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Dryer sheets are good for more than just cutting the static in your clothes, for example:

Dusting: Used dryer sheets are effective for dusting surfaces such as computer screens, TV screens, window blinds, baseboards and so much more.

Cleaning: Sprinkle a few drops of water on a used dryer sheet and use it to wipe down your chrome bathroom faucets and to wipe away the soap scum on your shower door.

Keeping clothes fresh: Hang onto that just-washed scent by placing a dryer sheet in your clothes drawers. Pop used sheets in your shoes before putting them back in the closet, too. When storing seasonal clothing, slip an unused dryer sheet into the storage container to keep clothes smelling fresh.

Removing deodorant marks: Rub white residue away with a used dryer sheet.

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Courtesy of By Mary Hunt  Photo credit: misteraitch

Iknow it’s time. It’s been time for at least two years, possibly longer. I need to clean my kitchen. Now, before you send the Health Department to my address, let me explain. What I mean by “clean” is that I need to clean out and organize my kitchen pantry, cupboards and drawers. 

If you walked into my kitchen, you’d see a tidy and sanitary place. But don’t walk into the pantry or open a cupboard too hastily. Something might hit you on the head. At this moment, a bottle of Advil has been tossed on top of cereal boxes, which are resting on pudding boxes that have long ago expired.

Cynthia Ewer, editor of OrganizedHome.com says the first thing I need to do is harden my heart. An efficient, convenient kitchen, she says, must be pared to the bone. I must dare to dump anything and everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful.

CLEAR THE DECKS. Ewer instructs me to prepare four boxes with these labels: Put Away (Kitchen), Put Away (Elsewhere), Give Away (or Sell) and Storage. Now I am to tackle one shelf, drawer and cupboard at a time, putting each item into its proper box.

KITCHEN KEEPERS. Once everything has found its box, send three of the boxes out of the kitchen. Now comes decision time. Ewer is ruthless in suggesting I need to just get rid of the electric french-fry fryer, that strange gelatin mold in the shape of Mount Rushmore and the odd collection of sports bottles from all those walk-a-thons. Ditto for pans I don’t use, dishes I don’t like and specialty cooking tools that I never use because they’re too much trouble to clean.

NO MORE STALLING. I’m going to follow the Organized Home kitchen decluttering plan starting at the top: The top shelves, which Ewer says resemble an unknown landscape at the back of the moon. (I keep wondering when she’s been sneaking into my kitchen because she seems to know this place quite well.)

Here’s the rule: If I’ve used it in the last month, it’s a candidate to stay. If I used it yesterday, that will be the backbone of my newly organized kitchen.

I am committed; I am determined. I will box and banish. I will not stop until every shelf, every cupboard, every nook and cranny of my kitchen is cleared, cleaned and organized.

I don’t think I’m alone in this need for kitchen organization, so I’m extending an invitation for you to join me. Let’s call it the EC Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge. All who dare are invited to join me in this marathon event. Actually, I could use the company. Somehow knowing others are participating in the same drudgery will keep me on track and moving forward.

The only requirement to join is a willingness to get your kitchen organized. And to post a comment below telling me how you are going to get started.

Stay tuned because next week I’m going to help you get motivated to declutter books, CDs, DVDs and electronics—and quite possibly get paid to do it!

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Courtesy of, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

Posted by Roberto Sarjoo
 

During the process of buying or selling a home, homeowners often learn about recommended or required repairs and upgrades. This can happen as a result of the home inspection as well as your expert knowledge of your market and comparable homes. Of course, the first thing homeowners want to know is, “How much will that cost?”

Pillar To Post is pleased to offer our popular Residential Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, which provides estimated cost ranges for repair and/or replacement of the major systems and components in a home. It also includes general guidelines for the life expectancies of those systems. This information can help you make informed decisions when considering home repairs or improvements, and is valued by buyers and sellers alike. Below is just a sampling of our list of estimated costs for hundreds of repairs/upgrades.

Floors

Hardwood Floor Refinish
 
$3-$6 / sq ft
Carpet – Clean
 
$125 / room
Ceramic Tile
 
$6-$11 / sq ft

Kitchen

Renovation
 
$7,500+
Kitchen Counter – Laminate
 
$45 / lin ft
Kitchen Counter – Marble
 
$80 / lin ft

Security System

Alarm System
 
$2,500
Alarm Monitoring
 
$35 / month

Deck

Pressure Treated
 
$15-$30 /sq ft
Custom Designed & Built
 
$55-$80 / sq ft

Windows

Skylight
 
$800 and up
Casement – Replace
 
$50 / sq ft

These estimates reflect the average basic costs for supplies and installation of building materials in United States and Canada. Costs may vary depending on regions, upgrades, complexity, and disposal fees.

For complimentary copies of our Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, please contact your local Pillar To Post office, or download from www.pillartopost.com/costguide.



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Many of us hibernate somewhat at this time of year, meaning we have lots of time to reacquaint ourselves with our great indoors and all of its associated "stuff," much of which we may even have forgotten about. Take this opportunity to purge unwanted, unneeded and unused things from your home. You'll be surprised at how good you feel once you've opened up your space!

A good purging is necessary when putting your home up for sale or when you're thinking of downsizing to a smaller footprint. Even if you have no plans to move, your motivation could still be as major as getting ready to welcome a new baby into the household, or as simple as recognizing you have a lot of things you'll never use again. In fact, you may have no other reason for tackling your overcrowded household than wanting to claim your space back.

So, once you've made the decision to purge, what do you do with all that stuff?

Tackle each room with large, empty boxes, each marked with a different purpose. There will be the "keep" box for things you absolutely need or can't let go of, the "donate" box with things to give either to charity or to friends or family who may make use out of the items, and the "sell" box. Yes, someone might actually, thanks to the far-reaching wonder of the Internet and sites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist, magically translate your junk into money in your pocket — you'll be surprised at what people will pay for!

Finally, there will be those items you'll transfer from one hand to the other, and spend much too much time pondering. To help move the cleanup process along, put those treasures in another box that you'll mark with a date six months from the current date. When you approach it half a year from now, you'll probably first shake your head in disbelief that a whole six months has already flown by, and then as a second step recognize that if you didn't need those items in the past half year, you can probably let them go now.

