, selling, or you are looking for a new home, this information will help you make choices that will contribute to both your real estate enjoyment and investment.

Home Exterior  


Today, stone and stucco are very popular choices. Brick is the standard material used with mass builders, but the more customized and trendy homebuilders are using stone and stucco on a more frequent basis.

Floor Layout

Bungalows are hot nowadays. Excessive floor level changes are no longer popular as people desire to live on one or two levels.

Room Sizes  


Room sizes have been gradually increasing for a number of years. Buyers tend to place the most importance on three key rooms: the kitchen, family room and master bedroom. You can expect to see these three rooms continue to increase in size over the next 10 years while rooms such as the living and dining room are likely to get smaller or disappear altogether. Many new homes scrap the living room and instead incorporate that space into the family room or the 'Great' room.

 

Buyers still, ideally, desire four bedrooms in their home and would like, if possible, two living areas. One of the living areas can be the recreation room in the lower level (basement).
A master bedroom on the main floor is ranked very important for buyers 65 and older. A two-car garage with ample storage area and a main floor laundry area is desirable for move-up buyers.

Kitchen and Bathrooms 


The kitchen is becoming the hub of the house. The most desired features for the kitchen include: an abundance of counter space, a butler’s pantry, deep drawers and two sinks. Stainless steel appliances are also very popular today, and in the upper end market, appliances concealed as cabinetry are very chic.

 

Large kitchens with an island and counter tops made of granite or marble are very desirable for move up buyers. However, this must be matched with stylish kitchen cabinets.

 

Luxurious bathrooms with a separate tub and multiple shower heads; pedestal sinks and large mirrors; an overall spa like feeling; attached dressing rooms and a place to sit are all desirable features. Master suite soaker tubs and whirlpools are still desirable for many home buyers, but not as important as other features.

Energy Efficiency 


With the green movement becoming more popular, energy efficient appliances, high-efficiency insulation, eco-friendly treatments, and environmentally smart building plans are among the "green" features touted in homes.

Tech-readiness 


Satellite and internet wired along with multiple phone jacks are what people want in today’s technology world. With today’s busy lifestyles relaying heavily on technology, even a day or two without high speed internet could be a major inconvenience.

Home Office 


Today, many people would much rather have home office space than a formal dining room. Many employers are seeing the business advantages of allowing employees to work from home. As well, many people are using work from home opportunities to help supplement income because of work shortage or as an opportunity to make money online.

Outdoor Living Space 


The popularity of outdoor spaces continues to grow. Patios, deck, exterior lights, fenced yard and fire pit extend the outdoor living space at home and make a great extra feature.

Other Notables 


Some other notable features that home buyers consider very important when buying a home include central air conditioning, recessed lighting, hardwood flooring, energy efficiency and the potential to turn a profit should they decide to sell their home in the near future.

 

Today’s buyers are looking for a little luxury and features and treatments that are the highest quality their price range will permit.

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As the winter season approaches and the air become crisp, it's time to start thinking about preparing your house for the season. The winter season means spending more time indoors, hence roofs need to shed rain and snow, windows and doors need to reject the cold, and the heating system needs to keep rooms comfortable. If any of these components don't hold up, you might be faced with scrambling around in the wet, cold and dark to fix them.

By handling these important yet reasonably easy tasks now, you can avoid considerable grief later.

