Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Make Black Mold Vanish

Many houses across the country including Toronto are finding that with the onset on Autumn and more moisture in the air, those horrible mold stains are returning. Mold and spotless houses are normal, don't think that mold says you have a grimy home. Items break or crack in a home and they are not always noticed immediately. That’s usually when mildew crawls into your beautiful home, unseen, until you either discover the well-known displeasing smell or you spot the atrocious growing stains. For some homes, mold is an ongoing problem in rooms like kitchens or bathrooms due to the increased moisture and humidity in these areas. Whether the mold is seasonal or year round the answer to the problem is totally the same.

Do you employ experts or undertake the DIY method?

Of course there are masses of companies out there that would gladly solve this problem for you, but since many people think twice before paying out money on work they can do themselves, here’s some DIY, eco-friendly solutions. Having said that, should you discover that the area affected by mold is rather big (ie over 10 sq ft or so), calling a professional would be a good idea.

Be aware of safety before you try to solve the problem

Even though most species of mold are harmless to humans, there are certain types (like black mold) that are rather toxic. So before you embark on any sanitation, arm yourself with a pair of hefty rubber gloves and an N95 respirator. If you want to be extra careful, you could acquire a test kit from a hardware shop and send a sample of the mold to a lab. If a member of your household has an allergy or respiratory problems then this kit would help you decide which option you pick.

Eco-Friendly Detergents

For cost effectiveness, environmentally friendly and availability, white vinegar comes the best for dealing with mold. Just like it will drive away ants (as we recently reported in the first issue of Toronto homeowner’s guide), it will not only obliterate the fungi, but also bacteria; it will even dissolve lime scale. While there is always expensive anti-fungal solutions on your supermarket shelf, distilled white vinegar is totally bio-degradable.

Extermination and Prevention

Mold and its removal requires more than a single treatment. The space the mold has developed must be carefully cleaned. Then it is imperative to make the rooms in your home less mold-friendly. When cleaning hard surfaces such as tile or ceramic, linoleum, tile grout, or plastic such as shower curtains, wet the effected area so that the spores don’t become airborne, then simply give it a good scour with a cleaner of your choice. Once you have finished cleaning, totally dry the space.

It is nearly impossible and at best extremely difficult to erase surfaces that are porous of mold. We would advise you throw away these items and purchase new ones. To stop mold returning is a fairly simple thing to do. Try to rid your home of the situations where mold breeds, such as leaky water pipes; also keep a watch on the humidity in your home with a hygrometer so you can take preventative action if it gets too high. Airing rooms often is a very simple step and one that doesn't cost you any effort. Keeping the humidity to less than 60% helps obstruct mold returning. In hot weather humidity increases, so invest in a good air conditioner, if it has filters, as these are a breeding ground for mold, make sure they are regularly cleaned. For colder months, you might need to invest in a dehumidifier. Best of luck, and here's to a mold free house.

Picture by checoo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Denmark

Today I decided to put pen to paper about a climate change meeting coming up in just a couple weeks in Europe. I make my living as a realtor from Toronto, but that doesn't mean that worldwide problems do not concern me. A topic that holds my curiosity is the climate and its change.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place in the Denmark capital during the first half of December. People attending the conference are trying to reach a decision on lessening the intensity of climate change from 2012. Whilst this discussion is on the table, it certainly isn't the only item up for analysis. With many different opinions it will definitely be a lively debate.

When Barack Obama was appointed president, many activists hoped for a new age in climate change mitigation. The question is what this age should look like. The Kyoto protocol, understood to be a springboard for meetings of this kind, is less and less admired, even by environmentalists themselves.

The minimizing of emission rates accepted back in 1997 (and never accomplished) are about to be reevaluated. By the year 2020 its is desired that GHG emissions will be reduced by 20% based on the 2005 figures. While people call for this reduction they fail to remember that Kyoto didn't work and that called for a 5% reduction on the 1990 figures. The protocols of Kyoto are being relaxed further even though there is a very lax approach to keeping the the schedule in the first place.

There is another area of conflict that this problem is connected to. The North thinks Kyoto and subsequent environmental actions will have the biggest impact on its economy, while the huge polluters of the South (like China, India, Brazil and South Africa) will remain untouched. The South as a whole believes it’s in the right, because the North owes them a lot – southern countries are much more affected by climate change than those in the North. With China emerging as a world power and the economic problems around the world, developing countries such as India and Brazil are not happy about making sacrifices; though the North understand the need for higher fuel emissions in developing countries.