Clutter can be a source of stress, so purging can benefit your mental well-being. In some cases, letting go of certain memories will allow you to move onto a new phase of life. Other times, clearing the physical clutter in your life frees up the space, both mentally and physically, to move towards a clearer future.

At the very least, less stuff in your home means less stuff to clean and, when it comes time to move, less to pack up and move!

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As you may have heard, Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled a series of changes to the rules used to underwrite insured mortgages. Included in those changes, effective October 2016, was one termed a mortgage "stress test."

The stress test is applicable to insured mortgage applications. It's designed to ensure that borrowers are capable of paying their loans in the event interest rates rise, or their personal financial situation worsens. So now, no matter how low their actual mortgage rate, Canadian borrowers must show that they qualify for the Bank of Canada's Mortgage Qualifying Rate, which, for example, was 4.64 percent when the new rule came into effect — about twice what a borrower might actually be paying.

Prior to the new changes, the historically low mortgage rates allowed even first-time homebuyers with a modest income to qualify for a large loan. Now, buyers who previously qualified for a higher-priced home may experience a reduction in affordability.

If you're considering a move, you'll want to clarify if or how the new mortgage restrictions might apply to you, and if they do, what your best course of action is in today's everchanging real estate environment.

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As you recover from this holiday season, it's the perfect time to start planning on ways to ease the stress of the next one! For example, when packing away seasonal lights, do your future self a favour and consider these storage tips: 

  • Unplug strings of lights that are attached, and wrap each strand separately.
  • Cut heavy pieces of cardboard into 6" x 12" pieces, cut notches into the long edges and wrap the lights around the cardboard, pressing the cord into the notches to stay put.
  • Empty coffee cans make for great storage too. Place replacement bulbs inside the can, then cut a slit in the plastic lid and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Place the lid on the can and then wrap the lights around the can.
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The New Year is within sight. If your New Year's resolution is to make a housing move in 2017, now's the time to start working on it!

Current homeowners need to know that because of a lack of housing inventory in many areas, their home may sell faster and perhaps for more money than they expect. But as all real estate is local, you'll want to get the latest updates on sales activity in your immediate area to get the best understanding of what to expect for your own real estate activities.

"National sales and price trends continue to be heavily influenced by a handful of places in Ontario and British Columbia and mask significant variations in local housing market trends and conditions across Canada," notes Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) President Cliff Iverson.

CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump gave an example from this summer's real estate activity in western Canada: "Home sales continued to trend lower while price gains further accelerated in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia." He added, "This suggests that sales are being reined in by a lack of inventory and a further deterioration in affordability." Successful real estate transactions require the steady guidance of an experienced real estate sales professional. Please call today so we can review your current housing situation in relation to your plans for 2017.

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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

You may not want to admit it, but the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and winter is on its way. No matter what the season means to you whether that’s embracing the snow, avoiding the outdoors altogether, or taking off for a sunny destination - winter-proofing your home should be at the top of your list.

Roof: Before it’s covered in snow be sure to have it checked for any damaged shingles, replacing them if necessary. Also have your gutters cleared to ensure drainage will flow smoothly when the snow melts.

Furnace: It’s no secret your furnace will be of paramount importance as temperatures continue to drop, so prevent a breakdown by making sure its service and maintenance is up to date.

Windows: Double check that all windows are tightly sealed and water isn’t collecting in the sills. Ensuring windows with multiple sliding panels are in the closed position is important to avoid drafts.

Doors: Similar to windows, it’s important to check door frames are securely sealed without any cracks. Consider sealing or insulating mail slots or doggy doors.

Floors: Check for gaps between exposed floorboards, especially in any unfinished rooms in the house. If you have central heating, it’s important to ensure ducts connected to floor vents are well insulated.

Everything else: When setting your home up for seasonal success, it makes sense to take a look at your current insurance policy as well. Winter often means extreme weather that can result in damage to your property.

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Are you fed up with the style or design of your bathroom? Join the flood of homeowners who are throwing in the towel on their old bathrooms!

According to a recent survey of homeowners who started a bathroom renovation in 2015-2016*, a full 46 percent said they took on the project because they simply "couldn't stand" their old bathroom anymore, while 38 percent said it was always in the plans, they just previously didn't have the means to do it. On a practical level, 29 percent were prompted to renovate when their old bathroom deteriorated or broke down, while 19 percent chose to renovate as they had recently purchased their home and wanted to make the bathroom "their own."

So what are people doing to their bathrooms, and how much are they spending to get there?

More than four in five homeowners replaced major bathroom features such as showers, flooring, countertops and sinks in their master bathrooms. Even though 75 percent of survey respondents maintained the size of their bathrooms, a full 68 percent of them went for some more shower power by increasing the size of their shower.

When planning your bathroom reno, be honest about what you visually covet versus what you will actually use. For example, a deep, freestanding claw-foot bathtub is something to drool over in a renovating magazine, but on a practical level you might find yourself relating more to the 56 percent of survey respondents who said they never soak in a bathtub or to the 20 percent who say they only make the time once or twice a month. Is the expense and space a bathtub takes up worth it for you, or would a larger shower be more utilized and appreciated?

Continuing on a practical train of thought, "good lighting" was a priority for 46 percent of homeowners looking to make a change to their bathrooms, followed by "easy to clean and disinfect" by 43 percent and "easy to store and find things" by 42 percent. "Easy for more than one person to be in," at 39 percent, explained the popularity of renovations like double sinks and dual showers, and at 73 percent, the number of people who included at least one walled-off area within the master bathroom — for the shower, toilet area or vanity/make-up area, for example. Be honest with what you want compared to what you need versus how much money you're willing to dedicate to the project. The survey showed that 23 percent of homeowners budgeted $5,000 to $10,000 for their bathroom renovation, while 34 percent of homeowners budgeted $10,000 to $25,000 and 19 percent budgeted $25,000 to $50,000.