Outdoor Preparation

  • Check the roof for cracked or missing shingles, bald spots on shingles, missing or damaged flashing, and other conditions that might allow leaks. Replace any roof shingles that are missing or damaged. Seal minor cracks or tears with roofing cement.
  • Check the gutters. If they are clogged with leaves and debris, clean them. Gutters prevent basement and foundation flooding and water damage to siding, windows and doors.
  • Check the siding for cracks or damage and seal any leaky spots with clear caulking compound.
  • Windows and doors. Make sure they are properly sealed with weather stripping and replace any damaged parts. Weather stripping prevents drafts and winter heat loss.
  • Trim trees and bushes away from the house.
  • Cover air conditioner and barbecue to prevent winter damage.
  • Store lawn and patio furniture in a shed or basement. If space is limited, weather-resistant covers can protect outdoor furnishings.
  • Close your pool before leaves start to fall, and night-time temperatures begin to drop and you risk an algae bloom.
  • Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets and remove and store garden hoses.
  • Store kids toys indoors or in an outdoor shed to prevent rusting and fading.
  • Check and repair exterior lighting before daylight fades.
  • Scrape peeling paint and apply touch up paint to your siding, trim and fences, and apply waterproofing sealer to your deck if necessary.
  • Examine driveways and walkways for cracks. Larger cracks should be sealed to keep out water.

Lawn and Garden

  • Prepare planting beds when the soil is relatively dry. By adding soil and mulch to your beds, you'll be a step ahead for spring planting.
  • Plant spring blooming bulbs and perennials.
  • Protect roses, saplings and small trees by sheltering them with a burlap screen.
  • Pull weeds to reduce the number of seedlings next spring.
  • Mow grass short for the final cut of the year by reducing the cutting height gradually to 3.5 cm (from 7.4 cm) until the grass stops growing.
  • Check ground grading around the house. All surfaces next to the walls should be sloped to shed water away from the house. This is most important on warm winter days, as melting snow runs quickly across the surface of frozen ground. If the grading is incorrect, water will potentially flow into the house, causing basement leakage. Now is the time to use a shovel to re-slope the grass, or call a paving contractor to correct a negatively sloped walkway or driveway.

Indoor Preparation

  • Bring container plants inside and make sure they are free of pests. Doing so may enable plants to survive the season and bloom again in spring.
  • Caulk around window and door casings to keep out air and water. If your house has wood siding with window frames that stand out from the siding, caulk the top and sides of the frame. Don't caulk under the sill as this space should be left open to allow moisture inside the wall to escape. If your house is brick or stone, with window frames that are set into the finish material, caulk all four edges of each frame where the brick mould meets the masonry.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters as needed. Check and clean dryer vent, air conditioner, stove hood and room fans. Keep heating and cooling vents clean and free from furniture and draperies.
  • Ensure that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries as needed, or at least twice each year.
  • Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating/air-conditioning professional. Most furnace manufacturers recommend annual inspections.
  • Have your chimney(s) inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned. Cleaning is generally recommended at least once a year for an active fireplace.
  • Store plenty of salt or rock salt, snow shovels, and any other items you will need during the winter.
  • Examine the basement floor and walls for cracks or leaks; seal as needed.

If you plan to reside elsewhere during the winter months, you may want to partially shutdown your home. In addition to the tips above, consider the following:

  • Leave the temperature at its lowest setting, usually between 5 to 7 degrees Celsius or install a low-heat thermostat to maintain the air temperature at approximately 5 degrees Celsius
  • Turn off and drain the water heater; leave a reminder to refill before restarting.
  • Keep the electricity on so lights will continue to function (put lights on timers).
  • Unplug the microwave, clothes dryer, televisions and other appliances not in use.
  • To avoid large repair bills and the hassle associated with breakdowns, take the time now to develop an action plan for the coming months. You'll feel secure in your warm home or while you're away from home.


Winter can be hard on a house, following the easy steps above will help preserve your investment and prevent any unnecessary chores or repairs that might be difficult to do during winter.

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Buying your first home is a big decision that should be based on your current financial position and the impact a home loan will have on your finances and lifestyle.

 

For many first-time homebuyers, saving what is required for a down payment can seem overwhelming. However, saving for a down payment can be as simple as managing your budget differently.

 

Start with a goal.


 

One of the best ways to save is to have a goal. It will keep you motivated and give you something to work towards. For example, you may choose to save a 10% deposit plus expenses (usually 5%) for your first home. But the more you can save, the better off you’ll be. Find out how much you need to put aside in order to reach your savings goal.

