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