What you plan to spend and what the project actually ends up costing can be two completely different amounts. Make sure you sit down with a building specialist, general contractor, bathroom remodeler, plumber, electrician and/or other professionals to create a renovation plan that takes into account the many options available to create the practical yet stylish and beautiful bathroom of your dreams.

* http://info.houzz.com/rs/houzz/images/HouzzBathroomStudy2016.pdf

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Mortgage-in-arrears studies track the number of households that have not made a mortgage payment in three or more months. The latest figures show that of the almost 4.7 million mortgages in Canada, just 13,000 of them — 0.28 percent of mortgage holders with Canada's largest banks — are 90 days in arrears. This figure has been consistent throughout the last 20 years, riding out fluctuations in unemployment, interest rates and an up-and-down Canadian dollar.

The Canadian government has a conservative approach to household borrowing, instituting changes over the past few years that necessitate larger down payments and shorter mortgage amortization periods. Today's homebuyer must have a down payment of at least five percent, with the portion of the home price between $500,000 and $999,999 requiring a minimum down payment of ten percent. And because government-backed mortgage insurance is available only for homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million, borrowers buying homes at or above $1 million will need a down payment of at least 20 percent if their financing is coming from a federally regulated financial institution.

Home loans must be paid off sooner than before, too. Homeowners were once able to stretch their payments out over a period of up to 40 years; the current maximum amortization period for a high-ratio mortgage is now 25 years.

How comfortable are you with your loan arrangement? Please call today to discuss your existing mortgage versus your future financial goals.

* http://www.cba.ca

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Don’t get overwhelmed right out of the gate when starting your home search; peruse your options with confidence, knowing you are comparing apples to apples as much as possible.

Are you in the market for a new house?  These 9 items top the list of things to consider whenever you tour a home: 

Location

Keep in mind all the places you need to go, and how far away they are from this current house location. Calculate the distance to your work, schools, groceries stores, and favourite nightlife spots. Wherever you frequent the most, such as your job commute or gym, should be your top location priority. Also, see how close you are to gas stations and freeways. These aren’t always considered, and it can be a pain to have to drive a long distance just to get to the airport or to fuel up. 

View

If this is important to you, stop a few minutes at each window in the home you’re touring to check out the view. Take note of the direction the windows are facing to see if you’ll get that brilliant sunrise or sunset everyday. Also, check out how close you are to your neighbours, and see if they can easily look into a room. 

Neighbourhood

Before you step into a potential home to tour, drive around the neighbourhood a little. Take a look at how people landscape their yard, if they have kids playing in the street, and if a block ends on a busy intersection. This is especially important if you have young kids that will be playing a lot outside. Your neighbourhood also plays a huge role in your home’s overall value. 

Safe Driveway

This might seem like a small detail, but a poorly designed driveway can cause some serious stress. Make sure all your family cars can comfortably drive on it to easily access the garage. Some homes have a pillar dividing two or more spots, which can lead some larger vehicles unable to maneuver inside. Also, make sure you don’t have anything blocking your line of sight when you back out, such as tall shrubs or blind corners. 

Size and Floor Plan

Pick up a floor plan while you tour a home, and revisit it and keep the house’s layout fresh in your memory. Imagine yourself walking between each room, and note any troublesome areas. Consider the overall space of each room, and know that a larger space will require you to run your heater longer, add more furniture, but will be perfect for a larger sized family. Measure your current furniture to get an idea of where you would put things like couches, beds, dressers, and any other bulky items. Some furniture might not fit, so make sure you factor these purchases into your budget. 

Room Count: Beds and Baths

Consider your family’s needs, and if you will eventually need an extra bathroom or bedroom after a few years. Smaller homes can actually benefit a bigger family since they will be easier to clean, plus they transition well once all the kids have moved out. Take into consideration what you currently have now, and ask yourself if this amount of rooms truly meets your needs. 

Ideal Kitchen Layout

Do you enjoy cooking? You’ll want to make sure your kitchen flows well, and that all the appliances you need are easy to access. When you’re touring the kitchen, walk through a typical dinner preparation, from cutting board counter height to oven door clearance space; it should all be tested. Ask your REALTOR® what appliances will stay in the kitchen so you can budget for the missing ones, such as a fridge. 

Ask your REALTOR® to show you homes with varying layouts so you can experience how each one might work for your unique cooking needs. 

Storage

Open every single closet while you tour. Take detailed notes of each storage space on your floor plan of the home, then see if it will work for your needs. When people move, usually they like to de-clutter, but there will still be some items you’ll need to store in your new home. Bring a tape measure with you so you can get exact measurements. 

Windows and Finishes

Having natural lighting in each room will cut down on your energy bill drastically. See where each window is placed throughout the home to get an idea of how much sunlight you’ll be getting. Ask your REALTOR® how old the windows are, and if they might need to be replaced. Also, notice the finishes in each room such as the hardware style, molding, and focal points - like a fireplace. These can be changed out or disguised, but it’s best to find a place that already meets your expectations. Bring a camera or use the one on your smart phone to snap some photos of the details that drew you in, then file them with each house’s paperwork for future reference. 

It might sound like a lot of prep work to do before touring a home, as well as a lot to think about during the showing, but this will ultimately make your final decision much simpler. You don’t want to miss out on a charming home if you can’t make up your mind, so make it easy on yourself by sufficiently preparing ahead of time, and you’ll be guaranteed to find a perfect home that meets all your needs. 

 

*This article is syndicated and licensed from Realtor.GetWrittn.com.


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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

While not every room in your home needs to follow a theme, you may find yourself designing a bedroom around a child's favorite Disney character, sports team or activity, or playing up your own hobby or even trying to recreate the serenity of a vacation spot in your own bedroom. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you decorate. 

