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Tips for lowering your cottage insurance premiums

Tips for lowering your cottage insurance premiums

By Neil Sharma, Canadian Real Estate Magazine, April 9, 2021

Insuring a cottage can be costly, but there are ways to lower premiums.

For starters, says LowestRates.ca’s CEO Justin Thouin, installing a backup power generator at the cottage can help owners secure more favourable insurance policies.

“Install a monitor alarm system because it reduces burglary losses, fire, temperature fluctuations like frozen pipes, and this will lower the premium,” Thouin told CREW. “Power outages are common, so install an emergency backup power generator to make sure the alarm system, freezer and pumps keep working in case of a power outage.”

Thouin added that winterized cottages also ensure better policies because insurance companies will be more inclined to believe the owners will visit year-round rather infrequently. Moreover, purchasing cottages as primary residences, as many Ontarians did last year, will qualify the cottage for regular home insurance.

“The more often you live in a place, the less complicated it becomes to insure a place. If you live at a cottage all the time, it’s not viewed as cottage insurance, it’s viewed as home insurance and the usual considerations of home insurance apply,” he said.

However, insurance coverage becomes complicated by the fact that most cottages tend to neither be close to fire hydrants nor fire halls. Insurance companies consequently reckon there’s higher probability of fire ravishing a property.

“If the property is within 300 metres of a fire hydrant, you could cover it for $1 million in fire loss, but if not and the nearest fire hall is more than 13 km away, it can only be covered for $500,000,” said Thouin. “According to Royal LePage, the average waterfront recreational property is worth over $800,000, so $500,000 isn’t enough. It’s important to shop around with different insurance companies because, while 13 km is the magic number for distance from a fire hall, for some companies it can be up to 20 km.”

To qualify for secondary insurance, owners must visit their cottages once every 60 days because a frequently visited property suffers fewer, and less costly, damages.

“You can have someone check the property for you if they report a detailed log with each visit,” said Thouin. “Then it resembles principal coverage.”

Seasonal coverage, on the other hand, is far less extensive and only covers named perils, meaning individual risks like fire, vandalism and damage caused by animals.

Spring Landscaping Projects For More Curb Appeal

Spring Landscaping Projects For More Curb Appeal

As we watch the last bits of snow melt and see the tips of grass poking through our muddy yards, it’s not hard to start thinking about the lush green gardens we’d like to see this spring. However, before you pick up a shovel, it’s best to do a little preparation to ensure your gardening projects grow to be as beautiful as you’ve imagined. While the last weeks of cool weather roll by, get inspired and start your planning to get your yard ready for a springtime landscape overhaul to give your home the curb appeal boost it needs.

Start With Research

Before you reach for your shovel and start digging up your yard like an untrained puppy, you should probably do a little research into what exactly you’re planning to do and will be dealing with. First, you should take a look at what kind of climate you’re living in and do a little investigating into what types of plants and greenery do best in those temperatures and conditions. This will help narrow down what sorts of things you can plant when the snow thaws. You should also look into factors such as the cost of purchasing and maintaining your choices, a planting schedule so you know when to plant it and when it will bloom and even what other items you may need to accomplish your landscaping ideas, such as sprinkler systems and gardening tools. You’ll also want to take a look at how much sun your new garden will receive during the day, to make sure you purchase the kinds of plants that will thrive as a result.

Consider Other Living Things

In almost any climate, you’re bound to run into some local pests. Whether they are neighbourhood animals, insects or even wildlife, they can all play a big factor in maintaining your perfectly landscaped property. While some insect problems have preventative measures you can take, some need to be controlled throughout the summer months, such as mosquitos and wasps, which can greatly affect the use of your yard and surrounding area. Another thing to take into consideration is which plants and fertilizers are toxic to animals. Whether it is your family’s pet, a local stray or even just wildlife, it’s best to avoid any greenery or chemicals that could harm animals. Always double check the toxicity of anything you put in your garden before you reach for your trowel. This is also a good idea to keep in mind as water run-off from your garden could end up in our waterways.

Get Inspired!