The emissions trade is another issue that worries the anti-climate change movement. Imposing market rules that offset any negative economic repercussions of restrictions is also debatable according to opponents, who see this as an outlet for the black market trade. To stop this type of trade and the risk of climatic disaster, the opponents want to see larger control given to local communities.

Crucial decisions may be achieved at Copenhagen, but it’s almost sure they won’t be radical. Having said all that, probably, the most important thing to come out of it all is the lobbyists are now getting together to try and make some advances. This can only be fantastic news as more voices shout maybe those at the conference in Copenhagen will pay attention.

Image by Amyvdh.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Get Rid off Leaves

Every year, as the summer ends and kids return to school, you might just suddenly realize that deep in your heart, you really are an autumn person - however much you like summer sun and holidays. It doesn't matter whether you drive to work or just walk along the streets, all that colourful beauty covering everything around just keeps attracting your eyes. You might secretly want to go back in time and be 10 again, running up and down the streets and kicking your way through the thick carpet of leaves. In this dreamy autumn mood you get home and the dream ends when you look at your own lawn. As leaves usually are great fun, but your own leaves are not, as they are your problem and you have to get rid of them somehow. However don't worry, as we are here with the 2nd Toronto Homeowner Tip, focused on the greatest ways how to get rid of yard waste.

In the past, people didn’t make a big fuss around it: they either burned it or used it for mulching. Burning is out of question today, unless you want to apply for an open burning permit, and quite honestly, this could take you until Spring time. An obvious solution is to sweep all your leaves into your neighbours yard, but this can lead to you getting twice as many in reward next year.

Community services

First, you should choose if you are able to do most of the work yourself, or if you would prefer the community services pick up your organic waste. For the community services, get enough kraft bags, as yard waste packed in any kind of plastic bags is no longer accepted in Toronto. Next, you will have to gather all the leaves into these bags. You can do this by using a traditional rake, or employ a more sophisticated leaf blowing machine. You can do this yourself or call your own or neighbourhood kids - for sure they will be eager to earn some pocket money. In any case, you will have to consult the collection schedule to see when to put the bags out for collection.

(Please go to my original text How to get rid of leaves to see the rest of the story.)

Photo source: Nico Cavallotto

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Policies on Tax and Property Benefaction

In Canada since 1996, the situation for charitable gifts in relation to capital has been improving. A paper by Malcolm Burrows from C D Howe Institute called Unlocking More Wealth, discusses augmenting capital gains exemption for donations of real estate donations and the relation to Canadian Federal Tax policies for Charities.

There have been over 20 tax incentives of differing kinds brought in during the last 13 years in Canada on capital gifts. The overall effect on the charity environment evaluated in the volume of gifts was positive; charitable giving grew by 140%.

Just because there is an increase in gifts doesn't mean there is no space for improvement. While the total volume of gifts rose, the quantity of donors has been shrinking. What is prominent is that donations are coming as a one time only big donation rather than continuous, but smaller, contributions. Vulnerability to economic fluctuations is an undesirable side effect of have little in the way of regular donations.

Property and private company shares don't qualify for capital gains exemptions. These policies therefore cause a market imbalance. Charities and owners are left with unfavourable circumstances. Property is not often donated as it is passed down in families.

Bequeathing real estate includes some challenges. Policy makers need to work out a reasonable market cost of an donated property. This problem can be increased if the person donating do not give an accurate value. Problems can emerge for the charity to whom the bequeath has been bequeathed too. Real Estate bequeathing bring more pressures than capital bequeathing to a charity. Charities will find these predicaments include tax and maintenance problems once the property is under their control.

These problems are not insurmountable. Malcolm Burrows presents two potential ways of making real estate donations.

One of these is by selling the real estate first, then donating the cash. Acquiring cash from the property sale bypasses any problems with valuations, tax and upkeep. The Income Tax Act has made possible for the cash from some property sales to be used as revenue since 2000. Increasing the legal base to contain real estate properties should allow for any percentage of the sale to be donated.

If someone wants to give a bequeath of real estate. Property value altering is one of the main problems with real estate donations. Making sure the new owner is not permitted to sell the property for a number of years and the services of independent real estate appraisers are a couple of ways around this issue.