  • Make sure you don't go overboard with your theme while forgetting about the practicality of your room. If you can't sit/lie/relax on it, it's about as practical as stiletto heels on the beach. In other words, you don't want a bedroom that shows well but doesn't invite comfort and relaxation.
  • Remember that a themed bedroom doesn't mean running out and buying every known accessory relevant to your vision. Your theme can be jumpstarted as easily and inexpensively as choosing the right shade of paint for the walls. Sports fans looking to create a shrine to their team should know there is paint designed to match team colors perfectly, allowing them to instantly surround themselves with logo-matched paint to complement the team accessories they plan to display.
  • Looking to create a dreamy bedroom space? You'll want to choose calming colors for the walls and bedding. You may think white is right, but again, keep practicality in mind: spills happen, dirt comes out of nowhere, and before you know it your calming oasis turns into just another stress-inducing imposition. White can work in some situations, but keep your lifestyle in mind before you commit.
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Here are 7 features that date your home and tips on how to improve them: 

Wacky Bathroom Colours 

It's unlikely that you will find pink toilets making a come back anytime soon. They instantly give your home an outdated vibe. You're better off leaving the colorful bathroom at your Grandma's house. If your bathroom is sporting too many colours, consider replacing what you can in crisp white. Paint the walls a warm neutral tone and add soft white towels, as well as a solid subdued shower curtain. Designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz suggests, “ For a clean, modern look, paint all surfaces with white epoxy paint to make everything one colour. “That way,” he says, “you can make the room's story be about textures. Do the accessories all in white as well.” 

Wood Paneling 

No matter how lovely the home, a room covered in wood paneling takes the buyer on a time-warp back to the 70's. Not only does wood paneling date the home, it also makes the room look smaller, which can give potential buyers a negative impression from the start. Andrew Leahay of Design Media shares some removal advice, “Removing wood paneling is not a particularly difficult job in and of itself. Removing the paneling and not damaging it, or removing the paneling and replacing it with drywall, can be a more difficult task. Having a good sense of what is behind your paneled walls will dictate the amount of work involved in the project.” If tearing the wood paneling off the wall is not an option, a fresh coat of paint will help give your home a more modern appeal. Elizabeth Weintraub, a Home Buying/Selling Expert suggests, “ Even if your wood paneling is not real wood but composite, you can paint it. Dated paneling must go. Older wood paneling such as walnut, mahogany, cedar and pine, it's all gone out of style. Paint it a neutral and soft color after priming it.” 

Ugly Carpet 

Walking into a home with nasty old carpet is a huge turn-off for potential buyers. Nothing is quite as distracting as an ugly pattern, scary shag, or mystery stained rug. If the carpet has to stay, you should have it professionally deep cleaned. Hardwood flooring certainly offers a cleaner more updated look, and according to HGTV, it is the top desired request among renters and buyers when searching for a new home. Buyers also tend to prefer hardwood as it cuts down on the allergy inducing problems associated with old carpet. With that in mind, it might be worth the extra expense to ensure a faster, more rewarding sale. 

Gold-plated fixtures 

Brassy, flashy, gold-plated fixtures had their hay day and now they tend to give an outdated first impression. If you are unable to stretch your budget too far, consider spray painting your fixtures. When done right, you will have a high-end looking durable solution without having to replace each piece. This will save you money and amp up the appeal of your home to potential buyers instantly. Ashley a creative and self proclaimed DIY enthusiast will show you how with these easy steps:

Home Improvements—Painting Old Chandeliers and Light Fixtures. 

Hideous Walls 

Sponge painting, fancy wallpaper, and hand painted murals might hold special meaning for you and your family, but they are more likely to scare potential buyers away. Busy walls are not only distracting, but they can close a room in making it appear smaller and darker. Beth Jaworski shares her Realtor insight by suggesting, “Buyers just do not like wallpaper. It's so personalized. If you go into a wallpaper store, there are thousands of patterns. Why is that? It's because people are very particular.” Neutralize your walls, by pulling down that busy wallpaper or painting over any flashy colours with a soft subdued tone. 

Countertops 

Old countertops can be a deterring factor for potential buyers. Retro tiles, dirty grout, and cracked laminate just make a house look old. Don't be overwhelmed though, if replacing your countertops is not within the budget, there are still things you can do to help update the look of your home. There are many different approaches you can take when updating your counters, but it depends greatly on how much you want to invest and what look you are trying to achieve. Rose Kennedy of HGTV, offers these tips for painting over your laminate countertops

Popcorn Ceiling 

Not only because of asbestos, but popcorn ceilings in general remind us of days gone by. Potential buyers prefer a ceiling that does not resemble cottage cheese. According to Armstrong.com, “Removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy, time-consuming job—and in most cases, it's not necessary because you can easily cover up that unsightly texture with ceiling panels of planks. They install directly over your existing popcorn ceiling in a few easy steps that you can do yourself using common household tools. In as little as a weekend, you can hide that ugly ceiling and enjoy a decorative ceiling style that will completely change the look of your room.” However, you should consider having your ceiling tested for asbestos, as this could be the motivation you need to have it permanently removed. 

It might be overwhelming to think of trying to fix all of the retro quirks in your home at once, but by starting with just a few of these, you'll save yourself the disappointment of having your home passed over due to it's awkward retro quirks. 

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When you’re preparing your house for sale, the basement is often overlooked when it comes to home staging. While rooms such as the living room and bedrooms take staging center stage, any smart buyer will want to explore all the rooms of your home – and that includes the basement. A clean and finished basement is an excellent addition to any home, and can really add some zeros to your home’s market price tag. It’s clear that it’s in your best interests to get your basement up to speed with the rest of your home staging efforts, but where should you start? And what should you stay away from? 

Do: Clean It Up, No Matter What You’re Planning

Of course, whether you’re planning on an aggressive basement improvement project or just getting things together for an open house, the first step is to clear and clean the basement. Pack up boxes and move them into storage, mop and clean the walls, and air out the room if musty smells have taken over. Give potential buyers a clear view of what your basement looks like – a finished basement is a plus, but an unfinished, clean basement won’t make them bat an eye. A messy, smelly basement, however, will remain a black mark. 

Don’t: Ignore Water Damage 

A well-built basement is bone-dry, and if you’ve got pools of water or drips in the walls, you’ve got water problems. These can easily damage your home’s foundation and encourage mold growth, resulting in your responsibility for some costly repair bills. You’ll want to take care of the issue before any buyers come calling, even if you’re not planning on any more intense finishing projects. Many home improvement contractors offer consultations, tests, and services for waterproofing basements, but there are some simple fixes you can perform yourself. Cracks and gaps in pipes and walls can be plugged with caulk or cement, but if water is seeping in along the floor, you may need to consult with a professional to determine the cause and your options. Solutions can range from pump installations to landscaping changes. 