If you prepare your yard for the spring thaw in gradual stages, it’s much easier to allow your creative juices to flow. Begin with clearing last year’s dead plants from beneath the muddy ground in order to start with a clean slate to envision what styles and colours you’d like to introduce to your property. Does your home’s exterior call for a more modern Zen appearance or a colourful lush garden of perennials? Flip through your favourite home and garden magazines to get an idea of what landscaping looks will work for your home. And remember, when done in stages, you can get a better idea of how much more or less you’ll need for the final look that will become the wow factor of your neighbourhood.

Plot, Plan & Map It Out

While the idea of landscaping your property can be exciting, it’s best to take it one step at a time. While you’re waiting for the snow to melt, start a plan and schedule for your projects. Take your time to research and map out where and what you’d like to plant, and consider their ideal planting times. While some greenery is best planted in the early spring, others survive best when planted in the later spring months. A great thing to remember is that while differing plants & flowers bloom at different times, this can make for a great way to stretch out your gardening commitment as well as change the look of your landscaping as the months roll on. If you have any questions about when to plant each type of flower, don’t be afraid to consult your local greenhouse or garden centre. Additionally, take into consideration things such tree roots, long-term growth and even whether or not you may need to bring in a professional to help with some bigger landscaping projects.

Consider The Upkeep

The biggest factor with landscaping is the cost and effort for its upkeep. Even though you may be planning to sell your home with a gorgeous garden, if the on-going maintenance is overwhelming to the potential new home owners the on-going costs and work might deter them from making an offer. While the final product can add so much aesthetic value to your home, the maintenance is not always easy. Once you’ve got your plan of what you’d like to add to your property, take into consideration how much time and money you’re willing to invest in keeping up appearances. Factors such as trimming, raking, watering and pruning can take up many Saturday afternoons, so make sure you can keep up with what you’re planting. If you’re new to landscaping and gardening, aim for smaller projects that require less maintenance to avoid finding your yard dried and dead by early summer.

A beautiful yard can add so much to the enjoyment of your home and can be a great project for the spring and summer months. However, it’s important to remember to work in stages and to not get in over your head by the commitment. If you have any questions about how your landscaping can help enhance the curb appeal of your home and attract the right buyer, give one of our fantastic for your home when it comes time to turn your investment.

Be Prepared For Up-Front Costs

Be Prepared For Up-Front Costs

Are you getting ready to buy a new home? If so, you’ve probably already thought about establishing a budget, but did you know that there are some up-front costs that you’ll need to be prepared for?  

These may include things like:

  • a deposit and possibly a down payment;
  • inspection fees, like home inspections, and WETT inspections for fireplaces and wood-burning stoves;
  • water quality system and septic system tests and inspections;
  • appraisal fees;
  • land transfer tax, legal fees, title insurance, land registration fees;
  • property insurance, condo fees, moving costs and more.

To help you prepare for these possible costs, here’s some information about a few of the most common up-front costs & what exactly they are – to help make your new home purchase a little smoother.

Deposit:

When you make an Offer to Purchase a home, you will be required to accompany it with part of your down payment. Deposits can be anywhere from 1% to 5%, or more, of the purchase price depending on the situation, the location, or the cost of the home. The seller may request an increase in the deposit once all of the conditions have been met, and this percentage could creep past 5%, so it’s best to have that cash set aside ahead of time.

Appraisal Fee:

An appraisal is an estimate of the value of your prospective new home, and this value is used, in part, to determine how much financing you will be eligible for. Your mortgage lender will probably ask that the property be appraised at your expense – though if you can find a lender that’s willing to make that inspection part of the deal, all the better! An appraisal service can cost between $300 and $500.

Home Inspection Fee:

A home inspection is a report on the current condition of the home, and will be an important condition of the Offer to Purchase. The price of a home inspection is usually between $400 and $600, however if the inspection is complex, this price can rise. Inspections for larger or older homes cost a bit more at inspection time, especially if there’s a suspicion of defects or possibly older construction materials that have been used to build the home. 

Land Transfer Tax:

This is a provincial tax that you pay as part of the closing costs. The land transfer tax amount is calculated using a percentage of the property’s purchase price. The percentage varies by province, and in Ontario, this percentage can be anywhere from 0.5% – 2.0% or more depending on the value of the home. Some municipalities also levy a land transfer tax, which further increases costs. If you are a first-time home buyer, you may be eligible for a land transfer tax rebate.

