Saturday, February 4, 2012

Garage Door - Open Sesame

It's always nice to have a garage, especially for Canadians. In winter, it saves you a lot of time on scraping ice/snow out of your car. I am more than happy to spend these extra time staying in bed. In summer, I don't have to wait for the heat inside the car released before getting into the car. For both winter and summer, parking my car inside a garage also helps save energy at some certain level since I don't need to crank up the AC or heater as much as if I park outside.

I was happy that my new home had a garage, but I was not that pleased by the garage door. The garage door was in light purple and a bit rusty. The door had an obvious dent made by previous owner. It was a mechanical door so that I have to leave the car and open the door manually before entering the garage. All of these were ok, but I just want to have a better one. I would like to have windows on my garage door for aesthetic reasons with an electrical door opener.

Although garage door replacement is a rather small job, I found the price can still vary a lot. After some search on Homestars, I decided to use Open Sesame Inc. Steve, the owner of Open Sesame, is a very interesting and friendly person. He came to my home during one weekend to give a quote for door replacement. The quote included door, door opener with remote control, and of course the labour. He only asked for 1650 CAD. I found this price was very competitive, and he had very good reviews on Homestars. So, I decided to use him to replace the door.

At the day of installation, he showed up on time and started the work right away. I remembered seeing someone installing a garage door for one of my neighbours. It was quite noisy and I could hear the sound even at home, but when Steve disassembled and installed the garage door I hardly heard a thing. I am not sure why. Maybe it was simply because it is easier to replace a door than install a new one. The door was done professionally within 6 hrs. The new door did look much better and the new door opener saved me the hassle.

I am generally pleased by Steve's work, and I would like to recommend him for garage door jobs. However, it really took a while before he could serve me. Open Sesame is basically a 1-2 men company. Steve only has one assistant, and they have to do all the jobs and they do have a lot of orders. It's not hard to imagine that they need longer time to digest all the jobs. If you are not in a hurry and willing to wait up to 1.5 months, Open Sesame will be a good option for its highly competitive price and quality.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Flooring -- Invision Hardwood Decor

This is my second experience sharing article. This time is about the flooring.

The condition of our new home was generally in good shape. However, there were still few things that we would like to change despite that there was really nothing wrong about it. That was the flooring. When we got our home, the flooring for the second floor and the basement was carpet. Although the carpet was still in good condition, we put flooring replacement as our first thing to do since we would really prefer a hardwood floor. Besides, there is no better timing to do flooring other than when the house is empty.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home inspector -- Frontline Home Inspection

Time passed by so fast! It's already 8 months since the last entry...But I have good excuse... We finally bought our first home! That's what I was busy for in the past couple months. Since most of the things are settled, I would like to be back to my blogging routine.

I would like to share personal experiences of using home inspector. As we shall agree, home inspection is very important when buying a house. The clause of satisfaction to the home inspection serves as a protection to prevent buyers from getting into a real trouble. An early discovery of any potential problems can also help haggle the price. Therefore, words from a competent home inspector may sometimes worth more than thousands.

So, how to find a competent home inspector? In Canada, you can start by trying to find one from the website of  Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors . To be a registered home inspector in Canada, individuals need to meet rigorous professional and education requirement followed by a review. Although being a "registered home inspector" does not guarantee to be a "good inspector" for many reasons, it is a good starting point to pick the right one from a rather small pool. This is the link to the list of home inspectors in your area (Canada only). If you are in selected metropolitan area (great Toronto area for example), you are also blessed with Homestars , an excellent website for find the right inspectors, contractor, and other home related trade man. However, Homestars seems to work best for great Toronto area with a bit limited information for other cities.

I phoned several inspectors before choosing the final one. Some of them didn't have time for the slot I wanted, and some of them had unfriendly secretaries...I picked Marco from Frontline Home Inspection eventually. Marco is listed as a registered home inspector and also receives pretty good reviews on Homestars. I think that he should be a right one.