Do: Insulate Your Walls 

An insulation project is one of the easiest ways to add a bit of comfort to your basement, without trapping yourself in a more complicated project. Moreover, it’s inexpensive, and generally quite easy to DIY if you do your homework. Insulation will keep in the warmth and the cold, and covering it with a wall installation will give your basement a clean look. Before installing any insulation, however, be sure that your basement is entirely waterproofed – insulation and moisture will make for mold city. Even if you don’t have obvious water leakage problems, be sure that no condensation is coming through from the outside with hairline cracks and holes: tape plastic sheeting to the walls, and leave it there undisturbed for a few weeks. If you return to dry plastic, you’re golden. 

Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew With Finishing 

Remember: you’re trying to sell this house. Thus, you don’t want to tie yourself to it with a basement finishing project that could potentially take years to complete. No sane buyer will purchase a home with a basement project abandoned half-finished, so you’ll need to consider what you can really handle in the time frame you’ve decided on. If you have the money to spend, a professional job can give you the speedy results you need, but take care with your finances: you don’t want to wind up spending more on the project than the returns it’ll grant you on your home’s price tag. 

Do: Familiarize Yourself With Your Local Codes 

Housing codes vary from area to area, and when undertaking any kind of home construction project, you’ll need to make sure you don’t wind up in hot water by accidentally violating an obscure footnote. Codes address everything from ceiling height to water and electrical rules, so no matter what you’re planning, you’ll want to pay attention. A consultation with a home improvement professional is a great help in this area, even if you’re determined to DIY: they’ve got expert hands-on knowledge, and a more down-to-earth understanding of what local codes mean and how they apply to you and your project. 

Don’t: Get Too Determined to DIY 

We understand the DIY urge, especially when you’re tempted by the thought of increasing your home’s value – if you’re out to get more money in the long run, why spend money now on professional work that you can do yourself? (Theoretically.) The fact of the matter is, a home’s basement is an entirely different ballpark than any other above-level rooms. There are foundation and water factors you have to take into account, and when things go wrong here, they can potentially affect the rest of your home in the worst of ways. YouTube tutorials and online articles can only give you so much assistance, and a contractor with years of hands-on expertise is going to have an edge no matter how many blog posts you’ve read and how-to videos you’ve watched. By all means, you’re free to try your hand at basement finishing projects, but if you wind up out of your depth, don’t be ashamed to call in a pro to consult. They’ve got a passion for home improvement that’s a great addition to any team. 

Finishing your basement is a great way to add value to a home you’re getting ready to sell. Basement improvement jobs are excellent undertakings due to their flexibility: whether you’re just out to add some insulation and soft lighting fixtures, or if you’re out to transform it into a fully-functional social room, any level of effort can spell big results when it comes to selling your home. Consider what you have time to go through with, get the pros on the line to lend a hand, and go forth to improve.

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Selling your home is all about appealing to the market. You’re putting a product out there, so of course you have to take steps to make it appeal to your prospective customers. Some flaws are excusable: not having a fireplace in the living room, kitchen tiles that are slightly out of fashion, and so on. When your home has certain flaws, however, you’ve got to take steps to improve or downplay them – otherwise, they’ll send any sane home buyer dashing for the door. 

Utilities Gone Wild 

Water, heat, and electric are the first things any smart buyer will check in a prospective home, so you’d better make sure yours are up to code and working at full throttle. Get your home inspected before you sell to get aware of any issues at hand, and have them taken care of professionally unless you’re a licensed technician – home inspectors can tell when something’s a DIY job, and you don’t want to get slapped with legal fines down the line if something goes wrong. These utilities are serious issues that could end disastrously without an experienced hand, so don’t let that DIY itch get the best of you. 

A Home So Cozy That We Can’t Turn Around 

It’s always tough to sell a small home, especially if you and your real estate agent don’t do your part to make the house an attractive purchase without denying the issue. Buyers know when a house is small, but you can expand it to the eye with clever staging – clear out clutter, stage with small furniture, and let in plenty of light. Don’t forget to sell your buyer on the benefits of living small: cheaper utility bills are no joke, especially to first-time home buyers and retirees looking to downsize. 

This Place Has Really Let Itself Go… 

Some buyers don’t mind a small home improvement project waiting for them when they move in: laying new tiles, repainting rooms, and tearing up carpets aren’t overly expensive undertakings, and can help a new buyer to settle in to a new place. However, there’s a difference between “we should tear up these tiles, they’re not really our style” and “we should tear up these tiles, I think something’s building a civilization beneath them”. Do your part to take care of the big home improvement projects before you even put the house on the market. Your house will sell faster, and you won’t have to take hits on your desired price tag. 

Those Aren’t Termites! The Walls Are Just Rustic! 

Insect and vermin infestations don’t need to be as severe as a termite attack to have an adverse impression on buyers, and they don’t even need to be infesting the house itself. If your lawn and garden are home to some nasty beasties, your buyers will be able to tell with even the briefest inspection that something iffy is buzzing around – especially when it’s buzzing right in their face. 

For severe issues such as the aforementioned termites, a professional exterminator is absolutely essential – the exterminator will not only work to get rid of the bugs, but will also assess any potential damage to the home and its foundations. If you’re lax on getting this inspected and professionally fixed, be prepared for legal repercussions. Less pressing problems, like a booming mosquito population, can usually be improved or eradicated with a little bit of detective work, instead of smelly, lawn-damaging pesticides. Check online for what kinds of environments your given insect invaders thrive in – that long grass is prime real estate for ticks, and stagnant water attracts mosquitos. A bit of lawn improvement can go a long way. 

Is That a Lawn or a Jungle? 