Deterring real estate donations would have a negative blow upon charities, a big proportion of assets from companies and individuals is real estate. Tax exemption legislation has had a lot of work completed on it over the last few years but there is still a way to go to even up the market. To reform the inequality there needs to be a way of approaching the tax exemption of this area of real estate gifting.

Photo: Faces Helped By Charity Water by Chris Sacca

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Calmer times have arrived to Toronto housing market

All Toronto realtors and homeowners can be happy about the numbers concerning the August development on the market. The Toronto real estate board published their monthly report showing that the market is still very active, however slowing down a bit after the turbulent times in the previous three months. For example the number of items sold in August was somewhat lower than in July, but much better compared to August 2008.

The development concerning all the other key indicators is quite similar - figures are generally a bit smaller than in June or July, but higher than for the same period last year. For more details, why don't you read the who GTA real estate article.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ants - Friend or Foe?

Annually, with the arrival of warm weather, a lot of people living in houses and condos in Toronto have to fight against thousands of uninvited guests. There are two kinds of ants that most usually move into people's houses - sugar ants and carpenter ants. Whereas real Sugar Ants live in Australia, the small black Pharaoh and Pavement ants that you keep stepping on in your kitchen are usually called ‘sugar ants’ in the US and Canada because of their inexhaustible appetite for sweet foods. They would be seldom found living indoors.

Sugar ants are tinier than Carpenter ants, the other common ant species, who are sometimes even half an inch long. A common mistake is confusing the Carpenter ants with termites. However, termites eat wood and they are white, while Carpenter ants are black and they only use the wood for making homes for their colonies, they don't really eat it, just burrow into it. They usually live in old tree stumps or fence posts, but sometimes they try to find a cosy place inside of a human house. If there is anything attractive for these ants in your home, they will keep coming there, so in order to get rid of them, just take away they favourite things.

How to close the ant restaurant It's quite likely that the ants only come into the house to search for food. In that case, these easy cleaning routine steps, done for at least two weeks, may help. If not, there is always time for something more radical. The great place for ants is your kitchen sink area, as it provides them with food and water. So you have to keep this place clean and dry. Always try to wash the dishes so that they are not left dirty overnight, and make sure you wipe the sink dry, so that there is no food or drink offered for the ants. A great tip is also using bleach or white vinegar for wiping down all the kitchen surfaces every night. The floor should also be washed properly - you can use the vinegar or bleach for this too. Vinegar is a very environmentally-friendly but effective cleaning agent. And when you clean the sink, also pour a couple of drops of bleach or white vinegar down the pipes. This is also a really practical advice. Keep all groceries in air tight boxes. Take the rubbish bin out at least once a day, but if you manage to do it more often, it's better. If there are any cracks in the walls of your home that the ants can use as the entrance, seal them up. Expanding Foam is probably the easiest and fastest choice to achieve this (your local Hardware store will stock this). If they still find their way in after all your efforts, toss some bay leaves or cloves nearby and this should do the trick.

How to find the nest To prevent Carpenter ants from nesting near or within your home, the optimum thing to do is to get rid of rotten wood in your garden and damp places in your home. But it's likely the ants have already moved into your house, usually if you cannot find any nest outside but the ants are still in your house. So you will have to use your detective skills to find out where the nest is placed. Carpenter ants enjoy damp wood, so look for old trees or fire wood in your garden. Look around sweaty pipes, washing machines, dishwashers and any other damp spots. Remember that the damage caused by one ant colony (as there may be up to 3 or even 10 thousands ants in it) can be quite extensive and possibly dangerous, depending on its location within the house's wooden structure. Sawdust can give away the ant nest, as Carpenter simply love feeding on wood. Or at silent times you might hear a dry rustling sound, also detectable with stethoscopes. Even if you use the services of a professional exterminator to clean your home of these horrible creatures, if you don’t deal with the damp wooden areas around your property that attracts them, then for sure they will be back to visit you again next year. If you don't want the ants to come back, you will have to get used to keeping your kitchen perfectly spotless, or no bait will be of any help.

Photo source: nullboy

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is Canada the preferred choice for real estate investors or is the USA?

Real estate properties have interesting discounts available now the boom period prices have been regulated. This is what real estate investors are always anticipating. To pick up a bargain. What are the dissimilarities between the rivals?

The USA real estate prices are not yet seeing recovery, whereas in Canada the MLS have plenty of real estate and prices are beginning to rise. As prices are lesser in the USA wouldn't you think this was the prime place to invest? If you have additional money to invest, professionals still say Canada is the top investment.