He is punctual, and he is happily sharing what he found to us. It was a pleasant learning experience to have a professional explain to you what to check and why to check in a highly interactive manner. He is equipped with an infrared thermography device that can show us the temperature distribution in a room graphically. It provides clear indication of insulation and even ventilation quality. He was thorough and provided a comprehensive inspection. We actually used him twice. Why? Because he found some serious mould issues and pointed out something in need of replacement in our first buy (a conditional sale) and he provided us a cost estimate to fix these. We later decided to skip this deal, and moved on. We hired him again for our second buy, and fortunately, this time he gave us a green light.

In general, we were very satisfied with the service and help from Marco, and we will recommend him for home inspection without hesitation. We will definitely consider him for our next home.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Descriptions of the links

This post is to provide some descriptions of the links on the right bar. This post will be updated occasionally since more links will be added in the future.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Coporation
One of the must-see site for Canadians who plan to buy a house. It has complete and most up-to-date information and data regarding real estates in Canada. Everyone, real estate beginner or expert, can benefit a lot from this site.

Canadian Real Estate Association
As indicated by its name, this website shows some basic home buying and selling tips for first home buyers and sellers.

One of my favorite TV channels. It talks almost everything about having a home.

It's a great website for finding contractors, home inspectors, plumbers, electricians, and etc.. Hundreds of reviews help you find the right one!

Home Style Choices
Excellent website providing lots of detailed information regarding home design, flooring, siding, kitchen countertop, cabinets, you name it! A good starting point for your home renovation!

Posted Homes
This site shows some featured homes, mostly in Toronto. These homes may give reader some ideas of home staging, asking and selling prices for certain types of homes, and sometimes brief introduction of certain neighborhoods in the great Toronto area.

Realtors@ know real estate (MLS)
This site provides Multiple Listing Service, in which major real estate brokers post their current listings together. It is an almost-complete database of homes for sale in Canada. Buyers are strongly encouraged to have a look of the database to have a ballpark knowledge of housing supply in the neighborhood interested and the range of price. Note that the listing here is for reference only. Sometimes, I found the realtors don't update the database frequently enough. Some houses listed in the system are actually sold. Also, some local real estate brokers and people who sell their houses by themselves may choose not to participate. That's why I said "almost-complete."

The Global and Mail -- Real Estate
This site lists news related to Canadian real estate, city development, and even interior design. I like the variety of topics they have and the design of layout on their website.

Toronto Real Estate and Neighbourhoods Blog
One of my favorite websites. It collects real estates news with focus on Greater Toronto Area. Analysis on current real estate market are provided. Some interesting data of certain popular neighborhoods in GTA are provided. Very informative.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Breakdown of house closing cost

For many first time home buyers, it is a common mistake to fail to consider ALL relevant costs when purchasing a home. Here is a hopefully complete cost breakdown:

1. Down payment
2. Home inspection fee
    This is case by case, usually ranging from 300-500 CAD.
3. Land transfer tax
    The Ontario land transfer tax for residential property (refer to Ontario Ministry of Revenue website) is   calculated based on the following:

amounts up to and including $55,000
amounts exceeding $55,000 up to and including $250,000
amounts exceeding $250,000
amounts exceeding $400,000 where the land contains one or two single family residences

Calculation Examples

Example #1

Value of the consideration equals $95,000.
  1. Multiply $55,000 by 0.5% (55,000 × 0.005) = $275
  2. Multiply the amount exceeding $55,000 up to $250,000 by 1.0% (40,000 × 0.01) = $400

    Total land transfer tax payable = $ 675

Example #2

Value of the consideration equals $450,000 for land not containing one or two single family residences.
  1. Multiply $55,000 by 0.5% (55,000 × 0.005) = $275
  2. Multiply the amount exceeding $55,000 up to $250,000 by 1.0%
    (195,000 × 0.01) = $1,950
  3. Multiply the amount exceeding $250,000 by 1.5% (200,000 × 0.015)= $3,000
Total land transfer tax payable = $5,225

Example #3

Value of the consideration equals $450,000 for land containing one or two single family residences.
  1. Multiply $55,000 by 0.5% (55,000 × 0.005) = $275
  2. Multiply the amount exceeding $55,000 up to $250,000 by 1.0%
    (195,000 × 0.01) = $1,950
  3. Multiply the amount exceeding $250,000 up to $400,000 by 1.5% (150,000 × 0.015) = $2,250
  4. Multiply the amount exceeding $400,000 by 2.0% (50,000 × 0.02)= $1,000
Total land transfer tax payable = $5,475
   Also, different city may imply different municipal land transfer tax. In Toronto, the land transfer tax (refer to city of Toronto website) is calculated as follows: 
Value of ConsiderationMLTT Rate
Up to and including $55,000.000.5%  plus
$55,000.01 to $400,000.001.0%  plus
Over $400,000.002.0%