Many home sellers neglect to include their home’s great outdoors in their prep work, and do so to their own peril. A messy, unkempt lawn will impress no one: not only will it put your home’s curb appeal in the toilet, but if things are especially dire, you might find that potential buyers refuse to even take a step outdoors. Are lions and tigers lurking in that unmowed grass; or more reasonably, ticks and fleas? Are they going to need a tendonitis shot for being in the proximity of your rusted lawn furniture? No buyer wants to be saddled with the responsibility of cleaning up the mess of a yard that you’ve left them, so do your part beforehand and get some gardening done. 

In This Neighbourhood, It’s Always Party Time 

Noisy neighbours (and their noisy children, noisy pets, and noisy guests) are one of the biggest deal-breakers out there when trying to sell a home, and unfortunately, it’s usually an issue that’s completely out of your control. Noise is only one of the many sins that bad neighbours can commit: there’s also the nosy neighbour, the rude neighbour, and the messy neighbour. A neighbour that parties into the night is just as bad as a neighbour that peeps into your windows, a neighbour that refuses to give back children’s toys that have gone rogue into their yard, or the neighbour whose yard is so messy that they couldn’t give the toy back if they tried. 

In the end, the only thing that can solve this issue is communication. If politely requesting that a neighbour cease their bad habits doesn’t work, consider building a privacy fence to block out at least some of the issue – if the problems are severe, you may have to get local law enforcement involved. In any event, it is heavily advisable for you to speak about the issue at hand to your real estate agent so they can devise an appropriate plan to keep prospective buyers informed, but still interested. 

Taking care of these deal-breakers before your home even goes up for sale will do a lot for your selling prospects. Homes that are well-maintained and attractively staged consistently spend less time on the housing market, and go for more money, than those that could do with some TLC. Put in some elbow grease, and you and your prospective buyers will be thankful for it in the long run.

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If you are considering a home renovation project, it might not be realistic to take on your entire home, but even just a few upgrades can lead to a much higher selling price for your property. In a competitive market, standing out from the other homes in your neighbourhood is paramount. Below are three important projects to focus on before selling your home that are guaranteed to add that added dose of special sauce buyers are looking for.

Kitchen

To many, the kitchen is the most important part of the home – this idea is echoed in an old saying: people talk business in the living room, but friends hang out in the kitchen. The kitchen is where families spend time together preparing meals and talking about the day. It is where friends laugh over a glass of wine and platters of cheese and crackers. It is the nucleus of every house, and it is what a majority of buyers admit is one of their make or break items when comparing multiple listings.

Buyers like to see clean and new appliances. If your budget allows, consider getting stainless steel appliances, ideally in a fingerprint-free finish. If there is no money freed up for this kind of an upgrade, a good, thorough washing can do wonders, and don’t forget to tidy the magnets and photos on your refrigerator while you’re at it.  

Next, consider replacing worn or outdated countertops. Granite or butcher block are always in demand, but any high-quality, durable countertop in a neutral tone would be a great addition to your kitchen.

Be sure to take into consideration what is appropriate for your property’s listing price when starting to update your kitchen or any area of your home, for that matter. For example, putting marble floors and granite counter tops in a lower priced property would be a bad investment as the chances of recouping that money in equity down the road might not be as great as you had envisioned.

It's wise to consult with your REALTOR® before diving into home improvement projects so you can get a comparative market analysis. This will give you an idea of what your home will sell for, allowing you to budget appropriately for your renovation projects.

Many homebuyers are intimidated about taking on large renovation projects, preferring instead to get into a home that is “move in ready.” This is especially true of first time homebuyers, as they may not have the initial budget to put up a down payment and then dive headfirst into upgrading or renovating their new home. By presenting potential buyers with a kitchen that is updated and clean, you make it that much easier for them to fall in love with your house and sign on the dotted line.

Tip: Burn a softly scented candle in the kitchen to diffuse any lingering cooking odours if your REALTOR® calls with a last minute showing.

Paint

Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is an easy and cost effective project that will give buyers a great first impression. Many people choose to do this project themselves to save money - even hiring professionals to do the job for you can be a great value if they can get the work done quickly and with great quality.

Colour selection is key to a successful paint job; your kids might love the neon green paint in their rooms, but strong colours can definitely turn buyers off. Paint the doors and moldings a slightly lighter colour then the walls. "It's a subtle shift in colour but it really brings your eye to the detail." Says Sheri Thompson, director of colour marketing and design for Sherwin-Williams.  

Years of wear and tear can leave your walls with scratches and scuff marks. So even if painting isn’t in the cards for you, taking the time to wash your walls will brighten up your existing paint in no time.

Tip: Pay special attention to the interior lighting of your home. Darkly painted rooms can feel depressing and uncomfortable, but a carefully placed lamp can make all the difference.

Lighting

Adding proper lighting is a simple and effective way to make your home feel more warm and inviting. Interior designer Melanie Freundlich offers up some excellent tips for using interior lighting in your home:

  • A beautifully lit living room is accomplished through variety: variety in height, locations, and even bulb colour.
  • Use light to feature something you love, like a favourite painting, a statue, or a wall with a decorative finish.
  • The cheapest, quickest solution for upgrading your home lighting: swapping out your switch plates to a fun metal finish or even a bold colour to compliment your wall paint.

Landscaping

Doing all of these fantastic interior home improvement projects is wasted time if potential buyers never make it past your front door. When potential buyers drive up to your property they should see a clean and neat exterior at the very least, and – if possible – it is wise to invest in landscape features even if that just means a beautiful birdbath or window boxes filled with freshly planted flowers. It should also go without saying that your lawn should be mowed and any fallen leaves are removed. Also be sure to pick up trash or debris that can easily collect near fence lines or under trees. As an added touch, add a bright exterior light so that potential buyers can see clearly if they drive by your home after dark.

Tony Rigby, a well-known financial planner puts it this way: “Buyers are often sold on a home before they take a step inside, so it pays to make your property appealing from the outside.”

Tip: Have your home professionally pressure washed or rent your own machine if you are feeling ambitious.

These three simple home projects will definitely make your property stand out without costing you an arm and a leg in the process.

 

 

*This article is syndicated and licensed from Realtor.GetWrittn.com.