Global Property Guide professionals still warn of rushing into the US market and suggest Canada as a more practical option. Even though prices seem to be levelling off in the USA, experts expect that there may be more busts ahead. Profits are moderate to poor, the tax system is perplexing and the rental market heavily pro tenant. The long term investment grading chart only awards the USA 2 stars out of 5.

Although Canada is not the top market in the world (top rated is Uruguay, followed by other South American markets), we have been given 3 stars, primarily for good yields, secure economy, a better tax system and a strong rental market for immigrants (Canada is represented by Toronto and the USA is represented by New York).

Buying real estate in Canada has less expensive fees joined with it. Example property (resale $250 000 condo in major city, cash paid) transaction costs (inclusive of registration costs, real estate agent charges, legal charges and sales and transfer taxes) count for 6.96% of the sale price in Canada, while it is 9.07% in the USA. Real estate investors will appreciate the 2% lower fees.

Photo source: swisscan

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Asbestos : Are You Safe?

Because of its great characteristics such as resistance to heat, fire, wear or chemicals, asbestos used to be a very desirable material - until a short time ago.

For decades it was used in making thousands of products, from building material to clothes and toys, until about 50 years ago when it became clear that it was also poisonous. What is asbestos poisoning? The advantage and disadvantage of asbestos at the same time is its durability, which has been exploited in various industries. On the other hand, when present in human bodies, the body has no way of disposing of it.

If asbestos is part of some material, as long as it stays in it, it is not dangerous. It only becomes dangerous when the tiny needle-like fibers become airborne, which makes them possible to be inhaled. The trouble with asbestos poisoning is that its primary symptoms such as dry cough, tightness in the chest or shortness of breath match the symptoms of a lot of less serious diseases. Regarding also the long latency period, it often happens that the real cause of the sickness is found out only when it is too late.

The most common sicknesses that have been linked to asbestos poisoning are asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestosis is caused by the lungs trying to get rid of the asbestos fibers by producing acid, scaring the tissue, causing it to harden. Eventually, the capability to breath is very limited. Mesothelioma is an cureless cancer of the outer lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma can be caused also by only a brief, even accidental exposure to asbestos poisoning (unlike asbestosis). More than half of the people dying from asbestos poisoning suffer from asbestos-induced lung cancer. Nevertheless, if the diagnosis is determined correctly and the patient starts the treatment early, he/she is quite likely to lead an active life for many years after.

Asbestos in Canada, being once one of the most important asbestos producers in the world, still supports its use in its less dangerous variations. The asbestos mines in Quebec are still in use. Until the 1980s, asbestos had been widely used in most office buildings, public buildings and schools, usually for thermal, fire and sound insulation. The people who were most 'at risk' were mostly the workers installing asbestos materials, especially in cases where health and safety rules were ignored. Then the dust from the installation process could get into the air and people were breathing in the poisonous toxins. The use of asbestos still hasn't been banned in Canada. Nevertheless, improvements have been made - Ontario banned using asbestos as insulation back in 1973. Local governments have been trying to get rid of this material from public buildings and any work that involves either installing or removing it is governed by very stringent regulations.

Asbestos in Toronto Since 2007, Ontario has established strict regulations for asbestos used in buildings. If a landlord finds any suspicious material deteriorating in the building he owns, he has to submit it for examination. There are professional companies that can remove the asbestos safely, if its presence is discovered. If there is any danger of continuous deterioration, the whole impacted area has to be removed, again following strict safety rules.

The most common use of asbestos in non-domestic buildings: - insulation on pipes - ceiling tiles - panels boards - cement panels - sprayed coatings on walls - asbestos ropes and cloth - textures coating The most common use of asbestos in residential homes in Toronto: - exterior surfaces: deck undersheeting, roof felt and shingles, window putty - all kinds of insulation - flooring: vinyl asbestos sheets, tiles and undersheeting - interior surface: sprayed-on acoustic ceilings, acoustic tiles - appliances: water heaters, range hoods, clothes dryers and dishwashers Asbestos is still not a solved problem. A year ago, there was the Sunrise Propane blast, as most of us can still remember. Five streets were hit by asbestos debris and 3000 inhabitants had to leave their homes until a complete and careful clear up of the place. One of the assignments for our local governments is to keep struggling against the danger posed by asbestos. Nevertheless, the extent of this danger is very hard to quantify. As only 0.5% of asbestos in material is considered toxic, it’s hard to trace back all the potential risks.