Property Insurance:

Financial lenders will require property insurance to be in place by closing day, because the home is the security for the mortgage. This insurance will cover the cost of replacing the structure, and the contents, of your home if anything catastrophic were to happen to it. 

Water Quality Inspection:

If the property you want to buy has a well, you should get the quality of the water tested to see if it’s drinkable by professional standards and make sure that the supply is adequate. This is usually a condition on your Offer to Purchase. Make sure dug wells are thoroughly tested, as runoff water from areas surrounding the home, could have a negative impact on quality depending on the season.

Septic System Inspection:

If the property has a septic system, you should also get a septic system inspection. This is typically beyond the scope of a regular home inspection, but is important to ensure that the system has been installed and maintained correctly, and is working properly. 

Legal Fees:

Your real estate lawyer will bill you for the preparation and recording of the land title documents (to check on the legal status of the property), and any other disbursements they incur while doing so. These need to be paid by closing, and the minimum going rate is around $750.00 (plus tax). It may not end there, so be sure to stay in contact with your lawyer to avoid surprises at closing. 

Title Insurance:

Your lawyer will recommend that you purchase title insurance to cover loss caused by defects of title to the property. It is a one-time premium payment that protects the title while you own the home. The cost will vary depending on the cost of your home. For example, Title Insurance is generally around $350.00 for a $500,000 home and goes up from there.

The items above are just some of the examples of upfront costs involved in purchasing your new home. Every home purchase is different, and there may be other costs that we haven’t detailed, so it’s never a bad idea to have a little extra included in your budget. If you’re not prepared, you could be in for some costly surprises. When creating your budget, ask your real estate agent & lender for advice – or do a little research online – so that you know what’s coming. As you embark on the journey of buying your dream home, stay a couple of steps ahead so that you don’t feel ambushed by expenses along the way.

When you are ready to make your home purchase, be sure to call us at Clairwood Real Estate, and we will help guide you through your purchase! 

5 Tips for Buying a Condo In the Georgian Triangle

5 Tips for Buying a Condo In the Georgian Triangle

Condo development in this region is really (really!) booming, and it’s making a big impact on our real estate markets. Lately, condos are becoming less about affordability, and more about convenience, luxury, lifestyle and, not to forget our three favourite words in real estate…location, location and location! Want to wake up each day and drink your coffee while enjoying the view over Georgian Bay, or perhaps just clip on those skis and be on the slopes within minutes? You’re in luck – because there are condos that can offer just that and more.

There are distinct differences when living in a condo compared to a detached home or rented apartment. We’ve outlined 5 tips to consider when purchasing your new condo in the Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Grey Highlands, Blue Mountain and Meaford area.

1)Price

Affordability is naturally a big deciding factor when purchasing a condo. Condos can be a great opportunity for first-time home owners to break into the housing market, especially considering the “stress test” regulations that continue to price some people out home-ownership. An affordably-priced condo can offer people the chance to build up equity and move on to a house down the road if that’s their goal. When buying a condo however, there are fees to keep in mind that can exceed the cost of the mortgage payments, suddenly pricing that condo way out of reach. Be sure to research the condo fees in each building you are considering, as these can vary widely. Don’t forget that when living in a condo, there are utility fees to consider, standard repairs to your unit, as well as possible fees for storage space or parking spots.

2) Luxury living

Although the price for a standard condo is typically less than a detached home in the same area, there are more luxury condos available now that can rival or well-exceed the cost of a house. Some newer condos, particularly in the Collingwood and Wasaga Beach area, boast 10’ ceilings, premium kitchens, large terraces, breathtaking views of the escarpment or Georgian Bay, elaborate landscaping, spa services and so much more. If you want to surround yourself with luxury similar to a stay in a 5-star hotel, it can all be yours…for a price of course.

3) Amenities

Those condo fees are often put to good use when considering the many perks that condo living offers. Don’t have time, interest or ability to shovel snow, take the garbage to the curb, rake leaves, mow the lawn and wash the exterior windows? No worries! Those are included! Most condos also boast some fun amenities such as indoor (and outdoor) swimming pools, fitness centres, hot tubs, games rooms, gardens, party rooms, and more. When touring condos, take the time to see if those features are well-used, and if not, find out why.