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The living room is the main space in your home where people gather. It's a high traffic room and it has a lot of jobs. Creating a space that meets the needs of your family, but is also beautiful and desirable to be in, is no easy task. You might find yourself wondering where to even start, but with a few simple tricks, you'll be headed in the right direction. 

Here are three significant ways you can create more functional space in your living room right now: 

Aim to Simplify 

These days, with life spinning so fast in so many different directions, it's easy for our home to become a drop zone for so many things. We accumulate sports equipment, hobby related accessories, kid’s toys, pet supplies, and the list goes on. Somehow, in the midst of all these bits and pieces, the parts we really love about our home can get lost. The number one thing you can do to create a more functional living room is to start by de-cluttering. Start by grabbing four boxes labeled: 

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Trash

Go through your living room and do your best to purge those excess items. Think creatively and remember that by letting some things go, you are making way to really highlight the things in your home that really do matter to you. Consider pairing down on things you have in excess, for instance, limit your throw pillows, don't pack your bookshelves to the max, and try not to overwhelm your mantle with knickknacks. Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things suggests, “There is no need to make things difficult by trying to organize the hardest things first. Most likely, it will simply deter you from the task altogether. Instead, start with the easy stuff and then as you strengthen your will to reduce, the harder decisions will become easier.” De-cluttering might seem like a daunting task, but it is worth it in the long run. Having less clutter is actually healthier for you and it helps promote a more peaceful environment. Who doesn't want a living room that ushers in peace? 

Once you have simplified the extra stuff around your home, you can then really focus on the statement pieces that you want to showcase. Turn your attention to pieces that open up and add light to your living room. Mirrors offer a great way to add dimension to an otherwise boring space. Focus your energy on finding pieces that inspire you, draw out simplicity, and take up minimal space.

Designate Space Wisely

Creating functionality in your living room is so much more than arranging furniture, it's about developing an environment that works and flows with your family’s lifestyle. Instead of just placing your furniture where it fits or the best angle toward the TV, really consider the design and formation of your living room. Try to designate areas with certain jobs in mind. Here are a few ideas to help you get started: 

  • a distinct sitting area
  • a reading nook
  • a play area
  • a home office corner
  • an entertainment space 

Elaine Song from styleathome.com advises, “Divide your living space by designating areas for certain activities. It will allow for better organization of furniture and necessities. Whether it's a games area with a table and proper storage for board games and toys or a TV area with seating and media storage for music and movies, your space will feel less cluttered.” If you find yourself debating over what to do with your sofa, consider what Designer Laura Casey has to say, “People often ask me my opinion on using sectional sofas. Under the right conditions they can be functional and look great. I think their best use is in rooms with high ceilings or lots of windows, and upholstered in a lighter color. Getting room and upholstery proportions correct can be a challenge. If you've got a smaller sized room with low ceilings you are better off choosing a mix of a sofa and chairs to help break up the space.” The living room is the place that family gathers, with specific designated areas, giving everyone a corner of their own. 

Use Furniture Creatively 

One of the main reasons to use furniture creatively is that it is a great way to incorporate sentimental family pieces into your everyday life. Jan Porter of Isle Designs, brings over 35 years of Design experience to the table, she shared some helpful advice about how she uses pieces creatively within her own home, and “I tend to use pieces that have a multi functional purpose. One of my family heirlooms, an antique cedar chest from the 1800's not only doubles as storage, but it is used as my coffee table as well.” Another wonderful reason to use furniture creatively is that it can offer double-duty. Some benches have wonderful storage capabilities and they also make a great window seat. 

Many new sectional sofas come with ample storage inside, and the chaise lounge portion can double as a daybed. If your living room is on the smaller side, consider using a bookshelf as an entertainment storage center/room divider. You can place TV remotes and controllers in lined baskets, store games in decorative boxes, and reserve one shelf for your favorite go to books. By using double-duty furniture, you not only create more space, but you develop a room that everyone in your family feels some sense of ownership to.

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When it comes to mortgage terminology, borrowers often confuse the definitions of the words "term" and "amortization". It's important to understand all of your mortgage components completely to appreciate how they can affect you both now and in the future.

The mortgage term is the block of time that a borrower commits to an agreed-upon mortgage rate and conditions with a particular mortgage lender. The mortgage amortization is the total number of years you're expecting it will take to completely pay off your mortgage. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)-insured loans have a maximum amortization of 25 years, while non-CMHC-insured loans can have a longer amortization depending on the lender.

A common mortgage in Canada has a five-year term with a 25-year amortization period. Some borrowers select a longer term – up to ten years for example – with a slightly higher interest rate if they expect to stay in their home for some time while others choose a three or four year term if they're anticipating a move within the foreseeable future, and want to avoid any prepayment penalties.

Before committing to a new loan or renewing your mortgage, let's take the time to compare different mortgage scenarios to find the one that fits both your short-term and long-term housing plans and budget. Simply pick up the phone and call to set up your no-obligation mortgage consultation!

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Source: Lori Watson Mortgage Specialist  Canadian Mortgage Experts - DLC 

Ah spring, a time when the sun pours in the windows, plants are growing, things feel alive, and we give the house a good spring clean!

Although this winter was relatively mild, we certainly had some proud Canadian winter moments. You will probably want to make sure that your property weathered the storm and is in good condition. So here are six things to check on your home this spring!

The Roof

Your roof will have undoubtedly received the brunt of the winter weather, so when you can, it’ll be important for you to ensure that everything is still working as it should; that your shingles are securely fastened and (obviously) that none are missing. Additionally, for those who live in wet climates, check to make sure your roof is free from any kind of developing growth (moss etc.).

Shingled roofs should last approximately 20 years (depending, again, on variables such as climate) so as the years go on, don’t be surprised if and when sections of your roof begin to break down and deteriorate. A good idea to be prepared for such eventualities is have a separate account where you put money away, little by little.

Gutters

Check your gutters for any loose connections, leaks and cracks, as well as for debris that may have gathered throughout the winter months. Keep in mind, as well, that downspouts should always be pointed away from the foundation.