There are professional companies that you can summon and they will inspect your home in case you have even the smallest suspicion it might have been impacted (there is a list of such companies available in the Toronto region). Under no circumstances, you should try to deal with the suspect material yourself!

Photo source: Marshall Astor

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Will algae oil save the Earth?

In our green real estate section we usually try to focus on environmentally friendly advice for our homes. But this text will be focused on an interesting research, which may lead to helping us if we are feeling guilty because of our cars eat up too much gas. Oil is an crucial part of our everyday lives. Nowadays, the crucial part of a life in the developed world is a car, and nearly everybody has one. So do I, of course, as a realtor who drives around daily. Without our dear cars, the life would be so much harder. Of course, the two crucial issues of driving are well-known: prices driven up and down because of unsure oil supplies, and the environmental harm made by fuel burning and emissions of carbon dioxide.

An American biologist Craig Venter is also a successful businessman, who founded The Institute for Genomic Research. Genetic engineering is the main interest of his work, that has provoked a great deal of heated debate by his latest project.

Algae are known for creating natural oil, which is already part of a number of experiments with biofuels. But Craig Venter is ready to find out more than that. He is trying to find out if it's possible to change the genomic make-up of algae in order to make them create oil of almost the same structure as the traditional crude oil. This possibility is so much better, as you can use current oil industry infrastructure like refineries, and even produce plastics in the same way as from crude oil refining employing the same production plants that are currently being used. As Exxon Mobile, being one of the most successful oil producers in the world, heard of all this, they gave Venter a $600 million subsidy to go on with his research.

And now you may be demanding, OK, but what is so great about it from the ecological point of view? Well, just this. Oil production based on algae could quite likely be the solution to one of the most serious threats facing the world today. During the photosynthesis process, plants take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to produce the oil, which is later burned and turned into oxalates. Of course, this miracle solution won't be available this or next year, but for sure it is a good way to go. The team of Craig Venter are trying to win where others have tried and failed, but this time there is a good chance of success. There are many people in Canada and elsewhere that would love to protect the environment, but due to their occupation, it is very difficult for them to stop using cars, just like so many of my Toronto real estate colleagues can't.

Photo: Saab Aero by gmeurope

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Restructuring of Public Transport in Toronto: Finally!

In the Ontario region a vital public transport restructuring has been hugely expected by the public since 2007. GTA will mainly benefit from the ‘MoveOntario 2020’ project. This 12-year plan comprises of 52 transit proposals including the growth of various subways, train, and bus lines and selected highways. From the real estate point of view this reorganization will ultimately have some real decisive effect on the real estate demand in the affected regions, alongside with the environmental consequences on the life of Torontonians.

Rising real estate values

Accessibility to a property is an important variable when measuring property prices by real estate agents. Various studies have analyzed that nearby railway station significantly raises the value of property. For example in Portland, houses within 500m range of light rail way station sold by over 10 per-cent more than houses positioned further away. Overall the positive ramification of new stations on the property prices rise is recorded in a half-mile range.

Improving air quality: A genuine environmental impact.

Unsafe elements of exhaust gases harm our bodies. Long term these gases cause serious disease and possibly premature death. The parts of the body most afflicted are the lungs, heart and veins.

Since the air we breathe is not pure, the pollutants and fine specks enter the body through mouth or nose and part of it stays in our lungs, causing its aggravation or irreversible damage. Air pollution can either cause or worsen asthma or bronchitis or other lasting respiratory disorders, it can cause blood clotting or heart attack and of course it can eventually lead to premature death. Research is continuing but at the moment, in Toronto, about 1.700 premature deaths are associated with air pollution each year.

The affect on automobilist

The shake-up plan claims to be designed to cut greenhouse emissions by replacing about 300 million car trips. Can it work? Is this the best idea to have cleaner air? Day to day drivers must not be ignored, but this proposal aims to focus on the public transport system. This includes railways, bikers and pedestrians supporting people to use these modes of transportation. At the moment, automobilists in Toronto spend about 67 hours in traffic jams every year. A study into congestion has found that 70% of all excursions in Toronto will still be made in cars in 20 years. This is although the increased capacity of other means of transport. For example, I know for sure that most of my colleagues working as real estate agents will never give up their cars no matter the cost or availability of public transport system.