4) Lifestyle

Are you active and energetic, looking to meet new people? Are you retired and seeking a quiet, serene space? Whatever your ‘scene’, many condos tend to have a bit of a focus to their demographic so that like-minded people can share their common sense of community more easily. Always be sure to ask about the condo demographic you’re investigating so that you’re sure you find a space that is most suited to you and your lifestyle. If you have children for example, make sure it’s a kid-friendly environment. It’s also important to note that a condo may have specific rules and regulations that may directly impact you. For instance, some may ban or limit things such as clotheslines, smoking, BBQs, bicycle racks, guest parking or renting out your space ‘Airbnb’ style. This is another great reason why doing your research and talking with your REALTOR® is essential before you sign on any dotted line.

5) Social life

Most condos have opportunities for owners to meet each other and socialize. There are regular coffee groups, happy hour, cards or games events, holiday celebrations, and overall, a great sense of community for those who wish to partake. If you don’t find a group or event that suits you, there’s no reason why you can’t start your own fun club or social group if there are others who are also interested. Like all things in life, it’s what you make it. If socializing in your building doesn’t suit you, that’s totally fine too; it’s up to you.

As you can see, the purchase of a condo isn’t just about an investment; it’s a lifestyle decision as well. If you are contemplating whether a condo is right for you, be sure to talk to us and find out more about the amazing condominiums right here in Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Grey Highlands, Blue Mountain or Meaford. Our experienced REALTORS® have been helping people buy and sell condos in this region for many years, and we keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in the works. We want to help you make an informed decision, so be sure to connect today at 705-445-7085.

Why Curb Appeal Is a Big Deal

Why Curb Appeal Is a Big Deal

Here at Clairwood Real Estate, we are all revved up about the spring real estate market! Everyone’s busy preparing their homes to sell by cleaning, painting, upgrading, repairing and decorating as needed, but most of that work often focuses strictly on the interior of the home. While those efforts are certainly important for a successful home sale, we can’t forget the importance of sprucing up your home’s exterior as well. Curb appeal is not just a big deal when it comes to getting top dollar for your home, it’s necessary to motivate buyers to walk through the door in the first place. Even if you’ve just done a major renovation and staged your home to perfection, if a buyer doesn’t love the look of the home from the outside, they won’t want to venture inside.

Luckily, creating a strong curb appeal doesn’t need to take a lot of work or money. In fact, you can likely tackle a lot on this list in one weekend. We’ve 6 ways you can improve your home’s curb appeal to really wow potential buyers and get them to fall in love with your home:

1) Your lawn

Naturally you’ll want to keep your lawn mowed and in good condition, but there are a few extra areas that should not be overlooked. For example, fill in any bare spots with grass seed and top soil or purchase a few rolls of sod to patch up where needed. You’ll also want to manage your weeds if they are out of control; and be sure edge around driveways and walkways.

2) Trees, shrubs and plants

Stand at the end of your front yard and look at your trees and shrubs. Do they need some pruning and shaping? While you can often do this on your own, there are also experts you can hire if it’s a big or potentially dangerous job. If your front yard looks bare, you can purchase a few plants to give it some depth and colour, keeping in mind your type of soil and our cold Canadian winters when buying. Add fresh mulch to the base of your trees, gardens and shrubs; you’d be surprised how much it improves the overall aesthetic of your lawn. If it’s spring, summer or early fall, be sure to have some flowers in planters, especially near the front door. To really entice potential buyers, plant fragrant perennials such as lavender, honeysuckle, peonies or roses.

3) Your driveway

We often pay little attention to our driveways and walkways, until of course they are scrutinized by would-be buyers, then suddenly, every crack, loose stone and speck of dirt become very apparent. Start with a good power wash, and if needed, add a coat of sealant to your paved driveway if needed. Remove any weeds growing in the cracks, and inspect for areas where drainage or water can be a concern.

4) The front porch and door

Even if your front door isn’t your main entrance, it is still the focal point of any home’s exterior. Can your door use a new coat of paint, or a new screen? Again, this small investment can be quite impactful in the overall appearance of your home. Don’t forget about your lighting, planters, porch furniture, mailbox and even the numbers of your house. If they are old, faded and worn, they’ll need some love, or replacing. Add some cute touches like a welcome mat, a stylish rocking chair or new chiming doorbell.