 

Create a budget.


 

Write down how much money you bring home each month; write down the payment amounts for each of your monthly bills; subtract your expenses from your income to determine how much extra money you have each month.

 

Develop a culture of saving. 


 

Your first priority should be developing a culture of saving. This not only helps you in budgeting and planning for the future, but also satisfies banks and other lending institutions that you have a clear commitment to save.

When you go shopping, ask yourself if you really need the item you are thinking of buying. If you don't need it, don't buy it. Put the money into your savings account instead. Remember that small amounts of money can add up to large sums over time.

 

Start an automatic saving plan.

Make saving automatic by setting up an automatic savings plan at your bank to regularly move a specific amount of money directly from your chequing account to a savings account. You’’ll be surprised at how much you can save and how quickly the “pay yourself first” approach adds up.


Borrow from your RRSPs.

If you qualify as a first-time homebuyer, you may be eligible for the government's Home Buyers' Plan (HBP). This allows you and your spouse or partner to withdraw up to $25,000 each from your Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSPs) to add to your down payment or to cover purchase-related costs. Best of all, you don't have to pay income tax on the funds, as long as you repay the total amount to your RRSP over the next 15 years. The repayment period starts the second year following the year you made your withdrawals. If the full $25,000 is withdrawn, the minimum annual repayment would be $1,666.

 

Take a holiday from tax. 


 

If you open a new Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), you won’’t pay any tax on earnings, which will help you compound your savings. You can contribute up to $5,000 a year to a TFSA, and save for your down payment, tax-free. 
 


 

Review your mortgage options. 


 

Once you make the decision to purchase a property, the next choice is the type of loan to suit your budget. The two most common types of loans are the variable interest rate loan and the fixed interest rate loan. You can now choose to pay back your mortgage over 25 or 30 years, instead of the traditional 20-year amortization period. This means you will pay more interest over the long term, but you can reduce monthly payments to get into your starter home. You can always change this later, once your income rises and you can pay your mortgage down faster.


 


Get into a starter house. 


 

Try to be as flexible as possible when choosing your first home. Unless you’re status conscious, your first home doesn’t necessarily have to be your dream home. You could settle for a starter home, which you can afford with a small down payment and easy mortgage instalments. There are plenty of lower-priced houses out there in need of repair, with some "Do-It-Yourself" projects where you can add more value to the house. Be careful not to buy a place where the cost of repairs will eat up any profits you might make when you sell.

 

In just a few years you will build enough equity in your starter home to make it easier for you to sell and move into to your dream home.

 

Buying your first home is an exciting process. After all, your home could be the largest asset you’’ll ever own. Being able to finance most of its cost will take a load off your back in the future.

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Being earth-friendly doesn't require going solar or growing all your own food. Making your home a little greener is easy and will have a great impact on the environment. A few simple changes in your home can go a long way to combat both high energy bills and global warming.

 

There are plenty of easy ways to make a big difference. Consider these 10 tips that will also save you money.

 

1. Use CFLs. 


 

Replace your incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). By replacing even your five most frequently used light bulbs, you'll save $100 per year because they use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer.

 

2. Program Your Thermostats. 


 

Watch the temperature and save 10% on your heating and cooling costs just by setting your thermostat back when you're not home and while you're sleeping. Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 20°C (68°F) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 25°C (78°F) in warmer weather will save you energy and money. You won't notice the change in the temperature, until you look at the reduction in your energy bills.

 

3. Plug Air Leaks.

Air leaks are the biggest energy waster in the home but they can be simple to fix. Install weather-stripping and caulk to stop those expensive drafts and improve comfort. It's inexpensive and easy to install, and good for the environment. Look for leaks around windows, doors, electrical outlets, plumbing penetrations, and in the attic floor.