Exhaust gas emissions are higher when traffic is stopping and starting. Cuting out congestion and improving traffic flow will improve air conditions. Or maybe the way to go is to find ideas in the recent plans of Israel or Denmark. These countries decided to heavily advocate electromobile vehicles by exemptions and by building a giant system of charging stations throughout the country. Expanding the public transport system should not be the only upgrades GTA makes. It has to answer the needs of those who chose cars as their main means for transportation.

(picture by ithinkx)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why should you switch?

Two of the most cited reasons for switching from the traditional light bulbs to environmental bulbs are mostly 1) saving the environment while 2) saving money. The environmental bulbs are economical in several ways: they can be used up to ten times a longer time than the "normal" bulbs, and the amount of emanated warmth is smaller, therefore there is less air conditioning necessary, which is significant mostly for large offices. Another fact is that the environmental bulbs use only one-third of the energy usage of the traditional bulbs, which is good both for the environment and also your pocket.

Except for running a Toronto real estate agency, I'm always looking for ways to make my lifestyle a bit more Earth-friendly. The range of environmental light bulbs in the stores is very rich, and if you are not an experienced buyer, you might get a little decide while shopping for light bulbs, we have summed up some easy tips for you.

The perfect light bulb for you

These bulbs come in all shapes and sizes so the best thing to do is to bring the traditional bulb you want to replace to the shop and match it with the available environmental bulbs. You will only need one-quarter of the original wattage (60 watt traditional bulb = 15 watt environmental bulb). Also read the label if it's suitable for dimmers, should you wish to use it in a dimmer light.

Where to use environmental bulbs

For spaces with high temperature and insufficient ventilation, such as recessed ceiling fixtures, it would be a bad idea to use a environmental light bulb. The bulb takes anything between one and three minutes to light up and doesn’t like to be switched on and off often. Therefore use in places where the bulb can stay on for at least 15 minutes at a time to prevent early damage.

How to dispose of environmental bulbs

Always recycle your bulbs at designated places. Be very careful if you smash a fluorescent bulb. There is some mercury in it, which is a poisonous heavy-metal. Do not try to clean it with a vacuum cleaner. You also shouldn't touch it with bare hands. Instead, try to sweep the mercury bits with a piece of carton paper. Pick up smaller bits with sticky tape and wipe the affected space with a damp cloth. Open the window for at least 15 minutes to avoid mercury exposure.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Solar panels - get some grant from Canadian government!

Just like many of you, I too feel responsible for our environment. Being a Toronto real estate agent I am always looking for new opportunities to make green living more accesible either for my clients or for whoever is interested. Today let's find out what the Canadian government grants are there for solar energy.

Why energy from solar panels?
The greatest advantage of solar energy is its
nature-friendliness. With more people being able to create their own energy by nature-friendly means, the better for the environment. With the price of energies growing fast in the last couple of years, many countries all over the world started to endorse the clean energy over the conventional energy. Canada is among them.

Before you start

Without the home energy audit you will not be suitable for receiving any grants, so let's have a look at what needs to be done.
- You only get the grants if you start all the installations AFTER the auditor's first visit.
- You have to be finished with all the repairs within 18 months since the auditor's visit.
- To ensure you will have no problems claiming all your government grants, don't forget to store all your documentation and receipts and even take photos during the works.
- Forgetting to book and complete the follow-up visit could be costly since without it you cannot receive any funding.

A note about the cost: The home energy audit will cost you at least $498.75 (first visit $341.25, the second visit $157.50, inc. GST) or a little more (depends on the sq ft of your home). The government will refund you $150 towards the cost of the first evaluation visit.

So what are the grants?

Basically at the moment there are two solar technologies that are available to masses: the solar photovoltaic system (sunlight --> electricity) and the solar thermal system (sunlight --> hot water). But no matter what you choose, the government is here to help you. There's a nice sum of up to $500 from the federal government, should you choose a system that is in compliance with the CAN/CSA standards. No need to hurry, since you can apply for the grant till March 2011. But the federal grant is not all you can get: the Ontario government will much the federal grant so you can get up to $1000. Another good news is that you can claim a refund of the 8% RST from the Ontario government.

Currently you can only claim the RST on the equipment purchased until the end of 2009.

(photo by powerhouse museum)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Do you know what MLS is?

Heard of MLS? If you've ever dealt with a realtor, you surely have. Working as realtor, most of my work is somehow connected to Toronto MLS listings. Wanna know why? Read on.