   FOR EXAMPLE: A home with a consideration value of $500,000.01(excluding GST):
MLTT RateCalculation
0 to $55,000.0055,000.00 x 0.005 = $275.00
$55,000.01 to $400,000.00$344,999.99 x 0.01= $3,450.00
$400,000.01 to $500,000.00$99,999.99 x 0.02= $2,000.00
Total MLTT= $5,725.00

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A quick look of the income tax

It's tax season again! Wondering how much tax return you should expect this year? The following links can give us a quick peep.

Canadian income tax rate for 2010:
Canadian income tax calculator:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buy it right now or wait until having enough down payment?

It is an interesting question for me. Should I buy a house if I don't have enough down payment (20% of the price) for it? Or, is it better for me to wait until I accumulate enough money?

In mortgage-wise, if I have 20% down payment at hand, I should be able to get 80% from mortgage provided that I have a reasonable gross debt ratio and satisfactory credit. If I don't have enough down payment, say only 10% down payment, I can still get 90% from mortgage by paying CMHC mortgage insurance premium to the lender (by adding insurance premium to the mortgage principle). Again, this is based on the fact that I have a reasonable gross debt ratio and satisfactory credit. So, there is no big obstacle preventing me from buying a home with low down payment. The only concern is: will I end up paying more if I choose to pay less down payment?

The best way to figure it out is simply do some calculation. I will compare two scenarios. In scenario 1, I buy right now. In scenario 2, I buy the house after m months when I save enough money. However, the house price increases after m months. To simplify the calculation, several assumptions are made: the house price is assumed to increase monotonically 5% annually, based on historical housing price in Canada; I have to pay rent during the period that I try to save enough down payment; the mortgage interest rate is assumed to be constant throughout the years; I will sell the house in n years from now, regardless of when I buy the house; I can save 25000 CAD annually. The calculation compares the total amount of money spent n years from now.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home renovation estimate

 Buying a perfect move-in ready home is a dream for most home buyers, but in reality we often have to do something to shape the home to our own taste. Home renovation, major or minor, may be necessary when buying a new home. I was trying to find out if there is a "perfect" website that could give readers a quick but reasonably accurate first-cut estimate for all kinds of home renovation. However, the cost of home renovation varies with a lot of factors, such as location, materials to be used, sizes, timing, and etc. Given the fact that every renovation is unique (so is every home), I realized soon that it is unrealistic to expect that such a website would exist. Nevertheless, I still managed to collect some website, hoping that they will at least shed some light.

 Renovation Pro
It provides a listing of suppliers or contractors for all aspects of home renovation in the Greater Toronto Area.

247 reno
It's a blog about two home owner's home renovation stories. Cost of each renovation is shared. It may serve as a good reference for reno budgeting.

Nostco Construction
It provides some tips of home renovation as well as a quotation.

Unica Custom Homes
Quick quotations for home renovation.

The list is definitely far from completion. I will try to add more when I found new good ones.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is your neighborhood walkable?

"Is your neighborhood walkable?" can be interpreted in two different ways: the easiness to run all errands by walking, or the quality and the design of the pedestrian walk in your neighborhood. This question may seem irrelevant for those who always drive regardless of the distance. However, this question will become important when choosing living neighborhood for non-drivers. Even for frequent drivers like me would still enjoy talking a stroll some times, for example, in the beautiful Saturday afternoon or after dinner (to help digestion). The answer to this question may reflect the life convenience at some certain level.

If you are living in the downtown of a city, the answer is likely to be positive. Possibly negative answers are expected if you are living in a countryside. However, how do you rate if you are living in the suburbs which is kind of a mixture of city and countryside? Or, how do you know the walkability of an area that you never have a chance to be physically there? For example, you are a non-driver and you are going to move to a new city. You might need the walkability information as a reference when choosing housing.