5) Don’t forget the backyard

While the front curb is important to get folks into your home, don’t forget that they’ll be touring around your back yard as well. They’ll want to know it’s a well-maintained area so be sure to spruce it up as needed and clean up after your dogs if you have any. If you have kids’ apparatus and outdoor toys, be sure they are clean and in good repair.

6) Windows & your home’s exterior

Most people know to clean the windows both inside and out (keep an eye out for water damage, mildew and ripped screens), but your overall home might need a good power wash, especially if it’s got siding. Again, it’s a job you can do yourself if you’re the weekend warrior type, or you can hire someone to do it for you in a jiffy!

Highlighting your home’s features both inside and out is the best way to impress prospective buyers. While a little elbow grease may be needed, you’ll be glad you did it when the offers start coming in at – or above – your asking price! Your home’s curb appeal is the ticket to impressing those buyers so they fall in love with your home from the moment they step out of their car. Even in winter when our lawns are covered in snow, the overall look of your home will always be a key selling point. For more tips on what to do when listing your home, or if you are looking for the perfect dream home in Collingwood, the Blue Mountains, Wasaga Beach, Grey Highlands or Meaford, connect with our knowledgeable, experienced Clairwood Real Estate team at 705-445-7085.

The Pros & Cons of Inground Swimming Pools

The Pros & Cons of Inground Swimming Pools

For Canadians, there’s nothing like taking full advantage of our warm summer months. We spend what seems to be endless months of cold winter weather mostly indoors, so it’s no wonder we rejoice when the temperature finally gets warmer. There’s also nothing like diving into a crystal-clear swimming pool on a scorching hot day, especially if in the comfort of your own backyard. After all, having carefree, happy times and creating great memories is what summer is all about. Whether you have a pool now, or are thinking about taking the plunge and buying a home with one, having an inground pool does come with a few key pros and cons to consider. Let’s take a look at those here:

1) Recreational use

Pros: Pools are a great way to get exercise and fresh air for children and adults of all ages. It can also help with physical therapy and relaxation. Having a pool can also be very social and encourage more quality time with friends and family.

Cons: Pools can be a dangerous place for those who don’t know how to swim. It’s required by law that you have the proper safety fencing and door locks installed on your property.

2) Materials & costs

Pros: Pools look beautiful! A well-installed pool with quality construction and landscaping is not only safe, enjoyable and appealing, it will be seen in the resale appeal of your property.

Cons: Inground pools can be expensive to put in – typically ranging from $30,000 to $65,000 & up. Lower quality materials and installation could end up costing more in the long-run in repairs. Further, having a pool may hinder the future sale of your home if potential buyers don’t want the work that goes into a pool.

3) Maintenance

Pros: Most pool owners gain a general knowledge about keeping their pools safe and clean, and the day-to-day routine is not too taxing. Alternately, they can hire a pool maintenance company to handle the maintenance.

Cons: Yearly maintenance including the ‘opening and closing’ of a pool can cost anywhere from $1200 to $2000-plus per year. If you don’t take care of the pool regularly, you can have health and safety problems arise. Improper use of chemicals or not maintaining the pools health and PH levels can lead to algae and other bacteria forming in the pool. Further, if a swimming pool doesn’t look great, it won’t get used, which defeats the purpose of installing one and can reduce your home’s value when it comes time to sell.

4) Insurance

Pros: Getting additional coverage on your insurance policy is of great comfort when you own a pool. It keeps you financially protected if any mishaps or accidents arise. You want to keep your family safe, as well as anyone else who uses it.

Cons: Having a pool will raise your insurance fees. Most insurance policies will cover pool-related accidents, but it’s recommended you increase your liability coverage significantly. Accidents around the pool, especially during summer, can be catastrophic.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to install a swimming pool, or you’re looking for a home that already has one, a good benchmark to go by is how much a pool would add to your quality of life. Further, can you afford the initial as well as yearly costs and look after the upkeep? Why not speak to one of our experienced Realtors® at Clairwood Real Estate for more tips on the pros and cons of an inground pool and if it will add value to your home. We can also help if you are looking to buy or sell in Collingwood, the Blue Mountains, Wasaga Beach, Grey Highlands or Meaford. Go ahead and dive in! Connect with our top team today at 705-445-7085.