 

4. Go Low-Flow. 


 

Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to save resources without sacrificing water pressure. An efficient showerhead will save your family $300 per year. They only cost about $15 and installing them couldn't be easier as they just screw on. You could also install a low-flow toilet. However, if you don't want to make changes to your washroom, adjust your toilet's float valve to admit less water into the toilet's tank.

 

5. Green Up Your Appliances. 


 

When replacing your appliances, such as your water heater, furnace, or air conditioner, you should select ENERGY STAR® qualified products. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill. If any of your appliances are more than 10 years old, replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear the ENERGY STAR® logo will be very beneficial and save you hundreds of dollars a year.

 

6. Clean Green.

Stop buying household cleaners that are toxic to both you and the environment. Use alcohol as a solvent instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, found in carpet cleaners and some window cleaners, and use coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice and you will also save money.

 

7. Use Bamboo for Flooring. 


 

Renovating your wooden floors? Look for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes about four to six years for bamboo to mature while other typical hardwood take 50-100 years. Look for bamboo sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.

 

8. Use Healthier Paint.

Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution, and indoor air quality problems, all that result with negative health effects. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries, and even after the paints are completely dry. When selecting paints, look for the Green Seal and opt for zero- or low-VOC paint.

 

9. Save a Tree. 


 

You can save a tree if you use less paper. You can buy "tree-free" 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills.

 

10. Green Garden.


 

When fertilizing your garden's grass, flowers and plants, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being. This will result in a healthy soil, which will minimize weeds and is key to producing healthy plants.

When it comes to saving the environment, being a good global citizen starts at your doorstep. From using alternative cleaning materials to making minor changes in your home, all can add up to big benefits for the planet and your health, and will also save you money.

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Home health risks come in many shapes and forms. They can be found in the air, like smoke, radon, and carbon monoxide. They can also be found in household products, like water and dust, household chemicals and lead.

Anything in your house that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire during an emergency is a home hazard. At least once each year, inspect your home to find these possible hazards, and remove or fix them.

 

Tripping hazards.

 

Remove throw rugs or scatter mats in high traffic areas such as at the top or bottom of stairs, or use a non-skid backing with flat edges.

 

Electrical hazards.

 

Frayed extension cords, exposed wiring or damaged electrical wiring should be replaced or fixed immediately.

 

Hanging objects.

 

Mirrors, framed pictures, and other objects should be hung from closed hooks so that they can't bounce off the walls.

 

Slippery surfaces.

 

Slippery surfaces on stairs, balconies, porches and patios are a major hazard in many homes. Install non-slip surfaces where needed and keep an absorbent towel handy to wipe up moisture or spills immediately.

 

Dark areas.

 

Install a night light in the halls and bathroom in case you get up in the middle of the night. Install a light switch near stairs and bedroom entrances, or a motion-sensitive or “clapper” device that automatically turns on the light.

 

Stairs.

 

Make sure your stairs are in good repair, free of clutter and have a non-skid surface.

 

Clogged dryer vents.

 

High temperature air combined with lint is a near ideal condition for a fire. Check and clear the dryer vent at least once a year.

 

Kitchen appliances.

 

An improperly installed appliance can fall forward if your child leans or climbs on it. Toddlers have been critically injured when they tipped over a stove and were doused with a pot of scalding water. Make sure free-standing or slide-in appliances are installed with anti-tip brackets that secure the rear legs to the floor.

 

Sharp objects.

 

Keep glass objects and appliances with sharp blades stored out of reach of children.

 

Medicine and cleaning chemicals.

 

Keep vitamin or medicine bottles tightly closed and stored in a high cabinet far from reach. Make sure that cleaning supplies are locked out of the reach of children. Install safety latches on all cabinet doors.

 

Dirty faucet heads.

 

Kitchen and bath faucets often have built-in screens to spray the water evenly. Unfortunately, dirt and other contaminates can build up on these and, possibly, affect the quality of the water. Clean faucet heads regularly.

Being diligent about home safety takes a little more time, but if it prevents one injury or illness, it is worth the effort.

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