The essentials of MLS

Multiply Listing Service is nothing less or more than a database of all property for sale, connecting two agents, one that represents the seller and the other representing the potential buyer. It is region-based.It holds all the available information about the property in question (the owner, its address, footage, number of bedrooms and so on). It also gives info on the local area (services, transportation, etc.) and other information that the owner wished to public.

If I made it sound as if MLS was simply another list of properties not much different to let's say a listing available on your realtor's website, it's not quite so.MLS is not a public database: only realtors have a full access to it.The information on the available property on various real estate blogs are not complete. You might get an idea about the property, but will always have to contact the realtor for more information in the end.

The history of MLS

50 years ago the MLS originated as listing sheets or ringed binders with information on the property for sale in the region, manually updated twice a month.The first "upgrade" of the system came up when the real bound MLS books appeared once a month with weekly updates.The system relied on membership fees - can you imagine how much it must have cost to keep it running properly?The 70s brought the 3rd generation: the database was finally computerized and accessible through dumb terminals and phone lines.The so far last generation of the system is based on PCs and Internet. The conversion started in the 90s and the web-based system of regional databases hasn't changed much since.

MLS 5.0

Some people think that it's about time to upgrade the system once more.Particularly in the USA the discussing fellowship of realtors came up with the idea of another upgrade of the system to MLS 5.0, mainly by incorporating the functionalities of the 'web 2.0'.
The are three main differences of the 5.0 compared to the current MLS: the new system should be parcel based and therefore store information on all the properties there are, should be nationwide and customers, vendors and developers should be allowed to participate on it to some degree.But Canada has yet to think of such an upgrade, so let's stick to the MLS of today.

So how can MLS be useful to you, the customer?

Right now about 75% of all property is sold through the MLS or with its help.MLS is very important for the seller because it allows them to get their property as much exposure as possible.Equally the buyers benefit from MLS: thanks to MLS their broker has a very good idea of what's on the market.Thereby always make sure your realtor is a member of the local board of realtors and have the proper access to MLS where you intend to buy a property.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Have you ever heard about TGS?

What is really TGS? It is Toronto Green Standard, actually meaning "designing buildings and landscapes that is more environmentally friendly. Achieving the targets set-out in the Toronto Green Development will help to improve air and water quality, reduce green house gas emissions and enhance the natural environment".

Is it possible for us to contribute to this goal? Yes of course! As a green Toronto realtor I always encourage people to follow some specific advice in order to save energy in their houses and help with sustainable development. It's the time we cared for our planet and support sustainable development. We do it not only for us but for future generations too... for our kids...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Architecture in Toronto

Having lived and worked for many years as a Toronto realtor, I am mostly impressed by the amazing cocktail of architectural styles in this city, varying from those developed in Europe - USA and brought in this lively capital to the unique "Bay-and-gable" and "The Annex" styles.

One of the most prominent buildings is the CN Tower which remains a symbol for Canada and it is one of the tallest free-standing structures in the world (533.33 metres). An interesting building is considered "The University of Toronto" that covers a wide range of different styles, from Victorian revival styles on campus to Collegiate Gothic and modern/ postmodern styles. Besides, the Royal Ontario Museum with enormous crystals rising dramatically five storeys from the street surface attracts the tourist attention.

As for the building material, bricks, cinder blocks and stone prevail. However, sandstone is historically a readily available building material with large deposits quarried from the Credit River Valley and it is the main material used in the unique Annex style house.

In general, Toronto strikes as a very beautiful city not only for an architect lusting for inspiration but also for tourists and inhabitants.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Call energy auditor for a visit!

I guess nobody is pleased to see his monthly bill for heating (especially here in Canada). Our homes, especially the older ones, are like Emental cheese, when talking about energy efficiency.

There are some precautions you can do on yourself (check our green living section on Toronto mls listings site), or you can order a complete refurbishment. But the problem is in aiming. Is the roof main gateway out for heat, or is it better to aim the effort on walls? Or maybe windows? and what about the fireplace?

Certified energy auditors are the ones to help you with this problem. You can order this service for about $350 for the first visit and $150 for the second one (with possible $150 government refund!) in more places (for example Windfall Ecology Centre, the pioneers on this field). During this hardly 3 hour visit, auditor will check every single part of your home for energy leaking. consequently, he will prepare a project for you to get rid of them!

Considering your energy bills, this is a very important first step! And it's not only about bills - low energy consuming house has bigger price on the real estate market. And of course - it helps our planet too!