Ground “Indentations”

Low-lying sections of your property (especially near your home’s foundation) can be problematic. These pools, if left to form in the wrong location, can lead to water coming through your home’s foundation. Not to mention, they can become an excellent breeding ground for all sorts of pesky insects.

Avoid these pitfalls by leveling the ground, sloping the soil away from the house (and adding soil as necessary).

Outdoor Concrete

Outdoor concrete (patios etc.) can shift or crack during those months when the ground around said pad freezes and thaws. So, as you come into spring, check to make sure that the concrete that surrounds your house hasn’t begun to slope into your foundation (starting to see a trend here? Hint: water = good. Water leaking into house = bad).

Additionally, if you do find cracks, or if the aesthetic appeal of your concrete has declined, take the time to clean and re-seal.

The Driveway

Paved driveways have a tendency to crack and wear over time (not unlike concrete). Springtime is the perfect time to reseal, while you're in that spring cleaning mood! This job will restore the color to a fresh black, while also ensuring that your driveway is free of bumps and weed protrusions.

Keep in mind, however, that most sealers will take about 48 hours to dry properly, so watch the weather, and don’t start anything that might be compromised by rain or windblown elements. Popular Mechanics has a great article to get you started!

The AC Unit

The reality is that air conditioning units run constantly throughout the summer months, so in addition to servicing your unit after the summer, consider having it serviced in the spring as well, since it will have been sitting dormant for several months.

There you have it. Six home/property areas to pay attention to as winter gives way to spring. I trust these will be helpful to you as you invest time and love into your property.

However if you are considering a little more than just regular maintenance this spring, mortgage rates are at an all time low, now might be a great time to talk about using some of the equity in your property, to renovate and/or increase your property’s value!


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Source: Lori Watson Mortgage Specialist  Canadian Mortgage Experts - DLC 

It might sound unbelievable, but it’s absolutely possible for someone to steal your house. It’s called title fraud, and it’s a problem that has been around for a while in Canada. And although exposure to title fraud is minimal compared to, say, debit or credit card fraud, the damage to its victims is considerably more severe. Title fraud is potential big money for perpetrators, and their schemes can be complex to say the least. Don’t underestimate the lengths to which they will go to cash in on a big payday.

Let’s break down title fraud, identify who is most at risk, and look at the best ways to protect yourself from having your house stolen out from under you!

Title Fraud

Title fraud almost always starts with identity theft. When someone steals your identity, they actually become you (well not really, but as far as anyone who doesn’t know you is concerned, they are you). So once they become you, they are acting as you, the scope of the fraud starts with what you could carry out as normal business, and then grows from there with increased deception and elaborate plans.

Here are some common scenarios. The perpetrators could do any of the following:

  • Using your identity, they could discharge your current mortgage and replace it with one at higher value, pocketing the difference in cash, using a bank account they created in your name, only to disappear before the loan/mortgage goes into arrears and a collection agency calls seeking repayment.
  • Using fake id and forged documents, they could transfer the title of your property out of your name, register a home equity line of credit or mortgage against the title, advance the funds in cash, and disappear, leaving you with a foreclosure notice a few months down the road.
  • Depending on market conditions, if it’s a real seller’s market, they could even potentially sell your property sight unseen, close the transaction, and skip town before the duped buyers show up at your house in a moving truck, ready to take possession.

The scary thing is, as the victim of identity theft and/or title fraud, there is legal precedence set that as the mortgage was taken out in your name and it was done so as a legal transaction, the onus is on you to prove that you were the victim of fraud. Until you do so, you are responsible for the repayment of the debt or it will damage your credit score.

As in the case of someone fraudulently selling your house out from under you, there is legal precedence set where the new buyers could actually be awarded possession of your house, because you were the victim of identity theft and title fraud, they weren’t. As far as everyone else is concerned, the buyers executed a perfectly legal transaction. It falls on you to prove otherwise!

Who Is Most At Risk?

The more equity you have in your property, the more likely you are to be targeted. Let’s say your property is worth $450k, and you owe $150k on your mortgage — there is potential access to $300k of equity. However, as the maximum refinance amount in most cases is 80% of the property’s value, in this case $210k would be accessible. And as most lenders limit the amount of cash you can refinance out of a property to $200k, this is a perfect target.

Properties that are owned clear title (no mortgage or line of credit registered against the home) are considerably more susceptible than properties with a mortgage because there is no mortgage to discharge. Essentially, there is one less hurdle for the fraudster to register a new mortgage or transfer the title.

Unfortunately, if we have to label an age group that is most at risk, it would be the older generation. Seniors are more likely to own their properties clear title and are less savvy about identity theft and may take longer to realize something is going on.

Protect Yourself!

Okay, if your heart is beating a little faster now, don’t worry, it will be okay. Here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself!

The first line of defence to prevent title fraud is to protect yourself from identity theft. The financial consumer agency of Canada has some good information that outlines the basics. But a lot of it is common sense: keep your ID close, don’t disclose your personal information to strangers on the phone, and if something smells fishy, make sure to investigate before proceeding!

Now, in order to protect yourself from title fraud directly, you can purchase something called title insurance! If you have recently purchased or refinanced your property, chances are you already have it. With the increasing amount of mortgage fraud, a lot of lenders make title insurance a mandatory condition of lending you money. This is a really, really good thing.

There are two types of title insurance available from a few different providers, offered directly from your lawyer’s office. The first is title insurance that covers the lender in case of title fraud, and the second covers the lender and you. It’s smart to go with the more comprehensive policy that covers you!

Title insurance is relatively inexpensive and covers you as long as you own the property (even if you discharge your mortgage). It can be purchased at any time, so if you aren’t sure if you have title insurance, might be worth a look through your mortgage documents. And if you can’t make heads or tails of them, take them to your mortgage broker and they will be happy to work through everything with you.

What to Do if You Suspect Fraud?

If you suspect or find out that you are the victim of title fraud, you should do the following:

  • Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, at 1-888-495-8501 or info@antifraudcentre.ca.
  • Report the situation to the police.
  • Report the fraud to both credit reporting agencies Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Contact your provincial land registry and let them know.
  • Keep all documents and record the exact time you became aware that you were a victim.


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